Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Fruit Stakes

We have been fighting fire blight on our apple trees for years.  Once it gets into the trees it is very hard to fight off.  There are only two ways that I can find.


One, cut off all branches with withered leaves.  The cut has to be 6 inches below the infection and you must dip the blades of the clippers in a bleach and water mixture between each cut.  This prevents the blades from spreading the infection.


Two, spray with Fertilome.  It only helps to spray right when the buds on the tree emerge in spring until they flower.  I sprayed every 3 to 4 days at that time.  And still I get more blight on my branches.


This year, in addition to spraying, I will be adding some fertilizer.  The theory being that a strong plant can fight off disease easier.  Of course it could be that a healthy plant will push the blight throughout the tree.


Lee helped by using a heavy pole to make a hole deep enough to drop in the fertilizing stake.  You can pound them in, but if the soil is too hard, the stake will break.  You place them around the tree at the drip line, or as far out as the branches grow,  If you place them too close to the tree, you can burn it with the concentrated fertilizer.


There is no downside to this.  I help the trees or the fire blight consumes the trees.  If that happens I will I tear them out and quit fighting.

It is very discouraging.  We have had these trees for about 5 years and they are just getting to the point where they should be producing a significant number of apples.  I no longer complain about the hight cost of fruit and vegetables.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Three Billy Goats Gruff


The two cats and one dog (our version of three billy goats) have been inordinately interested in what is going on under the back deck.  The "troll" living under the "bridge" emerged today.


I guess he was looking for some sun.  I hope he finds lots of sun elsewhere.


I like having black snakes around because they keep poisonous snakes away.  But I prefer they stay not quite so close to the house. We have 57 acres for them to live on.  You'd think they would prefer a place with fewer humans and inquisitive animals.


I'm hoping he takes up residence elsewhere.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Harvester Center

We recently went to The Harvester Center in Rocky Mount.  This is a small town on the south side of Roanoke.  They took a building in the center of town and turned it into a music venue.

Up until this concert, we had only gone to the ones in the Roanoke Civic Center, renamed the Berglund Center.  We have gone to some really great concerts there: Brad Paisley; Carrie Underwood; Toby Keith among others.  The problem there is the acoustics.  It is a fairly small venue and these act usually perform at huge places.  I don't know if it is the band's sound people, the venue sound people or my old age, but I have resorted to taking foam ear plugs.  If I don't, I come out with my ears ringing, sometimes for hours.  This is not good.

I decided to quit going to inside concerts there, unless it is an orchestra.

We had heard good things about The Harvester  They are attracting some good artists and I decided to take a chance on seeing a musical program there.  But, I took a couple of ear plugs, just in case.


We saw Christopher Cross.  The sound was a bit loud for me, but there was no ringing in my ears, so that was good.  He played some songs I knew and some I didn't.  My favorite Christopher Cross song is Sailing.  It was released shortly after I got a sailboat and lived on it in Marina Del Rey.  I love that song.

a terrible picture with my phone
The Harvester Center earned my ear's seal of approval.  The acts that will go to Rocky Mount won't be the same ones that will play bigger arenas, but the parking is easier and the crowds are smaller, so I am OK with that.  It is a long drive for us, but I would rather do that than return to the Berglund Center.  We'll go back.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Bird Hazard

Our house seems to have moved into a bird flight path.  On two separate occasions in the past week I have heard a loud thump.  When the first one happened, I went to check it out and the cats were peering out of the window.


I don't know what this bird is, but it looked dead.  I carefully went outside through a different door than the cats were using to plot their Thanksgiving dinner.


The bird appeared dead at first, but then I saw that it was breathing and the eyes were flickering.  I left it alone for 10 or 15 minutes.  It was still there.  Still on its back.


I went out again and gently tried to turn it over.  I placed it breast down and left it alone again.

I checked 20 minutes later and the bird was gone.  The cats had been inside the whole time, so I figure the bird recovered from the head trauma and went home to recuperate.

A few days later, I once again heard a loud thump on the window.


Once again I saw the cats plotting dinner.  Once again I found a stunned bird on its back.


It was alive and I left it alone.


This time when I helped the bird upright, the head kept turning to one side.  With my massive education earned through watching medical shows on television, (my version of online education) I diagnosed a neurological deficit through blunt force trauma.


This particular patient checked out of the hospital AMA...Against Medical Advice.

I can't stop cleaning the windows, because I don't actually clean the windows.  So I don't know how to stop this bird apocalypse.  Opinions are welcomed.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Honey Mustard Chicken

We tend to eat vegetarian or chicken most nights.  This is not for any particular reason, except for our preference.  Recently, I made some honey mustard chicken and we really liked it.  You may, too.  It was good enough for a company meal!


Honey Mustard Chicken

1/4 pound bacon or one box of the precooked kind
2 pounds chicken breasts
kosher salt
3 Tablespoons mustard
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 cup honey
1 cup milk
1/3 cup cream
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro


Cook the bacon in a large frying pan.  I used the precooked kind.  It is less messy and left sufficient grease for this recipe without messing up my whole cooktop.


Remove the bacon and place it on some paper towels.


Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  Cook them in the bacon grease until just brown, about 3 minutes in each side.  Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.

Add the mustard, garlic, honey, milk and cream to the frying pan.  Stir to combine.  Reduce the heat to medium low.


Place the cornstarch in a small bowl and add 2 teaspoons water.  Mix it until all the cornstarch is dissolved and add it to the gently simmering honey mustard mixture.  Stir.  Continue to simmer until the mixture begins to thicken and then return the chicken breasts to the pan.  Turn the breasts occasionally make sure they are coated in the sauce.

Cook until the chicken breasts are done and no longer pink in the middle.  My chicken breasts were super thick.  I recommend thinner breasts so that they cook faster.  The honey mustard mixture didn't like being cooked as long as I needed to cook the chicken clear through.


Crumble the bacon by squeezing them in the paper towels on which you are draining them. 

Serve the breasts with their fair share of the sauce and sprinkle the crumbled bacon and chopped cilantro on top.  Parsley can be substituted for the cilantro, if you like.


I served the Honey Mustard Chicken with roasted baby red potatoes and onion along with sautéed zucchini...and onions.  I love cooked onions and usually use Vidalia onions for extra sweetness.

This was a fabulous dish and I will be making it again.  Come for dinner!  It is hard to have a new company dish in my repertoire and no guests to eat it!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Cab over

Lee jacked up his new, old truck so I could see how it worked


You may have seen these cab over trucks on the road.  But you probably haven't seen them lifted up.


This is how you have to work on the powertrain on one of these trucks.  Don't leave any important papers on the seat, a full coffee cup or forget that someone is sleeping in the back.


He has started fixing little things like lights and wiring.  So far there are no major problems.  I'm going to let him drive it a few times before I go for a ride.  I want to make sure the truck works and Lee knows what he is doing.


This is the view from the ground.  It is quite a climb to get in. You have to make sure you start on the correct foot and plan your handholds.  It is sort of like climbing a rock wall!

Once inside the dashboard wraps around the driver.


The passenger seat is separated by the dash and there is a small twin bed platform behind the seats.  Im going to get in there with some PineSol and new sheets and that is where I will ride!


I let my cousins climb in the truck.  They had a blast!


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Lee's New Hobby

Delivery day!

Lee has a new hobby.  He bought a 1985 GMC Cab Over semi tractor.  It is called a cab over because the cab sits over the engine.  It is hinged in the front and you have to tip the whole cab over to get to the engine.  This means anything in the cab will fall all over the place anytime you work on the engine.  And you can't work on it in the shop, because the roof isn't high enough.


They don't really use them much in the US, anymore.  They have discontinued making them here.   These are considered antique vehicles and people take them to car and truck shows and vintage vehicle shows.  Other countries with small streets still have cab over vehicles.  I have seen newer ones in Europe.

Some are still in use here, but mostly they sit around rusting or they have been bought up by enthusiasts and shown.

I asked Lee why he wanted one.  Was he going to use it to haul things or??  He says he intends to drive it around, show it at the local cruise in and maybe take it to a few truck shows. He is in the process of fixing it up.  I'm not sure how fixed up it will get. It needs paint, but that can get very pricey.

He is excited. Can't you tell?

I still don't get it.  But he didn't much care for my horses, and they ate whether we were using them or not.  And we had to pay people to care for them when we were out of town.  Trucks don't do that.  So I will take pictures and be kind of bemused by the whole thing.  And wonder if he will be able to find another guy that just always wanted one when he tires of it.

I sure hope so.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Snakes in a Shop

Lee is in the shop almost every day. So is RJ, the dog.  Recently he went in the shop and reached for the push broom. This is what he found.


It was kind of disconcerting.  It meant that a black snake about 5 feet long was in there at some point and used the bristles on the broom to shed his itchy skin.  Snakes about to shed can get grouchy, so he is maybe in a better mood now.


But I would be cautious about blindly reaching my hand into a bin.  Or maybe I will stay inside the house and be cautious that way.

Monday, May 8, 2017

David Randall Montague Risser

I haven't posted anything here for quite sometime.  I bought a new computer and am still having problems linking my new camera to my computer.  I hate new.

I flew to California to visit our granddaughter.  I had no time for blogs.  Lots of baby time.  I loved that.

Then my brother died and I haven't had the heart to write anything.


His full name was David Randall Montague Risser.  He was the oldest of five children, but as the first he got loaded down with a lot of names.  He was always called Randy and I never got a good explanation as to why he wasn't called David or named Randall first if that was what they were going to call him.  He was David to most everyone else and Randy to us.

Randy was plagued off and on with major health issues.  He hated that and did as many outdoor and physical things he could possibly do to compensate.  We went to Yosemite and my grandfather's cabin a lot.  My father was fond of hiking.  Randy loved that so much he took it a step farther and started going on very long hikes.  My parents would drop him and a companion off at one campground on a Friday and pick him up at another one 100 miles away on Sunday afternoon.

As a teenager he became interested in archeology and started volunteering at the Calico Early Man Site.  My parents towed an old trailer there and he lived in it every weekend and summers while scratching holes in the ground with old dental tools.  Barstow, CA in summers can get to be 120 degrees.  There was no electricity and no plumbing in the trailer. Now that is dedication.

Randy had my dad's sense of humor.  He liked to tease and they both found things funny that other people didn't.  Every time Randy drove the long trip to Calico, he would stop at a diner.  For some reason he started requesting a Green Death.  They, of course didn't have a Green Death, because Randy had made it up. Naturally they asked what that was and Randy said it was a lime soda and chocolate ice cream float.

I know.  You are thinking, Yuck!  But he persisted.  Finally, when he asked AGAIN if they had a Green Death, they DID!  They had managed to find lime soda and then Randy had a Green Death on every visit from then on.

The dig was overseen or funded by National Geographic at that time, if I remember correctly.  At one point Dr. Louis Leakey, FAMOUS archeologist, came there for a visit.  He had been shot in Africa at a different dig, also under the aegis of National Geographic, and had come to the US to recover and stopped by.  He offered for Randy to come with him to Africa and work on a much more prestigious archeological site, but that never happened.  It was very flattering to be asked!

Randy went on to earn his PhD in Anthropology at UC Davis, even after becoming horribly sick a few months after collecting fruit flies in South America for genetics studies. During summers he parlayed his love of the outdoors into a Ranger position at Mount Rainier in Washington.  He had to learn to use ice axes and crampons and used to regale us with stories about walking on glaciers, having to safely navigate a crevasse and rescuing hikers.  Back in the Sixties Rangers were called Tree Pigs.


Randy and his wife Jeanne took many jobs in Universities all over the United States until he discovered an interest in epidemiology.  He went back to school and got a Master's degree (if you are counting, that is one BS, two Master's and one PhD) and ended up in Texas at the Texas Cancer Registry in Austin.  His son Darwin was raised there.

Randy had several very serious illnesses and came back from every one. This took a toll on him, however.  His most recent issue was a serious liver disease that would eventually require a new liver. They hoped to keep him going so long, that it wouldn't be an issue, but he took a turn for the worse. I asked him about a partial transplant, because I was willing to be tested for a match, but that wasn't the part he needed.  Someone would have to die to give him the liver he needed.

Translants are a scary thing.  Rarely does a healthy person get a transplant.  You have to be sick enough to get on the list, but not so sick that they don't think you can survive the surgery.  Randy went from being too well and too sick a few times.  Last month, he was well enough and a liver became available and they didn't have long to decide.  Randy and Jeanne decided the risk of the surgery was a better chance than the certainty of a rapidly failing liver and went for the surgery.

The surgery was a success and the liver started working right away.  Randy turned back to being pink and said he loved his liver.  He spoke to his wife about what they would do when he was finally healthy again.  They were going to take their son to Mt Rainier.  He hadn't been born when they were there.  Then the doctors had to go back in to fix an issue, then another came up, and another.  The liver was working fine, but complications arose and this time Randy couldn't fight his way through.  He died fighting with all he had. Jeanne had been by his side, working with him all their married life and his son had just gotten married.  There were things he wanted to do.

Sadly, this was one obstacle he wasn't able to overcome.

This summer Jeanne will take his son and daughter-in-law back to Mt. Rainier, the place he loved above all others.  He still has friends from his hiking, college and Ranger days.  Those that can, will meet this summer and Jeanne can show Dar all the places Randy had spoke of showing him.  He can meet the friends that helped to make Randy the man he became and hear the stories of his father before he was born.  None of us knew our parents in their youth, but illnesses had taken their toll on Randy before Dar was born.  He never knew the man that could hike 100 miles in three days or rescue hikers in a snowstorm on top of a glacier.  The one that would volunteer to live in a sweat box of an antique trailer hunched over a rocky hole in the sandy desert.  Because he was interested and he found it fun.

They will hike to Randy's favorite places and tell stories around the campfire.  Dar and Michal will learn about the man they never knew and the man they loved all the way to the end.  I'm sure it will be fun and fascinating and heartbreaking.  I'm going to be there.


I was at my son's house when my brother Roland called me with the sad news.  I was away from home and it was hard to bear.  We all had been so hopeful.  The next night for dinner, my son Travis fixed a special dessert.  We all had our first taste of Green Death.  It was pretty good.  And sort of gross.  It made me cry.