Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Pet Monitors

We have very conscientious pets who take their monitoring duties very seriously.

Penny has single paw-edly taken on the responsibility of monitoring the activities inside the Monarch Ranch. Fortunately she has learned to monitor from the outside of the ranch and no longer tries to get inside through the roof.

Daisy and Sophie are the monitors of meal preparation. I rolled and baked some meatballs for our spaghetti supper tonight. It's one of the only times I'm assured of their undivided attention.

Sophie is always hungry, so she stands closest--ready to chow on anything edible the "chef" might accidentally drop or spill. Daisy's duty is "official pan licker."

Monday, July 30, 2007

My First Monarch

I went in early to work today in order to leave at 11:00 (since the Spousal Unit had the day off also). Boy, am I ever glad I did, because here's what awaited me when I got home:
Now, I'll take you back to yesterday evening and show you what I was going to post last night, but we went down to see Mom & Dad instead and it was pretty late when we got home (because we took the back way to look for deer).

I knew the time for a butterfly was drawing near because you could actually see the color of the wings through the cocoon.

When I got up this morning, the cocoon looked almost black because the butterfly was almost ready to emerge. I was really hoping it would be hatched by the time I got home from work and I wasn't disappointed.

Flight Test

The monarch ranch is pretty busy right now. (Monarch Ranch II came home from the office because one of the women who did a security check on my desk last week got a little freaked out by the jar full of "bugs" sitting on my desk. I thought it would be best to bring it home before she filed some sort of incident report or complained to my supervisor.)

Anyway, the 3 caterpillars from Monarch Ranch II went into Monarch Ranch I, plus I had 5 new eggs hatch last week. My current total of caterpillars is 12, cocoons is 6, and eggs is 2.

And, of course, 1 new Monarch butterfly.

Also this morning, our mailman delivered my Monarch Waystation certificate...I'm number 1515.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Nordic Fest 2007

Today we rode our motorcycles down to Decorah, Iowa to visit the Nordic Fest 2007 celebration. This is the 41st anniversary of their annual summer event to "celebrate the Spirit of Norway." The event always takes place the last weekend in July and again this year it was quite hot. Decorah is situated in a river valley, so it's always about 10 degrees warmer there than anywhere else.

Nordic Fest is always fun because there's lots of good food and we ate our way through downtown: rommegrot (it's actually just a thick, sweetened white sauce to which you add more melted butter and cinnamon and eat it hot, with a spoon), lingonberry ice cream, potato sausages rolled up in lefse, krumkakke, rosettes, and the best thing--lefse, hot off the grill (again, lots of butter, brown sugar and cinnamon to put inside, roll up and eat).

For those of you who don't know what lefse is, the best way to describe it is that it looks a lot like a tortilla, only it's made with potatoes. I usually make only 1 batch at Christmas time, because it's rather labor-intensive. To make a batch of lefse, you cook up about 5 lbs. of potatoes, then rice them, add salt, butter and cream, mash them again and let the whole batch cool. After cooling, you add flour and roll the dough into little balls (about the size of a small apple). You roll each ball out really thin on a special cloth-covered "lefse board" with your special cloth-covered "lefse rolling pin" and then use your special "lefse stick" to lift the piece of lefse onto your special, round "lefse griddle." You cook it till it starts to get just a little bit brown and then use your "lefse stick" to flip the entire piece over and cook the other side. For me to make 1 batch from start to finish takes between 6 and 7 hours.

Here's one of the three ladies who were cooking lefse today. You can see all of the "special" lefse utensils she's using (2 sticks in the foreground, the big round griddle, and the rolling pin).

Here's the table where we added butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and sugar to our hot-off-the-grill piece of lefse. Everyone makes theirs different. My spousal unit just puts butter on, but I like it with brown sugar and cinnamon in addition to butter.

Nordic Fest is always fun because there are plenty of interesting people and things to watch. There are usually some people from Norway there and it's fun to hear their accents. We saw this guy who would have made a good Viking.

And we saw this lady wearing a hat that seemed to serve no purpose whatsoever--it didn't keep the sun out of her eyes and obviously doesn't fit her head very well (but it gave me something to laugh about & aren't telephoto lenses great?)

Down at the Vesterheim (Norwegian for Western Home) Norwegian-American Museum they always have some heritage displays set up. Here a man was doing some sort of wood carving and the woman was spinning flax into yarn on a spinning wheel.

Here was the Viking encampment.

And here was a bunch of guys doing what Viking guys probably also did on a Saturday afternoon--leaning up against the boat and talking about boating. (The guy second from the right with the salmon-colored shirt is the "Viking" who owned the boat.)

