Friday, August 31, 2012

Bzzzzzzzzy Summer

It's  hard to believe August is just about over, isn't it?  We've had a long, hot, bizarre summer to be sure, but I'll miss it.  I don't know what Chinese Year this is, but around here, it was the Summer of the Yellow Jackets.  We've been overrun with the black and yellow-striped menaces in record numbers.  There are several hives under the eaves of all the buildings and three ground nests near Carl's shed.

On Monday night, Carl thought he could discourage the ground nesters with cold water from the garden hose flooding their hive.  Apparently they don't take kindly to such treatment and as a result, Carl sustained two stings to his right arm.  His hand and forearm swelled to amazing proportions over the course of a few days, but he's ok.  The water treatment didn't bother them much; the pests are still there, carrying on with business as usual.  (I would have taken a picture of the offenders, but I'm sure you all know what they look like.  And I don't like getting stung.)   

As long as the hives or nests or whatever you call them are outdoors, we usually avoid the areas if we can and let nature take its course.  We know  wasps are good at keeping other bugs under control, and are beneficial, but they can also be dangerous.

Earlier this month, my mother, the Elusive Lucille, called me with alarming news.

"I think I have a problem," she said.  "There are hornets in my kitchen and I've been killing them left and right with a fly swatter.  Just this morning I swatted thirty-three of 'em.  They're nasty and their stings really hurt."

Stings? Oh, dear.  That's not good.

"How many times were you stung?  And are they attacking you?"  I asked.

"Twice, so far, and I got stung when I went to pick up their dead bodies to put in my jar."

(No, she's not a hoarder of dead varmint carcasses, she just wanted to have proof of her prowess at Wasp Hunting.)

"Mom, don't touch them with your bare hands!"  I hollered into the phone. "I'll be right there."

"What's the difference if I squish them by hand? I want to make sure they're dead, darn it.  They make me so mad!" Mom said.

 Don't mess with my mother, she may be 92 and tiny, but she wields a mean fly swatter.  And a .22 rifle, too, but not in the house.   Bullets are hard on plaster. 

The doggies and I dashed up to Mom's and, armed with a spare swatter, I helped her do battle with another twenty or so which were buzzing all over her kitchen and living room.  By the time we were done she had a pint jar full of squished carcasses.   Mom's house is almost 100 years old, so there are many nooks and crannies the Winged Nuisances can get into.  I went outside and saw three different areas of her house with wasps flying in and out of the soffits up near the roof-line on the second story and a corner of the vinyl siding. 

The River Bed early this morning from the Throne Room.  (The bathroom!)
Time to call in a professional.  Carl didn't even balk at my suggesting such a thing, either, which is amazing since he's usually a DIY kinda guy.  But if we can't clear out a mere ground nest, how do you get them out of a house?

 When Joel heard about the dilemma he stopped in and saw a bee emerge from behind the trim of the door to Mom's front porch. We placed a big piece of packing tape over the hole on the inside of the living room which greatly slowed down the traffic inside the house, thank goodness.  The outside of her house and interior walls were still buzzing, though.

We had to wait a few days for the exterminator to show up because he was so busy.   He apologized for the wait and said he'd never had a year like this one for yellow jacket infestations.   He also told me to make sure Mom wore her shoes in the house at all times and to look carefully before sitting down, because the hornets dehydrate very quickly once they are inside and fall to the floor and/or furniture.  And as Mom found out the hard way, they can sting very effectively even when they're mortally wounded.

When he arrived two days later, he hooked up hoses to an air compressor in the back of his pickup and, armed with long extension pipes and a flexible fitting on the end, he was able to stand back a good 20' and blow garden dust into the entrances of the nests.  The man had nerves of steel, he wasn't wearing any special protective clothing and was very, very calm.  I, on the other hand, was standing far, Far away from the action.  The whole operation took him under 20 minutes and though there was still a steady stream of buzzing wasps returning to the nest, he said in a few hours, they'd be dead.  He was right.  That was the end of them.  

In retrospect, is the dust safe for humans?  Probably not, but when hornets are getting into your house, I don't know what else we could have done.  Mom was a whole lot happier.  And safer.  There was no visible garden dust inside the house.

When I gave her the all-clear, she came out with her pint jar of victims to show the exterminator.  He was impressed and said he was glad she didn't get hurt any worse.  While he was packing up his equipment he told me a chilling story. 

