May 2009 Archives

Plants in pond!

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Latest pic! We have plants!


Details at Great Stems and our pond project page.

Zombie on my street! Also... maggots

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Our friend and neighbor Darin went to St. Croix for one of his best friends' wedding this past weekend. Had a great time -- the wedding was awesome. But during the weekend activities, the wedding travelers went scuba diving a couple of times. During one of the dives, Darin had some trouble with the pressure inside his mask, and the result was quite... disturbing. I couldn't decide which picture I liked best, so here they both are. On the plus side, Darin's eyes feel fine, he says. But I suppose zombies wouldn't feel pain, right?



Darinzombie2.jpgAs for maggots, I'll spare you a detailed description of what I found in the back of my car yesterday, several days after Nolan apparently decided to hide an uneaten breakfast taco in a back compartment in the mini-van. Let's just say I had to track down the smell, which reminded me of dead animal in fully active decomposition. Upon opening the compartment, the breakfast taco had more resemblance to a dead animal than one would care to ever see (or smell). Needless to say, I made Nolan clean it up. Hopefully, lesson learned. And the stench is gone, but the odor from the cleaner we used now fills the car. I'll take the cleaner smell. 

Great Stems is working!

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Great Stems is now a fully functional garden blog. There might be the occasional garden pic here from time to time, but for the most part I'm going to reserve garden posts for my garden blog. Take a look from time to time -- like a bee visiting a flower!

Now to finally work on the design of THIS blog.

Garden blog in the works!

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Gardening has opened up a new world for me, and I love visiting so many of the garden blogs out there. And as such, I've been wanting to do a garden blog since I started my obsession with gardening last fall. It is on the way! The new website is I welcome comments as I start to build it. Testing out a few graphics.  <edit: blog is in place; working on placing graphic header>

Paws and Think

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Welcome to Logan's final project for his Language Arts class: Paws and Think

His class had to discuss and take a stance on a global issue, and Logan chose pet adoption as his focus, something dear to our whole family's hearts. He decided to create a website about the issue. As part of his presentation, he had his class be dogs in a community, and he had scenarios for each dog about whether it got adopted or was purchased, whether it ended up in a shelter, or whether it eventually had a home or had to be euthanized. I'm pretty sure he made a powerful impact on his classmates. Seeds of change -- perhaps they will someday rescue animals or spread the word to others.

Paws and Think is likely to become a big family project this summer. We hope to take it farther and really do something with it to educate the masses about rescuing and spaying animals, dogs AND cats. It will have resources and other topics, and possibly a blog. Its look will likely drastically change, but the roots are here.


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I just found some comments on my blogs that I didn't realize were there -- apparently I had set it up that I had to "publish" other people's comments. I've changed the preferences, so if you don't mind testing this for me, leave me some more comments!

A heroic group of clever O.I.H. operatives thwarted the evil doings of the infamous Benign Birthday Bomber What Bombs at Birthdays, capturing the crime-doer in the process.

Secretagents2.jpgThe Birthday Bomber struck this Saturday at intelligence headquarters, attempting to steal the disguises and weapons of the secret agents and hide them behind dangerous laser beams.

Secretagents1.jpgBut the brave and agile secret agents carefully wove their way through the laser beams, recaptured their needed items, and readily got back on track following clues to the bomber. Wearing disguises and armed with weapons, the agents deciphered invisible messages, pieced together puzzles, detonated bombs, matched fingerprints, and solved other clues.

Secretagents4.jpgThe race against time culminated when the Benign Birthday Bomber set the real bomb in the headquarters' kitchen,

Secretagents5.jpgbut the agents saved the day and ultimately won in a gun battle against the Benign Birthday Bomber What Bombs at Birthdays.  

Secretagents6.jpgThe city is once again safe from this evil villain, and fortunately intelligence headquarters is still standing.

For more details and photos of Operation Birthday, please don your disguise and visit this link.

We have waterfalls!

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Fallstest.jpgProgress continues on the pond, slow but most definite progress. The waterfalls are wonderful -- the flow was perfect from the get-go. The Rihas were over for dinner when we first turned it on, so they got to partake in the exciting moment. We still need to mortar rocks around the filter fall area and begin placing the rest of the edge rocks, but we are already getting to enjoy the very pleasing sound of running water down the rocks, splashing into the pond below.

