Monday, June 29, 2009

Got Milk?

Okay, new tomato plant theory in the paper yesterday. The subject was yellowing leaves and underproduction, which is something some of my plants are struggling with. The answer was to feed the plants calcium. The columnist recommended using eggshells; just grind them up, sprinkle around the base of the plant, then water well.

I didn't have any eggshells yesterday, so I took a pint of milk, added water, and gave my tomato plants a good swig each. Today I baked cookies and made stir-fried rice, so I had about four jumbo-sized eggshells. I blended them in the blender (on "grind"), added water, then watered the plants with my concoction. I will be very interested to see what comes of this little experiment. I know for a fact that my snail population will lower dramatically; they hate crawling over eggshells.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

What Happens In Vegas...

Road Trip!!! A week in Las Vegas; a partyer's dream, right? Well, I'm no partyer :o) And I traveled with the gal who co-leads my prayer group with me at church as well as my almost 12-year-old son. We were definitely going to be avoiding the seedy side of Vegas!

So, what was there to do? A short list:
  • Visit to the Museum of Atomic Testing (VERY cool and very well done)
  • Visit to World of Coke, where we sampled 16 different beverages Coca Cola sells around the world. They were mostly awful.
  • Rock climbing and hiking at Red Rock, which was wonderful. What a great park.
  • Field trip to Blackjack's in Pahrump, home of the year-round fireworks store. My son died and went to heaven there, and left with two heaping shopping bags of explosives.
  • Buffet meal at a casino.
  • An evening magic show billed as "for the family" which was actually PG-13. Run-down hotel; magician who was past his prime; I guess we did find the seedy side of Vegas after all!
  • Tour of Hoover Dam (interesting historically, but not much to really "see").
  • Visits to various name-brand hotels and casinos to get a look around. We saw the MGM lion, the amazing glass sculptures and dancing waters of Bellagio, and the outdoor evening light show at the older end of the strip.
Yes, I tried out some slot machines and lost every nickel I put in, so I learned to avoid them. The casinos are full of smokers and my eyes teared up too much to do much good anyway.

And for a pioneer-good-time... the air compressor in my car failed, requiring us to drive back to southern CA without any A/C. Now THERE was some fun! In Baker the biggest thermometer in the world registered 99 degrees, which didn't thrill us. We did stop at Peggy Sue's Diner for some ice cream. What a cute place! It's chock-full of movie memorabilia and is absolutely worth the stop. The diner is just north of Barstow, so you can hit it coming and going from Vegas.

We actually did live the pioneer life to a certain extent while in Vegas. We had a condo with a full kitchen, so we ate some meals (including every breakfast) in the room, saving money. My son got a children's pizza one night at the Cheesecake Factory and ended up eating it for two more meals; that was a nice money saver. We brought home leftovers from our meals and ate them for lunch, which I love to do. I already know I like the food and it saves me a few bucks!

Souveniers were few -- I have no need for most of the junk they sell in the shops there, and anything of quality is also available right here at home. All the same chain stores exist. We did bring home the tasting list from World of Coke. One of my least favorite flavors there came from China and was called "Smart Watermelon". It tasted like I was drinking gum. India's mint-flavored soda was another pee-yuuuu flavor. My son called it "sugary mouthwash", LOL!

It was really, really fun to go to a place known for excess and find a way to make it work for the type of lifestyle we like to live. If I were to go again (minus my son) I might try to find a way into the Bette Midler show -- maybe with discount coupons!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Container Cucumbers

One thing we love at our house is cucumbers. Steve loves them plain with a little salt, while hubby and I like them with a cut up tomato in a little vinaigrette. What we don't have a lot of is space, so containers are the way to go:

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Great Container Challenge

I have read a TON of information about growing crops in small spaces. Almost every article I've read has touted the effectiveness of containers and how economical they are with regard to space.

Okay. I do have some containers on my potting bench and around the patio. They work well for small things, like one or two cucumber plants or a strawberry plant. I wondered how well containers would work for something big, like a tomato plant.

