Monday, August 27, 2007

From The Sublime To The Ridiculous !!

I just found out I was nominated by Mary of Mary's View for an award called "Bloggers for Positive Global Change". Here is a direct quote from Mary's blog explaining what it is:
The progressive folks at Climate of Our Future created this award as a way to encourage or "blogging with a purpose". Those who receive the award may bestow it upon five other bloggers who they think are helping to “build awareness among their readership in order to create a more sustainable and enlightened future”.
I'm not able to nominate other bloggers right now (I want to take my time and do it right!) but I will do so in the future.
I'm very glad that my love of nature and our planet Earth was evident to Mary (and I hope others, too) and I will do my best to live up to this award. Mary's generous compliments make me blush and want to give her a hug.
On our little plot of ground Steve and I have tried to maintain a, somewhat,
balanced environment without letting it all become wild. Probably 2 of the 3 acres is relatively untouched and we do have lots of wildlife. We have food and water out for the birds and shallow watering trays on the ground for non-winged creatures. Besides natural vegetation growing in the wilder areas, we've allowed Mullien, Milkweed, False Solomon's Seal, Solomon's Seal, and
Goldenrod to grown in our gardens. We've also planted lots of fruit bearing shrubs as well as wild flowers from our nearby Retzer Nature Center. Steve has built me a wonderful 3 box compost bin which we've used for many years and only Roundup is used to battle garlic mustard and buckthorn.
I've always recycled glass, plastic, metal and newspaper and now we are able to recycle junk mail, magazines, etc. and all cardboard items. We have only about a bag and a half of garbage a week now. Any packing materials that come here I either reuse myself or take to work and use when I send out parts to our customers. We usually buy our chicken and eggs from an organic, solar-powered farm and also purchase tea and coffee from fair-trade companies over the internet. Since I have very little time to devote to physically becoming involved with worthwhile causes, I donate money to numerous conservation and human and animal rights groups. And, lastly (but not least), I try to elect officials who will take care of our planet and protect all creatures who share our beautiful Earth.
And now on to the Ridiculous . . . .
I mention in my profile my love of video games. The rest of this blog I will explain that to you.
First the needed components to play a video game:
1. A system - That is the machine you put the game disc into. I'm sure you've all heard the names PlayStation and XBox. I have PlayStation 2, XBox, and XBox 360 systems and there are some others also. I did own a PlayStation but gave it to my daughter years back. You see games are made for a certain system and only occasionally do they "cross-over".
2. A game - That's pretty obvious. There are many different types of games that fit nearly any player. Some examples are racing, sports, army, shooters, arcade, (do you see a male orientated thing going on here??) strategy, action adventure, massively multi player on-line, and role playing. (Sometimes I think you need a pair of you-know-whats to play video games!!)
I don't have a pair but I really enjoy the role playing games. Most have to do with hero/heroine (yes, they are starting to have a "female" option) going on a quest and saving the world etc. There are numerous beasties to slay, items and money to amass, comrades and enemies to make and huge unknown and scary worlds to explore. It can be pretty heady stuff. Here is a picture of only some of the games I own:
The photo isn't real clear, but you can get the idea how pretty the covers are (doesn't that sound stupid?). They are not all role-playing - some are variations on fighting and army-type stealth. I've played through (key word - "through") some of them and those I care for almost as much as my beloved books. Others, such as the much bemoaned "Grand Theft Auto" series,
are fun to pick up and spend a few hours with. They all take you to somewhere where you (at least not me) could never go in this real life. (I'm very surprised that I make a pretty good sniper! Who knew?)
What I'm playing now:
The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion
This is a huge game with typical "save the world from evil" plot but contains numerous side quests and character development. I like the fact that it is not a "pressure game" that I have to make quick decisions in and can slowly move through at my own pace. Here are pictures of my female battle-mage (sort of like a fighting magician - think Gandalf). Her name is Cycanea Cour , a name I made up. I also made her look the way she does - she's a type of human- size elf (think Legolos). There are a number of races you can pick from and build on to as you desire.
... in her fighting regalia and some stats

