Thursday, July 31, 2008

Day 15/365 To-may-toe, To-mah-toe

I've been remiss in my blogging, but it was unavoidable. It is the last week of July, the week of searing Virginia 90 degree heat, also known as "the-week-the-tomatos-come-in (and-must-be-dealt-with)". The first batch was put away yesterday, and photo'd so I'd have evidence to post of my excuse.

The wicker bowl above are the ones we kept out for slicing and eating, while all the rest were
washed up for chopping. There are several ways to preserve tomatos - the most common is canning (my mother's style), but too hot for me. I freeze mine (and yes, as my mother tells me, when civilization goes to h*ll in a handbasket, SHE will have canned food to eat, while I will have a freezer full of soggy thawed tomatos). I don't care. I served time in a 120 degree kitchen when I was a teenager helping for weeks on end during canning season (also known as the entire month of August), and frankly, I'd rather starve to death than do that again.

So - I have my own style of freezing tomatos - been doing it for years. In the winter I use my tomatos to make chili, spaghetti sauce, stew, soup, etc. All the same ingredients go in each -
tomatos, green pepper, Italian seasoning, and minced garlic.

Therefore, in July, I freeze them all together, so I can just dump them in the slow cooker with the meat, and go back to whatever's more important than fixing dinner (includes any number of things).

The cored tomatos are chopped into approximately 1/2" pieces, plus juice, seeds and skin. I have a very large blue granite wear bowl I use every year and it takes about 4 ice cream buckets full of tomatos to fill the blue bowl. Each year I grow different variety tomatos so each year the taste is a little different. This year, there were more Mr. Stripey's so the tomatos will more yellow than usual (Mr. Stripey's are a yellow tomato with a red star-like swirl at the base and low acidity).
After chopping, each container gets filled about 3/4 of the way with tomatos (and a couple scoops of juice).

After the tomatos, I add enough chopped green pepper to fill the remainder, top it with a heaping teaspoon of minced garlic, and a generous dose of Italian seasoning, and a little more tomato juice.

And this is what they look like when they are done. This is the first tray of the season, fresh to the freezer.

Tomorrow morning I'll be out picking more tomatos, rinsing and repeating, until the freezer is full and come October, the spaghetti will be in the crockpot.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Day 14/365 We Never Have Company...Can You Tell?

This is where I spent most of my day - my office - and people wonder why I don't get things done. I would love to say this was an exceptionally messy day - that normally my desk is tidy and well-organized, the floor is picked up, the bookshelves are not triple-stacked, and the stool is cleared off for a visitor to sit on - but that's all wishful thinking. It always looks this way - usually worse.

I am actually in the process of packing things up so I can get to the wall that is straight
in the center of this picture (and in back of the bookcase with the bright red book -in case you are wondering, it's a biography of Bonnie Prince Charlie of Scotland - that is one of my two Scotland bookcases.)

The game plan is to clear things away from that wall, paint it a little-darker-than celery green, then build bookshelves from ceiling to floor, from one end of the wall to the other, framing the window. We badly need bookshelves (obviously), and the wall of books will also insulate the room in the winter. Right now there is a cool breeze that blows through in the winter, meaning I have a small heater under my desk and wear gloves while I list.

This is one of the drawbacks to living in one of those old historic houses. We have old historic drafts that blow through our un-insulated historic walls. In the summer, the quaint little rooms double as sauna boxes, meaning we have a complex arrangment of floor fans placed to blow the breeze from the air conditioner through the various doorways. On the other hand, the walls are the old plaster - the kind that was mixed with horsehair and then spread about 1/2" thick on wooden lathe - meaning each wall - inside and out - has the paint layers, 1/2" of plaster, another 1/2" of wooden lathe, then 8" of dead air, then another 1/2" of lathe, then 1/2" wooden clapboard, and, in our case, newer siding over the original clapboard.

That wall construction means that even on days like today - July days in Virginia with the temperature in the 90s - the house will stay dark and cool until about 3 pm. In the winter,
we can turn the heat up in the morning to take the chill out downstairs, and once it's heated, turn the heat back down, and the house will hold its heat until bedtime. At night, we can cut the heat down to 50 and the upstairs stays comfortable.

