Saturday, December 20, 2014

Winter Garden: "To everything there is a season..."

For most gardeners, Spring holds their interest with all its excitement and disappointment. I too enjoy spring, but as time goes on, I think my favorite garden season is winter!

As I work my winter garden, my mind and body are able to relax. There is no pressure to water daily, no hurry to weed. Everything slows down....rests.

I usually plant onions around the perimeter of my garden. Their location is often forgotten, and they don't receive enough water and die back. In winter, they spring up again to continue their growth. What a nice surprise!

Dividing Onions
As I harvest my dividing onions in the fall, I replant several to start the process over again. These onions can go on forever!


Arugula loves winter. I can go out daily and cut a big handful. It is wonderful in salads and on sandwiches!

The sage changes little with the seasons. It was a gift from a former student named Sage! I do think of him often as I work in my garden. It also affords an opportunity to share organic sage with friends and neighbors as I will never use this much sage!

The celery has surprised me with its constancy. It slowly marches on, summer and winter, producing new stems. 

I enjoy the plants that survive, even thrive, during the winter. Dill comes up here and there. The fennel can grow without the constant threat of swallowtail caterpillars!

Hand Screening Compost:
On weekends I get out and turn the soil, carefully screening it by hand to preserve the earthworms and hibernating frogs. I add rich compost to prepare for spring growth.

As I dig, turn, screen, harvest, plant, I find that I draw from this time of rest. I slow down and relax. My body, mind and heart are renewed. This is truly my favorite gardening season!

Ecclesiastes 3
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

They Come in Threes!

I've always heard "bad news come in threes"! That means the problems that lead to the bad news must "come in threes" also. When problems come your way, you can respond with anger and frustration or learn a lesson and laugh at yourself!

EVENT NUMBER 1. I received a much-appreciated gift: a reservation to attend the "dress rehearsal" for a local restaurant that was about to open! Not eating out often, I looked forward to this event with much anticipation! The day arrived and my husband and oldest daughter met me at the restaurant.

Our waiter was obviously new to the profession. He was being shadowed by a more experienced waiter who advised him when needed. The new waiter was trying hard to do a good job, but you could tell he was quite nervous. As we were finishing our appetizer, he arrived with drink refills. He held the wobbly tray high, shifting the heavy, full glasses around while he tried to take off the refill of root beer. Well....I'm sure you've guessed by now....the entire tray tipped, the root beer came crashing down onto the top of my husbands glass of water, breaking the glass, and sending root beer and water all over the table and my husband!

Four or five employees, including the manager, rushed over and began sopping up the mess. Our poor waiter stood with a rag in hand looking like he was trying to decide if he should dry my husband off! He wisely chose to just hand over the towel.

When our table was cleaned and my husband adequately dried, our meal continued. We enjoyed the rest of our evening and got a gift card and good story to boot!

EVENT NUMBER 2.  We had come to the restaurant in separate cars. As I traveled down hill towards home, I passed a waiting county sheriff! I was tired and not particularly paying attention to the speed my car had picked up. I looked down at my speedometer as I passed the sheriff.....bad news! He pulled out behind me and just followed me for a minute. Could it be that he hadn't noticed my speed? No, he was just politely waiting until we approached a safe place to turn off! On came the lights and I turned down a side street, out of traffic.

As the officer took my license, he asked if there was a reason for my speed and I told him that I was not paying attention as I coasted down the hill. He then asked if I had insurance and I told him I did. I reached for the paper, opened it to hand it to him, and noticed the date had expired!!! Informing him of this, he assured me he would check when he ran my license.

I sat in the car, swatting mosquitoes, and lamenting my decision to not monitor my speed and not download a current insurance card!! I certainly didn't want a ticket, but I was at fault!

The officer returned with my insurance and license. As I accepted them, he asked if I had noticed that BOTH my registration and inspection were past due!!! I was flabbergasted! In disgust at my own neglect, I threw my hands up to my head and stared in could so many things be wrong at one traffic stop!

He asked how quickly I could get my car inspected and I replied, "right away"! I gratefully accepted his warning and started again toward home! I guess the reason for his grace was that I have not been ticketed since the early 80s or even stopped for anything since the late 90s! I really do try to obey traffic laws!

EVENT NUMBER 3. The next day I was determined to get my car inspected. Working later than planned, I had to skedaddle to try to find an open shop.

I hoped to go to the 10-Minute Inspection Stop but as I approached I noticed all the doors were was closed! I figured that would be the case for them all and I started home in frustration that I had stayed at work too long!

