Sunday, June 3, 2012

Down Memory Lane

I took a 12-hour trip to Shreveport yesterday. Left home at 10:00 am, got to S'port at 1:00 pm (thanks to 75 MPH speed limit on most of I-49).  Had a very nice lunch with my sister, her boyfriend, and dog Milo. Thanks, Sunni!  My plan was to zip out and buy them a nice lunch somewhere but Sunni informs me that she does not "zip" on Saturdays. OK, no zipping.

My purpose in going to Shreveport was to attend a memorial service for my elementary school and college friend Terri's mom. I hadn't seen Terri in about 30 years, had caught up on Facebook the last couple of years. It was a lovely service, and great to see Terri's family in person after all this time. She had posted pics of her granddaughters on Facebook, and I had the pleasure of cuddling the youngest one for a bit. Nothing like those baby toes!!  Terri hadn't changed from the college years. It was an instant trip on the wayback machine.

Since I was traveling alone with no one but myself to please, I decided to do a drive-by of my childhood homes in Shreveport. While I was in the neighborhood, I also did drive-bys of some of my friends' homes in Shreve Island, sort of as a memory test to see if I still knew where they were. I had visited these places mostly on bicycle; there was a time when I knew every crack in the streets in that part of Shreveport. In my Prius, I couldn't feel the hot wind in my hair, but I found myself leaning in the curves like you do on a bicycle, and I had the feeling that I was 15, on the bicycle again. I went by the place where my friend Ann's sister Judy fell off her bike, broke her arm and jaw. I drove by Ann's old house, Janet's old houses, my childhood homes.  The places were mostly the same, with a few changes in landscaping. The Longleaf house was light gray with dark blue shutters, same trees, though they had pruned the azaleas to a civilized level. We had let them grow 10' tall in front of the living room windows, used them as a privacy screen. I went by the Akard, and Bruce St. houses too. I rode all around the Bruce St. block, the same route I used to bike. There was the Maranto's house, the Love family's house, our old house, minus the redbud trees next to the road. There was my Sunday School teacher's house, the family with the mean boys on the corner who tried to charge a toll for passing their house, Helen Tindall's house, Mrs. McGowen's house, the McClamroch's house, minus all the crabapple trees. Our housekeeper used to send us and her kids to pick the crabapples every summer, then she'd make jars and jars of crabapple jelly. They changed the traffic right of way at the McClamroch's corner. Arthur Circle looked much the same, though they made a driveway and parking where the little kids' playground used to be. Most of the baseball backstops are gone, and there's a new building past the kindergarten building. The live oaks that were just little scrubby things are now large established shade trees. It's been 40 years since I walked across the dewy grass, pounded erasers there. The bike racks are gone. I guess all the kids ride the bus or get dropped off by parents.

There were a series of colorful outdoor metal sculptures on Longleaf. When I first turned into the street from Creswell, I saw several in the Weiner houses' yards. The Weiner family were architects, had started building contemporary styled houses on Longleaf in the 1930s. As I drove down the street, I saw more and more of the colorful abstract structures. I went up the tall hill, turned around in the Hoffmans' driveway, and relived the experience of going down the steep hill on my bike, hitting a speed good enough to make the curve and coast halfway up the longer hill at the other end of the street.

I remember how the houses and streets seemed further apart when I was on my bike, and the effort it took to bike up the hill on Oneonta vs. the hill on Unadilla. The place in the road on Creswell that would pop your bike up, let you coast all the way down to Longleaf at a good speed. The aggravation if a car coming prevented the effortless coasting left turn onto Longleaf, make you brake instead, then pedal to muscle burn to get up the hill.

After making my rounds, I headed out of town about 7pm, got to Lafayette at 10pm. Seemed like I packed a lot of experiences into just one day.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Vignettes of a Tropical Storm

Most of the week, I've been aware of the storm coming. I've had trouble taking it seriously. I worked all day yesterday on a web map that someone created for Irene with feeds from the GOES satellite, weather warnings, precip radar, etc. I added parish structure and services data, finished it just in time for the 4:30 NWS government conference call. Still need to write instructions for people to use it, e-mail them to everyone.

Got up today, and the NWS says the intensity tomorrow will be less than forecasted yesterday. This isn't a typical storm, all spread out and disorganized. Harder to make advance forecasts.

The rain today has been heavy at times, but we haven't had bad wind here. When I look at the GOES satellite picture, I can see the dry air from Texas cutting into the side of TS Lee, coming right up to my house. There are tornado warnings close by, but the storm is completelly quiet here now, except for the increasing humidity.

During lulls in the rain so far, I hoed a pile of leaves that was keeping the driveway from draining into the roadside ditch. I took all the waiting compost buckets on the patio to the compost pile, buried them in the chopped up live oak leaf compost base.

