Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween 2011

Demons keep moving - this place is already possessed.

No trick-or-treaters at all this year. Then again, the most we've ever had was nine one year; only two last year. We're a bit too rural for even the few families living nearby to bother with. Still, on Halloween I like having my lanterns out warding the door. The pumpkin seeds I soak in a salt brine overnight, to roast tomorrow. The pumpkin guts make a nice treat for my scruffy, post-molting poultry.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Nevada Day 2011

On October 31, 1864, despite falling far short of the required number of residents, Nevada became the smallest territorial population to be recognized as a state. Towards the end of the Civil War, President Lincoln's political advisers thought that bringing another northern state into the Union would boost morale and add support for his re-election. In order to get the proposed state's Constitution to the President quick enough to be included in the national election, the document was transmitted by telegraph - the longest and most expensive transmission in history. Thus, Nevada became the "Battle Born" state (also called the Silver State, for the wealth of the Comstock Lode, as well as neighbor to the Golden State, California).

Nevada still celebrates its Admission Day, here in Carson City, the state capital. When I first moved here, it was still celebrated on October 31st; the local kids would trick-or-treat on October 30th to avoid being out on the streets after the adults had been partying all day. About 10 years ago, it was decided to move Nevada Day to the last Saturday in October to allow for easier attendance for those living farther away. This year, Aries isn't working, so he could join me out and about for the festivities.

The day starts early. Highway 50/395, the main drag through town running in front of the state Capitol, is closed off for blocks. Hot air balloons lift off in the still early-morning air, a pancake breakfast is served at the Governors Mansion, and the fun run finishes in front of the crowds awaiting the start of the parade.

The parade kicks off when real Top Gun fighter jets (based at the Fallon Naval Air Station, 50 miles east of here) do a flyby down the length of the parade route. The two-plus hours long parade entries run the gamut from politicians to local Cub Scout troops, Burning Man to the Bunny Ranch, and just about every school marching band in the state.

After the parade, per tradition, we head over to the Golden Nugget for the free Chili Feed, hosted this year by our Lieutenant Governor. This year, our chili was dished up by Josh Romney, son of presidential candidate Mitt Romney (Nevada is one of the early caucus states, the only one in the west, so most of the national campaigns already have a presence here, and in Las Vegas in the south).

After lunch plus some visiting with friends, we headed over to the Beard Contest in the Legislative Plaza between Capitol, Legislature, and the Supreme Court Buildings. That's always a rather raucous affair, especially the Virginia City contingent (that almost always gets the Most Bearded Community award).

After that, we wander through the crowd watching the hard rock single jack drilling contest - men pounding away for 10 minutes, with sledge hammer and drill bit to see who can drill the deepest hole in a block of granite - but that doesn't hold my interest for very long. The street party in front of the Old Globe Saloon is also hopping, but by now a bit too sloppy for my tastes. We decide to head over to the Governors Mansion for the open house. On the way, we stop by a private porch party, and visit some more - this really is still just a small town.

The line for the open house stretches most of a block, but moves quite quickly. Inside, Reno Rodeo Beauty Queens shake hands with Nevada's First Family, before it's our turn. The youngest daughter tells me she's going to be an angel for Halloween, as she hands me a commemorative coin.

Governor Sandoval has opened up the entire Mansion to the public for the day. A portrait of a clean-shaven President Lincoln hangs in the state dining room, set with silver cups and flatware made from ore from the Comstock mines. Boots, a tuxedo cat, sits in the Governor's office chair behind the desk, watching with typical cat-like aplomb as the crowd files through. The line snakes up the stairs, where we can peek into their private quarters as well. A desert tortoise lives in a terrarium in one child's bedroom; a guinea pig's cage is in one bathroom.

We make one last stop at the Brewery Arts Center to check out a Nevada artists' display and reception. It's been a long, but fun, day, and my feet are tired. We head over to where we parked the car early this morning, and head home.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ahhhh . . .