.....with some items she has ...
... in a Medieval town she's exploring ..
I have to add that Oblivion has fantastic graphics and very pretty, almost classical music playing through-out. The characters all have spoken voices (many video games have written dialogue) and the voice acting is done by famous people (think Captain Picard on Star Trek something or other). It's very pleasing on the eyes and ears.
Game and Walk-through:
In complicated, big games such as Oblivion I really need a "walk-through" - a game guide that explains lots of things that aren't included in the tiny booklet that comes with the game.
There are lists of items, armor, enemies, potions, spells, and maps of the town, caves, dungeons and the game world in general. For me it is necessary. Also on the internet there are a number of gaming sites that have hints and cheats to use in a game.
I do enjoy completely the other world of gaming. It is like a book that I can control and make things happen in. The only bad thing about it is the time that I take to play . So far I have about 70 hours into Oblivion and am no where near done! One of my first large role-playing games I totaled 120 hours! And I can only play on weekends and I usually don't play in the summer - it's more of a long winter night thing. So, as you might guess, I will be playing Oblivion for a long time. (P.S. I also have a sniper-stealth game going on the side - just for a little mindless action !)
One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.
Jane Austen (1775 - 1817) Emma
Bye for now,

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Flowers, Fruit, Fungi and Rain !!

There aren't many new flowers blooming at this time. I thought I would photograph the fruit of past flowers and some fruiting bodies of fungi that have sprung up and a few late bloomers too. It has been raining almost continually the past 3 days and very quickly everything has become lush and green. There is a definite feeling of Fall in the air it is wonderful.
See how much water there is in this wheel barrow!
And just in the nick of time.

Notice the window boxes have filled in nicely.

The nearly invisible three-tiered planter and bountiful impatiens are what greets everyone at the front door.

Autumn Joy sedum and Nicotiana langsdorfii

Northern Sea Oats and a flower I can't name.

Hyssop (I think) and a moth sheltering from the rain under leaves.

Crab Apples and Wild Grapes

Gourd in the compost bin and the Dreaded Buck Thorn!

Blue fruit of Solomon's Seal and red fruit of False Solomon's Seal.

Turkey tails and Shelf fungi.

I've given up trying to identify mushrooms. There are about a trillion of them and they all look alike! So I just enjoy their beauty.

Here are some more fairy sized mushrooms like I posted a few weeks ago. Except these are an acre and a half away from the first ones.


Some people might say I'm crazy, but I'm looking forward to Fall and Winter. As much as I love to garden, Summer is quite stressful for me and with the drier climate it has sometimes become a real chore. I can't wait for the colored leaves, shorter days, and cool breezes. And, yes, snow.
Snowy, Flowy, Blowy,
Showery, Flowery, Bowery,
Hoppy, Croppy, Droppy,
Breezy, Sneezy, Freezy.
George Ellis (1795 - 1815)
"The Twelve Months"
Bye for now,

Sunday, August 12, 2007

A Little of This, And A Little of That

This post has a number of different things. I thought everyone would enjoy them.

The above are sad pugs because they only have a few old plush toys left. Garm has torn most of them up and just about all that was left was the "Packer Doughnut". Ugh - he's no fun! Then, Yeah - Mom finally shelled out for some new toys! Garm was trying to decide what to tear up first. Thea is playing it cool.

A view from the living room window. In the fore ground are impatiens in the window boxes and spilling out of the Main Garden are phlox with heavy heads from the rain. Next is Great Blue Lobelia that flowers in the Vegetable Garden. I don't know how it got there. Probably the compost. But it is a welcome late bloomer since most perennials are winding down now.

Here are some more late bloomers that are so welcome. I'd forgotten I'd planted them. I really should put some late August flowers in my perennial garden - it looks pretty dull towards Autumn.

I snapped this at night and the flash lets you see the fish much better than in daylight. They are so lovely and graceful I could watch them for hours. They will come up to the surface and seem to beg for food. It's just too cute!

Now this is weird! I'll bet you can't guess what that ultra bright spot is. I was trying to take a picture of the gazebo when a mosquito flew in front of the camera and got caught in the flash. Doesn't she look like a tiny plane??


Now the rest of this blog is:

How I Made Jelly From Queen Anne's Lace Flowers!
Deemom on S&DMartin 1971, had a recipe for making this jelly. It was very simple and I was intrigued so I thought I'd make it this weekend.
Get everything ready and go out into the stifling heat to pick..
18 of the large flower heads. (Right now there are only small ones growing, so I had 36 little heads.)

