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Archive for November, 2009

The day started out cool, wet, and misty, with the clouds touching the earth.

 I walked through those  clouds this morning, as I navigated the muddy path. No longer overflowing with water, which had drained off during the night, the path now was a mess of slippery and slimy mud.

 I decided if I walked carefully and slowly, while holding onto my ski pole and the Bog Willows that grew on the sides of the path, I wouldn’t fall and get covered in mud.

 That was the plan.

I really should have told Uriah the plan.

Halfway into the path and feeling proud I hadn’t kicked up any of the permanent staining mud, I stopped and looked back at Uriah. He stood at the edge of the mud, tongue hanging out and a big smile on his fury face. He wasn’t looking at me; I turned back and saw a grey squirrel nosing around the base of a tree. My eyes swept the ground from the squirrel, past me to Uriah. I took in all that mud.

Then watched, in slow motion as Uriah stood up, and charged at the squirrel, mud kicked up over his head, as he raced past.  

What I said could not be printed here.

 Uriah didn’t even notice. In his head, he was chasing the big bad squirrel.

On my head sat a clump of mud, with some moss mixed in…

Within the next second he took off into the trees, barking.

I ignored him while I called his name. I walked all the way around the path and he stayed where he was, in the trees barking.

The fog moved through the trees, giving everything a soft feel. Birds yelled at me, or maybe Uriah. Crows, Blackbirds, and Blue Jays flew to the tops of the trees screaming in irritation. Cardinals were on the lower branches, as they followed me around the path. They landed in the trees and bushes just ahead, or off to the side.  As I passed they flew on ahead, waiting on the next branch.

I slipped through the mud, and I headed back towards the house.

Uriah stayed in the trees and continued to bark.

Finches and dark-eyed junco, and black-capped chickadees, flittered in-between the trees as I passed by. 

I noticed this year’s over produced bird, the Sparrow. At least fifty of them were in the grass around the burn pile; they flew up into the blue spruce, and chattered away.  I startled those Sparrows as I passed by, I stopped and  watched; they took flight heading over the roof in perfect synchronization, turning to the left, then right as they maneuvered around trees, until they landed in my neighbor’s trees and bushes. 

Last year the over abundant bird was the Common Grackle. The year before, Mourning Doves flourished.

It took only a moment for me to wonder, when the birds of prey will notice all those sparrows. Suddenly, a high pitch screech echoed above and around me.  The Red-tailed hawk,  had already seen them.

Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensi)

http://www.illinoisraptorcenter.org/Field%20Guide/redtailpictures.html

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As I walked out the garage door, and looked to my right. I could see the Waxing Gibbous moon, nearly full, glowing white in the still, blue sky. It was dusk and the sun had slipped to the horizon and was quickly disappearing. Last night the sky was streaked with fury red. Tonight it was a pale defused orange color.  

Uriah and I walked towards the front pond, instead of on the back path. The path was still under an inch of water, and slippery. With the sun going down, I was afraid I would fall into the pitch black mud. Not my idea of a fun night.

 Staring into the blue sky, I found it hard to differentiate between the summer sky at dusk and this sky. There was only one cloud, possibly Cirrus, splattered over head looking very much like a flattened out tornado. Its bottom point aimed at the setting sun, while the large cone top swirled above my head.

Uriah came over and leaned against my leg. He was still nervous from the gun fire all afternoon. I have a neighbor who loves to target shot. For hours… 

“Its okay,” I whispered, as I rubbed his face. “He isn’t shooting anymore.”

At that moment, shots rang out; to be precise, six times the gun, sounded like a 22. Uriah stood up, then sat down and sighed heavily.  

“Come on, boy.” I patted my leg as I walked away from Uriah.  “At least he’s not shooting the big stuff.”

 I really have to learn how to be quiet. Two shots rang out, with an intense deep, BOOM! BOOM! Those shots vibrated through the ground.

I called Uriah to walk around the pond, and gave him a Milkbone dog biscuit, which made him happy. While the there was still light he needed his exercise. I was relieved, when he decided to trotted on ahead.

 A waft of warm barbeque air disturbed the cold, damp wood smell, but only in small pockets. Odd!  I took four steps and I walked into a cold, damp woody smell. Then, I moved forward two more steps, into warm air smelling like hot dogs and summer. It had to do with the lack of a breeze. The air was extremely still.

 All, this was making me hungry.

An angry Cardinal clicked high in the trees; another one closer towards the house answered the first. I wondered if they were upset with me, or whoever had a fire going? More than likely it was the shooting that went on all afternoon.

I turned as I reached the driveway. Now I was facing towards the house. The moon hung in the sky above the roof like the star of Bethlehem.

 The shooting stopped. The birds were still talking in the trees, and the light was fading fast.

My pace picked up as I followed Uriah to the house. I have a piece of pumpkin pie left. I just hope my husband can see my name is written on it…

Picture from –
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Phases_of_the_Moon.png#filelinks

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Early yesterday morning, I glanced out the window to check on Uriah. He was sitting in the bright morning sunshine; his head cocked to one side his ears up and forwards watching something near the line of trees.

Blinking I tried to focus on what caught his attention.  I looked at the burn pile where green and beige grass stood up in uneven tuffs, dried branches and a pile of cuttings from the vegetable garden flopped over haphazardly.

I could see nothing out of the ordinary.

I looked back at Uriah. He was still staring; his head at a tilted angle, with his left ear pointing at the ground.

I tried again to focus, again. This time past the burn pile along the tree line. Fifty feet away there was a fuzzy grey squirrel, he was laying along the ground with his front paws on an acorn squash. I could see bright yellow splotches on the dark, dark green squash.

 I blinked, then rubbed my eyes as the squirrel stood up off the ground, stood on the squash and jumped up, his downward pounce had the acorn squash roll slightly and he fell off.

The squirrel stood for a moment, staring at the squash.  Positioned himself on the side towards the house, reached out slowly and put his front paws on the squash and pushed. 

The squash rolled forward. He fell on his face, prone on the ground, back legs stretched out behind him front paws still touching the vegetable.  Then, that squirrel jumped up, landed on top the squash and held on with his nails, as it rolled, very slowly, away from the burn pile, with the squirrel attached so he fell on the opposite side.

At this point I noticed I had tilted my head like Uriah, in a, what the..!!, stance.

I watched for a few more moments as that fuzzy grey squirrel circled the squash, with his tail flipping, analyzing the situation.

I called Uriah, he looked up at me, then back at the squirrel. He eyes rolled up towards me, then back at the squirrel. Like he was saying, “Can you believe this? 

I decided I needed coffee I was hallucinating.

Photograph and upload by John Delano, of Hammond, Indiana
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sciurus_carolinensis_3.jpg

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This morning, I woke up to scattered little clumps of snow on the grass. The air was crisp and cold, even as a hint of warmer air threatened to melt every last crystallized flake.

At the grocery store yesterday, I overheard so many people loudly exclaiming, “They would love for it to snow” Then continuing on with their seasonally induced amnesia.  “It would be so festive, ‘especially’ for the holidays.”

 I still have nightmares over last years snow fall.

 In December it showed almost every other day.  At one point, the snow came down so fast and heavy my snow thrower broke. I didn’t panic…I walked right in the house peeled off layers clothes and called the repairman.  I was told that I would need a specific part they didn’t have, and even if I got it, the repair guy couldn’t come out until the middle of January …maybe.

I didn’t panic. Instead I pulled out a rope with red flags and roped off the driveway.

Five feet of packed snow that was so solid I could stand on it, with three other people and not sink.  Nope, sorry I am not looking forward to snow. If Mother Nature could please hold off until January, I would be grateful.

 It might be too late, but I need to knock on wood fast!

My mail box was hit twice last year. The temporary mailbox, set in a bucket of cement, was also hit-twice. The second time it exploded.

Don’t get me wrong, I love snow.

 But, … last years snows were a little over the top.

If you add in my dog Zeus, ten and half, sweet heart of a dog, was hit by a car during a snow storm. An eighty pound black dog, in a white snow storm…

Please drive carefully this holiday season.

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May everyone have a wonderful day! Happy Thanksgiving! 

Yesterday, I made two pies. One blueberry with a homemade crust and store bought pie filling. The second was a pumpkin pie made completely from scratch.  