The covered patio is still not hurricane-proofed, we're not taking this storm seriously yet. I noticed the sickly satsuma tree was starting to drop its fruit. I picked a few, reveling in the pure orange smell even though they are still green. I forgot how the skin tears if you don't remember the clippers to cut, not pull them off the stems. They are not sweet yet, but they are ready to eat for those who like sour satsumas.

I've been reading Frances Mayes' "Bella Tuscany", the sequel to "Under the Tuscan Sun". When I read books like that, I start to think I could write. Also, makes me want to have a summer house in Italy.

The pets know a storm is coming - can the cats feel it through their whiskers? Even the carport cats who don't normally come inside are staying close by the door. The neighbor cat Andy has staked out a spot on the top of the garbage can in the dryest corner of the carport.

The college-age daughter is doing her laundry, and painting her nails. She is sitting on a dry spot in the carport, with the 19 bottles of nail polish in a semi-circle before her, arranged in rainbow order. The touchscreen smartphone is in the middle of the arc, so texts can be read and sent easily. She shows me how the crackle layer of nail polish works. She can't paint her nails indoors when I'm home because the smell is too toxic for me to tolerate. She came in to show me her fingers and toes - almost every color of polish was used. She is a walking rainbow.

I opened the heavy drapes to let light into the living room for the first time this summer. Normally, the summer sun heats up the room too much so the drapes stay closed all summer. The diffuse light from the cloudy day makes the room look different to me.

We have our 1st Sunday of the month discussion group in Butte La Rose tomorrow, at the home of friends on the bank of the Atchafalaya River. The weather forecast is for heavy rain, sustained winds of 30-40 MPH, gusts to 50. Do I really want to drive on the elevated bridge over the Henderson Swamp when the wind is blowing like that? I don't think our meeting has ever been canceled in the 8 years it has existed. How hard does the wind have to blow for a Dodge Grand Caravan to be swept off the bridge? The storm is such a non-event today that I don't think anyone else is alarmed about tomorrow. Are we going? What will we bring for the potluck supper? Do I try to make one of the Italian recipes in "Bella Tuscany" to go with the hostess's main dish of spaghetti?

Well, on to the day's chores. Watching the radar - will I get caught in a downpour if I go shopping? How much of the gardening equipment on the patio really needs to be put away before tomorrow? It's hard to concentrate on the mundane when the swirling winds surround us.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Nothing Much

Well, I had some fun on the way to the gym a couple of days ago. Jackson Browne's "Running on Empty" came on the radio. I turned up the sound, the bass & the treble, and started rocking out. The song wasn't over by the time I got to the gym, so I sang along, played air drums and air guitar till it was over.

I did my 2 miles on the treadmill in record time - pumped up by the 70's vibes.

Last night, the air was smoky everywhere due to the marsh fires east of New Orleans. It gave the town a surreal look. I sat in the carport in the evening, waiting for the daughter to return in the car so I could go to the gym. Besides my two carport cats, four other neighborhood cats came over to enjoy my cool carport cement and chill out. Two of the neighborhood cats were recently abandoned by some renters who moved out down the street. Their solution was to simply cross the street, and ask the people there to feed them. They are still trying to figure out their standing in the cat society on the block. Both my official two carport cats are abandoned pets from our block. My daughter's boyfriend arrived while I was communing with the cats, and said that I had absolutely turned into the crazy cat lady of the block.

Today, the movie "Twister" was playing during my treadmill walk. The 40 minutes and 2 miles went by quickly. It was a little surreal to come out of there with tornado images in my head, and see the clouds come rushing in. The weather reports are becoming threatening; current forecasts show the storm in the Gulf coming right our way. As a member of parish government, I might be spending the Labor Day weekend at the courthouse working through the emergency. I guess I'll find out tomorrow; better take a toothbrush with me.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Weekend Roundup

Well, this has been a busy week. So busy, that I can't even remember what happened in the first part of it.

Along about the middle, I ran over Peanut the 17 year old cat. Oh, it's OK, she's all right. But! She was in the driveway when I came back from the gym, and she normally gets up to move as you slowly drive towards her. I guess she thought I was far enough away to miss her because she didn't move.

When I stopped, I noticed the other cats Andy and Jake running towards the back of my car. I opened my door, heard a low, loud, guttural howling. I ran around to see, and there was Peanut trapped by the back wheel. I didn't stop to see what part of her was caught; I ran back around quick as I could, turned the car on, put it in reverse. By the time I got out again, she was limping away.

She went under Ray's truck, and refused to come out, even with some canned food as a motivation. So, I got the broom and pushed on her a little. She didn't like that, but she got up, went close to a rear wheel where I could grab her. I took her into the house, where she sat for a minute, then went under a kitchen chair where she would retract her hind legs every time she'd get a pain. Tippy, our sensitive new-age dog, came to lie close to her.