Here's some information about Decorah, Iowa that I found on Wikipedia:

Originally settled by people of English descent in 1849, Decorah has become popular as a center for Norwegian-American culture originating from a high number of Norwegian settlements beginning in the 1850s. Since 1862 it has been the home of Luther College, a liberal arts institution affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Each July Decorah is also the host of Nordic Fest, a celebration of Norwegian culture with ethnic dancing, food, and music. Decorah is also the home of the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, the largest museum in the country devoted to one single immigrant group. Until 1972, one of the largest Norwegian language newspapers in the nation was published in Decorah, the Decorah Posten.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Happy Birthday Sissy

Today is my Sissy's birthday, she was born July 26, 1961, so that makes her 46 years young! She enjoys reminding me that she'll always be younger than me. I'm sure she'll take special joy in reminding me of that fact next year when I turn 50.

Photo taken at Split Rock Lighthouse near Two Harbors, MN on November 10, 2005. The event was a lighting of the lighthouse in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Happy Birthday Sissy!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Today's post is about treats: for the eyes and the tummy.

First are the treats for the eyes: my wildflower garden

There are lots of purple coneflowers and brown-eyed Susans, but I also have some Queen Anne's Lace, green-headed coneflowers, alyssum, ox-eye daisies (earlier in spring), Joe-Pye weed, rough blazing star, and lots of pink and purple asters (blooming later in August and September). It's a bird and butterfly paradise.

I love what this wildflower garden has turned into and every year I let it spread a little further out into the yard.
This garden is a wonderful reminder of what I have to look forward to after winter has left us.

Second, are the treats for the tummy: mulberries!

For the first time ever, I have more mulberries than the cedar waxwings, robins, and gray catbirds can eat. I picked a little dishful this afternoon and I think they're going to taste just yummy on some sugar-free vanilla or tapioca pudding. They are so sweet right off the tree and some of them are just huge. A pretty good yield from what's supposed to be a Zone 5 tree.


I found this notice in my e-mail In-Box when I got home today:

"We are pleased to inform you that your Monarch Waystation application
is currently being processed. The milkweed and nectar flower habitat
you have created for monarch butterflies will be registered and
certified as a Monarch Waystation - congratulations!
You will receive your certificate and site ID via mail soon."

Official recognition for all my efforts. How cool is that?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Monarch Ranch Update

Things are going well at Monarch Ranch I, with only 1 slight setback so far. One of the cocoons fell off the roof shortly after it changed from a caterpillar. I'm not sure what happened and I tried to reattach it to the branch with a thread but it fell from there also. I've left it lying inside on the off chance that something might still happen. I think this one was from one of the smaller caterpillars, so I don't think another parasitic insect had laid eggs in the caterpillar, but I'll wait a while longer to see if there are any other obvious developments with this cocoon.
In the meantime, I have 2 completed cocoons, that appear to be OK.

And one more large caterpillar preparing to make the changeover.

Inside I have several more hungry caterpillars of various sizes and two that just this afternoon hatched from their eggs, so we're in pretty good shape at Monarch Ranch I.

After supper, I searched some of my milkweed plants and came up with 6 eggs on leaves and 1 leaf with 2 small caterpillars on it. Wow--a good yield from a few minutes of searching.I know it's hard to see, but on the left leaf are the 2 caterpillars (1 large and 1 tiny) and on the leaves on the right you can maybe see a few of the little white egg specks.

Monarch Ranch II on my desk at work is also doing well. My office mate did OK with it at the campground, however there was only 1 hatched egg when she got back. She wasn't sure if the one caterpillar accidentally ate the leaf the other egg was on or what happened. She felt bad, but I assured her it was OK. I took a break and walked across the parking lot in search of some fresh milkweed leaves to feed them and found another tiny caterpillar on a leaf, so now we're back to 3 caterpillars at Monarch Ranch II.

One of the women in an office across the hall asked if I would be able to help her set up a monarch ranch that she can take to her granddaughters this weekend. "Happy to oblige, ma'am," I said (in my best rancher's voice).

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Sophie had kind of a rough afternoon. First of all, it's just too hot to let the dogs run around outside and she misses chasing her frisbee and eating grass. So while I was getting supper ready, she decided to throw up in the corner of the foyer by the front door. Poor doggy....she has a very weak stomach. After we finished supper, the Spousal Unit and I went for a walk. Sophie must have watched us leave while lying on the bed and in her frustration at not being able to go along, she decided to mess up the bed.I got this picture of her while she was pretending not to see me.

We have really goofy pets!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Weekend Wrap-Up on Monday

Another busy weekend gone, but it was great because I got many things accomplished. The bag of beets and the big bucket of green beans from Neighbor Scott are all cut up and in the freezer. I made French cut the beans with my handy-dandy green bean frencher. Ever seen one of these?There are sharp blades inside on a wheel that runs up against another wheel. You put a few beans in the top, turn the crank, and out come French cut green beans. Kind of tedious, but for small quantities of beans, it works pretty good.