To the left of the picture, behind my chair, is a large double window that looks out onto the wide front porch. We did have benches and tables out on the porch but last summer one of the benches became home to a huge hornets nest, so this winter it was sprayed and removed. We ended up taking all the furniture off the porch - it looks very "Southern porchy" with the furniture, but the truth is the porch faces directly south, and when it's 90 degrees everywhere else, it's 120 on that porch. We prefer the swing garden in the back with the fountains - more private and probably 30 degrees cooler.

After my office wall gets bookshelves, the next wall up is in the livingroom, then another wall in the TV room, followed by the landing walls upstairs. They're all getting floor to ceiling bookcases. And finally - maybe- I'll be caught up with the books, and everything will be clean, organized, and look like a grownup's house.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Day 13/ 365 Seriously Blogging

Hi Mom - I'm so glad you're home from that box book sale thingie.
You left so early this morning, you completely forgot to feed me. You forgot to feed the other cats too - but never mind them - more importantly - you forgot to feed ME.

Yeah, yeah, congrats on the 13 boxes of books - later I'll do the climbing on them stuff, break them in and all that - but at the moment... Did I mention you forgot to FEED ME?

Since you FORGOT to FEED ME, I was forced to distract myself by writing your blog for today. I don't think they'll notice the difference.

Just helping out. NOW GO FEED ME. NOW. Or Else.
Love, Miss Serious Black

Friday, July 25, 2008

Day 12/365 Our New Deal Post Office

This is where I end up when I close off an email with "leaving to go ship".
This is the Rocky Mount Post Office, built by FDR's New Deal WPA
program in the 1930s. Inside there is a beautiful old mural that has been restored and cleaned to the original colors (yes I will get a photo one of these days). ***Addendum -7-26-08 - No, I won't get a photo of the inside and the mural. Turns out trying to do that upsets Homeland Security. ***


Just inside the front door is the old style dark wooden original architecture, with the newer glass doors added into that. Within the last year, I've switched to online postage, and it is more efficient, saves me time, uses barcoded labels that speed up shipping time, etc etc. But I miss standing in line at the post office and hearing all the local gossip, talking to my postal clerks (who are the best in the entire postal system), and seeing some of the local characters around Rocky Mount, who all seem to congregate at the post office.

Ebay has literally kept this post office alive - I once heard an estimate that maybe half of the business passing though here is due to ebay sellers.

I sometimes wonder if ebay realizes the extent to which they have become incorporated into people's livelihoods, not just on a individual level, but even to the USPS or office supply stores.

Tomorrow is another book sale day and it's box day on top of that, meaning I can buy as many books as I can stuff into a box, for $1-2.00 per box. Yes, we are taking the van and yes, we have added air to the tires. Wish us luck.


Day 11/365 Home of the Bedford Boys

Every Thursday this summer, through yesterday, have been our "drive 45 miles to Bedford for DD's class" day. She has a final paper to write by Monday night, and then she's done with Bedford for awhile.

These pics were taken earlier this spring - one of the scenery of the mountains west of Bedford, called the Peaks of Otter, and the other of the main fountain area of the National D-Day Memorial.



The National D-Day Memorial sits in Bedford Virginia as a tribute to a company of soldiers in World War II that suffered the highest death toll of any company that served. Known as the Bedford Boys, the few survivors that remain still come to the Memorial Day and Veterans Day celebrations. It's a unique memorial designed to incorporate the beaches of Normandy with metal lifesize sculptures of soldiers struggling through the water, and random fountain spurts that sound like bullets whizzing through the air. In April, we went to a living history event with World War II re-enactors who set up the "night before" Allied camp with tents, equipment, weapons, vehicles, briefing sessions, etc. DD was in heaven.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Day 10/365 One of My Obsession.......Book Sales

Yep.

It was book sale day.

Again.

We *did* donate 5 boxes to the sale, but then somehow managed to come home with another 5.

For those lucky enough not to enjoy this particular family hobby, here's how it works, for an ebay bookseller.

The night before, I load empty boxes in the back of the van, then the boxes of books we are donating to the sale, then our own two-wheeler to move the boxes. Then I remind child that we'll be getting up very early the next day to get to the sale.

The next morning I spend approximately 45 min dragging child out of bed, because she stayed up late in spite of needing to get up early.

Then we make a quick stop at the post office to ship books and another quick stop to get breakfast and something with either caffeine or sugar (or both) in it. Then we drive anywhere from 20 min to an hour (this morning's sale was the one with the hour drive).

