Monday, April 30, 2012

Swarm

There is a reason for the paucity of posts of late - we were preparing for and going on a pseudo-vacation. I say "pseudo" because poor JP was stuck in conferences all day and didn't get to play as much as the girls and I did. This is one of those times when Cyber School is really great: we packed up our lessons and took them along. We did some on the road, and some in our Hotel room...easy peasy.

Now we have returned, and are trying to return to some semblance of normalcy at home. The dogs were happy to see us, and we had been missing them.  They fell asleep almost as soon as we got home, and slept most of the day today, breaking to eat very little. I think they got worn out playing with all the dogs at Pandemonia Acres, where they stayed.

We were in Williamsburg, VA, and stayed at The Great Wolf Lodge.  They not only have an indoor water park there, but 4 floors of an interactive video game called "MagiQuest". We spent our days doing lessons in a hurry, playing in the water park, playing the game, and reading in our room. In the evenings, we went out for dinner, walked through an Outlet Mall (and found Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream), walked through Colonial Williamsburg (and found Haagen Dazs Ice Cream), and inadvertantly crashed a prom.


Obligatory Colonial Williamsburg pictures in the stocks...


On our way home, we stopped at the Frontier Museum in Staunton, VA, which is a favorite for all of us. They now rent electric golf carts to tour the grounds in. JP was thrilled to drive us around, and it allowed us to spend our time seeing ALL the exhibits, instead of walking to a few of the best ones before leaving.  Isn't it just GORGEOUS there? (This is the 1800's American farm.)


JP and the girls in the golf cart.


JP creeping through the tiny door in a house in the West Africa Igbo Village.


The gentlemen at the German farm, who always plays the Scheitholt for us.


A handsome cockerel at the German farm.


After our return home, we picked up all our random animals from my parents house: a goldfish and tadpole that the girls adopted the week before from a local nursery, and 3 dozen peeps.


These girls are Barred Plymouth Rocks, and should grow into handsome hens in a few weeks! (Picture courtesy of Wikipedia.)


Today we noticed bees swarming in great numbers around my perenniel garden.  (Click on the picture for a better view.)


They eventually settled on my Harry Lauder Walking Stick tree.


We called the Bee Man, who came out tonight to see if he could catch them.  They mysteriously disappeared while we weren't looking, but stayed several hours, clustered on my little bent tree.

My Father turns 70 tomorrow, so we took my parents out for dinner tonight. We came home for ice cream and pie made from the last of the sour cherries that I picked a year and a half ago.

Bzzzzzzy, bzzzzzy, bzzzzzy around here

Monday, April 23, 2012

Follow Up

Not a bit of snow came down today, although the rain looked a bit thick for a while this morning.  Frequently the bad weather goes all the way around our little corner of the state.  I ofter wonder, while looking at the radar maps, what Geological oddity exists here to make the weather avoid us??

We actually had a pretty good day!  We took a couple of hours off to go to Washington for swimming lessons.  I was able to exchange the little hot pink and orange Mary Janes that I picked up for L on the Target clearance rack during our Mom's night out the other day.

Today was our rescheduled "Pioneer Day" for L.  Her History lesson was about Laura Ingalls Wilder.  We read several "Little House" stories.  The girls made butter, which we ate on Ma's buttermilk biscuits with tea.

My Father rode the train to Lancaster today for business.  He rode through snow, and was exceedingly glad that he was not driving.  Mom came over for dinner, so she wouldn't have to eat alone.  I tried a new recipe which was not overly exciting, but everyone ate without complaining...even L.

The Winter Weather Watch that was supposed to be in effect until 2 AM has been withdrawn.  JP is baking soft pretzels, and we have Cheers re-runs on.  All's well that ends well!

Sunday...Not So Much of a Day of Rest!

Another weekend has come and gone, bringing us ever so much closer to the end of April.  It seems that my life is fighting against my desire to work in my garden these days.  Last weekend I was laid low from my foolish Roller Skating incident.  During the week I was too busy.  This weekend the weather went from 80* and sunny on Friday to rainy and 50* on Saturday.  Now they are calling for up to 6 inches of snow tonight, and reminding us to expect wet, heavy snows with the possibility of downed tree branches and power lines.

