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Archive for September, 2009

Okay, in addition to the stuff I wrote about yesterday, that being floating on a perfect September day and completing the rock wall for the strawberry beds plus the snakes caught in flagrante in the workshop, I also harvested the sweet potatoes from the first vegetable garden bed, plus enough potatoes to make room for the planting destined to live under the cold frame this winter.  Observe:

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That’s a right nice pile of potatoes in front, but do you see the “fan” of sweet potatoes in the background?   All that greenery across the top of the picture  is sweet potato vine.   Let’s have a close-up of the sweet potatoes that came out of the first hill.   (There were three hills of sweet potatoes total.)

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I was pretty impressed by that pile of sweet potatoes, all coming from one plant, until I started digging up the second hill.   That one really took the cake.   There was a sweet potato in the second hill that weighed 7 pounds. That’s 3.1 kilos.

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This is the basket with all the sweet potatoes in and around it.   The little white potatoes are in the bottom of the basket.  The seven pounder is right in the center.

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This is how the bed looked after I got all the potatoes pretty well cleaned up.  I loosened up the soil with my broad fork and then used the cultivating fork to break up the bigger clods of dirt.   After that I made furrows using my small pointed hoe, and then I planted lettuces, mesclun mix, and spinach.   It has been watered in.   In the background you can see the big wad of sweet potato vines waiting to be carted off to the composting area.

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Okay, so that was yesterday, pretty much, in a nutshell.   Today we are getting a new chest deep freeze.   In fact, it is here.  We decided we needed more freezer space, so we determined that we have enough space on the wall of the carport to upsize to a 19 cf from the 16 cf.   The old freezer was my anniversary present for our fourth anniversary which occurred while we lived in Bremerton WA.   Before I started the blog this morning, I cleaned out the big deep freeze so we can move it over and also so we can determine whether we have enough room for a small beef in February.   It would be nice if there was also enough room for a pig as well.

Right now I am waiting for the deep freeze to defrost.   I am willing to wait a fairly long time because it appears that frost has built up in the lid and really needs time to thaw and drain.   So I am going to put on my work shoes and go out and continue heeling in the pots of Norton (Cynthiana) wine grapes that we have been so carefully nurturing out int he vegetable garden all summer in order to have a fifth row of grapes in the vineyard.

I fully intend to spend some time after that sitting in my garden chair.   I truly have been finding time to enjoy it.   Night before last it was in the moonlight and for once the freeway was fairly quiet.

I will close with a couple of shots of the butterflies that have been frequenting the vegetable garden.   The monarchs really like the “pet” torch tithonia I have with the tomato cages.

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Don’t work too hard, now, hear?

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I’m way behind on reading other people’s blogs and commenting right now, but the reason is because a lot of stuff is going on.  Jesse is home on leave, sort of.   He is on leave but is not home much as yet.   There are friends of the female persuasion that must be visited.   Enough said.

We have been working like maniacs on the strawberry bed wall.   This is the way it looked yesterday afternoon.

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I went floating on Sunday with Jeri and her daughter Heather, along with Mabel, Maria, Michelle, JD, Cody, and Marshmallow (the dog).  It was one of those splendid fall days that are actually quite rare.   The river was high due to the rain we had earlier this week, so the current made it possible for us to be truly floating; no-one was working very hard.   We had to be creative about the gravel bars because there really weren’t very many to stop on being as how they were all under water.   Even though it was fairly crisp in the morning, by the time we hit the water the temperatures were in the 80s.  We were saved from being too hot by the fact that the river water was rather cold since it was fresh run-off that had not had a lot of hot days to warm it up.   The really amazing thing was that there was not a cloud in the sky.   A completely cloudless day is pretty rare on the Ozark Plateau, actually.

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That is Jeri in her Wildfire canoe with Marshmallow in the back.  Following is one of the gravel bars we stopped on.

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This is a significant picture.   I know I must have mentioned that Jay and Jeri are moving to Costa Rica; their departure is scheduled for early next month.  It is difficult to deal with your best friend moving to another country, trust me on this.   Jim and I are both going through a lot of adjustment even though we will be visiting them at their new home it will not be the same as having them down the road to float with and cook with and just generally hang out and bullshit with.  It is quite likely that the float yesterday was one of the last ones we will ever make together on the Niangua.   To say my feelings were mixed is an understatement.

While we were on that gravel bar, I found a few very significant rocks, and I picked them up with the express intent of placing them into the new rock wall we are building to enclose the strawberry beds.    Below is the section of wall I where placed the three rocks I picked up on that gravel bar on Sunday.  They are the long narrow striped one and the two large ones that are under it.