Sometimes we are just attending a sale, but once a month we set up the sale for our local library, and twice a year we set up a sale for another county 's library (DH works in that county system, so we got drafted). That sale is this morning's destination.

Now, the last sale was at the end of March, so we thought there couldn't possibly be that many books donated already and it would be a quick set-up.

Wrong.

Someone's house apparently exploded with books and they sent them all to this branch. There are boxes and boxes and boxes of books, possibly the most they have ever had at one of these sales (and we've been doing this set-up for the last 7 years). Two hours into the setup, there are still 69 boxes of books remaining in the storage shed.

The first step is to set up all the tables and guess-timate which way the
wind blows with the donated books: will there be more fiction this month, or more non-fiction, or more paperbacks? Tables are designated, signs are made, and the sorting-of-the-books starts. Every box appears to have at least one of every type of book in it, so you either run all over placing books on their tables, or you make tall piles of teetering books, and everyone walks in the little paths between them.

Usually we have some "volunteers" from the local jail to help haul books in but not this morning. My daughter commandeers (and those of you who know her totally understand the use of this word) two 12-year-olds and trains them in on how to pack boxes on the 2-wheelers, how to maneuver it over the ramp, and how to drop the boxes off in the sale room and come back out in an orderly manner. She is the Stalin of the book shed, the Napoleon of the 12-year-olds and the Churchill of the labor force when negotiating for snacks and cold water. All 150 boxes are moved inside in an efficient manner, pretty much because she expects nothing less.

Unfortunately, the boxes are unpacked and sorted in a much less efficient manner, partly because book lovers are doing it, and we keep seeing books we like and paging through them, and talking about them, and recommending them to the other book lovers, who are busy paging through other books, and talking about them, and recommending them to us.

As a result there are books filling the tables, books filling the chairs,
books still in boxes, books that have been sorted and put into new boxes, which are then triple-stacked underneath their appropriate tables, which are already loaded with books.

Plus this sale has tons of VHS videos, books-on-tape, boxed sets of records, all sorts of magazines, but oddly only three sets of encyclopedias, only one box of National Geographics, and no boxes of large-print Harlequins.

And there's still people walking in with more bags of books to donate.
I'm thinking someone should lock the door.

Today's volunteers are all old-timers - everyone knows what they are doing, and it gets done, more or less. About mid-afternoon, someone mentions how odd it is that the sale profits are going to pay for the children's summer reading program, but everyone volunteering actually lives in another county and none of them even have little children. This leads to a spirited discussion of why none of the parents of the benefitted children have bothered to show up. No resolution of the topic, just a spirited discussion.

So why do we volunteer to do this? Simple. My name is Carole and I am a book addict. I am also an ebay bookseller, but if I am totally honest, I would still go to book sales even if I wasn't a bookseller, because I simply cannot resist a book, any book. History, biography, gardening, romance, philosophy, homeschool stuff, non-fiction, horror, science fiction, fantasy, old leather-bound books, you name it, I'll suck it up. Daughter grabs all the military, weapons, martial arts and religion books (that combo just begs for a psychological evaluation I know).

One of the perks of doing the set-up (other than the chance to get up early and drive for an hour and move 150 boxes of books) is getting to shop and buy while sorting books. Translation: we get all the good stuff.

That's how we ended up bringing home 5 boxes of books. It's all the good stuff. That's where it is. At our house.

Along with the other zillion boxes of good stuff we already had.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Day 9/365 Christian The Lion.....Chewy's blog

Short post from Chewy today:

Go watch this video. And remember it everytime you see someone mistreat an animal, abandon it, or write it off as "not worth it", or
say "it's only an animal."

http://www.conductdisorders.com/forum/showthread.php?t=16302

Then go hug your favorite pup.

Chewy & Carole

Monday, July 21, 2008

Day 8/365 There Are Gnomes At the Bottom of My Garden

I'm in the middle of an email discussion about a book I'm selling -Gnomes - by a Dutch illustrator Poortvielt. The question at the moment is whether or not it is a first edition, and we are both becoming convinced we have no idea, and neither does anyone else.

But more importantly is the book itself, which is an incredible lavishly illustrated study of the secret lives of Gnomes: their homes, customs and
traditions.

I realize some of you are very deeply fixed with the belief that gnomes do not exist (there are many gnomes who insist the same is true of you), but for several years I have been lucky enough to harbor several gnomes in my gardens. I assume for whatever reason they did not find the Weasley's garden satisfactory, and chose to emigrate to my Muggle world.

