Some Warm And Furry Thoughts

A few posts ago, I wrote about white and red squirrels. I included a link to an article about protecting in-ground bulbs from hungry squirrels, which includes the idea of leaving a few to them free for the taking. Now it's cold and the bouncing furry creatures await the worst of winter.

A researcher in Chicago is studying them to determine how the rodents survive in an urban setting. The article is where the picture is taken from. His/her tail is curled against the body and front paws are tucked inward to stay warm. I'd love to provide some little mittens. And a warm place to stay.


Community Closing

Last week was the first snow. It didn't lay (stick).

The community gardens had official clean-up this weekend and it was chilly. Saturday rained, and I had to work; however, I went on Sunday. Most of the work was done, so I harvested a few herbs from my plot, removed the Sun Gold vines and tried to remove strings from the wooden posts supporting vines. The latter was quite difficult; usually I keep scissors in my car for gardening, but I had removed them. The high wind from a passing storm drained every bit of heat from me and all of the moisture from my hands. The skin was cracking between some of my fingers. Euh.

The now mostly barren fenced-in area looks nothing like it did during summer. Such a contrast. One could look at it as a time of rest. Yet, underneath earthworms and microorganisms are working hard. At home, most of the gardeners are probably preparing for the holidays, soon to be dreaming of next year. I know I am!

One of my back porch containers still has some persistant and pretty purple pansies. I am pleased every morning when I see them.



On on MSN page, I took several quizes. They're fun, although perhaps the only gardening-related one would be the "Creepy Crawly Quiz".

I did ok on that one; it was a learning experience. The French and germ quizes proved to be much more ego-boosters. The French quiz triggered my search in the blogger pages for gardening pages in French. So, if this is of interest, here are two sites I found when looking up jardin, the word for garden.

Le Calendrier du Jardin

Le jardin de Sophie

Sophie has beautiful photos of her flowers. Whether one can read French or not (I need my French dictionary), the photos are worth viewing!

This site has both English and French in a lot of it. Beautiful photos from a location in the south of Portugal.

Lugar de Olhar Feliz

So, enjoy.


Just a Short Update

The Lipizzaners were wonderful, as they were the last time I saw them. There are now a number of female equestrians. Excellent! There seems to at one time have been a notion that women couldn't handle stallions (male horses). The women in the show proved that idea wrong.

I have no photos; the arena was quite dark. The photos at their site do them more justice than I could with my disposable camera: Lipizzaners

The horticulture show was interesting, too. I bought some spring bulbs to use in planters, so if they work, I'll be quite happy in spring!


Showing Sunday

On Sunday, I plan to go to "From Backyard to Back Woods", a horticultural show put together by the Penn State Horticultural Club. I may take photos. There are photos from previous shows at the link above.

After that, I'm going to see the "World Famous" Lipizzaner Stallions. I saw them the last time they were here. I sat close enough I could have touched them. When I was a child, I read a book about a boy who dreamed of going to the famous Spanish riding school in Vienna, Austria, where riders are trained to work with these beautiful animals. The boy succeeded. I don't remember the name of the book.

If you go to their site using the highlighted link, you'll find plenty of history and photos.


'Never Tried Her Dandelion Wine

More information on composting can be found at this website link to P Allen Smith's site.

One of the first serious gardeners I knew was my great aunt Mary Moore. She grew up on a farm. One of the things she grew that I don't see too much of is rhubarb. It has an awful name and looks like red celery, but tastes so wonderful when cooked. Strawberries cooked with it make it even better.

Her pies, and cooking in general, were really good. Rhubarb pie and cooked rhubarb, for example. Yum. Maybe her cooking wouldn't have the American Heart Association's approval, but it was probably more nutritious than a lot of fast food considering the variety of veggies she served. I am glad to be blessed with a fast metabolism. Of course, I'm active, too.

She made dandelion wine. Even as an adult, I don't think I'd want to try it. I do like wine, especially red. The bitterness I don't like in dandelions. I pick dandelion greens from my garden (I work organically) for my appreciative guinea pigs.

