Monday, October 8, 2018

Even a Bad Reaction Can Be Good

I'm taking part in Inktober this year. I couldn't have done that in the past as I never could draw, but I've come a long way in the past year and I figured that Inktober would be great experience. For those of you who don't know, Inktober requires you to draw something in ink every day for the month of October, and post it online. Well, therein lies the reason for this post.

A long time ago I explained to someone who commented on something I had written that it really didn't bother me that he didn't agree with what I was saying. All that mattered was that he took the time to have read it, and then let me know by voicing his opinion.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion, I feel, and I accept that it might not necessarily agree with my own.  If what I write elicits a response of any kind, I'm thrilled. It proves I've done my job well.

For day six of Inktober the word prompt was "drooling".  My initial idea was to draw a drooling dog. Some sort of hound was what I had in mind, but most of the pictures I found were of other dogs that I thought might be more difficult. They either had more wrinkles or more hair to deal with. Then I got the bright idea of  drawing some guy drooling over a pretty woman. I set out to find such pictures and had no problem coming up with one I really thought I could handle. It was a man in a suit and it was done in cartoon style. So I set out to basically copy that. I managed to make him heavier though and when I got to the tie part, I had this notion that he needed a different head. I flipped though a bunch of pictures and found one with the head in the right position and proceeded to draw that onto the shoulders of the guy I'd already started. Well, he was supposed to be drooling over a pretty girl so then I went in search of one of those. The first one I drew was more in line with what I had in mind. She was a blonde, curvy bombshell.  But I had not placed things on the page properly so I started over and ended up with a different girl. Oh well. It was getting late and I decided to add watercolour to this drawing rather than trying to shade it all in with ink.

Once I was finished I posted it first on Instagram with the appropriate hashtags, like I was supposed to. I shared it to both Facebook and Twitter.  I also shared it on a separate Facebook page. Later I saw someone requesting people to post their latest watercolour works on another group page and I dropped it in there. While there was no problem anywhere else, a major controversy broke out on that new page.  Many people on all three pages saw the humour in the post and poked the Laugh button. But on the new site, there were a few who were either angry or just plain upset when they spotted this drawing. I sat back and watched as they all argued among themselves.  I didn't feel the need to defend myself from what they were reading into the image. I didn't think of it as a political statement. Some of them definitely did. It's a scientific fact that it's normal for a man to drool over a pretty woman. The assignment was drooling. That's all I was thinking.  But the controversy went on all that day and into the next.  Actually, out of the 108 responses (so far) on that particular page, less than 10% had any kind of problem with it, but even that number surprised me.

Guess what, people.  Just like with my writing, I'm not bothered by this. It tells me these people not only didn't scroll past my drawing but that it actually created a response in them. People were either loving it, or telling me off. That's cool. I got a reaction either way.   Isn't that what art is for? My poor little drawing was an amazing success.  I made people feel something and respond to it. I have never referred to myself as an artist in the past, but I'm certainly feeling like one now.

Here's the sketch in question.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

We All Need to go Buggy!

The weather had finally started to cool down. Normally that causes my entryway to fill up with hundreds of Japanese beetles. I've only seen two or three anywhere so far so I couldn't help wondering where they went.

Have you noticed a decline in the number of certain insects this year too?  Of course we had fewer mosquitoes due to the dry summer causing fewer places for them to breed but I've also noticed a lack of other bugs that I'm used to seeing in large numbers around here.

There were virtually no earwigs in my garden, or in the apples I cut up this year. I don't spray my apple tree and it's never been unusual to cut an apple in half and discover an inhabitant. This year I saw very few earwigs anywhere. Also during apple season I usually have to create numerous fruit fly traps in my kitchen as the little devils are everywhere. Not this year. I only had a few and they were  no problem at all.  The other day two of my friends mentioned seeing swarms of flying ants. We have had a colony near our side door for many years now. They usually emerge from the crack between two slabs of my sidewalk. This year, just like the Japanese beetles, there is no sign of them. Where have all these bugs gone?

I was chalking all this up to this year's hot, dry weather but an article on CTV news let me know this is not  just a local phenomenon. A lot of non-pest type insects seem to be in the decline throughout the world. Unfortunately mosquitoes, ticks, aphids and cockroaches all seem to be doing fine.

