Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Yes, I'm Still Alive

Still have a little work to finish on the greenhouse project but it is only a couple of hours away from complete.  Three more bags of river stones to put down this afternoon and a few more wood chips to haul in for the landscaping around. I'll post a final picture with all the nice new cedar benches and all which Madam and I cut and assembled over the weekend. My original idea to use PVC for the legs was a bust so I made cedar legs out of 1x2 cut, glued and screwed to make 'L' legs which seem to be plenty strong and much more aesthetic.
It's that time of year to make some cuttings of tomatoes and see if we can extend the harvest a few more months. Huge amount of work to do in the garden as I have been limited by the heat. Weeds have a good foothold and I need to make room for the fall garden. Too bad the temp is supposed to head back above 90F after these few days of 'cool' 85+ days.
I'll be back to more regular blogging after some of my outdoor projects get done.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What Hecate Said

The picture is complete ripped off from this post by Hecate...one of my favorite witches. The telling line is her reference to Sinclair Lewis...."When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
I don't really need to add any more to what the witch said and this will be my only comment on the Glenn Beck thing.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Nearly There

It is almost finished...just a few reinforcing struts and the like but I couldn't wait to share. It's an 8x12 aluminum and polycarbonate greenhouse. Even though the instructions said to allow a half day for construction it has been more like two and a half but not really difficult. The instructions were all pictorial and every piece is numbered. The main members snap together with nylon connectors and then you go back and reinforce all the joints with metal bits that anchor with screws into the channels in the aluminum struts. One hint if you ever build your own greenhouse is that it gets might hot on 90F days in the bright sun inside a greenhouse! I  consumed over a gallon of iced tea in the two days and maybe 10 liters of water. Now you know where I have been for the last couple of days.
The next evolution is to build some cedar benches, finish the wall to Madam's specifications and build some stone steps and tidy up the landscape.
Happy Birthday to me! (and Christmas)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Second Milestone - Birthday Project

OK. We have completed the foundation for the birthday project. Much manual labor including moving and spreading the ton of pea gravel. All ready for construction. Looks pretty good so far but Madam has decided the wall needs to be lengthened by couple of stones. The left is OK but she isn't happy with the right side. The project arrived on Monday evening and most of the parts are sorted and ready to begin assembly. We'll get started in the morning but I am pretty sure it will be a two day job. Tomorrow is shopping day(senior's discount don't you know) and I have a dental check up on Thursday which will shoot the morning. Everything is level and square so we are ready to go. Once I see how everything lines up I will do the final step of securing the foundation to the ground with some two foot stakes. In this hard clay that will do the job and I don't think there is a need to do cement. The next picture will be of the completed structure. I know you just can't wait.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I Must Be Crazy

Since I have been thwarted by rain the last couple of evenings and it is too wet to finalize the foundation for my birthday present I decided today would be a good day to hook up the trailer and go to Lowe's and get the rest of the material. I got a $25 off coupon on a purchase of $250 so Lowe's was the place and I had already compared prices with Home Depot. In case you are wondering...they are the same to the penny on most things.

The shopping list: 4 ea. treated 4"x6"x12' beams, 5ea. .5 cubic ft bags of paver sand, 32 12"x8"x7" wall block, and last but not least, 35ea. .5 cubic ft. bags of pea gravel. I wasn't really thinking and it was not until I saw my poor little utility trailer loaded and groaning under the weight that I realized I should have made two trips. When I got home and got it unloaded I decided I had better do what I should have done before I left and see what the weight would be.  1/2 cubit ft. of pea gravel is approximately 50 pounds so I had about a ton of gravel alone. With the wall block and paver sand I probably added another half ton or so. It's no wonder my back hurts! Not to mention it is 90F outside!

Madam and I are dog sitting for Minimonk...just one ... Megan(the best one) and she kept staring at me as I schlepped bags of gravel back and forth like I was crazy. She, of course, was sitting in the shade while I worked.

Unless it rains again this evening I should be able to get the leveling and retaining wall built tomorrow morning and maybe even get the wooden beams installed for the foundation. I'll have a picture of the progress.

Friday, August 20, 2010


I am sure glad I am not traveling anymore or even going in to the office. I had one experience with the critters when I was in the Middle East and don't care to experience then again. I ran across them in a 4 star hotel so it wasn't like I was in some dump. The management was horrified and I was comped into another nice hotel for my stay including meals and some new clothes. It might have been worth a few bites but it wasn't worth the trouble of getting all my luggage and clothes fumigated. Nasty critters and if you are allergic to their bites it is double hell.

