Sunday, April 28, 2013

Magick Spring

It's almost Beltane the midpoint between the Spring equinox and the summer solstice and one of the eight solar days. Astronomically it is more like May 5th but tradition(at least for Wicca) has it celebrated on May 1st.

I know I haven't been around here much but Spring is hard gardening time and between work and the garden I barely have time for anything else. I only worked 8a to 12p today so I have the afternoon to catch up in the greenhouse seeing as how it raining quite hard today and will be for the next couple even it is off and on. For some reason my work schedule has flipped 180 from what it has been. I've been going in sometime in the afternoon and working until close at 10p. This week I am opening at 6a every shift and what's really sad is that I am scheduled to be the self check out monitor which really sucks. Very little to keep you occupied so the time draaaaaggggs. The only good thing is you get off in the early afternoon so there is time to get some gardening in before dark.

The garden is coming along...all the tomatoes and all the peppers are in. Corn is just up as is the first planting of Dixie Butter Peas, Sugarsnaps and regular green peas are coming along nicely. The first planting of green beans went in on Friday so with all the rain they should appear by Friday. All the squash and melons are next on the list. Oh! and the broccoli is just about ready to begin making its appearance on the table and we are already getting a bit of asparagus which is a real springtime treat.

So Happy Beltane, May Day, Walpurgis or whatever. Never fear none of my holiday observances involve prancing around in the buff....I have more consideration for the wildlife than that.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day Every Day

Celebrate Earth Day today by committing to remember and cherish the Earth every other day of the year. Everyday should be Earth Day. Never ever forget that we live on a big spaceship and that if we continue to screw it up we have nowhere else to go.

Frankly, I am a little less than optimistic that the human race has the wherewithal to do the right thing when it comes to preserving and nurturing our one and only home. Every day that I work the registers in the garden center and check out hundreds of pounds of insecticide, chemical fertilizers and weed killers that unthinking and uncaring people are going to take home and broadcast willy-nilly around their yards I get less encouraged about the future of our planet. It's very depressing and it is very difficult not yell "Are you crazy?" at them.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Shades of March

Quite a bit of rain yesterday as a cold front passed through and the bottom has fallen out of the temperature. Highs Thursday were in the upper 70's but the low this morning was 41F. Had to turn the heat back on. Off today but the rain has made the garden unworkable so I will just start in on cleaning up some of the mess left by the tree people. Lots to do.

Good to the see the Boston flap is wrapped and very glad to see that the young man was taken alive. It is probably a safe bet to say that he PTB's were going to take him out in a hail of lead if they had their way. This is a better ending than I had hoped.

Probably not a good idea to live close to a fertilizer plant.

Off the depot to get the stuff I forgot to get yesterday when I worked...Duh!. The bluebirds, woodpeckers, yellow-rumped warblers(butter butts), blue jays, titmice, and the rest of the wildlife are going through suet cakes like crazy. Lots of little beaks to stuff with high energy fat I guess.

Off to get a rare Saturday off underway. Have fun out there.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Woodpeckers Are Mad

I finally have a day off and it is not raining which means a full day in the garden. More than a day's worth of work to be done but I'll make a good dent in it. Yesterday we had a crew come in to spend the day clearing dead falls and removing a couple of large pines infested with the pine beetles. They got a lot of work done and it looks pretty good but still a lot of work to clean up the small stuff they left behind. They left me a huge pile of wood chips that will find their way into the garden as well. The two sick trees got chipped as well but they were hauled off to try and get rid of the beetles.
The local woodpecker population is none to happy with all the dead trees and debris missing since they all spent a good bit of time finding food in them but they'll get over it and the empty lot next door still has plenty of dead pines for them to chip away at.

I haven't chimed in on the Boston thing because I don't have anything constructive to add. Needless for me to repeat what a sick tragedy it is. I fell pretty sure that, if and when they catch the perp, he will turn on out to be a whack job with some imaginary grudge he believed he was rectifying. I'll bet a dollar he will be a right wing nut case of some color. We'll see.  Regardless, when we see this stuff happen, needless tragedy wrought by our fellows, we just need to remember that even  though the bad stuff gets all the news the good guys outnumber the bad and eventually it will be the rule and not the exception.