In a few minutes, she got up and limped around. I couldn't see anything broken or any blood. I guess I just pinched one or both of her legs under the wheel. Once I let her back out, she was happy to eat some canned food, then jumped on the top of Ray's truck cab. She hasn't been lying on the driveway since.

Took me a while to get over the trauma. Now, every time a family member leaves the house in a car, I remind them not to run over any cats, then laugh maniacally.

Stephanie and I went to east Texas yesterday for just the day, to visit with Ray's sister and her husband, and celebrate their granddaughter's birthday. It was a fun day, and we didn't get home till 9:30 pm.

Today, I was supposed to go to Acadian Culture Day at Vermilionville, but I ended up doing my laundry, cleaning bathrooms, doing grocery shopping, and finished the day by installing some additional memory in two of a friend's computers as well as installing her new wireless router. Wish I had another weekend day. Back to work tomorrow, with a slower commute due to the K-12 school year starting.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Oh My Gawd

Well, I started this blog to showcase some pictures of a record-breaking 1" December snowfall, so my friends in Missouri and Canada could mock me. If I had been on Facebook then, I probably would have put the pictures on Facebook and not started the blog.

I just looked over the 10 most recent posts, and boy, are they repetitive. When there's not any snow to take pictures of, the orange trees, hot peppers, and grass are all there is to talk about.

Arrgh! I also noticed I had much more to say in the years I was working part-time at a fairly unchallenging job (2008-2010). Once I had a challenging job, seems like my drive to write had engine trouble.

And I will say right now that my current favorite blog post is the one by The Bloggess about Big Metal Chickens.

So, prepare yourself for the advent of home improvement posts. :: Spoiler Alert:: As soon as our refinance goes through, there will be a new roof for house and workshop, new soffits, painted fascia, and other miscellanea. There may even be some drama, because the electrical wires to the house go across the roof, and they are only a few feet above the roof in spots. Do roofers ever electrocute themselves?

Do blogs self-destruct from boredom? We shall see. My solution to having a soapbox topic in the past was to start a new blog. Now I have four personal ones, plus one for work. The travel blog was done for some Canadian guests, but never updated. I don't remember what set me off about the childbirth blog. I started a blog to vent my frustrations with my GIS project, just remembered it.

Anyway, the Lafayette Backyard blog has about outlived its usefulness, needs to be repurposed or get a new theme. Anyone, anyone?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Biggest Harvest: Volunteer Butternut Squash

This has been a strange year. We had nice weather till about mid-May, when it turned into oven-hot. The grass was crispy, the irrigation water bill was high. Now, in July, it's cooler due to the daily rains than it was in all of dry hot June. It started raining about mid-July.

Many of the citrus trees have set lots of fruit, and we did get some figs preserved. The dry weather was hard on the figs, even though we watered the tree.

Our big surprise - the compost pile sprouted out with acorn and butternut squash. The butternut squash are smaller than you get in the store, but they're very good. The vines are still going strong - usually, either a borer or a powdery mildew kill them. The okra is getting a slow start due to the drought, but the hot peppers are doing great.

We are trying to think of more things to do with squash. Ray had bought some very hot chicken wings by accident, so he steamed the squash in small slices, peeled it, and mixed in the chopped up hot wings. I think it also had some sauteed sweet onions. Anyway, the sweet/hot mix made a very tasty dish, even better when topped with chopped toasted almonds for crunch. One good thing about the winter squash is that it holds very well on the vine, as well as after harvest. We might get a couple of tomatoes, and also an eggplant or two that Ray planted as an afterthought.

One thing we didn't do before hot weather was to prune the azaleas, and cut down the oak and pecan trees that are growing on the fence line. They are taking over the yard, so I think I will prune them hard, as soon as I can, even though it means I won't get any blooms next spring.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Blog almost as neglected as the garden

Well, I guess I need to finally harvest the basil since it's the end of November. It got a little frosted Friday night. It got a late start, and we had 80 degree weather as recently as Thursday, so I was trying to nurse it along.

The kumquats are making the trees bend over. They look like lots of orange Christmas ornaments. They are a blessing and a curse - what can you do with all those kumquats? They turn brown when made into marmalade, which tastes good if you are brave enough to eat it. All our cabinets are full of kumquats floating in various kinds of alcohol; rum, tequila, brandy, etc.

I'm going to get the electric dehydrator out, see if I can dry the sliced kumquats, then candy them. Seeding and running them through a food processor makes a nice slurry to put in the freezer; mixes well with condensed milk for a decadent orange-flavored frosting, or mixed with whipped cream, or a cheesecake recipe.

Our Louisiana Sweets orange has a nice load of fruit to match the kumquat trees. We have a few satsumas, but no Meyer lemons at all. I hope to get a few lemons from my neighbor across the street.

