Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Sky is Falling!

The sky is falling! The sky is falling! No....wait.......could it be? Is it? Yes, I think.......IT'S RAIN!

Okay, the official record is that it was only a "trace", but I think there was more than that at our house. Maybe a whole 0.10 inches. But still, it was water, falling right out of the sky. Even better, the high today was only 90!!!!! Yesterday was 105 (which broke the record of 102 that was set in 1917), so 90 felt positively spring like! Yay for clouds. Yay for rain!

In true "the sky is falling" news....the girls will both be going to school for the next two weeks. We have been planning this so that Sedona gets a chance to settle in a bit before the fall semester rolls around and she is in with a full class of kids (it's a Montessori school, so there is one class with mixed ages---Sedona will be the youngest and Sierra will be the oldest). This kinda snuck up on me. I was focusing on the fact that it was still June and then Josh pointed out that July 1 is on Wednesday. What am I gonna do without my baby at home? Okay, there are plenty of things to do, but none of them involve rocking, cuddling, smooching soft baby skin, playing peak a boo, or stacking blocks. awwww :-(

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Health Goals Check In

So, back at the beginning of the year, I had some resolutions concerning exercise. We're just over half way through the year, so I figure it's time to check in and re-evaluate.

First, a disclaimer. I always get flack when I talk about exercising because, well, the fact of the matter is, I'm skinny. No, my goal is not to lose weight. As a matter of fact, I'd be pretty happy to gain weight--I use to be 10 pounds heavier, but it was all toned muscle and I was in better shape. The first thing that comes into play here is that exercise keeps you healthy--skinny people have heart attacks too. I ran a half-marathon the week I found out I was pregnant with Sedona and my endurance has been all down hill since then. I'd like to get it back. The second thing is that everything is relative. Before kids, I rock climbed...a lot. 6 days a week, usually. A key factor in rock climbing ability is core strength. A key factor to pregnancy is developing "baby belly". Yes, I realize MY "baby belly" isn't so bad in the big scheme of things, but I don't want anyone else's pre-pregnancy belly back, I want MY pre-pregnancy belly back.

Added on to all this...I will be spending quite a bit of time in a swim suit in the very near future and it's hot and dry as all get out right now!!

SOOOO I have two mid-year goals I'm working on.......drink more water and exercise more. I've decided to fill a 750ml water bottle with ice water every morning and I have to finish that before I can get anything else (as opposed to starting the day with coke). I've also been slowly working on the Two Hundred Sit-Ups Program. I was feeling sick last week and took some time off the Wii Active, but I've gotten back to it and only have 2 workouts to go to finish the 30 day challenge there.

P.S. we broke another high temp record today. We reached 102, which broke the record of 100 that was set in 1925. We are at 9 days of 100+ temps and 35 days with no rain.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Real Update

There is more going on around here than just the weather, I promise. What's taking the most of my mental energy is something I can't quite blog about yet, but it involves a lot of planning, planning, planning (before anyone freaks out, NO I'm not pregnant, and if you are a family member or close friend, you already know about it...no big secrets coming up).

For a while now, our plan has been to rearrange the garden at the end of this summer. Instead of being such a mish mash, it will be a more orderly collection of rectangular raised beds, for the most part. With the relatively mild drought last year and ridiculous, "I think I may actually be drinking 8 glasses of water a day and still feeling thirsty" drought this year, we've had to make some decisions. Well, I've had to make some decisions. I like the ollas and the ollas work. The problem is that each one has to be filled, by hand, every day. If we had each rectangular bed watered solely by ollas, it would cost us about $90-$100 (using the cheap, clay pot method), and I would have to fill about 72 ollas every morning. Add to that, we have had so little rain recently that we've completely depleted our rain water storage just filling the 6 ollas we have right now. I imagine if we did have all ollas, we'd still end up using the garden hose, which would be a pretty time consuming endeavor. Now, under "normal" circumstances, I would just do that anyway. Under real life circumstances, I have a 2 and 4 year old and even just watering with the sprinkler has been unbelievably difficult and time consuming (I know, doesn't seem like it would be....but trust me.). SOOOOOO we've decided to go with drip irrigation. Pros---easy watering (turn on the faucet and water the entire garden at once), no overhead watering will lessen blight, no overhead watering means I can work in the garden while I'm watering and not end up with two completely mud covered kids, water won't be wasted by spraying into the air, I don't have to put together and bury 66 more ollas. Cons---this means we won't be utilizing our rain water collection very much, not quite as efficient as the ollas.

