Mean Ass Mallard Mama

My lazy bones keep getting lazier, and the regular morning walk I initiated eight weeks ago is getting harder and harder to maintain. In the beginning a mile and a half wore me out. Now, I find myself pushing four miles, which certainly contributes to my malaise. The one thing I enjoy are the quiet melodies of the birds and long shadows. Everyday when I leave the house I decide which direction I will turn. Each time I reach new splits in the path and I am forced to decide which direction to proceed. By now, I have memorized the distances of the various routes, and I plot how to add miles to each.

The funny thing about exercising is the process. First, it is deciding to abandon the bed, checking the weather, and selecting proper clothes. Finally, I’m out and walking although sluggishly. As the steps roll by, and the body begins to warm the route emerges at the first decision point, left or right?  This particular morning I turn right, right again, and then left. The sun is bright after three days of grey clouds and rain, it feels good. The birds are particularly noisy as they go about searching for their breakfast, most are busy feeding babies in the nest.  I reach a three-way corner and decide to go straight. This move decides the route more definitively.

I pass a tall tree just beginning to leave out. It has to be more than two hundred years old the trunk is more than three feet in diameter. I stop to examine the creature, it appears healthy and still growing. The sidewalk next to it has heaved a good six inches making the path somewhat trippy.

Walking through the living side of historic Frankfort gives me a view of hundred year old houses blending together with one year old monster houses that match the architecture so well that a stranger would not be able to tell the new from the old. The builder buys up the very small old homes on large lots, demolishes the house and then builds a new home that pushes to the lot lines. Within two blocks, I cross the main street bisecting the town into the historic business district. Again, it is a blend of very old buildings with new ones. One street has three restaurants in a row, Smokey Bar, Fat Rosies, and Francesca’s. They all face the Breidert Green a very small park in the center of town surrounded by businesses. I make another decision when I reach the Old Plank Trail and head home.

The trail passes through what was once Fox Lumber company. The Village bought the property when Fox folded. They have wisely developed it into parking and a beautiful park. The crown jewel of the park is a two acre lake surrounded by a natural Illinois grassland. A stream meanders from the edge of one parking lot and spills into the lake. The stream is fed by the storm sewers of the historic district. It is very rocky and twisting  with a myriad of water plants growing along the edges and sprouting from between rocks. The stream serves as a natural filter forcing water to deposit any particulate matter before it reaches the main body.

I picked up speed as I turned left again to route myself around the western edge of the pond. Then it happened. I saw a female Mallard duck slide into the water. At first it didn’t appear to be anything unusual, but then the neatest, cutest thing ever appeared. She had a dozen chicks following her. They couldn’t have been more than a few days old, but she led them right into the water, and they followed. At first they looked like a string all in a line. Then as she hustled forward they pushed toward her and bunched up in her wake. I stopped to watch this show. She continued to swim, and swim, and swim. I thought for sure she would head for the shore, and give the chicks a rest. She never stopped, she kept paddling with the brood and finally disappeared from my sight at the far side of the pond. As I watched I kept thinking to myself, what a meanie she is to give these little ones such a vigorous workout. I tried to compare her behavior to children of today. A mother who made her baby work as hard as this one did would be put in jail. Nature is cruel, but maybe that is why ducks can live in harsh weather and survive. I’m sure her next lesson was to show them how to feed themselves. I finished my walk at 3.26 miles and took the remainder of the day off.

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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

 

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