Saturday, July 31, 2010

Straight Out of the Camera Sunday

It is Straight Out of the Camera Sunday time, a meme of Murrieta 365.  There are two rules:  1) you must take the photo yourself, and 2) no tweaking.

My best friend is visiting from Houston, and on our way to Wimberley we stopped at The Old Oaks Ranch Fiber Center sculpture garden.  Don't you just love this horse?

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Until next time, God bless.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Stealth Visit

Woke up before dawn this morning determined to make a stealth visit to the big garden to see if I could catch whichever varmint is sampling the cantaloupes.  Just about every cantaloupe has bites out of it; the other day I found only a shell of a cantaloupe with all the insides gone except the rind.

After finding the cantaloupe shell, I added more fencing which apparently did not stop the unknown critter because if you look closely, you'll see the top bite looks fresh, i.e., last night or early morning.  Needless to say, I did not see the culprit this morning. 

I have two more spots to plug -- the gaps under the gate and on the side of one gate.  Luc and I are going to Home Depot today to pick up some cement slabs to plug the bottom.  (Luc's in training for the Canine Good Citizen test which he has to pass next week in order to get into Therapy Dog training.  The class was postpone until next Wednesday due to a schedule change.)  But back to the gate, we are not professional gate hangers and the gates need a little work. :D In addition, both gates are only 4 feet high and I may have to come up with something to keep deer from jumping into the garden if the cement slabs placed below do not stop the raids.  I have plan to keep deer out but am hoping I do not need to execute. 

Actually there are three places to plug; one is by the tractor shed which borders one side of the garden.  Someone, who shall remain nameless, accidentally caught a mower on the side of the shed as the tractor operator was mowing down some weeds.  It's a small opening that some chicken wire stapled inside will plug.  Ya know, if you are not lying around watching TV or reading and eating bon bons, things happen.  lol

Nevertheless, as I was stealthly moving about the property, I spied these lovelies. I came back an hour or so later when the sun was higher to photograph.

Morning Glory

Miss Worker Bee on a watermelon bloom

Butterfly looking for its next drink

A butterfly getting a drink on a cone flower

We had about an inch of rain the past couple of days and the mornings are deliciously cool.  It's a good day to be alive. 

Until next time, God bless.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Straight Out of the Camera Sunday

It is SOOC Sunday again.  There are two rules:  1) photo must have been taken by you, and 2) no tweaking.

I wasn't sure I was going to post today; however, I'm irked!  Truly irked!  This my first attempt to raise some corn and this worm infested every  ear of corn. 

I've been on the net all morning searching out what to do next year to prevent this from happening, i.e., such as what plants will attract or deter this pest, what kind of beneficial insects should be released, and what kinds of organic pest control spray to use.  Next year I will be armed with solutions.  (I hope.)  But guess what.  This city girl found out that gardening is not all that easy.  It's complicated and fraught with disaster.  I'm getting a better appreciation for farmers. 

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Until next time, God bless.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Luc Training

After getting my hair cut yesterday, I came back home to pick Luc up for a serious training session at Tractor Supply and Home Depot.  He is better in that he did not pull me with quite the determination he has done in the past, but he is a long way from passing a Canine Good Citizen test.  There were quite a few stops, sits, and returns to the spot where he would not do what he was instructed to do, i.e., heel and walk with a loose leash, in both parking lots.  As we walked up to the four-foot high, customer service counter, he did what he always does when we walk into the vet's:  stands up and puts his front paws on the counter to greet those behind the counter.

Luc made it out of the house with a stolen pillow from a chair. 
Note the bare ground; photo taken when we were experiencing a drought in 2009.

He finally calmed down as I searched out the item to be purchased.  But as we were walking towards a check out counter, there was a little girl of about four years old standing off to the side.  In Luc's world, a child of any size is the most exciting person to walk the earth and should be immediately investigated.  I stopped about 20 feet away, made him sit for about 30 seconds, and gathered my courage with the hope he would not dash (pull me) over to the little girl.  I gave him the "let's go" command, kept my body between him and the little girl, and made it to the check out counter without incident, although I kept a tight leash and used my knee to help guide him to keep walking straight.  I breathed a sigh of relief that we made it without his rushing up to the little girl, knocking her over in excitement, and then licking her face. 

Today, we have another training session.  We are going to the vet's to pick up his dog food, to Tractor Supply, Home Depot, and to the kennel where the therapy classes are to be held.  Since he is in training, the kennel will allow us to hang out for a while so he can get use to people and other dogs coming and going without going into a slobbering tizzy of over exuberance.  Tomorrow's session will be to the Farmer's Market; Sunday or Monday will be Pet Smart in Austin.  Tuesday will probably be Tractor Supply on the way to the first therapy class at 7 PM.  The Canine Good Citizen test is administered in the first Therapy Dog training session.  If passed, the dog goes on with the rest of the session; if failed, he is out until he can pass the test and then wait for another session to be scheduled.  