We've also decided our chickens will soon be both more and less free range. Currently, their coop moves everyday. With the lack of rain, they've recently completely torn up the yard---the section of grass they ate no longer grows back before they make it around the yard and back to that spot. The back part of our property is mostly cleared of brush now (the previous owners had more of less let it be taken over by the forest behind us), so we will be fencing off a large section back there and letting them run around out there all they like, then return to the coop at night. The key to that sentence was "fencing off". We have to have something sturdy enough to keep our dog on the dog side of the fence and the chickens on the chicken side of the fence.

So drip irrigation (we had a few supplies, but not enough) and fencing.......that requires money. What do the penny pinching do when they need money? Find it! (did you catch that? FIRST, get the money, THEN go spend it. I know, novel, scary concept in modern day America, but trust me, it works much better than charging--spending--first, then finding the money) We decided on Thursday to have a garage sale and by 6am this morning, we were filling our drive way with all sorts of things we had seen and said, "hey! I didn't know we still had that!" Our goal was to make $200, which would have almost completely funded both projects. We made $300--woohoo! My brother and sister-in-law very graciously offered to come baby-sit, and we had our first date night in almost a year! We went out to eat and then had some guilt-free shopping time at Lowe's. True love, I tell you. True love.

So there's my big, rambling update that has nothing (well, very little) to do with the weather ;-)

Could it be?

We actually did NOT break a record today! It "only" got up to 102 and the record was 104.

Sorry for the continual weather updates, this is just getting too absurd to keep my mouth shut about. Still not a speck of rain. Today made the 8th straight day of 100+ temps (the 16th day of 98+ temps) and the 34th straight day with no rain (though, the amount before that was only 0.35 inches).

Friday, June 26, 2009

Thank you Sir, may I have another?

Official high today: 105 Breaks the record of 102 that was set in 1953. And still not a drop of rain in sight. We have a 20% chance Monday, but I'm not holding my breath.

However, Invest 93 is off the Yucatan Penisula and current models show it could enter the Gulf of Mexico (but then curve back toward Florida), maybe Josh will get his hurricane...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Another record!

We've already broken the high temp record today. We've hit 104, the record of 100 was set in 1998. Our current humidity is only 25%. It's so dismal that a quite depressing, but also funny public information sheet is up (it talks a lot about Houston because we're pretty close to there). It really does make good reading, just scroll down to the last entry ("Public Information Statement" posted 8:58am on June 25th)

Some highlights....
  • Houston is on the verge of posting their highest ever overnight low (in a tie with July 29, 1895)
  • This is our 5th warmest June ever, but we had lower than normal temps at the beginning of the month, so the latest heat streak has been extra hot to make up for that
  • The longest stretch without rain that Houston has ever recorded was 40 consecutive days (in January/February of 1904). Currently, they're up to 31 days without rain.
  • Despite our "freakish heavy rain" at the end of April (their words, not mine), we are WELL below average yearly rainfall so far.
My husband has actually started WISHING for a hurricane. I keep telling him to watch what he wishes for, but he insists that a "nice category 2 that takes its time moving by" would be a good thing at this point. I'm not so sure. I'm not an expert on weather patterns and hurricane steering, I just think hot weather=hot water=stronger storms, which isn't so good.


Edited to Add: We actually ended up hitting 106 as our high today...whew!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Yay us.

Our official high temperature today was 105. This broke the record of 102 that was set back in 1933. Our average for this day in the year is only 93. They did give us a 20% chance of isolated thunderstorms tomorrow, which is the first forecast precipitation in a LONG time. The odds aren't great, but maybe it'll come to our house.

I typically LOVE summer weather....when I start complaining it's hot, you know it's hot. And man, is it HOT.

A Canning We Will Go....

Well, I get depressed every time I walk out in the garden. (Unfortunately, I'm not joking) So to cheer myself up, I decided we needed to do some home preservation! We've been canning every night since Saturday. So far, the tally is:
2 pints and 20 half-pints of sliced peaches
2 pints and 5 half-pints of grape jelly (from wild grapes we found)
2 pints and 4 half-pints of peach peel jelly (made from the peels and pits of the peaches we canned earlier)
3 pints and 3 half-pints of strawberry jam (made from the strawberries we grew)
About half of a watermelon cut into half-inch slices and dehydrated
one tray of yogurt dallops dehydrated (first time for that--need to tweek it a bit)
two trays of strawberry leather (made from our berries)

I feel much more productive looking at my shelf of canned goods than I do looking at my garden!!

