Saturday, July 18, 2009

First Tomato

We planted the plants on Mother's Day and our first fruit came today:

Summer's really here now!

Need more good news? That's Petunia in the background - she's finally out of her box by herself! Not laying yet, but having much more fun hanging with her peeps.

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Rock On!

My son's Webelos Geology achievement badge was completed today with a trip to the Lucky Lake Gem Mine in fabulous McKinney, Virginia:

When I say fabulous, I really mean fabulously far away. Almost 2 hours, which was long for me.

I was worried that we'd get there and it just wouldn't be what we were hoping for (details are skinny on the website). We were very pleasantly surprised!

For starters, we got to dig ourselves:

There is an option to buy buckets of material (soil and rock and planted goodies) and sluice away at the giant sluicing area, but my son really wanted to dig.

Lots of muck and rocks to dig up and plop in a sieve. Once washed clean in the creek, the treasures start to show up:

I dug one spadeful - and struck it "rich" immediately:

Here's my daughter's haul for the day:

One of the best parts of the place is that a gemologist sits own with you when you're done to explain what each rock you have is:

My daughter was in sorting heaven!

Not sure how great this pic is, but this turned out to be my favorite rock from my daughter's haul. Naturally, we've already forgotten the name and forgot to get a copy of the handout, so now I'm not really sure why I'm posting this:

except that is looks like hay running through a crystal and is sometime known as Aphrodite's Hair. Cool!

My son found a Dalmatian Stone:

and you can tell why I had a hard time with Geology class in college. Cannot remember the real names to save my hide. Oh well, the common names are usually much more fun!

The trip was a culmination of a mini-unit study on geology at our house. After studying lots of rock books this week, we were excited to think that we might have found some petrified wood:

Turned out to be a piece of burnt wood (thus the charcoal marks on the picnic table) and a special type of rock.

Despite the long drive, the gem mine was a great trip. Not only were cool rocks in abundance, but to have someone handy for identification really made the education level worthwhile. The setting with the shade and picnic tables made for a comfortable place to spend a day and the staff couldn't have been more helpful.

No field trip is complete (at least for my group) without treats! McKinney seems to be completely frozen in time 50 years ago. Couldn't you see this place on and episode of "Happy Days"?

Once home, we tried out my son's gift shop purchase, a crack-by-yourself geode.

The chickens got wind of it all and decided to check it out ("No ladies, that's not an egg!").

And here's what we found inside:

Not as high-tech spectacular as could be, but more than expected and better than most. Just like our field trip!

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Monday, July 06, 2009


We had a fabulous time on the fourth, just hanging out at home as a family.

Of course, there were required items:

Big, honking box of fireworks:


Patriotic decorations:


Good seats to watch the fireworks show:



Check and check!

Pyromaniac 10-year old:



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Broody Business

Petunia is persisting in her quest to become a mama chicken and won't get out of the nesting box without force. We're gathering eggs more often and taking her out a couple times a day to help. She will wander about with the other ladies for a bit, only to return to her box. Yesterday, I found her sitting sadly in the coop run (in the rain) and was happy she was out, but when I checked the nesting box I saw Chick Pea doing her thing and realized that Petunia was just pushed aside momentarily. She's got it so bad that we're calling her Looney Tunie. She's not a happy chicken.

Another distressing effect of her broodiness is that she isn't laying. I wasn't sure how to confirm this, but informal egg polls seem to indicate that we are getting fewer of the bigger eggs that Marigold and Petunia are known for. She even looks different - not only is she even bigger (all that snacking and no exercise - as if I needed another visual reminder!) - but her comb has changed color. That confirms it - she's no longer laying.

Here is Petunia on the 4th of July:

And here is Marigold:

Can you see how Marigold's comb is a much brighter red? My very smart father-in-law pointed out that trait to me.

I was trying to get a picture of them together to illustrate the difference and I thought that the feeder was a good focal point. Just look at Marigold's comb shoved up in the feeder:

Petunia is on the right, but it's not so easy to tell the difference in the comb colors.

And here's another attempt:

It just looks like they are posing for the chicken equivalent of Town & Country. Petunia is in the front and Marigold is the rear. Chick Pea is just butting in to be a ham. Beats being BBQ!

And this concludes comb class...


Saturday, July 04, 2009

Baby Bird

About a month ago (already?) a friend stopped by and noticed a bit of a fuzz ball in our red twigged dogwoods. Could that be....?

a baby bird!

How's that for a handsome close-up? I have never seen a bird this age up so close. He was perching as pretty as can be on the twig, obviously staying off the ground. I wanted to bring the chickens up for a tutorial.

I also noticed that there was a beautiful adult tanager about that day and finally put the two together. The mama/daddy bird was watching out for junior! I kept an eye on the little guy off and on that day and he stayed in the shrub, moving up and down his branch.

I'd love to tell you that there was a spectacular ending, but there was a booming thunder downpour that night. Next morning - no baby bird. But also no adult bird. I keep hoping that somehow they encouraged junior to get his hopping/flying on and got him to a safer spot in time. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

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Long May It Wiggle!

I think I was born in the wrong decade. I LOVE Jello and could have seriously excelled at the gelatin arts had I been a 1950's June Clever. As it is, I only get to break bad for special occasions. Because, you know, not everyone has Jello love in their hearts and may think that I've lost it.

But today is just such an occasion here in the U.S.A. Independence Day means two things around here - fireworks (my son is becoming quite a pyromaniac, but don't all boys at 10?) and the Jello United States!

