Friday, April 19, 2013

FireWives T-Shirt Fundraiser to Benefit West, Texas Volunteer Fire Dept.

In light of the tragic events in West, Texas, the women of FireWives have started a t-shirt fundraiser with all proceeds going to the West, Texas Volunteer Fire Department.

FireWives brings together wives and girlfriends from across the country in support of each other and our firefighters. Remind others that your husband isn't the only one living the fire life with this station look-a-like.

T-shirts are $16 + $3.85 shipping. A minimum of $8 per shirt will be donated to West, Texas Volunteer Fire Department. The more t-shirts sold, the higher the donation!

Share this with your fellow fire wives and make a difference to the West, Texas VFD!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Scary Storm

In my last post I mentioned we were expecting some rain, possibly bad weather yesterday.

The forecast was for thunderstorms, some possibly severe. The regular weather news was saying we were in a *slight* risk for tornadoes, but I follow a local group of Storm Spotters/Chasers on FB that was saying the setup of the weather was similar to the storms in April 2011.
The weather around here is very unpredictable, but I think it's better to take it seriously and be glad if nothing happens than to be caught unprepared.

J came in from work and decided he wanted to cut the yard before it rained and made it even thicker than it was already was. It wasn't easy to cut and he had to put the blade on a higher setting.

While he worked on that I moved my plants and gardening supplies inside and secured anything under the carport and outside I was afraid might blow away.

Inside I made some efforts to get ready to get blown away. I made sure our important papers and the few jewelry pieces from my Granny's were in the fire safe, and put flashlights, the couch cushions, some blankets, the car keys and my purse into our *safe room*, the coat closet under the stairs where we go to hide from storms.

After dinner Ryan said he was going to "stand by" at the County fire station he volunteers for.
He also volunteers for a local City dept, but it's here on the East side of the county, and he works on the West side of the county. The County fire station he volunteers at is right about the Center of the county, so if he got a call in the City over here, or into work over there, he was already halfway between both places. (Not to mention, the County station generally gets more Calls than the City dept, and he likes running Calls.)

J missed a call from the ambulance service while he was mowing grass, or he would have been gone, too.

We watched the weather news/radar and in a short while we heard there was a confirmed tornado on the ground in Tallapoosa Georgia, which is in Carroll County, 2 counties to the south of us.
Usually we wouldn't have to worry about storms from there coming here because normally those go more east-north and hit the county to the east of us.
Yesterday it was going more to the north-east, and on a direct path to us.

They were saying it was still a tornado on the ground when it came through Buchanan Georgia, in Haralson County, directly south of us.

Oh man, I've been nervous and even scared during storms before, but yesterday I was scared to the point of posting "Goodbye" to my friends and family and on FB.  Maybe a bit dramatic, but I had been seeing pictures of the tornado damage in Arkansas earlier and there were entire houses just gone. Completely. Nothing left. It made me wonder where the people of the house were?

The Code Red weather warning called our phones, and the sirens started going off in town, so me and Kevin and Kitty went ahead and got into the closet.  J turned my computer monitor around so he could see the weather guy talking as long as it stayed on and kinda hung out around the closet door in case he had to dive in quickly.

Ryan called and said he heard on his fire radio there were reports of golfball size hail on Vinson Mountain Road, which is less than a mile from us, and sure enough the pow - Pow - POW POW POW started here soon after.
Lightning struck something and thunder CRASHED.

Then, the front door blew open!
I had pushed it closed earlier but hadn't made sure it caught and didn't turn the deadbolt.
J went over to close it, and stopped to look out the window. I was hollering, "Get in here! Get in here!"

He got back in the closet with us and there was a roaring noise and me and Kevin pulled the couch cushions over our back/head, but oddly, unlike the last bad storms we had back in March that wasn't even a tornado, the house didn't so much as flinch.

It was over fairly quickly. I thought it was less than a minute, but K says it was longer.
We got out and went outside to see what had happened. It was the weirdest sight I guess any of us has ever seen, even having lived here 40+ years.

The yard was covered in hail stones and tree leaves/bloooms, the carport was flooded, and the air smelled strongly of fresh cut Christmas trees.

