Friday, July 11, 2014

99 Days of Freedom

99 Days of Freedom, anyone? 

Of course, if you've been a regular visitor to this blog since the days back when I actually wrote about things other than gardening, you'll know that I've been "free" for much longer than 99 days.  (Well, free from the scourge of the FACEBOOK... Twitter newsfeeds, now that's another story...)

I doubt any of the FB users I know will participate in this 99-Days thing, to tell the truth.  I haven't even heard any of them commenting on the whole "controversial mood experiment" conducted by the creepy powers-that-be at FB.  If I were on FB, I'd probably have seen them forward (or whatever the proper terminology is) the story-- or "Like" it-- or comment on someone else's post to express their dismay-- and then I'd watch as they promptly forgot all about it and went back to their FBing as usual. 

...The thing is, I don't get the impression that people cared enough about the secretive "mood experiment" to do anything so drastic as quitting FB.  They find the site too rewarding, too ingrained a part of their daily lives.  Kind of like how I feel about my Twitter newsfeeds.  Every now and then I'll actually take a serious break from them, but it's rare.  Even if there are things I don't like about Twitter, it's part of my routine, and I find it useful and entertaining. 

Oh well...
I continue to wait for a true uprising against the tyranny of THE FACEBOOK... One day it will come... ;o)  (Probably only when/if FB is challenged by a snazzier, cooler, more invasive social network.  Of course, by then we may all be "cyborgs" with surgically implanted Google Glass-type do-dads...)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

New Pix (From Nearly a Year Ago)

I recently discovered a large file of digital photos taken in Sweden last year that I never processed or posted.  I'd forgotten all about them!

There are more to come, at some point, but here are the ones I've uploaded so far...

You can see most of them by arrowing back (to the left), but there are a few to the right in the photostream, too. Or if you'd rather, they're on our Flickr photostream page, too, of course. :o)

Garden Update & Floral Photos

It's been a while since the last garden update, for a few reasons.  One, I've been sidetracked by other things, such as the daylily seeds/seedlings.  Two, it's so hooooot and huuuuumid (in my whiniest voice) that I just don't want to be out there more than I have to, so the vegetable beds have been a little neglected.  Three, in addition to the weather, the failure of some of our plants has been discouraging, which has led to even more avoidance.

Broccoli, snow peas, cucumbers, and lettuce, I've already written about.  (Not the right time of year, etc.)  I pulled out the mesclun, because (we think) the hot weather turned it bitter.  (Either that, or we just don't care for its flavor.)

(More) Things That Aren't Doing Very Well:
-- okra (haven't moved them, yet; still think they need more sun...)
--  squash and zucchini (vine borer, I think)
--  Swiss chard (something's eating it, but never took off to begin with...)
--  radishes (at least, something's eating the leaves...)

Things That ARE Doing Well:
--  tomatoes (so far... the "Sweet 100" are producing a lot right now)
--  bell peppers (harvested several nice-sized peppers already; chopped & frozen)
--  chives (practically a no-care plant)

- - - - - - -

Next year, I'd like to try a different variety of squash I've been hearing and reading about.  They're supposed to be more resistant to vine borers, for one thing, but they also look and taste different, so it'd be interesting to give them a try.  I believe I'll have to order the seeds online, since they're not (yet) that commonly available, if I understand correctly.

We're considering moving the raised beds to a different location over the winter, too.  Inside the yard, this time, closer to the water source.  (Probably behind the garage.  Plenty of sun, out of sight most of the time, close to the spigot.)  I don't know if we'll actually carry through on that or not, but it's an option.

- - - - - - -

A few photos from last week...

The albino daylily seedling:

Albino Daylily Seedling

One of my favorite blooms from the hydrangea, this year... (I like the magenta and purplish flowers, too, but I sometimes wish our hydrangea would bloom in that classic blue.)


Cleome.  I didn't realize (or had forgotten) that they have thorns.  A rainstorm had the biggest cleome leaning over, and when I grabbed onto it to stake it back upright-- ouch!


Passionflower.  (Taken at sunset, as were all these photos...  I rarely go outside that time of day, during the summer.  Mosquitoes, meal prep, etc... I miss the twilight, though.)




Sweet 100 Cherry Tomatoes.  (They're so pretty, with their gradient from green to red.)

Sweet 100 Cherry Tomatoes

No photos of it (and it's not much to look at, anyway), but the night-blooming jasmine has begun to bloom.  There aren't tons of flowers, and I couldn't smell it from very far away, but when I took a strong sniff right up close-- phew.  I'm beginning to suspect I'm one of those people who don't care for the scent.  I'll give it more time.  Maybe it's better when diffused on a breeze-- and if it only blooms at night in the summer, I won't be in a position to smell it very often, anyway, most likely.  Donald thought it was alright, but my first impression was of cheap perfume.  Nowhere near as nice as gardenia, banana shrub, roses, or honeysuckle.  On the other hand, it's not as bad as privet, but that's not saying much, because I loathe that smell.  A bit disappointing, but there was no way to know without trying it.