We have had trouble lately with cardinals getting into the chicken coop (no small feat...they have to crawl along the ground and squeeze under a 2x4). We're pretty sure they're coming after water because the drainage ditches and small creeks close to us are all dry. I think we're losing what tomatoes we have to the same problem. When I sit outside to watch the wildlife, it sure seems like the smaller critters are going after the tomatoes more as a water source than a food source. I'm thinking about picking all the tomatoes while they're still green and letting them ripen inside so we get some.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Random PSA

I'm aware that I'm a little more strict and "paranoid" than a lot of other moms I know, but I really don't think I'm off base on this one...

Your baby (that's about 5 pounds over the limit for his infant carseat anyway) should NOT be left ALONE, in his carseat, on the floor of Chick-Fil-A, while you wait in line and order and wait for your food. While you were gone, another random kid started rocking your kid (way too roughly) before his mom could pull him away. Oh, and that super pitiful, high pitched, "I've been abandoned" cry that echoed across the restaurant? Yeah, that was your child. I noticed you were so concerned you didn't even turn toward the sound.

Yes, I am the big softie that (though I LOVED the portability of the infant seat when they were asleep) usually had my baby in a sling wherever I went and for sure never let them out of sight at the ripe ol' age of 6 months. But really, I don't get the reasoning behind not looping the handle of that carseat over your arm and keeping the baby with you. They'll carry your tray to the table for you and they're awfully nice about it too. My poor husband about had a heart attack and I think it took every bit of self control he had not to pick the baby up himself when it started crying.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sad Garden Update...

...as in, the garden looks SAD. I posted months ago about the water situation in our area. Well, it's turned out even drier than I expected. I looked back through the history for our area and we had just under 1.5" of rain for the entire month of May, and none at all for the month of June (and none in the forecast). Just walking to the car saps you of all moisture and makes you feel thirsty. We had twice the normal amount of rain in March and April, which means young, tender plants got assaulted with the blight and powdery mildew that are rampant around here, then stressed with drought conditions once they were bigger. Our high temperature has been between 98 and 100 for over a week and the forecast shows 100 or higher each day through the end of June (and I'm sure long after that). We had late freezes this year too. Not fun. We've done really well with carrots, onions and potatoes. Our green beans did well and our peppers, okra and some of the black eyed peas are still very happy as it heats up. Our tomatoes are miserable. We have plenty out there, but when compared to how many plants we planted, the yield is the worst we've ever had. Usually the northern states are the ones complaining about a short growing season, but it's like we just went from winter straight to summer and as much as I like hot weather, the plants didn't appreciate it. Next year, I'm thinking we may have to steal some ideas from gardeners up north and put out everything in February.

On a better note, we got some peaches on sale and canned peach slices in half-pint jars. Those are the perfect size to open and split between the girls without any going to waste. We had been going through the fruit bowls available at the grocery store, which cost about $0.30 per 4oz bowl. Our home canned peaches end up being $0.20 per 4oz serving (and we know exactly what went into them). Then, this morning, we went to pick wild grapes a friend had found. Word to the wise, it's a good idea to wear gloves when taking wild grapes off the stems, because the acid in the skins before cooking can irritate your skin. We didn't know this until poor Sierra started complaining her hands itched. A quick google search (thank you internets!) pointed out the problem and we avoided further drama. Josh is working on grape jelly as I type and tonight we will can more peach slices and tonight or tomorrow we will use the peach skins and pits to make peach jelly. We may be low on salsa and spaghetti sauce, but we'll have sweet jams and jellies comin' out the wazoo!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Motherhood

Last night, Sedona had her first really bad nightmare. At least that's what I assumed happened. Both my girls (as well as myself) talk in their sleep, so generally, when they make a noise in the night, I ignore it at first. Last night, a blood curdling scream had Josh and I both upright in bed immediately. Being the blind as a bat one, I scrambled for my glasses while he ran to get her. I thought she might have fallen out of bed or gotten a foot stuck in the headboard or something, but I heard her yelling, "BUG! BUG!", so I laid back down. He picked her up and she quickly quieted down (which is why I think it was a dream and not a real bug), but the instant he tried to lay her back in bed, she started screaming again. So he brought her back to our bed.

