Tuesday, June 29, 2010

African Garden

On Tuesdays, I try to post a garden update so I can link to An Oregon Cottage  for her Tuesday Garden Party.  I don't have much to update myself, but I thought I'd show you some pictures of an African garden, called a shamba. 

No rototillers!  The garden plot was cleared by hand, using hoes and rakes. 

I don't know what these are, but they're pretty!

This looks like a lot of hard work! 
While their gardens are mostly functional, I think there is some beauty as well.  I am so glad that while I enjoy gardening, my existence doesn't depend on it!  There is always a store nearby if I need some vegetables.  Thank goodness!


My daughter returned home from Africa about a week ago and she's been uploading and editing her pictures ever since. She took almost 3000 pictures!
One of the projects they worked on while in Kenya was to help a widow enlarge the size of her house.  Many of the people in Kenya are displaced because of war, and there are many widows and orphans.  Most of these kids are orphaned because of HIV-AIDS.  Anyway, most families occupy a house (really, a shack) that is 10 feet by 15 feet.  Can you imagine?  Sometimes there are 5 people in a house.  And if there are teenaged boys in the home, they need to have their own room.  It is not acceptable in their culture for teenaged boys to sleep with the rest of the family. 

So a group of kids showed up at this widow's house which looked like this:

Enlarging this shack required bamboo, logs and mortar.  The mortar was a mixture of black dirt, water, and cow dung.  And how was this mixed?  With their feet.

And here's the final result:

They doubled the size of her house, giving her a room for the teenaged boys to sleep, and they also gave her a covered cooking area, which is located outside.  Now she doesn't have to cook in the rain.  Makes me appreciate what I have!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Random Stuff

You all know how much I care about you, right?  And because I care, I like to share things I think you might like.  So here we go...

  • I bought this yogurt because it was on sale, PLUS I had a coupon.  (Well, of course I did... that's the way I roll)  But it is so good, that I would even buy it at full price.  FULL PRICE!  Now that's sayin' something. 

So far, I've only had the mint chocolate chip, but man, it is gooooood!

  • I found these delicious ice cream treats one day when I was wandering the aisles of Walmart.  They're coconut flavored, which is one of those flavors I guess you either love or hate.  But since most of my family isn't fond of coconut, that means there's more for me.

I guess you can't see the name very well, but they're called Helados.  If you are dieting, do NOT look at the nutritional facts off to the side.  Its better if you just don't know. That way you can claim ignorance. 

  •  And now, one of my favorite songs.  24 by Switchfoot.  Actually, there is a lot of good stuff by Switchfoot.  I don't think they've released anything recently, unfortunately. 

  • Just for good measure, here's another favorite by Switchfoot - On Fire.  There isn't anything to watch with this youtube video so just minimize and listen.  Near the middle, when the band whispers "mysteries", it always gives me goosebumps.
Now, go grab a book and a cold beverage and sit down for awhile.  You deserve a little down time.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Garden Update

Here are some pictures of the progress in my Big Garden:

This is the same view of my garden.  The picture on the left was taken May 29, and the picture on the right was taken today, June 21st.  Pretty good progress in one month!

Things are looking pretty healthy!  

This is apparently an abundant rutabaga crop.  It needs some thinning and weeding of course, but we won't be hurting for rutabagas.  Come to think of it, I've never been hurting for rutabagas, even when I've never had one. 

Green beans. 


Potatoes!  So far, not being devoured by potato bugs!

More potatoes

A pretty durn healthy looking transplanted squash of some kind.  The farmer guy didn't want anyone planting transplanted vining plants here.  He said that transplanting weakens the plant and invites bugs and disease.  So far, the transplants are far healthier and more robust than the seeded vining plants.  Shhh.  Don't tell him I planted transplants. 

Remember Peggy?  My grouchy garden neighbor?  Well here is a picture of her garden. 
 Pretty sparse huh?  Some gardening expert she's turned out to be!  Oh, and here's a picture of the offending tomato plants.

See any infringing upon her garden? Do you even see a garden?  Me neither.  Guess I'm ok. 

I spent a great deal of time inspecting each plant for bugs.  And let me tell you, going over each plant, leaf by leaf is as tedious as looking for head lice on your kid.  Last week I had tried borax spray as a bug deterrent, and I can't say that it worked great, but a lot of my plants have been untouched.  I also gave in and bought and used some insecticidal soap spray labelled safe for organic gardens.  I've decided that the term "safe for organic gardens" means it doesn't work all that well.  I found about 10 potato bugs, several larvae, and some egg masses on the potatoes and eggplants.  I also found multiple cucumber beetles on my squash and other vining plants.   I also found a squash bug which I promptly squashed.  There were also several moths flying around which I'm sure means that they will leave eggs somewhere.  This constant bug vigilance feels somewhat like I'm waging a war.  Not so fun. 