I often think of her garden and remember checking it out. I probably stepped a few places I shouldn't have, not knowing any better. I also remember the first time my great aunt Mary used a Japanese Beetle trap; she learned the hard way that if you don't know where to place it, every beetle in the area will flock to your trap and your garden. I wonder if her neighbors appreciated it.

She and my uncle lived in Benton. It was a lovely rural area. (When I first wrote this blog, I thought Benton shared its name with the headquarters of Wal-Mart in Arkansas, but that's Bentonville. Oops!)

A creek ran past their house. My younger sister and I were advised not to go into the field too much on the other side of the creek. The farmer who owned the land apparently had a bull, so, you can guess what might happen.

Sometimes I'd look across the field backward through my Kodak pocket instamatic, which turned it into a telephoto lens. I don't recall that I ever spotted the animal, so he remains almost mythical today.

Cows I do like. In highschool, I did an internship with a vet clinic and cows were some of the gentlest creatures. It was fun, except for my allergies (which ruined my career hopes of working with animals full time). I also saw a lamb. She was pure white, very sweet and adorable.

I had a little help with my plot.


Completing the Cycle

Here's a site with information on composting. It's the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's page.


I'm still learning. I got a bin, free, from a free worshop at Penn State a couple of years ago. It's not an ideal bin, but there is that old saying, "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth." It looks much more appropriate in my plot than on my back porch (which is where it was for at least one year).

I did not, technically, compost this summer since I'm unsure if I'll have the same plot next year. I hope I do. I did compost casually by piling some plant material in the back of my plot. In addition, getting the soil in my plot ready (which is twice the square footage of my previous garden) took a lot of time. (on top of a full-time job and all.) Some of my garden plot neighbors were impressed by how well I managed a plot of the size that they thought required two people.


Bits and Pieces

I'm learning about storing veggies, or in some cases refreshing my memory. Freezing is easy. Clean the veggies, chop them, blanche and cool them, put in clean containers. Label with name and date. Use within a year. The difficulty is my small freezer.

I have tomatoes on my kitchen and livingroom windowsills, livingroom table, in my fridge. A month ago, it was yellow squash. Some of the tomatoes I'll cook with basil and other seasoning then freeze to use in soup. Some I hope to can.

I dry dill and oregano. That works really well. I couldn't find oregano at any nurseries this year, but I grew and dried enough in 2005 to carry some over.

I won't dry the chives this year; they end up being tasteless with a texture like toothpicks. I'll freeze them in icecubes. Maybe I'll use dill, chives, basil and garlic to make flavored oil and/or vinegar using a canning recipe I found in a book from the library.

Most of the basil will go into pesto. The recipe I use can be found here:


In case you're wondering, blanching is dropping a measured amount of the fresh vegetable into boiling water and leaving it boil for a prescribed amount of time, often it is four minutes. In the "wild", enzymes cause the fruit to slowly decay, drop to the ground and dry, releasing seeds for the next generation of plants. Boiling (heat) denatures the enzymes (and maybe other substances) that cause the vegetable's gradual degradation even when frozen. It doesn't cook them, unless you blanche too long. This turns them to mush (cooking), and you obviously don't want that. A site I use for information on growing, cooking and storing each vegetable is:


I didn't get photos of my lily or dahlia in time. Some of my other flowers:



White + Red = Pink?

Planting bulbs right now? If so, these guys might be very happy about it. I think the one on the left is saying, "Hmm. Nummy."

But ...

aren't they cute?

Why squirrels in my blog today?

Friends and family know of my affection for furry rodents. Plus a forecaster at work blogged about folklore involving squirrels and the upcoming winter (more below if you care).

This is the time to plant spring-blooming bulbs, which squirrels love.

'Must be all the anti-oxidants.

One source of advice:


He's not paying me for this and doesn't have to. P Allen Smith has a lot of interesting and useful stuff on his site. He's cute -- in a different way from the squirrels. Even if he wasn't, he knows his stuff.

(chitter, chitter, cheeeeep) They always sound like they're scolding a "young 'un". Or maybe their anger's directed at me. A pelting of acorns sometimes accompanies the noise. Ouch.

The site for the White Squirrel Festival, which I know you are all going to flock to, is: http://www.brevardnc.org/whitesquirrel.php

So, what does a white squirrel who mates a red squirrel give birth to?

