Monthly Archives: August 2010

Stuff…you know…things…

I was looking over a bunch of pictures of stuff we’ve done/seen/enjoyed lately and I thought it might be fun to show the stuff…you know…the things…

Of course, the other day, I posted our score of grapes which we were planning to turn into jelly…real grape jelly.  We got that done.  Usually Emily and I work pretty hard together on that sort of stuff but for some reason, she did all the grape jelly this time.  She is a jelly-making fool!  I am just a plain old fool.  I was busy watching The Colony, a new show on the Discovery channel (cable is evil but that is a heck of a show…if you are into post-apocalyptic stuff)  while she did all the work.  Yeah…still paying for that.

Let’s see, we have seen lots of butterflies and moths around the house lately.  I don’t know why, but whenever I see turtles or butterflies, I like to make sure they are ok.  I stop and help turtles across the road and I always offer a frown when a butterfly gets tangled up with the car (yeah, I know…it’s not much but what can I say?)  Anyhow, we have had a good crop of butterflies around…and dang they are cool!  I am not sure I had ever seen a luna moth before but it was really cool…so beautiful!

Yeah, I guess snails fall into the same category as turtles too…snails are super cool to watch.  I love to see their antennae disappear into their bodies and I am always amazed at how they can stretch.  They’re a little chewy primitive I guess…like turtles.  I am just amazed at all the stuff that just seems to be everywhere if I look!

Purple fingers

It seems like this time of year finds our fingers all sorts of different colors. It really just depends on what we’re picking at the time. Last night was no different really. A co-worker of Emily’s has a bunch of grapes growing at her house. She has picked a ton and canned/preserved them every way she knows how. That’s where we come in. The grapes are still plentiful so she gave us a bunch of them…and there are more to pick so we are hoping to be able to go and harvest a bunch more. It’s hard to beat real concord grapes I think!

this is just a portion!

We cleaned them last night and are making grape jelly with the ones we have now. Do you remember when you were a kid and even the store bought grape jelly had flavor? I have tried some recently and it seems like the grape jelly is completely without flavor. I guess it’s like everything – homemade is really hard to beat. But gee whiz, the store stuff isn’t even fit for slug bait!

Anyhow, does anyone else gather grapes? What do you do with them? I remember my Mom and Grandma canning grape juice but they always left whole grapes in the jars. It freaked me out because I could have sworn they canned eyeballs!  Oh, and don’t get me started on when they canned whole tomatoes…eeek!  Anyone make raisins or juice or wine? I’ve nibbled on wild grapes but does anyone do anything more specific with them?  I’d love to know what options I may have!

Stingy stingy

This weekend was supposed to be the weekend I harvested honey from my hives.  I started as I always do by donning my suit listening to Johnny Cash. So I open each hive and check how things look through the small hole in the inner cover.  If all is well, I usually remove each frame, one at a time,  and shake the bees from it before I walk it over to Emily who waits inside the door to receive the frames.  I finished the hives at my house and headed to the next location.  It seemed pretty normal.  We started the same way and got one hive done.  I opened the second hive and that’s when all hell broke loose.

Bees are never thrilled with honey harvest day, but it has always been manageable…until this weekend.  I opened the outer lid on the second hive and it erupted with bees.  I thought it was odd but decided to press onward.  I got a number of honey frames out before the bees really came out.  Most times when I get in a hive, I only smell honey and the normal smell of happy little bees.  There are two main scents that bees release when things are about to go badly for the beekeeper.  The first warning one gets is a strong banana smell.  I know it sounds weird but if you smell bananas when you get in a hive, the bees are upset.  Sometimes you can continue, sometimes it’s best not to try.  The second smell is more ominous.  I can only describe it as the smell of a junior high locker room – it’s a strong b.o. smell.  When one smells that in a beehive, it is time to get away and fast.  I never did smell the banana smell but I definitely got the locker room smell but by then, it was too late.

Anyhow, once the attack started, I knew I wasn’t going to get any more honey off so that wasn’t an issue.  In all seriousness, staying conscious was more my goal.  At various points, I couldn’t hear anything but buzzing.  I also couldn’t see out of my veil as it was black with bees.  I started smashing bees as best I could so I could see to get a hose.  My father-in-law (who had a suit on thankfully) was able to get a garden hose to where I could pick it up.  I sprayed water in the air such that it felt like rain.  The bees thinned some which helped.  I continued to spray which settled things down to a manageable level.  Emily mixed up a few 5-gallon buckets of soapy water for me to pour into the hives.  You see, soapy water is the safest way to kill bees and it works fast.  I dumped 15-20 gallons of soapy water over each of the two bad hives to kill them.

Once both hives were essentially dead (some bees were still in the field…I poured more soapy water on them after dark to ensure no bees were left), I headed into the house to see the damage.  This picture of my back was the worst but my shoulders and front weren’t much better.  I wish I had taken a picture of my suit.  It had thousands of stingers in it as well.  Emily started to count the stings on my back but stopped counting at 200.  I fully expected to need my epi-pen (which I had thankfully) or at least head to the hospital but my reaction never got much worse than what is in the picture.  I took 2 benadryl and slept the rest of the day Saturday and most of the day Sunday.

I know I am pretty lucky that this didn’t end with a sad story.  It’s a good warning to anyone working with bees (or anyone who happens upon bees).  Honey bees are typically defensive only when provoked and are somewhat predictable…but not always.  I have never seen a hive react like this one did. When bees are unpredictable, they can be dangerous or even deadly.  These hives are no longer a threat.  I just thank my lucky stars that nobody was hurt…

Ok, so all this stinging stuff made me think this stuff…

Well, Sting of course…singing his coolest song ever!

And Ali – I wish I had been able to dance a little more and sting a little less…


Summer is officially over…well, unofficially I guess, but you get what I mean.  School starts today and I am not at all ready.  And just who on Earth starts school on a Friday?  Our county, that’s who.  It’s not that I need the kids to enjoy the freedom of summer…they live under a dictatorship anyhow.  No, it’s that the fight to get homework done starts tonight.

But wait, this isn’t about me is it?  OF COURSE IT IS!  This is my blog after all!  Well, ok, I am sad a little too because it means my kids are a bit older which means I am a bit older.  It means life is changing which is cool mostly, but also a little scary <sniff, sniff/>.

(click above to play…if that doesn’t work on your machine, try this link)

(click above to play…if that doesn’t work on your machine, try this link)

Ok, man up.  I asked the kids some questions about starting school, just like last year.  I love this part!

MANKs no more

For three days we have been MANKs – Married Adults, No Kids.  School starts Friday (why on Earth would anyone make the first day of school on a Friday?) and the kids’ summer camp closes the week before school.  As we both work, that left us in a bind.  Fortunately my parents are retired (mostly anyhow) so were willing to watch the kids for this week before school.  The good and the bad thing about that is that they are 350 or so miles away.

We headed to PA last weekend to deliver the kids.  Sunday afternoon rolled around and we headed back to WV.  It was the strangest thing…no movies were playing in the back seat, no one was kicking my seat, there was no complaining or fighting.  It was very odd.  Emily and I stopped at an outlet mall and I heard not one whiny, “Are we ever gonna leave?  I am sooo bored!”  I didn’t have to take anyone to the public restroom lecturing them not to touch ANYTHING!  Travel was so very weird.  I just wasn’t sure how to go about my trip.

Anyhow, once we got home, we “organized” the kids’ stuff some too.  Some things were put away properly and many things were filed in the plastic container out back.  You see, without the kids around, we get stuff done!

I miss my kids.  They are great and I love them tons.  Still, a few days as a MANK is a welcome change for us and for them…and I think my parents had fun too.  After all, they got some good child labor out of the deal!

What is this?

We have a compost pile in our back yard.  We throw all sorts of stuff in there, but I always know what it is when it goes in.  This year we had volunteer tomatoes, catnip and a mystery squash come up.  I have absolutely no idea what kind of squash this is but I know we have never thrown anything like that in the pile.  We have thrown pumpkin and zucchini and cushaw and yellow squash parts into the pile but none of those particularly look like this fruit.

For a bit, I considered the possibility that someone was playing a compost pile prank…but who on Earth would do that?  Too bad I don’t have any composting friends though…could be interesting.

Anyhow, back to the subject at hand…does anyone have any idea what this is?  Maybe a mutation of some hybrid pumpkin or something?  Ginny chomped on one, but quickly left it alone (and you know, my dumb dog eats poop so that ‘s saying something!)

We have found other weird stuff in the course of gardening…


I have pretty normal  feet…actually, my feet are nearly perfect, but that’s another story.  My kids have feet too and that’s what I am here to talk about today.

So, Isaac’s feet.  Isaac is 10.  He wears a size 10 1/2 shoe.  That’s an adult 10 1/2 by the way.  I only wear a 10 and I am done growing (up at least).  Isaac’s maternal line sports gunboats way back so it’s in his genes to have big feet but I expected a little time to save up for the process.  I am terrified of the cost of buying 2 foot long shoes for that boy when he reaches 17 (or 13!).  To put it all in perspective, I took a picture of Isaac’s feet alongside the feet of his two best friends this weekend when we went ice skating.  I suspect you will pick out the one that is different…

Of course, to grow a foot like that, a boy needs to eat…a lot!  I started gardening for the healthy, outdoorsy nature of it, but now we are forced to garden just to feed the bottomless pit!  Alas, a parent’s work is never done!

Now…about Abigail’s feet.  She has normal petite little 7 year-old feet.  We were at the WV Power (our farm team) game the other night and the wolf from a local radio station spied her tootsies.  I think they must have looked tasty though the wolf was clearly disabled.  Typically a wolf has a good sense of smell but this one was apparently unable to sniff very well.  He untied her shoes and retied her shoes and generally tried to get her riled up and (to my surprise) she let him do it!  We’ve had foot-happenings this week and that’s a little weird for me.

You see, feet usually disturb me.  I won’t force mine upon you, but let’s just say my “no-longer-the-biggest-feet-in-the-house” are doing just fine and will remain properly covered as all feet should be!  I am hoping next week we move onto something more tolerable like ear wax or something…no more feet!

I got me a nephew!

I have been busy the last few weeks and have been pretty lame as far as posting stuff on here but I have an excuse…at least for yesterday.  Apart from that…just lame.  Anyhow, I am no longer a virgin uncle!  My nephew L was born yesterday (his date of birth is 8/9/10…how cool is that?!).  Until now, my kids have been the only grandkids on either side of the family.  They loved that for sure, but Abigail was SOOOOO excited to relinquish her title as the youngest kid in the family.

I have no idea what my role will be in this kid’s life, but I am super excited to do everything I can to keep his parents busy.  I am so excited to walk into their house and find it a disaster zone like ours always is.  I hope to teach him how to slide a frog into his mom and grandmothers’ pockets.  He’ll need to learn the proper way to shoot a spit ball and how to pick the gravel out of his elbows.  I also want him to have Isaac and me as allies apart from his parents.

Kids are truly a lot of fun.  Mine are great and I am so excited to see L grow up around my kids and for them to be pals.  I am excited to have someone I can help spoil (though I think he won’t need to much help from me!)  A growing family is always a great thing!

Covering one’s hind-end

Last Christmas, Isaac was given a membership to study Taekwondo under Grandmaster S.H. Kang.  He’s done really well and enjoys fighting and learning his forms (routines practitioners do to increase balance, focus, etc).  I have seen him split a number of boards and he is learning how to defend himself very well.

It occurred to me that his teenage years are coming up.  That time is, of course, always full of moody, brooding, hormonal fun.  I suppose many parents lose touch with their kids when they become teenagers.  TKD seems like an easy place where Isaac and I can find common ground so I started taking classes with him a couple of weeks ago.  I figure the exercise will be good and Isaac and I get a chance to talk on the way to and from the training studio.  If we ever find ourselves in a moody teenage fit or a dark alley, I also will have skills to…uh…calm the situation.  Plus, this is really a great chance for each of us (esp as he gets bigger) to be all manly and tough and express frustration in a controlled way.

So, I started taking lessons and I am here to tell you, TKD is a serious cardio workout.  I am not in bad shape but the free-fighting very nearly kills me each night.  It’s just constant exertion and challenging balance maneuvers.  I am certain that those movie scenes where people fight each other for several minutes is bogus (as if we needed evidence!)  Unless you are in great shape, a real fight doesn’t last long without oxygen tanks nearby!

Anyhow, I am learning my stuff and trying to get more flexible.  Isaac insists that I will have to bow to him when he becomes a black belt.  He probably will beat me there since he has 8 months head start, but I remind him that another TKD rule is that kids essentially bow to their parents…this part is going to be interesting!  Anyhow, I am here to tell you that even the stuff I thought looked simple is anything but…but at least I am covering my hind-end defense-wise and getting in better cardio shape so my Emily and the kids can enjoy me even longer!