Saturday, October 31, 2009

Garden update and Halloween

Of last week's snap peas and snow peas ONE has sprouted so far.  Not an overwhelming yield yet.  Today I managed to plant six cloves of elephant garlic near the peas.  Also I put in the ground a basil plant and a cilantro plant that I bought about a month ago.  They'll probably be happier in the ground.  A couple months ago I acquired a table that a neighbor was sending to the landfill.  Today I moved it into a sunny spot and chose some pots to put on it.  A friend (hi Sara!) had told me about reading that one could container garden in cardboard boxes.  So, what the heck, I selected a Amazon box to try planting in as well.  DD woke up from her nap before I was able to assess our potting soil supply and decide what I wanted to plant.  One thing I've got to put in is some lettuces.  The lettuce I planted in September hasn't come up at all.  I think the spot is too shady in fall/winter.

I cooked a meatloaf in a halved pumpkin for Halloween dinner.  It turned out pretty well, but next time I'll season it differently.  I was pleasantly surprised how nicely the pumpkin cooked up, though.  Tonight we did the trick or treating thing with DS as a pirate and DD as a ladybug.  DS loved talking with the neighbors and got the hang of knocking, saying "trick or treat", choosing candy/toy, "thank you," "happy Halloween," and "have a nice night."  Since he can be reserved when meeting new people, the process of trick or treating is actually a great learning experience for him.  And this year we filled our bowl with a bit of candy and mostly Halloween gizmos (pumpkin erasers, pencils, kazoos, pumpkin straws).  We left the bowl out when we were trick or treating and came back to a well-depleted bowl and no vandalism, so it seems to have gone over pretty well.  I prefer the little toys to candy.  At least it isn't junk food.  But it is mostly made-in-China, destined-for-the-landfill sorts of stuff.  Does anyone else do something better?  Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Swine Flu

Friends and family keep asking me about my take on the swine flu vaccine.  We've decided not to do the vaccine due to my concerns that it may have unknown side effects that we aren't yet aware of because it has been rushed to market.  My understanding is that the 1976 vaccine for swine flu was rushed to market and was associated with, but never proven to cause Guillain-Barre Syndrome.  Since this rare nerve disorder is understood to be partially autoimmune and we have Celiac Disease (autoimmune) in the family, we aren't going there.  We do the annual flu shots - 'cause having the flu is so crummy and I feel like the shots have decent safety records.  Most of the media reports I hear are that H1N1 has similar mortality rates as regular seasonal flu, but of course, more targeted to younger populations - likely due to some cross protection from a prior strain that circulated.  Today I went surfing on the CDC to find the mortality rate data.  Sadly, I didn't find exactly what I was looking for - # of deaths per 1,000 cases.  If you find that data, I'd like you to send me the link.  I did find this interesting chart regarding the flu deaths.  This season's curve doesn't look so bad yet, until you realize that this is only week 41 and that the other week 41's aren't really even on the upslope of the curve.  We all know that this swine flu continued through the summer (you can see that in pink in the graph above) and is getting going again early this season - but wow - the curves really say a lot.  If you add a normal flu season onto this swine flu curve, it is going to be pretty big.  Yikes!  I hope I'm making the right decision.  I realize that it is highly likely that our family will get the swine flu and feel terrible with it.  I just hope we won't have any serious consequences from it, like the side effects I fear from a rushed vaccine.  All our schools around here have LOTS of H1N1, include DS's preschool as of this week.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

What to do with that Halloween pumpkin?

Ok, I admit it.  Halloween isn't even here yet and I'm already fantasizing about how to chop up and eat our pumpkins.  In the bad old days before I knew that one was supposed to bake with those white pumpkins and that the jack-o-lanterns were bred for decor, I recall cooking them, pureeing them and using them for pie.  Anyone else do this with their jack-o-lantern pumpkins?  How about just pureeing it and eating it like squash?  What about the little pumpkins?  Or roasting them with other veggies like one would winter squash?  (I found this image at - it isn't my own work, although I wish it were!)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Kids and knock-knock jokes

What is it about kids and horrible knock-knock jokes?  Today DS was interested in the structure of knock-knock jokes and trying to tell some.  I found a great website for kids jokes and he LOVED it.  The kid couldn't stop laughing.  I tried to teach him how to tell one, but he'd keep deviating from the script. 