The new hydroponic upside-down tomato growers are cool, but we took down our patio roof due to termites, so there's nothing from which to hang the pots. Containers it would have to be. Ceramic pots were cost-prohibitive, and even the bigger plastic pots got kind of pricey. I went to OSH and bought $5 buckets, drilled holes in the bottom, and filled them with my vermicomposted dirt. Then I planted a tomato plant in each one, while planting other tomato plants in the ground nearby.

Here are the results. The first picture is two of the tomato plants in their individual pots. This picture was taken about two weeks ago; since then, the smaller plant has caught up and they're both about the same size. Both have some flowers, and are starting to fruit just a little.

Next up, the ground dwellers:
These are actually two tomato plants together. (You can see a cucumber creeping into the picture as well as the remains of the onions, which the cat likes to nap on.) There's a huge difference in size, color... everything. The only thing that is about the same is that both the ground-dwellers and the containers have few flowers and few fruits.

In the OC Register this morning there was an article about using nitrogen-based fertilizers. The main point was that the nitrogen really encourages color and leaf growth, but that all the plant's energy goes toward that and not toward fruit/vegetable production. That certainly seems to be the case with my tomatoes.

I'm giving the plants the benefit of the doubt. I've certainly fed them a ton of nitrogen (since I've been using the tadpole water as fertilizer), and maybe I haven't really helped them as much as I'd hoped.

Stay tuned for more fun from the tomato files. I'm really interested in finding out which group will provide the better fruit!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Pioneer Diet

I just took an on-line quiz to find out the type of diet I should take. It's based on my blood type, so I know it's configured just for me (and the millions of other people with my same blood type). I'm O negative, so I thought that maybe the diet would be tooled more specifically, but it was just for all O's. Here are the results:

Diet Profile : High Protein: Meat eaters.

Allowed : Meat fish, vegetables, fruit.

Limited : Grains, beans, legumes.

Food to avoid for Weight Loss purpose : Wheat, corn, kidney beans, navy beans, lentils, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, mustard greens.

Food that help with Weight Loss : Kelp, seafood, salt, liver, red meat, kale, spinach, broccoli.

Enlightening. I do like meat, but I've been trying to limit it a bit more (my triglycerides are running a little high). I love beans, especially with cut-up onion and a dollop of sour cream (like the black beans at Rubio's -- LOVE them). Everything on the "avoid" list is on my "YUMMY" list (except mustard greens). I eat all those foods and really enjoy them.

The "help" foods are okay. I'm surprised to find salt there, especially since I spent two weeks tracking every bite I ate to make sure my salt intake was lower (which worked; I lowered my blood pressure by 20 points without meds). I like spinach, especially when it's lightly sauteed with crisp bacon and a little garlic. How dietetic is that?

I wonder if the pioneers ever wondered about the food they ate or if they were just darn glad to have it. I've got a huge suspicion that they were more concerned with getting enough to eat as opposed to worrying if they were eating too much. All their manual labor likely wiped any excess fat from their arteries quite nicely.

To look as slender (okay "gaunt") as a pioneer, I'm going to need to up the exercise. It won't matter if I'm eating a block of cheese a day if I can move enough to burn the calories. Sitting here at my computer is burning very little of the bag of Munchos I ate earlier today (curiously, potato chips are not on my list of foods to avoid; they must be okay because they're salty).

At least the beans I've just planted are the pole variety instead of the kind that gets dried. I'll bet the calories from most beans comes from the juices/fluids used in packing them in cans. I always drain and rinse mine, which removes at least a layer of salt and preservatives.

In the meantime, I'll continue to limit my grains. I sure do love them, though, especially when they're deep-fried and rolled in sugar! With bacon on the side.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Deals, Deals, Deals!