Don't you sleep better in a clean bed, after a nice warm bath?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Bathtime for Boris; Monitor Pass Colors

It's that time of year. Boris, our German Shorthair pound hound, has been shedding quite a bit (and smelling rather doggy too). This morning, I decided it was bath day for Boris. I made a fire in the woodstove so it would be warm when we got out of the bathroom. Lots of treats, lots of towels to kneel on, and some tail-down shivering on his part (he's not a water dog), and I soon had a damp but sweet-smelling dog bouncing around the living room.

I wasn't done with those kneeling towels just yet. Of course, the bathtub then needed a good scrubbing. I soon had it shining once again. Since I was pretty much wet all down the front anyway, and had worked up a sweat scrubbing, I figured I needed a shower next (best way to make sure the tub was all rinsed down too).

Well, you can't have a clean dog sleeping in a grungy bed, can you? I bundled up all the mopping, sopping, and drying towels, along with his bed, and headed for the Laundromat. Some nice me-time for reading, and Boris soon had a fluffy clean bed.

Pictures of a wet dog or of a commercial washing machine tumbling round really aren't very interesting. So instead, I'm posting some photos from our day trip last week up Monitor Pass for some leaf-peeping. Boris loves when he gets to go places with us. He's such a great car dog, too. The truck has a little bench seat behind our seats. Boris sits behind Aries, so quietly (no panting, no pacing, just sits), and looks over Aries' shoulder or out his own little side window. With Aries off work until his hand heals, we're getting to do lots of the fall excursions we like but some years can't find the time. But with plenty of time this year, we timed it perfectly for the very peak of the show. It was a gorgeous day!

Aries' hand is doing pretty good. He got the stitches out a few days ago, and his splint reduced down to just his hand so he can now bend his wrist. He won't be released back to work until at least December. He got all his paperwork in for a Family Medical Leave of Absence (FMLA), and now we're in the 2-week waiting period before he starts getting temp-disability pay.

There's been a bit of adjustment to be made by both of us. Our grocery bill has gone up, since he's now eating breakfast and lunch at home instead of comp meals at work. But it's more than balanced out by the drop in the gas money, since he's not doing his 50-mile/day commute either. A happy re-discovery, a nice reminder, is just how much I really enjoy his company (after all, that is why I married him, 22 years ago this month). We each do have our own friends and things to do, but we're having fun spending lots of time together too.

For those of you reading this and thinking about a leaf-peeping outing this weekend: you may be a bit late for the high country this year. The past two nights, temperatures got down to 20F here at our house at 5,000'. A lot of our trees are now brown and the leaves are dropping. It's been dry, though, so you still could catch some good views. It would be perfect for the canyons and the California foothills though. Just don't wait much longer.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wanna See a Bushy-Tailed Woodrat?

This is a bushy-tailed woodrat, minus half his tail. We found that a few days ago, stuck to a glue trap in the cellar (he'd chewed off his own tail to escape).

And this is what he's been doing to the fruit in my cellar:

You can read more about my vermin dilemma on my post on the Simple Green Frugal Co-op blog.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Growing Okra in Northern Nevada

I usually start a couple of okra seeds inside in April, the same time I start my tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers. Sometimes they'll take forever to sprout, sometimes the seeds are up and growing quickly. Often they'll get too big and die back before the weather gets warm enough for them. The young plants are super-tender too. I've had little okra plants freeze inside their Wall-o-waters when nothing else was even fazed. They can really tricky to harden off and transplant even when the weather does warm up.

This spring, I started seeds twice, and both times they died before even making it into the garden. I just figured I wouldn't have any okra this year (again). Then, in early July, I had a bit of empty space after I cleared out some early greens. I thought I'd try direct-seeding six Clemson Spineless seeds - it was certainly hot enough by then that maybe they'd germinate outside. The seed packet said 60 days to harvest. If the fall freezes held off 'til mid-September, I just might get a few pods.

