Friday, August 22, 2008

OK, seriously???

I went outside earlier to retrieve my recycling bins as storms are rolling through and the wind is bad. For some reason I noticed that there was a bunch of fluffy white stuff all over my Cypress Vine out front. So I pulled down one of the runners to investigate and the white fuzzy stuff was bugs! Little tiny bugs, all over the vine, covered in this strange white stuff. I figured it must be some type of early stage caterpillar, so I looked and looked at photos and descriptions on but I found nothing. So just for shits and giggles, I typed "small, fuzzy white bugs" into the search engine and sure enough... MEALYWORMS! A sort of cousin to the aphid, and we all know how fond I am of aphids. But seriously, I have had the summer from hell in respect to garden pests in the veggie garden, but my front flower bed seemed all hunky dory, now this??? I mean seriously, what more am I going to have to endure this summer with my gardens? Are swarms of locusts and Africanized honey bees heading my direction?!?! Shit! It is just so aggravating to me, I have worked so hard to have something more than dying grass and burford hollies and I seem to be running into issues left and right here. I didn't have near this aggravation last year. Is it the drought? I always thought aphids didn't like severely hot weather. Either way, I am beginning to lose my patience and I'm seriously gonna start killing things soon!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Quote of note...

"When the power of love overcomes the love of power, then the world will know peace." -Jimi Hendrix

How I plan to deal with my tomato worm problem...

Fried Green Tomato Worms

3 tablespoons olive oil
16 tomato hornworms
4 medium green tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
Salt and pepper to taste
White cornmeal
In a large skillet or wok, heat the oil. Then lightly fry the hornworms, about 4 minutes, taking care not to rupture the cuticles of each insect under high heat. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Season tomato rounds with salt and pepper, then coat with cornmeal on both sides.

In a large skillet, fry tomatoes until lightly browned on both sides

Top each round with 2 fried tomato hornworms.

Garnish the paired hornworms with a single basil leaf.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Agriculture sucks!

As I'm sure you were all aware, I planted a bunch of squash as the vine borers are supposedly NOT laying eggs at this time. What a crock! They took out 6 out of 9 plants! I still have one zucchini, one lemon squash and one pumpkin, we'll see if they manage to survive or not. My garden has been overrun with aphids. Who would have thought such little bugs could make such a HUGE mess of things! Little BASTARDS! Then the other morning I went out to find one of my golden boy tomatoes half-eaten. It looked liked someone took a big bite out of it. I was thinking maybe a raccoon or birds or maybe even a bat, I didn't know. I left it alone and the next morning, went out to find the tomato right next to it looking the same way, like someone had come and taken a huge bite of it! UGH, what was up?!?! Then I got to really looking at the plant and the bed and there it was, the telltale sign... LOADS of caterpillar poop! OH NOOOOO! I searched that vine from top to bottom and could find nothing. So I came inside and looked up tomato worms on the internet. Not that I don't know what one looks like, I remember my mom picking them out of the garden and squishing them with sticks as a kid, I know... gross! But I just needed to refresh my mind and maybe see how they hide, if it was UNDER leaves or next to stalks or what. After that I went outside and found the little culprit within a matter of minutes, hanging out, fat as could be! Of course my first instinct was to throw him on the ground and squish him, but if you know me, you know I have a problem killing things (OK, squash borers, aphids and cockroaches aside), so what does any card-carrying homeschooler mom do??? She grabs the butterfly habitat, cuts off some of the tomato vine and transfers giganto Tomato Horntail Caterpillar into the enclosure. We will have one of two outcomes, he will either eat lots of leaves and tomatoes I'm willing to share and turn into a chrysalid that is bound to become a 5-spotted Hawkmoth or he will keel over and die if he has been parasitized by a wasp. Either way, great biology! If he becomes a hawkmoth, he will be observed for a day, then humanely released FAR away from MY garden! And of course, you can't keep something and not name it. He has been dubbed "Ernie" by the Monkey Man. Ernie the Tomato Horntail, with such an evil name for a caterpillar, I was thinking more along the lines of "Severus" or "Beelzebub" mostly since that thing was hell on my tomatoes! But Ernie it is.