Back in July, an elderly man had hired a landscaper to cut some trees down on a wooded area of his property.  The landscaper cleared some brush and cut a few trees down and then the owner decided to wait and see if he wanted any more removed after he did some mowing.  The landscaper agreed to check back in a few days.

Since  some of the brush was cleared, the next day the elderly landowner managed to get on his riding lawnmower using his walker for support.  He was busily mowing the new area when the lawnmower's deck got caught on a small stump and stalled the machine. 

This would have been bad news all by itself, because the poor man had no way to get back to his walker and was trapped on his lawnmower.  But the additional horror was this:

His lawnmower was stuck directly on top of a ground-nest of Yellow Jackets. 

The poor man was swarmed by the wasps and they stung him over 150 times on his head and face alone.   He was unable to get off the lawn mower and get away and would have faced certain death.   (Gives me the chills just thinking of it.) 

Luckily, the landscaper was on his way home from work and decided to check back a little earlier than they had originally agreed to.  When he went to the door, he heard screams and yelling in the back yard and found the poor guy being attacked.  Somehow he managed to drag him to safety and the victim was taken to the hospital where he stayed for over two weeks recovering. 

The exterminator said he was called in to deal with the huge nest and talked to the gentleman.  He said it was over three weeks since the attack and the poor man still couldn't wear his false teeth because his facial swelling hadn't subsided completely yet.  I cannot imagine being stung so many times, can you?

So that leads me back to the next bzzzzzzzzzzy problem here.  Carl and I are now ready to go back to work on mortaring Aaargh but guess what?  We have two nests of Yellow Jackets who have taken up residence under some of the rocks to be mortared in.  Carl didn't think it was a big deal; he simply knocked the nest off the rocks and vacated the area until the swarm left.  But they didn't leave.  I walked past Aaargh this morning while watering flower pots and could hear the buzzing from a good 20' away.  
October 2011

Maybe Castle Aaargh will end up being a ruin after all?

It's going to the bees.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Learning Curve

Rerun picture from 2011

Hey, hey! I finally am the proud owner of a new computer. We brought the gleaming beauty home on Monday night. We haven't bought a computer since 1999; thirteen long years ago which, in Computer Years, is as old as Dirt.

What a performance difference a few more ram-a-bytes and gigawhatzits makes. Just check out those numbers......1TB 5400RPM hard drive and a 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 2 DIMM

( Nope, I don't know what it means either. But Joel assures me it's a wee bit faster than my old one.)

I'm not 100% sure, but I believe the '2 DIMM' refers to Carl and I, for we are very dim at times. For instance, when we opened the carton and found no Instruction Manual, we were puzzled. Huh. I looked all through the box, but there was no bulky manual, just a folded up piece of paper with diagrams showing:

Step 1.

Take it out of the box.

Followed by Step 2.

Plug it in.

No  words, just pictures of those two steps. Come to find out, if I want an Owner's Manual I can download one for free online. Okey dokey, no Owner's Manual to lose and not printing a book saved a tree, right?

Now all I have to do is figure out all the bells and whistles. I am very lucky that Joel has a lot of patience with his Maternal Unit and has devoted several hours to answering my silly questions.  So far, he tolerates my insistence on the use of a corded mouse (yes, I know how to operate the touch pad thing, but it drives me nuts) and also my plug-in ergonomic keyboard, which to paraphrase Weird Al Yankovich, 'Never Leaves Me Bored' (Ok, so you'd have to know of the video of the song 'White and Nerdy' to understand what I'm talking about, check it out, very funny.)

 I understand the idea of going wireless and all the convenience, but I can type a whole lot faster on the Ergo and my palm isn't always dragging across the touch-pad moving everything around, either.  Hey, I'm set in my ways.  Like concrete.

With all the Ram-a-Gigs and Terrabytes, you'd think you'd see some pictures in this post, wouldn't you?  Well, as soon as I figure out how to resize pictures on Windows 7 like I could do before, we'll be back in the photo business.   There must be an app for that.  (Ooops, that's a trademarked statement, please disregard.)  I'll figure it out eventually, hopefully before Joel yanks out any more hair.

Give me another thirteen years. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Just a Little Bit Obsessive/Compulsive

I was out on the 574 tonight, cutting the hay in the Back Eight with the Bush Hog and I got to thinking.  (Yes, I actually do cogitate now and then...surprise, surprise.)   Nothing like sitting on a tractor going back and forth in a field for a few hours to get your mind to wandering.  

When was the last time I wrote a blog post?