My roses, as well as those all over town, love the hot/cool weather. The cooler weather makes everything bloom. And my dwarf blueberry plant thinks it's spring - it just put out lots of pink blooms. If we have some more warm weather, maybe I'll have a dozen blueberries for Christmas.

Still have some green tomatoes on the vine, but doubt if it will be warm enough for them to ripen. We planted tomatoes in March this year, but it was too late. It got too hot for them to set fruit. We'll put them in earlier next year.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Arctic Blast

They're saying it hasn't been this cold since 1996. We were in Missouri at the time, missed it.

We harvested all the oranges, Meyer lemons, and calamondins last night. The oranges fill up a pretty big Igloo cooler. The kumquat tree is close to the house, so we left those till Wednesday. The really big freeze will be Thursday night through Sunday.

The pets have been staying indoors at night - Jasper the cat wakes up promptly at 5:15 to be let out. Tippy the dog must be forced out for a potty break.

The Meyer lemon tree already looks like it has some cold damage to the top - guess we will have to prune it back pretty hard when this cold is over.

The scheffleras that are between the patio and the house are OK so far; we'll see how they do later. Gotta find all my plant blankets and sheets out in the shed.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Cooler now

First really cool nights - the citrus harvest is about half over. Two of the satsuma trees have been completely harvested. We have one more satsuma, the Louisiana Sweets orange, the calamondin and the kumquat left to go. The Meyer lemon is loaded this year - I like to wait till the fruits turn orange but I might have to get busy making marmalade soon. Many of the fruits are touching or almost touching the ground and need to be harvested.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Too Hot and Boring to Post

Our first cool front came through yesterday - the highs are in the 80's instead of the 90's. We have started picking fruit from the smallest satsuma tree. The fruit is small; each one is a bite or two. The tree has had some damage; we'll probably cut it down after we eat all the satsumas. That will still leave two satsuma trees, one Meyer lemon, a calamondin, kumquat, blood orange, and Louisiana Sweets orange.

We've had plenty of rain lately, and the doughnut peach trees in the front yard have had growth spurts. We still are probably a couple of years away from any fruit on those trees, though.

The yard is full of those Creole peas that we got from our neighbor. They've even colonized my potted schefflera on the patio.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Pepper Jelly This Weekend

Well, the heat index is too high to mow the grass, so that means it's time to make pepper jelly.

We have Tabasco peppers that are small and hard to seed; they make a nice jelly. But - Ray is still in Canada, not here to seed them for me. He wears gloves when he does it, but the oil can go through the gloves.

We also have some Naga Jolokia peppers, which are supposed to be the hottest in the world. I am a little afraid of them. I need to find my HazMat gear (face mask, eye protection goggles, heavy-duty rubber gloves) before I can work with them. I made pepper jelly out of some a few years ago; the jelly was VERY hot and needed to be cut with some cayenne pepper jelly to cool enough to eat. Ray popped a tiny sliver of a fresh one in his mouth; turned pale and started to sweat. He was unable to talk for a few minutes.

The plants are drooping a little now, so I'll water them then see about making jelly a little later.

Friday, July 17, 2009

More Rain

No more mowing happened since Monday, but we got sprinkles of rain, plus the 2-4 inches that fell today.

The grass is luxuriant. I'm going to raise the wheels of the mower, see if I can't get the rest mowed this weekend.

I made some fresh pesto last night. I think pesto is the perfect flavor. I had bowtie pasta and pesto for both supper last night and lunch today. I don't know why everybody doesn't love it like I do. Oh well, more for me.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Triumph Over Grass!

I got the front yard mowed today. Yay! I think Ray has put the wheels 'way too low - the mower is very hard to push. Now I have to do the side and back yards. They have more obstacles so it's slow to get it done.

I harvested some okra today- going to chop and freeze them. There are not really enough to cook yet but the plants are going to town with flowers and new okras since the rain.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

It Keeps Growing, and Growing...

The grass was too wet to mow earlier this morning, then the heat index was too high for me later.

I'm hoping tomorrow morning will be the charm.

The yard was fairly static till the rain we've had this week. After the big one on Tuesday early morning, we've had a couple of light rains.

I'm also planning to make pepper jelly tomorrow. Stephanie will have her driving test, and maybe get her license if there's time.

I have harvested a couple of volunteer canteloupes from the garden. They are very ripe and juicy, but not very sweet. We will eat them anyway.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

More Rain!

Everybody in this area woke up about 3:30 am when some huge thunderstorms came through. It was loud until dawn. Our area got between 3.5 and 5 inches, and some parts of Acadia Parish got as much as 10 inches.

Lafayette was almost 6 inches below the normal rainfall for June, so this might serve to catch us up a little.

This is the first day in a long time that we don't have to irrigate the fruit trees and other crops.

Now the grass needs to dry so I can mow it.