Monday, June 30, 2008

Creative Cooking 101

I got a little creative in the kitchen last night in a Victory Garden & Rachael Ray kinda way and 'kicked it up a notch', a.k.a. Emeril Lagasse.

From our garden: (1) head of broccoli, scallions and parsley.

From the market: (1) red pepper, (1) green pepper, chicken breast, (1) package of oriental noodles & (1) bottle of sesame ginger marinate sauce.

In the kitchen (prep): diced the scallions, cut the peppers and chicken into chunks and the broccoli florets into large pieces.

I used two frying pans over high heat:
Pan #1: for the noodles; which I fried with some olive oil and sesame ginger marinate sauce to give some color and crispness - BAM!

Pan #2: for the veggies and chicken; fried with olive oil, and sesame ginger marinate sauce for color and crispness - BAM!

Serving: Two thumbs up, way up - YUM YUM YUM! I'll be having leftovers for dinner tonight...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sabrina and Teddy

Sabrina and Teddy are tuckered out and now relaxing after a long day of hunting and playing.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Broccoli Harvest

Broccoli is a plant of the Cabbage family, Brassicaceae. The family includes many vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, collards, kale and kohlrabi.
It was introduced in England in the early 16th century known as “ Italian asparagus” or “sprout cauliflower”.

Here is our first head of broccoli of the season picked this afternoon!
The softball is there for size comparison.
The other (3) plants are not too far behind, so we'll be picking more broccoli again very soon.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Name the Bird II

The first ever 'Name the Bird' contest was a HUGE success! We had great participation and some very creative guesses. However, in the end and even with the hints and clue provided no one was able to 'Name the Bird'. Although, we did learn how to spell PTERODACTYLUS (TER-o-DACK-ti-lus).

Here we go again! Y'all have a chance to redeem yourselves. The bird nest pictured above was built in our Forsythia bush just behind the pool fence, about chest high and next to the raspberries.

Can you 'Name the Bird' that built this nest and produced these eggs?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Laundry Time

At the request of the misses I installed our first ever cloths line, (3) individual lines to be exact. I installed them under our deck and leveraged the three posts that are holding up the deck and so that they're in the shade. I learned that you don't want the cloths hanging in direct sun as it will fade the colors...who knew?! Did you? Come on now fess up...

Of course it has nothing to do with the fact that our new neighbors put up a cloths line. They have the type that sits in the middle of the yard. One that you dig a hole and prolly use concrete to keep vertical and in place; one that is a HUGE pain in the arse when it comes to mowing, kinda an old fashion one of sorts - you know the one I'm talking about. The only nice thing about theirs is that it spins but it still doesn't compare to ours; ours is better and more functional; ours rocks!

We now have clean laundry with that just-hung-outside-to-dry smell and feel. Plus we're saving money by not running the dryer and also doing our part in the whole Going Green movement.

Berry Pick'n

Strawberries 2008

Here is our first bucket of strawberries of the season. All in all not too bad since we're at war with the catbirds. They are constantly in and out of the strawberry beds helping themselves to pieces of berries; not whole berries but a piece off this one and a piece off that one and a piece of another, etc... There are plenty more out there ripening as I write this.

Don't they look delish (aka Rachel Ray)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Boob Tube

We enjoy and look forward each week to watching Hell's Kitchen. Hell's Kitchen is an American reality-television cooking competition that airs Tuesday nights at 9:00PM EST on Fox Television.

Although this is the fourth season of Hell's Kitchen, we only got turned on to it this season, good stuff as far as reality TV goes!

My new favorite phrase that is used often throughout each episode by volatile British master chef Gordon Ramsay is, "piss off'.

TheFreeDictionary definition of 'piss off' (verb) means; to go away: often used to dismiss a person.
I plan on incorporating this phrase into my daily verbage, so please don't take it personally or be offended. After all, I believe this is how the British chaps speak, plus all the profane language is transmitted uncensored in many countries unlike here in the US - thanks (for nothing) FCC.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Our Lilies

One of our striking, deep orange lily plants about to break out -

Here's a top view of the same plant that has breaked out (good English yes) with many, many more breakout blooms to go -

Asiatic, Easter & Oriental Lily Fun Facts:

  • Many plants that have “lily” as part of their common name (such as daylily or peace lily) are not “true” lilies. True lilies belong to the genus Lilium. Lilies are bulbs made of fleshy, overlapping scales with no protective covering. Daylilies have long, slender fibrous roots with tubers attached to the roots which store food for the plant.
  • Asiatic and Oriental lilies grow best in full sunlight. They'll grow taller, more spindly, and floppier in reduced light.
  • Deadhead flowers as they fade, by breaking them off carefully. That way, none of the plant's energy is “wasted” on seed production. Do not remove stems or foliage, though. They'll continue to put energy into the bulb as long as they remain green. Remove old foliage in late fall or early spring by cutting down the dead stalks.
  • The bright-red lily leaf beetle, Lilioceris lilii is a bad dude to all Lilium plants, as they only eat true lilies. In fact, if they’re not controlled, they’ll defoliate and kill them, see picture below -

Bright-red lily leaf beetle - adult. I check our lilies every day looking for these beetles, which are very easy to spot due to their bright red color. If and when I find any, which I did in the early spring as the plants were coming up, I simply pinch their head off! Painless, for me anyway, and not too messy.

If you don't put the time in to check for these pests when adults they'll multiply and you'll end up with the following. Now in this stage they are messy and not as easy to destroy, plus you'll get poo poo on your hands, YUK!

Slug-like larva carrying its frass (entymologist-speak for poop) on its back, an unpleasant habit developed to protect itself from predators.

Slug-like larva without the frass. Mmm, mmm good if you're a chicken - they gobble them up :-)

Note: My dad failed to check the lilies in his yard, which suffered immensely as a result and now look very much like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Of Course You Realize, This Means War!

"License to kill gophers by the government of the United Nations. Man, free to kill gophers at will. To kill, you must know your enemy, and in this case my enemy is a varmint. And a varmint will never quit - ever. They're like the Viet Cong - Varmint Cong. So you have to fall back on superior intelligence and superior firepower. And that's all she wrote." *

Lettuce Kale

"I have to laugh, because I've outsmarted even myself. My enemy, my foe, is an animal. In order to conquer the animal, I have to learn to think like an animal. And, whenever possible, to look like one. I've gotta get inside this guy's pelt and crawl around for a few days." *

Broccoli Parsley
As you can see from the above pictures (taken last night) that we have a varmint problem in our garden! Yup, some annoying, bothersome, galling, irritating, nettlesome, pesky, pestering, pestiferous, plaguy, teasing, vexatious, vexing, soon-to-be-dead varmint SOB, that has boldly been helping itself to, not only the above vegetable plants, but also the Purple Cone flower, the Black-eyed Susan and the Comfrey.
There are (3) possible culprits here: deer, woodchuck and/or rabbit. I have my suspicions that the rabbit varmints are behind this atrocity. The damage is relatively small considering what it could be if say a deer was behind this and I've not seen a single deer track - therefore I've ruled out Bambi. I don't believe the woodchuck would be so bold to forage up beside the house, to far. Well not that it's to far but these shy, portly critters like to keep close to the edge of the woods and often waste no time in running away at the slightest noise or sign of humans. He'd be too exposed to venture all the way up to the garden and have no quick exit strategy - therefore I've ruled out this Marmot rodent. The above process of elimination leaves us with the guilty party - Colonel Mustard in the library with a candlestick, err I mean the rabbit.
Stay tuned to see how this plays out...
* Memorable quotes by Carl Spackler from the 1980 movie Caddyshack.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Chicken vs Egg

One of the worlds most puzzling question. A question that has been debated over for centuries. A question that has been researched and researched time and time again. A question that still remains a mystery today despite all the questioning and debating and researching and asking - Who came first the chicken or the egg?

Well, I have the answer to this age old question, yup I do. I've found proof I did and I found it in one of the most unusual yet obvious places, the Internet - thanks Al Gore!

Err, um, well I thought I had definitive proof, dammit.

The mystery continues...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Name the Bird - Revealed

The time has come to reveal the answer to the much anticipated, first ever, 'Name the' contest (excluding the 'Name the Poop' contest, which was a beta release and complete shit). Before I do take a look at this most recent picture. Perhaps you can tell now, hmmm?! Hint, think color.

It's holds the record for popularity as the official state bird for 7 US states: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia.

A professional baseball team is named after this bird. There are only 3 teams in MLB named after a bird: (2) in the American League and (1) in the National League. The team this bird is named after is in the National league.

The Roman Catholic Archidocese of Boston, Seán Patrick O'Malley, is one.

Also, the number of elements in a mathematical set, which denotes a quantity but not the order.

Here is the female watching over the nest and posing for the picture.

