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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Mad About Valentines

I have a twitter pal who shares a love for the show Mad Men with me (you know who you are, Sassy!). She had already seen most of it before me, as I have just marathoned five seasons in the past few months on Netflx. I have had so much fun discussing the episodes and characters with her as I get caught up! I'm one disc away from being up-to-date and dreading having to wait a week between episodes when Season Six begins in April.

I got a little silly and creative this afternoon and designed some Mad Men Valentines for her. I used photos of our favorite bad boy, Don Draper, and added references to some of the ad slogans from the show.

I simply couldn't wait to share them until Thursday, so I posted them to her on Twitter first. Here they are now for the rest of the world. You probably won't "get" them if you haven't seen the show.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Household Stuff

I'm pleased with this idea I got from Pinterest this week:


 I've had a vacuum sealer for years, but have made little use of it, other than to seal bags of meat or leftovers for freezing. I have the jar sealing attachment and have probably never used it before.
Romaine lettuce is cheap at Costco, but the packages contain 6 large heads and by the time we get to the last 2 it's almost always turning brown.

This leads me to another subject: my garden. I built a couple of wooden raised planters last year and placed them just outside my fence. I extended some irrigation tubing from the risers out there and planned to grow larger plants that take up too much space in my other vegetable beds, like pumpkins and zucchini. Within days the squirrels had eaten my plants and I gave up. Squirrels aren't usually a problem inside the fence, as my schnauzers tend to murder, mutilate, and or eat any that get inside the yard in hope of grabbing a few bird seeds.

After our trip to New Zealand, I was inspired to get my garden into better shape. I hated seeing those wooden boxes that I spent money and sweat on go to waste, so I devised a squirrel-proofing plan. Here is what I came up with. It took me 2 afternoons to build, without a plan. Yup, I just improvised with a staple gun and some cable ties. CABLE TIES FTW!

I can lift the entire cover off in one piece, weed, fertilize or harvest, and then replace it.   I planted cool weather crops for now, lettuces, bok choy, kohlrabi, and chard. It's been a whole week and nothing has nibbled at my plants and the covers are staying put. Our guinea pig will have fresh leaves every day and when my lettuces grow big I can keep them fresh in vacuumed jars!

In order to keep track of all the various goodies I've planted, I simply took pictures of each bed and labeled them with Skitch. It's my first practical use of the service. If you don't know what Skitch is, you can check it out here: Skitch from Evernote
Skitch is a free app from Evernote (also free) which you can use with your iPad, Mac or PC to draw on your photos or annotate files. I can open the files from any device and they are synced into my Evernote notebook! Here is an example of one of my planters, after Skitching:

I can continue to annotate the file with fertilization, pests or harvest notes. I also took pictures of the informational signs at the nursery when I bought the plants. Into the Evernote Garden Notebook they go! Then I can refer back to this information later. This one is especially handy for me, because I'd never heard of this lettuce before!

So my outside-the-fence garden is doing well but inside my fence is another story! A couple of weeks ago I spent a day gardening in the rain. I weeded my planters. I turned the soil, I laid out new weedcloth. I gingerly planted tender young cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbages, kale, sweet peas, carrots and asparagus. It was HARD work.
Me and a couple of hoes in the rain.
It rained for 3 days. On the 4th day I went out to inspect my veggies, knowing they'd be happy after the long gentle soaking rain. WHAT? Something had been nibbling the leaves! I blamed slugs, even though I didn't see any. What else could it have been in the rain? So I treated the area with Sluggo for organic gardens. 
Just one week later, this was all that was left of my hard work. 
Mostly stems. :-(
 I've never had this kind of trouble inside the fence before. It's obviously not slugs. Today I found a couple of baby plants laying on the concrete outside the planter. Grrr... perhaps it's a raccoon, skunk or opossum. The dogs keep the yard patrolled during the day, and rabbits and gophers can't reach them. My next big project will be to devise some sort of mesh covering for these. Yeah, right, when I have time...(i never have time)

By the way, when I was digging in one of my vegetable beds I unearthed several of these. They are tomato hornworm pupae. Remind me to plant my tomatoes in a different bed this summer!

Finally, I'll just say a few words about hummingbird feeders. I have four of them. At certain times of the year they need refilling almost daily. I see many people filling their feeders with that red mixture that you can buy in stores. Please DO NOT use that stuff! It's more expensive, and the birds certainly don't need artificial dye. They will see the red on your feeder and investigate.

All you need to put in your hummingbird feeder is sugar water. Mix 1 part sugar with 4 parts water. That's all. Many people boil the water, dissolve the sugar, and let it cool. I just use hot tap water.  Stock up on regular granulated sugar when it goes on sale, usually just before holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.

Clean your feeders EVERY time you refill them. Use a tiny brush to get the mold and dirt out of the little feeder holes, and use a bottle brush to clean inside. Use HOT water and a little vinegar or household bleach if you've accidentally left them to get moldy. Be sure to rinse very thoroughly.

With a regularly stocked supply of nectar, we get 5 species of hummers in our yard here in Southern California: Anna's Black-chinned, Costa's, Allen's and Rufous. The latter two are seen in migration, and the first three nest here. We've had tiny nests in our yard and they are amazing.