But on the bright side, I've got a baby pepper! 

I also spent some time getting rid of the suckers on my tomatoes.  Suckers are the sprouts that grown between a leaf and the stem.

It doesn't hurt anything to leave them on, but it takes energy away from producing tomatoes.  I'd rather have fewer big tomatoes than a very leafy, tall tomato plant with no fruit.  Sometimes its hard to get rid of perfectly healthy-looking greenery but it benefits the plant in the long run.  (If you click on this picture,  you can see a sucker close up.)  And if you look below, you'll see another sucker. 


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

My dad would've been oh, about 84 years old if he were still alive.  That sounds really old, but in my mind, my Dad is always about 50.  He passed away in 2000 and he was 74 (obviously, because you can do the math).  The last few years of his life, he had a form of Parkinson's disease called Progressive Supranuclear Palsy.  He didn't have the shakes that are typical of Parkinson's, but he just seemed to freeze up.  His joints didn't work so well, and he had no balance.  Sometimes he would just fall over backwards.  At the very end, he couldn't swallow without choking, and he couldn't talk.  His face also seemed to freeze so that he had no expression at all.  No smiles, nothing.  But that's not how I remember my dad.  Like I said, I remember him when he was about 50. 

He could fix just about any car (until they got computers in them) and saved our family bunches of money, I'm sure.  I am amazed at how he could read a car fix-it manual while sitting in the house, and then go out and fix the car.  Me, I'd have to have the book open in front of me while I work so that I could see corresponding pictures.  He was just a generally handy guy.  He built an addition on to our house, before I was born, that about doubled the square footage. 

He also had big ideas.  We used to make fun of him for these ideas because most of them seemed really far-fetched and unworkable.  But he tried anyway.  I remember one fall day, the whole family was out raking the yard.  My dad had  a brilliant idea that would save us all a lot of time and effort.  I don't quite remember his idea exactly, but I do remember that he abandoned the leaf raking and ran to the hardware store to buy supplies for this invention.  By the time he had returned, we were all done raking. I guess that is kind of brilliant, when you think about it. 

My dad wasn't the kind of dad that showed up to every activity I was in.  He absolutely detested parades (I think that was inherited by me) and didn't particularly like sports, except golf.  But I still knew that he loved me and that he was proud of me.  I can't tell you how many times he fixed something for me, or transported me somewhere, or saw to it that I had oil in my car.  I can't tell you, because I'm sure I don't even know all of the times.  He was just a quiet guy.  He would see something that needed to be done, and he'd do it.  Without recognition or praise. If I was in trouble he was always the first person I called, even if it was the middle of the night.  I sure wish I had thanked him more.  And taken him for granted less. 

If you can, go hug your dad.  Or at least call him and tell him Happy Father's Day! 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Yesterday, my mom and I spent about 4 hours at The Big Garden (don't you love that I capitalize it?  Like its a real place!)  and got a bunch of weeds pulled, the tomatoes staked and a lot of mulch put down around my vining plants.  I thinned the radishes, the rutabagas and carrots.  That is very tedious work, especially the carrots.  Its like trying to tweeze eyebrows with just your fingers.  Unfortunately, potato bugs have invaded my tiny little potato plants, and I killed a bunch on my tomatoes too.  I also must have killed about 25 cucumber/squash bugs as well.  Somebody told me that Borax mixed with warm water will keep bugs away, so I brought a bottle of that with me and sprayed everything.  We'll see.  And while I brought my camera to record the progress, the memory card was at home on the desk so I didn't get any pictures of the garden. 

But today, I took pictures of The Little Garden (Capitalized again.  Ha ha!).  So here they are:

The plants on the left, in the foreground, are cucumbers and they seem to be doing very well.  There are a few tiny cucumbers on each plant so that's exciting.  At the top of the left picture are 3 tomato plants that I had to bring home from The Big Garden, because the ones I had planted just faded away.  They turned all yellow and died.  I have no idea why they turned yellow.  Maybe I should look it up, perhaps the soil needs amendments.  In the right picture, the peas are really growing.  I even got a harvest from them today.  But hold on to your hats:  you'll be amazed at it. 
Prepare yourself.... 


Wow.  Aren't you blown away? 

And now for some flowers:

Lysimachia                                           Pink Spirea

   Clematis                                           Hollyhocks

Penstemon, Gaillardia, and Valerian.  (At least I think its Valerian..)

