Saturday, July 30, 2011

New Lease on Life

 We've just spent the week here. . .
. . .in a cabin on Grand Lake in northeast Oklahoma.
We had a safe trip and fun experiences.
We stayed busy. .
Played hard. .
Might have eaten a little too much. .
And enjoyed life. . .
Every bit of it!! 
But one things remains true. . .
Will be back soon with some of the gory details and best shots from the week!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Struggling Plant Life

Or maybe it should read
 "The struggles of a plant's life". .or maybe
"The life of a struggling plant". .or what about. .
"The plants of a struggling life"
Or maybe I'll just get on with my story?
So, I had uploaded these photos to post on the other day before we were delighted with the surprise rain showers. Compared to photos from last year. .there is really not much AT ALL going on in the gardens here.
Only a few blooms. .these from the Pye Weed on the north side of the house. There are also some purple blooms from the crapemyrtle, some sunflowers blooming, one daylily, and a handful of annuals. What the heat hasn't stifled. .the big 'ole hoppers have. I have been trying not to use pesticide. .so I just look the other way.
This little doll has been one of the highlights of our week. Tristan was the first one to spot him. .and now we all look for him (or her) on the lilypads when we are near the window. I can't tell you how excited we are for the new friend to enjoy! The fish are getting HUGE!! The little 3 inch yellow koi that I bought at Pet Smart earlier this summer is probably up to 8 inches long and is getting very meaty!! The goldfish are growing by leaps and bounds too!! I am anxiously awaiting the clearing of the algae so we can watch them from the house. We all enjoy feeding them and watching the "feeding frenzy" happen. They dart and jump for the food, and are quite entertaining!
The plantings are settling in. .both inside and outside the pond. And I can't even imagine what I hope it to look like in a few years of development!
I planted many of them directly into the pea gravel instead of in pots, to look more natural. The big rush and variegated cattails went into fabric pots, to help control their growth! They are firmly anchored by now, and I was glad to see that they seemed to stand up very well to the high winds of the storm the other day.
This gray headed coneflower is one of the new plants that went around the pond this spring. They are xeric natives. .but I have been pouring the water to them this summer in the hopes of keeping them alive. Out of 29 plants. .I have lost 3. Hoping that High Country Gardens will stand behind their replacement clause. .but I wouldn't blame them if they didn't in this terrible, horrible, no-good, droughty-hot summer!
And here is my epic failure of the summer. . .
This WAS the baby blue eyes dwarf blue spruce tree that I got in Topeka last fall. About a month ago I noticed that it seemed to be dying before my eyes in the matter of a few days. .way less than a week. Initially I thought it was the extra heat from being on the south side of the house, close to the aluminum siding. By the third day, I was looking at it from the deck and noticed a bagworm. .and then two. .waving in the wind. I immediately picked them up and doused the tree with Sevin (according to the info I found on the internet). The next week, I spotted two more bags. .and Sevin'ed them again. I've seen no sign of life since. There are still a few tufts of blue/green needles. .but I'm not holding my breath that it will live. I also called my sister, who found bag worms on BOTH the spruce trees she purchased from the same nursery. Hopefully, she got hers treated in time. The people at the nursery told her she could have gotten the bag worms from anywhere. .and she told them. .that it was quite ironic that her sister also had bagworms on HER tree from THEIR nursery. .that was planted 5 hours away. Ya win some. .and ya lose some! Next time I will be more vigilant!!
The most exciting yard work I've gotten to do lately was re-arranging my front porch to make room for Devin's new table.
Looking forward to fall!!
Have a great week. .I know I will!!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

What is THIS???

This morning at 9:30 it was 103. I don't even know why I looked, but I did. I rolled my eyes and muttered something under my breath and went outside to move the water hoses around. The high for today was to be 106. .with a 20% chance of rain tonight. We have had a lot of "20% chances" of rain over the last 2 months. .I think to keep people hopeful for the moisture. At our place, we've had not quite an inch of precipitation since Christmas.
As we were eating lunch, we noticed clouds forming to the south. And really paid them very little attention until we saw the first raindrops! 
Initially, I called this photo pathetic (which was why I grabbed my camera to start with!) but now am calling it a divine blessing!
Cami didn't even remember rain. This was new fun for her!! She ran around like a crazy girl with her big brothers. They even ran through the water standing in the side of the driveway all the way to the road. 
Jeremy took a break from tuning up our vehicles to stand in the rain, drenching himself and soaking it up.
We got 4 tenths of an inch from the first shower. Then we enjoyed watching the second storm move in. You might notice the faint line separating the sky. .the darker area is where the rain was, and the boys were impressed to watch the leading edge of the rain move until we were getting soaked again.
We had enough to make puddles. . . 
And ended up just shy of an inch of rain throughout the afternoon. And my inlaws 2 miles away received 2 1/2 inches!!
And all of us are happy!!
Praise the Lord!!

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Fair Has Come. . .And Gone

Today feels like the first day of summer vacation. We have survived ball games through the month of June and the county fair that has taken the priority through the month of July. It is fun to watch the kids get excited about their interests and get involved in them, even developing new interests along the way. They were really blessed with great ratings, good advice, and positive feedback this year.
Of course, the highlight for their mom was the baking! And they did it well this year. We found out that things go better when there is only one cook and one supervisor in the kitchen at a time. The older boys are getting very independent, but I still like to be RIGHT there to listen to what they are doing, and ask questions to make sure they are doing things right. Grant started his muffins before I got home from work, and didn't melt the butter, instead worked in cool butter to his recipe. .NO GOOD! (tasted fine, appearance was not nice and texture was just plain weird)
Our kitchen was a hodgepodge of 4 varieties of muffins (including the messed up ones. .I made him do them over--mean mom!), pans of bar cookies with the middles cut out and a bundt cake (also affectionately referred to as the "butt cake").
Devin got the Reserve Champion ribbon of level 1 cooks on his Dijon Ham Muffins (the same recipe none of the boys wanted to try because it was going to be NASTY!!) I will hope to post the recipe one of these days because they were SOO good!! He also got to sell them at the premium auction Saturday night. .and made more than one little boy should. .but he was pretty happy about it. I might add here, that my sweet, accident prone 8 year old tripped on the bleachers about 10 minutes before he was supposed to auction his food and split his nose open, bled like a stuck pig all over his clothing, and caused his face to swell so badly between his eyes that he looked like a being from another planet!! (I later used medical glue to close the gash. .but even today, his swelling really makes his eyes and forehead look deformed and he is pretty concerned as to when it will look normal again)
Just one nasty angle of the kitchen when we were through with our 6 hour baking marathon last Tuesday!
He also got a state fair blue (equivalent to a purple) ribbon on the multi colored bars you see in the picture at the top. Grant made some maple muffins (twice) which received a state fair blue ribbon (on the ammended batch) and an apricot bar cookie that received Grand Champion in the level 2 class. .and Reserve Champion (2nd place) of all the baked food items in all levels submitted. He got to auction them off Saturday night as well. The boys decided that they may pool part of their money together and buy a new tube for the boat next week when we are at Grand Lake. Tristan made some chocolate cookie muffins which got a blue and a milk chocolate bundt cake which earned a SF blue. Looks like the two older ones will bake again in September to take their food products to the state fair.
Aside from foods, Tristan scaled back this year to 3 projects. His photos didn't do as well as he would have liked. .reason being the camera he borrowed to take some photos had the resolution set to a lower level, so they didn't blow up as nice as they might have. Those photos earned red ribbons. He also had two photos that received blue ratings
This being one of those. We will probably send it to the state fair as part of a contest put on by the Kansas wheat commission.
ID ing the new specimens at our geology trip
He also got Reserve Champion on his geology exhibit. This year he had to pull out 15 older specimens in order to replace 15 new ones. He can only have 2 boxes with 60 specimen total. That was a little bit hard for him to decide! He will get to send it on to the State Fair in a few months.
Grant did well with his photos, earning a couple SF blues (now he will have to decide which to send to the State Fair) a blue and a red ribbon. He tried electricity as a project this year, not doing much with it until about a month ago. I found a couple of project plans on the internet; one for a simple circuit switch that turns on a small light (above) and one for a simple motor (which ultimately had some issues and didn't make the fair this year). The judge asked him tons of questions and he really enjoyed talking to her about his project. I think he found out he knew more than he thought. He got the grand champion. .that being said. .it was the only electricity exhibit there :-)
His other new project, horticulture, turned out to be a real treat for him too! Tuesday evening, he, Devin and I went out to the garden to see what we could find to send. We found enough yukon gold and red potatoes to make 2 exhibit plates; one of each (they have to be relatively the same size, which was the hardest thing to accomplish without digging them all up). We also soaked the soup out of the carrots and harvested all of them. I knew from taste testing earlier pickings that the carrots were very bitter (from the heat?? or lack of water??). But we didn't really care how they tasted. They were an experiment for starters, and we were just tickled to find that they grew into REAL carrots. The seeds were from a colored carrot mixture and I didn't even expect them to even germinate after I read that we needed to keep them evenly moist for 3 weeks!)
He was like a kid in a candy store cleaning up and sorting through all of those carrots. Some of them tasted alright, but most were still very bitter. We saw firsthand what happens when you don't thin them out enough. We had a lot of carrots that looked like lady's legs attached to a "pelvis" of one carrot splitting into 2 roots forming the legs. .and yes, we even found a few sets of men legs with extra attachments forming a 3rd root. .if my testoneronic kids didn't laugh out loud to see THOSE veggies! Admittedly, so did I. .maybe it was the heat. .or stress. .or delirium??
He got blue ribbons on both plates of carrots (5 yellow ones, and 5 orange ones). He also went out on his own Wednesday morning and clipped a sunflower and a coneflower to enter. He got Grand Champ flower on the sunflower, and Reserve Champ on the cone flower (and there were a few more than two flowers to choose from!)
Devin answered a lot of questions from this judge on all of his projects. .as she was the one judging most of them. He got a blue on his cedar bluebird house, and reserve champion on this little side table (I have some super cute photos of him making it, and hope to post on it separately later). I was helping the food judge all morning by marking on cards and repackaging their food after judging, so my kids were on their own to listen to the judges. I did get to hear Dev talk to the judge about his wood projects. He couldn't see that I was behind him listening, and his answers to her questions just made me smile. One of the questions that she asked was why he had cut angles on the floor of the birdhouse. .the answer she was looking for was that this provided drainage for the bird. He, on the other hand, wrinkled up his freckled nose and got a confused look in his baby blues and replied slowly, "Well, because that is what the instructions said!" His other cute remark was in answering her question as to what type of saw he used to cut his wood. She wondered if it was electric and he said "No, it is the one where you push the little button and then pull the handle down (an electric table saw!) Guess we better do a little more explaining as we construct :-) His photos did ok. He got a reserve champion of the level 1 class with a photo of wheat stalks. He also got a couple of red ribbons and another blue on the remainder of his pictures. Despite not being enrolled in the geology project this year, he ended up adding to his 4-H box from last year, since he went to the trouble of going on the state trip and IDing the specimens. He got a blue ribbon on his open class exhibit, and a stern lecture about needing to be in geology again next year.
Devin's highlight of the fair was NOT his awesome muffins. .but his rocket! I had overlooked getting him a rocket to put together this year. .and actually had a friend who was going to Hobby Lobby pick one up for us, sight unseen (and she has NEVER bought a rocket before. .thanks Kendy!) He put it together by himself under the advisement of Grant and his dad.
The rockets must be launched before the fair (and if they survive, can be entered) and include a short story and photos. I learned how to arrange and print photos in Word with the story (it's always a good day when I can learn something new. .especially if it is related to a computer!) And he was pleased to get a Grand Champion on that too.

The fair is a lot of fun to me. First of all, it brings back good memories from my childhood. But I most enjoy watching the kids take pride in their projects and showing their interest in the projects of their friends. More than once I heard kids explaining what THEY did to their friends, or to any other interested party that might have asked! We sure enjoyed a busy week, but it was fun to attend the carnival games and the livestock auction; and even better. .a great time catching up with friends enjoying the same events we were!
Support your local 4-Her's. . .
They're busy "making the best better!"
Happy Monday. .and thanks for dropping by!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Too Hot to Work!

First of all. .the kids had a GREAT week at the fair!! I have some photos and lots of results. .but those will wait for another day. .cause I wanted to share these photos (and it'll be a quicker post for me!)
In among the fair activities this week, Tristan celebrated his 15th birthday. He and his dad have been planning for weeks to take the day off today and hang out at the lake with his buddies. They did some skiing, wakeboarding, and tried out the new knee board. .but the real hit was the tube.
I was excited to try out my Canon XS 30IS on the lake. You may recall that I got it before Christmas and have so far loved it. I was eager to see how well it zooms on the lake. When we hit the lake on our vacation in a few weeks will be the real test. But I was pleased with the photos from today.  
The looks on their faces were priceless. We played on the water for about 7 hours today. .and enjoyed every minute of it! 
About the time we were heading over to pick up Tristan's other friends that were a little late coming. .we encountered a little problem.
Apparently. .Jeremy assumed that because the dial kept bouncing up and down (as we hit wave after wave) that we still had gas! Hmmm. .NOPE! Good thing there was a nice wind to push us into the shore! 
The boys tried to paddle with the skis. . . 
And then resorted to swimming and pulling. . . 
. .and pushing. . . 
. .and walking through the water pulling (unfortunately. .since we have been so low on the moisture. .and so high on heat. .the lake is quite low on water!! As you can tell by how far we still are from the shore and the kids can easily touch the bottom) 
Some of us got tired and rested patiently as we drifted to land. 
Land. . .Sweet LAND! 
I watched a little nature. .as well as the kids while they splashed and swam as we waited on Jeremy to get back from town with a gas can and some extra fuel! Just another interesting memory to go down in our adventure books!
The boys have been watching movies tonight. .and are planning on doing a little shooting with J in the morning. Tomorrow is the last day of our county fair. .And NOW we are ready for summer to begin!
Enjoy your weekend!