Here is the male standing guard, also posing for the picture.

Surely you now must know this stunning bird!

Update: We're guessing one is a male and one is a female based on their coloring. The little red dude, who appeared to be bolder and more animated, took flight yesterday morning - off he went. Boy did that cause a ruckus. The parents went into protect mode immediately. They were very vocal and stayed right with him watching over him. We're not sure where he is today and hope he's fine. The mother was back on the nest last night keeping the remaining chick warm, as the temperature dropped quite a bit last night and is still that way now.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Vegatable Garden - Update

Our vegetable gardens have all been planted and we're now in maintenance mode - weeding, watering , tying and waiting for the seedlings to appear.

We've lost a couple lettuce plants, they just died not sure why, and a third one that's being nibbled on by something - rabbit I believe.

The tomato's are doing fantastic and growing like weeds. This picture doesn't show it but they've all been staked and tied. Actually they all need to be tied a second time already their growing so fast.

The Yukon Gold potatoes have yet to poke through the soil but should be any day now.

The carrots aren't fairing too well. They've poked through but many have disappeared - they're very tiny. Not sure if it's too hot for these tiny guys or too much water but we'll see what happens.

As you can see in this picture, the strawberry plants are doing fantastic with a ton of green berries. The second raised bed has both broccoli and kale plants - the broccoli are the larger plants. These guys are doing great too.

The peach tree is also loaded with tiny peaches and the raspberry plants are thick and full. We could use some rain and hope the critters leave everything alone.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Parsley, a Biennial...

Q: Will my parsley last more than one year?

A: Yes, you should be able to harvest parsley from one plant for two years in a row. It is a biennial, growing a plant the first year and sending up a seed stalk or flowers the second year. As long as the plant is not in excessive high heat or excessive cold, you can harvest in the second year after removing the flower stalk. Pick only the mature leaves.

Courtesy of The Old Farmer's Almanac

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Name the Bird - Update

There were some good answers and some very creative answers to the original 'Name the Bird' posting, however, all incorrect. Let me throw out (baseball term get it?!) another clue. There is a professional baseball team named after this bird :-)

Here are a couple pictures that may or may not help in determining what type of bird these guys are -

The babies are just hours old in this picture. Only 2 of the 3 eggs hatched, the other was tossed out - we found it lying on the ground beneath the nest. Not sure if the mother tossed it knowing there was something wrong or one of the new babies accidentally knocked it out.

Here they are again just three days later. Isn't it amazing how fast these dudes are growing!! Both the mother and father have been bring food and feeding this guys.

Can you 'Name the Bird' now?!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Oak Apples Anyone

The Merriam-Webster definition of an oak apple is, "a large round gall produced on oak leaves and twigs by a gall wasp (especially Amphibolips confluenta)".

These pictures are two of the many oak apples that we have dangling from the oak trees in our yard. I've recently learned that JoAnne enjoys squeezing and popping these things and used to do this as a kid too. Perhaps, there is some therapeutic value in this. Who would have thunk...

Oak Apples Information from the Internet -
Oak apples or galls are spheres, about the size of golf balls or slightly smaller, green and mottled with red. Galls are the protective nurseries for young insects, usually given the quaint name "oak apples." The mother insect enlists the help of oak trees to shelter her growing offspring. Known as the oak gall wasp, the tiny non-stinging insect deposits her egg in the flesh of an oak leaf. Along with the egg is a hormone that induces the oak tree to form a gall around the wasp egg. The larva develops within a shield of plant material, a capsule suspended in the center of the orb. At least 200 species of organisms use oak trees to form galls of one kind or another. Galls cause very little damage to the host plant, and gall wasps are not considered to be serious pests. The gall is not an impregnable fortress, and many predators recognize wasp galls as sources of food. If the gall wasp larva escapes all these predators and survives to adulthood, it chews its way out, leaving a small neat hole in the papery gall, which falls with the leaves of autumn.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Star-nose Mole

This little feller, a Star-nose mole, is known to be a good swimmer and can forage along the bottoms of streams and ponds. However, he met his match when he decided to take a dip in our pool. As you can see from the picture above he didn't fare too well.

The Star-nosed mole is not a rodent but rather one of the most distinctive mammal species. The startling nose appendages immediately set this mole apart from the five other North American species. This odd-looking mammal sports a grotesque crown of 22 fleshy tendrils around its snout, which can detect and gulp down its prey at a speed too fast for the human eye to follow, even though the animal is virtually blind.

