Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Balloon Flower (Chinese Bellflower)

Platycodon grandiflorus

This heavy bloomer gets its name from the way each flower bud swells before its starry petals unfold. Although the Latin name means 'bell,' the flower shape is really more of a star once open. The upward-facing flowers bloom throughout the summer and into early fall in shades of blue, pink and white.

The above pictures were taken in our back yard by JoAnne just the other day. We've had Balloon flowers for years; since we moved into the house actually. We have white ones and blue one; I've never seen a pink one, and they come up on their own faithfully each and every year with zero maintenance and care. However, as you can see from these pictures we have several plants that have hybridized into an awesome white and blue combination. I plan on marking these plant, perhaps with bread ties, so we can identify them once the flowers have passed and save their seeds in the hope of growing more next year. Who knows if these can be reproduced and catch on maybe they can be named after me. Something catchy like 'Wonderful Stephan' or 'Stunning Stephan'; you know something appropriate...

We have one other small issue with these flowers, well actually with Emilie. She loves to squeeze and pop the buds once they've swelled! We're trying to be a stop to this but she forgets sometimes and when she gets caught it lands her in 'time out' and a lose of ice cream for that night. We'll see how well this works.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

More Baby Bunnies

More young'ns have arrived to first time mother Oreo. She delivered 6 babies but one died. As you can see in the picture there are 4 black and white ones, just like Oreo, and one unexplainable all tan one - the father was all black. She has turned out to be a fantastic mother. It was actually very surprising just how much fur she pulled off herself to make her nest. Her underside is completely naked.

They were two weeks old on 7/24, so their eyes are opened now and they're becoming mobile.

We sold the six babies from the 2 litters we had earlier this summer and hopefully can do the same with this batch too.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Perdy Flowers II

Harvet Moon - Echinacea purpurea

Here is a nice picture of one of the new coneflowers that we purchased last year and boy doesn't it great!! Perhaps I'll submit this picture too in the company employee photo contest.

The coneflower's spiky central cone inspired the name "echinacea." It comes from the Greek echinos, which means hedgehog. The flowers are large and have large, dark cone-like centers, and the species usually have petals that droop or curve back. Echinacea produces showy, daisy-like flowers in mid-summer into the early fall.

JoAnne still hasn't finished painting the pool house yet but my ironing is done!

Perdy Flowers

I'm thinking about entering the above picture into the employee photo contest at work. If selected it will be included in the company calender that's handed out each year and I'll be famous.

The plants pictured are: Queen Anne's Lace (Uncle Tommy), Red Bee Balm (Monarda), Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan), Chive and Comfrey. The back drop is the backside of our pool shed, which JoAnne has yet to finish painting, alas.

I'm looking for comments on whether y'all thinks this is photo contest worthy.

SmartMoney.com Advice

The link below by SmartMoney.com narrows down the best days of the week to buy certain items; Airline Tickets, Books, Cars, Clothing etc. Check it out and perhaps save yourself some coin -

The Cheapest Days to Buy Certain Items

Of course, if you do in fact save yourself some bling, rember who turned you on to this information...

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Good Ole Days

There was one of those country type signs hanging in the examination room at the doctors office today that read -

"Middle age is when you choose your cereal for the fiber, not the toy."

That's when I realized I was there...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Raspberries, they're here...

Golden Raspberries

It's that time of the summer when our Golden Raspberries make their appearance and let me tell you it's a delicious time too! Our Red Raspberries won't be far behind and will be following soon. These bad boys on vanilla ice cream just can't be beat! Although, vanilla ice cream with Bailey's Irish Cream poured over top comes pretty close!

All About Raspberries

Friday, July 20, 2007

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Chicken Coop Upgrade II

Phase II of the Chicken Coop Upgrade is now complete. I finished it this past weekend. I installed chicken wire from the ground to the roof and then covered with new lattice panels.

Progress has been slow but we're git'n er dun! On to Phase III...

See posting dated Thursday, July 12, 2007 Chicken Coop Upgrade

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Start Your Engines

On this edition of "MTV Cribs" we visit Emilie's garage and get a peak at her 3-wheel and 4-wheel rides. Stay tuned, after the break we'll sneak a peak at her playroom to see how the other half live...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Chicken Coop Upgrade

Phase 1 of our chicken coop upgrade has been completed. JoAnne, Emilie and I spent this past Saturday working on it. Once we're completely done the cage should be (hopefully) critter proof, i.e. safe from raccoons, dogs etc. Although we've not had a problem that doesn't mean it can't/won't happen. Also, by securing it as we're doing we can now leave the chickens out over night. Up till now we've put them away, in their crate, each night and take them out each morning. More of a hassle than anything else but the chickens have become friendly as a result and used to being handled.

