Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Oh Tannenbaum!

We picked up a little "Charlie Brown" tree at the local florist last week. Our most cat-friendly ornaments and our cowboy themed light string (see the boot, front and center) brought it to life for the big tree lighting ceremony. I made the star. Not my best work. I promise.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Day at the Beach

Here are some pictures from our day at Sandy Hook on the Jersey Shore. We had chowder and fried fish sandwiches on the mainland and then drove out on the peninsula in the afternoon. After climbing the oldest lighthouse in the US, we walked the beach and gathered shells. Sunset rewarded us with some beautiful colors.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cat Action

A quiet afternoon on the couch

Cha Cha discovers the great outdoors

Mao Mao inspects one last pumpkin

Some of the Mao Mao Kitty followers ask me how the cats are doing when they don't see them here for a while. Everyone is doing well, looking forward to Christmas in the country, and enjoying the warmth of built-in fur coats. Lucky kitties.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Thanksgiving in Centralia

Over the holiday weekend, we took a day to drive into Pennsylvania to see the infamous town of Centralia. In the heart of anthracite coal country, Centralia was once a busy little mining town. Then one day in 1962 the town dump was set fire to clean it out, the blaze spread into a coal mine shaft, and caused a subterranean inferno that still burns today. It has been on our list of day trips for years and we finally got around to it.

Welcome to Centralia!

Josh and I began our day in this part of town. The roads remain but all but a few houses have been removed. We were happy to see that the ground is still smoking, steaming, and looking creepy.

Josh inspected the vents.

It was a very windy day so we weren't too worried about noxious fumes. The information we referenced before traveling warned against idling in low lying areas.


Stinky Steam

Possibly the location of the dump.

We took the car down a dirt road as far as we could before we risked bottoming out on some deep puddles. After meeting some other travelers, we headed down a path to an area with a lot of vapor activity. It could have been the original location of the dump that started the whole mess. It also seemed like fresh dumping was happening in the woods here.

A steaming storm drain just yards from one of the few remaining homes.

A road to nowhere, of course!
The old highway into town was eventually diverted after what appeared to be numerous patch jobs and efforts to keep the road surface above ground. At one point, a huge crater developed and I guess they finally gave up. I can only imagine how long they held off the reroute. I can picture lots of "Rough Road Ahead" and "Dip" signs cautioning drivers of the conditions before they actually made the decision to build a new road.

Here's that dip I was talking about.

The crater that broke the camel's back.
In 1981 a child in town almost fell into a 4' wide by 150' deep crater that opened up in his backyard. The government began buying houses at that point and many residents relocated to neighboring towns. In 2002 the USPS revoked Centralia's zipcode, 17927.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cha Cha at the Vet

We took Cha Cha to the vet last night for her yearly dose of shots. It was the first time taking her since she's been old enough to make her own decisions as a cat. I think I may have been more nervous about the whole thing than she was. I stressed myself out further wondering if she could sense my fear and whether it was adding to her anxiety. Despite all my worry, we got her in the carrier, to the vet's office, and onto the examination table with no problems.

Some of you may know our other cat, Mao Mao. Mao Mao only sees the vet every three years. These were vet's orders after some particularly traumatic vet visits. As a kitten she jumped on the back of the vet's neck and went into attack mode. Kitty gloves were a necessary part of the subduing process. One vet suggested she was not fit to be a pet. Another office tried to keep her calm during an overnight visit by covering her cage with craft paper labeled, "Caution!" Mao Mao gets so worked up at the vet that we have had to resort to a very unorthodox manner of examination and treatment. We take Mao Mao to her favorite place: the Urso's house in the country. She runs around outside for a few days, eats expensive gourmet cat food, and luxuriates in the care of Josh's mother who brushes her with this fancy olive wood brush with natural boar bristles. Then two nice farm ladies show up with long braided blond hair and a butterfly net. Mao Mao has been sequestered in the bathroom. The ladies use the net and a towel and do the dirty work in a matter of minutes. Sometimes the commotion causes Mao Mao to lose a little bladder control but otherwise, it is relatively painless. After a quick kitty bath, she is out the door once again to see what those chipmunks are up to.

This had previously been my only experience with adult cat vet visits. Mao Mao trained me to expect hysteria. Luckily, our little Cha Cha is different. The vet-tech-in-training had little trouble getting her on the scale. (Almost 11 pounds! I guess she isn't so little.) She silently submitted to his firm hold on the table and got her shots. The vet suggested Cha Cha watch her diet and tugged on her fluffy love handles. It was over. We survived the first of many annual vet visits.

Monday, November 16, 2009


The Culprit

The Crime

Monday, November 9, 2009

I hereby declare today End of Gardening Season Day

First I would like to take a moment and update everyone on our pumpkin collection since there have been some changes as of this morning. We had to say goodbye to the Rouge vif d'Etamps today after nearly a month of honorable and decorative service atop our mantel. To honor his dedicated work we disposed of him in the only way that could befit such a fine curcubit:

He made quite a splashy landing in our gorgeous urban backyard and was immediately greeted by reverent squirrelfolk.

Other members of the troupe have moved to the kitchen for the next phase of their duty. It is with great pride that they take their places in the pot for not everyone has made it this far. This bunch has proved resilient to the harsh conditions of the living room, surviving direct sunlight, wild temperature swings, and feline advances. They are the firm skinned cream of the crop.