Bookman II, a local used bookstore, is closing one of its locations (the one right by me, darn it). I've been getting emails about their liquidation and finally stopped over yesterday. Oh. My. Goodness. What a tremendous bounty! While I'm sorry that the economy is such that the owners have to shut their doors, it did translate into some amazing deals.

One book that I pounced upon was a small science workbook designed for 7th graders. Written in 1942, it's old-looking, but in great shape. I read through it and really like the way it's laid out -- I think it will be perfect for Steve for the fall. I'd planned to put him in a life science class at a local co-op, but he's not crazy about taking another class outside the home (I've already enrolled him in a writing class). Decisions, decisions. The workbook would enable him to be more self-directed, which he likes, and do a lot of research, which he also likes. Something to consider... we have all summer, which is nice.

Anyway, we found two good-sized stacks of books, some hardbound, for a total of $20! There was a customer ahead of us trying to get a book for $3 that had originally cost $125 and was marked down to $9. We listened to him harangue the clerk, who then called over her mother, the owner of the store. The woman listened as the man (now very polite and charming) asked if there was a way to find a price between $3 and $9. She said, "We'll just keep the book." He persisted, but she was firm. "We'll keep the book."

The kids and I talked about the scenario in the car on the way home. We all agreed that there is nothing wrong with trying to get a better price; the man's problem was that he didn't know when to quit, and he wasn't dealing with the person with the final say. Also, he turned on the charm too late -- the woman was NOT amused that the man had given her daughter a hard time. However, she stayed professional, which I appreciated.

Our economy means that many businesses are closing their doors. It's sad... but it also creates some bargains as the shops clean out their inventory. I told my boys that it makes good economic sense to purchase, if we have the money and it's what we need. It does not make good moral sense to kick people when they're down. Trying to skim a few more dollars off an already great deal was not a good choice for that customer.

That said, one of the books I picked up was a brand-new book that wasn't marked down significantly. I would have paid $5 for that book alone, so I made the choice to put it back. I know my budget, and I know what I can afford. The hard part is sticking to it!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


This is huge! Skipper-the-bullfrog just ate his first live fly. We are so darn proud of our little guy [pause here so I can wipe a tear from my eye]

In the last two weeks we had HUGE changes in our tadpoles. Gilligan all of a sudden matured into a real frog... then died. Not sure what happened there, as he seems to have drowned. Skipper survived and just today absorbed the last of his tail. He can still swim, and actually prefers the water. Clearly we got two different species.

However, Skipper hasn't eaten in about a week and I thought he might be grieving for Gilligan. I've tempted him with every known frog food I could find, even going to the grocery store and fishing around under the lettuce for the leftover slimy bits to bring home. Skipper's got diced squid, bloodworms, and something called "tadpole bites" in there too. Nothing. No poop, either, which really made me nervous. What do you give a constipated frog?

Then, tonight, a lazy fly landed on me. I caught it, and deposited it in the tank. Skipper sensed it and stalked his prey. I think he just needed something live, so now we'll be visiting the pet store for tiny crickets, or hanging around the compost pile for some nice, juicy fruit flies.

Skipper is about the size of the end of my thumb. If he's a bullfrog, he's got a LOT more growing to go.

I'm Going Crazy!

It's the end of the home-schooling year (we are traditional schoolers). That means organizing grades, end-of-year events, and just the general happy malaise that comes with the end of a term.

At the same time, my hairclip business is booming, which keeps me really, really busy. Yes, the irony of selling a gilded, beaded hairclip while encouraging my compost pile has not escaped me :o) However, I have never claimed to be an earth girl; I LOVE my bling! (And make-up)

So... to bring you up to date: the peas are completely out and the beans are in. They shot up within days of planting the seeds, which was very encouraging. The cucumbers are all doing well, too. I've taken pictures of some of the more interesting items in the garden, but have misplaced my camera, darn it.

My big experiment, "Containers Vs. Ground" has really been eye-opening for me. Once I find my camera, I'll post some pictures and show you the excitement and drama that has been occuring in my little patch of heaven!