I grew that pumpkin in my garden this past, 2009 summer. The weather  was cooler and wet, not congruous to growing  pumpkins.  I was surprised to see how well that pumpkin developed. I planted it late. It was the first of July, and out of three plants that grew only one had a pumpkin.

Just before Halloween I brought it in the house and set it near the fireplace. Even though its color was a bright orange it deepened into a darker orange in the house.

I’ve cooked up fresh pumpkin before. I boiled them, like potatoes. This time I decided to bake the pumpkin. I cut it in half.   That in itself was no easy feat. I used a large knife that I couldn’t pull it of out the pumpkin. I ended up using a smaller knife. 

 I didn’t mention the pumpkin was big. It was, very big. Its pulp was three inches thick.

 Once I cut it in half I scooped out the insides. I set the seeds on the side, some were dried in the oven with salt and the rest are waiting, in the garage for spring.

I rinsed off the first half and rubbed melted butter over the edges, placed it skin side up on a baking sheet. The pumpkin didn’t fit on any of my cookie sheets; it hung over the sides by three inches- on all sides. I did say this was a huge pumpkin.

I baked it in a 425 degree oven for two hours until it was soft. After the first hour I poked it to see if it was done.

Once it was soft and cooked. I cut it in four large pieces and scooped the pulp into a bowl to cool. I used my blender and puréed the chunks. I poured three to four cupfuls into freezer bags. I repeated the process with the second half.

I now have ten bags of pumpkin frozen.

Prepare one pie

Using two to four cups cooked pumpkin, your choice.

Mix in one can evaporated canned milk (12oz)

Put in ¾ cup granulated sugar-

Keep going and add ¼ teaspoon salt

Intermingle, Pumpkin pie spice, one tablespoon

Now add two eggs, and mix together until blended.

*Pour into a prepared pie crust….

2 ½ cups flour

¼ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons sugar

12 tablespoons cold cubed butter

¼ cup cold, or ice water…

I found out years ago, that to make a hard crust I would need to touch it a lot with my hands. Working a pie crust, or touching it will make a bad crust.

Here’s what I do instead.  I used a plastic sandwich baggy. -You can use a sandwich bag, or a freezer bag. Not a grocery bag. – I put in all the ingredients, and then I sat down and watched TV as I kneaded the bag.

Once it was all incorporated, I opened the bag, and used a spatula to scrap the sides of the bag.

I had to take the dough out of the bag for a minute to mush it into a ball. I put it back in the bag and set it in the fridge for about fifteen minutes. 

On a floured surface I used lots of flour to prevent sticking. I rolled out the dough to about three inches wider than the pie pan. Using a spatula I folded it, as I lifted it off the board. Then I unfolded it into the pie pan.

 I baked the crust for about four minutes, just to start the baking process.

I filled the pie crust with the pumpkin mixture. I didn’t pour it all in the pie crust at once. I put the pie on a cookie sheet in the oven. Then I finished filling it.

* It’s very hard to lift a filled pie plate off the counter, and then carefully set it in the oven. 

I baked it, on the center rack, in a 425 degree oven for twenty minutes. Then I lowered the temperature to 350, and checked it in forty five minutes.

 To check if the pie was done, I stuck a knife in the center and it came out clean.

My pie cooked forty minutes longer than I anticipated, and I checked it every ten minutes. I also lowered the oven temperature to 325 for that extra time.  I didn’t want the crust to burn.

 I am very grateful that I was able to grow this beautiful pumpkin!

I am very grateful I was able to cook it up, and freeze more for the months ahead!  

I am very grateful for the help I had making the pie!  

I am very grateful I can cook!  I love pie.

I took pictures of the pumpkin, and at a later date I will post them on this Blog.

The picture shown is from ars photo library

http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/graphics/photos/oct05/d260-1.htm

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Two nights ago at five o’clock at night, I was standing outside looking up into the nearly dark sky. A faint line of light trailed along the horizon. Hazy lavender touched the earth and a line of pink topped it off. That mix of colors and mist slipped upward into the dark night sky.

As I faced the west, the waxing crescent moon was to my right with planet Jupiter sitting brightly on its left.