Oh! All you senators that voted against even the toothless gun background law and the amendments are cowards of the worst stripe. Unfortunately, I fear  that the general populace is too lazy and befuddled to make you pay for your crimes against the nation but one can hope that you will have to face your lack of will and spinelessness at the polls.  Here's to hope that  the public will realize that even though a huge majority favored the background checks their wishes were completely ignored in favor of a few bloodstained shekels from the mouth-breathers of the NRA.

Off to the garden. It's hard work but it really makes me peaceful and happy and that's important.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Talking Dirt

I have to work this evening but I managed to get a little gardening in this morning and now it is officially a garden since I got the corn planted. Now the race to the 4th of July to see if we can eat corn from the garden on Independence Day. I also got the first batch of Dixie Butter Peas in. We are supposed to get rain starting this evening so everything should get a big this time next week I expect to see corn popping up.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dirty Talk

I actually had the day off yesterday and it was a beautiful one. Lots of progress made in the garden. Middle third re-tilled, beds for tomatoes and peppers laid out and covered in weed fabric, cucumbers planted, yellow squash, zucchini, and patty pan squash planted, leek seedlings planted, shallot seedlings planted, rows prepared for butter peas. All in all very productive. Even though I have to work from 230p to 10p today I have gotten in 2 hours in the gym, mowed the front and back yard and still have an hour to practice my guitar. It's supposed to storm tomorrow so I'll get a little rest even though I have the same work schedule. Still a lot to get done but progress. Next are beans and corn.

Monday, April 08, 2013

It's Spring Sir!

Even though I had to work yesterday evening I got some good work done in the garden and the area is prepared for the cucumbers...even the little fence for them to climb on. Though I have to go in at 5pm today I will try and get the beds for tomatoes and peppers ready today so that I can start moving everybody out of the greenhouse over the next week or so. I may even get time to get the little baby leeks and shallots planted today but that will be pushing it.

I have the full day off tomorrow and the good weather is supposed to hold so I should make good progress before the rain is supposed to return on Thursday.

Pollen is beginning to coat everything, the azaleas are starting to pop as are the dogwoods. The prettiest and most pleasant time of year in Atlanta IMHO.

Gardening Ho!

Note: You have to be a M.A.S.H. fan to get the title.

Frank Burns: "Klinger! I want to see you out of that dress!"
Klinger: "Never on a first date, sir!"
Frank: "How dare you wear that hat while in uniform? "
Klinger "It's spring, sir!"

Buddha's Birthday

Depending on the calendar you wish to follow today, the 8th day of the 4th month of the Chinese calendar, is Buddha's birthday. Other calendars such as the Gregorian have it coming later in May or even next week to coincide with the  full moon. Whatever.

Regardless, Happy Birthday to you all. Namaste.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Republic Lost

Something very worthwhile over at the Orange Satan. Mark Sumner points us at Lawrence Lessig's recent TED talk. Here is  the money quote from Mr. Sumner.

Lawrence Lessig's new TED talk starts off in the fictional semi-democracy of Lesterland, then, with statistics that are no less shocking for their familiarity, reminds us that this land of the few, by the few, for the few is the land we call home. Worried about the 1 percent? Don't be. Worry about the 0.05 percent. That's the percentage of Americans who maxed out their contribution to any political candidate in the last election. Or the 0.01 percent who made contributions of $10,000 or more. That's the number of Americans who actually show up on the radar of politicians. But those are only flyspecks on the screen. Save your real worry for the 0.000042 percent. That's 132 people. Those 132 people provided 60 percent of all the money that ended up in Super PACs.
If you're a politician, and you spend between 30 and 70 percent of your time begging for funds for the next election cycle, as American politicians do ... who you gonna call?

The talk is not too long but very sobering.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Bad Neighbor

I just heard a crash/thud and looked out the kitchen window. Another dead tree(pine beetles) from the vacant lot next door decided to visit. This is the second tree from next door to find its way through the fence and onto the property. What is worse there are several more that could come down at any time. I guess I need to call the owner and jack him up over the damage. I already have a tree service scheduled to come in the next week or so to clean up the last damage plus some other work which is going to set me back about 3 grand not including the fence. I can probably get them to roll this one into the work for nothing extra since it is already down and just needs to be cut up but I would think the owner of the dead trees needs to cover my palm with something. As you can see this was a pretty big sucker and part of the work I have going on next week is to take out two large pines that are infected and dying from the pine beetles before they spread. It's always something.