All six germinated, and grew quickly. By the end of September, I had a little over a quart of pods in the freezer - enough for maybe three batches of my favorite lentil & okra stew this winter. I was pleasantly surprised that I got anything at all.

The first week of October, when the night temps dropped into the 20's, I figured that was it. I picked all the okra pods, but didn't pull the plants. I figured I'd get around to it after they froze. They didn't freeze! The last cucumber and squash plants are all shriveled; the last bit of basil black and crispy; the tomato and chile plants are already in the compost bin. After struggling to keep the extremely tender young okra plants alive each spring, I'm amazed to see that these mature plants are STILL blooming and growing strong into late October. Who knew? From now on, okra will be a mid-summer into fall plant in this northern Nevada garden.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Green Beast Bit Aries

Our first hard freeze was looming last week, so it was time to bring in all the tender crops. Two days prior, I'd cut all the squash and cucumbers; the day before all the chiles, peppers, and eggplants. As I snipped apart tomato plants and hauled tubful after tubful of green tomatoes up to the house, Aries was busy clear-cutting the stripped-clean plants and hauling loads up to the chipper/shredder.

After a break for lunch, he started processing everything for the compost pile. I was down by the garden shed - organizing the cages and trellises for storage, coiling up soaker hoses. Faintly, I heard Aries calling me from up near the house. I poked my head around the shed to see what he wanted. "Get up here! You have to drive me to the emergency room," he yelled down.

I thought he was kidding, and replied, "Yeah, right."

"No!" he said, "I really mean it! I caught my hand in the shredder! Get up here!!"

I ran. He was holding the fingers of his left hand with his right. At least, there was no spurting blood. I grabbed a clean washcloth for his hand, closed up the house (it was threatening rain), and grabbed my purse and keys. The hospital is about five miles away, on the other edge of town. It took me maybe 10 minutes to drive, and they got him into an emergency room right away. I settled in and waited, for hours, as they x-rayed and stitched him up, updated his tetanus immunization plus gave him two massive doses of antibiotics (those two shots, one in each arm, were the only things that brought tears to his eyes) and finally sent us home with prescriptions for pain-killers and more antibiotics.

He's reasonable lucky, albeit in quite a bit of pain. He was sweeping the shredded pile away from beneath the bottom screen, using a piece of board. There's a rounded guard piece there, with nickle-sized holes for the material to fall through. The holes are also just big enough, that when his grip on the board slipped, to let the tip of his middle finger on his left hand slip through. In an instant, it shredded his fingertip, shattering the bone into pieces. Fortunately, it didn't penetrate deep enough to damage the joint. Right now, he has 20 stitches and his hand in a cast, but it looks like the bones will knit back together.

We're ok financially. He has pretty good insurance coverage through work, and we have enough liquid savings to pay the deductibles and emergency room co-pays. His bosses are looking to see if they have any modified light-duty position he could do, but it's not likely. So we're now in the waiting period before his medical leave of absence gets approved. It's looking like he'll be out of work for 6 - 8 weeks.

I have to tie his shoes for him each morning, but since it was his non-dominant hand he's managing ok for the most part. I've had to take over the firewood hauling, and putting the garden to bed. Aries just finished up with the antibiotics, and is cutting back on the pain-killers. He's not the type to just sit around though, so being so restricted in his actions is really getting to him. Plus, I know he's berating himself for getting into such a fix in the first place.

So, could this accident have been prevented? He's always so careful around machinery - wears safety glasses, heavy boots, tucks in his shirt, but hates wearing gloves. In this case, gloves might have been enough to have been stopped by the size of the holes. As I said, it was threatening to rain that afternoon, so he wanted to get everything finished up before it started - maybe he was rushing the job a bit. He'd sprained a couple of fingers on his right hand at work the week before, so he's been using his non-dominant hand more instead. The lack of coordination in his left might have been a factor. We'll make it through this. It's a shock, but not a disaster.