If you look very very closely, there are two tiny gnomes in the photo below. Yes, there are. DO NOT STARE DIRECTLY AT THE GNOMES!
It is considered impossibly rude and ill-mannered and may be the reason they refuse to acknowledge our existence.

This is one of the more easily accessible gnome residences: a castle, with the drawbridge down. Unusual, because gnomes are not particularily hospitable. Almost hidden below the castle is a gnome limo -the illustrious Eastern box turtle.


This photo got me in trouble - much like the Amish, gnomes do not care for being photographed. Also, they do not use orange triangles on their turtles.

However, this gentleman was looking for hats, and I had knowledge of a source - the photo of which appears below. In exchange, he allowed me to photograph him, only complaining a half hour or so.

The perfect gnome hat: wide-brimmed, with a fashionable swirl and twisted peak, comes in a variety of colors.


Meanwhile, gnomes have been spotted in other gardens - this photo was taken in my friend Deborah's woods just the other day.

Look around you, just out of the corner of your eye (remember never to stare directly), and be patient. They may agree to show themselves. Although they will probably never, ever, agree that you exist.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Day 7/365 Swing Garden


This is the view I see when I come out of the side door in our garage.
That's where I spent most of today, still working on rearranging my book
room inventory, making sectional signs ("Romance A-B") for the
paperbacks and getting six more boxes sorted out to their respective
sections. Only six more boxes left in the house, plus whatever we haul home from the book sale this coming Wednesday.

Since the temps were above 95 all day, I took frequent breaks in my "Swing Garden". The first photo looks at that garden from the garage, the second and third look out towards it from the house.

I picked up a couple more hanging plants yesterday at Lowe's, on special of course, because Lowe's is tired of watering them. Already today they are all billowy with fresh blossoms. The other plants are French lavender, Sweet Basil, Russian Blue basil, purple basil, pansies, coleus, strawberries, monarda for the butterflies, tansy, fernleaf dill, sage, rosemary, dill, one small hydranga, citronella, curly variated thyme, one blueberry bush and three various sized bloody dock plants. Oh, and two huge yucca plants that came from the family cemetary up in the mountains (along with the twelve yucca in the front yard). These two yucca have broken through their plastic planters and grown into the ground, created several babies, and pretty much just commandeered their entire area.

The birdbath was an early birthday present from my daughter. It's a Celtic design in a sage green color. I love all things Celtic so it was a perfect fit for the Swing Garden. It sits directly in back of the water garden, so when the birds splash they knock most of the water into the pond.

Some mornings we have birds lined up to use the birdbath - eight or nine finches will bath together, but the blue jay's prefer to go one at a time.
The mourning doves can only fit three at a time, and I have seen them jostle each other off the edge. Even the crows like it, even though they are so big they make it look like a wading pool.

If the line is too long, some of the smaller birds will come just under the edge of the roof, to sit and drink from the larger fountain that sits directly across from the swing, surrounded by a base of Boston ferns.

A couple years ago I finally got the hang of taking care of Boston ferns, and now manage to winter most of them over. This year I'm hoping to put up hooks in the upstairs bath and laundry room and take them up there during the colder months. Last year I sent some home with my mom for babysitting, and somehow they never came back (but her house looks real nice). Here's the secret in case there's anyone like me who didn't get it: never water from the top, only from the bottom. Keep a plastic tub just for the ferns (or use your bathtub or sink), put about 3-4" of water in it, and set the fern in it every 2 days (every day if it's really hot and dry), leave it for a couple hours. It will soak up as much water as it needs. After you get use to the feel of the weight of the pot in your hands, you'll be able to tell just by lifting it whether or not it needs water.

This is where you'll find me most mornings while I take the dogs out - they get to play and lie in their cabana, I get time to sit and read and drink my tea.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Day 6/365 Taking The Trash

Threw the DD in the car today to take pics around town while I drove.
Found out everything looks smaller in a photo: smaller mountains, smaller curves, smaller hills (whether looking up or down them), smaller strip malls (that's the silver lining right there).

So here's a small segment of our drive today entitled "Taking the Trash".
The reason we "take the trash" is not because someone is waiting for it on the other end and neither is it someone else's good trash that we are rummaging through on trash day. Our little town refuses to enact a leash law, mostly because of the "good ol boys" that run the town that grew up here with their packs of hunting dogs, and in the process developed a love for "dogs gone wild".