Watch the Swallow Tail for a while and try to get a decent picture of him without sweating onto the lens.

Get back into the air conditioning and steep the heads (after I rinsed the critters out of them!) in boiling water for 30 minutes.

Strain out the liquid to 3 cups ....

Add lemon juice, pectin, and sugar and boil hard for a couple minutes. Add a little yellow food coloring, and ....

pour into jars then ....

put on some Martha Stewartish (I know that isn't grammatically correct) lids. Isn't that lovely?- It's a good thing :-)

Process for 5 whole minutes then place on the garage floor on a plastic cutting board to cool .... Later, when they can be picked up without giving you 2nd degree burns, arrange them artfully, creating a jelly table scape ......
on your counter top after clearing away everything you really keep there. Stand back and admire your handy work!
The color is like honey and the taste is quite good - sort of lemony with a hint of grass or something. (Neither Steve nor I could really pinpoint the other taste.) I'd say it was a complete success.
I forgot to put the following picture towards the top of the blog and it's too much trouble doing that now. It shows the shelves filled with the pickles we canned last week. All of the supplies, spices, instructions, rings and lids are stored there. Steve made the shelves and they are perfect.
Behind them is a room that the previous owner built that is very small but it hides an old furnace that was too big to remove from the house when he replaced it. It would have to dismantled piece by piece and taken up steep steps so it comes with the house. The next owners will inherit it too.

It's super sturdy and I just love how it looks - kind of like something you'd see in Granny's basement. Wouldn't you agree?
Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.
Henry Ford
Bye for now,

Saturday, August 4, 2007

"How camest thou in this pickle?" - Shakespeare's The Tempest

The above is where the quote "in a pickle" was first introduced. I thought this would be a perfect lead-in to my post about our Pickling Day.
Every year Steve and I put up between 60 and 70 quarts of mainly pickled cucumbers and a smattering of pickled hot peppers and onions. At 7:00 tonight we finished our Pickling Day with a total of 65 quarts. I will set the stage for my pictorial by explaining how we do this without driving each other crazy.
First of all we each have separate tasks and separate work areas (that solves most of the problems right away). Steve is in the basement cleaning cucumbers, dill, peppers, garlic, and onions and getting them all ready for the jars. He has his mustard seed as well. Then he puts whatever he desires in each jar, making sure they are "just right". You couldn't slide a piece of paper between those cucumbers! It is very neat....
I am in the garage and am in charge of brine making, filling all the jars, sealing them and processing them in two canners. I have a timer and keep track of the boiling time until they are ready to be plucked out of the scalding water and put onto a huge piece of plywood set on sawhorses. Usually, during the down times, I read, listen to the radio or CDs and sort of veg. Today I brought my laptop into the garage and typed a 6 page letter to one of my penfriends in England. So it was very productive day. Enjoy the pictures ....
The jars and what goes into them . .. . . . .
Cucumbers, garlic, Habaneros, Jalapenos, and onions

A Dilly of a pug!! (Garm is afraid to come down into the basement.)
And we have lift-off ! ! !
I wish I were that precise at anything!

Pug inspecting the goods ........ Oh, no. Pug in the cucumbers! Anyone for pickles with their dog hair ???

The highly classified documents that I am entrusted with . . . .

This is a very nice setup and I get to look outside all day.

The beautiful finished product and Hey!! What's he doing horning

in on my territory!?

Pickled Jalapenos and cucumbers and . . . .


An unfortunate fatality. His bottom fell off! (I am sending the Ball people this picture.)

I don't eat any of these pickles because they are way too hot. Steve loves them and eats them every day! We give them as gifts and they are always a hit.

The only people not happy today were the pugs. They had to be in their crates most of the time because there was a lot of "in and out" going on. They will dash out of the house and aren't trained too well. Thea barked herself to sleep and Steve heard Garm howling like coyote. In a few short hours they were back out, taking a walk, pooping and having dinner. We are back in their good graces now.


"On a hot day in Virginia, I know nothing more comforting than a fine spiced pickle, brought trout-like from the sparkling depths of the aromatic jar below the stairs of Aunt Sally's cellar."

Thomas Jefferson


Bye for now,