Right down the road I spotted an oil-change business that had an inspection emblem posted. It was open! I quickly entered the turn lane and pulled in. The employee who came out assured me there was time for my inspection before closing and I pulled around to the back, leaving the car for the air-conditioned waiting room.

As I was the only customer there, I busied myself playing a game, watching TV, and chatting with the manager. I played more games, watched more TV, and exhausted all common topics with the manager. He and I began looking toward the far bay where the inspection was taking place. The manager told me he would go help the man with the inspection to hurry it along.

Curiously I went outside two check on the two of them. The manager told me that the man inspecting my car had entered the wrong date and was doing the wrong emissions test on my car. He said they would have to start over!

Finally, a good hour and a half after I arrived, my inspection was complete! As I paid, I told the manager that I would now think of this shop as the "WAY MORE THAN 10-MINUTE" inspection station! He gave me an uneasy smile. Unlike the restaurant owner, he offered no gift card!

I mused over the last two days in somewhat disbelief. I could either be very annoyed or slightly amused. I chose to be amused....and to write a blog post!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Let It Be

As I walk through my garden I find lots of little "surprises"! There is cilantro and purslane among the peppers, dill and tomatoes among the potatoes, a pumpkin next to a tomato plant, amaranth here and there, and wildflowers everywhere! I sometimes struggle with how much control to exert over these "gifts"!
This control issue also occurs when making decisions regarding my bees.  Do I leave the queen cell and let nature take its course or do I remove it so my hive won't swarm?  Do I feed the bees sugar syrup or allow natural selection to weed out strains that are unable to endure drought?
Relationships are also peppered with these decisions. Do I stay with people who are hard to deal with or should I protect myself and move on?  Do I allow friends to be flawed or look for new friends?
Over time I've found that it is often emotionally better to let it be. A Christian might say, "Let go, let God!" It is still a struggle to discern when to fight change or when to relax and look for the blessing. When we trust in God, we realize that He sees the bigger picture and knows what is truly best. Naturally, we see through the lens of our own perspective and understand at our own level of maturity. God, who knows us intimately and loves us unconditionally, sees everything and knows what we actually need! When we care about God's will and try to understand it, we can stop fighting people and circumstances when they turn out to not be what we would choose.
One of my latest garden choices had to do with the swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. In past years I have reluctantly accepted the loss of my dill and fennel once the caterpillars appeared. I was always torn between continuing to have the plants and allowing the caterpillars to mature. This year I heard about a win/win solution via a radio garden show. I now have a few dill plants separated from my other dill and fennel. I move the caterpillars off of the plants I want to save and on to the dill I have kept as a host plant! In this way, allowing the problem to continue while searching for acceptable solutions produced a decision I am at peace with!
God's lessons often come to us in small events. When we allow the lessons, we experience personal growth and a changed perspective!  

Cilantro in the peppers


Pumpkin next to a tomato plant

Horse Mint, Mexican Hats and Indian Blankets everywhere
Dill with swallowtail caterpillars

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6  New King James Version

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Beeladee: Hive Inspection 5/3/14

I decided to open the hive late morning before the temperature climbed into the lower 90s! It was still in the 70s and pleasant enough to be suited up.

I have been anxious about my hive since I noticed a queen cell in late March. The spotty brood pattern I found last weekend confirmed that I must have had a swarm.

Today I found 3 drawn combs nearly completely full of capped brood and larva! (There are 13 bars of drawn-out comb in all.) The bees were putting up sugar syrup and had started capping some honey near the top on several bars. I am still feeding sugar syrup until they are well established since I had such a slow start last year and a cold (for south-central Texas) winter.  Comb is being drawn out on both of the bars I inserted in late March. Everything looks peachy! See Beeladee: Spring Inspection

I am continuing to use my phone's voice recorder to take notes while I inspect my hive. I later transcribe them into a journal. I went to my phone settings and changed the "touch sensitivity" to high. I then can activate the voice recorder with my gloves on! With this procedure, I am able to take detailed notes about each bar in the hive. The phone I am using is a Nokia Lumia that runs Window's 8.0. I'm not savvy on other phone operating systems, but I'm sure most must have something similar if you look around and experiment.

The decision to leave the queen cell and allow the swarm turned out to be a positive one. My new queen seems to be a great layer! I am still working on plans to make another top-bar hive, hoping to have it in place by summer so I can take advantage of any future swam/queen cell situations. This will be late for this bee season, but it is the best I can do at the end of the school year.

Below are pictures to illustrate my note-taking system. It is just one way to keep up with hive information. I also included a couple of pictures from my inspection as well as one of the beautiful spring flowers!

