Wabbit War Expands

Opening day of my 2016 garden season was in March on an unusual sunny day when the temperature was a balmy sixty degrees. On that rare day I attacked my thistle with glyphosate. I had to spray them twice to slow them down. Since then, the weather has not cooperated, and my body hasn’t either. This week, however, things changed. The Lord switched Illinois from spring into summer with a flick of his Godly touch. Last week it was wet, in the forties and windy, or another way to say it, perfect hypothermia conditions. As I write this it is Thursday morning, and the Lord switched us back to early spring again. The first three days of the week were in the eighties and required the air-con to run during the daytime.
I spent the good days in my garden finishing what I began in March. The pond came first. Ponds get weedy just like flower beds, and it is necessary to pull the unwanted critters to achieve a serene pond look. I also had a bed of irises overtaking the north end, and had to thin it out. The job looked like an hour of easy work in my mind, but turned into three hours of hard labor.

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Over the last eight years I invented a system to access pond plants without treading in the water. I span a ten foot extension ladder across the water and lay some wide boards on the rungs to create a platform. I then crawl out onto the ladder on my hands and knees and lay on the boards. This allows me to reach over the water to pull plants, or to reach into the water to fertilize the lilies. When done, I had two bushels full of unwanted plant matter  to dispose of. The pond looks much better and the lilies may even bloom now that they got a shot of fertilizer.

The second day I attacked the thistle invasion in my front yard. By now the critters were three feet tall and poking through the Mugo pine. Trust me, thistle does not add curb appeal to any home. It was five days since the last rain so the ground was very hard and I needed a spade to loosen the plants enough to pull them. I was in the morning sun and the temp was already in the eighties. I wilted, but that damn thistle thrives in that temperature. The goal was to complete the entire front of the house, but I only lasted long enough to complete a third. The remainder awaits me. I would be pulling thistle this morning except for the rain. I opted for dry and cool inside conditions.

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Pulling thistle always gets me to think philosphically. The root system of the plant forms a runner underground and will send shoots up from the runner. When pulling the main stems the root breaks from the runner. That means another shoot will soon emerge from the runner in another place. I pictured the thistle as a muslim jihadis. We continue to kill these bastards but they keep popping up again. If we truly want to rid ourselves of jihadists we have to learn from the thistle. Destroying the visible plant is not enough, we have to get at the root of the problem. In the case of jihadis the root is in the unseen cell (underground root system) which continues to fester and grow into a new warrior. A garden warrior(like me)does not know in which direction the root grows or how far it will grow before a new shoot pops up. If left unattended the shoot grows to maturity, then flowers, and then seeds. The seeds blow in the wind to spread wide and far (Islamic immigrants and refugees).

 

In order to destroy thistle or muslims complete annihilation is the safest most complete method. I call it the Hitler method. Even though, I do not like muslims and am not afraid to say so, I just can’t bring myself to think about annihilating two billion people, they can’t all be bad. The problem is learning which ones will become bad and to destroy them. A better way I propose is to convert muslims to another belief system. Even the best and most influential dictators in the world like Joe Stalin and Mao Tse Tsung were not smart enough to accomplish conversion, so it brings me back to annihilation again. Do we keep pulling the big  weeds, even though that allows some of our flowers to perish along the way, or do we initiate an all out war of annihilation?   What do you think?

Next time I will compare muslims to the fallen angels.

Good Friday Vittles

Today I spent eight hours in the kitchen baking and cooking. What you say? I spent the day baking and cooking. My part of Easter dinner at my daughter’s house is to bring a houska sweet bread. I remember my mom making these every Easter, so that is what I wanted to do. My recollection of the recipe did not exist, so I searched for a recipe from the All Recipes website. Houska is a yellow bread with a sweet taste, yellow raisens throughout, and scattered slivered almonds for interest. The bread is braided from three or four ropes of dough. Having eaten a truckload of these breads, but never making one it became the adventure of the day. Any bread requires yeast, and like a complete jerk I chose to use some outdated yeast for the first loaf. I know better, because I learned the hard way that yeast is like a pretty woman, finicky as hell. If the water used to dissolve it is too hot, you kill the yeast and bread becomes a dense flatbread instead of a light, fluffy, soft, airy, mellow bread. If the water is too cold, the yeast refuses to grow. The result is the same as killing it with hot water. Anyway, my old yeast worked, but not well. Did I mention that I never braided anything before? Well, I didn’t until today, proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