Birthday Project

Phase one of my birthday project is nearly complete. I have the area cleared and nearly level and a drain installed to move water from the gutter away. I need to finish leveling but it rained last night and now it is too wet to work. As you can see and as is typical here in the Piedmont of Georgia unimproved dirt is good old Georgia red clay. It has been pretty dry so this was pretty much like digging in concrete. This area was covered in ivy and the remains of a big pine which I had removed last year. Here is a hint...don't ever let English ivy get established or it will take the place and it is almost impossible to kill and even harder to dig up. The roots run forever and are tenacious. Makes for back breaking work and especially in this humid and hot August weather. This has taken me almost a week but I have been quitting around noon once the temperature goes above 90F.

The next phase is the 8 ft. by 12ft. 4x6 foundation and the pea gravel floor which I should be able to accomplish over the next couple of days, weather permitting. I still haven't settled on the best way to anchor the foundation but am leaning toward threaded rod anchored in cement which will add a day to the project but I am pretty sure I shouldn't just rely on the weight of the foundation to insure it stays in place.

According to the manufacturer by birthday present should arrive by FedEx ground on Monday so maybe I will be able to start construction next week.

Meanwhile, as I wait for a little drying, I'll go get my fall garden seeds started in their little pots. Cabbage, broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, radicchio, assorted lettuces, and some Chinese cabbages of various sorts. The garden soil is still too hot to plant the rest so I will just have to be patient before I get carrots, spinach, beets and radishes in the ground.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Welcome Aboard But Don't Look For A Lifejacket

Oh Boy! Not a lot of  rosy blush on the initial unemployment claims today. Today it jumped  to 500,000, which is a new high for the year. The 'conventional wisdom'  is that weekly initial jobless claims must be in the 300,000 range or less in order to get any actual job growth. We haven’t been at 300,000 since the beginning of the recession in December 2007.
New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly climbed to a nine-month high last week, yet another setback to the frail economic recovery.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 500,000 in the week ended August 14, the highest since mid-November, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast claims slipping to 476,000 from the previously reported 484,000 the prior week, which was revised up to 488,000 in Thursday’s report.
You can see ugly trajectory in this Calculated Risk graph.  The economy is just wallowing in its misery. It has not only stalled but now we see upward movement in unemployment. “The economy ran into a wall in August,” according to one analyst quoted in the story.

During the last recession in 1982, the unemployment rate added a full point, from 9.8 to 10.8 in the period August thru December. If you'll remember Democrats regained 26 seats in the House, although they split even in the Senate. It is looking like it will take a miracle for the Democrats to hold losses to that level this year if  the voters run true to form and punish the party in power.

The sad thing is that nobody seems to want to do anything about it. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Who Do You Believe?

BP and the government are telling us that 75% of the 8.9 million gallons of oil gushed from the Deepwater Horizon well is 'gone'. Scientists at UGA's Sea Grant program say that 79% is still there. Here is the link to the article at FDL.

Me? I'm going with the independent scientists on this.

I'll Take the Briar Patch

Ed Walker (AKA masaccio) has a post over at Firedoglake about why the German economy is working, the middle class is thriving, and they work 300-400 hours less per year than we do.

We've heard for years from the US pundits/conservatives/GOP that it was only a matter of time before the Social Democracies of Europe would crumble in economic disaster. Isn't it strange how countries like Germany continue to support strong economies that include meaningful and broad social support for their people even in these 'bad' times? We've heard over and over about the heavy tax burdens and wasteful government spending and how it will soon come to and end. Last weekend on FDL Tom Geoghegan’s new book, Were You Born On The Wrong Continent, was the subject of Saturday’s Book Salon and I was going to post something about it then but I am just getting around to it. Geoghegan discusses Germany’s approach to capitalism and why it has been very successful.

Workers in Germany have a big say in German businesses. In companies with more than 2,000 employees, the workers elect 50% of the members of the board of directors, which they call co-determination. This gives them a significant voice in the overall approach of German businesses. This means that the worker's interests are considered carefully by German companies but it also means that the workers have a real incentive to insure the company is successful.

Unlike the U.S., German's don't have to worry about the big five: retirement, health care, education, child care and good public transportation. They pay higher taxes for it but they don't have to worry about those things...it's part of the deal. How much better would you feel if retirement and health care were not something you had to worry about?

Don't tell anybody, especially a Republican, but Socialism is working and working well . There are only 83 million people in Germany and even working 8 to 10 weeks less than we do managed exports of 1.2 tillion dollars in 2009. That figure is larger than China's where 10 times the people are working long hours under awful conditions.  Germany’s economy grew by 2.2% in the second quarter, leading the EU to solid growth of 1%, despite problems with some of the weaker member nations, like Greece and Spain. Germany’s trade surplus was 60.2 billion Euros and it has no international debt. All of its growth has been financed internally.