Now, both our girls slept with us for almost a year and as much as I want my space, I miss their cuddles in the night, so it's nice to have them visit every once in a while. Sedona turned on her side to face me, laid one chubby, soft hand on my arm and wrapped the other around my fingers and I got to fall asleep with sweet baby breath on my shoulder. From hearing the horror stories from the trenches, you'd think night waking is one of the most difficult parts of parenthood, but it can also be one the best parts.

She is 23 months old now and fully into the "twos", so we won't discuss some of the thoughts I had about her once the sun dawned on a new day!! ;-)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Fresh Food

We went blueberry pickin' late last week. There is a place that's kinda on the way to grandma's that offers $1.50/pound pick your own. The best part is there are no additional fees like other places tack on. It's great. Unfortunately, we had late freezes this year, so the blueberries are more sparse than usual, but we still had fun:

Here's Sierra doing her job at clearing out the low branches:
Me, with Sedona in the back pack (she'd reach over my shoulder and pick herself a little snack straight off the bush) and grandma trying to ward off the heat:
Somehow or other, we've so far managed to completely avoid sibling rivalry. This is awesome in that our girls really do love each other as much as it looks like they do in these pictures. It's also a bit worrisome, because I'm quite certain they will gang up on us when they're older ;-)

Back at grandma's house, we made blueberry muffins and blueberry oat bars with some of the berries. Here's Sierra showing off her egg cracking skills:

Also, this weekend, I found myself with over 1 pound of green beans in the garden that needed to be used up, so I made green bean fries. The only thing I changed about the recipe is I followed some reviewer's suggestion to bake instead of fry them. They were very yummy dipped in ranch dressing. We snacked on them for the afternoon, then put the rest in the freezer. The reviews claim they freeze well, guess we'll find out. I also tried making Cookie dough filled cupcakes, which were a bitter disappointment. The recipe and reviews made it sound like if I just thoroughly froze the dough (which I did) and only baked for 20 minutes (which I did), I would get a chocolate cupcake with a gooey lump of uncooked cookie dough in the middle (which I did not). They were still tasty, but the dough cooked to the texture of a cupcake, so it's really just like regular cupcakes with chocolate chips. I suppose that's safer because of the whole "don't eat raw eggs" thing, but I LOVE cookie dough and was so looking forward to a cupcake and cookie dough in one. Oh well.

Very quick and dirty garden update----I hate early blight. Hate. It. There are extremely drastic differences between some of our tomato beds and others and in the future, tomatoes will be planted only where they can expect full sun first thing in the morning and at least most of the day. That said, we have gotten our first tomato, the green beans are growing like crazy, black beans are drying on the vine, black eyed peas were doing okay, but just didn't produce much....which is what happened last year, and I'm not sure why. Bell peppers and chili peppers are in full production now and okra looks great and like it will bloom any day now. Squash was hit with vine borers again this year. That happened right about the time I stopped spraying the Neem, so I'm thinking maybe that area needs a soil drench of Neem after this season's over (I believe the vine borers leave eggs in the soil over winter, then come up in the spring).

Friday, June 12, 2009

Interesting Tidbit

I've been reading How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer. It's a really interesting book that's (so far, anyway) about the physiology behind making choices and how it is that certain people can seemingly make choices on the fly based on their "gut" and get it right.

A few days ago I came across the following paragraph:

People with a genetic mutation that reduces the number of dopamine receptors in the ACC suffer from a similar problem; just like the monkeys, they are less likely to learn from negative reinforcement. This seemingly minor deficit has powerful consequences. For example, studies have found that people carrying this mutation are significantly more likely to become addicted to drugs and alcohol. Because they have difficulty learning from their mistakes, they make the same mistakes over and over. They can't adjust their behavior even when it proves self-destructive.


I know some people that I would LOVE to have tested for that mutation.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Always Learning

Looks like the blog updates won't be too terribly frequent throughout the summer!

