Thursday, October 29, 2009

A few boring days.

I have not been feeling very cheerful for the last few days. I think its just hormones so i'll leave it at that.

Yesterday was dull weather, today is sunny and chilly. Still waiting for that ryegrass to grow. From some experience in sprouting wheat grass for spring decorations and for the cat to chew on, i know that the roots take off first. So as long as the seeds are sending down roots enough to hold the soil it does not matter so much how green the top gets.

This might be a good day to try and start posting and explaining all the before and after photos of the yard.

I'll start with the pics of the house that burned down:

These pictures were taken on March 14, 2008.  I think the demolition i took pictures of came more than a few weeks after the fire.  But i don't seem to have any pics of just after the fire.  The cause had to be investigated as normal, but there was some question of whether the son had started it intentionally because of the carelessness surrounding the actual cause.  The mother who owned the house was wintering over in Florida at the time and had all but given the house to her son and his girlfriend. They weren't the nicest of people, smoking, drinking, drugging, yelling, fighting and generally unpleasant.  But we simply didn't associate since hubby and i both worked more than 40 hours a week.


The fire happened while i was still pretty messed from the car accident i had got into on New Year's Day. Three months later i was beginning too just be able to hobble around with a walker.  I had to take these pictures through the kitchen window and the side door window cause i could not get outside.
So, that's why some of them are not so great.

The front of the house was completely black and the smell of burned plastics was very cloying. The wind blowing stuff around could be heard at night and it really stressed out my daughter.  I took lots of these pictures so she could see how a house gets torn down.  I hoped it could add some closure for her, since the fire itself freaked her out very much. 
Her school is basically at one end of the road and during winter when the leaves are off the trees she can see the row of houses through her classroom window.  The students saw the blaze and knew she lived around there.

So, through the classroom window, she had a moment of shock before she saw that it was not our house, but it didn't help much knowing that her mom with the severely broken leg was right next to a burning house . At the time she didn't know for sure that her dad was home with me that morning.  I was also so freaked out as i was hobbling away from the house when the police insisted we evacuate.  Where it was March, we had been having icy weather, so everything was slick and bumpy. I had a police officer cheering me on as i nervously shuffled along. I was so scared that the firetrucks would come rumbling down the road and have to stop for me. lol

Another reason that the fire freaked my daughter out was because when she was about 3 years old, we were living in a townhouse apartment, and the neighbor there had a fire. We were awakened in the middle of the night to the smell of burning and that scary orange glowy color and the banging and popping sound of burning wood--- this fire was also in the winter.   So it had this flashback quality that was unnerving.

So for my daughter, coming home to see that the remains of the building had finally been knocked down and mostly carted away was a relief to her.

For me, it was a fascinating process.   I tend to find a lot of things to be very interesting. Especially when its something that thankfully, does not happen every day where you can see it.

The demo has gotten to where you can see the heat damage that was done to the next house. Their vinyl siding melted and buckled.  We were lucky that the fire happened on a virtually windless day. You know the saying about how March comes in like a lion?  Well.... March was being very lamb-like on that day, the surrounding days were as lionlike as ever.  Thank God. Because if it had been consistently windy, we and the other neighbors could have lost our homes as well.

In the next pictures, you will be able to see how close this house was to ours. But for now i will say that hubby an i were very grateful that our house was clad in asbestos siding.  We had a lot of heat bubbling,  enough to have to call on the insurance company.  Nobody wants unsealed asbestos around. But the asbestos certainly prevented any further damage that could have happened.  If we'd had vinyl at the time, it would have looked far worse.

This picture was taken from our side door, all that was between us and this house is the narrow driveway and maybe 3 feet of unpaved ground.  So, many kudos go to the firemen.

The yellow tape is actually about a foot away from the drive way and you can see the 'path' that we used to shovel to their monitor heater vent. We used to make sure to keep the vent clear of snow and ice, we started doing it for the lady that owned the house and continued to do it for her son and his pregnant girlfriend.

 Since we had to evacuate, we spent the rest of the day at my parents' house one town over. If i remember correctly, the fire happened around 11am, so my daughter had the better part of the school day to finish, but we were certain she had seen the fire from the classroom or at least the faculty had. So we stopped by to let everyone know that all was well, though the house was destroyed nobody was injured and we thought the best thing was for our daughter to finish the day like normal and we'd be at her Nana and Papa's until it was time to pick her up.

The fire was spectacular enough that it made the local news and for about 2 weeks after, people were detouring to the dead end road we live on to gawk. I have to say i was getting pretty annoyed with it because people were constantly turning around in our driveway and i never knew if it was someone coming to visit us or just rubberneckers.

