Thursday, July 27, 2017

Finally Gone!

Well folks, I did it! The avocado green shag is officially history! I'm "otterly" thrilled!


So... here's my living room before:


And after:


I must say, I can't really believe the difference. It feels like a whole new house. Sooo much cleaner, and the whole room feels bigger.

Here's the other half of the room - with a brand spankin' new area rug which I love, love, love!


But the green shag wasn't just in the main room, it was also in the attached room - which was originally a bedroom, but at some point the house was remodeled - I think they used it as a dining room, but I use it as my office.



And it was also in the hall:


Whew!!


Of course, the work is not yet done as there are still a few issues to address. When the house was remodeled a wall was removed, and where the wall was there isn't any flooring.

That funny looking leopard fur cigar thing is Smoky's favorite toy...

I still haven't quite decided what to do about it yet. I found a few pieces of pre-finished hardwood at the Habitat Store that are a pretty good color match, so I might use them... the other option would be to just get a big hunk of oak and stain it to match as closely as possible.

There's a similar issue in the doorway to the hall - I guess they decided the door wasn't wide enough, so there's a small area there that will also need to be patched.

But all that can be dealt with later. At the moment I'm just thrilled that the floor is in such good shape and that I finally got it done!!!

I did uncover a few nests of carpet beetle larvae in the process of yanking, so hopefully I've finally got them all. Haven't seen a beetle in a week or so... keeping my fingers crossed!

I'll probably get a few more area rugs, and I have to paint the molding... actually I should probably paint everything... well, one thing at a time.

Anyhow, Jasper was a little freaked out by the wood floor at first, but as you can see, he's decided it's OK.



So that's what's been keeping me busy! Hope you're all doin' well!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Melancholy



I've been feeling blue of late, and this song won't leave my head. Nothing's wrong particularly, I just can't shake this sense of deep sadness. Maybe I take things too much to heart, but honestly, it just seems like everywhere I look, I see people being horrible to each other.

I suppose largely it's political. It just seems like our polarized politics have given people license to hate and blame each - and I seem to see humanity eroding everywhere I look. Discussions on NextDoor.com over stupid things like fireworks or graffiti have turned into virtual shouting matches, and don't EVEN get me started about healthcare, or Syria, or...

Maybe it's just me. Maybe I just need to have a thicker skin, or learn to ignore it all, I dunno, but it really feels like something fundamental is broken, and people are taking it out on each other. Well, at least I don't feel angry or scared anymore, just sad.

Anyhow, in other news, the carpet beetles have been trying to make a comeback, so I've finally begun the project of tearing out my hideous avocado green shag carpeting. It's rather slow, mostly because I have to cut it up into chunks to haul it outside. And ripping out those horrible carpet strips along the edges is the worst part. But the oak floors underneath are in remarkably good condition. Can't wait to get it all out of here!



And the front yard is looking much better. The volunteer marigolds are coming along wonderfully, and a few have started to bloom. Can't wait until they all do.


I also stuck a few other plants in there. This dianthus is doing quite well.


I'm slowly working on digging out the other half of the yard. It's too hot to plant anything now, but if I can get most of the weeds and remaining turf out by fall, my stepmom has a bunch of low water plants that she's going to separate and give me, so maybe by this time next year my xeriscape will finally be done!

CatMan and I have been riding up a storm. On one of our last rides, we ended up at Riverside Cemetery.


Riverside is Denver's oldest cemetery, and I must say, it really does put things into perspective. I think I'm already older than most of the people buried there.

The ones that always get me are the little babies. There are just sooo many who died before they even reached one year.



Well, that's about all the news from the funny farm. Here's wishing you all the same level of peace that Jasper seems to have achieved in this photo.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Darwinian Gardening Takes an Interesting Turn

Soooo... for about 20 years now, I've been slowly working on converting my front yard from grass (which is notoriously difficult to grow in this arid region) to xeriscape - AKA low water plants.

I'm slow and not terribly deliberate in this process, and my approach is decidedly "Darwinian" in nature. By that I mean that I don't put a lot of effort into it, and I figure that whatever can survive with a fair degree of neglect gets to stay, and if a plant dies out, it means it's not intended to be here in the first place! I'll admit it's a process fraught with fits and starts, but I have had some success.


