July 11, 2008

Normally, we try to go by "live and let live," but the thought of coming face to face with a snake of this size while gathering eggs under the porch was not very settling, so Harper killed it. It was already hurt, and I figured it had probably been run over, but it had puncture wounds that most likely came from an owl or hawk. I call this kind of snake a rat snake, because I have found two of them before (one in this garage and one in our previous garage), and they were both in the process of eating a rat.

 

July 18, 2008    Chickens and watermelon on a Friday night--what more could I ask for?

We met some friends for a late dinner on Friday, and we all busted up laughing when I told them what I had been doing before the sun went down. They would have really laughed if they had seen me drop the 20+ lb melon on our utility room floor. I usually pride myself on being able to lift heavy objects, but pride has a way of biting--or in my case, exploding on impact. Luckily, quite a bit of the massive fruit was salvageable, so Harper and I were able to enjoy the sweet treat from the Friedel family garden. We also discovered that Sargent LOVES watermelon. After the fruit was devoured, he quickly lapped up at least a cup of the remaining juice.

Since we don't have kids and have become the childless weirdoes with pets, here are some more pictures of a spoiled pet getting a treat.

 

July 20, 2008

When I lived in Austin, I loved going to the little community grocery stores and co-ops for local and healthier options instead of always having to fight the crowds at one of the massive markets (even though I sometimes miss them, too...). Now that buying local foods has become more popular, it's easier to find some of those options around Brenham. There are a couple of farmers' markets that we visit, and these photos are from the monthly market at Home Sweet Farm. We were bummed that the man who sells lamb wasn't there, because we bought it last time, and it was delicious. (I never thought I liked lamb, but realized that I couldn't remember when I had eaten it or how it had been prepared. Harper grilled it perfectly--anyway, we'll try again later.) We did arrive in time to get some fresh local goat cheese from a very cool couple that recently started a little farm in the Waller area. We also bought a few musky melons to try on the grill.

 

 

The guest room is SO close to being finished! Last fall I was still working in there after school started, but my cat, that I'd had since college, became sick, and she was staying in there. There was still quite a bit of sanding that needed to be done, and that would have been impossible to do with her in there. After she passed away, I guess I avoided going in there--which was easy since I was busier with school. Now that I've had some time, I've been back to work. Below is the last window that needs work. It has some water damage, so it needs more scraping and sanding than the other three windows did.

 

After turning some of the electricity off, Harper replaced the old beige outlets with white ones. There were a couple in our room that had never been switched out, so he took care of those, too.

 

July 21, 2008

The porch still needs some paint, but most of it has at least one coat. The rails on the left still need their first coat of white. Despite our dry summer, and thanks to our high water bill, most of my plants are thriving. I am really anxious to install as many rain barrels as possible, because I always feel a little guilty for using all that tap water on plants. I wonder where the old water well was for this house; I know some of the old properties around here still have working wells...

I love ferns, and I always try to acquire unusual varieties when I can find them. Above is a Whitmanii Fern (or Lace or Feather Fern) that I bought when I worked at Glasco's. I have divided it several times, and it is one of my favorites.

I've said this before, but some of my most striking plants are ones that have been shared by other gardeners. Below is an unusual striped canna; I believe it is a Cleopatra Canna. I can't wait to see the blooms!

 

They are so perfect! Now if they would just ripen... I have quite a few tomatoes with fruit, but they are taking forever to ripen. There really is not enough sun in any of my existing beds, so until I set up a real garden in the back lot, I'm afraid my edible garden will be anemic.

The colors of the plumbago (above) and the orange star esperanza (below) are so georgeous! They grow easily in our intense summer, and they bloom constantly; they make me smile every time I see them! The more golden part of the esperanza is the same color as our living room.

 

If it's not the chickens or Sargent, it's one of the curious cats--they are always trying to figure out what I'm doing when I have my camera. Matt Damon came up for a closer look when I had my lens set on macro.