I have declared today End of Gardening Season Day after a short visit to the plot this morning. The brassicas are making little progress beyond providing about a million aphids with one last seasonal feast. The garlic bulbs I planted several weeks ago have sprouted due to the mild weather we've been having. Rather than waiting until spring, they've also decided to service the aphid population right now. Oddly, the cauliflower and cabbage seem to be attracting a pale gray aphid while the garlic is attracting a purple/black aphid. My insecticidal soap is garlic "flavored" so I only briefly considered spraying the cabbage plants: Could I lure the purple aphids onto the gray aphid territory, incite an entomological civil war, and let them (hopefully) destroy each other? Instead, I'm going to let winter clear things up. I've pulled the worst of the plants and disposed of them in a ziptop bag. The others may winter over and return in the spring when they can grow faster than the aphids can munch. Ladybugs are also available in some garden stores in the spring. Hence, today is my official End of Gardening Season Day.

I had one final harvest. Last week I managed to pull a few more tomatoes, one last carrot, a bunch of basil for freezing, and sage for drying.

A nice family of white cats is living in the garden and frequently active when I drop by. The kitten in the foreground isn't weened yet but his older sister above him is quite independent. Mom is to the right taking a snooze. All genders are assumed. Although I'm pretty sure about Mom!

I didn't notice them when I first walked in today. Mom was feeding the kitten against the warmth of the embankment wall. Later they circled around me and eventually returned to their spot by the wall.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Frankenstein A Pumpkin
October 4, 2009 - October 12, 2009
An excellent Squash,
A beautiful Pumpkin,
May your seeds go forth and Multiply!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Fall Gardening Update, Pumpkin Update

Yesterday I visited the garden on my day off after the morning rain. The marigolds are really taking off while the sunflower heads are almost picked clean. Last year they attracted goldfinches but I haven't seen any this year. Someone is eating the seeds but the rest may propagate some freebies next spring.

Clockwise from the top left are drying sunflowers, cherry tomato plants with a few greenies left, the still active Mortgage Lifter tomato plants (see photo below), several late season bean bushes that flowered too late for pollination, 5 super amazing marigold plants from seeds saved last year, chinese cabbage, 2 types of basil, cauliflower, and beets that I pulled after the photo was taken. I will make my last batch of homemade pickled beets either tonight or tomorrow.

The Mortgage Lifter plants have another 6 or 7 tomatoes on the vine. I picked the almost ripe one in case something screwy happens with the weather. It will ripen in my kitchen as I wait for a few of the others to come along. The snapdragon in the lower right reseeded from last year and will hopefully do the same this year.

My most promising cauliflower is 16" across now. The others are either not growing at all or half the size of this winner. I think it may be a testament to proper soil nutrition.

On the pumpkin front, we are doing very well here after several farmstand visits and an amazing pumpkin patch experience in NW New Jersey. We picked up the Jack B. Little at a local garden center and the pretty squash came from our local farmer's market in Hamilton Park.

This is another find from the garden store. I believe it is a Gold Metal pumpkin because of its dark orange color, somewhat bumpy skin, and thick stem.

Josh picked the large pumpkin from the patch in New Jersey. We were both attracted to its Frankensteinesque form. The leaves are from our street after a very windy afternoon yesterday.

While we were driving around in the country, we passed a roadside stand selling tan gourds. I was happy to find they had left some stem and bought one for the bargain price of 50 cents. Josh picked the smallest pumpkin I've ever seen at the patch (free). The red orange pumpkin was my find in the field. I have been looking for a Rouge vif d'Etamps pumpkin for years and couldn't believe the farm had them for picking in the field. It is also known as a Cinderella. I found one with some stem for that rustic feel. My pumpkin dream has come true.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Storm King

The iconic Storm King Wall by Andy Goldsworthy is one of the masterpieces on display. We visited Storm King in upstate NY with Sharon and Josiah a few weekends ago. The weather was a little brisk and the walking brisker. There were some close calls with meal delays. We were teased by over-priced pumpkins. Luckily we took some great pictures.

Artfully placed hay bales look awful pretty.

Josh is a little out of place but otherwise this composition is amazing!

The cold hard steel of Mark di Suvero called for some serious contemplation.

Fun in the sculpture garden isn't hard to find.

Sharon recommended this one for our album cover.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Terrain at Styer's in Pennsylvania

My mother and I stopped by this nursery a few weeks ago after I saw a roadside sign advertising "heirloom pumpkins" and nearly exploded with excitement. The wagon o' wonders was an impressive display to say the least. In addition to the fall bounty, they seem to specialize in repurposing objects for use in garden and landscape design. I am no longer convinced that old stumps need to be removed. My love of rustic concrete planters has been reinforced.


nice display

My mother seemed to like these Peanut Pumpkins.

A few jumbo pumpkins mingled with the classics.

Pumpkin inspired paint scheme?

Friday, October 2, 2009

While I enjoy a near-perfect Dark and Stormy...

A few weekends ago we went to a peach orchard off 78 in NJ and met this very attractive cow.

His chicken companion enjoyed scratching around in his "leftovers."

A rooster in the bunch had really long legs.

Josh sampled some delicious gala apples. They turned out to be much better than the peaches although we only brought home a few.

After enduring several pints of blood loss to the mosquitoes I climbed into an apple tree for a photo op.