My general plan has been to put plants around the edges, and leave a small patch of grass in the center part of the yard...


However, as you can see from the above photo, it would appear that mother nature has other plans! Apparently the neighborhood has been invaded with some sort of lawn fungus, and the majority of the grass in my front yard is dead.

Slightly out of focus, but you get the idea
Basically it was just dead brown grass with LOTS of bindweed poking through.

Soooo... I decided that since the grass was already dead, there wasn't much to lose by digging out the bindweed roots. Holy Kazoli folks! I didn't take any pictures, but there was a rather incredible network of roots about as big around as my little finger running horizontally under all that dead grass, with tap roots going straight down every few feet.

I'm under no illusions that I've gotten it all, but it's gotta make a dent, doesn't it?

Anyhow, my initial thought was that I'd just dig out the bindweed, and in the process I'd aerate the grass, and perhaps it would come back to life. And after a week or so I started to see all sorts of green sprouts in the parts that I had dug, so I thought perhaps it was working.


But on closer inspection I realized that the little green sprouts were not, in fact, grass - but rather... wait for it....


Yes! Those are marigold sprouts!


This presents a rather interesting situation. And after thinking about it for a few days, I've decided that in keeping with my Darwinian tradition, I'm going to "go with it" and just let the whole area be taken over by flowers!

There will be plenty of grass to dig out, especially since I didn't remove the grass when I first started digging out the bindweed - but that's OK.

And... I decided that this might be a good opportunity to see if any of the dozen or so packages of flower seeds that have been languishing in the land of good intentions out in the garage for the past 10 years or so have any growing potential left in them.


Sooo... I've been digging out the remaining dead grass and what feels like miles and miles of bindweed roots, and sprinkling a variety of flower seeds in the area. I've also got a bunch of wildflower seeds that I gathered along the bike path last fall, so I added those to the mix.

I bought some more soaker hoses - although at the moment things are pretty wet out there as it's been snowing (seriously) and raining for the past 48 hours or so.

I'm sure lots of the seeds won't take, but that's OK - the yard can't possibly look worse than it does now, and at least I won't have to haul around the sprinkler and mow the darned thing! Plus, I've got a bunch of plants that need to be separated, so I can fill in any blank areas with plants.

Any way you slice it, I think it's gonna be an interesting experiment!


So, does anybody else out there have any experience with Darwinian Gardening? I'd love to hear what has and hasn't worked for you!



Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Whether it's Cold or Whether it's Hot...

...We Shall Have Weather, Whether or Not!


You know, Colorado weather is many things, but boring is not one of them!

So... let's see here. Where to begin. Our spring snow melted off quickly, and the weather turned beautiful again... well, mostly beautiful! We have had a bit of sever weather...

video

You'll have to pardon my mutterings at the end of the video - I fear I'm too lazy to figure out how to edit them out.

Anyhow, I'm feeling lucky in terms of the hail because neighborhoods a few miles north and west of me got absolutely clobbered with hail stones that were baseball sized!

Other than that little adventure, it's been mostly gorgeous.

Random shot from a bike ride last week


And I seem to have gotten my gardening mojo back a bit.

I planted radishes for the first time this year, and I have to call it a huge success!


They were super easy, and I'm already harvesting a few!


Turns out I LOVE radishes! You can eat them either raw or cooked - and the greens are edible too!

I haven't planted anything other than the "cool weather" stuff yet... which is probably a good thing because, get this, we're expecting more snow later this week! Oy!


I probably shouldn't complain since we need the moisture, but honestly, I am ready for summer. But in the meantime...

The snow peas are looking good, though they haven't bloomed yet.

Snow peas
I've been harvesting green onions for months now. They're going to seed, but still taste good. I've kept this batch alive for 10 years now. When I dig up a clump, I separate them and re-plant the smallest ones. As long as they have roots attached they'll take hold and keep growing & spreading.

Green Onions (with a few catnip invaders!)