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Following is the completed wall around the strawberry beds.   We finished it this afternoon.  I had no massage appointments and it is a darned good thing.   After hefting all that mortar and rock, I’m not sure I could have given a decent massage.

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There are a couple of features in the wall that just sort of happened.   There are a couple of uneven-esses in then height of the walls.  In the corner nearest us in the picture above, you may notice that the corner rock is quite a bit higher than the rest of the wall.   Well, that rock just got placed there while the tall corner forms were up and nobody noticed just exactly how much higher it was than the guidelines on the outside of the form.   We decided that this was going to be the “traditional” break in the pattern that allows energy to escape.  It turns out it makes a pretty good miniature sun dial, too.   I placed a shiny rock from the gravel bar Sunday as an accent to the “gnomon” rock.

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That picture doesn’t really do that little flat rock justice, it is encrusted with tiny crystals and really glitters in the sun.   At the other corner, where the wall joins and completes the square “circle” we started last week, I placed a silicated snail shell fossil that I have had around for a long time.  I decided to accent this “seal” rock with some double terminated quartz points I have.  I think it makes a pretty good finish for the wall.

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Well, of course we put our initials in the wall.   Isn’t it traditional?   Afterwards, we toasted to the new installation.

Then, while we were cleaning up after ourselves and putting tools away, Jim found something really cool going on in the barn.   The ribbon snake has a very good friend and we disturbed them in the act of consummating their relationship.  I just can’t seem to get out of the paparazzi mode!

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The Havens habitat is alive and well.   More news tomorrow.   Right now I need a good soak in a tub of salts and healing essential oils.

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Photo hunt: Twisted

Today for your delectation I am featuring the wonderful moonflower (Ipomoea alba).  These are busy blooming right now and will continue to do so until frost.   They have the most gorgeous twisted buds, which unfurl rather quickly at sunset.   They stay open all night, the sphinx moths visit them.   Then they collapse their sails of petals in the early morning.

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It is worth the effort to go and visit some of the other participants in Photo hunt.   You can find them here.

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Today is T-shirt Friday, a lovely tradition begun by Nursemyra.  Head on over to her place to see her selection and find out who else is playing.

Today I am featuring one of my favorites.  I acquired it when we were in Singapore back in 2001, when we visited the very beautiful Singapore National Orchid Garden.   It was quite a lesson to me in international sizing.   I was careful to pick one that was labeled  extra large, for I was at my maximum 227 pounds at that point.   Alas, when I got home it turned out that x-l means quite a different thing in Singapore than it does in the American midwest.    That accounts for its near pristine condition despite its age.   It is only recently that I have been able to wear this garment.

The garden is well worth the extra money you have to pay to see it.

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I know that is a pretty cryptic title, but the fact is  we have been eating a heck of a lot of cake around The Havens lately.  In addition to it being the Vernal Equinox, it was Jim’s birthday the other day.  When I asked him what kind of cake he wanted he said “carrot”.   So I made a carrot cake, and if I say so myself it is delicious.   I adapted the recipe slightly by adding shredded ginger, minced crystallized ginger and dried powdered ginger to the mixture.   We had cake on his birthday (Of course!) and then the next morning we had cake for breakfast.   Actually, when you analyze it a carrot cake is pretty nourishing.   You have to count the calories though.   I figured it out and this cake was cut into 18 pieces.   Each piece is 333 calories.

So, then we had a great squash soup with cake for lunch, for dinner there was  squash soup, meat loaf sandwiches on fresh French bread and cake.  Today we sort of held it down to a dull roar and only had cake once.

I noticed that I haven’t posted since Saturday!   I just haven’t had the time or energy to get a blog post together since then.  There were several times when I chose to sit out in my nice garden chair rather than blogging.   But trust me, we haven’t just been sitting around since last Saturday.  During that time, we accomplished a very great deal.   There has been quite a lot of progress made on the rock and mortar wall.

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That is the south facing wall, into which we have taken care to put as many rocks that have great crystals in them as possible.  Tomorrow we will bring the south wall up to the level of the west and north walls.   Maybe if we have time and energy we will also complete the first level on the east wall tomorrow.  I’m pretty fond of the center part of this side.   There was a special heart-shaped rock I found out in the vineyard a couple of years ago, and it found a great spot almost in the direct center of the wall.

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Let’s see.   What else have we been doing?  Hmmm.   Oh yeah, one of our friends gave us two beer flats full of ripe jalapeño peppers, and they have been roasted and combined with freshly roasted tomatoes and made into chipotles.   We canned 6 pints of that.   Some of the roasted jalapeños are in the dehydrator.   When they are dry we will grind them for chipotle powder.