Oh, my.   It's been weeks and weeks since I last wrote a word, which also includes personal emails. I looked at my inbox  and was stunned to see I had over 200+ emails piled up.  Wow.  Luckily most of them were spam, though there were a few from good friends that I still have to get back to. Time is just zipping on by and I'm being yanked along with it in all sorts of directions. Since starting my exercise routine and trying to get more sleep, my time is cut shorter than ever.  I use to be a diehard night owl, but have since reformed quite a bit.  (Probably not tonight, though, since I didn't start writing this til midnight.)
We've had our fair share of garden walks and tour groups this summer and many, many impromptu, drop-in visitors, just like any other year.  And as usual, we spent a lot of time primping and preening the garden to get it up to standards.  Luckily, we were blessed and had some nice, gentle rainfall this month which has greened everything up beautifully.  We even hosted an 'almost surprise' birthday party for a friend of ours in July, but she figured it out. Still, it was fun, and we've used the tent several more times, too.  Lots of good friends have visited this year, and we enjoyed seeing them all.

And before you ask, the answer is No, Castle Aaargh is STILL not done.  I know, I know, why not?

We just hauled some bagged cement home on Monday night, so here we go again for the year.  Gentleman, start your Mortar Mixers, it's time to mix some mud.  I still say I should have realized how much work the silly thing was going to be.  Oh, well.  Live and Learn.

That's where the OCD thing rears it's head.  I'm not sure why, but I have a tendency to go overboard on projects or hobbies.  I'm not sure if losing weight is a 'hobby' per se, but it sure as heck has been a big project, ha, and the work in that direction goes on.  I'm down forty pounds since the first of the year which sounds like a lot, but since I need to lose at least that much more, well, it's not time to cheer just yet.  Let's just say if I stand sideways, you'll still see me, I won't disappear like a sheet of paper. "Now you see me, now you don't....." er, never mind, you can still see me no matter which way I turn. 

The weird part is I've never lost weight before, never even tried to, even though I obviously should have.  My weight was just another one of those subtle things in life that snuck up on me; 'up' being the operative word.  Isn't there a poem, 'Fog comes on little cat feet'?  Well, poundage comes on just as stealthily, too, right along with the Big M. 


Too bad there isn't a time in a woman's life cycle called Weightopause.

I mean, really, we endure puberty and all those bizarre changes (I remember my first week with a bra, you mean I have to wear one of these for the Rest of My Life?!) gads, what a harness! And they call it a Playtex?  Any garment with 'Play' in the name should be fun, right?  Not sure what the 'tex' part is referring to, but now that I've done graduated to the 18 Hour version, I'll be the first to tell you, there ain't nothing all that comfortable about a Comfort Strap.  And don't get me started on Sports Bras.  Whoo doggies....they are aptly named; it's a sport in itself just crawling in and out of those contraptions. 

Playing Catch-up here with old pictures from July.....Lily season came and went.  

 Then after puberty comes a whole bunch of other silliness and mood swings and for many women, the childbearing years.  What was once a nice, taut tummy suddenly resembles something out of a science fiction horror flick and you and your bathroom become inseparable.  Aching feet, aching back and then presto/chango, you're now a Mom.  (Ah, if it was only that easy.)  No more sleep, you don't know what you're doing, you feel like a zombie the first month or two but then, all of a sudden, you hit your stride.  And despite all your best efforts, they survive your clumsy parenting attempts and they begin to grow up.  And one night you look in the mirror and see a few gray hairs and gasp, wrinkles?  Can't be. Must be a smudge on the mirror.

 Before you know it, your bundle of joy is in kindergarten, grade school, middle school, high school and then you find yourself sitting on the bleachers trying not to bawl as they walk across the stage and get their diploma.  More school to come...suddenly somewhere in the teenage years you aren't as smart as you (and they) once thought you were and the roles are reversed.  You go to them for help with stuff like computers and new gadgets and they sigh (just like you did when you taught them to tie their shoes for the zillionth time) and walk you through the set up of your new toy.

And then they move out. 

And you're back to where you started.  And those wrinkles and gray hair you first saw a decade ago are now definitely there to stay.  Along with that tummy that never really got taut again. 

And then I found myself standing bent over crooked under my son's suspended kayak on a freight scale in our garage on a frigid night last December, weighing frozen hamburger packages for the heck of it and wondered why the scale wouldn't go back down to the number I clearly recalled weighing the last time I checked.  (In 1993.)  There's gotta be something wrong with the silly thing...surely there's a  whole box of frozen meat on the scale with me...what?  There isn't?  Give me a flashlight, I want to read this number.  What?  You've gotta be kidding.  Wowzers.  Houston, we have a problem.

