BBQ/Cookout Vetoed

I really wanted to host a BBQ/cookout for a few neighbors, but my other half vetoed the idea.  First, he didn’t want to invite his boss and wife, plus the office manager and her husband.  It’s a three person company.  The excuse was that his boss’ wife would be assessing the quality of our china. glassware, and silverware (not that I personally give a shit what she thinks).  Knowing her slightly, having met her a few times, that might be accurate.  She is a little snobby, but I like her well enough.  Still, the rest of the guest list was okayed a month ago.

Then, yesterday, the royal command was issued to not to send out any invitations, because my other half didn’t want to host neighbors we barely knew.  Gee.  The whole point of the thing was to invite neighbors we had met a few times before, who had done at least one of the following:  invited us to their parties, dropped off Christmas cookies, free range eggs, traded trailer loads of cured sheep shit for our wood chips, or gave us excess produce of their own.  It was supposed to be a way we could get to know them a little better in a casual setting, outside on our patios, over the course of a few hours, while reciprocating their favors by other means than dropping off things like half a cord of firewood, or excess squash, peppers, etc. for them.

This time, the excuse was “but we already gave them something to return the favor.”  Not the couple diagonally across the street from us, we didn’t.  I sent them a handwritten “thank you” card for the Christmas cookies, asking if they’d be willing to share the recipe for those scrummy-licious chocolate peanut butter bars.  Got a card back in the mail that enclosed the recipe.  We haven’t done a damn thing for them to return the favor.

I’m a little pissed off.  Three or four hours out of your life to provide a little casual hospitality to a dozen or so neighbors isn’t going to fucking kill you.  Hell, we got invited to a Christmas party, and again a couple of days later for dinner by the people across the street who we had never before met.  I cannot imagine that anyone on my proposed guest list would not behave themselves.  Those of us who aren’t quite old enough to qualify for Social security are damned close to it.  The worst thing that could happen is a glass or two gets broken, or a game of frisbee breaks out.  Sheesh.

My Gardens Rock This Year

We have an herb garden, a veggie garden, a separate asparagus one, and another for the strawberries and potatoes.  The veggie garden got started a couple of weeks late this year, because it was so cold and rainy, and an 18″ carapace  snapping turtle decided to lay her eggs next to a tomato plant last week, before making her way back down to the pond.  The herbs are going gangbusters, though, and the three varieties of hybrid strawberries we planted are producing, and should all summer long.  Two years worth of failed asparagus taught me to buy nice big beefy dig-ups from Burpee this time around, but hoo boy, are those “ferning” out beautifully.  We should be able to judicially pick some next Spring, and thereafter, have at it.

Mmmm … asparagus, tomatoes, peppers (sweet and hot), squash, cukes, strawberries, potatoes, etc. are going to be so tasty.  So are all the fresh herbs.  I’ve already canned nine 8 oz. jars worth of strawberries as jam.  The red and black raspberries just grow wild around here, as do the blackberries, so we’ll harvest and process them when they are ready.  So far, they are looking good.

Berry season!  And sugar snap peas.  Not much else, yet.


I finally met my next door neighbor’s renter, with her two dogs, when my dog dragged me over there.  She’s got a full sized Doberman, and an itty bitty French Bulldog.  What a great way to meet … my dog dragging me across the lawn between our houses to their fence.  Our dog was on leash.  Hers were within the fence.

Her Doberman is a doll.  Really, he is.  His name is Paisley.  As is typical for a Doberman, he stood back a few feet, watched me for a while, then decided to come up to the fence, sniff the back of my hand, and give me a slurpy kiss.  When he did that, Ben spooked him by barking.  Goddammit, Ben!  I suppose the good news is that both dogs are 10 years old, and are as spunky as ever.  Not bad for medium sized breeds.