Wish me luck.  :D  Luc is goosey and still acts like a pup at five years old.  He had two 6-week obedience training class sessions.  I should have really stayed with  field trips to get him under control in public places but it was an incredible fight and tug-of-war and did not keep it up.  I thought that by waiting until he was older, he would be more inclined to behave.  Again, not a good decision.  So, I'm worried that he will not pass the test. 

I always like to have a Plan B.  If he does not pass and cannot participate in this therapy dog training session, we'll do a couple of more private training sessions with field trips to various places that allows dogs or see if there is a Canine Good Citizen class anytime soon.  I am determined to make him into a therapy dog...he is perfect in that he has a sweet personality and loves, loves people, and would bring much joy and love to those that might need some extra. 

Until next time, God bless.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Texas July Gardening

Got up early this morning to do some weeding in my big garden.  What can I say about can pull every one that is seen and with some dew or one-tenth inch of rain they overtake what was previously weeded!  It's ridiculous!  I've actually been attacking the weeds for the past few days. Last week I covered the unplanted rows in recycled black plastic, weed-control fabric to let the sun kill the weeds before doing some late summer/fall plantings. 

After doing a quick training session with Luc to get him ready for therapy dog training beginning July 27, I put on my weeding clothes -- shorts, t-shirt, a long sleeve shirt, leather gloves, a wet bandanna around my neck, head band, and straw hat -- at 8 AM, (7 AM sun time).  Let the dogs out of the yard to go with me to the big garden.  They did fine for about 5 minutes until the cows started coming our way.  Luc and Maggie immediately charged the cows just to remind them that they, the dogs, rule.  I called the dogs back, put them behind the yard fence, and proceeded to the garden, again!

The bees were in full force gathering pollen in and around the corn.  When I left the garden around 10 AM, I noticed the bees were no longer there.  Not being knowledgeable in bees, I'm guessing when the temperature gets so high, the bees return to their hive until it is cooler.  So, if someone knows anything about bees and I made a wrong guess, feel free to set me straight.  :D

I planted zinnias, marigolds and other flowers in and around the veggies.


At present, this is the biggest watermelon in the garden.  It more than double its size in the last seven days.  Can hardly wait until it is ripe for harvest.  I'm interested in seeing just how big it will get; and then, its taste, of course.

A baby watermelon.   At bottom of the photo is a drip tape line; I installed a drip irrigation system with a timer that makes gardening wonderful.  The timer is programed to water 10 minutes, 3 times a day, on M-T-Th-Sa.

More zinnias in and around the corn and watermelon.  I'll probably make another run at the weeds tonight around 8 PM (7 PM sun time.)  I've three more rows to weed. 

As an aside, Luc did really well on the loose leash training this morning.  In thinking back on our training Saturday at Home Depot and Tractor Supply, I realized I was not conveying what I wanted him to do when he is on leash. I figured out what to do, hopefully, and after a few more days training with a loose leash, we'll go back to the stores, the vet, and to the kennel for more training.  I have 8 days to train him to not go nuts upon seeing people and dogs so he can pass the Canine Good Citizen test and then enter into the Therapy Dog training program.  Up to this point, he is 85 pounds of white lightning when he encounters people and dogs.  And, I might add it is somewhat embarrassing to be the person trying to hold on to the leash and him as he drags me towards the object of his affection. 

Until next time, God bless. 

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Therapy Dog Training, Part I

I took Luc for an evaluation and a private session to a lady, Misty,   who does Therapy Dog training.  One of the kennels in the area is beginning to offer classes for therapy dogs.  A dog has to pass a Canine Good Citizen test in order to go on to training as a therapy dog.   Luc has a great personality, loves people, loves dogs, loves children but goes into an over exuberant tizzy upon seeing people, dogs, children and anything new.  The private dog training session was to show me how to work with him on these issues.  :D 

We both have some work to do to get ready for the class beginning July 27.  There is only one part of the test that he might fail, i.e., the walk-by, or when two people walk towards each other with their dog on the left.  We are suppose to be able to stop and shake hands without the dogs being dogs,  in other words crossing in front to greet and/or make friends with the other dog.  Hmmm, if he fails, we have to work some more and do the class the next time it is offered. 

After spending about an hour with Misty, I registered for the class and then took Luc to Home Depot and on to Tractor Supply.  I have to do that every day for the next ten; and hopefully, he'll pass the Canine Good Citizens test.  If "we" do, we get to stay in the Therapy Dog training. 

Ever since I learned about the program, I've always thought Luc would be a wonderful therapy dog.  Therapy Dogs go to hospitals, senior citizen homes, and other health care facilities to visit.  I've been waiting until Luc was old enough to calm down, and I suppose he has somewhat. But he and I definitely need more training to enter a strange place without his going bananas with excitement.  :D   I learned an interesting piece of information today, actually more than one, but however long you train a dog you need put your dog in his crate for double the training time.  The rest and lack of distraction allows them to process the training.   

All in all, it was a most successful session for us both.  I just hope he can pass the walk-by test and we can begin the therapy training.  :D 

Until next time, God bless.

PS:  Don't let that peaceful, calm, and at rest pose fool you.  Luc has two switches - on and off.  I'm hoping to modify that a bit.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Straight Out of the Camera Sunday

It is Straight Out of the Camera time again.  There are just two rules:  1) photo must be taken by you, and 2) no tweaking.

Peaches on the backyard tree just before picking.  I froze about 24 cups of peaches this year; and while not sure, I think hubby may have eaten another 24 cups.  I'd bring in a full basket and the next morning it would be about 1/2 full.  lol  The peaches in this area are small but the flavor is big, big, big. (Hey, what do you expect from a Texan?  We are always bragging about one thing or another.  However, Alaska becoming a state kind of put a crimp in the "big" brag.) 

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Until next time, God bless.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A New Recipe of Sorts

As mentioned in previous posts, my tomato plants are producing like crazy.  I've dried some in the dehydrator, made salsa, given some away, and a friend told me Friday what she did with some of hers which I tried today.  The dish was fabulous.

No measurements, however, you just have to go with it.  Take a bunch of vine-ripen tomatoes, boil some water, drop the tomatoes in the water for about one minute, remove and dump into a bowl filled with ice water -- mainly ice, little water.  Remove after a minute or so, the skins slip right off, cut out the core and slice away into chunks, drop in a pot.  Chop up onions, green pepper, celery, a few garlic cloves, salt, pepper, and add just a little water.  Simmer on the stove for about an hour, give or take 15-20-30 minutes to reduce the liquid.  You are on the fly here and just have to do a little guess work.

While the tomatoes are stewing, saute chopped onions in a little olive oil and brown crumbled, extra-lean, ground sirloin (hamburger), drain off the fat.  When the stewed tomatoes look about right to you, dump in the browned meat, simmer some more for a while then serve over brown rice, or not; whatever suits your fancy.  The dish was totally delicious.  I can hardly wait until tomorrow for the leftovers.  :D 

I think I'll try canning tomatoes next or do more salsa since I learned from a "salsa queen" that tomatoes need not be seeded.  If you will recall in the last blog entry or so, I spent hours and hours preparing the tomatoes for salsa with the result being two pint jars plus one 8 ounce jar.  My enthusiasm for making salsa waned when I thought the tomatoes needed seeding.  Now, I'm enthused again. 

Until next time, God bless.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Fruits of My Labor

Today was my first attempt at making salsa with tomatoes from my garden.

I started with these plus some more stashed in various places.

Popped the tomatoes in some boiling water for about 45 seconds and transferred to a bowl of ice water.  The skins slipped right off. 

I've got to tell you that slipping the skins off was easy; it's the seeding and coring that is a pain.  It took about two
hours to get five cups.  YIKES!  Of course, the tomatoes were fairly small; I have two Big Boy bushes, two cherry tomato, one grape tomato, and two Roma.  Don't attempt to do the cherry tomatoes. 

But, I did drain the leftovers into a pan for some very, very good fresh tomato juice.

The juice was extra delicious since I knew where it came from.  A few seeds slipped through the colander.

I needed 7 cups of tomatoes to follow the recipe I found.  There was a choice.  Either do some more tomatoes or open a can of diced tomatoes.  Hmmmm......another hour?  Hmmmmm, 5 seconds to open a can?  Which would you choose?  :D 

The canned tomatoes gave me almost 7 cups for the recipe.  I chopped some green onions, part of an onion from my garden, 2 jalapenos, a green pepper, 4 cloves of garlic, some cilantro, salt, added about 1/2 cup of vinegar and about 3 tablespoons of lime juice.  Cooked on the stove for about an hour and 15 minutes to reduce the liquid, poured into sterilized jars, topped with sterilized lids, and water bathed in boiling water for 15 minutes in the pressure cooker. 

Are you ready to see the fruits of my labor?  Here it is.

Yep, you are looking a two pint jars and one 8 oz. jar.   Needs more jalapeno.  If I decide to do another batch, I may just go with canned diced tomatoes.  I will not eat eggs without salsa.   I am thinking of canning some garden tomatoes but you do not need to seed them; just remove the skins and core.  Thinking....thinking...thinking.  :D

Until next time, God bless.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Skywatch Friday

Alex, the first hurricane of the year, blowing in some rain clouds, thank goodness. 

Go here for skies around the world.

Until next time, God bless.