They aren't cute, yet.

Happy autumn eve. Or if you're in a central, mountain or western time zone, happy autumn today!

******************** **************************
Today's one of the days I edit the website at work. In his blog, one of the forecasters asked for reader observations about the squirrels in their respective regions so he can decide whether observing them can actually predict how much snow we'll get. I suspect it is toungue in cheek (or nuts in cheek).

Should I send him the photo above and suggest a link between white squirrels and a snowy winter?


Plot Summary

I've been busy with the really fun part of gardening, which is harvest.

My favorite tomato is Sun Gold. One plant produces enough abundance of the small fruits for me to share. I enjoy them most after warming them on a sunny windowsill. Hmm. They make a very rich tomato soup, too. The photo shows ripe Sun Gold tomatoes.

Ernesto's windy remains knocked down my sunflowers. They had grown about 8-10 feet tall with beautiful flowers. The smaller, more delicate Lisianthus survived because I had staked them against wind earlier this summer. A lot of the sunflower blooms had this gorgeous color:

Something I still have trouble doing successfully is staking tomatoes. It's good that the plants' vigor has them spreading, but management is challenging. I'll keep trying.

My yellow butter squash is done, also due to Ernesto. They produced quite abundantly; 8-12 fruits came from each of the five plants. I gave quite a few to my parents who in turn shared some with their friends. A neighbor of theirs gave some to this mother, who served them in her restaurant in Millville.

And plenty of sweet peppers: green, orange with a little red. They were quite good. Still getting them, too.

The garlic chives, dill and basil are doing quite well. I'm always pleased with how easily most herbs grow. This year, I added purple-leaf basil alongside the sweet basil. Its pungent aroma reminds me of allspice.

Most of my lavender plants are in a container on my back porch and grew well, as usual. Dwarf lavender didn't grow well in containers (in 2005), strangely. So, I went back to a mix of "angustifolia" and "lady" this year. In-ground lavender has not thrived for me. I tested one seedling in my community plot this year, just to try it in a new place. It's not doing badly, but isn't very big.

Stevia is thriving next to my tropical houseplants in the bathroom. I had to bring it off my porch to keep aphids from eating it alive. Mint attracts aphids on my porch, too, and I didn't grow it this year.

Stevia is an import from South America and its leaves contain a substance that is used as a sweetener. I have no clue about how to use it. Wikipedia to the rescue, perhaps? If you read the wikipedia entry, you'll see that it mentions the Guarani.

As a side note, a good movie based on the interactions of 18th-century Spanish and Portugese with the Guarani is "The Mission" with Robert de Niro and Jeremy Irons. Breathtaking cinemetography. I have had a copy of it in my DVD colletion for several years.

The red onions have quite a bite to them. The Kentucky Wonder pole beans have been yummy.

I don't think I'll grow black beans again, but you never know. See, the beans are inside the pod, just like peas, and they are quite small. The pod has a tough string, which makes eating it whole undesirable, even after cooking. Shelling them is a lot like eating a small crab; a lot of work with minimal yield. It may be most beneficial as a green manure crop.

My peas did really well, too. I intend to get a fall crop of those in with some gourmet lettuce. They'll be easy to take care of and good companions for my "bright lights" Swiss Chard, which grows from frost to frost (spring to autumn). Swiss chard photo below is "Bright lights".

Trek-geek alert: I wish I could say I discovered this website, but I have to credit a coworker. It's really funny -- if you know Star Trek, especially the classic series from the '60s.



No Studying For This Quiz

Are you a cartoon character?

This little quiz is fun. I had hoped that Powerpuff Girls were part of the list. Oh well.

'Wanna know something funny? One consistent result of this quiz among my friends and family is that they don't like the character they come up with. Then they admit the description fits them, and I admit I had the same reaction to being equated with Elmo.

Here's the quiz:

Have you ever asked yourself what cartoon character you most resemble? A group of investigators got together and analyzed the personalities of well-known and modern cartoon characters. The information that was gathered was made into this test: answer all the questions with what describes you best, add up all your points (which are next to the answer that you choose) at the end and look for your results. Do not cheat by looking at the end before you are done.