It is a shame that this nice dead tree came down just now as I am pretty sure there were at least a couple of cavity nesting birds trying to make a home in it and if so they may already have chicks in the nests. If is wasn't raining quite so heavily at the moment I would do a little survey for survivors.

Just for reference I am standing on the northern edge of my garden and this tree blocks the path back to the house which is a couple of hundred feet to the left.

Pinto Bean Soup

It's a cool and rainy day here in the Northern burbs of Atlanta and a perfect day for a hearty bean soup. Here is a nice and easy recipe for Pinto Bean Soup that I just put on to cook nice and slow over the afternoon. Of course, you can pretty much use any bean you want but I like pinto beans for this recipe.

You'll need a 16 oz. bag of dried pinto beans that you have rinsed and then soaked overnight in 2 quarts of water to which 2 tablespoons of sea salt have been added. I find the salt in the soak water helps the texture of the cooked beans kind of like brining meat. If you don't have the luxury of overnight soaking which I find is best you can always use the "quick soak" method.

In a nice heavy bottomed stainless steel or enameled cast iron soup pot mix the soaked beans that have been drained of what's left of the soaking water with:

1 pound of diced smoked ham (today I am using Tasso because I have it.)
About 7-8 cups of H2O (you'll want to cover the beans by about an inch or so)
1 Tablespoon of coarse sea salt or Kosher salt (I use the gray coarse sea salt from France)
1 Tablespoon granulated garlic powder
1 large onion minced fairly fine
4 cloves of fresh garlic also minced
1 Tablespoon of dried thyme
a few grinds of black pepper maybe a teaspoon

Put the pot over low heat and cover and cook slowly for 2 -3 hours until the beans are nice and tender. If you do this early in the day and the soup is ready before your dinner time just turn off the heat and let it sit on the back of the stove until dinner time and reheat, which is what I will do today. It will make it even better.  Note: depending on your soaking method and other factors you may need less or more water. Check the pot every once in a while and add a little more H2O if it is getting too thick or if you think is too watery then leave the lid off for a while.

This sounds like a lot of garlic but it gets very mild with the slow cooking and it really makes the soup shine. If you would like to put a little spin on this and you used the smoked ham and not Tasso then add a tablespoon of Smoked Spanish Paprika about an hour or so into the cooking.  If you like a little more zing then a bit of cayenne or crushed red pepper flakes are nice addition. Madam has a low tolerance for spicy so I usually don't add it to the whole pot and just add a bit of Sriracha to my bowl. A nice dollop or two of fresh salsa is really good as well.

This will make an excellent dinner for a cool and rainy day especially with some good buttermilk cornbread. Here is the link for my go to cornbread recipe. It's "Southern" style which means that there is more cornmeal than flour whereas "Northern" style is usually equal parts flour and cornmeal and a little "cakier" than this recipe.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Hummingbirds Are Early

We read that the hummers were returning to the Atlanta area earlier than usual this year and so put out the feeder a couple of days ago. So far we have had one male ruby throated feeding regularly so odds are there are more out there. If you are a hummer feeder you might consider putting the feeder out a little earlier that usual. We don't usually put ours out until early May but that routine is going to have to adjust to the new "normal".

Just like the King snake that appeared the other day Mother Nature seems to be moving up her schedule a doubt because Al Gore is still fat I would guess.

Monday, April 01, 2013

King Snake

It must be officially spring since this fellow appeared in front of the greenhouse yesterday afternoon.

It is a sunny day and I have the day off though I won't get much gardening done as we had quite a bit of rain over the weekend. I've still got plenty to do though and I'll be sure to keep an eye out for this beautiful creature. Pretty sure it is the same one that made frequent appearances last year. If I am lucky and don't scare him or her off maybe there will be a dent in the vole population around the place. I can look out the window and see as many as 6 of the creatures scurrying around under the bird feeder. You have to wonder what the owls that chat all night are doing with their time.