I hate seeing the crumpled leaves, telltale sign of aphids!

Stinkin' aphids!

Victimized Golden Boys!

The culprit...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Some of my favorite photos from my trip!

Canada goose, profile

Brave boy hand-feeding geese!

Peacock in full display

North America's most majestic land mammal
Black-eyed Susans

The best photo ever taken of a desert box turtle!

Baby ducks... Aaaawwww!

White duck, blue water

Egyptian Goose in Clovis, go figure!

A river runs through and really trashes stuff!

This is the Rio Ruidoso, which is normally a mild-mannered little creek that spans maybe 10-15 ft. across. Here it is, muddy, bubbling and raging!

Debris caught in the safety rails of what used to be a bridge.

Well, that used to be our bridge!

The Ugly Duckling

One of our little excursions in Clovis was to Ned Houk park to see the buffalo and feed the ducks and geese. While we were feeding the critters, we noticed this funny little black duck. He had absolutely no fear of us and my Mom-in-law said she thought we could just reach out and grab it. And sure enough, she reached out and picked up this little duck. Now it was not a baby duck, but not an adult either, it had some adult plummage, but still had a fuzzy head. And it was definitely the odd duck out! There were no other siblings and no other adult ducks that looked even remotely like it. After we took turns petting it, we let it go and I crouched down to take a picture of it. It made a mad dash and ran right up underneath me and stayed there, like it was wanting me to sit on it or something! So I sat down and it crawled right into my lap and laid its head down. I have NEVER seen a wild duck do this so I began to get suspicious. We spent the next half hour petting and loving and hugging this little duck. It was so sweet! But the time came for us to have lunch, so we started to walk to the car. Our goofy little friend began to follow us. I told everyone to get in the car and I picked the little duck up walked him away a bit and tossed him out into the pond. As I turned to go to the car I noticed that it was scrambling to get out of the water and when he did he took off chasing after me. I ran like hell to the car, jumped in and drove off. I stopped a little ways away to make sure it had stopped following and wasn't in the street. It was just standing there, looking confused. It broke my heart! I believe this little duck was probably someone's Easter duckling and when it got too big, they decided it was perfectly fine to go dump it at the pond. I HATE that tradition! Ducklings and chicks are NOT disposable pets! If you can't care for one, you should never bring one home! Anyway... off my soapbox, I spent the rest of the day and most of the night trying to figure out how the hell I could transport a duck from Clovis to Austin. And IF I managed to successfully get it here, what the hell I would do with it! I live in a suburban neighborhood, our Homeowner's Association doesn't take kindly to raising poultry! I didn't go back to get him, but I regret it to this day. All this little guy wanted was a mommy and a family to love it. I spend so much time telling my kids that it's our responsibility as good humans to take care of the little things that need our help, then I didn't follow through with it. I could kick myself! The little duck didn't seem unhealthy and hopefully he was foraging OK. I know they are resilient and have instincts, so I hope with all of my heart that this little duck grows up and has a happy life in the park. And I am touched that this little bird allowed me and my children to interact with it and have a wonderful "ducky" experience. Someday, if I ever have property, I will own ducks all because of this little guy!

The Duck...

A Piglet and a duck!

Duck kisses

Sweet ducky in my lap

One last ducky hug!

New Mexico... the good, the bad and the flooded!

