Sunday, September 14, 2014

Nearly Fall

Fall announced its presence during the very early hours Thursday morning, seeming to me to be trying to overtake Summer. When I set off for my commute to work, the temp was a chilly 53 degrees, a bit of a change from the mid to high 70's and 90% humidity we've been having. I pulled out my light gloves to keep my mitts from getting chilled during the ride, but I didn't do anything for my ears, and by the time I reached work, my poor ears were aching. Summer is definitely limping towards the finish line this second week of September.

While I love summer and the energy that seems to explode with the sun and heat of June, July, and August, fall truly owns my heart. The cool mornings and evenings that call for pulling on a comfy sweatshirt, the crisp air that reaches out and tweaks my nose, the snuggling under the quilt because the windows are open at night, and the sitting around a pit fire with family and friends (and a good pale ale) rank right up there as a few of my favorites things in life. I like the slowing down, the energy of the summer months waning. I feel like just sitting quietly for extended periods of time is perfectly okay to do, so I indulge in doing just that.

One other thing that is now on my list of favorite things in life is the bees. After the class I attended last Sunday, learning how to prepare my colony for winter, I've spent some time examining my hive and taking a few steps to getting it ready for colder weather. The first thing I did was remove the super. There was no honey in it, so I decided to remove it and take the frames out so I could place a top feeder on the hive. Then I put the empty super box on the feeder. I pressed two sugar patties on the screens along with a jar of sugar syrup in the top feeder before replacing the top. When I returned to the hive late Tuesday afternoon and peeked inside, I found the patties almost completely consumed and all of the sugar water gone! I was a little surprised with how hungry the bees seem to be as I sat quietly nearby and watched them return to the hive the other evening, and so many came in with packed pollen sa
cs. Some had light yellow pollen. Some had a dark yellow pollen. I was told it won't hurt to feed them even if they are still bringing in pollen, so I'm going to continue giving them patties and syrup just to help out the cause.

I'm going to be honest--I'm afraid the bees might not make it through the winter. I tried to find the queen but didn't see her. Granted, I only pulled out a few frames from each box. While I've overcome a lot of the fear I've held about getting into the hive, pulling out frames, and generally just being amidst the bees, I still have some fear. At this point, the fear isn't so much for myself. It's for the bees, especially the queen. I'm afraid of accidentally killing her. I know I need to find her, so I'm going to give it a go again next weekend if the weather is good. I just keep thinking she has to be there. Otherwise, the colony would go elsewhere. The girls are working hard to bring in the pollen, so the fact they are working and building up stores makes me hopeful. Still, I'd like to actually see the queen.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Smell of Possibility

About three weeks ago, I peeked into the hive to see if anything was happening in the super. I found some bees milling about, but the frames were empty. Being as it was heading towards mid August, I figured getting any honey for us to feast on this season just wasn't going to happen. I was happy to see the frames in the deep covered, with lots of bee activity. This gives me hope that the bees will be comfortable through the winter, but just to be sure, I signed up for another class, one that will go into how to help the bees make it through a tough winter. That class is this upcoming Sunday, and I'm getting excited about attending and learning more.

This evening, I went back to the hive to clean out the tall grass that has grown up around it. Though the grass is pretty and provides nice cover, it does block my viewing enjoyment. There's just something soothing about watching the bees work, and I couldn't watch from the back deck because of the grass. So I began pulling the grass out. Slowly. Carefully. Watching the bees ignore me. Then I got my first whiff. At first I thought it was the oregano plant that has been in that part of the garden for the last three or four years. It nestled against the rosemary bush that had grown tall and wide and filled the air with its wonderful piney scent until this year. Last winter was so cold and snowy for so long that the rosemary didn't have a chance. With great sadness, I had to pull it out, leaving the oregano plant by itself. But what I was smelling definitely wasn't oregano.

This smell was slightly sweet.

Slightly musky.

Slightly spicy.