Luckily there wasn't much damage. Way, way less damage than the usual bad storms we get that aren't even tornadoes.

Not that I'm complaining, because I am definitely not complaining, but it was pretty weird that we got much less damage from a much worse storm. Hey, I'll take it.

That green stuff plastered all over the truck is also plastered all over the driveway, house, backporch, roof, out-building, every freaking where, so of course every time we go out we manage to track it back in on our shoes so it's all in my floors, too.  Oh well, at least I still have floors.

This picture was taken by someone from over in the middle of the county, closer to where R was, looking in our direction.
I was worried about him being out there in it, but they weren't even getting anything while we were getting this.

A little while after this a squall line came through and we got a bit of a thunderstorm but thankfully nothing bad.

I found out being that scared takes a lot of energy. We had to eat dinner again, and then me and J both crashed. He crashed first, I couldn't go to sleep until I had made sure R got in safely. But we were both out by 10pm.

It was a lot cooler this morning, with a chilly wind blowing. I had to wear a hoodie, where yesterday I was in a t-shirt and shorts. Boooooo.

We got some potatoes put in the boxes and covered, then we covered that with chicken wire because the squirrels have been digging in the dirt for pecans or something, we guess. There was holes all in the dirt yesterday morning (before the storm and hail) so something had been digging in it and J was afraid whatever it is - probably squirrels - would dig up the taters.  We'll take it off when the tater plants sprouts. Hopefully they'll be safer then.

We cut the seed taters into halves or quarters, with at least two eyes on each section, as per the instructions I read on the bag or internet, I forget which. We didn't know how many it would take for these boxes, and we ended up with a lot, a lot of seed taters left.  I guess we'll be building a few more, or more than a few more of the condos.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tater Condos

 I've been reading how easy it is to grow potatoes - in a bag, in a stack of tires, even in a clothes basket - or something called Potato Condos.

I didn't have a bag, and I'm kinda not really comfortable growing food in tires, nor was I very excited about growing taters in a clothes basket. Mostly because I use my clothes baskets and I didn't want to go to the Dollar Tree and spend a dollar to buy any.

What I did have was a pile of straight up garbage pieces of wood.
We save and hoard wood/scrap wood like it's gold, but sometimes some of it really just isn't re-usable for most building projects. Some are just too rotted, or too filled with nails/screws, or other miscellaneous reasons we feel they can't be used.  But turned out a lot of it was good for this project.
I just love it when the unusable turns out to be usable after all.

The first one we made we used some short deck boards left over from the porch, which were 23" long, and approximately 4' tall, extremely weathered landscape timbers.

The next one we used some old scrap 2x4's that had been cut out of the window frame when we replaced the windows in Ryan's room last summer, rotten landscape timber, and the trim from around the windows we replaced as the slats on the sides.

See that nice, dark, rich soil? That ain't store bought garden soil. No, sirree, ma'am.
That's grass/weed clippings, Fall Leaves, shredded junk mail, and kitchen scraps (ie. tea bags, egg shells, banana skins, cabbage/lettuce cores, tater peelings, etc.), all chewed up and pooped out by our resident earthworms.
Aka, Compost.

There's our compost corrals, made out of pallets, down in the corner of the backyard. (Yes, the grass/weeds is still long, for the Bees.)

I filled both tater condos with compost soil about halfway, or 4 inches. I bought a bag of seed potatoes that I'll cut up and place on the soil, then cover with another 4 inches of soil.
I would have done it today, but we're expecting some rain (potentially bad weather) tomorrow. If I put them in today I'll have to water them, so I figured I'd wait and let it get rained on tomorrow, then plant the next day.

When they sprout, or grow about 8 inches, we'll add another slat and another 4 inches of soil, until we get as high as we can, or the end of the season, whichever comes first.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Beautiful Buffet for Bees, Butterflies, and Birds

I mentioned in my last post how our yard isn't really grass, but more of a bunch of weeds. I didn't care if it was grass or weeds, so long as it was green.

And green it was, soon as the weather warmed up enough. It'd turn green, and grow half an inch, and I'd have J out there mowing it. It looked too "raggedy" otherwise.