Scientists are starting to worry about the decline in the inset population. They are pretty sure that across the globe there are fewer insects that are crucial to as much as 80% of what we eat. Without insects we will have a total ecosystem collapse. We have heard a lot about the decline of the bee populations in recent years but it is becoming evident that the problem goes much further than that.  The use of pesticides, the spread of mono-culture crops such as corn and soybeans, urbanization and the destruction of the natural habitats as the human population grows are all factors. Hopefully we all start to see the insects as necessary to our own survival and find a way to take action  to reverse the  situation before it becomes too late. As happy as we are not to have them pestering us, we have to come to realize they are necessary for our very survival. There is an old saying about men that we will now have to apply to insects as well. You can't live with them but you can't live without them. Think about that.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

I'm Here, But Busy

Okay, so I've been gone too long, and I'm sorry about that. Well, not really because instead of sitting inside at my computer, I've been busy with the garden, and all that it offers. A lot of that requires work, but it's all worth it. I've got stacks of pies and applesauce, for instance.I've also been on vacation to the east coast. But it's time to get back in here before you all disappear.

My one zucchini plant produced 17 zucchini before the vine bores managed to completely kill it off.   Do you know about vine borers?  I didn't.  I was out watering the garden just before supper one afternoon, but when I went back out after we ate the plant had drooped so badly it looked like it was dying. I stormed into the house and demanded to know which of my men, my hubby or my son, had decided to do away with that zucchini plant. I mean, not only did they have a zucchini blueberry snacking cake with lemon butter cream icing for dessert but I had also fed them pasta with a zesty zucchini spaghetti sauce for the main course. I figured they had gotten desperate and tried to put an end to this sort of food. They both claimed to be innocent and had no idea what I was fuming about so I marched them out there and pointed at the poor plant. It had been so healthy just an hour or two ago!  Nobody would fess up so I hit the internet and googled "zucchini AND wilted leaves" and that's when I got my education on vine borers.

It seems a moth with clear wings lays it's eggs on the bottom of the leaves and when they hatch the larvae bore into the base of the stocks and eat the inside of the vine. Eventually the leaves will suddenly die, and I do mean suddenly!

A bit of further investigation taught me to do a little surgery on the vine and dig the nasty grubs out. After I did that, the remaining plant started growing again, and I got a few more zucchini off it before it was obvious that there must have been more critters in there than those I managed to remove. I was amazed at how such a big plant could survive when more than 3/4 of the part of the stem attached to the ground was gone. But when it finally wilted again, I gave it up as a lost cause. There was so little of the actual base of the stem left by then that I figured if I dug around in that I'd break it off anyway.

On closer inspection of my pumpkin plant, I see
that the darn borers have invaded it too,  But the pumpkin stem is a much more solid thing and the leaves stayed healthy until the plant got no water for the week I was away. The leaves are dying off now, but that's okay as the pumpkin is ready to be picked anyway.

If the vine borer in the pumpkin had been causing a problem and it had actually grown in or at least near a garden, I could have rescued it by just burying any junction part of the stem and it would grow new roots instead of doing surgery on the stem. After the new roots had established I would have been able to cut away the original stem and remove the borers completely. But this is a plant the squirrels gifted me with, and it's just growing in the grass near the house.

It's been interesting to learn about vine borers but I'd just as soon not have to experience them again.

Right now it's tomato season, and there is no shortage of those either.

I'll try to get back to you sooner next time, but my busy season isn't over yet, so I can make no promises.

Friday, July 20, 2018

A New Way to Use Zucchini!