This is where a picture does not do justice:  you need to smell this!  Honeysuckle!  This particular plant came from a slip that was taken from the house that I grew up in.  My mom had been growing it at that house for about 50 years.  Its verrrrrrry, hardy.  (Read:  it spreads like wildfire!)

Goatsbeard.  Is it weird that when I walk around the yard, and identify these plants in my head, I say their "real" name too?  Goatsbeard's real name is Aruncus in case you care.  Goatsbeard sounds much prettier.  This grows really well in the shade and gets quite tall.  This year, its about 4 feet tall and gets bigger every year. 

Next year, there'll be a graduation party going on in my yard.  I'm planning ahead so that it'll look gorgeous!

And by the way, I did not just randomly show up at my old house and cut a snip of honeysuckle.  I took it with me when my mom moved.  I didn't want anyone thinking that I was a horticultural thief or anything.  Besides,  I wouldn't post pictures of anything stolen.  Best to hide the evidence, I say.

Move That Bus!

So, my daughter is in Africa, and thanks to Facebook, I've been keeping up on what she's doing.  Her youth pastor has been posting daily updates and each one of them gives me goosebumps and makes me well up. Yesterday, (or maybe its today - I'm not quite clear on the time difference thing..) they went to a village to help a single mom who was abandoned by her abusive husband.  She was living in a one room shack and the crew of kids showed up to enlarge her house.  Community members also pitched in and by the end of the day, they were able to double the size of her shack.  Its still a shack, but hey, at least she can cook in a more safe environment.  They constructed the addition out of bamboo and mud.  The thing is, the mud was made up of dirt and cow poop.  It was mixed up in a mud puddle with people's feet, much like Lucy stomping grapes.  The youth pastor said that the woman was simply amazed by how much construction was done in a day.  They felt like they were part of Extreme Home Makeover. 
That's my girlie in yellow.  And she's very much a girlie girl. Can't wait to hear the stories!  Actually, they all look like they're having a really good time! 

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Today is finally here:  the day to send my middle child off to Africa.  I knew this day was coming, and we had been mentally preparing (I thought, anyway) for the trip.  I wasn't necessarily nervous about her leaving.  I know she's in good hands, and she's not going there alone.  She's one of 13 students and there are 3 adult leaders going with them.  One of the leaders lived in Kijabe, Kenya (the place where this mission group is heading) for about 7 years, so I'm pretty comfortable sending her off.  However, last Sunday, when the group stood up in front of church so we could "send them off" with prayer, it hit me:  I AM SENDING MY CHILD TO AFRICA!!!! Oh my goodness!  What was I thinking?!?  I won't know what she's doing, where she is at any given moment, and I certainly won't know who she's with.  Of course, she'll be with her mission team, but I don't know who she'll be with

So today, the team met up at church with their 50 lb bags all packed, every nook and cranny of those 2 suitcases filled with either clothes or medical supplies for the infirmary in Kijabe.  Those kids looked so excited!  The youth leader invited us all into the gym where the parents literally surrounded this group of 16 with prayer.  The senior citizen Bible study group also came in and prayed with us which was so nice.  Then, before I knew it, the kids were all packed into the church vans and headed for Chicago, where they will take their verrrrrry long flight to Nairobi. They should be arriving in Kijabe, Kenya about 28 hours after leaving our town.  That's a long trip!  There were tears from some of the parents, (even siblings) and I admit I got a little teary-eyed while we were praying for this team.  Jeremiah 29:11 kept running through my head:  "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord.  "Plans to give you a hope, and a future."  Those words have been a great comfort to me many times throughout my life and were a comfort to me today as well.  I know she'll be fine.  I know she'll thoroughly enjoy this trip and enjoy making friends with this diverse group of students she's with. I know all of this.  And it fills me with pride and joy that she's going on this trip.   I just want to know what she's doing and who she's with!!!!  This must be part of the separation process.  : )

Before she left this morning, she wasn't feeling well and I thought it was just a case of nerves. But this afternoon, her older sister is sick on the couch with the stomach flu.  So NOW I'm all concerned that DD#2 is on a plane, puking into a bag.  Oh dear.  I certainly hope not.  And there's no way for me to know either.  There'll be no communication except for occasional updates on Facebook.  I hope I survive this trip! 

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Garden Progress

Since it was so nice this afternoon and I didn't have anything better to do, I drove up to my Big Garden to bring some tomato cages and stakes to support what will hopefully be some large plants before too long.  I also took a little inventory to make sure that the stuff I planted is indeed coming up, and that potato bugs weren't eating my plants to death. 

So here is a picture of the area where people rent their plots. 