As a result, on Tuesday around noon, the town looks like a garbage truck exploded - the roaming dogs have gotten into everyone's trash and spread it far and wide.

So we haul the trash every few days out to the green boxes. It's a picturesque drive with switchbacks, narrow bridges, chickens, huge dogs that sleep on the shoulder of the road, and, at Christmas, The Christmas House (they fill their yard with *every* Christmas lawn ornament Walmart has ever sold). I especially like the big blow-up snow globes.

The top photo is the switchback curve, where you can meet yourself coming if you're not careful. If you pay attention, you can dodge the box turtles and black snakes on this section. To the left, the trees are scrub - they are growing out of rock, which goes straight up and forms Bald Knob. I've never been up there. One, I'd have to walk, and two, that's where the timber rattlers live. I know this because around Halloween time they crawl across our yard trying to get home to the rock mountain for winter.



This is the artificial dam, topped with a huge log jam. The town managers have gotten a federal grant to build a water park/tubing park along this river , but first they have to figure out how to blow up this dam.

They've been thinking on it for two years now.

Here's the interesting part: this dam is the view on the right side of the bridge. But if you look to the left side of the bridge, downstream, you see the water treatment plant.

I know I can't wait to go tubing there.


Further down the curvy road, braving the chances of bolting deer and waddling groundhogs, not to mention the occasional bear or coyote.

Still on the way to drop the trash off. Really.


Our green boxes, looking better than usual, since they've just been emptied. This is the hot spot for abandoning animals: a box of kittens or litter of pups. One of our upstairs kitties -Luna - was found here (the locals have a particular dislike for black animals -most of the abandoned and abused ones are black). Other things are left sitting outside the green boxes in the spirit of recycling: sinks, entertainment centers, recliners, and once, in a clean white bag, I found a white sweater, with a fur collar, and a $300 price tag still attached. Took it home and sold it on ebay.


This is the metal gate to the right of the trash boxes. It leads to the Live Ammunition Firing Range for our local police dept. That's why sometimes you see people dropping off their trash, and then they'll duck real sudden-like. It's the sound of the Glock's firing -we're still not sure which way that firing range is pointed. That gunfire is not to be confused with the gunfire from local hunters, or from locals in general taking potshots at silly women driving around taking pictures.


Friday, July 18, 2008

Day 5/365 Hollyhocks, Coke and Jimi



Spent today rearranging my book inventory room out in the garage and working with a new numbering system (that someone on the Dock mentioned once and I made a note to use) that will save me loads of shelf space, and still let me find books quickly - much better than the alphabetical system. As a result, I spent a lot of time thinking about photography while I shifted and lifted book boxes, and decided to put up a pic with different effects. I'm still don't think of digital photography as "real" photography, having come out of the SLR, darkroom, exposure meter, chemical and paper generation. But it sure is easier.


This photo is of my Monarch Red hollyhocks -right now they are approximately 6' tall and should reach up to 14'. We planted them for their height, to block our view of our icky neighbors during the summer, as well as to irritate them, since the wife constantly harped on how everything in her yard had to be blue or yellow, and our flowers were throwing her yard color scheme off. Of course, that was just encouraged me, so the only things I've planted are anything BUT blue and yellow.



At any rate, these blooms start out a light red, then darken, eventually turning a dark maroon red. The little green onion-like things are seed pods, and guarantee there'll be even more next year. The bumblebees love the flowers and cross-pollinate all summer, so next year the colors will mutate even more (although probably not ever, ever turning out blue or yellow).



The photo below is the same one, done in black and white, and flipped, and cropped.






And here, it's "negativized" which I think is the digital way of doing infrared effects - it use to be actual film you bought, had to be refrigerated until you used it, and was used to make creepy effects.
Forests and trees looked great in it. Think "Blair Witch".


In this case it brings out the differences in color from the center to the edges of the petals.






And this one is "colorized", this time to green, because it's my favorite color. We use to do this with filters that screwed on the end of whatever lens being used at that time. There were filters that would add sparkles, stars, multi-facets, and they could be stacked so multiple filters could be used at the same time. Now, you can just click the "effects" folder, and then "colorize".