Our trip to New Mexico was an interesting one. I reconnected with old friends from my childhood, I spent time with my family, I took my children to do silly things, I became a victim of a natural disaster and I took loads of photos! I took loads photos of pretty things, photos of goofy things and photos of scary things So I would say all in all, it was a memorable trip for sure! Here are some of the highlights:

I was finally able to meet up with my good friend Cat. I have been trying to see her for over a year, but it has never worked out until this trip. It was so strange, finally meeting face to face, looking into her eyes and being zapped back to a time long gone, yet not feeling the need to stay there. It looked like the Cat from years ago, yet it wasn't the Cat I remembered. It was a Cat, 20 years later, with tattoos, piercings, teenage kids, a new marriage and baby, and an awesome outlook on life. It was refreshing! I felt an immediate connection and love and I hope we are able to continue with this newly discovered friendship. I also had the opportunity to see Amie and Christal, both of whom are friends from the high school years. As always, it was great to see them! They are both so diligent and so dedicated to their families and careers, they inspire me! It is SOOO amazing to have such a wonderful network of women in my life!

I was to spend a wonderful weekend at our cabin in Ruidoso with my mother and my kiddos, then, after my Mom left, my Mom-in-law was to arrive and the kids and I would spend a few days with her. It was a perfect plan! The kids would get to spend quality, relaxing, stress-free time with both of the grandmothers, I would get to visit and get some help with the kids all at the same time, AND we'd get to have fun at one of our favorite places! The cabin is ALWAYS wonderful. Little did we know that Hurricane Dolly had other plans for that part of the world, dum, dum, DUM! Late Sat. night and early Sun. morning (July 26 and 27) the remnants of Hurricane Dolly dropped close to 9 inches of rain on the Sacramento Mountains and surrounding areas. This in turn caused serious flooding of the Rio Ruidoso which runs through the canyon where our cabin is located. Property was damaged, bridges were demolished and one young man lost his life. It was a sobering situation. We were trapped in the canyon with no way to get a car out or even walk out. I heard that there was an old logging trail somewhere on the mountain behind us, but I wasn't terribly motivated to leave my family and set out looking for this logging trail that may or may not have existed. Luckily, my Mom and I had gone grocery shopping on Saturday and had a decent amount of food in the cabin. Not alot, we only shopped to get us through the weekend, but with rationing, I could have made it last about 5 days if needed. Our biggest problem was diapers! I knew I was fairly low on diapers, but thought I had more than I did. We didn't buy any and ended up REALLY regretting it! I will never leave home without at least 60 diapers!

Once the water receded some, they were able to set up a makeshift "bridge" out of an extension ladder and they evacuated people with medical needs and small children that needed immediate assistance. They began transporting meals and water to the rest of us. The communication from village officials was pathetic and all information was based on someone talking to someone who spoke with this person who spoke with one of the firefighters and so on. But at least we weren't starving, we had the Piggle running around commando to save diapers and we had water. Well, that lasted until late Sunday night. The running water to the cabin was completely gone by Monday morning. We did have sense enough to fill every stock pot and cooler in the house. We were having to boil the tap water as it had been contaminated. I refused to fill the tubs though as I can't have full tubs and a 2 year-old in the house who LOVES to play in the water! I was handling the situation pretty well until the water stopped, then I got worried. I heard they were planning to put in a temporary foot bridge to allow folks the ability to hike into town on foot for supplies, or have relatives deliver supplies that they could carry over the foot bridge. I was putting plans into effect to hike the kids out of the canyon and have hubby's folks come and get them and take them back to Clovis while my Mom and I waited for them to build the bridge for the cars. There was much talk about scissor-bridges from the nearby air force base, but as luck would have it, the bridges, along with all of our National Guard were over in Iraq!

Monday afternoon, the governor of New Mexico did a fly-over and lo and behold, shit started to happen. Luckily for me, I had hiked down to the bridge to pick people's brains for info and look for water and diapers when the firefighters (who were so diligent and dedicated to helping us) called us together to give us pertinent info. The engineers that they brought in said that with enough rubble and debris they would be able to fill the ravine that once was a bridge, pack it down with LOADS of dirt and hopefully make it strong enough to allow the close to 300 people stuck in the canyon to drive out. You didn't have to tell me twice! I ran up the hill, ran into the house and starting slinging shit into suitcases and loading the car. Once finished, we loaded the kids, locked up the cabin and drove down the hill toward the bridge. I assumed my place as car #57 in a line of over 70 cars! We waited in that line for over 2 hours while they completed the makeshift bridge and FINALLY at almost 10pm, I drove over that bridge and then all the adrenaline that had kept me going and kept me focused left and I cried like an idiot and struggled to drive that winding road to Roswell. But the kids and I made it, stopped at a nasty Motel 6 and crashed hard. We got up the next morning and called my Grandmother who was gracious enough to take us out for breakfast where the kids and I all proceeded to stuff our faces like there was no tomorrow!

Although we definitely did NOT have the vacation we planned with the flood and all, I did my best to make it a fun time for the kids. The Piggle did get to enjoy her first pony ride in Ruidoso before the storm hit. I was so mad that I had forgotten my camera, but I figured what the hell, I'd take them back the next day with the camera. The flood ruined that plan! But even amidst all of the chaos, we had a fun time hanging out on the deck of the cabin, feeding peanuts to the blue jays and chipmunks, watching the hummingbirds, cardinals, juncos and chickadees, and the Monkey Man and Mom both got to see a bear! I haven't seen a damn bear in 2 years, grrrr! We did art work on the deck, made coffee filter butterflies and watched movies. So although Mama and Grammy were stressed a bit, the kids were no worse for the wear! Once we made it back to Clovis, we stayed a few more days to visit with the folks and to let me decompress a bit before driving all the way back to Texas. I took the kids to the puny Clovis zoo a couple of times, we had playdates with friends, we went to the local ponds to feed the ducks and there was lots of fun to be had in Nana's backyard! Nana's backyard is beautiful, grassy, and full of turtles! Lots of fun for kids! So all in all, a successful trip, or as the Piggle would say, "An aventure!" I'll just hope my next trip to NM will be a little LESS of an adventure!

Please excuse my neglect...

Greetings from the center of Texas, and judging from the scorching heat, possibly the center of hell! I have not had a lot of time to dedicate to my blogging lately and I apologize. With the school year getting close, I have been gearing up, ordering curriculum, organizing co-ops, buying "school" supplies (hey, just because the Monkey Man doesn't go to public school doesn't mean he shouldn't get to go "Back-to-school" shopping, right?), cleaning and organizing the downstairs closet to give me more flexibility with storage of supplies. All I can say is, "Thank goodness for IKEA!" Thanks to them I now have a wonderful shelving unit in the closet to store school and art supplies. It has removable bins, so I can just go in, grab the appropriate bin and take it to the table. I think it will really help! I have also been trying to spend more time with kids, less time on the computer and doing housework, henceforth my absence from the blogger world. But I figured I was pretty caught up, I have children in the living room enjoying a National Geographic movie, and therefore have a little time to devote to my blogging. That and the fact that I started a new work-out regime yesterday (Industrial PT, it's a Navy Seals workout) and I am so sore today I can hardly lift my arms above my shoulders, so typing is one activity that doesn't hurt! Push-ups suck! Anyway... off we go, catching up on the last couple of weeks!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Back from New Mexico

We made it back just before dinner last night. The trip back was pretty good, we made good time and the Piggle did alright. We hit some gnarly rain south of Abilene which sucked due to my crappy windshield wipers! It also got very calm and quiet right after we went through a big cell of rain, then the wind started gusting really hard and there were very dark, strange clouds that seemed to be trailing downward. I was a little worried we were about to run smack into the middle of a tornado! But we finally moved far enough south and left it all behind.

The trip itself was interesting. I did get alot of visiting in with family and friends, but it was a little stressful at times as we were stranded in the upper canyon of Ruidoso for 2 days after a huge flood took out most of the canyon bridges! We had no way to get out, limited food and our water eventually stopped. It was a little nerve-racking, especially with two small children. But I had my mom and we managed. We actually had expected to be stranded for much longer, but thanks to "The Guvna" they made a change in plans. Anyway, there will be a more descriptive post to follow once I download pics and recuperate from my travels. But all in all, the trip was good and we are now home safe and sounds with lots of stories to tell! And I took a million photos!