Tuesday, October 30, 2018

October's Garden (2018)

This month's garden looks so small! I remember when my garden extended all the way back into the corner and touched both fences. We even planted the area where the old shed is located. It was never a "new" shed because when it was given to us, it was already "old". Bill keeps telling me, "The garden only needs to feed two people, not a family of five with three teenage boys." Still, I feel panicked. The long winter is ahead and I don't think it will be enough. This is the same feeling I get right before company arrives: I never think I have enough food on the table. Perhaps this insecurity has been caused by feeding three boys for so many years; no matter how much I cooked, they were always hungry.

Regardless, it is too late now to plant more.  Winter is coming and the garden is changing.

The sweet potatoes on the right hate cold weather.  We have begun digging them but without any of our sons here to do the heavy lifting, we are taking it slow.  Both bean arches are down now and the bush bean plants are gone.  The fez of armadillos (a group of armadillos is called a "fez", isn't that interesting?  Well, it's the only thing interesting about an armadillo).  Anyway, back to what I was saying: they did a great deal of damage in this area.  We were invaded by a total of four - my mighty hunters were able to vanquish three and then the last one disappeared.  We hope it got hit by a car and won't return.

These are my heirloom tomatoes which grew with the yardlong beans on the tall arch.  This is how they looked on October 14th, two weeks ago.  As expected, they rallied after producing a bunch of tomatoes and looked strong when the first frost arrived.

On the exact same day, this is a picture of my store-bought hybrid, Big Beef tomatoes. They were pathetic.  After producing a huge crop of tomatoes, they all decided to drop dead. I don't know why. They will never be forgiven for this behavior and I will not buy them again. Stupid tomatoes.

This is the ex-tomato row today.  Since the leaves and vines are gone, it's obvious my tools are never put back in the shed.  Instead, I hang them on the fence as I leave the garden.  I suppose it could be considered lazy but I choose to call it being organized.  It works for me.

The carrots which were planted between the tomatoes in the area beside the armadillo battleground were never harvested. I think it is now safe to dig them. In the few empty spots, I have dropped some Oregon Sugar Pod Peas. In the other section of the fence where most of the carrots have been dug, Fava beans have been planted. They love cold weather and the peas love cool weather. Since the fence is still up, I decided to take advantage of the support.

This was the strawberry patch, which was overtaken by the Monster Melon vine and is almost bare. It will be a winter hoop house also. It is still being planted which is VERY late. This whole year has been late. I got started late in the spring and still haven't been able to catch up.

The parsnips growing at the far end of the row are about ready.  Their flavor improves tremendously after a frost so we will start harvesting soon.  They store well in the ground so some will be left for later.  All must be eaten before the dead of winter or it will be impossible to pull them out of the frozen soil. The watermelon vines didn't bother them since they were able to peek over the top of the leaves and still get sunlight.

One of the five strawberry plants left decided to produce a few strawberries.


It was a success putting herbs under the okra plants and I will do it again.  Some plants in this row are still alive even though we have had a few mild touches of frost.

Both the Calendula and Lemon Verbena have survived to this date.  The Calendula was not a surprise, but I wasn't expecting the Lemon Verbena to make it.  I had harvested the leaves way down and it grew back.  Any day now I will dig it up and bring it in to see if it will live through the winter.

Lemon Verbena
Planting lettuce in the hot summer in the shade under the okra plants was also a success.  Lettuce never survives the heat and this is my first victory.  They grew slowly during the hot weather then took off when it cooled down.  

Another experiment I am trying is planting Oregan Sugar Snap Peas under each okra stalk to see if the peas will grow up it for support.  

The last two rows next to the field fence will be winter hoop houses.  The hoops are up but the covers aren't on yet.  Some of the seedlings were transplanted this week and I don't know if they will be able to make it through the winter.  If November is warm, they will be fine, if not, they won't.  It is risky planting so late but it is the best I could do this year.