The garlic patch has been totally invaded by grass and creeping bellflower. I haven't tried to dig any up yet, so we'll see how it goes. I don't have a great track record with garlic!

garlic patch

I wintered the rosemary over by keeping it in a Wall-O-Water. Just took it off a few days ago, and it seems to have weathered fine. I'm thinking I should probably cover it up again what with the snow coming!

Rosemary looking a bit scraggly but not too bad.

I kept frost cloth over the greens all spring - not because of the cold, but in an attempt to keep the leaf miners from laying their eggs on them.

Covered greens.

In terms of keeping the bugs off, it seems to have worked OK

Chard and Spinach

However, the spinach doesn't handle the crazy temperature swings very well, and most of it has bolted after putting on only a few leaves. Sigh.

Spinach starting to bolt.

BTW - my attempt at growing indoor spinach was a complete bust. The LED grow lights turned out not to be powerful enough, and when I moved it to the window sill Smoky ate it all. Gah!

And speaking of Gah! Here's my asparagus patch...

Asparagus fail!

What? You say you don't see any asparagus? Just some volunteer chives and a few sprigs of bindweed trying to take over. I know! Not sure what I'm doing wrong, but I'm about to throw in the towel with this stuff. I even caved and bought a dozen more sets of roots this year, but only two of them sprouted (which you can see scant evidence of in this photo.) Perhaps I'm just not meant to grow asparagus!

Anyhow, the only other thing I've planted is a garbage bag of potatoes.

Potato experiment
This is a bit of an experiment. I've had mixed luck with growing potatoes for a combination of reasons. Our soil is mostly clay, so I think that gives them some trouble, and I haven't found a good way to properly mound them as they grow. Sooo... in theory, growing them in bags lets you add prepared soil rather than clay, and it's easier to mound. Plus, you don't have to (ahem) worry about destroying half of them as you harvest.

I've tried container potatoes before, but I over watered them, so I cut some nice drainage holes in the bottom of the bag, and I'm gonna be more careful this time. We shall see...

So that's the news from the Mile High city! Have you planted anything yet?






Saturday, April 29, 2017

When it's Springtime in the Rockies...

Just when you thought it was safe to put away the winter gear...


I'd say there's a good 6-8 inches out there at the moment and it's still comin' down at a pretty good clip.

Truth is, this is actually fantastic news for us. Usually by this point in the season we've had about 55 inches of snow, and this year I think we were at about 19. So I'd describe the mood here as jubilant!


It started falling last night and hasn't really let up since.


And while this may seem like crazy weather to those of you not from these parts, March and April are actually Denver's two snowiest months, so this is actually much more "normal" than the mild weather we have been enjoying!

View from a bike ride last week.

I covered the garden, but honestly, I've only planted the cool weather crops, and the snow will insulate everything from the cold temps, so I think things will be fine. And the moisture is quite welcome!

I did forget to cut some of the lilacs and iris to bring them inside though... and this is what they looked like this morning.


Oh well... I did go out and shake the snow off of the lilac bush, so hopefully we won't get too many broken branches.

Glad I trimmed back the juniper tree... I fear it would be sagging even worse if I hadn't.


Anyhow... that's the news from the Mile High City! How's the weather in your neck of the woods?




And... here are some photos from recent bike rides to tide you (and me) over until things warm up!

Bear Creek in Morrison, CO

The remains of an old covered wagon out at Chatfield State Park
Some Neat Looking Clouds over the Mountains
Blossoms, blossoms, and more blossoms!



Sunday, April 9, 2017

Arsenic and Old Rice

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and guess that most of my readers are old enough to get that joke. Cary Grant movies never go out of style, do they?

Arsenic and Old Lace - 1944

Anyhow, between my gluten free experiments, and stockpiling of food in case of who knows what, rice seems to have taken on a much more prominent role in my life than it used to have.

So... where to begin...


I've long been a lover of brown rice, and when I decided to try to cut out gluten for a while to see if it helped my digestive troubles, good old brown rice was one of the first things I turned to.


Similarly, when CatMan and I first started talking about stockpiling some food supplies, our first thought was to check the local chef's supply store to see what sort of a price we could get on an enormous bag of brown rice.