After I open a note, I can choose the microphone icon to start recording notes during hive inspection.
I then transcribe my notes into my Bee Journal.

New queen is laying well. Those cells that are not already filled with capped brood have larva!

Close up of comb: bees are attending to the larva and a drone is hanging around hoping for some nectar!

Wildflowers blooming by the road!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Beeladee: Spring Inspection

We had a rather cold winter....for south Texas! Temperatures dropped below freezing many times, even down into the teens. The big difference about a Texas winter is the variance in temperature. Going from the low 30s to the lower 70s in one day is quite common. During these interspersed warm days, I fed my bees 1-to-1 sugar syrup (by volume). I know there are two camps concerning feeding bees; 1. only the fittest need survive thus strengthening the gene pool 2. we will do whatever it takes to keep these bees alive! Because of my weak start with this hive last year (Beeladee: Bee Problems) , I opted for #2.

I was late with my initial hive inspection (the end of March) because of the continued weather fluctuations. By the time I opened the hive, it was quite crowded. I inserted a couple of empty bars, being careful not to break up the brood chamber. Sure enough we had a few more freezes before spring was here to stay.

During that first inspection I noticed a queen cell. This would have been a perfect opportunity for a split, but I had no empty hive in which to move the bar with the developing queen. I had to decide if I wanted let nature take its course and allow a swarm, or control the swarm tendency by removing and killing the developing queen.  After a couple of day's consideration, I chose the hands-off approach to wait and see what happened naturally.

Today I inspected again. The original queen cell is vacant and I did not see any new queen cells. I think the original queen did swarm as the current laying pattern is not well established as it had been in late March. But I did see larva, so there is a queen in there somewhere!

I have been keeping a paper journal for both my bees and my garden. When I inspect the hive, I take notes using voice command on my cell phone. I then transcribe my notes into my journal once I finish the inspection. By noting the bar numbers I can see changes over time.

I have begun working on another top-bar hive and hope to have it finished by early summer. I will then wait and capture a swarm or split my existing hive. Either way I hope to BEE ready when the next opportunity comes buzzing!

My Bee Journal

Close up of notes about what is present on each bar with comb

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Little House that Love Built!

This post is for my Daddy Cecil's birthday on March 25th!

My mom and Daddy Cecil married when I was 4 years old. It would be untrue to say that we fell into a close relationship right away. I had been used to having my mom all to myself and Dad was often strict, something I was not used to. Our family had an adjustment period ahead!

           When I was nearly seven, Dad was lured to Caprock, New Mexico to work at a television transmitter. Caprock is an area far from civilization with tumbleweeds instead of trees. Three houses set not far from the tower, one for each of the work shifts. There were few children, no amusements, nothing but desert and a tall TV tower!
Once in New Mexico, our family had a lot of adjustments to make.  Mom had complications following a miscarriage. She was weak and unable to do much around the house. We had to keep the noise level down because Dad slept during the day then worked the night shift, after the station had signed off. He checked and maintained the equipment as well as cleaned the station.
 My 7th birthday was approaching. We were far from the conveniences of town and had little money with which to buy presents to celebrate. Since Dad had to remain at the transmitter each night even after he had completed all of his responsibilities, he came up with a plan; he started building a Barbie-sized dollhouse for my birthday!
A few years earlier, the tower had fallen on the former three shift houses and they had been bulldozed and piled into a dump. There was a bounty of dollhouse building materials at that dump!

           First Dad constructed 4 rectangular rooms from plywood scraps. He stacked them in pairs side by side. Each room was painted and had coordinating carpet or linoleum (again from the dump). The handcrafted furniture, complete with a kitchen, were all made to scale from wood scraps. Each detail was thought of such as drawers that opened complete  with handles , night stands with lamps that lit up, and a jewelry box full of necklaces to set on the dresser.  
On the walls of the rooms were pictures cut from my grandmother’s jigsaw puzzle boxes. Dad dug through our ragbag and mom’s material scraps where he chose material for hand-sewn mattresses, pillows, bedspreads, and tablecloths. Even the sofa was covered in fabric! He found coordinating scraps and made several outfits for each of my Barbie dolls. Ken even sported a tiny tie! My dollhouse was perfect! 
Over the years I spent countless hours playing with my Barbie dolls and their house. Later Dad even added a wooden car with an opening trunk much to my (and Ken's) thrill. When we finally moved back to civilization, I was the envy of my neighborhood friends!  
I regret that I do not have the original kitchen or car. Mom and Dad replaced them with more modern plastic ones as later gifts. My oldest daughter enjoyed my furniture and clothing with her own dolls when she was little! Since that time, all the clothes and remaining furniture have been tucked away in the attic awaiting an opportunity to be displayed and played with again! 
As a child, I often did not appreciate the sacrifices made on my behalf. I can now see that love was shown to me in various ways. This dollhouse is just one tangible example of how Dad planned and provided for me during the hard times as well as the good times! Thanks, Dad! I love you!