I may have mentioned that I have a new raised vegetable garden. I got things off to a late start and then the heat came, so I didn't have much hope. It has not rained in so long I can't remember what it even looks like, but I babied my little plants by watering them everyday, by hand, with a watering can. The water was often quite warm as the full cans sat in the sun, or I got it from a hose that was laying on the grass. It might be the fresh soil, or  it might be the warm water, but I could swear I heard those darn plants grow. I've just come from checking out what is growing in the local community gardens, and they are not doing nearly as well. I'm thrilled with my lush little plot.
My garden contains eight tomatoes. I started all the plants from seed that I saved. Four of the plants are the Bulls Head Heritage tomatoes that I grow every year, two are purple tomatoes, and the other two are yellow. I picked those up at a farmer's market last summer. I also have a cherry tomato plant that I purchased growing in a big pot. While it's tall and producing some fruit, it's not nearly as lush looking at the plants I started myself.  I have one pepper plant in there too, and it's got several peppers on it. I've never had luck with peppers in the past so I'm very happy with that.  One side of the garden has a row of assorted lettuces, and a row of multicoloured carrots. And then there is the zucchini plant. Other than that, the only other things I've managed to squeeze into this small space are a couple of peanut plants that the squirrels planted for me, and a crazy wild cucumber that I've let grow, just for the fun of it.

It's just the lettuce and zucchini that I have to deal with at the moment though.  We have been eating a lot of fresh salad greens and I've also just picked my 4th zucchini. I likely should have picked that one yesterday as it definitely grew bigger overnight! I see at least 3 more growing out there, and while I'm enjoying them, I am glad I only planted one zucchini plant.  I like stir fries so I've been using them up that way. I did give one away, and last night I made a Veggie Pie out of another one. It was delicious and I thought I'd
share the recipe. I know I'll be making this again, as it was easy and even tastes good cold. It calls for Bisquick. I didn't have any but it's easy enough to find a recipe online to make your own.  At this time of year, if you aren't growing zucchini, you will likely find some on your doorstep. This is another way to use them up. Besides the usual cakes, breads and cookies for dessert, now you can make pie as part of your main meal.  Enjoy.


Garden Vegetable Pie

2 cups chopped zucchini
1 cup chopped tomato
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup Bisquick mix
3 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Heat oven to 400F. Grease pie plate.
Mix first four ingredients in pie plate.
Beat remaining ingredients until smooth and pour over veggies in pie plate.
Bake until a knif inserted in centre comes out clean. (30-40 minutes)

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Don't Say I Didn't Warn You!

Recently I finally got my hands on enough rhubarb to make my annual rhubarb cookies. I mentioned them on Facebook and immediately people commented that they had never heard of rhubarb cookies before, and they asked for the recipe.

Well, I have given out this recipe many times but I do so with reluctance as I usually get a complaint later that it didn't turn out. It didn't turn out because people think they know what they are doing and don't follow the recipe. This recipe has to be followed if you want any kind of success. Do what it says, in the order it says to do it, Don't skip things. Be prepared to start the night before you plan to bake. If, by chance you end up with not enough liquid in the cooking pot after draining the required amount off, add just enough back into the pot to keep the rhubarb from sticking. You don't want this saucy. The rhubarb can be steamed, instead of stewed.. Be sure not to overcook it as you want it tender but still firm enough to be able to stir it into the dough.

Here's the recipe. Good luck.  I'd be happy to hear of your success!

                                                        Rhubarb Cookies

1/2 cup margarine                                          
1 cup brown sugar                                          
1 egg                                                         
1 cup cooked rhubarb, drained ***                
2 cups flour                                                     
1/4 tsp salt                                                         
1 tsp baking soda                                           
1 tsp nutmeg                                                  
1 tsp cinnamon                                                  
1/2 tsp ground cloves                                    
1 cup raisins          

*** Note:  It is important to cook the rhubarb as follows:
Slice 4 cups of rhubarb into 1/2 inch pieces.
Toss with 1/2 cup of sugar.
Let steep overnight. Pour off 3/4 of a cup of the liquid and cook the rhubarb in the remaining juice, just until tender but still holding it's shape (less than 5 minutes).
The rhubarb is then ready to use in this recipe, or others, eat as is, or freeze.                                          

Cream the butter and sugar together.
Add the egg and beat until light
Stir in rhubarb.
Stir the flour, salt, baking soda and spices together.
Stir the dry ingredients into the rhubarb mixture until the are blended.
Fold in raisins.
Drop the batter by tablespoons onto a greased sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart.
Bake at 350F for 12 minutes or until lightly browned on the edges.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Colour in the Garden!

April showers bring May flowers......except when they don't.  This year we had a late April snow storm and a drought in May so the flowers only showed up on the very last day. But they are here now and I'm so happy to see them that I just have to share.