Phase 1 consisted of fencing in the front, building a gate and securing the top (just under the hanging rabbit cages). Phase 2 will be to reinforce the sides with chicken wire and then install new lattice panels for added strength and aesthetics. Phase 3 will be to connect their crate to the back of the coop. This will give them a secure place to roost at night, one that's somewhat protected from the elements, especially when the cold weather comes. Phase 4 will be tweaks, i.e. new nest boxes and a new roost for the chickens and we're thinking of framing the top half (front), similar to the bottom to protect the rabbits from critters too.

Ideally, when it's all said and done it will be very secure and we'll be able to winterize it, which will allow us to leave the rabbit's and chickens out all winter.

Updated pictures to follow as each phase is completed so contain your excitement and be patient.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Parkinson Disease Wristbands

Visit The American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) - the Massachusetts chapter and order a "Steady Strides for Parkinsons" wristbands to show your support to aid Parkinson’s Disease research.

American Parkinson Disease Association - Massachusetts Chapter
715 Albany Street Suite C329
Boston, MA 02118

Ant Party - UPDATE

I believe I've finally determined the kind of ants that were attending the "Ant Party". However, to confirm I really need to catch one and put it under a magnifying glass to get a good look at it. An important identification characteristic is the number of segments or "nodes" in the abdomen. Pavement ants have two nodes in the abdomen, one pair of spines on the thorax and a sting on the tip of the abdomen. Pavement ants also have grooves on their head.

Pavement ant workers are amongst one of the smallest ants at approximately 1/8-inch; light to dark brown or blackish. The winged forms may occur during most warm months, but are most common in June and July. It's July now and this would explain why each morning, these past couple of days, our pool is full of dead floating winged ants; Pavement ants, the winged form, know as Swarmers. Apparently they can't swim and neither can chipmunks.

(See my Wednesday, June 27, 2007 posting titled "Ant Party").

Monday, July 09, 2007

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Which is the chatty sex?

Which is the chatty sex? Turns out both are. Well, according to this article (study) anyway. I don't buy it, not for a minute. I demand a recount. That's all I have to say on this matter but of course if I was a woman there WOULD be more :-))

This article reminds me of a scene from the 1989 movie Uncle Buck. The dialog below is between Miles (Macaulay Culkin) and Buck (John Candy) - you really need to see the movie to appreciate how fast this dialog was done:

Miles: Where do you live?
Buck: In the city.
Miles: You have a house?
Buck: Apartment.
Miles: Own or rent?
Buck: Rent.
Miles: What do you do for a living?
Buck: Lots of things.
Miles: Where's your office?
Buck: I don't have one.
Miles: How come?
Buck: I don't need one.
Miles: Where's your wife?
Buck: Don't have one.
Miles: How come?
Buck: It's a long story.
Miles: You have kids?
Buck: No I don't.
Miles: How come?
Buck: It's an even longer story.
Miles: Are you my Dad's brother?
Buck: What's your record for consecutive questions asked?
Miles: 38.
Buck: I'm your Dad's brother alright.
Miles: You have much more hair in your nose than my Dad.
Buck: How nice of you to notice.
Miles: I'm a kid - that's my job

They're Here...

Cigars for everyone!

We decided to go out for ice cream last night around 7ish. Surprisingly Emilie complained that she didn't want to go, she wanted to stay home but we ignored her and anyway we all went. Of course once she had her ice cream she was happy as a clam and so was JoAnne!

We returned home around 8ish just in time to see the first of four baby guinea pig being born! The births were an amazing event, which we all got to witness. I was also amazed at the natural instinct that the mother (Riley) had. She just new what to do and wasted no time in cleaning the after birth (there's a visual for yeah) off each piglet as soon as it arrived. They were born approximately 5 minutes apart, with the whole process taking about 30 minutes.

The timing was good too because I was able to remove the two males from this cage so Riley could be left alone to give birth and then tend to the young'ns.

This first picture shows the four babies shortly after being born. As you can see they're still wet.

This second picture was taken the following morning (today). They're with their mum, all dry and ready to rock and roll.

It's funny how things work sometimes - had we given in to Emilie and not gone for ice cream we would have missed this experience completely.

Guinea Pigs for sale - make me an offer for the entire lot of them, all 7. No reasonable offer refused!

Town Accountability

What do you think about this fancy new water restriction sign that the town of Franklin invested in? I hope you like them, our town purchased (4) of them to tell us about our the town water restrictions.

Does anyone care to take a guess at what each sign cost? The correct answer scores you a lollipop...

However, before I reveal the answer let me make you aware of a couple interesting facts regarding our town:

  1. The town just put to vote a proposition 2 1/2 override, which to my shock, passed!
  2. The historic Red Brick School, the nation’s longest continuously operating one-room red brick schoolhouse, had been slated for closure to help plug a remaining budget gap - this after prop 2 1/2 passed. Fortunately, an 11th-hour, $18,000 gift to supplement a $9,000 donation will keep the town’s national landmark filled with a kindergarten class for another year. *This school holds, I believe, just 15 children - that's it!
  3. The Franklin Public Library is considered America's first public library, established November 20th, 1790. The library was on the verge of being closed, yes I said closed, due to budget issues. They came close to losing the state certification after their hours were cut back, and the capability of Franklin residents to use the inter-library loan, which would have been limited to books within the collection, again due to budget issues.