Back in January and February, we had some nice weather days, and the yard started getting "thick". I remember telling J he needed to cut the yard, but ended up he couldn't because we hadn't gotten out there yet and picked up all the sticks, limbs, and branches that the trees had dumped over the Winter and during a couple windy stormy days we'd had.

March wasn't a very good weather month at all. I remember him coming in from work one morning and saying we were going to get out in the yard and pick up limbs, but I looked at my desktop thermometer and it said it was 34* outside. I said, yeah, that ain't happening.

So, the yard grew more than we usually like for it to. I look out my kitchen window and think, gah, that looks bad, we need to cut it.

Besides Clover and a big tangle-gangle of other weeds we don't know the name of, we noticed these purple-ish-colored funny-looking things growing in abundance all over the yard. J was curious as to what they were called so I googled and learned they're called Purple Deadnettle.
I didn't even notice until I googled it that there are tee-niney little flowers in these "weeds", which really aren't a weed at all, but an herb related to the Mint family. You can actually eat it in salads and cook with it and make a tea., but I read that these are an important source of protein for Bees which can be hard for them to find this early in the season, so we decided we'd just live with the growed up yard for awhile, for the Bees.

I also noticed several days ago a very lovely white flower growing in bunches down by the garden near the back fence.

Not long after that I saw a post on my Facebook wall from Georgia Gardener that these are called Star of Bethlehem, and was really surprised to find out that people consider them a nuisance weed and want to know how to get rid of them!

The past couple of days have been dreary, chilly, rainy, not very nice at all, but today is sunny and warm and gorgeous. I went out on the back porch to enjoy it a little while and was surprised and pleased with what I see all around my back yard:

A profusion of beautiful Star of Bethlehem flowers, (and, you can't see it, but one of my blueberry bushes has some blooms)

There are some purple Violets growing wild along with some of the SoB's,

Yellow (Buttercups?), so delicate and pretty,

A large patch of Grape Hyacinth, mixed in with some kind of tiny, lovely little blue flowers (Creeping Speedwell?).

Make a wish! What a dandy Dandelion!

Some pink/purple-ish blooms,  (the little black spot on the right side of the petal is a bug. There were two of them looked to be playing Tag...or, mmm, a more adult type game...)

Resembles a Daisy, the inner yellow part is daisy-like, but the white petals surrounding are almost hair-thin. The thicker, fuzzy stems don't appear to be Daisy-ish though.

The one thing I didn't see much of was Bees. I'm hoping it's still just a bit too early/chilly for them yet. I spotted this guy (or gal) but I don't know what kind of Bee it is, if it's a Honey Bee or not.

Some time ago I read one of those emails people send around that I really liked but can't seem to find again....n'ermind, I found it (I always do after I say I can't)...Check it out, it's awesome:

Imagine the conversation The Creator might have with St. Francis about this:

"Frank you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect, no maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracted butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles."

"It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers 'weeds' and went to great extent to kill them and replace them with grass."

"Grass? But it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It's temperamental with temperatures. Do these suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?"

"Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn."

"The spring rains and cool weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy."

"Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it _ sometimes twice a week."

"They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?"

"Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags."

"They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?"

"No, sir. Just the opposite. They pay to throw it away."

"Now let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?"

"Yes, sir."

"These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work."

"You aren't going believe this Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it."

"What nonsense! At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It's a natural circle of life."

"You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and have them hauled away."

"No! What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and keep the soil moist and loose?"

"After throwing away your leaves, they go out and buy something they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves."

"And where do they get this mulch?"

"They cut down trees and grind them up."

"Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore. Saint Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?"

"Dumb and Dumber, Lord. It's a real stupid movie about..."

"Never mind I think I just heard the whole story."

Plant Flowers for the Bees

Sometimes I feel like if you looked up the word "Duh" in the dictionary you'd find my picture there.

In my defense - sort of - I wasn't really taught much about gardening and nature and such as I was growing up. I wasn't especially interested in learning, either, though.

My parents were born back in the latter 1940's, when life wasn't as convenient as running to your choice of the four or five local chain grocery stores a mile up the road to grab a bag of potatoes for dinner or an apple for a snack. They grew up same as their parents grew up, raising their own food and living off the land.