Here's what I ended up with for the freezer.

While I had my bean bowl on the chair the cushion got tossed on the floor, where Penny took advantage of a new place to take a nap. She really fills up a chair cushion, doesn't she? She's gotten almost too big to be a lap cat anymore.

I got the baby blanket for my niece finished and delivered it to her house today. Her truck was in the driveway, but no one answered the door, so I just left it on the doorknob (I'm also second from the top on her s#*t list right now, so maybe that's why no one answered the door!) The baby's not due for a few weeks yet, but every once in a while I actually finish a gift ahead of time.

I noticed a crow in my yard yesterday that has only 1 leg. It looks like a juvenile to me (its head and back feathers are not the shiny black of an adult, but still kind of a drab dark brown).I looked through the binoculars and noticed what appears to be a foot hanging down a little ways, so I don't know if its left leg has been injured or if it's deformed in some way. The reason I noticed it was because instead of walking around like the other crows, this one has to hop! Fortunately, the injury doesn't appear to have affected its appetite in any way.

I ran some errands after work today. First to check out a new quilting shop that just opened in the little town just south of us. The owner used to have a shop in Rochester that closed about 5 years ago. Now she's reopened again and it's so much closer for me. Wow, all the beautiful fabrics were quite inspiring and she hopes to offer some classes soon. I bought a new book and template to make a quilt for the bed with some fabric I have in my "stash."

I learned from a co-worker (Mary) this morning that the "event center" just up the road from my house is always looking for "wait staff" to help with wedding receptions, class reunions, parties and other events. Mary said she works there part-time on weekends. She would put in a good word for me if I wanted to fill out an application, so I made that my last errand stop on the way home.

The Spousal Unit has some reservations, but I told him most of the events would be a few hours in the evening. Since there's some uncertainty in my job right now, I decided it wouldn't be the worst idea to at least have a back-up plan (and the extra dollars would give me more money to spend on birdseed!) Mary indicated that they really have a hard time staffing daytime events, so if my current job does go away, at least I won't have to stand in the unemployment line.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Garden Tour

Saturday was so busy, I didn't even get time to sit down at my computer and post a blog. Some days are that way and I was happy it was such a nice day to spend outside (a day I will remember fondly once January gets here!)

Neighbor Scott stopped by Saturday afternoon with an ice cream tub full of green beans, a plastic grocery bag full of beets and this beautiful bouquest of gladiola flowers. (I've never had gladiolas in my garden, because I'm too lazy to dig the bulbs up for winter, but I do think they're a very pretty flower.)

I will be spending some time this afternoon cleaning and cutting the beets and beans to prepare them for freezing. Does anyone have any good beet recipes (besides pickles)?

Now, on to the garden tour. The Rochester Flower and Garden Club has this tour every summer on the third Thursday in July. You pay $10 per carload and there are at least 4 garden stops to visit from 4:00-8:30 PM. I've wanted to go for years, but my schedule in previous jobs never worked out. This year my birding friends (and former WBU co-workers) invited me to go with them. I paid for the map and ticket and they did the driving. It was a great time and the tour concludes with an ice cream social.

While I was waiting for my friends to arrive home from work I "sat a spell" in their backyard and admired their gardens (they are both Master Gardeners and have some really nice flower gardens in their yard).

Front Yard

Back Yard

It was an interesting tour. I look at some of these gardens and they just seemed kind of "over the top" for someone like me (the average, somewhat lazy gardener). The most impressive garden belonged to a woman who has spent the last couple years clearing buckthorn out of her wooded lot with a backyard that angles steeply down to a ravine. She's a "hosta enthusiast" and has over 500 varieties in her 0.87 acre lot. (She also does not work outside the home and has a "gardener".....)

She also had gargoyles!

Every one of the gardens had a water feature.

From average.....

To again what I would consider "over-the-top"

There were also some "whimsical" sights:

Willow Heart Trellis (I also took this picture because I'd like to try and make a trellis like this)

Giant acorn hiding behind an oak tree

Little fishing boy about to catch a goldfish

Muskrats peeking out of the lily pond

"Fish on a stick" look like they're actually swimming with the leafy background

Some of the flowers I thought were noteworthy:

Three large, beautiful trumpet vines growing alongside a garage

I've never seen dayliles this lovely orange-gold color (almost like a marigold color)

Anise Hyssop (I couldn't identify the plant, but thought it looked like a cat-mint leaf, so I rubbed a leaf between my fingers and it had a yummy spearmint/licorice scent!)

Fabulous dahlias (again, another plant that requires extra care to survive our harsh zone 4 winters)

Black hollyhocks (I loved this color!)

I know I should have split this post into 2 parts, because it got kind of long, but since I'm already 2 days behind, I decided to put everything in today. Hope you enjoyed the tour. Thanks for coming along.