It sure seems to me that the evils of 'social democracies' that are constantly being bleated by the pundits, conservatives, and most of all  by the fat cat corporatists that are a bleeding us dry may be complete and utter bullshit. I know I, for one, wouldn't mind a little more of a tax burden if I didn't have to pay out the ass for retirement and health care(if I could even get it) and I would really like to have a public transportation system that actually works. I've spent quite a bit of time in Europe, mostly Sweden, France and Germany, and have been envious of their situation for years. They, as a rule, are not struggling to make life work for themselves or their children as we are in the U.S. and they'll admit that the taxes are somewhat tough but I haven't met one that didn't think they weren't getting their money's worth.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Egg Recall

There is an egg recall in effect

If you buy eggs from any of the following stores or brands..Lucerne, Albertson, Mountain Dairy, Ralph's, Boomsma's, Sunshine, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Farm Fresh, Shoreland, Lund, Dutch Farms and Kemps. and live in California, Colorado Nebraska, Illinois  or Missouri then you should check the cartons for plant numbers P1026, P1413 and P1946 followed by a date code ranging from 136 to 225. These eggs may be contaminated with Salmonella. Don't eat them but return them to the store for a refund.

Weirder and Weirder

You can read the news as well as I but doesn't it just seem to be getting weirder and weirder. A non issue on whether a Islamic community center can be built in Manhattan in a vacant Burlington Coat Factory is now a national issue with idiots like Newt declaring it is same as Nazis building next to the Holocaust Museum. When did 'Nazi' become a religion?
It wasn't that long ago that the President was quizzing his generals about whether they could reduce our force in Afghanistan within 18 months and they assured him that it was doable. Now they are campaigning to stay forever. Obama needs to remind them who the boss is.
The GOP is going over the edge even further but it doesn't appear to be hurting them in the generic ballot. It is looking more and more like the Dems will lose seats in Congress in the fall. The American political memory is basically now non existent.
Everywhere I turn I  see advanced insanity running rampant. It is enough to make you just quit looking.
I'm going out to dig in the dirt for a while.
Oh! and go read Joe Bageant.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Spinning Up The Wacko's

I must say I am impressed by President Obama's comments on the Manhattan mosque. This is mighty strong language and I am sure we'll hear a lot about this from the crazy people. Here are the the President's remarks at the White House Iftar dinner:
Now, that's not to say that religion is without controversy. Recently, attention has been focused on the construction of mosques in certain communities -– particularly New York. Now, we must all recognize and respect the sensitivities surrounding the development of Lower Manhattan. The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country. And the pain and the experience of suffering by those who lost loved ones is just unimaginable. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. And Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.

But let me be clear. As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. (Applause.) And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure.
It's good to see him come down on one of the fundamentals of our society so forcefully.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Already and a 13th to Boot

How's everybody's Friday the 13th going. So far so good on this end. I did brave the heat this morning and do some much needed watering in the garden. Just the peppers, leeks and tomatoes as they were starting to droop. This afternoon it decided to storm and we've now had a nice rain. I can make it rain without fail if I water.

Madam has eggplant parm on the brain so that is what's for dinner. I do mine really simply. Just a quick sauce of fresh tomato, onion and garlic over olive oiled and grilled eggplant with a nice sprinkle of Reggiano. Bake until the cheese is golden at 350F and you are there. The only real time is peeling and seeding the tomatoes. Harvested what are probably the last few Japanese eggplant yesterday so I should use them before they spoil. As I think I have mentioned here, aubergine are not my favorite vegetable but Madam loves them and the sauce and cheese add enough so that I can eat and enjoy them. I make them in individual baking dishes so that I can weight mine with sauce and cheese and Madam's with eggplant.

Everyone have a great weekend and it is supposed to be almost 10 degrees cooler tomorrow than it has been though it is also supposed to be raining. I'll take the cool even if it is wet as I am getting real tired of 95 plus days which has been the norm for well over a month.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mama Grizzly Loses One More

Even though it was the GOP runoff for Governor and I will be backing Democrat Roy Barnes the former Governor in the election I had a certain interest in the runoff since Caribou Barbie butted in and endorsed Karen Handel. It was a tight race but Karen conceded to Nathan Deal the former Congressman this morning. The margin for Deal was almost in the noise range but he will be facing Barnes in November. My only interest in the race, of course, was to hope the Palin endorsed Handel would lose. It's weak porridge but I'll take some small gratification from it.

Domestic Day

I'm being domestic today as it is still way to hot to be in the garden. I've got a sourdough starter cooking for a batch of bread that I will put together tonight and let it slowly rise overnight for baking tomorrow. It's old people's day at Kroger so Madam and I did our weekly shopping...whole chickens were on offer at $.49 per pound so I bought a few and a big 16 quart pot of chicken stock is brewing on the stove. Homemade stock is better than the boxed stuff especially when you can make 12 or 14 quarts for $4. All the rest of the ingredients are from the garden...carrots, parsley, thyme, onions, garlic with some store bought organic celery. I don't buy these battery chickens as a rule but for stock they work.