"I couldn't resist Mom...the dirt feels so cool on my tummy...feels soooooo good...

...like I am Floating on a CloudZZZZZZZZZZ!

Additional Links

How Scooter views freshly tilled garden soil.
Scooter, Floating on a Cloud

Last Month's September's Garden (2018)

Monster Melon, August's Garden (2018)

Last Year's October Garden (2018)

Saturday, October 27, 2018

And On We Go...

Yesterday marked my second anniversary since beginning my blog.  Has it really only been two years?

As  I look back over the past two years, so much in my life has changed and so has this blog.  Scooter has become a worldwide megastar.  More people want to hear about him than anything else.  His loyal fan base is almost as large as his ego.  He is becoming a bit sassy and reminds me of his stardom often.  

Don't forget I am a star.
This past year has been hard due to various difficulties our family has endured. This blog has become my lifeline to the outside world as my health and mobility continue to decline.  It has been a place where I could share happy memories, and ignore unpleasant realities.  It forced me to look for blessings and sunshine even on the darkest days.  As I look ahead, the future seems uncertain but I think, maybe...maybe...the clouds are beginning to part.  More sunshine might be coming our way.

Regardless of what the future holds, I still don't have any great lofty plans for my blog.  I will continue to share the mundane with Mom (Hi Mom) and toss in pictures of Scooter.

Thank you to all of my new friends I have met through comments and messages.  You have encouraged me and are dear to my heart.  As for those all over the world who chose to silently read my nonsense without every commenting, you too are welcome.  If I can brighten one person's day just one time, it has been worth it.

Additional Links

Monday, October 22, 2018

A First at the Last

A package arrived in the mail a few weeks ago.  It was carefully taped and stuffed with miles of bubble wrap.

It began its journey on the American west coast and traveled over 2,500 miles safely to me in Tennessee.  

My good friend Becky shares a wealth of information about cooking, sewing, and thrifty living on her website Becky at Home There she showed how she canned fresh tuna bought from local fishermen on the docks.  When she learned I had never eaten freshly canned tuna fish, she sent me a care package.  It held two cans of tuna fish she had canned herself, a jar of her famous homemade plum sauce and pickled zucchini.  Becky had a bumper crop of zucchini's this past summer and was drowning in squash so she tried pickling it.  My family had never tasted any of these foods and we were ecstatic when we opened the box.

No one was allowed to open any of the jars early because they were to be eaten at a special taste-testing event.  We chose Dustin's last meal before he left for his new job in Iowa.  He needed something new for his last homecooked meal.

Becky sent instructions to barbecue chicken breasts then use the plum sauce as a dip.  I did that and also marinated two breasts in the plum sauce.  All were baked in the oven together in one dish.  Those that were barbecued won the taste-test contest hands down.  My carnivores could not get enough.

The squash pickles were a big surprise.  Never have I considered using zucchini or other squash to make pickles.  It just didn't sound right but when I took a bite, I was impressed. They were great. I will definitely be making these next year.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I opened the tuna fish jar.  It did not taste like the fish I have always bought at the grocery stores here in Tennessee.  The flavor was astonishing.  Compared to Becky's tuna, storebought brands taste like cardboard.  If only I lived near an ocean.

What was the opinion of my guys?  They were all thrilled!

Not one bite was allowed to be wasted.  Scooter was asked to clean out the tiny bits of tuna left in the bottom of the jar.  It's always his job to wash the dishes.  Everyone has chores.  He licked it clean and begged for more.  

Since I had done all of the cooking, my guys kindly cleaned the kitchen while I propped my feet up in the living room.  Just as I was getting comfortable, I heard Scooter whining and complaining. Something was wrong.  When I returned to the kitchen, I discovered why he was distraught.  Dustin was LICKING the casserole bowl.  That was Scooter's responsibility!

"Mom!" said Scooter.  "Make Dustin behave."

"It's too good.  I must get every bite."
"There is nothing left for me!"
I apologized to Scooter for Dustin's bad manners and explained he is leaving tomorrow.  He will be gone a long time and must eat his own cooking.  Bless his heart.  When Scooter heard that, he immediately forgave Dustin then generously offered him his bowl of dog food saying, "It tastes better than your cooking."

Additional Links
Scooter, Pictures, Pictures and More Pictures

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Scooter, Pictures, Pictures and More Pictures

Mom and Dustin are driving me crazy.  Every time he walks past, Dustin stops, rubs my fur then Mom starts snapping pictures.

Enough already!  I was snoozing and you woke me up.

Go away.

Then Mom started crying.  She said Dustin has been offered a big important job far, far away from home.  They are in contract negotiations and if he accepts, he will live close to Des Monies, Iowa for three long, cold years.  It is 700 miles northwest from us.  Reese, my other brother, is 450 miles east from home.  Joshua, my biggest brother is 1 1/2 hours away which isn't as far but seems so to Mom. Dustin, sometimes he is happy, sometimes he is sad.

Now I am sad.

Mom said we need to do something special before he leaves.  However, it will involve me riding in the CAR!!!


Everybody kept encouraging me by saying, "Don't throw up, don't throw up.  The top-secret destination is only two miles away. Be brave!" It was a long five-minute ride but I made it.

Mom could not take pictures with her camera inside the building because of their company policy.  The people were surprised to see me and tried to make me feel welcomed.  It didn't work.  I was not happy.  They set me up on a table with Dustin holding me tightly.  I braced for a rabies shot but instead, the man in the back of the room said "Smile".  I didn't move.  Then he said "Cheese" and I yawned.  Next, he began to bark and I laughed.  (I don't think he realized what he was saying in doggy language.)  Suddenly a bright light flashed in my eyes and everyone cheered.  He said, "Got it" and we left.

"You never know how good you look until you've had your picture took." 
Said my Granddaddy, whenever he picked up a camera.

I think I am quite handsome.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Trash to Treasure

"One man's trash is another man's treasure."  This applies to Dustin and me. Whenever anything breaks, he grabs it: coffee makers, vacuum cleaners, telephones, televisions, alarm clocks, electric shavers, computers, it doesn't matter what it is, he wants it.  He carefully dismantles the prize looking for useful pieces to build robots.  The components are extracted and reassembled into electrical experiments.

When it became impossible to walk through the basement, he decided to do something.  

I see trash, he sees treasures.

Dustin takes the circuit boards and removes the integrated circuits.  They are packages that contain a premade circuit with a silicon wafer inside.  They can be used to build small computers, perform amplification, comparisons between signals, or many other functions.  Some are in sockets and pop off easily.

Others are soldered directly into the circuit board and must be removed by using a solder pot.   It's a dangerous process and not something to be performed inside the house.

Dustin works outside with a fan behind his back that blows the toxic fumes safely away.

Scooter checks to make sure all safety precautions are being observed.  

He also inspects all tools and verifies they are up to codes.  He is the first one to evacuate when the noxious fumes begin wafting across the porch.

A solder pot is a heated bowl full of melted solder which is EXTREMELY HOT and must be used carefully.  Slag is floating on the top.

A bar of solder is used to perform the initial filling of the pot.  Additional portions of the bar are added periodically to keep it at the desired level.  One of the most popular types of solder contains 60% tin and 40% lead.  It is purchased over the internet and arrives in the mail in solid form.

The circuit boards are placed on top of the solder pot.  The molten solder contacts the component legs on the underside and melts the connectors away.  Components are the building blocks of circuits which are put together to build useful things, process signals - they are electronic Legos...only more complicated.

Using pliers, it is possible to carefully remove the component without damaging the good stuff.

Each component has the manufacturer's identifying marks and part numbers.  The numbers can be googled for information. This one is a UVEPROM which was used as memory storage in an 80's style computer.  Today it can be used in small computers.  They can only be erased when ultraviolet light is shone into the clear window. The memory is not lost when power is interrupted.  The data is also secure from being hacked or erased.  To prevent accidental erasure, stickers are placed over the window.  To erase the data for reuse, a small ultraviolet lamp pointed at the window will clear the data so it can be programmed again.

Some of the chips can be checked on an integrated circuit tester like the one below.  It has a socket on the front so the circuit can be plugged in, identified and tested to see if it works.

The information is recorded then they are labeled and organized to be used in future projects.

Other treasures are discovered during the salvage process.  This is a variable capacitor, not a flux capacitor, which came out of a harmonic distortion analyzer.  It is something someone somewhere sometime long ago gave to Dustin.  It can be used to make a homemade tuneable radio circuit.  Brand new it would sell for quite a bit of money, too much to play with, but recycled out of a piece of trash, it becomes a priceless toy.

A degaussing coil was pried from an old CRT (cathode ray tube) computer monitor.  Its purpose was to eliminate residual magnetization so the screen could work correctly.  The coil operates on the same principle used in World War II by battleships to eliminate the magnetization of the hulls. It made them harder to be detected by naval mines.  The mines could identify the changing magnetic fields created by the large iron ships.  

It can also be used to degauss a dog.  

As new construction projects and experiments are performed, Scooter offers instructions, advice, and encouragement.

The worthless parts were organized, crammed in Dustin's car, taken to the recycle center and sold for cash.  We offered him the junk in the old shed.  If he would load it up, he could keep the money.  Win, win.

Hey!  Is that his childhood treasure box where he locked up his favorite toys to keep them away from his brothers?  Is he throwing it away???  (Sniff, sniff)  I suppose he is a little too old for a treasure box.

The recycling center appeared to be a popular place.  The line was long and so was the wait. We got bored and thirsty.

So I found Dustin a can of beer.  He said it was flat.

While waiting in line, I decided to search for excitement.  Concealed between the piles of junk was a hidden path.  Instead of bread crumbs, there were smashed aluminum cans pointing the way to a mystery. Where did it lead?

It led to the bottomless black hole where coke cans end up after they are thrown in the recycle bin.  They are dumped in a hopper, shredded and the pieces are shot inside the back of a semi-truck trailer. 

When the semi-trailer was full, it would be driven to another company to be smelted down.

As I continued on my treasure hunt, other surprises were discovered.  Why would anyone want to throw away a genuine antique floppy disc drive?  Shouldn't it belong in a museum?  Millennials.  They wouldn't recognize a priceless ancient artifact if they stepped on it.

No junkyard is ever complete without at least one junkyard dog.  He was unimpressed by me and my camera and would not smile.

Finally!  The man in the green truck ahead of us made it to the front of the line. He unloaded the iron from the bed of his truck and put it into the hopper.

We were next.

Our turn to unload!  

First, the iron junk was pulled from the trunk and tossed into the hopper on the forklift to be weighed.

Everything else was carried to the weigh-in station near the large scale.

The men began quickly sorting the items by material type.  They asked Dustin if he planned to return with more scrap later.  He replied he would so they instructed him how best to categorize so he could earn the best price.

The scale was a huge metal plate surrounded by piles of stuff.  Each category was weighed separately.

As items were weighed, the information was entered into the computer.  Can't see the computer because of the messy desk?  I added arrows so you can find it.  Never, never, never again will I say my desk is messy.

Some items were too small and valuable to be weighed on the big scale.  They were taken inside the office and weighed on a smaller scale.  Can you find the office in this picture?

Not only does Dustin recycle junk, but he also recycles gloves.  It's the reason he is wearing two different styles. This bag held discarded CPUs and integrated circuits.  Some were broken, useless, outdated or not needed.

If they have gold plating on their connections it will bring more money so a sensitive scale was needed.

After being weighed, the items were tossed into boxes or piles.

Everything was totaled and a check was written to Dustin.

Was all the work worth it?  ABSOLUTELY!  He made $126.75 for a load of JUNK!