We'll start with the garden:

Ollas: The ollas are still working well. The bed they are in does not get watered except through the ollas and the plants all look as healthy as the rest of the garden. The one problem I did start seeing was some blossom end rot on those tomatoes. Since I'm not seeing it in other areas of the garden, I'm assuming calcium deficiency is not our problem, which leaves us with lack of water. I had only been filling the ollas every 3 or 4 days and finding them just about empty at that time. Since researching the blossom end rot, I've started topping off the ollas every day and that seems to be working better.

Early Blight: Darn the stinkin' early blight! This is a problem every year in our area. Since this is a fungal disease that splashes up from the soil, I preventatively prune the plants as they get bigger. Typically, I cut off all the branches/leaves that are within about 12" of the soil. Then, as the season wears on, I go through once a week and cut off any leaves that are showing signs of blight (I see brown spots first, then yellow/brown rings, often starting at the edge of the leaf). I bag these diseased leaves and throw them away so I don't contribute more blight spores to the compost/soil. Every year, I start to panic about how much foliage I'm cutting off, but every year we get a good yield and very little if any fruit affected. We had a humid and rainy start to the season, which contributed to blight problems. While my Neem oil spraying has kept the powdery mildew completely at bay, it doesn't seem to be helping with the blight. Our tomatoes are in new beds that we just put in this year and I have noticed that two of them don't get sun until late morning. These shadier beds are definitely more affected by the blight, which makes sense because their leaves are staying more wet in the morning. Ideally, we would have no overhead watering (and go purely to ollas and/or drip system) to combat this, but it's so prevalent in our area that the rain alone would keep it going to some extent. Since the Neem hasn't worked, we are trying an organic spray with sulfur in it this week. I'm not holding my breath that'll make a huge difference, but thought it was worth a try for future knowledge.

Yield: Our strawberries are giving less. There are still a few berries here and there, but they either get eaten right away, or thrown to the chickens...they aren't making it in the house anymore. We got a big handful of blueberries off the bushes we planted this year, which was unexpected and exciting. We have eaten one pound of fresh picked green beans so far and the tomato plants are heavy with fruit, but nothing ripe yet. The black beans have put out lots of pods and we will those dry on the vine. Black eyed peas are fattening up in their pods and the okra looks like it will start to bloom any day now. Those are the only exciting things at the moment.

Sierra is still bugging me to do workbooks every day. On Tuesday we headed to the local library for "big rig day". It is part of their summer reading program to have some activity every week and I expected this to be a small event---maybe a fire truck and police car and that would be it. Well, it was a HUGE set up. I think they probably had one of every type of vehicle the city owns there! We got to talk to several very polite city workers about what the vehicles did and what different parts of the vehicles were for. The kids could sit up in them if they wanted. They also handed out free popsicles for everyone. She mostly chose math to work on this week, so we did lots of addition and worked a bit on subtraction. Today we read a book about tornadoes and made a "tornado" with two 2-liter bottles and a little connector. Our neighbor is an "archery in the schools" teacher and had family visiting, so he set up all his equipment and invited us over to join in. Sierra enjoyed her little archery lesson and Josh got a chance to pick up a compound bow (he was on the archery team in college, but shot recurve).

Monday, June 1, 2009

Life Lesson

With both kiddos home, I find I'm driving more now, so I decided to check out an audio book from the library. The one I chose was Dancing With Rose. First off, it's an interesting book and the narrator is really good (I usually only like audio books that are read by the author). The important part though--this is a book about Alzheimer's. The author has been observing at an upscale Alzheimer's facility and decides to get the full experience by hiring on as a resident assistant. The book is somewhat about her daily routine and what all has to be done for the residents, but she manages to make the focus of the book pointing out that these people are real people, that they're still there, the daily interaction is just different.

Today, I heard a part where 91-year old Hayes is having a conversation with himself. He is speaking both parts out loud and the author is listening in. He says he wants to go home and then explains that he can't. He asks how long he has to stay and explains that he will live there for the rest of his life. He says, "It's not fair" and explains, "no, it's not. But that's the way it is". She clarifies that there's no grief or malice in his voice when he says this, just a matter of fact statement. I think it's a good life lesson. We do what we can, we make what we think are the best choices, and at the end of the day, not everything is under our control. Bad things happen to people every day. I'm not talking about getting stuck in traffic or running out of milk for your cereal. Things that really matter--things that change the course of your life and those around you. Some things "just aren't fair" and you can scream and throw a fit over that, or you can accept that it isn't fair and keep on keepin' on, because what else is there to do?

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