1. Which one of the following describes the perfect date?
a) Candlelight dinner (4 pts.)
b) Fun/Theme Park (2 pts.)
c) Painting in the park (5 pts.)
d) Rock concert (1 pt.)
e) Going to the movies (3 pts.)

2. What is your favourite type of music?
a) Rock and Roll (2 pts.)
b) Alternative (1 pt.)
c) Soft Rock (4 pts.)
d) Country (5 pts.)
e) Pop (3 pts.)

3. What type of movies do you prefer?
a) Comedy (2 pts.)
b) Horror (1 pt.)
c) Musical (3 pts.)
d) Romance (4 pts.)
e) Documentary (5 pts.)

4. Which one of these occupations would you choose if you only could
choose one of these?
a) Waiter (4 pts.)
b) Professional Sports Player (1 pts.)
c) Teacher (5 pts.)
d) Police (2 pts.)
e) Cashier (3 pt)

5. What do you do with your spare time?
a) Exercise (5 pts.)
b) Read (4 pts.)
c) Watch television (2 pts.)
d) Listen to music (1 pt.)

6. Which one of the following colors do you like best?
a) Yellow (1 pt.)
b) White (5 pts.)
c) Sky Blue (3 pts.)
d) Dark Blue (2 pts.)
e) Red (4 pts.)

7. What do you prefer to eat right now?
a) Snow (3 pts.)
b) Pizza (2 pts.)
c) Sushi (1 pt.)
d) Pasta (4 pts.)
e) Salad (5 pts.)

8. What is your favourite holiday?
a) Halloween (1 pt.)
b) Christmas (3 pts.)
c) New Year (2 pts.)
d) Valentine's Day (4 pts.)
e) Thanksgiving (5 pts.)

9. If you could go to one of these places which one would it be?
a) Paris (4 pts)
b) Spain (5 pts.)
c) Las Vegas (1 pt.)
d) Hawaii (2 pts.)
e) Hollywood (3 pts)

10. With which of the following would you prefer to spend time with?
a) Someone smart (5 pts.)
b) Someone attractive (2 pts.)
c) Someone who likes to party (1 pt.)
d) Someone who always has fun (3 pts.)
e) Someone very sentimental (4 pts.)

Now add up your points and find out the answer you have been waiting

(10-16 points) You are Garfield: You are very comfortable, easy
going, and you definitely know how to have fun but sometimes you take it
to an extreme. You always know what you are doing and you are always in
control of your life. Others may not see things as you do, but that
doesn't mean that you always have to do what is right. Try to remember
your happy spirit may hurt you or others.

(17-23 points) You are Snoopy: You are fun you are very cool and
popular. You always know what is in and you never are out of style. You
are good at knowing how to satisfy everyone else. You have probably disappeared
for a few days more than once but you always come home with the family
values that you learned. Being married and having children are
important to you, but only after you have had your share of fun times.

(24-28 points) You are Elmo: You have lots of friends and you are also
popular, always willing to give advice and help out a person in need.
You are very optimistic and you always see the bright side of things.
Some good advice: try not to be too much of a dreamer, if not you will
have many conflicts with life.

(29-35 points) You are Sponge Bob Square Pants: You are the classic
person that everyone loves. You are the best friend that anyone could
ever have and never want to lose. You never cause harm to anyone and they would
never not understand your feelings. Life is a journey, it's funny and
calm for the most part. Stay away from traitors and jealous people,
then you will be stress free.

(36-43 points) You are Charlie Brown: You are tender, you fall in love
quickly but you are also very serious about all relationships. You are
a family person. You call your mom every Sunday. You have many friends
and may occasionally forget a few Birthdays. Don't let your passion
confuse you with reality.

(44-50 points) You are Dexter: You are smart and definitely a thinker.
Every situation is fronted with a plan. You have a brilliant mind. You
demonstrate very strong family principles. Maintain a stable routine
but never ignore a bad situation when it comes.

It's me (Jen) again. Or maybe it's Elmo. (I'm not that much of an optimist, by the way.) Heee Heee Heee! I must say that question 1 was hard. I like all of those kinds of dates.