We did use the small amount of insurance money that we got for the heat damage to the side of the house to help put up vinyl siding. We figured that since there was now little risk of fire damage from the next house, the following summer was the time to do it.  Where we had some extra money we opted to have fan-fold insulation installed underneath and it made a big difference in lowering heat loss and it also made the house quieter by blocking more outside noise.

So in a way i guess its an "all's well that ends well" sort of thing.  Eventually the investigation ended and the owner was given the insurance money. Not sure that she got very much because the house was in pretty bad condition, really only one inspection away from being condemned...  but it was her home, with lots of memories, photos and belongings inside, but i hope she got enough to soften the blow.

But it was pretty sad to see the remains of the house and wonder how the owner was getting along. Where she was living in Florida we didn't really get a chance to send any regards.

I think it was around May before we even considered asking if she was thinking of rebuilding or selling, and we had to go through other neighbors in order to contact her.

Ok, so that is how the yard became available for us in the first place.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The glory of the Lobster

This was a fun day. Especially where i don't get out much, but even for someone who does get out quite often, this would be ranked pretty high on the scale of fun. (especially for  a wannabe foodie such as myself!)

Today was the day that my sister-in-law got to compete as one of the three finalists in a state wide cooking contest. The cooking contest was to find  Maine's Lobster Chef of the Year.
This is not a small deal.
The 3 finalists were chosen from recipe submissions that came in from all over the state. All three of the finalists were Maine born-and-raised which wasn't a requirement, but it was a nice fact.
Another interesting fact is that my sister-in-law, aside from being the only female finalist, was also the only finalist without any formal training as a chef, the guys she was competing against were graduates of either Le Cordon Bleu North America or  the Culinary Institute of America. Now if that doesn't sound impressive, i don't know what is.

Now, i had intended to take a photo of each sample dish as the tasting was going on,  but i was trying my best to be objective and discussing it with hubby and listening to and watching the demonstration- as each chef prepared the dishes while we were tasting.

I did however photograph my SIL' tasting sample:

Maple Butter Poached Lobster Tail with Sweet Potato and Fuji Apple Bisque and Fizzles of Green Onion 

That is quite a mouthful of a name for what is known as an "amuse bouche" . It looks like a nice piece of lobster tail on in a small pool of clarified butter, but looks are deceiving. The butter-like substance is the Bisque of Fuji apple and sweet potato, it has a nice creamy texture with a good balance of sweet and just a touch of tartness. The recipe also contains orange zest and i noticed it as a pleasant extra touch that kept the bisque from tasting flat.

There is a lot of butter in the recipe, but since the lobster is simply poached in the butter, you don't actually eat very much of it. The maple syrup as it is properly used in this dish, brought out the sweetness of the lobster without being  cloying.  This is an important thing to note since i think many people might think that real maple syrup is similar to pancake syrup. They are totally different entities.

There is a reason why you can get 32 ounces of pancake syrup for $2.50 but 8oz of real maple syrup costs at least $5.00. 

I think my favorite quote from my SIL's demonstration was when asked about why she uses unsalted butter...

the reply was "Because salt is one of those things you should watch your intake of."  as she deftly began  a pound and a half of butter melting in a pot.

Now you know why i like her so much!

i might write more on this later. i started it Friday night and finally got enough written for it to make sense this Saturday morning!  Or i may leave it at this :-)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

More tree removal!

I believe i have established my almost complete hatred for the Box Elder variety of tree, so today, much to my delight,  the neighbors who live down the road decided to remove the trees that are across the road in front of our house!

I was so excited to see this day finally come, that i happily took my camera in hand to document the process!

It took me a while before i realized what was going on, i really thought maybe they were just going to prune them because it seems everyone around here thinks that these hideous trees are just dandy.

I gotta get me one of these!

The house in the picture is not the home of the same people that own the spit of land that the trees are on.  I consider the people that live in this house among our nice neighbors.  They have two girls about my daughter's age and they make good friends,  though all of us adults are too busy to do much together.

Like butter!!!


Just a little off the top...



I was so happy i couldn't stop taking pictures!



Gonna have to nickname him Eileene



The long gray building is the home the tree owners live in. Its a family apartment since the grandparents own it and their kids and grand kids live there.  Not a bad setup with all that space i imagine is in there.


Then they chipped up the branches, left the logs for later and that was it for the day!  They started around 1:00 and were done by 4:30.
Not a bad day's work.