It's easier, probably more accurate, definitely safer than using chemicals,and infinitely more cost efficient. But it isn't nearly as much fun or as satisfying as working in a darkroom, particularily with just the red-lights on, wet prints strung up everywhere, a ice-cold bottle of Coke, and Jimi Hendrix on the turntable.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Day 4/365 The Amazing Portrait of Chewbacca The Wookie


Day Four is coming early since tomorrow I'll be running the child to her classes, checking in with my folks, etc etc. Since I also spend A LOT of time taking care of the pets, today's photos are of some of them (all that's missing is the upstairs cats, who weren't interested in participating. They are cats and do as they please). This is our new portrait of Chewy (for those who don't know, he's Chewyboo on ebay, and he was kind enough to hire me to write his auctions for him). His full name is Chewbacca the Wookie, Chewy for short, Chewyboo on ebay, occasionally
Boo-Boo when he's being a baby, and, lately, Grandpa Boo Boo, since he's getting a little white beard (he'll be 8 years old this fall) He answers to all of them. Jai Johnson did his portrait and you can find a link to her website along the side of my blog - Chewy highly recommends her.


This is our newest addition, Miss Serious Black (she arrived at our house on July 20, a year ago Sunday -her assigned birthday - and also the day of the last Harry Potter book release. She has a very quizzical-looking, serious face - so of course she had to be Serious Black.) Seri was found thrown in a dumpster at the tender age of 6 weeks, starving and flea infested. Of course she came home with DH, went to the vet, lived in the downstairs bathroom for a couple weeks, then moved upstairs to DD's room so the upstairs cats could talk to her under the door and trade pawpats. She blended in perfectly with them, but has developed into a thrill-seeker - never quite getting the whole "fear-of-dogs" thing, which drives the dogs crazy. Her favorite place to sleep is on my printer,and she's used to me picking her up so the paper can come out, and then laying her back down, while she's still sleeping.


These guys never get the same publicity that Chewy does, but they are his adoptive family - l. to r. Whiny, Lucky, and Dad Max. All are pure-bred Miniature Schnauzers, with the two younger boys being 9 years old and Max being 10 years old. They yap *a lot*, but are doing better now that the mean lady next door has moved.


This pic is several years old, but still one of my favorites of my DD and Miss Millie - the only female miniature schnauzer - mom to the two boys and partner to Max. Millie is almost a silver schnauzer, and cursed with very fine wispy hair that tangles and mats if you look at it. In the spring she is pink, because our county has dark red clay. It's an okay look for her, since she's a foo-foo girly type, but sortof hard on the boy schnauzers.


This is one of our last pics of Sweet Girl, our outdoor kitty who adopted us when we moved here 11 years ago. She was waiting on the front steps when we pulled up in the U-Haul truck, and just sort of stayed. As she got older, she would stay closer and closer to the house, but she would still follow me out to the garden to check it every morning, and she had her own chair out in DH's woodshop so she could keep an eye on him. In the winter, we set the garage up as her personal apartment, complete with a heat lamp, comfy chair, rug, food and water. Never once would she agree to come in the house, and only within the last 4-5 years would she let us pick her up or pet her. About the same time she also started keeping me company in my garage bookroom. We estimated her age at 15-19 years old when she passed away late this spring, probably from kidney failure, or maybe just old age.

We buried her out in the furthest corner of the yard, next to our other kitty, Grandma Ethel, under the butterfly bushes, with ivy covering their graves.

Someday, the upstairs cats will agree to be interviewed, and perhaps even photographed, if their schedule allows.