By the time I came along in the 1960's, that had changed.
My parents lived in a subdivision behind a shopping center that housed 2 chain grocery stores, a drugstore, and Variety (department) stores, among others. Across the street from that were Fast Food restaurants and Full Service gas stations.
Along with packaged foods and drink, it was just much more convenient and easy for Mom, who worked a full-time job, to grab stuff for dinner at the grocery store or take us to the Burger Chef.

I remember - fondly - as a little kid spending Summers on my great-grandparents farm up in the north Georgia mountains. Life up there was very different from The City, many people still didn't even have indoor plumbing, much less a grocery store down the block. Other than a few things like tea, sugar, cocoa, etc., they pretty much grew and raised everything they ate.

Like I said, I was a little kid at that point - 5, 6, 7 years old. I had learned to gather eggs, milk a cow, slop the hogs, feed the fish, hoe weeds, dig potatoes, pick strawberries and cherries. I knew where beef and pork and fried chicken came from. I watched milk straining, butter churning, honey harvesting, canning and preserving.

But where I spent a few weeks a Summer doing it, my Dad grew up living that way everyday, and he didn't want that for us. He wanted us to live in a nice house, in a nice neighborhood, with indoor bathrooms and central heat (central air still wasn't common even here in the South back then) and every convenience and ease of life. And he succeeded at that.

As the old people died off, so did the "old ways". My grandparents raised a garden up until my Grandpa passed away when I was around 11 years old and then Grannie, who also worked a full-time job, couldn't manage, or didn't want to, a garden and all the home-canning/preserving anymore. Grocery stores and (tin) canned foods were just too convenient.

Later on - probably, oh, sometime in his late 30's or early 40's - Daddy seemed to miss or wanted to return to his earlier life, or recapture "the old ways/days".  He bought 8 acres in the "country" and plowed up two large areas for gardens, built a barn and got some dogs, chickens, goats, rabbits and even a pony at one point.

Problem was, me and my sister were "City" girls. We maybe enjoyed the animals, to a point, but we weren't raised as farm workers, and wouldn't have anything to do with cleaning up after them or working out in the hot, humid heat in a garden. Just wasn't happening.
Eventually he gave up and moved us back to a nice house in a neighborhood.

Fast forward a few more years, me and my sister married and moved out, Mom and Dad bought a couple acres and Dad raised a small vegetable garden for him and Mom to enjoy some fresh veggies during the season.
I guess I just never really thought about it, but up until then I don't think I was even aware that you could plant a garden smaller than an acre, and not have to raise enough vegetables to be able to can and preserve for the Winter.

It didn't matter, though, because as far as I was concerned, there was no point in me even trying to make a garden of any size. I had attempted a few times over the years to have some houseplants but I never was able to keep them alive, so I knew in my heart I'd never be able to grow a garden.

Fast forward some more years and my Grannie - Dad's Mom, in north Georgia - passed away and after my Dad retired, him and Mom moved up there, where he decided to try Fruit Farming. He planted a few varieties of apple trees, pear trees, peach, plum, cherry, and apricot trees, blueberry bushes, raspberries, and grapes and muscadines.
Like everything he touches it seems, his Orchard did very well. 

Well, that kinda ticked me off...or, well, challenged me maybe. It was one thing that I couldn't raise flowers and plants like my Mom and her Mom, because I felt I was more like my Dad's daughter, in which case, I thought I should be able to grow stuff, too.

Some time after that, I started with a few vegetable plants (didn't have time to plant fruit trees and wait however many years it would take them to produce even though I like fruit much better than veggies for eating) just to see if I could keep them alive, if not actually get any yield.
I actually did manage to grow some actual, real food.
After that, J got more interested in gardening, too.

We've managed to actually grow some corn and tomatoes and a few other things here and there, but even so, our knowledge of gardening is not much more than being able to sprout a seed, and keeping the plant watered.

Case in point, when we moved to this house around 13-14 years ago, I had J take out a lot of flowering plants and bushes and stuff that was growing willy-nilly around the yard.  I attempted to get rid of several scraggly rose bushes growing in the front yard, but they keep growing back on their own. I finally gave up fighting with them.
But all I wanted was a nice, neat, clear yard with green...grass. We don't actually have grass, but more like a cover of clover and/or some sort of other weed(s). Whatever, it's green (mostly) and that's all I cared for.