You may recall what such predictions do to my fragile fragment of sanity...it completely disappears.  They don't call these things "irrational fears" because they are completely logical, right?  My near paralysis of panic when thinking of snow and downed power lines stems back to February of 2010, when we survived a snow storm (without power) for 8 days.  We did fine, actually.  It was just uncomfortable, and a lot of work, and (to be honest) a bit boring.  Mostly it was just beyond my control, which in any situation causes me a large amount of undue stress.

JP and I gave up on the idea of No-Till gardening in our raised beds this year, after spending several hours with the broadfork and manually breaking up clods of clay.  This link will take you to a picture of a broadfork, if you are unfamiliar with the tool, as I was until this Spring.  I think that I mentioned earlier that it weighed at least 50 lbs.  That is what it FEELS like.  JP tells me it weighs about 25 lbs.  In any case, the process involves slamming it into the ground in the garden, stepping on it until it is almost all the way into the soil (probably 10-12 inches) then pulling back with all your weight until it raises an enormous chunk of soil, then pull it out, move back 6 inches and repeat another 587 times.  It is hard work!

I found a small tiller to rent at a local shop, and we planned to use it on Saturday to get the rest of the beds ready to plant.  Instead, I picked it up at 8:30 Saturday AM, as it was just beginning to rain, and it sat in our garage until today.  JP found that the beds were STILL too hard for the small roto tiller, so I used the broadfork anyway, just to loosen things up for him.  Oh, and that was AFTER he asked me to MOW them because the grass was too long in the beds!

Several hours later, when we completed the last 8 1/2  4x16 foot beds, I decided to go ahead and cover a few things in preparation for the snow.  I covered my blueberry bushes (with tiny blueberries and flowers on them), my strawberry bed (COVERED with blossoms), and the onions and shallots which are about 2-3 inches high.  What DIDN'T get covered are the peas and every single flower I have...luckily they are mostly perennials, so even if they are shot for this year, they should come back for next.

Friday evening, the girls, my Mom and I went to the library for a couple of hours to participate in "Girl's Night."  The girls (and my Mom) got their nails done, J got beads put in her hair, and we all had a Mary Kay facial and dinner.  We didn't stick around for the last 2 hours when they decorated cupcakes, made ice cream, and played Disney Jeopardy.

Last night I went out with 4 of my girlfriends to the big city of Washington.  We celebrated that one of my friends finished her Master's program last week with dinner and margaritas at the Mexican restaurant, and shopping at Target.  Who-hoo...Mom's without kids on the town!

This evening, L was invited to participate in a cooking class for 4-6 year olds at a quaint little bakery just down the road about 20 minutes.  The kids made pizza,

separated eggs (in their hands!!) to make meringues,

and helped clean up.

They had a great time!  Meanwhile, I (who hadn't eaten since brunch this morning at 10-ish) thought I was going to fall over, until one of the owners graciously brought me a sustaining cup of Joe.  It was delicious!  I stopped at McDonald's on the way home...yee-haw!

Once we got home, I have been buzzing around, trying to finish things that require electricity, like ironing, drying the laundry, and vacuuming.  The whole time I've been wondering, "Are we even going to have power to do school tomorrow?"  SIGH.  Snow days are the kinds of days that DON'T make Cyber School so convenient, since we don't get any.  We're supposed to do the work with or without power or internet access!!

So, the weekend is gone.  I've frittered away another 30 minutes blogging, and now it's tomorrow...the weekend is officially over.  It was busy, but we did have fun.  Now, let me check the weather forecast one last time...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

My Dog is Autistic

Now that we have had both of the dogs for several weeks, it is clear that little Stella is quite bright.  She is learning things quickly:  she comes when she is called, already knows to stay out of the kitchen, and she is nearly housebroken.  She has also bonded with all of us, including Kali right away...she sleeps at our feet or tries to curl up by Kali and prefers to be with one of us, even when she is sleeping, than by herself.