Just got my new Build Your On Earth Oven by Kiko Denzer from Amazon and am now trying to figure out where I will construct it once it cools off a little bit. Should be able to build a nice oven for no more than $100 since the subsoil around here is nothing but fine clay. I'll have to buy some fire brick  for the hearth but that should be the only expense as all the rest is mud mixed with sand(which will be the other expense). Should be a fun little project. I think I know where I can scrounge some rock for the base. I'll keep you posted on this little project. I have been watching Jamie Oliver on the new Food Channel using his cob oven and am sick with envy. I am resolved to have my own if for nothing else but pizza and bread.

A couple of wildlife pics to make the post interesting. Mama deer is a regular visitor for a drink from the bird bath and today Madam noticed the youngster lying low along the path to the garden. And yes she is the one eating the okra and sweet potatoes. What are you going to do other than plant enough to share?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Something Positive

The House passed the state aid and jobs bill today after the Senate overcame GOP opposition to pass it last week. The House GOP also voted against the bill pretty much in total. The bill is paid for and won't add to any deficit though the food stamp program took a big hit. The GOP opposition in both houses should remind Americans of all political stripes which party has the American people first. President Obama will reportedly sign the bill tonight. This aid will go a long way in preventing further teach, firefighter and police layoffs and insure Medicaid is funded properly for at least a little while longer.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Eat A Peach!

We're not talking the Allman Bro. here but it is one of my favorite albums. Madam and I finished all the pears and apples picked last weekend...got lots of applesauce and other good things put up but being the gluttons for punishment bought a case of Georgia peaches the other day and so now we turn to peaches.
Since Krugman said everything necessary considering the current state of our political leadership and their apparent desire for the 'death of the empire' I'll just shut up and can peaches.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Space Challenged

Well, all of the industry in preserving from the garden has caused a problem. All of the shelves in the basement are full and overflowing with jars. Some are even stacked which is technically a no-no. Fortunately Lowe's anticipated my shelving crisis and in their newspaper flyer yesterday are offering a 73"x48"x36" chromed wire shelving unit for $59.00 which is about $20 bucks off the regular price. I just got back with one and now am faced with how to reorganize the basement to accommodate it. I was going to get a plastic unit which was also offered at a reduced price but it was smaller and not rated for much weight. The flyer said it would hold 875 pounds per shelf but the package said it was only rated at 175. The metal one is rated at 350 and is larger and was only 14 bucks more. Yeah, it was made in China but I defy you to find anything of its type not made there. So I am off to the basement to assemble shelves and figure out how to rearrange my work benches. Madam will want to start organizing as soon as she gets home. Pickles by type and date, tomatoes, jellys and jams alphabetically...you know the drill. I had better get started since I also promised to try and get a load of sliced apples into the food dehydrator as well today...plus there is pear butter to get started.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

New Branch On The GOP Crazy Tree

In their continuing attempts to out crazy each other. Dan Meas, one of the conservative candidates for governor of Colorado raised the ante on another insane gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo by declaring that the liberals are trying to turn Denver into a "United Nations city" by offering a bicycle sharing program...I shit you not. With so many certifiable insane conservative candidates in the it sure looks like the conservative vote will be so fractured that the liberal John Hickenlooper will most likely win.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Can't Keep Up

I sat down tonight to try and catch up with my Internet reading and was greeted with over 500 items in my Google reader queue. Take some time to pickle a few pears and the world leaves you behind. Not that I am complaining....I have thought several times recently that being 'left behind' was probably not such a bad thing on balance.

Fruitless, Not

We can add fresh figs to the pile of fruit left to process. The brown turkey fig down by the garden decided it would ripen so now there are figs to preserve as well. We made some fig jam last year but it was only marginal so I have been searching the tubes for another. I've looked through a lot of fig jam/preserve recipes and it appears that the great bulk have one thing in common. Half as much sugar and figs by weight. Various schemes for cooking but another theme that comes into play is only cooking the figs a short while in the syrup and removing them and bringing the syrup up to a candy temp...some even as high as hard ball. I am going to improvise using all the recipes as a guide and see what happens. And yes there are still more apples and pears to deal with as well. Got spiced pears and pear honey done yesterday and one more load of apple butter but I think the food drier is going into play for the rest of the apples and maybe just some pear halves in a light syrup will wrap up the fruit.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Still Appling and Pearing

Still underwater on apples and pears. That's all we did over the weekend (except I had to mow the grass). Lots of applesauce and apple butter in jars. Red peppers intervened and we had to do a batch of roasted peppers but all the rest was fruit. Another day of peeling and canning today. It's not hard work, just time consuming and the rewards will come later.