We were blessed with over three inches of rain this week, most of it fell on Monday afternoon.    Oddly enough, the weatherman predicted that all the rain would stay south and we were probably going to have a partly cloudy day with a 40% chance of showers.    The grasses in the Petite Prairie were beautifully decked when there was a break in the rain.

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The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party looked pretty cool drenched.

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The Rain Garden had water in it almost all afternoon.

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Recently over on her blog, Yolanda Elizabet asked the age old question:  “Do you have a September showstopper in your garden?” Well, the answer is, I do.  It is that aster that you see in the lower right corner of the above picture.   No matter what angle you look at it from, it is a real eye-catcher.

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The other asters out by the pond are show stoppers as well.   There is a path through the asters that leads back behind the water fall where I can service the pump and filter.   Ruby is standing on that path.

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You have to be gentle when you go back there.   Not only are these asters show stoppers, they are real crowd pleasers.   The bees don’t mind if you move the branches of flowers, as long as you do it slowly.

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I haven’t just been eating cake and making rock walls, though.   I’ve been clearing out the finished leaves and stalks from the day lily bed along the fence.   This required a lot of weeding, and for a change of pace I decided to clear up Squash Hill.   While I was clearing out the finished squash vines from squash hill, I disturbed a wolf spider.   I noticed her as she scurried away from a place where she had been hunting under the squash vines.  She was in fear for her life since I was tromping about that bed, rooting up bermuda grass and other weeds, and generally throwing my weight around.   She was quite burdened with her egg case.  The following picture was one I got after she made it back to her home and had settled down a bit.   I’m sure she thought it was pretty hairy out there for a while.   But she and her egg case are quite intact.

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I will close with the picture of a moulted dove feather I noticed clinging to the salvia that are still blooming by the bird bath.

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Enjoy the first days of fall.  We sure have been.

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Photo hunt: Upside down

Today the theme for the Photohunters is “Upside down.”

In a way I feel like possibly I am trying to find a way to incorporate cats into every photo hunt.   This is a picture of Mike turned upside down.   This position was in no way an invitation to rub his belly.  It was an expression of love and trust, but if you were so unfortunate as to believe that in exposing his soft belly to you he was telling you it was okay to actually touch it, you would find yourself with a ball of cat sternly and firmly wrapped around your hand with all the claws extended.   He would not actually pierce your skin unless you persisted in your demeaning and invasive movements, but you had to be very still and say “Okay, okay, I quit,” and then he would allow you to pull your hand away slowly past the still extended claws.  It could be a rather painful experience, but Mike was not one to have his personage trifled with.

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I also discovered this picture I managed to get of Jesse in the middle of performing a backwards flip.

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Try to find time to visit the other photohunters.  There are usually a lot of really fun pictures.   I have to say that one of my favorite series can be found here, at Alice Audrey’s blog.   If you click on “Jack and Jill” under her archives, there is a whole series of these little funnies.

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One of the things that occurred to me today as I was working on the new wall we are building is the fact that we are participating in an activity that humans have been pursuing for quite some time.

Concrete has been in use since Roman times.   Many of the buildings that still exist in Rome were built using concrete.   The Romans had not discovered using metal reinforcing in their concrete structures, but they used aggregate and rubble and cement to build their roads and the aqueducts.   Some places on the web claim that the secret of making concrete was lost for many centuries and was not rediscovered until a British engineer rediscovered it in 1756.   Frankly, I’m not buying this story because if you look around Europe you can see plenty of evidence of cement being used in the interim.

For example, in Ronda, Spain, the Puente Viejo (Old Bridge) was built in 1616, and it clearly shows evidence of being made using very similar construction techniques as Jim and I are using today.

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Additionally, in Lisbon the Castelo de Sao Jorge has slip form construction all over.

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This hill was initially fortified by the Romans, followed by the Visigoths and then the Moors.   In 1147, the first king of Portugal, Alfonso Henriques, captured the castle and it was used as the royal palace for several centuries.   I’m not sure exactly who built the walls in the next photos, or when, but it is obvious that cement was being utilized.   Additionally, these arrow slits show that the builders were happy to use any material that was hauled up the hill to the building site.

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This wall is a great example of the opportunistic use of materials in castle construction.  Notice that they didn’t always bother to use worked stone for their walls, but when it was available it was used to good advantage.   In the following picture you can see how the builders made the outside corner of the castle wall using the worked stone they had available.  The rest of the wall has whatever rock they came across.

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Our wall continues to grow nicely, and we have gotten better at the technique.

This whole exercise is sort of like going to the gym and doing squats for a few hours at the same time you are lifting light weights for many many reps.  The difference is that when you are done with this kind of workout, you have something concrete to look at.

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