You may recall me blogging about the problems we had bonding with Kali the first couple of weeks we had her.  She preferred to be by herself, and would frequently move away from us if we got too close when she was trying to sleep.  The breeder recommended that I put her on a leash and attach it to my belt so that she HAD to be with me for at least 48 hours.  She was so stubborn that she refused to walk, so I ended up dragging a 15 pound puppy around on a leash for 2 days.

Kali tends to get lost in her own little doggie world, and tunes out everything else, including us if we are calling her.  We had to get a Negative Reinforcement Device (AKA small BB pistol)* to "encourage" her to listen to us.  She will still get up and move away if someone gets too close to her for her comfort when she is sleeping.  She does have times where she will come and lean her head on our knees when we are sitting on the couch, and she appears genuinely glad to see us when we have been away.  She really IS a good dog:  quiet and fairly attentive, and always lets us know if someone is coming to the house.

Stella was the first one in her litter to explore away from her mother and siblings, is naturally curious and friendly.  Kali was the runt in her litter, and although she was friendly enough, we have to wonder whether "runt" equals lack of fetal blood flow, therefore underdevelopment of the brain.  As JP and I have noticed, she really does have many of the characteristics noted in Autistic children.

I wonder if it is a "real" diagnosis in dogs?

*JP offered to test the BB pistol before we used it on the dog.  I shot him in the back from about 20 feet away, and it was not painful.  It merely gets her attention.  We aren't as cruel as we sound!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

...moan...

I have decided that I am officially too old and uncoordinated to go roller skating anymore. In fact, it has been almost forbidden by my loving husband!

We had a fun time initially, but after 2 falls, I was uncertain if I would be able to finish the last 15 minutes. I have been lying on the heating pad (I know, I know, ICE for the first 48 hours...but the heat feels SOOOO good) and watching episodes of Mythbusters for the past 2 1/2 hours.

Poor J, who sustained an ankle sprain, was sitting beside me, with her ankle wrapped and iced. Unfortunately, I believe she must have inherited some of her mother's lack of grace!

JP and L are unscathed, as L was riding out her punishment for her evil Friday the 13th behavior, and JP had to stay in cell phone range as he is on call. He stayed home and has been working on the taxes...fun, fun, fun.

It is raining now, lovely indeed for my poor garden, which was looking somewhat parched. Unfortunately, I think it is going to go another weekend without having much work done on it. I certainly don't feel in shape for wielding the broad fork, which must weigh at least 50 pounds!

Happy Birthday to you, K, most coordinated of hula hoop-ers and backward skater extraordinaire! I believe you still may be able to skate at age 42 without becoming wheelchair bound afterward!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday the 13th

I'm not a superstitious person, but after I arrived at work this morning (late), I realized why our morning got off to such a dismal start. Yep...it's Friday the 13th...ooooh...bad luck!

I found a dying hen this morning, and tonight our flock is down to 8. Dealing with it took up most of my exercise time this morning, and cleaning out the coop took up much of my evening.

L appeared to get up in a lovely mood, which is rare. After being up for about an hour, it was apparent that she got a bee in her bonnet somehow, and was a pain in the *&%$ all day. By dinner time, she had already had some possessions confiscated, forced to have a nap/quiet time, and was perilously close to being kept home from Roller Skating tomorrow. In mere seconds, she managed to get put to bed without dinner (although JP did take her down a bowl of rice later on) AND definitely get kept home from Skating. It broke my heart to hear her sobbing downstairs, crying "Dada, why do you hate me? Mommmmmmmyyyyyy pleeeeeeease come downstairs, please come downstairs, please come downstairs! You only love your GOOD daughter. I'm having a TERRIBLE day!" The poor little twit is sleeping soundly now, and hopefully the pesky bee will fly away when we turn the calendar page!