Both my peonies and iris are blooming right now, and I have several varieties of each.

 Besides this single red peony pictured above, I have a white one that I just love

as well as the more the common fluffy red and and pink ones.

Currently there are three more varieties that have not opened yet.

Of the irises I have, this one is my favorite.

with this one being a close second.

This purple iris is my most common one and I have clumps of them all over the place. I've given away so many of them over the years that I have trouble finding homes for them now.  I do wish the ones above would multiply more quickly but though I've had them several years, I still have just one small clump of each with just a few blooming stems on each.

The yellow iris my neighbour gave me have really brightened up the back corner of my garden and it looks like they might give the purple one a run for their money over time.

I have a couple of other mixed coloured iris as well, but I'm not all that fond of them as they have smaller blooms and are bordering on ugly. I expect I will likely replace them as I find others I can't live without.
The chives, along with the peonies and iris by my kitchen door, add colour while we wait for other things to bloom.

You may remember this overgrown section from my last post, but it has colour now.

As the bleeding heart end their cycle, a lot of other things are ready to take over.  I'm so happy to see the colour returning to the garden after such a long winter.

I hope I've managed to brighten up your day.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Spring Ritual

In my last post, I suggested that you get more done if you can get yourself to focus on just one thing. This warmer weather has me focusing on my garden. In the meantime, the house is gathering dust and the usual piles of clutter.

Even in the garden I'm feeling overwhelmed. I had knee problems the past two summers so I couldn't dig. I grow lots of bulbs and perennials and everything seems to be overgrown now, and I expect to do a lot of digging and rethinking over this gardening season.

If I wanted to plant something new, or even divide and replant anything, I will no doubt run into a shovel full of bulbs. At this time of the year I like to leave them alone so they can gather strength for next year's blooms.  Even then, I'll have way too many as I've lived here for over 40 years and they just keep multiplying.

Where the bulbs aren't crowding the perennials, the perennials have grown over the bulbs and corms. I will wait until after the leaves of these die down also, before digging things up and reassigning space.

The flower strip between my place and my neighbours (formerly known as the fence garden before their old pool fence was removed) gives us both lots of pleasure with its assorted blooms, but the perennials there are currently battling for space and have managed somehow to intermix. My main job here will be to clear out anything that is encroaching on my peonies.  It means a lot of digging, and I'm thinking it's time to reduce this to nothing but peonies, daylilies and flowering bushes. That will have to happen gradually.

Some of the flowering bushes didn't do well this winter and I need to get in and cut out the dead wood. Even the apple tree seems to have a problem this year. The bark has stripped right off parts of it.  There is also another dead branch higher up. The hubby will have to take care of that branch but this may be the last year for this old tree.

The half with the bark problem isn't flowering, but the other half is making up for it and the lilac bushes are blooming too.

There is a nice little red maple that has appeared out front in my accent garden. I have to move that soon as it's growing right over the gas line.

In fact, that entire garden has become overgrown as I've been afraid to dig there since the gas line went in several years ago. I'd like to eliminate it entirely, but have waited too long once again. There are a few things in there I'd like to save and plant somewhere else.

At least I can report that my rock river project is starting to shape up nicely. The forsythia I bought last fall bloomed for me this spring and the new little globe cedar is looking good too. The weigela that I thought was dead is showing life.  I just need a few more big stones and some river rocks now.

My new raised garden is off to a slow start but there are baby tomatoes, lettuce and carrots in there so far, and a couple of things I found growing in my yard, which may turn out to be nothing but wild cucumbers, but I'm curious so they are in there too for now.

There is a lot to do, and as you may have guessed, I've been distracted from this story by one of those other chair legs. I've managed to clear out a huge pile of weeds that started to flower. I had to tackle that to prevent them from reseeding.

The goutweed likes to keep me busy too!  It's not mine, but it apparently wants to be.  I have peonies back there and I much prefer them so I have to draw a strict line as to where it is allowed to be. I think it will win this battle eventually.  I may have to relocate the peonies. But knowing goutweed, I'd likely end up with some of the roots getting transplanted too and start the problem in a whole new spot. Honestly, I'm getting too old for this fight!

Well, I think you have some idea what I've been up to outdoors around here.  At least I'm getting some exercise while I'm at it.