This view is in an easterly direction.  We will be getting lots of afternoon sun through our living room windows now!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ladybugs and sprouting ryegrass

Looks like the winter rye is beginning to try and sprout.  We have had a couple sunny days and mild temperatures- it has been very pleasant actually.  Last week i was certain that summer was totally over and it was going to be 30 degrees or lower for the rest of the year. I do love winter, but i like having a real Autumn with cool temps and fresh breezes, not mushy, moldy cold and damp gray skies.

Since i'm blogging, i notice i am starting to take pics of things i normally probably wouldn't bother with. Not sure if it is anywhere near as interesting to see the pics as it is to take them,  but this is just as much a journal as it is a blog, so if i have an audience at all,  you poor souls are just along for the ride!

here's the Sprouting Ryegrass pics.  You can see the germ swelling and a teensy bit of blade starting to emerge from the seed:


While i was out, i noticed the warm & sunny day was moving other things as well.


Lots of them.  Not 100's or 1,000's....  but quite a few.  They are the Asiatic ones,  the imports that swarm, stink and sometimes get agressive.


This camera does not do macro shots very well.... or is it Operator Incompetence ?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Saltwater shipment today

I had a store credit to my favorite online saltwater fish supplier and i wanted to use it before winter begins, cause then its too cold to  ship anything.  My tank keeps me entertained during the winter when i can't garden, so i wanted to get that loose end tied up.
I'm getting algae growth that is encroaching and choking out some corals, so i  need an urchin. Tuxedo urchins are a great all-purpose algae eating helper. They will eat all types of algae that i have ever had in my tanks. Their only drawback is that they are little round bulldozers, so i had to tack as much as  i could down with epoxy putty. If i don't, the critter will either knock a coral or frag down behind something where i can't see or enjoy it and it might get shaded out and die. Or else the urchin will pick it up and parade around the tank 'wearing' it, usually this ends the same way, the coral or frag dies because it gets improper lighting.
Anyway my shipment is coming by FedEx, and should be here soon. Its about 9:30am here. I'm getting a small order, just the urchin, 3 peppermint shrimp and one scarlet/skunk cleaner shrimp.

Box arrived at 10:00am
Peppermint shrimp:

Scarlet or Skunk cleaner shrimp.  These are the type of shrimp that fish will line up for like patients at a Dr.'s office waiting for a checkup.
Tuxedo urchin:

All being drip-acclimated,  takes 2 hours at least so there is no shock to their systems due to differences in water chemistry:


Everything looks good so far.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Teething and boring weather

The youngest is teething. Four are coming in at once.  She already had two, soon the grand total will be 6. Its pretty rough on her...and me.  But infant tylenol and oragel will help.

poor critter.

The weather, frankly,  has been lame.   Its making me lame, and i am tired of gray skies.  It was chilly  yesterday and i'm seriously expecting a long, snowy and cold winter.  We did get a bit of snow, mixed wet with rain late last night, but nothing that stuck.

The winter rye that hubby sowed in the yard has not sprouted, i think its too cold even for that.
I neatened up the string around the JA plot, cause thats about the only thing i can do.

Here it is in all its anticlimactic glory:

looking West
looking East:


I have been looking up info on what to do about the apple trees, pruning suggestions and the like.  I haven't come to a decision on if i will try it at this time of year or not.  I did learn something new though. If you prune apple trees too heavily in the spring it can make them flower early and that can be bad if you get another frost.  So i think spring is out.  I do have to find out if it is wise to remove all the beginning apples next spring so the trees can concentrate on strengthening roots and trunk.  i noticed the trunk on the bigger tree is actually narrower toward the ground than it is about 4 feet up. It just does not look right.
They had been planted in a bad spot that may have been good at one time until the trees behind the yard that belong to the other neighbors grew too high and shaded them out. (Box Elders, rant to follow)

This is the bigger apple tree. It has a "knee"...  we had to prop it up with a portion of tree trunk we cut to move the neighbors fence OFF our yard.  I used the cotton strap the hospital sent me home with after my car accident that left me with a fairly messed-up leg. The belt was so hubby could wrap it around me to pick me up if i fell over.  Luckily it never had to be used! Now it has a great purpose!

Then, the littler one.  They look like they have not had enough light for a number of years,  i can only guess that the big one must be 6 years old at least, the little one at least 3. But with inadequate sunlight, they could be much older.


 The big one is very fruitful, but after doing a bit of research, i found out what is bugging the fruit. Apple Maggot is one thing i positively ID'd.