Slightly . . . hmmmm, what exactly was that smell?

I couldn't put my finger on just one element of the scent that continued to tease me.

Then I lifted the lid off the hive. I had to know if any honey was in the works in the super. Once the outer cover was off, I pried the inner cover off and set it to the side. When I leaned over to look into the hive, a warmth wafted up from the depths, lifting the scent I had noticed earlier to greet me. I'd just gotten my first dose of the beehive smell. I wanted to stand there and simply inhale, and I did for a moment. I then checked the frames. No honey.

The beehive smell was enough. It, much like watching the bees come and go, offered something akin to reassurance. That even though a life, even if only a rosemary bush, might sadly come to an end, I still have vivid memories of its fullness and its mouth-watering scent that make me happy when I think about it. That even though summer is approaching its end, I still have pictures of the landscapes, the wildlife, and the flowers that brought me so much joy as I pedaled alone along country roads. That even though there's no honey in the super, the possibility . . . yeah, the possibility . . . of having a bounty next summer is great.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sneaking Around

For much of the summer, Funny Delightful Son's girlfriend, a petite, pretty, quiet though funny when she does speak young lady, came to hang out at our house without her mother's permission. I'm pretty sure her mother had no idea Petite Pretty Girlfriend was sneaking around to visit FDS. They would watch TV or sit at the dining room table and play cards or go for bike rides. It is so completely obvious the two simply enjoy being together and truly like one another.

Last week, after another two weeks of being down due to the mono, Funny Delightful Son began feeling better, and to perk him up a bit, Petite Pretty Girlfriend arrived one afternoon to deliver a care package of fun foods. She wasn't to stay long, but she ended up staying several hours. When she returned home, she was informed she wasn't to see Funny Delightful Son for the rest of the week. Both were crushed.

In the meantime, in an attempt to keep busy, Funny Delightful Son received the components he'd ordered to convert his recurve bow into a bow he could use for fishing. He got everything into place, did some practice shots, then announced he was ready to give it a try with real fish. We made plans for a trip to the I&M Canal where the Asian carp has taken over and is considered a nuisance, and FDS asked if Petite Pretty Girlfriend could go along. I had no objections, but when Other Mother was asked, her response was no. She didn't want her daughter in the same space as Hubby. When she was assured Hubby would not be part of the outing, she relented and allowed PPG to go (Hubby did go--I put my foot down and said enough).

Early Sunday morning, we left for the canal. The day was beautiful. Sunny. Breezy. Perfect for fishing. We arrived at the canal, and within minutes FDS was drawing back his bow to try and shoot a carp. We could see a large group of carp, so it seemed like skewering one would be cake. After his initial shot, though, they all disappeared, apparently going further beneath the surface to avoid becoming impaled. FDS waited and waited for the fish to reappear, but they didn't. He then got the idea to just shoot into the water, thinking there were so many fish that the odds of hitting one was high. He was right. It didn't take long to hit one. By late afternoon, he had three fish on ice in the cooler.

We returned home, hot, sweaty, and stinking of fish. We all wanted a shower. Including Pretty Petite Girlfriend. So we all took showers. Then Pretty Petite Girlfriend went home. And Other Mom became furious. She informed Pretty Petite Girlfriend that showering at our house was inappropriate. She accused her and FDS of having sex. Apparently, Hubby and I allow a free-for-all in our home. As punishment, Pretty Petite Girlfriend cannot come into town to meet up somewhere with FDS for a month, and she is not allowed to go on family outings with us for a year. When I was informed of Other Mom's mandates, all I could do was shake my head.

I've been staying out of the whole Other Mom mess, but part of me feels like it's time to step up and let my voice be heard. I feel like Other Mom is making assumptions about me, Hubby, and FDS that are completely unfounded and even leaning towards being cruel and hurtful. I'm not sure how to go about making my voice heard, but with some thought, I'll figure it out.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Secret Comes Out

So I thought about the cookout Other Mom wanted to have to, per her words, "further evaluate" Hubby. I kept this to myself, not cluing Hubby in on the issue as I knew what his response would be. I really didn't want to go to him and say, "Oh, by the way, Other Mom thinks you're childish to the point of perhaps putting her daughter in harm's way if she were to come over to our house." Honestly, when Funny Delightful Son told me Other Mom thinks Hubby is childish, I did laugh. He is. That's a given. All of us at one time or another over the years have looked at Hubby and said, "How old are you? 12?" But he's never, ever done anything to put any of us in harm's way. He's just a big goof. Our big goof.

Two weeks after prom, we traveled to Tennessee to visit family and attend my nephew's high school graduation. Late Saturday morning, because we had some time before having to be at the party, we cruised my old grad school haunts so the kids could see where I spent several years of my life. We then found a lovely restaurant in the old downtown area, one with an outdoor patio area graced with large, beautiful trees shading the tables, and we decided to have lunch. While enjoying alligator bites and pesto grilled chicken, the subject of Funny Delightful Son's girlfriend came up. Hubby inquired as to why she hadn't been over to the house for some time.

Funny Delightful Son: "Because she can't."

Hubby: "What do you mean she can't?"

Funny Delightful Son (who at this time was suffering from his second bout of mono and was not in a good mood): "Just that. She's not allowed to come over to our house."

I could see the confusion on Hubby's face, so I took the reins and explained Other Mom's concerns. Just as I had suspected he would, and I totally understand why he did, Hubby became angry. Indignant. Even angrier. For the rest of the day. We discussed the issue at lunch, after lunch, at the graduation party, after the graduation party, during the trip to the home of my sister-in-law, on the return trip to the hotel. I reached the point where I didn't want to talk about it any longer. Funny Delightful Son didn't want to discuss it any longer. A heavy mood invaded what should have been a fun trip.

One thing we all agreed on was that we would not attend this "evaluation" cookout.

After returning home, Funny Delightful Son and his girlfriend would go out, maybe to fly kites or fish at the lake or kayak or spend time at her house. Then, one day, his girlfriend showed up and stayed for several hours. Being a little surprised, I asked if she had been given the go ahead to hang out at our place. She shook her head no, saying her mom didn't know she was there. I figured this wasn't a good thing but decided to stay out of it. I've stayed out of it for over two months, thinking her mom would lighten up, but I was informed a few days ago that this isn't the case at all.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Saga Begins

Back in May, Funny Delightful Son attended his first high school prom. Leading up to this day, Funny Delightful Son prepared carefully: making sure his tux fit perfectly, scrutinizing the flowers selected for his date's corsage, and cleaning the car so his date could ride in style. The young lady he was attending prom with had caught his eye from the beginning of the school year, and he wanted prom to be perfect.

To start the evening, Funny Delightful Son and his date met up with friends at the grandparents' home of one of the young ladies of the group. There, they were going to have dinner before leaving for prom. Prior to dinner, we parents took pictures of our kids all decked out for the special occasion. It was just minutes until the picture taking was to commence that the Saga began.

While the young people were gathered on the back deck, admiring the glitzy dresses and the colorful corsages, the parents were inside, chatting about what a lovely May afternoon we were having. The host, an older gentleman, offered all of us a beer while we waited for the young people give the signal they were ready for pictures. Some of us laughed and declined, and Hubby, because he tries to make jokes out of every situation, said something along the lines of already having had several and where was the keg for the kids? The host laughed, as did some of the others, but one parent took great exception to Hubby's attempt at a joke--Funny Delightful Son's date's mom.

Prom went well for Funny Delightful Son. Then, the following Tuesday, after I picked him up from school, I could tell something was up when he volunteered to go grocery shopping with me. On the way to the store, he proceeded to tell me that his date's mother wanted Hubby and me to go to their home for a cookout. I thought, sure, sounds good. The next comment, though, caught me by surprise. Seems the cookout was to be a means for his date's mother to "further evaluate" Hubby. Apparently, the comment he'd made about drinking had bothered her so much that she found him "childish" and a bad influence. She was afraid her daughter might not be safe in coming to our home.

I went from laughing over the absurdity of the situation to being angry to being insulted. I thought who the eff does this woman think she is? I told Funny Delightful Son I found Other Mom's request completely insulting and no, Hubby and I would not attend the cookout. To this, Funny Delightful Son said, "Mom, I really, really like this girl. I hope to keep seeing her." I considered this and responded that I would do it for him, but I couldn't promise being nice. To this, Funny Delightful Son said, "Mom, I really, really like this girl." The earnest look in his eyes showed this to be true. I said I'd think about it and let him know.

Stay tuned for Part II of The Saga.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Another Helmet Rant

Being a cyclist, I read a lot of articles about cycling and I listen to other cyclists talk about cycling, sometimes joining in the conversation. The articles I seek out range from outfitting the bike for long, touring rides to cycling safely alongside motorists to what to wear. Most often, I gain something helpful from the articles. Even the discussions with others can be fun as cycling really is fun, but I've come to realize I have very little patience for an argument I hear a lot: everyone should always wear a helmet. The "always wear a helmet" mantra seems to seep into every casual conversation with family, friends, and the women's cycling group of which I am a member (though I tend to stand on the sidelines with this group--that's another post for another time), and this is okay in and of itself. What's not okay is the snarky, snide, "those who don't wear helmets are stupid" tone that goes along with the conversation. Most often I ignore these comments, but it's becoming more and more difficult not to respond.

I get that helmets protect the noggin. I do. That being said, I don't think I should have to wear a helmet every single time I'm on the bike. And I sure as heck don't think others should take it upon themselves to tell me how stupid I am for cycling sans helmet. If you are that person who feels the need to tell me I'm an idiot for taking such a risk, think about these four things before you open your mouth.

1.  Falling in the home can be fatal. In fact, the National Safety Council suggests that upwards of 25,000 people died from falling in their homes in 2009 (I know, I know--this was 5 years ago. I tried to find stats for 2013 but came up empty handed. I'm sure a more current number would be even higher anyway). This is scary stuff. We're in danger in our own homes! Should everyone wear a helmet while walking from the kitchen to the living room? Should everyone wear a helmet while taking a shower?

2. Just walking along, minding your own business can be fatal. Yeah! I know! Mind-blowing! Per the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, in 2011, 4432 pedestrians lost their lives. Should every pedestrian wear a helmet while window shopping and especially when crossing the street? Not to mention those open manholes. They really put a damper on a person trying to text while walking.

3. Over 30,000 people die in car crashes each year. When looking at the info offered through the CDC, of these 30,000 deaths, over 7500 of them were due to traumatic brain injuries suffered in the car crash. Hmmmmmm. This is a real head-scratcher. That's a lot of people. So why do motorists as well as their passengers not wear helmets?

4. In 2012, 726 cyclists were killed in traffic accidents. The number of cyclists deaths represents 2% of all traffic fatalities. Just 2%! I know I have a tough time when it comes to numbers, but this seems like a really low number in the big scheme of things.

I do realize many of the cyclists who lost their lives had traumatic head injuries. It's probably very likely they also suffered from severe internal injuries. How could they not? A heavy moving object striking a human body will create irreparable harm. A helmet isn't going to help in these instances. No one, though, likes to talk about the damage done to a person's chest cavity, liver, or kidneys. For some reason, these injuries are overlooked in favor of trying to drive home the importance of wearing a helmet. I'd really like to know how many of these deaths were due to traumatic bodily injury. A clearer picture of the injuries in general would be very helpful.