After we started vegetable gardening a few years ago, and then I started the coupon/deal shopping, I ended up with a lot of packs of seeds. Mostly vegetables and some fruits like pumpkin, cantaloupe and watermelon, but also some herbs and flowers that I had no interest in.
I don't cook with herbs, and I actually said, "It's a waste to plant flowers because they don't grow food."

I think I also thought Bees' only purpose was making Honey.
Eventually I read about Pollination, and that we want to attract Bees to our gardens to Pollinate the plants.

Sadly, it still didn't occur to me, that flowers also attract Bees.  And flowers generally bloom a lot earlier than my garden plants.  I've had daffodils/jonquils and one of the rose bushes I couldn't kill already blooming.

If I had a yard full of flowers and/or flowering plants, I could have Bees in here, working on the Pollinating thing some time before the garden is ready for them. They'll already be here when the garden is ready for them.

Fugh. How could I have not known that? Thinking back, I remember being taught about it in school, but I didn't care about it enough to remember it. I didn't know how it applied to my life, when we could just go to the store and buy what we wanted to eat.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Days of the Week Posts

I tried a Days-of-the-Week blog schedule hoping it would give me some ideas or direction for posting. I often have things to say, but my mind is so all over the place I can't seem to pull my thoughts together into any sort of cohesive package.
I have a Dashboard filled with Draft posts, posts I start, but then can't expound on, or can't find the words to say what I'm wanting to get across, or I just lose interest in my own subject.

Part of the Days-of-the-Week post problem was/is that most of the time I usually don't know what day of the week it is.

Now that the kids are out of (public) school and J and R work such crazy schedules, what day of the week it is doesn't mean too much anymore.
When they were in (public) school, going five days a week, we lived for the weekend. Countdown to Friday! But now our "weekend" may come at the first of the week, or midweek. Many times J and R don't get the same 2 days off so their "weekends" come at different times during the week.

J's fire department schedule is 24 hours on, 48 off, all month long, and then every other two weeks, he also works 24 hour shifts on the ambulance.
R works an even crazier shift at 911: On 2 nights, Off 2 nights, On 3 nights, Off 2 nights, On 2 nights, Off 3 nights.
Throw in on top of that - this semester - R has class Friday morning, and K has class Wednesday evening.
And sometimes, if he's off, R has meetings at the fire stations he volunteers at.

I have no schedule myself, but I have the need to keep up with everyone else's schedule. I keep up with J's so I know have an idea when he might be home and I can (tentatively) plan any errands or projects.

I keep up with R and K's schedules because their memories are as bad as mine (which I don't understand. When I was their age, I had an excellent memory. I didn't lose mine until at some point after I had a 106* fever, or three kids.) But there have been days that they've missed class or an event because we forgot about it, or didn't forget, but didn't know what day it was.
R hasn't forgotten to go to work yet, but it's a fear I have. I panic most everyday around 5 o'clock until I check my calendar to see if it's a workday or not.

I've always had a calendar hanging up in the kitchen that I write work schedules, appointments, events, paydays, etc. on, but then I wouldn't even look at it.  Same with the Cozi calendar. Love the idea that everyone enters their own things and it's available to the group to see. But I don't log on at look at it 99% of the time. I don't know why, I just don't think about it.

Now I keep my calendar pages right here by my desk where I can see them without actually having to look. And I look more for what Number of the day of the month it is than what Day of the week it is. I suppose that's because I guess I actually do have a schedule - it's when the bills are due.

So anyway, that's pretty much what happened to the most recent, short-lived Days of the Week blogging effort.

That, and my craptastic mood, which took a serious plunge after that bad storm and subsequent cold blast we had a couple weeks ago.

It's bad enough, you know, when last Fall it started getting chilly and colder as it went on into Winter. I didn't like it, but I could accept it and cope. But after it warmed up here, nice and Spring-like a couple of weeks ago, the cold blast that came in behind it just seemed extra, extra bad. And it was right after J's Mom passed away, and some other things went wrong at a time I just didn't feel like having to deal with them.

I didn't care to hear my negativity and complaints any more than I'm sure any of you did, or do.