For the next loaf I used some fresh cake yeast, and mixed it with luke warm water. I stored the mix in the microwave to keep it warm. When I went to use it, I learned that the yeast grew so well it foamed out of the bowl all over the inside of the micro, messy to say the least.

It was way past lunch when I got the second batch of dough rising. I stopped to make egg salad for lunch. It turned out great. Good Friday is a meat-less day for us therefore, the eggs. Back to the bread after lunch, and a backyard bird watching session with Peg. We actually had a pair of Canada geese walk through the yard this morning, and during lunch a gander landed in the pond and swam through it.

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Can you find the goose in the 2015 Monet Vision-Early Spring?

Because I had such active yeast in batch two, I split the dough in half and made two loaves. The yeast did its job and the bread swelled to a good size. I got two beautiful loaves each braided from three ropes of dough. The big loaf in the photo used seven ropes, and two braidings. The first braid used four ropes and served as the base for the second which used three. I stacked the  three braid on top of the four braid. Does that make sense?

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About the time I had the baking dishes and utensils cleaned up, it was time to begin supper. My original idea was to make salmon patties. Again, I searched All Recipes and printed the first recipe. The first ones are the simplest and easiest to make. I went about gathering the ingredients, and much to my dismay the last two onions in the mesh bag were rotten. No salmon patties today. I remembered a dish my mother made practically every Friday during lent; buttered flat noodles with sour cream and cottage cheese folded in. Luckily I found some fettucine instead, and I also had the sour cream and cottage cheese on hand. It turned out great. Even though I am aware of not adding sour cream to a very hot mixture to keep it from curdling my stomach rushed the job, and the cream curdled a wee bit. It didn’t matter, the flavor was as I remembered it from boyhood. Currently, I am waiting for a high carb sleep to take over my body.

Fettucini, fried in butter  with sour cream folded in, topped with cottage cheese, and garnished with parsley.

Fettucine sautéed in butter with sour cream folded in, topped with cottage cheese, and garnished with parsley.

I told Peg that tonight I was celebrating the anniversary of Jesus dying on the cross for my sins, and that I would reciprocate by having a personal Irish wake in remembrance. In this case, with a newly opened bottle of Merlot.

Thank you Jesus for gifting me with Merlot.

I Give a Rat’s Rear

The 2015 Monet Vision is in its Blizzard White phase, and I could care less. The snow is pretty looking at it from the warmth of a house, but it becomes a hazard when outside. I don’t care about snow at my age. I’ve seen enough to last the rest of my lifetime. No longer do I rush outside to shovel the drive or the walks. I tend to let it accumulate and hope the sun melts it off. That however, is a dream. It’ll be May before we get the temperatures to melt off a snow pile. Instead, I will drag myself out with shovel in hand to push the snow off the walks and the drive. If I don’t, then walking becomes hazardous, and tedious. I’ll just let the beauty of it all soak in a while longer before I venture out with shovel in hand.

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Whopper of a Fish Story

When I close my tiny backyard pond I dread pulling the pump in near freezing water. The cold is so intense my hand hurts with a burning sensation for an hour. This video of a Lake Superior ice fisherman extending his arm into the ice hole to extract a fish mad me shiver. Obviously, his adrenaline rush was so intense he didn’t notice his arm burning up to the shoulder. The fish he caught is certainly a trophy, and he did the right thing.

Secret Places Where Features Hide

Each year I try to make my garden different. Even though there are elements that cannot change easily like a pond, hard-scaping, and all the perennials. There is however, plenty of opportunity to paint a picture in the blank spaces using different colors and plant materials. This year one of my goals was to plant a garden that would deter rabbits. I think I succeeded, that is the rabbits have given me the impression that I have succeeded. The episodes of Wabbit Wars have been sparse because the Wabbits have not been able to get to me as often.