Cycling really is a very safe activity. Just look at Portland and what it has accomplished not just one year, but several years. In continuing to press the idea that cyclists should always wear helmets, the underlying message presented is that cycling is dangerous and injury is likely. That's just not true. In fact, if you look at the numbers and how the head injuries occurred, removing those due to car-cyclist collision shows just how minuscule the number of deaths due to traumatic head injury truly is. Also, in advancing the argument that cyclists should always wear helmets, all the responsibility for safety is put on the cyclist. Motorists are given a pass. Instead of saying all cyclists should wear a helmet, maybe we should instead say motorists and cyclists should share the road, all following the rules of the road, being respectful to one another to ensure the safety of all.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Farmgirl Stuck in the City

The garden is bursting. The tomatoes are ripening, giving me my first tomato sandwich of the summer. The herbs are tall, full, and giving off their wonderful scents. The second seeding of lettuce has reached the almost-ready to pick for salads stage. Even the bush bean plants I bought--sickly, near death plants I was sure were too far gone to be saved--are full of lovely, long beans. And the seeds I meticulously planted in egg cartons back in March? The ones that I thought were duds and after ten weeks of watering along with setting out in the warm sun only to get not even a hint of anything growing? The ones I ended up throwing into the compost box? Well, I now have a hodge-podge of zucchini, squash, and tomatoes where I spread the compost in early June. I'm hoping the zucchini and squash produce, as they are thriving and flowering beautifully, but the tomato plants have a lot of catching up to do to produce. The cool weather definitely isn't helping, but there's still August and September warmth to come, hopefully giving that last, little push to all the plants. I love walking through my gardens, thinking about how the tomatoes can be a part of our next meal, how the cucumbers might become a lotion, and how to preserve all the herbs.

Last summer I had several hot pepper plants from which I picked tons of hot peppers. I had no idea what to do with them as I've never cooked with them before, and Hubby isn't a fan of anything that might have a little heat to it. Those peppers ended up in the compost box. This year, I vowed to do something with the peppers, something that I know will be eaten by the majority of us. Funny Delightful Son and I love grilled sandwiches made with goat cheese, strawberries, lettuce, and pepper jelly, and he even turned his girlfriend on to this tasty combination, so I decided to make hot pepper jelly. This morning, I spent several hours in the kitchen, chopping, measuring, and cooking to end up with six half pints of yummy pepper jelly. I used a recipe I found online as it had a pinch of saffron as an ingredient, and since I have some saffron that I bought awhile back, I decided to give it a go. When all the ingredients were mixed, simmering, and nearing the stage of ladling into the jars, I tested it. The jelly definitely lives up to its name: Naughty and Nice Pepper Jelly. The zing and sweet together create a scrumptious treat.

To date, I've made sour cherry jam, strawberry jam, cucumber-ginger jelly, and hot pepper jelly. I've reached the point where I need a space for all my goodies. I have a spot just off the kitchen/dining area that could become a spot for shelves just to display jars of deliciousness, so now I'm trying to figure out how to go about getting shelves put into place. I'm thinking small wooden crates might be the answer. Time to go junkin'. I'd love to find some soda crates or vegetable crates that can be turned into shelves. Could be a bit pricey, though, so maybe just making some from reclaimed wood is a better, more affordable idea. I do wonder, hmmmmmmmm, if I went to the grocery stores around town and asked about their fruit and veggie boxes, if I might find what I'm looking for. Maybe.

Next up is the tomatoes. I'm envisioning salsa, spaghetti sauce, whole tomatoes, tomato paste, and dried tomatoes. I know some of these require a pressure canner, something I've never used so don't have, but I could go the freezing route to avoid investing in the pressure canner. We do have the freezer space since we stumbled upon a brand new freezer at a yard sale a few months ago, still in the box, and got a great deal on it. Part of the freezer space is reserved for grass-fed beef, an investment I'm determined to make sooner or later. All of this would be much easier if I had my own farm, a place and space to raise my own chickens, beef, and goats. The animals along with the gardens and growing fruit would give us so much of what we need. I know of a 2.5 acre property available right now . . ..