Monday, August 27, 2012

What's been bugging me

In my last post, I was talking about amazement, and asked the question "What amazes you lately?" My friend Aqeela from Remembering the Days..., commented:

"I am always amazed by the amount of creatures in our garden, hoverflies, shield bugs and bees are the most common at this time of year. Do you get lots in your garden? Enjoy them or not so keen?"

Thanks, Aqeela, you inspired me to write about something that I've been meaning to share for awhile. It falls under the "not so keen".

Last summer I kept finding fragments of beautiful butterfly wings on our deck. Every morning, there they would be. My first thought was that our cats were catching and killing them, leaving their remains by the door like they would do with a mouse. Until one day, while sitting outside, I witnessed something strange and horrible. A beautiful swallowtail landed in a hanging basket of flowers above my head. It lit on a petal, then began to spin wildly. It was so strange. The next things I saw were two butterfly wings minus their middle floating to the ground. Minutes later, another butterfly landed. I grabbed my camera, climbed up on a chair, and watched.

Can you see it - the creepy, leering, nasty praying mantis just above the sweet, innocent, fairy-like butterfly about to become its victim [gag, shudder]? I despise praying mantises. I've loathed them since I was five years old when one clung pinchingly to my baby finger. I screamed so loud that my dad came running. "Kill it, kill it!" I cried. "No," he said, lifting it off my finger. "See how its arms are bent like it's praying? You shouldn't kill them." Praying, my eye. Preying - more like it. I hate them still. And watching it grasp the butterfly and eat it head first all the way down to the end was the stuff of nightmares. Uggghh.

Our next buggy problem was my fault, really. At the end of summer when the nectar run slows down, it is recommended to feed your bees a sugar syrup to supplement. I got the bright idea to put the sugar water in a bottle near the hive. Turns out it wasn't such a bright idea, as it attracted wasps. My guy, coming in from the backyard, said "We've got trouble in River City". "What?" "The hive, it's in trouble." We ran out to see our honeybees in an epic battle with these huge black and white wasps. The wasps were trying to enter the hive--a situation known to beekeepers as robbing. Anyway, there we were joining in to save our friends the bees. We were able to dispatch some of those nasty villains, swatting them with whatever we could find. Not very smart, probably. But still, we love our honeybees, so into the fray we went. "You know, we're kind of like Legolas and Gimli," my husband said. "I know, right?...Hey, wait a minute...which one of us is Gimli?" Humph!

Now, you might think I'm telling a tall tale here.

But here's the proof. We found the wasps' nest a little ways away from the hive among some bushes in our yard. I have to admit it is a thing of beauty.

And speaking of beauty, I saved some of the painted wings and pressed them in one of my sketch books, along with some tree bark I had found. Seeing them side by side makes me want to create something with them. Ideas, anyone?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Growing amazement

Do any of you out there remember the 70's TV Show "Kung Fu"? You do? Good. Remember the part where David Carradine's character Kwai Chang Caine has to carry a scalding hot cauldron from one pedestal in the temple to another using his forearms? He's rewarded with some rad dragon tattoos that get burnt into his skin for his efforts. I always think of that scene when I carry my hot canning pot from one spot to another in my kitchen. I have to use my forearms, too. The only reward I get is not dropping the pot on my feet, because my RA fingers are too weak to hold the handles. *Sigh* Good thinking, grasshopper. I hope there are some boomers who know what the heck I'm talking about. Anyone?

Anyway, I've been canning for days, and all the steam has made my brain a bit foggy, so prepare yourself for a rambly post with pictures.

Okay, so who gets excited about a muddy panful of potatoes? *Points thumbs to self* This gal! We planted potatoes for the first time this year, and it worked. Some of you seasoned potato planters might be laughing right about now, but I am truly amazed. I'm always amazed when we plant something and it actually grows and makes food. I don't know why. I just find it shocking when I head outdoors and am able to gather what we worked and hoped for.

We bought a bag of seed potatoes to plant in the spring, and then life got in the way, and I nearly forgot about them. When I finally remembered, they were extremely shriveled and covered with mold. I planted them anyway, not wanting to waste the seeds. By jiggety, the spuds were born in spite of my forgetfulness. Some plant, some water, and God makes it grow. :)

Guess what else? The new chickies, Pepper-Ann and Natasha, have grown up and are now starting to lay. I'm pretty certain the egg on the left of my palm belongs to one of them. It's smaller and browner than the others. How thrilling!

Oh, and I've been wanting to post this picture, but haven't been able to fit it in until now. It's an antique photo I found in New Zealand. It's kind of hard to see in the image, but the two little children are sitting in a vegetable patch, holding some veggies they must've just picked. I think it's cool.

We've also had a successful pumpkin patch this year. The variety is called Sugar Baby, and they're meant for making pies, but we've been roasting them with olive oil and eating them like sqaush. So good.

Next in the long line of never-grown-until-this-year items are these speckled lima beans, which we'll attempt to dry and save for winter soup making.

Aren't they purty?

Our cat Nuit is not on my good side right now. When he knows that his behavior has caused vexation, he tries to make up for it by being helpful. He wouldn't leave my side while I was picking rhubarb, and even pretended to hold the basket the whole time. It didn't work Nuit; I'm still mad.

That should do it for today

Come on in! Let's make an arrangement of the rag-tag flowers and herbs that are left in the late summer garden.

There we go! Thanks for visting.

How about you? What's been amazing you lately?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Comfort Canning

"You know what I love about cooking?"
"What's that?"
"I love that after a day when nothing is sure, and when I say "nothing" I mean nothing, you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate
and sugar and milk, it will get thick. It's such a comfort." --Julie & Julia

Sometimes life is crazy, and things can be scary to the point where they work your last nerve. Seasons can be "not sure." God is sure. Praise Him. So I'm leaning deep into that daily bread, and making some cherry jam.

The two books pictured above are quite fun. I highly recommend them.


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