In a proud, passing-of-the-torch moment, my darling daughter took the helm for all the mixing and pouring to create this masterpiece (and no, I don't use the word lightly!). The kids chose to sing "God Bless America" for the unveiling. What a hoot! Maybe some year we'll get a platter that is more fitting for our favorite form.

But 'til then: hope you all have a fantastic Fourth!

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Beach Bound

We had a chance to slip off to Virginia Beach for 1 night, so we jumped at the chance to use Daddy's free conference hotel room.

I packed lightly and we hit the beach hard.

I snapped photos:

My daughter really enjoyed the waves (when did she stop being the toddler afraid of waves bigger than her feet?):

Lots of sand castles and pit digging occurred:

Here's the other boogie boarder:

After our "relaxing" mini vacation, I drive home with my daughter only to get a call from my husband AFTER I passed through the tunnel that I had his car keys and had to turn around and go BACK through the tunnel. On a Friday afternoon. After at least a half-hour of stop-and-go congestion on the way back, I see this sign:

Glad some one's on top of the situation! In case you're wondering, it took almost 2 1/2 hours to drive from the beach through the tunnel twice and back to the beach. Longer than it "should" take to get home. But all ended well and we got home the long, scenic way.

I'm not sure that you get to call it a vacation when you spend more time in the car than on the sand...

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Blast From the Past

If visiting Winchester wasn't a walk down memory lane, visiting with a good friend from high school sure was! A. and I have been good friends since middle school, but we have always have had a pattern of years going by between visits. We just pick up where we left off. Love that kind of friend.

How we became good friends is a testament to how kind and fun she is. We were complete opposites as kids and now have parallel lives. Kids do that to you (see below). I was the "good" girl and she liked to have a lot of fun. I'd even take a fake hall pass and get her and her boyfriend out of class by saying they were "called them to the office". Needless to say, they never made it to the office and I had a blast exploiting my nerd persona. Great laughs. Can you even imagine that happening now?

My son snapped this photo while we were visiting at her farm in Summit Point, WV:

She usually has some interesting animal to visit (like emus one visit):

and chickens and a few dogs (Rip and Lucy):

One advantage of visiting infrequently is that there is always something to new to see. My friend is a antiquing/junk store/estate sale/thrift shop kind of gal, and scores the most striking, large scale finds, which she has no problems displaying proudly. Here's one of the sheds out back:

And here are the corn cribs she asked a farmer friend for, set by another friend over existing junipers with a crane, to house her chickens:

And in the middle of it all in the back yard are swings and rings everywhere. It started looking a little like a circus:

Did I mention that this was a friend who tried out for American Gladiator at her kids' request (and flew through the physical screening tests)?

My little girl got into the act, too:

And the really fun part was how two friends can have some many people attached to them now:

Her daughter came to my wedding in utero, her son followed, then mine, and then another bookend daughter. And Lucy. All but the dog even used the same crib.

Despite the years, the kids, and our "real" lives, we're still the kids in high school looking for fun, doing it our way, and having a blast. After seeing all the impromptu home renovation projects (My husband went hunting for two weeks so I built an addition! Then he went on another trip and I ripped out the bathroom!) and hearing how hard she's working on her new career as a pharmacist, I am amazed at how far we've come. Can't wait to see what the rest of the trip has in store!

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009


We wrapped up staycation by leaving town. A fitting finale, don't you think?

The kids and I headed to Winchester to visit with my parents and a friend of mine from high school. We stayed at a hotel to have more time to explore on our own time. My parents are just not into leaving the house unless it involves a packaged bus tour. And I'm pretty sure they wouldn't want to hang out "downtown", so the kids and I made an adventure of it one morning. It was like returning to my old stomping grounds.

I lived all summer at the Handley Library. Dad would give me a ride into town at some point in the day and pick me up after work. I think that I read every book in the kids' biography section. It was fun to show my kids the building, but once inside, everything was different. And I couldn't really tell what was different and what was my faulty memories - must be what Alzheimer's feels like setting in.

But the library was beautiful. Lots of curves and round shapes in the original part, like these stairs:

Here's the stained glass dome from inside (how could I now remember that!):

And the entrance and view of the original building:

And don't you know that Winchester is the (self-proclaimed) Apple Capitol of the World? Here's the proof, that my daughter is trying to eat:

And a fancy one showing famous locals such as James Wood (founder? and namesake of my high school - Go Colonels!) and Stonewall Jackson (who headquartered there one winter):

We even made it to Stonewall Jackson's Headquarters and discovered that canon barrels are the same diameter as a child's arm:

and unearthed Mary Tyler Moore's connection to the HQ - her great x ? grandfather was the owner of the home and while he was recuperating from a Civil War injury elsewhere, offered his home to Jackson for use as a winter headquarters. So there. It's not really a vacation until momma makes you go through a museum.

All that walking made us hungry, so we hit the downtown pedestrian mall (which used to be filled when I was a kid with mentally ill adults and general riff-raff shopping at the five-and-dime and the liquor store):

to check out the Snow White:

They've installed a pick-up window and added outdoor seating, so we were in seventh heaven. Listen developers and planners: if you want to revitalize a pedestrian mall - add outdoor seating and plenty of restaurants. It's that simple. And cut down on the crazy bums. That helps, too.

Look at all that love on some greasy paper:

And tots! They had tater tots:

Who says you can't go back home?

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