Day 3/365 Little Greenhouse in the Yard



This is where I started my day -
out in the garden,
trying to get rid of some of the weeds growing up on the sides of the greenhouse. My goal (every morning) is to get out there about 6 am, when it's still cool, and get all the weeding done. While this is a great goal, realistically it will never happen - so I get out there about 9 am, and weed a portion a day. Today was the day to get the weeds out of the sunflowers that I've planted on either side of the greenhouse. While the sunflowers were seedlings, the weeds helped to protect them and shield them from too much sun, and kept the moisture in the soil after it rained. Now that the sunflowers are almost 5 feet tall, the weeds can go. To use the greenhouse in the summer, I either had to purchase a shade cloth (about $50) that would lay over the top half and cut the heat by about 60% or come up with another way to shade it (whitewash paint, interior rolling shades,etc). Then I decided (for this year) to plant Mammoth sunflowers on each side, and let them grow to their expected 12 -16 feet, and throw their shade on the greenhouse, plus being food for the birds, and looking beautiful as well. One less piece of plastic used in the environment, and if it works, that's what I'll do every year. The normal temperature in the greenhouse has been 100-121 degrees at mid-day, but already the sunflowers are lowering it to 85 degrees max. When they reach their full height, it should be down to 75 degrees - perfect for growing lettuce, cauliflower, and starting seedlings for plants for the fall/winter.
Out in the yard, even in the shady beds, it's way too hot for the lettuce, and most of what was growing has gone to seed. As much as I hate to, we'll be buying lettuce for the next month to 45 days - then we'll be back to homegrown.
The inside view shows some of the greenhouse "furniture". I grabbed some discarded items from around the house: an odd 2 level step-shelf,
three plywood benches we had out on the front porch for seating (until we found out those charming Southern front porches are useless if they face south - the sun makes the temp about 30 degrees higher than whatever the normal temp is), some plastic bread racks that stack (perfect for seedling beds), lots of plastic barrels to mix soil in, and a pop-up dorm hamper that I use for trash, or carry with me to throw weeds in.
This is the first summer we've had the greenhouse after building it last summer. Having it meant I could winter over almost all off my plants and herbs and save a small fortune this spring. Even the water plants for the fountains made it!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Day 2/365 The Bright House on Court Street


Today's photo is of our house - we've lived here 11+ years and this is the first picture I've taken of the front of it. The trees have gotten out of hand, so it's starting to look like Boo Radley lives here.

This is our third historic house (the first one was an 1875 Victorian gable that started out as a log house with a loft, then was built around that, the second was a 1900 Arts and Crafts that was hands-down our favorite house). This one - well, it's an experience.

It was built in 1858, by a man named Samuel Bright, on land that was originally an apple orchard in the 1700s. Samuel was the village tanner/saddler, and built our house for his daughter and her new husband. The couple lived here for two years before the Civil War exploded, and the husband went off to war, while his bride moved back in with her parents next door. Poor Samuel had just that year (1860) started another house (across the street from us) for his other daughter, and her new husband. He was a doctor, and left immediately with the local company to serve as medic in the war. He and his wife were still living with Samuel while their house was being built, so that daughter remained with her parents, and the house, with its one wall, just waited four years till the war was over. So Samuel ended up with one empty house (ours), a one-wall house (across the street) and both of his daughters back home with him and his wife and remaining 7 children.

One hundred and forty three years later, there are no more Bright's in town, and the three houses have gone through several owners, but otherwise they look pretty much as they did at the end of 1865. Our house still has the original window panes (and the original drafty windows), the five fireplaces, the American chesnut tree trunks that were used to built the main supports and walls, the solid worn plank oak flooring, and the wide woodwork and 8 foot tall pocket doors. Samuel's daughter would have no trouble recognizing her bedrooms, or her sitting parlor, but would miss the outdoor separate kitchen that stood where our garage stands now, as well as the barn that took up most of the backyard, and the lane that ran along the back to allow access for the horses. The last cherry tree from their orchard died 10 years ago, the apple trees are long gone, but the walnut tree is still there, and bearing bumper crops every year.

Samuel's house still stands next door (built in 1798), and the second house he built stands across the street, listed in the historic registry for being the home of Dr. Thomas Greer, the son-in-law medic who came home from the Civil War, to his one-wall house and his patient father-in-law.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Day 1/365 Middle of Nowhere

365 days in Franklin County, Virginia - a photo a day - the first is of a remote creek over in the western part of our county, actually, truely, the
real-McCoy, moonshine-ers' creek. Moonshine was a huge part of life from the earliest Scot-Irish settlers up until probably this morning.

What I like about this creek is having a picnic on the banks, and wading in it to pick up huge perfectly round "pancake" rocks to lug back to my garden. The bigger boulders are rounded and shaped by thousands of years of water and look for all the world like a giant dropped a bag of marbles in the creek.

This time of year, many of these creeks have shallow water - less than a foot - and you can still see rock piles placed by the early Native Americans to help the fish breed. Not too far away, we can walk a old section of the original Carolina Road, the same road my ancestors walked down in the 1700's when they came to southwestern Virginia, and the same road the Native Americans walked before them.

This time of year you have to wonder how they did it: on foot, in long heavy dresses with long sleeves, no bug spray and no air-conditioning at the end of the day.