I had a rough day at work, and was hoping to have an easy afternoon (except for the cleaning of the chicken coop). Mom and the girls, however, had trouble with school today: computers weren't cooperating, L hid one of J's school books, L made a huge mess that had to be cleaned up, etc, etc. Consequently, we had some school work to finish up once I got home (late).

The puppy spent 5 hours in her kennel today while I was at work without having an accident, but peed on a rug less than an hour after being taken outside. I haven't seen Ernie Cat for several days.

I just finished up over an hour of charting that I didn't stick around to complete at the office. I also finished baking a double batch of Vanilla Chai Cupcakes for the Roller Skating Birthday Party tomorrow.

Here's looking forward to a GREAT Saturday the 14th!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Take Your Daughter to Work Day

Well, it was back to school today on Poplar Ridge. We rearranged schedules a bit, since we were actually supposed to be back to school on Monday. That's one of the nice things about Cyber School: we did 2 days of lessons during Spring Break, then took 2 other days off when JP could be home with us.

We had violin lessons this morning, and then I wanted to take the girls to the Surgical Open House at our local Hospital. I decided that this would be the closest thing to "Take Your Daughter to Work Day" that I could arrange in my position, which requires the utmost of confidentiality.

While they couldn't actually go into the Operating Rooms, the girls (and my Mom) met all the OR staff: surgeons, scrub techs, nurses and anesthesia crew. They looked at anatomical models and attempted to intubate a dummy, take endoscopic biopsies of a hot dog, and use laparoscopic instruments to pick up beans and put them in a cup (J was pretty good at that...I think my boss might be thinking of hiring her!) We had a nice lunch provided by the Hospital, which included way too many cookies.

We got home later than I had hoped, but managed to get our school work done before dinner. I would consider that a successful school day!

We also had a lovely visit with our friends in Kentucky over Easter weekend. JP went to Med. School with him, while she and I worked in the OR to support our families. We have been friends for a long time, and while we haven't seen each other much in the last couple of years, we always pick up where we left off. That is always incredibly comforting for me.

Both of our dogs made the 7 hour trip with us. They joined the menagerie at our friends' of 4 cats and one enormous Irish Wolfhound, Chewbaca. Here's a pic of the dogs...I call them small, medium and beast!



The other day, our friends all congregated here for a potluck Birthday party for our 4 year old friend, B. We had 35 people here altogether, which I believe is a record for Poplar Ridge. We are so glad that we are able to fit all our friends here together...even though it gets a bit chaotic and loud at times.

We finally had a quickie Easter Egg hunt for the girls yesterday morning. It was so cold outside that we urged them to be as quick as possible! This morning we woke up to a dusting of snow on the ground. Although I'm incredibly eager to get things planted in the garden, this has been a message to me to slow down, take it easy, it is still early Spring.

So, that's my report of all the happy-nings going on around here. I hope your Easter was equally lovely.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Spring Breaking

It is Spring Break week here on Poplar Ridge. We are all kicked back and taking it easy.



If you believe that one, I'll tell you another one!

Stella has been sleeping better since we are kenneling her with Kali at night, and therefore, so have JP & I. I haven't had to take her out in the wee hours of the morning for the past 2 nights either, thank goodness!

Since Spring has sprung, there is endless work to be done in the garden. Dad tilled the bottom stretch between the last raised beds and the asparagus bed, so we were able to get the potatoes, onions and shallots in over the weekend. JP used the broadfork to loosen the soil in 3 more beds. I have worked the soil in all of them now, and Mom and I got one of them planted with lettuce, spinach and radishes.

I've also been weeding the flower beds, and readying them for new mulch.

We've given up on keeping the dandelions out of the yard. The girls think they are wonderful, and the bees like them too.



The girls and I have actually done a couple of days of school work, so that we can take a couple of days off next week - one of the benefits of doing cyber school. We also have 2 specialist visits in the big city this week.

So no, we haven't been just lying around. It hasn't been as crazy as normal though, and we are even looking forward to spending Easter with some old friends...should be nice. We will be sure to do some breaking during our Spring Break as well.