Knock knock
Who's there?
Boo who?
Boo pumpkinhead (was supposed to be "You don't have to cry about it.")

He still thought it was funny and was happy to tell it and retell it until I couldn't stand it anymore.  Then DH came home and DS told him until HE couldn't stand it anymore.  From my youth, I recall younger kids telling lame jokes that didn't mean anything and it getting pretty annoying.  And now here I am, reliving my youth.

I made up a couple that he really liked:

Knock knock
Who's there?
Ima who?
Ima silly willy
(his favorite)

Knock knock
Who's there?
Who who?
Are you an owl?

I'm a genius aren't it?  Stunning.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Potatoes, Peas and Pomegranates

Today we did some fun gardening.  First, one of the potato plants was looking about done so we went digging for treasure.  I'd planted purple, red and yellow potatoes in the spring.  Many had been dug up by the squirrel, so I kept replanting.  Because of this, I really didn't know what I had where.  Never having grown potatoes before, I was thrilled to find beautiful purple potatoes under the plant.  While digging, I seemed to get into the space of a nearby red potato, 'cause I got some of those too.  Once washed, they looked like jewels with their vibrant colors.  I took a picture of them on the dish towel.  I chopped them up, microwaved them with a little water and we ate them for lunch.  These were the freshest potatoes I've ever eaten in my life.  They were so creamy tasting.  Yum.

Next we tore out some old yellow crookneck squash plants.  In that space we dug in some compost from the mushroom farm and some worm compost from our bin and some from the store.  We planted an entire envelope (minus a couple I'd planted in the spring) of Sugar Snap Peas that say "Sell by 12/08."  Too old?  Well, I had more space, so I used up a packet of Oregon Sugar Pod II Peas (snow peas) from 2003.  For the record, NONE of the wildflower seeds from 1999-2006 that I planted last month sprouted.  I wonder if any of the snow peas will sprout.  We added small soaker hose from our drip system for this area.

We've been eating our beautiful pomegranates for about a month now.  This week there were some very bold birds out there feasting on them as well, so we tried to accelerate our eating this weekend.  They are so delicious though I want them to last!  All of us love them, including 12 month old DD.  Here is a picture of the modest pomegranate tree still holding onto some fruit for us, plus one picked fruit awaiting lunch.

In the area of the garden that I planted with carrots, turnips, shallots, and beets about a month ago, the plants aren't looking so good.  This is the same area that the amaranth is in, but it looks pretty stunted.  I've added more worm compost which hasn't seemed to help very much.  As I've watched the area more, I realize that the sun isn't hitting it directly for many hours now.  I wonder if all those little root vegetable seedlings will amount to anything.  Live and learn.
We do have some very happy butternut squash still producing for us.  One is so enormous that I must take a picture when I harvest it.  The vine had been confined to a wood trellis leaning against the fence, but of late it has escaped.  The huge squash flourished unseen behind the barbecue, half on the patio and half up a step onto the cooldeck.  Because of its odd locale, it is developing while standing on its head.  This seems to have turned it into a crooknecked butternut.

We continue to eat a variety of things from the garden.  Today's garden food included: pomegranates, potatoes, chard, basil, parsley, cowpea green beans, one white and bitter carrot, one itty bitty eggplant, and about 7 cherry tomatoes.  Not bad for suburbia!

A quarter of the way to the age of majority

Today DS became 4.5 years old.  I am shocked to realize that he is a quarter of the way to the age of majority.  It is overwhelming to think that already a quarter of his at-home-formative years have passed.  Not that he won't continue to rely on us in some ways beyond 18, but wow, he's a substantial part of the way to being able to vote, serve in the military, make medical decisions, etc.  When I tried to explain this to him, he didn't like the idea at all.  He still wants to be a little boy.  Which he is, of course.  No rush.

The most memorable moment of DS's day was getting overtired, throwing a fit, and (in the process of this fit) tripping/falling on the carpet face first.  He got a bloody fat lip and spent most of the evening very unhappy.  He was so exhausted from the ordeal that while I was making dinner he laid down on the sofa listening to a Sting CD and fell asleep with an ice pack on his lip.  It was hard for him to eat dinner, so he had a couple nibbles of food and two glasses of milk through a straw.  Not really the momentous celebration that 25% of adulthood warrants, but he's still 75% kid.