This is only a part of the doll house. There was also a pink room with bunk beds, a living room with a piano, couch, chair and a coffee table, and a full kitchen!

This is the blue bedroom minus some of its parts that didn't survive the years of play!

A hand-sewn teddy bear

Details of hand-sewn clothes for Barbie, Skipper and Tuttie

Details of some of the hand-sewn clothes for Ken
 See post for my Mom's birthday!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sugar on the Floor, and Other Memories of Mother

In honor of my mother's birthday on February 20th, I wanted to publish a story I wrote a few years ago, but never got around to sharing...even with mother!

Happy birthday, Mom! I hope you enjoy this story. Things might not have happened exactly this way, but this is how I remember them!

It was an accident, originally. I don’t even remember why my cousins and I got into the sugar. Maybe we just licked our fingers and stuck them in the jar for a quick treat. Anyway, whatever we were doing, some of the sugar spilled on the floor. What happened next is a bit fuzzy as it happened so long ago. I must have tried to scoot the sugar under the table and noticed how my leather-soled shoe glided over the sugar on the smooth linoleum surface.

I “accidentally” spilled a little more sugar and shuffled my feet in delight. My cousins followed suit. At some point we lost our inhibition, and soon had dumped nearly the entire jar of sugar on the floor! We went around and around the kitchen, ducking under the table, skating on the gritty surface in wild abandon!

This is my only memory of that kitchen. What a mess Mother must have had on her hands, but I don’t remember too much about that either. Later, Mother confided that she had peeked around the corner and saw the mayhem. Instead of rushing in to scold the lot of us, she watched in amusement, putting off the lecture we needed to keep our behavior in check. Mother was like that.

I was probably the only child in known history that was actually encouraged to jump on the bed! Sometimes Mother would say to me, ‘Why don’t you go jump on the bed?’ Delighted, I would take off my shoes, crawl up in my stocking feet and jump to my heart's content. Sometimes I landed on my feet, other times my bottom. I tried to touch the ceiling; I watched myself in the mirror. I didn’t know that I was given permission to do what other children had to sneak to do!

Another time I was playing with my cousin in our tire swing. I didn’t really like the swing because black rubber came off on my clothes, but I wanted to play with my cousin, and she wanted to swing. This day a little mud had collected in the rut made by our feet under the swing. In my cousin’s absence, this mud would have placed the swing off-limits, but my cousin felt no such restrictions. I noticed how she dragged her feet as she swung through the mud, making a spray come up. I thought, “If we add more water there will be more of a spray.” Well, we did add more water and were soon swinging through the mud, spraying it up in the air, on the tree, on the shed, on our clothes, and in our hair. It was great!!! Unnoticed, Mother watched from the kitchen window, being still so as not break the spell.

 These snapshots might lead you to think Mother indulged and spoiled me. Although she was a free spirit, a tomboy from childhood, that was not her underlying intention. I was born with scoliosis and problems with my hips and feet. It was not so severe as to be detected at birth, but when that magical age of walking arrived, I didn’t walk. I tried, but my feet turned in and my knees knocked together causing me to fall. Mother took me to specialists who fitted me with corrective shoes and taught her the exercises needed to strengthen my legs and stretch my tendons.

Instead of feeling sorry for me and shielding me from the world, Mother recognized that I needed opportunities for physical and emotional development. To create these opportunities, she drew on her naturally fun-loving personality. Rejecting many of the world’s self-imposed boundaries, Mother creatively encouraged the joys of activities such as jumping on the bed. Using wise discernment, she recognized and prolonged valuable moments of fun and play knowing there was always time for scolding and lectures. If playmates were lacking, Mother was there for games of dress-up or hide-and-seek. Mother was my first best friend.

Now that my children are grown, sitting and contemplating my past is a luxury I am beginning to appreciate. Even though I parented in a different way, much more structured yet not necessarily superior, my children were blessed with their own time with my mother. She took them walking through puddles, arrowhead hunting, bone collecting, and rock hounding. I am glad that they, along with me, were able to have those experiences and memories of Mother’s playful, fun spirit!  

Mom and Me circa 1963