It has a LOT of shape issues. The only reason it is still standing is because it was hooked over the pickets of the fence the neighbors put up. That fence was placed about 3 feet into what is now our yard.  The trees are now about 5 feet away from the fence as it is properly placed about 4 inches inside our property line.

Now, for the Box Elder rant.  They are part of the reason why it took so much of the summer to get work done around the new yard.  They were everywhere, fallen over, broken, growing up through what used to be the basement of the burned-down house.  At best,hey are basically overgrown weeds. 

They are prolific, fast growing, weak, spindly, ugly looking things. The female trees attract tons of Box Elder Bugs, which are mainly annoying but they freak out my hubby who insisted that they were ticks when we first moved in.  The trees also drop their leaves slowly all summer and make a huge number of seeds that are similar to maple helicopters.  These leaves and seeds make a mess on any paved areas, stick to windshields, get into car vents and roof gutters, coat the lawn and the seeds start sprouting in flower beds and veggie gardens and of course attract the bugs which drink the sap from the seed pods.

The trees grow at least a foot in all directions each spring,  they sucker and water sprout all over if you lop off branches. The trees are so useless, you can't even use them to burn as firewood since they gum up the chimney and can create conditions that can cause chimney fires. They are also very brittle and can come down on houses and buildings, they crack under snow and ice and end up hollow or half deadwood. Very dangerous trees!

There is one on the other side of our house that belong to the neighbors that i will call "the nice ones" .  This tree is the only issue we have with them.  The tree leaned over our roof on the shady side of the house and it rubbed our ridge, dropped leaves on the roof and basically took a few years off the life of our shingles. We offered to have the tree cut down entirely (we are lucky enough to know a professional tree-chopper-downer so the cost would be minimal) and i even suggested that i'd replace it with something ornamental for them, but for some reason the Mrs is attached to the tree.
The best we could do was convince them to a friendly agreement that we would have the big branch that was dangling over our roof (and causing the trunk to list to our side) removed as well as the branches that were shading out  what little yard we have on that side of the house.  At least now the tree does not look as though it will come through my living room if we get an ice storm or a hurricane.  That's a relief!
This is what is left after we removed the parts that were causing damage and after the neighbor hubby did some trimming of his own:

As gorgeous as this tree is now, i still think they should have taken me up on that ornamental offer.  LOL

At least today is sunny, according to the weather forecasters we should be having "seasonable" weather for the next week or so. This means not so many threats of snow and temps more around the 50-60 degree mark-  this is great, maybe the ground will warm up just enough for things to move a bit before the snow really falls.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

No snow yet!

Thank goodness.

It was way too early to be expecting snow. and i had too much to do this morning.  Had to register the truck and run a few errands. Our town hall does not take debit cards for some brainless reason, so i had to get the amount, then go to the bank, get cash and then go back to the town hall and pay. I know i have checks left somewhere, this is why i still keep them,  but do you think i could find them when they are needed? Nooooo! Haha.

So that is another good reason that i am happy that there was no snow.  Rain is no treat either seeing as we have had way more than our share this summer.  I can't help but wonder if that is going to translate into extra snow this winter!

I'm all but snacking on Tylenol today, the digger i took yesterday gets to take the blame.  Usually the pain is bearable on a good day if i don't have things lined up to do.  But today stuff couldn't wait any longer and if i got it over and done with i could sit back the rest of the day and not let it get to me.

I had some perishable stuff to mail out today and that sort of thing just makes me nervous. Like i think i'm going to forget to mail it, or i'm going to put it in the box and something will happen and it will sit on the table for a week, or i expect that something else will come up and all the money in my account will be needed and i won't have enough money to mail it and then i'll have to unpack it all and watch it go to waste in some other way....

See....  i need sedatives.     Be glad i drink decaff.

So the rest of the day i think i will spend trying to catch up on some light housework. Real exciting i know.

Laundry. Its clean and dry, i just hate folding it.

Later today or within the next week or so i might try and get my stuff together and list out the work that has been going on in the yard that this blog is about.
The whole thing started in February or March of 2008 when the neighbor's house burned down, thank God nobody was harmed- i always make sure to say that because i don't want anyone under the impression that i was happy that day.  Although it turned out to be a good thing for us, eventually , it was a sad day for a very nice lady who had been having it rough for a number of years.

but i'll get to all that later.

Laundry awaits!

Monday, October 12, 2009

In bloom, today only!

Passiflora "Lavender Lady"

They only stay open one day, so catching them is a treat. i have had this particular plant for almost 2 years now and this is her first bloom.

The other of my 6 varieties of Passiflora have not bloomed yet except for Lady Margaret that bloomed late spring of this year: