Saturday, July 19, 2014

We needed that!

Wow! A glorious thunderstorm marched across our part of Texas a couple of nights ago. It cooled things off a bit, and produced about an inch and a half of the wet stuff! The lakes will certainly profit from it. It's not enough to fill them up of course, but it's nice none-the-less. Our garden profited too. The plants practically explode after a rain.

We were pretty happy with our newly expanded garden when we first planted it.
Here, Shiner is admiring the harvested elephant garlic and newly planted veggies. Keep your eye on the little sign hanging on the post right over her head.

On June 2 I took another photo, showing how the plants had grown.
The sunflowers along the side fence on the left are especially noticeable.

Even though  bugs or something had eaten off several seedlings of different types, things were growing pretty well, and we'd avoided any major hail, insect or wind damage.

Now, in mid July, we're harvesting melons, black-eyed peas and tomatoes. Here's the latest version, taken just a few days ago, with Kendra's dog Enzo serving as the model this time. Can you see that little sign, now hidden in the cucumber vine on the fence? I guess we can say this year's garden is a success!

Walking around the yard with Jax one afternoon about a month ago we discovered a fuzzy caterpillar in a hackberry tree. It seems that every year we have a different insect trying to take over the place. This caterpillar seemed a good candidate for this year's winner.

Upon closer inspection we soon found hundreds of these little furry critters. It took awhile to identify them, but we finally figured out what they are... so ladies and gentlemen... introducing the bug of the year....  The ruddy dagger moth!  As an adult it's a plain gray moth about an inch long, looks like gray tree bark - nothing remarkable about it as moths go.

Now, moths don't seem like a big deal to most people, and indeed they usually aren't.
These little guys are particularly destructive however.
As caterpillars they nearly stripped the hackberry tree of leaves, which is fine with me as we have way too many hackberries anyway, but as they reach the end of the caterpillar cycle and move into creating they chrysalis the problem begins. They somehow take all that "fur" and combine it with some sort of caustic liquid to create a little cocoon ..... and in the process dissolve what they are attaching it too. There are dents now in our wood porch floor where a few of them settled in under a box, and several made holes in a canvas drop cloth in the garden shed. As I said, destructive! The whole process moves along quickly at least. Just about the time we thought they were going to take over they suddenly all disappeared. I'm sure we'll walk out of the house some evening and get attached by all the adult moths once they've hatched. That's life in Texas, and that's the "bug of the year" for 2014!
[For those nature lovers who are interested -  life cycle of the ruddy dagger moth]

We really have been busy with a few activities other that watching caterpillars. The laundry room, which everyone insists on using as the grand entrance to the house, was always a sort of sore spot.

The original "decor" - dark chocolate brown walls, with one crooked white shelf (that I couldn't quite reach) and one wimpy light fixture far overhead. It was definitely an ugly duckling in need of a transformation. I had used up some leftover primer several months ago just to lighten things up a bit (the white sections on the left) , but when we finally decided on a plan of action it didn't take us long to complete the project. Here are a couple of "before and after" photos. The new cabinet is a petty good match to the shelving on the opposite wall.

The Borax Bill Jr. poster has been in every laundry room we've had since we were married in 1973, so it's practically an antique! The stitchery of a borax wagon, over the door on the right, to the kitchen, is one Mother did in the early '80's.

We also added a florescent light so now I can actually see what I'm doing!  It's not the Taj Mahal, but we're happy with the improvements.

Other entertainment has been the removal of several large cedar trees. Yes, I know they are really junipers.You have to understand that in Texas everything is called a "cedar" of some sort.

At any rate, these are highly flammable, highly allergenic, and quite an annoyance when they get large as they are really hard to trim. So, we allowed a cedar harvester to come in and take the large limbs and trunks he could use for poles. He took out three trailer loads (photo to the right is part of the first load) of various size poles. That's a lot of lumber!

We are now in the process of cleaning up the leftovers. There are some really large trunks and a LOT of brushy tops to deal with, so we'll be at it for awhile.

Thankfully we've had several small rain storms, keeping things damp enough that we can continue to burn, as the really brushy stuff is hard to chip, and some pieces are too large for the chipper.

Steve uses his tractor to move piles of the brush to the burn pile after we've chopped things up with chain saw and pruners, then after the pile is big enough to burn he can relax all afternoon while he "minds the fire".

It's work, but more interesting than a trip to the gym!

Skot and Kendra also have a lot of cedar trees to remove, though in their case most are already dead, so we had a tree cutting and chipping party at their house about a month ago.

Their climate is marginal for that particular tree and a few wet years did them in. Once the trees were down the guys hauled them to the back and the fun began.

Jaxen pitched right in, wearing his mom's gloves. He always like to be right in the middle of the action, and if it involves machinery, so much the better. He was good about keeping his distance from the chipper however.

As with most of these kinds of projects, there's still a lot to do, and they will be at it for awhile.

Summer wouldn't be complete without swimming lessons, so we headed out early one morning to take Jax to his lesson over in Bastrop, at the state park. He and Papaw had a great time while Mamaw took photos. They didn't have any fun of course!

At the end of June we made a quick trip up to Amarillo to take Steve's mother to her family reunion.

It was great to see all of the "siblings" together. She hadn't seen her brother in several years, so it was definitely worth the trip to get them all together. The stories and teasing were flying back and forth, and it was hard to keep up with it all. These Stephens folks are a feisty bunch when you get them all together!

Of course, the biggest news of the summer is the newest addition to the family, little Raylan Steve Krebs! He's the whole reason we stayed home this summer! We all gathered at the hospital for the delivery and were able to see him when he was only a few hours old.

It's been great having Daphna here.
She was able to hold little Raylan in the hospital on the day he was born. Not very many great-grandmothers can say that!

In the photo at left he's about five days old, all happily settled in at home.

We've also put Mom to work, picking and shelling black-eyed peas, among other things.  You can't get much more "country", or "Texas" for that matter, than sitting on the front porch on a hot, steamy afternoon shelling "peas".

One of our goals has been to duplicate the flavor of her mother's canned black-eyed peas. Careful questioning of all the sisters and some testing in the kitchen has produced what we think is a pretty good resemblance to the original. Another family tradition preserved!
Future entertainment around here will be focused on cleaning up all that dead cedar, and a new construction project "out back". Never a dull moment!

Larger versions of the photos, and a few additional, are available in the album.