Cue the Obsession.  Here we go.

While we were battling the drought and extreme heat of July with hoses and air conditioning, I was also still marching on with Leslie every morning in my never-ending walk, walk, walk.  Obsessive?  You betcha.  An hour a day with Ms. Sansone for eight and a half months and I still look forward to it.  What is up with that? 

My mother asked me, "Do you have to exercise for the rest of your life?" 

I said, "I guess so, come to think of it, I really haven't given it much thought.  I just like it, is all."

"You like exercise?"

"Yeah, I think I might be addicted."

"Oh, that a bad thing?  Can't you stop?"

 "Sure I can stop, I just don't want to." 

Hmmm.....the old flower bed in the Formal Garden looks sort of like a track.......
 I wonder how many laps would make a mile?  How many rocks and how big do they have to be before I could be considered 'lifting heavy'? 

I'm on weight loss Plateau now, and it's a lonely place.  All loss has come to a screeching halt for several weeks.  Oh, goody.  So now what?  Pass the chocolate bon bons or punt?  I've spent oodles of time on weight loss websites, punching my numbers into online calculators trying to figure out what my caloric intake levels should be vs. my exercise output, BMI, BMR, TDEE, RMR, the acronyms and the advice all vary according to the sites and if I thought at one time that gardening and all the Latin names of plants was confusing, well, now I'm Really Confused. 

In the Realm of Fitness and Dieting there are more opinions on what to do than you can shake a stick at.  Which ones are right?  Do I set my Activity Level to Sedentary and log all my exercise activities, or set it to Very Active and forgeddabout logging exercise?  Do I eat back my exercise calories?  Some of them?  Or all of them?  Or none of them?  Who knows. 

Consistency is key.  Try something for awhile and see what happens.  If that doesn't work, back to the drawing board and try something else. Should I Eat More To Weigh Less or Eat Less and Move A Whole LOT More?  Turns out, eating too little is just as bad as eating too much, in fact, it's worse.  Who knew?  I'm experimenting with upping calories a little and so far, no gain, so that tells me something.  You have to eat, and 1200 calories a day or less is NUTS. (Not that I ever ate that little.  C'mon this is ME we're talking about!)   Especially for active people, as all of us gardeners are.  And yes, I keep a Food Diary, full of scintillating details like how many calories are in that cup of yogurt.  Yogurt, ha, I eat yogurt now.  Oh, my. 

And everyone has an opinion on exercise.  Cardio is King!  Boo, hiss, Cardio is BAD!  Weight lifting is Best!  Lift HEAVY!  Lose weight.  Lose inches.  

Lose your mind.

The most helpful advice I read online was:  The best exercise for weight loss is:  

The One You'll Do.  

 Not the one you'll think about doing, or the one you'll do once and then after you're out of traction, never, ever try again. The best exercise is one you'll commit to and enjoy.  Do I want to become rail thin?  Nope.  I just want to be fit.  ('Just'--- as if that's so easy.)

I've come to think of this weighty journey as akin to gardening, really.  After all, I know gardening is an obsession of ours and I suspect, of all my garden blogging friends, too.  Why else would we all spend so much time and money in all kinds of weather along with blood, sweat and tears on trying to coax plants to grow?  How about all those endless trips to nurseries and greenhouses and garden walks?  Yes, I believe most serious gardeners have a form of OCD. 

We're always trying to fix things, try new plants, and battle the elements.  Hey, it's like farming, we have to take what we get and work with it.

 So, if any of my followers are still reading me after this hiatus, I'm so grateful.  I can't tell you how many times I think of you all and I've bopped in and read many of your blog posts, but just haven't had the time to comment consistently.  My computer is aging rapidly and very cantankerous and both of my sons are giving me advice on what to look for and buy (here we go again with Confusion) so, hopefully, Soon I will have a new computer and those problems will be a thing of the past.  Hey, I can hope, right?

Ernie the Urn says Hi

Oh, boy, it's late again and I have to lead two exercise classes tomorrow morning....yes, you read it right, life leads us down some really strange paths sometimes; I'm substituting this week for our regular exercise class leader.  Me.  The woman who weighs herself on a freight scale under a kayak.  Wow.  Wonders never cease, do they?  No, I wasn't selected to lead the class because of my ultra-athleticism or my svelte figure.  Nope.  

My claim to fame is:

I know how to run the DVD player.