Now, before we begin on this little rice odyssey, perhaps we need a little lesson in rice anatomy. Basically, like any other grain, rice has an inedible outer hull, under which is a layer known as the bran. The job of the bran is to protect the germ, which is nestled within the bran layer. The germ is essentially the "embryo" of the grain - or the part that germinates (hence the name) into a new plant. The inner part (the white part) is called the endosperm, which provides energy (carbohydrates) for the germ to use as it grows.


So, brown rice is rice which has had only the hull removed, leaving both the bran and the germ intact. It provides many more nutrients than white rice, which has had both the germ and the bran removed.

But here's the deal. The super nutritious germ and bran are also super prone to spoiling. Along with lots of nutrients, they also contain oils, which go rancid after a while. The long and short of it is (ha ha... get it? long & short like long & short grain rice?) Well anyhow, brown rice only has a shelf life of about 6 months to a year, depending on how you store it.

Soooo... there went the plan of stocking up on brown rice for the apocalypse!

White rice, on the other hand, has a significantly longer shelf life. I even bought some from the Mormon church (which has a long tradition of self-reliance and preparedness) that is stored in giant sealed cans and has a shelf life of 30 years. Now, that's some old rice!


OK... so now on to the arsenic part.

Not sure if you've heard the hullabaloo or not, but the news has recently been filed with reports of arsenic in rice. It's not that there are little old ladies wandering through the store aisles lacing rice with arsenic or anything like that, it's that rice absorbs arsenic from the soil in which it grows. Basically, arsenic is easily soluble in water, and since rice grows in wet swamps or paddies, it tends to absorb more environmental arsenic than other grains do.

And, the rice seems to concentrate the arsenic in the bran and the germ, meaning that brown rice contains a much higher concentration of the stuff than does white rice. Another strike against my beloved brown rice!


So, where does this leave us? Umm.... that's a little bit unclear.

First of all, arsenic levels in white rice can be reduced significantly (up to 90% or so) by soaking, rinsing, and cooking the rice in lots of water and draining off the excess rather than measuring the water proportionally and allowing it all to absorb. Unfortunately, the same does not hold true for brown rice since the arsenic is bound up in the bran and germ.

Secondly, arsenic levels vary tremendously with both the type of rice, and the location in which it was grown. Aromatic rice like Jasmine and Basmati tend to absorb less arsenic. And rice grown in the US south tends to have higher levels because the soils there tend to have much higher concentrations of arsenic.

So I'm not entirely sure where that leaves me. I've been experimenting with different varieties of white rice. I've never actually cooked white rice before, so this is a new and exciting culinary adventure. I've become a huge fan of Jasmine rice - the smell is just wonderful! I think it must be that variety that's used in Chinese cuisine, because it smells just like a Chinese restaurant!


And, if you soak it overnight, it only takes about 10 minutes to cook! Amazing! I know it's not as nutritious as my beloved brown rice, but I do feel good knowing that it's not poisoning me.

Next on my list are Basmati (used in Indian cuisine) and parboiled rice. Parboiled is interesting because it's made by partially boiling the rice in the husk, before drying and removing the husk, bran and germ. This process apparently infuses some of the nutrients from the bran and germ into the rice grain, so in theory it's the best of both worlds. However, the bag says not to rinse or soak it because you will remove much of the nutrition. And the only variety I've been able to find so far was grown in Texas, which is in the arsenic belt... Hmmm...


My general conclusion with this entire topic is that when it comes to rice, the more nutritious it is, the more arsenic it contains. And I'm not really sure what that means in terms of diet and food storage. For the moment, my plan is to experiment with a variety of kinds of rice, stocking up only on the white, and parboiled. But it seems clear to me, that in order to ensure that one's nutritional needs are being met without poisoning oneself, it's a good idea not to rely on rice alone when it comes to consumption of grains.

To that end, I've also been experimenting with millet, quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth - all of which are gluten free, and don't present the same sort of arsenic dilemma. Not sure about how viable any of those grains are for long term storage, but I guess the first step is to figure out how to prepare them and if I like them. I see another post in my future...

So that's my little rice odyssey. Are you a rice fan? Does the news about arsenic in rice concern you? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this whole topic!

In the meantime, I'll leave you with this. The interwebs seem to be full of pictures of cats in "sushi costumes" I don't know what it means...