Friday, June 22, 2012

The Thing

Over a decade ago,  I worked at a big hardware; I was rummaging through the hose fittings on my break, looking for a way to make the north side of my house look less like the barren desert that it was. And as it was coming on to summer, I had also in mind the little pvc stand misters that were so wonderful for keeping one's personal space cool on hot dry days.

Then I saw this.


After work, I bought it with my employee discount, and took it home to try it out. Unlike the sweet little pvc stand mister, this fiend put out a four-foot high geyser of drenchiness -- too vigorous for the back patio.

But I reasoned that the output might drift along on our prevailing west wind and soften the hardpack clay soil of the north side of the house. Using some wire, a hose, and a tomato cage, I built a rig to float that mist about three feet off the ground.

Unfortunately, the pressure acted like a jet and kept knocking the tomato cage over, and there was the problem with eddies of wind gusting the spray onto the windows (the water is so hard here that water splotches on the windows are verboten.) Also, the dog, though he loved water and being sprayed by the hose, was not at all amused by a high-pressure cloud of soaking mist. Failed experiment.

The Super-Mister Thing was put away in the shed and subsequently lost under piles of junk. I even forgot where I put it, until we had a spate of 100+ degree days last year. I began looking for it as we cleaned the garage, got rid of tools we no longer used, cleaned out the accumulation of dusty junk in the shed ... and there it was, coated by gunk that had leaked out of some can above it. I scrubbed it up and put it away in a safe place, and forgot where that safe place was.

We found it again this spring (it had been carefully tucked into a basket of miscellaneous art supplies,) and when the temps spiraled up to 106, we put that Thing on the end of the hose, draped the hose across the top of our Stanley sawhorse, and put our chairs about twelve feet downwind. While the rest of town roasted in a convection oven climate, we were cool and refreshed -- and the dry spot on the front lawn got some badly-needed water.

Home Depot, Lowes, Ace, Orchard Supply -- none of those hardwares carry it any more. But I did find it here. And I'm not going to misplace the Thing again.

Monday, June 18, 2012


Although Flickr has entered a sucksome phase, new-and-improving itself into suckicity, I uploaded pictures of flies today.

Fly Portraits (which didn't work as a set in my Flickr gallery because of a lack of instructions for the new-and-improved suckicity) was inspired by Pete McArdle's cover story for the Piker Press this week, "Shoo Fly." I love Pete. He's so warped that my own weird penchants seem mild by comparison.

I don't know why flies are funny. I remember being about giggled to death over Gary Hockenberry's capture of a fly in seventh or eighth grade; he pulled one wing off (not the capital crime it is nowadays) and named the fly "Charley the Diving Fly" because he'd allow the fly to climb up his fingers and then take off, only to land abruptly on the floor by Gary's desk. I think Charley lasted through two classes, both American History and Math.

And of course there was my mother's take on faith formation during the Canon during Mass at church when I was young and impressionable: a fly landed on the pages of our hymnal, and she snapped the book shut on the insect with a loud retort, squishing it between the pages, her facial expression unmoved like a deadpan statue of an Aztec bystander. Did the priest notice the sound, or the tears of hilarity that poured down my face in lieu of laughter? I never knew.

Leap forward thirty years, and imagine with me the flies of Manteca, California, where we lived for eleven years. I swear to you, and don't even care if you believe it, the flies in that area would land in front of you, and do this really rude hoocha-hoocha thing with their legs, rising and falling in a dance that never failed to enrage my emotions. Why did they make me so angry? Why did they dance like that when the flies we have here in Ripon, only six miles south, do not?

I had as much fun photographing flies on the back patio as I did snapping pics of "Things on the back of trucks."

Yes. I am easily amused at times.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Crammed Days

John and Alex put together Joan's crib today. It's lovely, and soon it will be inhabited by a howling Joan-like creature.

I have fabric (a dusty blue flannel and a light cotton beige floral) cut and washed for baby blankets -- tomorrow or Monday I want to sew their hems and have them ready.

Time is so compressed -- Alex is scheduled for a C-section next Thursday, but from her energetic cleaning the last couple days, I would not be surprised if she went a few days early.

A friend of hers offered a loan of a baby swing (you can see the stable legs of it in the pic), a carseat, a baby bathtub, some baby gym equipment, and many other things that poor Alex didn't have the advantage of when she was born 36 years ago. (Alex had to tough it out and listen to me read to her, rocked in my dad's best friend's grandmother's rocker. No wonder she turned out odd.)

Between digging up the potatoes (OMG they are so tasty) and exercising the horse, and keeping up with the laundry and the Piker Press, days have been nuts.

Wasn't I supposed to have two novels done by this time?

Monday, June 04, 2012

This Story Begins --"It Was a Dark and Culinary Day..."

We woke to forming clouds this morning. By the time breakfast was ready, it was already overcast, and the temperature was dropping. We didn't much care, as the eggs from the commercial egg place out the road were surprisingly all double-yolkers and the bacon was "ends and pieces" scored from a supermarket in Modesto -- with the best flavor we've found in years at half the price of name brands.

By ten, it was raining, and CHILLY! Freakish weather for June here, and lending itself to indoor pursuits. Alex pulled out a lemon granita experiment for a brunchy snack ... it was heavenly. Shaved ice, melt in your mouth, not too sweet, deliciously flavored by our own lemons. Score!

Bernie worked his lunchtime magic with the griddle and a cabbage,  making us juicy hamburgers and home-made cole slaw. The temperature outside was dropping steadily, and we'd all donned sweatshirts and long pants, and closed the windows as the wind rose. "Do you want me to make a fire in the woodstove, too?" he asked.

When I was done putting up the Piker Press for this week's issue, I printed out Lydia Manx's recipe for spanakopitas, a kind of Greek spinach pie. She's got an article on it for next week's Press, and when she was telling about it at staff meeting, Cheryl raved about the dish and how good it was. I just happened to have an extra bag of spinach in the fridge, and it was still overcast and cold, so what better way to heat up the kitchen than with an oven-baked project?

Instead of using a baking dish, however, I played with another method and made little phyllo triangles stuffed with the spinach/feta cheese/onion/garlic mixture, baked on a cookie sheet. They are dangerously tasty, if a bit time-consuming to make for a novice.

Bernie once again before nightfall charged into the kitchen and made a whipped cream cheese/herb spread for crackers that kicks the ass off the store-bought stuff for about 1/3 the cost.

Seriously, we are going to hurt ourselves.

Friday, June 01, 2012

You Did Not!

At the supermarket, Bernie guided me to the outdoor racks of vegetable plants. He did this.

We picked out a six-pack of Hungarian wax peppers, and then Bernie called my attention to a sign that said all the plants had been reduced in price, and to a gnarly-looking shelf of unwanted tomatoes. "Look at them," he cooed. "Aren't they cute? They want to go home with you!"

"I suppose they have cute little black toes and adorable spots on their bellies," I replied, picking up a six-pack of Big Pinks to look at them more closely. They all had thick stems, but were plainly rootbound and looked like they'd been beat up a bit with last weekend's weather. "Fine. I'll find a place for them."

I'm still finding a place. Two of them went in near Alex's eggplants and my onions; the other four are still in their pack. Two more will go in beside my Marglobes out in front of the house (That's going to be a jungle!) and the other two ... I'll find a place for them. I will.

Bernie thinks my tomato-collecting is funny.

He's an enabler.