Not the best way to meet a new neighbor, though.  Hopefully, I will be forgiven, and she (and the house owner) will be able to attend my cookout later this month.  It’s one of those things this time of year when you invite 20, and a dozen can make it.  Even a dozen is good for a casual friendly afternoon with food and booze.  Dogs not welcome, and we will keep ours indoors, but kids are welcome, and they can find kid-friendly food, along with a frisbee.  Going in the pool will not be allowed w/o parental supervision.  Dem’s da rules.

Great Glasses

I wish I was talking about gold or silver rimmed brewery logo pint glasses, but I’m not.  On my way to my dentist this afternoon, I got something wedged under one of my contact lenses.  It felt like pollen, which, if you’ve ever seen it under a microscope, looks like the business end of a mace.  Couldn’t do a damn thing about it while I was driving, so after I got the car parked in the lot, and dashed in, I popped out the offending lens to clean it.  No dice.  Tried again another three times while I was waiting, to no avail.

Got my teeth cleaned, but by then, my eye was so severely irritated that I couldn’t drive home w/o my polarized sunglasses because of increased light sensitivity, and to cut the sun glare.  Finally had to take out my contacts, and go fish a pair of glasses that are as old as Nikita out of a drawer.  I must have scratched my cornea; that’s how badly my eye hurt.  I’ve done it before.  These glasses are so old that they look like the ones Lynda Carter wore on Wonder Woman.

it’s a little trippy.  I can see through them just fine, and read like usual, through the middle of the lenses, but peripheral vision is a bit off.  Straight lines look a little bowed.  Depth perception seems fine.  Oddly enough, it is legal for me to drive while wearing my glasses instead of contacts, although I’d much rather not have to do it.  Hopefully my cornea will heal by Friday, when I have to go back to my dentist to get a front tooth chip repaired.

I really like my dentist.  She’s an immigrant from Ukraine who had to get re-certified in the U.S., but boy does she have the expertise to do anything but implants.

Anyway, Ol’ Rusty’s going to look like a fly face for a day or two with these damned glasses.

Alien Life Form

My mom had wanted me to kill what she thought was an alien plant life form out of Star Trek, so I brought over my hori-hori, pruning shears, and some weed killer.  Turned out the damned thing was a hosta, with three baby hostas popping up around it.  *groan*

So, I dug them up, then she wanted the rest of the stuff in the general area hacked out, too.  The clematis was easy to rip out, but that Martha Washington geranium had something like 200 stems.  I knew the Martha Washington geraniums liked shade, but never knew they could get that big, and I didn’t think they were perennials.  Maybe that’s not what it was, but that’s what mom said it was.

“Use your pruning shears on it.”

“Are you kidding me?  I’d have brought my machete if I’d known you wanted me to take out that one, too.”

So, I hacked away at it with the hori-hori, and got the job done.  A machete would have been so much more efficient.  At least we Americans are allowed to have gardening tools.

I wish my mom would describe her “problem” a little bit better when she calls me over to solve it, so I could actually be prepared for it.  Her retirement community has gardeners, but I have to do 70% of it for her, anyway.  It wouldn’t be such a chore if I didn’t have to drive over an hour to get there to accomplish her “honey do” list.

Oh, well.  At least I can top off my car’s gas tank in her state on the way home, ’cause it’s at least a quarter cheaper per gallon than here.

Woo-Hoo Memorial Day Weekend

Theoretically, Memorial Weekend is Saturday through Monday.  Ours was from Thursday to Tuesday, because we had to drive ~1200 miles each way for the annual family shindig in Minnesota.  That was five and a half days away, 42 hours of which were spent driving.  We got rained on in MN, IA, IL, IN, and OH, on the way back, but WV and PA took pity on us, and let the sun shine, sort of, even though the tornados were chasing us East.  Dayton, OH, got nailed as predicted, but by the time it did, we were at the eastern end of the state.

This weekend was probably the best family gathering we’ve ever had.  Aside from the BBQ, my brother-in-law rolled out the best lawn game ever.  It was basically a trailer mounted giant water balloon slingshot.  Yeah, there were a few inanimate targets set up, but the fun really began when people went out on the lawn, and took turns standing there as a target.  Who wants to aim at a trash can lid when you can aim at a relative?

Points were awarded for direct hits only.  There were no teams, but it was pretty obvious the women were better at it than the guys.  The guys just wanted to … um … shoot their … water balloons.  We women “dialed it in”  visually before we let go.  This was a slingshot, but it sort of works like a longbow, except that you pull it back with your fingers horizontal instead of vertically.

I came in second.  Ashley won.  The best guy came in fourth.

I volunteered to be a target, but nobody actually hit me.  When my b-i-l joined me out there, he got nailed three times.  Either nobody really wanted to drench me, or he was a bigger target.  But, at 70 yards away, neither of us were that easy to hit with a slingshot.  *shrug*

Damn, was that fun!

So far, the only nasty weather we got besides torrential rain is … not a whole lot that is unusual for this time of year.

Fantastic holiday weekend!


Dafuq is This?

It can’t possibly be sun poisoning, because I haven’t been out in the sun much longer than it takes to vacuum the pool (~20 minutes per morning).  It sort of looks like a rash that started on the back of my hands yesterday, and spread up my forearms today, to my elbows.  It could be a reaction to poison ivy, because we have lots of it around here, but it doesn’t itch, it’s not forming tiny blisters, and it doesn’t hurt.  It probably is some sort of contact dermatitis, but it doesn’t fit the usual bill, aside from a reddish rash.

This is going to be fun when I meet my other side of the family in MN Friday afternoon.  If this horse hockey persists when we arrive, all I can do is “air kiss” them, tow our coolers full of Yuengling and Long Trail out of the truck bed, and go fetch whatever ice, or other cookout supplies they need.

Hello, Minnesota, here we come.  FWIW, I think none of my relatives will hold it against me for not giving them a bear hug, under the circumstances.

Amazing Pool Opening and Road Trip

I’m amazed.  Within 36 hours of the guys coming by to open the pool, it was swimmable.  The water was crystal clear, and all it takes is a few minutes skimming flora debris off the top, and another few to vacuum whatever debris sinks to the bottom.  Granted, once the cover came off, the water didn’t look all that bad to begin with — nothing like the bayou soup I had to deal with a few months after we closed on this place, and the owner just slapped the cover on it, w/o bothering to treat the water, or winterize the pipes.

So, I went ahead and inflated a few floats that aren’t solid, unsinkable foam, and tested them out (for “quality control,” you understand *wink wink*).  The only problem so far was that the carpenter bees thought I was wood, and swarmed all over me, often landing on my arms and legs, while I was inflating those floats.  I’m not allergic to bee or wasp stings, but why me instead of the split rail fence that was 3′ away?  I can guarantee that my sunscreen does not smell like wood.

Also, who’d have thought the sun was this strong in USDA zone 6 in May?  I’ve already got a really decent tan, complete with fish belly white marks from my watch strap and sandals, in only three days.  I can’t even stay in full sun for more than half an hour at a time.  No way could I lie out in in for half a day or more like I did when I was in my teens or twenties.  This sun is more like July/August sun.  Wow.  I’ll need to get something with an SPF between 4 and 30, because that’s all I’ve got.  I tan like crazy, but my shoulders and nose can get a first degree burn if I’m not careful.

As for the road trip, it’s to the annual family shindig in MN.  It’s ~1200 mile drive, each way, but it beats getting molested by TSA staff at an airport, and having to rent a car.  We could hook a right in IL, and go up through ‘Sconsin, but the driving is much easier taking the route through Iowa.  A little shorter, too.  We anticipate delays going through Columbus, OH, at evening rush hour, ’cause there always are some, whether we take the bypass or go right smack dab through the center of it, and possibly some at Waterloo the next morning.  My guess is that on the way back home, we’ll cross the Mississippi at Quad Cities.  Hopefully, we won’t encounter a detour through the local streets of Bettendorf.  That happened once before, and it was not fun.  As long as we make it back east to Cambridge, OH by 1am, we’re good.  From there, if we get up early enough, and hit the road after partaking of the breakfast bar offerings, we should be back home in time to pick up our dog from our vet’s boarding facility in mid-afternoon.

