Thursday, September 15, 2011

Surprise! Life will find a way

Now and then a quote really gets stuck in my head. This snippet from Jurassic Park is one of them. It is so true.

(sorry, the blogger just won't let me delete this space)

Take this scene:
What's to see? Parking lot, ball field, light post. Boring!

More closely, Jersey barrier, painted curb, weeds. Wow.
Not where one would expect some rare, amazing wildlife, but it's there. Look a little closer.
Those little rascals are pipevine swallowtail caterpillars on a rare occurrence of pipevine (at least in this part of the desert southwest), their larval food source. To see what they will become, look here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ick! and apologies

When I started this blog, I selected the MONETIZE option to allow random ads to be placed in the margins of the blog. Most of the ads have been predictable and harmless.

I just opened the blog today and found a full-length photo of a girl, probably 16, posed in a skimpy T-shirt and her unzipped low-cut jeans. She was right next to, and color-coordinated with, the blog post photo of the American flag.

I immediately de-selected MONETIZE and removed the ads.

My apologies if you were as offended as I was by the ad.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

National Anthem Jeopardy

Jeopardy is one of my favorite shows. It is a short daily mental workout, in which we hear the answer and must guess the question. Today, we should strive to live an ANSWER as we proclaim the question.


When was the last time you READ the words to our national anthem? Do you remember how it ends -- at least the first stanza -- which is usually all we sing?

It ends with a QUESTION. It is one I reflect upon whenever I sing it. Written during a pivotal time in our Nation's history -- the War of 1812 -- it was a real question written by a real American. Francis Scott Key, while being held prisoner on an English ship near Baltimore during the battle of Fort McHenry, wanted to know if he still had a COUNTRY. He struggled for a glimpse of the flag, praying it had not been replaced by the Union Jack, which would have happened if the English lowered the Star-Spangled Banner in victory.

I believe the QUESTION is one we must ask ourselves often, and especially each year during the second week of September. Sure, the flag is on the poles, we take that part of the QUESTION for granted. But are we doing our part?

Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'r the land of the FREE and the home of the BRAVE?

To remain Free, we must become and remain the Brave. Each of us, in our own generation, must live the answer to the question every day. It was modeled for us 10 years ago. Let us honor so many brave Americans who gave all, by following their example.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Harvesting Apples

The galas came in well despite the heat, deer and drought. Not on our tree, of course --deer got them all, but for others. Perhaps semi-dwarf trees were not the right choice!

We bought some from a local who takes care of trees for an absentee landlord. We should have tried them first as the subtleties of apple harvest had been missed.

What do I mean? Imagine your favorite apple. Take a bite. Is it crisp, juicy and sweet? Probably. Were the ones we bought? No. Texture was like and old sponge. A dry old sponge. This is completely preventable, especially considering that the trees were under irrigation.

So how does this happen to the novice apple-harvester? What is the subtle but important methodology for crisp, juicy apples?

The first step is to sample one right from the tree at first daylight, just as they start to turn from green on the way to the desired color. Is it crisp and juicy? If not, step up the water just a bit and try again two mornings later. Repeat until you get a crisp juicy apple. Keep to that schedule.

Next step is to harvest just before the flavor peaks, which again, takes some understanding of your apples. It's like cutting a rose when the bud is open enough to bloom but before it actually does.

The last two steps are critical. Harvest at first light, when the water content is high and the apples are pre-cooled. Second is to store them in a cool place. Don't just leave them in a basket on the back porch or in the barn in the heat. It will quickly ruin them. If you sell at a roadside stand, better to have a reputation for the best apples by running out mid-day (to pick again tomorrow) than having a reputation for mushy apples that have 'gone-by' or passed their peak when left over from a few days ago.

The good news is that our purchase was not total waste. They made good apple sauce!