My color palette is yellow and orange. I elected different varieties of Marigolds and sought out other species of yellow flowers to mix in like the gold Celosia, Lysimachia, Lantana, Marguerite Daisy, and Orange Joy Asiatic lily.  Close planting and weekly foliar fertilization helped the plants spread out and finally fill in the canvas. A seven minute video of the same plants would be terribly boring, so I decided to add some interest with winter scenes and an escape to the desert while I waited for Spring to arrive.

Yesterday, I posted a trailer using a new version of iMovie. It was my training session on how to use this new version of a program I was very comfortable with. The new version made posting on YouTube easier, but I felt it harder to compose the movie. There are so many short cuts built into this version that I had trouble doing things that make a movie a movie. The older version is more oriented to real movie makers. This new version targets a person interested in speed. I am sure all the features of the old version are in this new one, but I’m too old to want to spend all that time looking for the drop downs and secret places where features hide. In that regard, iMovie is a lot like Windows, it is the same stuff reorganized to make it look new and to make you work to find things. In a way, iMovie 10.0.4 is like my garden, it has many exciting things to see, but one must explore to find them.

Personal guided tours of the garden are available upon request. My favorite time to give a tour is between January and March, I spend less time touring and more time imbibing.

Please enjoy my garden called “The 2014-Monet Vision, Golden Glow”

A

 

Sneak Preview

A short movie is worth ten thousand words.

Osaka Gardens

When the newsletter came from my garden club, and I read the next meeting is a field trip to Osaka gardens I got excited. Japanese gardens turn me on. They are among the most aesthetic works of art planted. All things about the gardens promote peace, serenity, and well-being. The placement of rocks, the stones selected for grain and texture, the plantings, and the flow of water all lend to the experience. Since I had  never heard of Osaka Gardens I had to find it on Map-Quest. Surprise, the garden is a tiny dot inside a huge tract on the south side of Chicago called Jackson Park. As a kid of thirteen I went to this park many times by streetcar to drown worms. The lagoons were very accessible to fisherman, and they connect to Lake Michigan making them abundant in fish species. I kept my record intact, I never caught a single fish there, but I spent many happy hours trying.

The map program pinpointed the place exactly and the adventure began. Getting there after a sixty-three year absence made it more exciting. As it turned out, the map program and the GPS took the excitement out of the ride because I merely followed instructions and got to the exact place without a single wrong turn.

At the parking lot our members grouped and found Karen Szyjka waiting for us. This young woman sports the impressive title of Operations Support Manager, Department of Natural Resources for the Chicago Park District.  She explained her role as one of managing and maintaining the Osaka Garden and other Park District gardens in Grant Park. Karen was a fantastic tour guide. She told us about every aspect of the Osaka Gardens and the history of the place. Even though I have lived in the Chicago area all of my life I had never heard about the place. Yet, it came into existence during the Columbian Exposition in 1893.  During its lifespan the garden has gone through several reconstructions. The garden went into decline after years of wear and then needed reconstitution and refurbishing. The worst decline happened during the nineteen forties. Hello, I guess we were not very happy about the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor.

Currently the garden is very happy, and Karen has made it her life’s work. She knows every tree, plant, rock, and pebble in the garden. She spoke to us with passion and excitement during her hour-long walk along the path winding around the garden. The views of the Museum of Science and Industry, the only building remaining from the Exposition and the World’s Fair, framed by the garden were astounding. My point and shoot camera did not do the views justice, neither did the photographer.

After the tour, most of our group stayed and picnicked along the shores of the lagoons watching the beauty around them. Peg and I escaped for a second adventure on our own. I decided to tour my boyhood neighborhood, and awaken some old memories. A wise man once wrote “you can never go back home,” and I will add “and you shouldn’t.”

If you get the opportunity to visit the Osaka Garden take it. If you are a garden nut or just a Chicago nut, you will love it.

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