The air was cooler, close to freezing cold. My hands and nose were cold. I could see my breath as I stood in the deepening darkness. I looked up into the trees; the branches took on a silvery cast.

I called to Uriah. His hackles were raised and he was barking towards the path. I called him back, time to head into the house.

 Two hours later, I was back outside. I had to keep telling the dog to stay close. I could hear the coyotes they sounded like they were to the east and south of us. They were coming closer.

Why is it, when you want a dog to do his business instead he decides to sniff around and waste time.  I was getting nervous.   Different sounds were coming out of the darkness. Sticks snapping, a faint growl, the dried grass was rustling as if something were walking through.

I did not want an altercation between a younger animal and Uriah. He is eleven and a half, just because he thinks he’s big stuff, doesn’t make it true.  

Uriah watched me, and then turned to the trees. I had him walk with me towards the front of the house. I kept talking, he continued to growl, and mutter. He sounded a lot like my grandfather; complaining about noise, kids, and pigeons.

It was dark, and a foggy haze settled in around the trees. The air felt electrically charged. I’ve lived out here long enough to pay attention to my inner warning system. We headed to the house.  Uriah came inside,… reluctantly.

I had just enough time to wash my hands and sit down at the computer. When my old cat PJ, sat up from a sound sleep and hid in the hall closet.

When I first moved out here, fourteen years ago, PJ was chased by a coyote.  PJ outran the coyote. My closest neighbor at that time said, “They never saw a cat run so fast.”  I hadn’t realized that a coyote can reach speeds up to 43 mph. That had happened in the middle of a day with bright sunshine.

I cracked open the window and shut it right away. There was a pack of coyotes in my yard. No more than twenty feet from the window I opened. The high pitch ‘yapping’ and ‘yipping’ flowed into the room. One of the animals howled, his was a deeper sound. Not the high pitch ‘yip’ I normally heard.

I wasn’t afraid of them. I respect them enough to say out of their way. But I did open a window upstairs and tell them to leave. Of course they didn’t listen. My voice is too shrill, I had to deepen it, and then tell them to leave. Finally they stopped making noise and left.  That silence lasted until ten o’clock, after that they returned every hour – all- night- long.

Last night was quiet. The rain and fog moved in blocking the moon, Jupiter should be on the right side of the first quarter moon tonight.

So far nothing is moving out there tonight.

That not true!  I can hear that irritating rat, shuffling around the dog kennel…

Picture from Hubble site.org

http://hubblesite.org/gallery/album/entire/pr2006019c/

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I had an over growth of crabgrass this year.

Next year, I will know to pull out the young growth of green grass when it starts to appear.  Letting it sit, because I wasn’t up to weeding, caused a large problem for the tomatoes and me all summer long.

I talked to other home gardeners living in my area. They complained about the crabgrass and for once, I wasn’t jealous when they said, they used their gas powered tillers in a futile attempt to rip out the crabgrass.

Crabgrass has an evasive toot system. If you chop one root into a million pieces, like an unwanted creature in a horror movie, you will end up with a million new little creatures Or rather, a redundant amount of crabgrass. 

This past summer, I made a half hearted attempt to pull one plant at a time. Crabgrass pulls back, as it sticks its heels in and sneers at you.

By fall the crabgrass had gone to seed. Millions of little black seeds, I panicked!  I sat on the deck and wondered how I will get rid of this mess in a non chemical fashion?

Mother Nature came through to remove part of the crabgrass problem in the form of birds, Finches, Wrens, Sparrows, and Cardinals, all converged on the garden.  They landed in the grass, on the dirt, the rocks and on the dog kennel. Grabbing at the plants, and eating the little seeds. 

My stress level lowered, naturally.

After I had cleaning out the old tomato plants, zucchini and pumpkins plants I made a half-hearted attempt at raking up the dried crabgrass.

I used tree leaves to cover the ground. Over the leaves I set a piece of wood fencing to hold everything down. The grass and weeds that are still growing will die over the winter, making it a lot easier to break up the root system in spring.

Well, that’s the plan..

 

 

Picture found at;

http://www.aragriculture.org/horticulture/ornamentals/weed_id/crabgrass.htm

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