Friday, August 15, 2008

Pappas Clan Vs Squirrels

So the gophers in the garden are no longer a big deal....they aren't really bothering the tomatoes or pumpkins or zucchini, and the cantaloupe has already been picked safely (and eaten.  It was good!!).  Now is the time of the year when my attention must be turned to the English walnut tree out the back door.  For the third year in a row, the thing is LOADED with walnuts, and because I am both greedy and cheap, I like to harvest as many walnuts as possible and give them away (usually roasted with cinnamon and sugar) at Christmas time.  The nuts begin dropping sometime in October.  The problem is, the squirrels know and love this tree, so they come out en force to try to steal the nuts before they drop to the ground - last week, actually, which seems awfully early to me, but then again, I don't know how the squirrels' sense of timing works.  So it is yet another war between my team (which includes me, my trusty dog Max, Jason, who just likes to shoot things, and our BB gun) and the varmints (in this case, squirrels).  For those of you who are under the illusion that squirrels are cute, sweet, puffy-tailed little critters, let me just explain that here in Garden Farms, squirrels are flea-laden, horrible-underbite-with-jaggy-teeth, fruit-stealing, disease-carrying rodents and are to be treated accordingly. Here is how the battle is waged:
1.  Squirrels send a representative to test our defenses by sneaking into the walnut tree and, if possible, chewing on the shell of a nut.
2. Max, our faithful sentry, sends out the alarm, which otherwise would just sound like really annoying persistent barking (high-pitched, too).
3. Jason or I respond with "Ooooo, there's a squirrel in the tree!" and run for the BB gun (first person there gets to shoot).
4. Many things can and do happen at this point.  Sometimes the mere presence of all of us will send the wimpy squirrel scurrying off to the next yard.  But sometimes the varmints will freeze, thinking that they become invisible when they do this.  Then the fun really begins for our team .
Okay, let me just say here that my goal is truly not to kill the squirrels.  It's messy.  And when they drop into the yard, the dog gets them, and more than once he has gotten tapeworms from the fleas (yes, squirrels really are that gross).  So my objective is to get them to leave the property and never come back.  I prefer to send them off with a little reminder in the butt (a shiny round metal reminder, if you know what I mean), so our rule for firing the gun is "Aim for the tail".  They are fluffy and make excellent targets.  And it usually works!  Except when we have to leave the house....then the dog is stuck by himself without the ability to fire the gun.  I sometimes imagine a little army of squirrels hiding out by the creek with a lookout saying, "Okay, boys, they're gone!" at which point several come brazenly over the fence, climb the tree and eat nuts to their hearts' content, all the while taunting the dog.  I've returned to the house and seen the evidence of this - mainly nut shells all over the cement.  And an embarrassed-looking Max.  But that's just one battle, and the war for walnuts has just begun..... 

Sunday, August 3, 2008

How We Are Doing On Our Summer 'To Do' List...

Here are Jamey and Grace working on the Rambler.....aaah, what a great bonding experience. This project is going well because a) it is about an hour's work away from the paint job, and b) we bought a canvas 'garage' for it so it can be zipped inside and completely hidden from view (not quite as white-trashy.  Hooray!).    

And, a highlight of my summer, here we are at Camden Yards for the Orioles-Blue Jays game (which the O's actually won!!!).  That brings J's and my summer total to 3 baseball games and one more major-league park (that total is now 7) with the possibility of an A's game and a Dodger game yet to come.  Woo hoo!

The gophers are staying away from the cantelope, which is great (Neighbor Chuck's got eaten, unfortunately.  He went to pick them and discovered that they were hollow - the little boogers tunneled up underneath and ate out the inside!).  We ate the first last night and picked another 'cute little cantelope' this morning.  And we are starting to get some really good tomatoes.  As a bonus, I asked my Aunt Virginia how she cans hers when we were back east and she explained the process to me, so hopefully I'll get some tomatoes canned to use later this fall.

No new grass planted yet, but we have an excellent reason - we haven't been home enough to water it (the new seed must be watered a few times a day).  So this project will get started after we get back from beach camping next week.  And then we will have a great wiffle-ball field / soccer field / football field in the backyard.  Hooray!

Guess where we went?

As you can see, we made a stop outside the US Capitol building on our way around Washington DC.  Despite the heat and humidity, we managed to log about 5 miles as we went from cool site to cool site.  Favorites: National Archives (Declaration of Independence), the war memorials around the Mall, and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.  And Monticello (in Virginia - we drove).
And below you can see the plethora of delicious food that was my family reunion (I might add, this is just the salads....the meat wasn't yet present, and desserts were on a different table).  We had family members from age 83 down to 18 months (about 60 total) playing volleyball, cards, croquet, target shooting (Jason is quite a marksman with a shotgun and a water balloon launcher!), exchanging facebook and cell phone info (that would be Grace's crowd), and telling great stories.  My aunt even arranged for each family unit to have their own color T shirt (ours are jade green, as you can see from Jason's modeling).  All 8 of my mom's siblings were together and it was wonderful in every way.  Wish we could host the next one - everyone would go home with a big zucchini!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Things to be thankful for today:
I got to take my dog for a 3-mile run this morning
Most of my legs didn't hurt afterwards
Our house is clean
....especially our claw-foot tub ('Kaboom' is good stuff!)
Jamey fixed all of the dents in a bumper today - 
the body work on the Rambler is almost done
We ate some great yellow tomatoes from our garden
....with zucchini, of course
Jason went to the Mid-State Fair today
We still have some pie from Jamey's birthday
Grace and Jamey went to the drive-in
I got the Klingenbergs to take a zucchini
A nice cold Coke Zero
I got to stay home and watch baseball!!!
Even though it was hot inside today, it will get into the 50's here tonight
We have great friends and neighbors