The water conservation signs were purchased at $865 each - multiple that by 4 for a total of $3,460!

Now I ask you, does the left hand know what the right hand is doing? Shouldn't there be some accountability on what and where and how the money is being allocated? Do you think spending $3,460 on signs was the wisest choice? Proposition 2 1/2 overrides are forever, like tatoos...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Bee Sting Remedy

I came across the following story in the Yahoo group Classifieds For Animals. I have not tried this remedy yet so I can not vouch if this truely works but it's worth a try.

I have changed the names in an effort to spice the story up - Master Pimp stephan Shizzle tells the story, Candy is his neighbor and Porche is Candy's niece.

Bee/Hornet Cure

A couple of weeks ago I got stung by both a bee and hornet while working in the garden. My arm swelled up so off to the doctor I went. The clinic gave me cream and an antihistamine. The next day the swelling was getting progressively worse so off to my regular doctor I went. Infected arm and needing an antibiotic. What was interesting is what the doctor told me - the next time you get stung put a penny on the bite for 15 minutes.

Well, that night Candy's niece Porche got stung by two bees. When she came over to swim I looked at the bite and it had already started to swell. So off I went to get my money and taped a penny to her arm for 15 minutes. The next morning, there was no sign of a bite. Wow, were we surprised.

Guess what happened again on Saturday night. I was helping Candy deadhead her flowers and I got stung again two times by a hornet on my left hand. I thought, here I go again having to go to the doctor for yet another antibiotic. I promptly went into the house and taped two pennies to my bites for 15 minutes. The penny took the string out of the bite immediately. I still wasn't sure what was going to happen. In the mean time the hornets were attacking Candy and she got stung on the thumb. Again the penny. The next morning I could only see the spot where I was stung - no redness, no swelling. Went over to see Candy and her's was the same. Couldn't even tell where she got stung. Then Candy got stung again on Monday night cutting the grass, again it worked.

The doctor said somehow the copper in the penny counteracts the bite. I would never had believed it. But it definitely does work. So remember this little bit of wisdom and pass it on to your friends, children, grandchildren, etc.

Pennies Pennies Pennies

Monday, July 02, 2007

Red Squirrel

Tamiasciurus hudsonicus

Here is a Red Squirrel that we caught in our Havaheart trap on Saturday. You see we've begun fighting back in the "Lincoln Street Strawberry battle". For now I will only report on this critter, who benefited by the concept of the Havaheart trap, while others varmint have not been so lucky...

This little dude was feisty! He wanted out of the trap in a bad way and worked at it feverishly. Of course like all critters that I come upon; old and new, big and small, they need to be viewed and seen by Emilie. This dude was no exception and Emilie was thrilled.

I was surprised to see how aggressive this guy was. When I was taking his pictures he was squaring off and lunging towards me. I've caught and relocated (the lucky ones) numerous Grey Squirrels and not one of them showed any aggression - what a bunch pantywaists.

The Red Squirrel is a good example of an animal that is around more often than you'd think but one that you seldom see; they're elusive little tuckers. Since we like these little critters we released him right where we caught him.

Bring on the chipmunks...

Strawberry Damage

Emilie was excited because she saw a deer in the neighbor's back yard the other day and she got to watch it for a little while before it wandered off. We've seen many, many deer in both the neighbors yard as well as ours but typically it's in the fall and winter. Seldom do we see them in the summer. Of course just because we don't see them doesn't mean they're not there.

Only when I was out in the back yard later that same day did I notice and come to realize that the deer had been in our back yard too and not just passing by but dining on our strawberry plants - not the berries but the leafs! You can see the damage that was done in the above picture. This is one of our raised strawberry beds with the front half of the plants completely eaten. This just adds to our strawberry battles; we have chipmunks and Grey Cat bird dining on the plump red berries and now deer eating the foliage, alas…

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Poison Ivy

"Leaflets three, let it be"

Here is a picture of what poison ivy looks like for those of you that don't know. I took this picture, believe it or not, at a play ground that Emilie and I were at last weekend and it was all over the place - kinda unusual for an area where kids play don't yeah think?

Warning: Mrs. Michelson be careful reading this!

Poison ivy is a very common plant found in most parts of the United States. It has two forms. One form grows low to the ground. It is usually found in groups of many plants and looks like weeds growing from 6 to 30 inches high. The other form is a "hairy" vine that grows up a tree. Both have stems with 3 leaves. The sap that comes from these plants causes the rash. The name of this sap, urushiol, causes an allergic reaction in most people.

Man Roses

JoAnne surprised me this afternoon with a bouquet of "Man Roses", which is a 12-pack of Miller Lite Longneck bottles!
Can't beat that on a good day! It must be love!