I've begun a separate webpage detailing the steps we've taken on the pond. View the Pond Project here, but know that it is not finished!

Backtracking -- The Shade Sails, April '09

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We've been busy with home improvement projects, seemingly nonstop since spring began. In April we finally covered our back porch with some shade-giving sails. To do something fancier was pretty pricey, so we opted for these fun and not-so-common shade sails. Here Grover distracts Michael from his hole digging.


What we thought was supposed to be relatively quick turned out to be an all-day process -- starting with the holes. Stepan came over to help hold the posts, but he got to help dig through bedrock, lift 12-foot cedar posts, climb ladders, place plumb lines, mix and pour cement, etc. Hey, at least we fed him! 


Of course, rain and hail threatened over the next few days, so we didn't actually set up the shade sails until days after the cement cured. The dogs began laying in the shade before the first sail actually got completely hung up.

Shade sail.jpg

But we are very, very happy with the shade sails. They add shade when it counts, but also allow enough morning sun to grow plants around the posts and in containers on the porch.


I already have crossvine growing up the posts -- I'll post pictures of the lovely tangerine flowers sometime later. You can tell by the photo that painting is soon to be in our future!


As I scrolled through recent photos looking for pond pictures, I realized I've been amiss in showing some events of late. In April, the boys and I took Sheba and Grover and joined the Rihas in the Mighty Texas Dog Walk. There were 8,333 dogs, at least, that crossed the finish line. There were fantastic vendors with lots of goodies, and Grover and Nolan got to pose with Shaggy and Velma of Mystery, Inc. (Scooby and the others were late!).


Logan walked all the dogs at one point. He's just lucky we didn't take Loki with us! Poor Loki -- we opted to leave him at home because we were concerned he'd be too alpha with all the dogs on the walk. Actually, he probably would have been ok on the walk itself, but the crowded gathering on the Congress Bridge would have been too much for his doggy hormones to handle. Maybe next year if he mellows some.



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Thanks to some over-ripe bananas and our kids' inability to rinse and recycle their yogurt cups, we have developed a bit of a gnat problem. Obviously, getting the kitchen clean was the first step, but we wanted something to care of the existing gnats. I checked a bit online and ended up creating my own version of a gnat-control concoction. In a bowl I put one of the ripe bananas (peeled), vinegar, dishwashing liquid, and a little water to bring the liquid level higher. This I covered with Saran Wrap, held tight by a rubber band, and I poked and slightly widened a few little holes in the top of the Saran Wrap. It worked great! The gnats ventured inside and drowned. I don't like killing bugs unnecessarily, but those bugs don't belong in my kitchen.



Big Dog

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Today Nolan, Grover, and I met a BIG dog, the biggest dog I've ever had the pleasure of seeing in person. It was a 185-pound Irish Wolfhound, also named Grover, and he was simply stunning. He was about 80 pounds heavier than his owner, so it's a good thing he's a calm dog. Scroll down on this link to see a size comparison with a tall man.

Irish wolfhounds are considered the tallest breed on average. Some Great Danes can be taller, but on average, the IW wins. It turns out that Irish Wolfhounds have a pretty short lifespan -- on average between 4 and 8 years. Grover the IW is about 6.5 years old, and happily he looks very healthy, though the owner said he gets shots for his hip.

Her other dog reminded me a lot of Stepan and Jen's dog Homer. Similar size, similar shape, similar color, and the same "bug" eyes -- S & J will know what I'm talking about. In fact, they are so similar, I almost wonder whether they could be mom & son. Homer is slightly more tan, but those eyes, those eyes... This dog is about 13, so technically it's possible!

While I was oohing and aahing over Grover the IW, the other woman was oohing and aahing over our Grover. She loved his temperament and thought he would be a great dog for Divine Canines. A neat idea -- I'll have to look into it. It would be a nice alternative to volunteering with the Humane Society, which I've been doing for the past year. I enjoy it, but it would be fun to volunteer somewhere with my dog! He and I would get special training and get to meet lots of people. Something to think about!

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