Must Be Tough On the Survivors

Most of you who read this know me personally and know of my interest in reading true crime. The authors I read are the ones who care about the victims and do not glamorize the seedier aspects of the cases. Nor do they make heroes of the criminals.

Yesterday, an American schoolteacher was arrested in Thailand and he confessed to killing JonBenet Ramsey 10 years ago. One radio news account stated that investigators had been close to finding him for at least the last two months. I'm not surprised. That could be why he gave in; he knew he was trapped. And one investigator whose books I've read says that these "guys" (pedophiles) are cowards.

Ah, the killer claims JonBenet's death was accidental. In how many cases has the perpetrator claimed that falsely? A lot. Of course, he may be telling the truth. But it's hard to imagine a tiny six-year old having the strength to put up much of a fight that would lead to her accidental death. We'll see.

It must be tough on the family of the little girl. While on the one hand this may resolve the case, it doesn't bring the little girl back. And her mother died this summer of cancer. It does bring back memories of the night, possibly. A variety of emotions are felt, I imagine.

There's a memorial web site for her at: http://hometown.aol.com/summergirls0323/jonbenetramseypageindex.html

On a slightly lighter note:
I will say, I don't get the whole beauty contest thing, most of all with little girls. I'm not saying her parents did anything wrong with JonBenet. It's a world that has never captured my interest, and I wouldn't qualify anyway! Unless they have contests for "petite" (I'm 5' 4.25"), Irish, Bavarian, Native Americans who look mostly Caucasian. Oh, and must be over 40. In a contest like that, I might place. Might. Especially if I did a bellydance choreography. Hmm.


A Shorty Sortie Through Images

There's a neat site with beautiful photos of plants. It's at:



Heating, Sweating, Wilting

The Northeast heat wave ended last week. Heat will return. This is summer. I'll take it, especially now that I have an air conditioner. The nice thing is that it is still early enough in the season for cool nights. In evening, turning off the AC and running fans in open windows cools well enough for a light blanket, and brings fresh air. In my mid-Atlantic home, middle to high 90s constitutes a heat wave. My younger sister currently lives in Hastings, Nebraska, with temperatures well over 100 degrees.

Becoming a gardener has made me appreciate cool weather, too. Broccoli and peas are two of my favorites, and both grow best in the cool seasons of spring and fall. Another favorite is beans. My black bean bushes are on schedule; at a little over 80s days since I planted the seeds, some of the pretty purple flowers have been replaced by long skinny pods! I can't wait until they fatten. The green pole beans have flowered, so I hope soon they will have pods.

A lot of the cucurbits seem to prefer heat. My yellow squash produced a prolific 13 fruits in the heat wave.

Both of my cucumber plants and one of my squash plants have wilted, most assuredly not from the heat. The ubiquitous cucumber beetles infested our community garden plants with bacterial wilt, which is common to cucurbits. A good site for photos and information, including a photo with the cucumber beetles, is:


Cucumber beetles can have spots or stripes. Flea beetles, another pest, are small, black and hop like fleas when disturbed; my eggplant plant is infested with them. Amazingly, it's trying to produce a fruit.

Fortunately, I've harvested a number of yellow squash already, but I won't have any cucumbers in my first year growing them. My organic approach has helped so far, though, to reduce the number of cucumber and flea beetles...just in time for the Japanese beetles' descent onto the gardens! What have I used? Safer brand insecticidal soap and Neem concentrate, both available from Lowes and other places. In addition, I handpick beetles.

In case you're wondering what cucurbits are, it's not what Noah used to build the ark. That was "cubits". Sorry, bad pun. (I'm thinking of one of Bill Cosby's stand-up routines from the 1970s where Noah, after receiving specific instructions on how to build the ark, asks God, "God? Um, what's a cubit?")

Cucurbits, whose scientific name is cucurbitaceae, includes plants such as: cucumbers, squash, gourd, melon, pumpkin, etc. Want to learn more? Well, believe it or not, there's a site...

www. cucurbit.org

...dedicated to this popular plant family with the funny name. Cool, eh? Or maybe I should say, "Phat and hot!"


Early Bookworm Days

Do you, reader, remember any books you read while growing up, books that really touched you? Perhaps a story stoked your imagination. Or a book on a certain subject fueled your knowledge that became a career or serious hobby.

I read adventures, mysteries, animal stories and science fiction novels. This was in addition to the books on dinosaurs, information I have mostly forgotten.

A small collection of Nancy Drew books that I read now sit on top of my livingroom bookshelf. Some actually were my mom's, then read by my older sisters before I got them.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell; of course I read this as a horse lover. In my teens, I actually got to take riding lessons, although never could afford a horse. Another genre classic for slightly older kids is The Black Stallion by Walter Farley. Francis Ford Coppola made a very good film from the book.

Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards (Sound of Music star) captured my imagination and heart. The book was a present from my mother. It is the story of a young girl who explores the grounds of her orphanage and discovers a small cottage. She cleans it, decorates it and starts a garden. I loved it. I particularly remember her excitement when gathering her change to buy seeds, then watching them grow into flowers. Even when she becomes sick, Mandy goes to the cottage, but passes out there. Little did she know that a concerned someone had been watching.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. It's science fiction. Children of missing scientists follow their parents' tracks. They discover what the author calls "tesseracting", a method of time travel, that leads them through some discoveries of their own while locating their parents.

In my late teens I read The Valley of Horses by Jean Auel, because it involved horses. I liked it so much that I read the preceding book The Clan of the Cave Bear. Ayla, a child orphaned by earthquake in pre-historic Europe, wanders until she is adopted by a clan of prehistoric humans: slanted forehead, copious body hair, hand signals instead of verbal communication, etc. She looks like contemporary humans from what I guess, and experiences rejection, but also a lot of love and learning from the clan's healer, Iza, and from its spiritual leader, Creb. I like the character of Ayla, a strong and intelligent female who must deal with a lot of difficulty.

I also read the other books, which don't carry the appeal of the first two. But it's escapist for some, although Auel uses too much repetition. The process, in detail, of flint-knapping, for instance, was written over and over and over. Ayla is also a little too great, too. This becomes obvious in the other books. She has no imperfections.

I also read War of the Worlds and The Time Machine as well as various short stories by H.G. Wells. Those don't really need an explanation. I liked The Time Machine best of the two novels.


A Little Bit of Information

I'm an amateur gardener in my fourth season of in-ground gardening. I will talk a lot about it in this blog, as well as other things.

Before having an in-ground garden, I grew herbs and hot peppers in containers on my porch, as well as house plants.

Here are some clarifications of terms that I use:

Container gardening
: a convenient way to grow plants when space is lacking or no in-ground garden is available, such as in an apartment building. Some varieties of plants grow best in containers; many others grow equally well in the ground or in containers. A dwarf version of a plant may be available and is often best-suited to containers.
-Container gardening tends to be low-maintenance: few, if any, weeds; less watering; less mulching; pests problems are smaller-scale.
-Containers are mobile. You can rearrange them for visual variety and/or to suit the plants' sunlight needs throughout the growing season.

In-ground gardening: growing plants in the earth.
--more volume and size can be grown than in containers.
--if you spill dirt or water, so what?
--walking through in-ground plantings has a different feel and visual appeal
than containers

Season: a "year" of gardening. In the mid-Atlantic, where I live, it goes from about March until September or October.

Raised bed gardening: a method that improves drainage and resolves other problems by raising the soil level in the planted area by at least 3-4 inches. I learned about this and other useful techniques from a book by Ed Smith called The Vegetable Gardener's Bible. It's available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.

Companion planting
: cultivating two or more types of plants next to each other, ex, some herbs are reputed to have pest-repellent properties and can be beneficial when interplanted with vegetables.

For the most part I grow vegetables and herbs. I enjoy good food, and vegetables picked fresh from my garden are the best-tasting. The last four seasons, I gardened in a plot next to a building owned by the same people who own the apartment I rent.

This year, I rented a 20' X 30' plot in a community garden. It's twice the size of my previous area, so I'm growing more variety. Flowers and herbs are mixed in with the vegetable plants. This is my first year doing a lot of companion planting.