Above is bromeliad that is starting to bloom. I found it for $1.98 in the indoor-plant area at Home Depot this spring. Below is a Raspberry Ginger I bought from a local backyard nursery that specializes in tropical plants. It started blooming about a week after I bought it, so the timing was perfect. It was a little expensive but worth the splurge since I haven't seen one like it before. It will be a fun one to share once it is more established.

 

July 26, 2008

This is probably a little crude, so feel free to skip over it; in my defense, I teach junior high kids, so I have to have a sense of humor about this kind of thing... The other morning when I was taking pictures, I noticed that Matt Damon (one of our cats) was up on the porch rail. How cute--he'll be in the pictures. But he occasionally has a disgusting habit, and I caught it on camera. You know--when a dog (or funky cat, in this case) drags its booty on the ground... Well, there is a term for that sport. Let me back up to the junior high teaching again: Last year, I was trying to get the students to realize how many words there are to use instead of "go/went" in their writing, so we had a contest to see which group could come up with the most words that are more specific to give the reader a mental picture of what the character is doing (ex: stumbled, pranced, etc...). Well, I learned something new that day; the term for the action seen below: "butt-surfing." So, instead of "Matt Damon went down the porch rail," it should be, "Matt Damon butt-surfed down the porch rail." (And you thought your kids weren't learning anything at school!) The rail has since been cleaned.

 

July 28, 2008

I can imagine some cheesy headlines involving derailment, but I'll resist and try to stick to the facts:  At 7:30ish, Harper went to fill my Tahoe up and heard from the gas station attendant that a train had derailed close to downtown. After picking me up, we did what the cops/firemen were probably hoping people would not do... But a derailed train is an unusual sight--despite the countless efforts (pennies, earrings, pebbles, and anything else that might look cool when mashed...) of all the kids that have ever lived within walking distance of a train (except me, Mom!), so we had to check it out. Apparently, it happened around 6:00, when Harper was reading the latest Texas Monthly, and I was doing something important (like crushing tortilla chips for the chickens). I'm not sure how we didn't hear/feel 24 cars derailing since our house is about half a mile from the tracks, but we didn't. The good news is that no one was hurt and, supposedly, the toxic waste did not spill. There were tons of people at the park and driving around to see it, so there was a bit of a traffic jam--for Brenham, anyway!

Above: The bridge over MLK; Ace Hardware/Brookshire Brothers is on the left side of the street, and the old city pool is just below the hill on the right. The picture is taken from the intersection of MLK and Park.

Below: Between B & L Tires and Brookshire Bros.

I didn't realize when I was taking this picture at the intersection of Main (or Vulcan) and Park, that the wheels/axel had actually landed on the RR x-ing arm. Axels were scattered everywhere along the tracks, but they did not roll far; I guess they just weigh too much. The concrete and asphalt at the downtown intersections looks like it has been jack-hammered, which looks like it is from the impact further down the tracks. It really is amazing that no one was hurt.

 


 

July 30, 2008

Our taste buds were busy on Sunday: Harper started barbequing as soon as we got home from church, and I made my two favorite summer treats. After brining the chicken overnights, Harper used his blend of dry rub on the meat. He also seasoned a small brisket and a rack of ribs (he was practicing for another cook-off he and Dwight are entering in a couple of weeks). Meanwhile, I cut some fresh garden herbs to make ginger & lemon verbena ice ream and a rosemary/lemon drink base. Usually I just take pictures, but I'm including the recipes for Haley and Alisa, because you HAVE to try them. They are both so refreshing, and they just taste like summer...