For the shindig, we will bring a couple of cases of beer that are not distributed in the upper Midwest.  People seem to like them, probably because they can’t get them there.  Yuengling lager, and a Long trail IPA should suffice.  I’d never show up to anyone’s party w/o at least a bottle of wine, or a six-pack.  The quantity depends upon whether the party is for a few hours, or a few days.  When I throw a party, it’s not BYO, but if you want to bring something, we know where to stash it, if it needs to be chilled, or not, and, yes, you may consume what you brought, if you want to.

On a completely different subject, our “spare guts” are poking up from the ground.  We got them bare root from Burpee.  Third try’s a winner, evidently.  I love asparagus.

Concerts, and Pool Opening

Within the past week, we had tickets to see Black Lillies, Al Stewart, and Michael Martin Murphey.  All concerts were good.  Never seen MMM before; country/cowboy isn’t really my thing, but my other half really wanted to see him, and it was good.  We’ve seen Black Lillies before; I felt bad for them this time, because the theater was only half full.  Al Stewart, of course, sold out.  Fourth or fifth time we’ve seen him at the winery, which has bistro type seating, instead of movie theater type, and he always sells out.  I got us front row tickets for that one.  He had Mark Macisso with him again this time.  We’ve seen him have Peter White join him onstage for a song or two before, as well as play with with Dave Nachmanoff.  That was a lot of concerts packed into a small time frame for us.  Next one is BoDeans in July.

I had to schedule our pool opening for tomorrow because the company I use for opening and closing said they were only doing openings on commercial pools next week, when I originally tried to schedule it.  Oh, well.  At least I got the first appointment of the day, which probably means ~8am.  It leaves me plenty of the rest of the day to run errands.  I really ought to learn how to do this myself.  I am learning by watching them, which they don’t really mind.  They’ll answer any questions I have while they work, and if I can help them fold up an stash the cover, I will.  For me, it’s sort of like an apprenticeship.  For them, I watch, but am not hovering all over them while they work, which would creep out anyone.

It’ll take two or three days with the pump running on “circulation” constantly to get the water clear, and safe to swim in after the chemicals get dumped in.  After that, an hour or two per day will do.   It should be okay before we leave for Memorial Weekend with family in MN.  I just hope we don’t come home to a bunch of dead frogs and baby toads clogging up the filter baskets.  Live frogs are easy to fish out with a net, and toss over the fence on the yard, so they can hop back down to the pond.  Scavengers will eat the dead ones, but they’re sort of yucky to remove for disposal.  Not as bad as a drowned floaty, bloaty squirrel, though.

ETA:  Wow.  The pool guys were here at 7:30am, and gone by 8:00.  Granted, I helped them out a little by skimming off the largest bits of floating debris that managed to make its way under the cover over the winter (mostly bits of arborvitae leaves and maple seeds).  They did the chemical additions, brushed down the sides and bottom, and made sure the DE filter grids were in good shape.  They asked about the heater, but I told them the bottom had rusted out a couple of years ago, and since I never used it, simply had the water supply rerouted to not run through it, rather than have it removed or replaced.  This year, the water looked remarkably clear when they took the cover off.

If we ever sell the place, I’ll probably have it removed.  Nobody’s going to cough up an extra $3k on an offer to cover the cost of replacing it — if anything, they’d insist that I replace it as a condition of the sale (or ask that the $ to do it themselves be rebated from the sale price), in addition to nickel and dime-ing me on whatever small repairs might need to be done that we missed before we put it on the market.  People nowadays seem to expect perfection in a house they’re about to buy, even if it’s 150 years old.  Plus, building codes change over the years, and things that might have been grandfathered in no longer are upon resale.

I Love This Time of Year

Here in USDA zone 6, it’s a little early to stick most veggies in the ground, but we did get the peas, asparagus, lettuce, potatoes, herbs, and strawberries planted.  The rest of the stuff is still hanging out in the cold frame, or indoors.  For some reason, my sage and rosemary didn’t overwinter, although the oregano made it.  It’s hit or miss with the thyme.  Typically, thyme is treated as an annual here, but some years it comes back.  Oh, well.  At least herbs are inexpensive.  It wasn’t even a particularly cold winter.  We got snow, but never more than a few inches at a time.

I do not understand why our asparagus all seemed to die.  We had no problem with it at our old house, but two years in a row, here, it died over the winter.  So … third try’s a winner?  This time, I ordered 50 dug-ups of the Jersey Knight variety from Burpee.  That doesn’t mind the crappy, rocky clay soil we have.  Those crowns arrived looking phenomenal.  There’s no reason they shouldn’t do okay in that raised bed we constructed out of old railroad ties we found in the woods on our property.  Those ties still have the old rusty hardware on them, and the creosote coating shows no signs of giving up the ghost.  Plus, where we dug up the lawn to put in that bed is in full sun.

All I can think is that getting beefy looking dug-ups, instead of bare roots from TSC, where there’s no telling how long they’d been sitting on the shelf, drying out, is a better choice.  TSC is great for fruit trees, though.  You’ll get 6′ tall whips for ~$15, instead of ones half that size.  I can guarantee we’ll be harvesting Kieffer pears in September, and we only put in that tree last year.  Probably won’t get any Bartletts or Honeycrisp apples for another year or more, but those trees leafed out just fine.  We may or may not get Elberta peaches this year.  That tree bloomed, but we only put it in two years ago.

I also ordered a few perennials I wanted that we had at our old house, but not at this one:  a couple of lilacs, a butterfly bush, some coneflowers, bee balm, and a wisteria.  One of those lilacs can go in where we ripped out an unruly barberry.  That barberry obviously got enough sun there, because the leaves turned quite red, rather than staying green, as they would if it were in shade.  Lilacs are pickier than barberries about getting enough sun.  They can get powdery mildew if it stays wet for long enough, although it doesn’t really seem to hurt them any more than leaf miner does to columbines.

Mom called a few minutes ago to thank me for the fruit & cheese basket I sent her for Mother’s Day.  She’s hard to shop for.  Flower arrangements don’t really float her boat, and she’s got a brown thumb, so something like a miniature rose is out of the question.  I never know from one week to the next what she’s decided she can or can not eat, but I know apples, pears, and hard or semi-hard cheese are okay.

I’ll bring her hybrid phalaenopsis back to her when we visit tomorrow.  She sent it home with me last Fall when it was done blooming, mostly so she wouldn’t kill it.  It was a gift from a friend of hers.  Anyway, I got it to respike from the old spikes, and the first of the 15 buds is just starting to open.  I predict it will come back home with me a couple of months from now for safekeeping.  She’s deathly afraid of overwatering it, and afraid to let it have any sunlight, which is ridiculous, because they can handle morning or late afternoon sun just fine.  The main thing is water it thoroughly when the sphagnum moss in which it’s planted gets crunchy, and let it drain before popping it back in the cachepot.  The “only water it half a cup, once per week” care instructions that came with it are crazy.  You could flush the pot with a gallon of water, and as long as you let it drain, it’s not a problem.

Then again, I’ve been growing orchids for close to 30 years, so caring for them is no biggie to me.  On the whole, they’re pretty tough customers, but there are some species I don’t have the right conditions to grow, such as masdevallias.  It gets too hot in the summer for them, and I refuse to turn on my air conditioning until it reliably reaches the 90s Fahrenheit during the day.  No way am I going to spend ~$200/month on electricity, just to keep some picky plants alive.  Fresh air and open windows are great during the few weeks per year it’s comfortable to do so; there’s nothing quite like a good cross breeze running through the house.