My garden is about halfway down the field.  Its a bit of a hike from the car when you have a lot to carry, but its not too bad, especially when you have something to cart your stuff in. 
Yup, that would be a sled. 

When I first got to the garden, my next door garden neighbor was working in her plot.  Her name is Peggy.  I only know this because other people have said "Hey Peggy!  How's it going?" She seemed very friendly to these people and I thought she must just be a warm fuzzy kind of person.  I was wrong.  She immediately came over to me, pointed at 2 of my tomato plants and said, "Are these tomatoes?"  I told her that they were, which I'm sure she already knew.  She then pointed to her garden and told me that those tomato plants were going to spread over into her garden and that she had stuff planted "there" (at this point, she pointed to some dirt) and said my tomatoes would interefere with her garden. 
Here is a picture of the offending tomato plants.  The plants immediately next to the twine are 4 o'clocks (which are flowers).  The two tomato plants are in cages.  She told me that the tomatoes will grow to be 6 feet in diameter.  I couldn't believe it.  In all my life, I've never grown a 6 foot diameter tomato plant.  I said, "You mean this tomato plant will grow that big?"  She then asked me if I'd ever gardened before.  (I wanted to punch her, because she obviously was very condescending... and I hate that...) She said that things in this garden grow very large.  I assured her that they were in cages and wouldn't infringe upon her garden.  Besides, if they do, I can pull them out.  Its not like  I'm hurting for tomato plants or anything.  The thing is, everyone that gardens here is very, very friendly, and very, very helpful.  Except Peggy.  She kind of stormed off in a huff.  The whole exchange left me feeling badly.  Maybe I should just pull those two plants out and call it good.  But then, I'm kind of stubborn and would like to prove her wrong.  So maybe I'll just leave them there. 

This is Peggy.  I'm sure I'll be referring to her in the future so... (and I really didn't set out to take a picture of her backside... it just happened that way.) 

Anyhoo,here are some random pictures of my garden:
The top left picture is of either watermelon, squash, or cantaloupe.  I can't be sure.  Yes, I kept a record, but out of context, I can't be sure what this is.  Same for the top right picture.  The middle left picture is of rutabagas.  Yay rutabagas!  Next to that is cabbage.  So far so good on the cabbage.  I haven't noticed any snails yet, but if I do, I'll sprinkle some egg shells around the base of each plant to prevent the snails from climbing up.  The bottom left picture is of basil.  It looks a little pale and sickly.  Hopefully it'll take off soon so I can make pesto.  The bottom right picture is of radishes, I believe. 

Oh hey, there's another picture of Peggy.  Right between the tomato cages there.  Maybe she's a lovely woman and we just got off to a bad start.  Hmmm.  We'll see. 
And here we have a hoof print.  Splendid.  Guess I'd better look at protecting my stuff.  I already have a tomato casualty.  See below:

Again, I do have a few plants to spare so I'm not heartbroken about this....yet.

And now, some pictures of other people's gardens. 
This is someone's cucumber trellis.  Very cool. 

What the heck?

And now, a science lesson
In every garden, there are certain pests that are extra-hard to control.  Especially when you aren't allowed to use pesticides.  Some of the worst are squash bugs and potato bugs.  I have to wonder, where do these little buggers live if I don't happen to plant squash or potatoes?  I mean, do they zoom through the air, spy a potato plant below and come in like a kamikaze?  Or do they live in the soil?  I should know this; I'm a science teacher.  Must've been absent that day....
Anyway, last week I noticed that there were some potato bugs doing unmentionable things on my eggplants. Right there in broad daylight!  In fact, they had eaten a great deal of the leaves off the eggplants and left some souveniers behind:  eggs.  (And you know what bugs do to produce eggs. Bug porn.  Yikes!)  So I squished those potato bugs and scraped their eggs off  from the undersides of the leaves.  Well today, there were potato bugs on my tomatoes.  Apparently, potato bugs are dyslexic or something because clearly, tomatoes are NOT potatoes.  And there were eggs. 

This is not a great picture because you can't really see the bug, but he's orangey striped.  And below him on the stem of the tomato, are his eggs.  Or maybe I should be saying "her".  Must have missed that day of school as well. 

Here are the larvae.  This was someone else's potato plant, mine haven't even sprouted yet.  But aren't they gross?  The adult bugs are crispy when you squish them but these are just gooey.  And then you get orange goo on your hands.  Ick.  And can you see the damage they've done to the leaves?  Its only going to get worse for this plant. I hope someone comes along and squishes these little guys.  It won't be me!

Its pretty exciting to visit my garden and see the changes that are going on.  Yesterday, there was no evidence that I had planted carrots and today, I can see their little grassy tops poking through the dirt.  Nature amazes me!