ETA:  I've just read that in India, at least some varieties of night-blooming jasmine are thought to attract snakes.  Something about the plant releasing a chemical that is similar to a snake pheromone.  (Of course, also in India, there's currently a teenage boy, born with a short tail, who's being worshiped as a reincarnated monkey god or something, so...)  I'm pretty sure it's just an old wives' tale, but if I start finding snakes next to the plant, it'll be dug up and burned/put into the trash.  In record time!  ;o)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Rant: Government Waste & Personal Responsibility

WKRG did it again!  They tweeted a FB link with the teaser, "Who says there's no such thing as a free lunch?"  The link goes to a story with this headline:  "Free Lunches for Mobile Co. Students".  Ooooh, freeeeeee.  Wow-ee.  There really is such a thing as a free lunch, after all.  Cool, man.

...But then you start to wonder... Well, but who is paying for it?  Are the owners of the Food Factory-- you know, that place where all the food gets cranked out, day after day-- donating all these meals out of the goodness of their hearts?  (Nah, just kidding.  Most of these people never think that far.  They hear "free" and, hey, why question it?  Just stick your hand out and grin.  Well, or you can gripe, instead, if your Free Stuff isn't to your liking.) 

For the relatively few who bother to read the article, this is what they'll see:
MOBILE COUNTY, ALABAMA -      No need to pack lunch money for students in Mobile County this year. All students will eat lunch for free, and Mobile County is not picking up the tab. The money will come from a federal program with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Mobile County Public School System qualified for the Community Eligibility Provision. This program enables schools with free meals if 75% of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

Parents will not have to fill out any paperwork for the free lunch. More than 59,000 students attend the 89 public schools in the Mobile County school system. According to the school system, they served 7.8 million lunches last year.

Reading the (FB) comments below the story is a (sadly, unsurprising) revelation of the kind of... ignorance?  stupidity? whatever-it-is that has put our country where it is today.

Some people, mysteriously, are not thrilled that their federal tax dollars are going to fund this program (among so many, many others).  (I agree, and I'll get into why, later.)

On the other side of the issue are the respondents (because I can guarantee you that not all of them are "readers", since they couldn't be bothered to read two paragraphs before throwing in their two cents) think it's wonderful news.  Free food!  For the children!  And no-one can complain, because the county isn't "picking up the tab"!

Then you have those who are annoyed with the complainers.  "Didn't y'all even read the story?  Gah!  It's free!"  Or to use one person's exact words: "Did any one read the article?!  Mobile county received a agriculture grant to pay for the free lunches... And what that means is that all mobile county school children will receive free lunch for this year."  Someone else replied, "So glad you pointed this out!!! It's a GRANT not costing the tax payers one dime and it's for one school year!!  These people are killing me."

...~sigh of soul-deep weariness~...

Ladies, where, exactly, do you think this magical "GRANT" money comes from, anyway?  Who, precisely, do you suppose funds grants provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, hmm?  Here's your answer.  Take that first part-- "U.S."-- remove the "dots" (some might call them periods, but in this modern age...)... Now what does that leave you with?  "US".  Yep, us.  We're the ones paying for this.

You're welcome to have your own reaction to this news, but please, for the sake of my sanity, don't persist in this ridiculous notion that the lunches are, ooooh, miraculously FREE, and that the rest of us have no stake in the matter.  We do. 

There's another type of person commenting, too-- those who acknowledge that taxpayers are footing the bill, but think it's great that our tax money is going to this project instead of "War" or "Big Oil", as it surely would, otherwise.  (Yep, those are the three options: War-Making, Big Oil, or Feed the Children.)  Anyone who questions this spending is a bad, selfish, stingy, awful person-- the kind of person who lives to complain about welfare and delights at the thought of snatching food from the mouths of children.  How dare you call yourself a Christian, in fact?!

Well, if we weren't funding grants of this kind-- and others that, I'll admit, are even more infuriating, wasteful, and unnecessary-- we'd be paying less in taxes to begin with.   How about we get to keep more of our own money and spend it as we see fit?  Maybe more people would be able to feed their own kids, then.

Sidetrack:  Seriously, though, how much does it cost to pack a lunch for an elementary-aged kid?  They don't eat that much, at that age.  My parents paid for three kids' lunches-- and breakfasts, suppers, and snacks, too, of course-- all through our childhoods.  I usually brought lunch from home, and I was fine with that.  (Honestly, most of the time, I preferred the contents of my packed lunches to whatever the cafeteria was serving.)  Mom shopped carefully to stay within a budget.  My parents did what had to be done to ensure we were fed.  I'm sure that sometimes that meant they didn't get to do or buy things they'd have enjoyed, but they had a set of priorities.  Why, oh why, can't almost all other people do the same?

If you are truly needy-- elderly, infirm, beset with unpredictable problems, temporarily unable to provide for yourself-- I don't have a problem with our collectively providing you with the necessities.  I do expect that you be truly needy, though-- not wasting money on "wants" and then sticking your hand out when the cost of providing for those "wants" leaves you with too little to pay for "needs".  Also, whenever possible, I expect that you work toward getting off welfare.  It should be a stop-gap measure only. 