From the moment that it touches insect larva with its proboscis, it takes just 230 milliseconds to check that it is edible and gobble it up. This is the fastest known reaction time in the animal kingdom, taking less than half the 650 milliseconds that a human driver needs to brake for a red light.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Place Your Bets

Emilie has been collecting Eastern Tent caterpillars and Forest Tent caterpillars the last couple of weeks. We make multiple trips each day out along the trees to see just how many more we can find. She has them all crammed into a small bug container mixed with leaves and sticks and stuff. Looks more like the making of a shepherds pie than anything else.

She loves to take one or two out and name then and hold them and talk to them and play with them. The other day as we were sitting in the driveway watching her with these caterpillars I had an idea that just came to me, you see "I'm an idea man, I get ideas, sometimes I get so many ideas that I can't even fight them off!" (Bill (Michael Keaton) from the 1982 movie Night Shift), anyway the idea is races; caterpillar racing!

We wasted no time in testing this idea and quickly created a chalk race track, see picture. Our prototype only had two lanes, but once this catches on we'll have six or eight or even ten lanes with patent pending. We just need to figure out how to attach numbers to these fury, defoliating, leaf eating pests.

Another idea - "What if you mix the mayonnaise in the can, WITH the tuna fish? Or... hold it! I got it! Take LIVE tuna fish, and FEED 'em mayonnaise! Oh this is great." (another Bill quote from Night Shift).

Name the Bird

Participation for 'Name the Poop' wasn't what I thought it would be.

Perhaps, this was a result of the icky poop topic.

Therefore, I've come up with more user friendly 'Name the ' game.

The bird nest pictured above was built in the rhododendron just outside our playroom window.

Can you 'Name the Bird' that built this nest and produced these eggs?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Finders Keepers

Crows - The American Crows, Corvus brachyrhynchos. You know the big black bird that caws and carries on.

I recall when I was a yute (a line by Vinny Gambini from the movie My Cousin Vinny) that you couldn’t get close to these birds. The minute you’d try off they’d go. I’m not talking about sneaking up and trying to grab one or put salt on its tail but rather trying to open a window to get a shot at one. The littlest sound would send them off even the opening of a window.

Now a day’s this simply doesn’t hold true from what I’ve seen. For example, the last couple of times that my dad let me cut his lawn (weeds and dirt) there’s been a flurry of crow activity. What surprises me is how bold they are these days and of course I no longer have armament to get a shot at one.

I am cutting the lawn yesterday and notice a crow not more than 15 – 20 feet away picking at something. From my vantage point, perched atop my tractor, I see what the dude is pecking at and spring from the tractor into action and make a b-line right to him. This didn’t scare him off right away and he kept picking. I closed the gap between him and me to less than 6’ before he took off and before he left he made one last grab at what he was picking at and flew off with some of it.

And do you want to know what he was picking at, hmm? Of course you do, this is a riveting story and I have you sitting at the edge of your computer desk with sheer excitement and awe, admit it.

Anyway, I digress. The dude was picking at a folded piece of paper, a receipt, with some singles folded along with it. You know singles, ones, dollar bills, dinero, bread, cabbage, clams, dough, loot, moolah… That S.O.B. grabbed two singles as he took off and I swear he flipped me the bird too. I can’t be certain of the amount but the receipt listed $4.51 as ‘change due’ and two singles were left behind – you do the math.

The good news is that I made $2.00 for cutting my dads lawn yesterday and the bad news is it could have been $4.00. In any event my cup of coffee this morning was free and a BIG thank you goes out to Mr. Crow for without him I would never have spotted the cash and come into such a windfall.

This find has also renewed my desire and compassion to continue mowing my dad’s lawn - I’ve been invigorated with the possibility of finding more cash and riches as I mow !

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Kindergarten Concert 2008

The (5) kindergarten classes in Emilie's school held their end-0f-year concert on Friday morning.

The kids came into the
cafetorium and up on stage by their class and sang the (7) songs below:

The kids were adorable and did a fantastic job. Of course Emilie was the cutest one of them all and had a blast. She was ALL smiles up there and fortunately for us she was in the front row, as were we, so we could see her clearly and get some good pictures.

She had a great school year and has come a long way in her learning, loves school and made a lot of friends. Now off to grade 1...

1 - One Small Voice
2 - ABC Rock
3 - Number Rock
4 - Spanish Counting Song
5 - What a Wonderful World
6 - God Bless the USA
7 - Together Tomorrow