The first time I experienced these tastes of heaven was at a garden club party at Melissa Flower's home a few years ago. I have been wanting to make them ever since then, but 1) I didn't have an ice cream maker, and 2) for some reason, lemon verbena became impossible to find at the garden centers. But at the beginning of this summer, I was determined. I started checking at the garden centers for lemon verbena as soon as herbs were available. I had all the nurseries (the ones that are locally owned and will special order) trying to get lemon verbena, but none of the growers had it. I had almost lost hope, when Melissa had the garden club meeting at her house. I was going to ask her for a cutting, so I could start my own, but luckily, her husband (who is the head horticulturist at Festival Hill) had greenhouse extras from their extensive herb collection, so I became the proud parent of a 4" lemon verbena. After a couple of weeks of sun and fish emulsion fertilizer, I was ready to harvest. I borrowed my mom's ice cream maker and made my first batch of the frozen treat. It was even better than I had remembered! Since then, my mom bought me the ice cream bowl/attachment for my Kitchen Aide mixer, and Sunday was my first time to try it out.

Before I give the recipes, I have to make a disclaimer: I am not an exact measurement (or even ingredient) kind of person. I use what I have, and if I can avoid going to the grocery store, I will get really creative with the substitutions. I have made both of these recipes with various changes, and they always turn out great. The most important part of each recipe is the herbs. The rosemary and the lemon verbena are the magic ingredients (and I really love the ginger, too...). Also, I've had several friends who dislike rosemary that have still loved the drink, so don't be afraid to try it.

 

Lemon Verbena /Ginger Ice Cream

 

2 C whole milk

4 ¼” slices fresh ginger (approx)

1 C moderately packed fresh lemon verbena leaves

1 C plus 2 T sugar

2 C sour cream

2 T fresh lemon juice

1/8 t salt

 

1.  Milk.  Bring milk to simmer over med. heat in saucepan.  Add ginger, remove from heat.  Let steep and cool uncovered.

2.  Lemon Verbena.  In food processor, process lemon verbena leaves with sugar until finely ground, about 1 minute.  Stir into cooled milk to dissolve sugar and then strain through fine sieve.  Refrigerate ‘til chilled.

3.  Finishing.  Whisk sour cream in mixing bowl to smooth it out.  Gradually whisk in lemon verbena mixture, then the lemon juice and salt.  Immediately freeze in ice cream freezer according to directions.  Best served softened.

I like to garnish it with fresh strawberries or blueberries.


Rosemary Fizz (or whatever you want to call it...)

 

 Base:

10 C water

5 C sugar

12 10" pieces rosemary _____bring to boil; simmer 15 minutes; let cool

 

Mix with:

4 cans frozen lemonade concentrate

2 2/3 C fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 large cans pineapple juice

 

To serve, mix equal parts base with sprite or ginger ale. For alcoholic version, part ginger ale, part dry white wine and/or good gold tequila.

*I half this recipe, and it still makes about a gallon (which lasts me several weeks), so I would only make the full recipe for a party. Also, for the alcoholic version, I go easy (or without) the wine, but the tequila blends so perfectly with the rosemary and lemon. Mmmmm...


 

Above is a cool/random mushroom. Below is pictures from my other Sunday afternoon project: the bed that will go in the guest bedroom. It was stored for decades in an old building that used to be a general store in Independence, Texas. The building was later used as a hay barn, but after many years of non-use, Harper's Dad and his family sold it in 2006. Knowing my love for junk--I mean antiques--Harper's mom had taken me out there to see if there was anything worth salvaging before it was sold. Ignoring the creaking/rotten floor boards, we had crawled into dust (and critter poop) covered time capsule. Some of the pieces had severe termite damage, but a lot of it was just dirty or needing a little TLC. I wish I had pictures of the place, but that was before I was blogging, and I wasn't as diligent about taking pictures. There were several beautiful old beds, but I knew this one would be perfect for the guest bedroom. Many beds of this style have a place for a mirror in the headboard, but this one also has an opening in the footboard. I love the carving--it's simple and beautiful and not too ornate. I guess I like the kind of antiques that make you want to use them, not afraid to use them. It's all about the character--not perfection!

Above: before cleaning; below: after two rounds of cleaning

Below: Bringing back the warmth/richness of the finish w/mineral oil and beeswax

 


 

I love to witness Sargent's little adventures. I had my camera out to take the "before" pictures of the bed, and he was doing his thing.