I will not be happy to provide for you if you look upon welfare as an entitlement.  I will not give cheerfully if you are careless and have more children than you can support-- often getting pregnant again when you supposedly can't feed the children you already have.  (I will be furious, actually, if you raise your brood of children to believe that this-- living on welfare-- is the way things are supposed to be-- that there's nothing better to strive for-- unless you're lucky enough to win the lottery or make it big in sports/entertainment.)  I will be angry if you're buying expensive luxury items with your welfare card.  (If we can make do with cheaper foods, by golly, you'd better be doing the same.  You make that money stretch or you give it back.) I will be really angry if you're scamming the system-- selling your welfare card to someone for cash, for instance.  That's theft, plain and simple, and I don't take kindly to being robbed.

Because I am unhappy about the current state of our welfare programs, I guess I'm just not Christian enough.  Oh well. ...Also, I guess I missed that Sunday School lesson that teaches you to keep giving and giving, without consideration to how it's being used.  Charity is part of Christianity, it's true, but charity should be tempered with common sense-- and if it's taken from you against your will, it's no longer really charity.  (It's not doing the recipients any long-term favors, either.  Living on welfare for too long makes you complacent-- takes away the will to work for something better.  If you grow up on the system, you may not even realize that there's another, better way to live.)

Lately, I find that charitable impulses wither in my heart.  It's hard to feel charitable when you see the waste-- the sense of entitlement.  It's not easy to feel like giving of your own volition when the government forces you (through taxes) to "donate" so much to causes and people you don't support.  ...I'm sorry, but if that makes me a bad person, I'm getting worse by the year!

P.S.  And to those who so kindly remark that anyone who has a problem with this is the type of person who would actually be happy to see these poor, innocent little angels dropped straight from HEAVEN go hungry, just to spite their irresponsible parents...  Here's the thing:  I don't believe for a minute that most of these parents are incapable of feeding their kids.  If it comes down to it, most can make adjustments-- even a sacrifice or two-- and those kids will be fed.  (Maybe they'll think twice before having another kid, too, if they know the rest of us are done filling in for the deadbeat baby-daddies.)

For the ones who honestly can't provide a lunch, yes, you need to have a safety net in place.  (Very, very few people would be willing to see a child go hungry and not stop to help.)  The key is that it needs to be a sufficient but spartan and temporary safety net-- not a perpetual bouncy-house.  And yes, I know that I am SO MEAN for not wanting to support millions of someone else's kids forever. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Juvenile Water Moccasin / Cottonmouth

There are snake photos below, including a really blurry one of a snake eating a toad. 

This morning, a thunderstorm woke me, so I hurried out of bed to unplug the important (expensive) electronics.  (Oh, the joys of summertime!  A thousand unpluggings and re-pluggings and unpluggings again!)

Then I opened the kitchen door to peek at my daylily seedlings.  (I'm a bit paranoid about having them rained on too heavily, so I have a beach umbrella over them when there's a risk of rain-- but I'm also paranoid that the umbrella will catch a gust of wind and up-end the whole table... It's a situation fraught with tension, as you can tell.) The seedlings were fine-- but what was that under the table? 

A snake!
I thought it might be just a "brown water snake", because Donald saw one down by the puppy pool a couple of weeks ago (or so).  I woke him, and we looked at it briefly (through the rain-dimmed early-morning light) and said it must be another (relatively harmless) brown water snake.  So back to bed.

But I still wasn't sure.  I prefer the Internet for snake-photos, but the computers/Internet were unplugged-- and it was still thundering-- so I turned to our trusty reptile ID book.  (Nowhere near as good as the Internet, but better than my faulty memory.)  Anyway, the more I looked, the less certain I was.

Another look.  I tried to take photos, but most of them were blurry...

At this point, the snake had his mouth full of toad, so I ventured a little closer... and caught the glint of the eye.

Juvenile Water Moccasin

Back to wake up Donald, because now I was pretty sure it was a moccasin.  Sure enough that I wanted the thing dead, at least, and if it turned out not to be venomous, well, as Donald said, it didn't need to be hanging around the patio, anyway. 

Donald chopped the head off with a hoe and a shovel-- which proved harder than suspected, so we need to sharpen that hoe!-- and we were finally able to get a really good look.

Juvenile Water Moccasin

Definitely a juvenile moccasin.  (Or cottonmouth... Are the names used interchangeably, or is there really a difference between the two?  This one's mouth didn't look white when he opened it during the... "death struggle"... but that's probably because it was stained with toad blood.  Gross.)


Just makes you wonder how long it's been hanging out around our yard... Where it had been yesterday, when the dogs were out and about-- or when I was playing around with plants while wearing open-toe/bare-ankle, slip-on shoes...

Here's the best photo I got during the "trying to ID" period:

Juvenile Water Moccasin

So watch out.  They're definitely out there (as if we didn't already know it)!

ETA:  Those paver-bricks the snake's on are 8 inches long, if you're trying to get a feel for how big it was.  Not that big, in other words.