We’re moving

We’re moving to a nice golf course down the road. Just spent the morning pulling a deer tick off my wife, then checking all the boys for ticks, too. This a few days after finding a fully engorged dog tick happily snoozing on the carpet in our upstairs hallway. Really wish two of our neighbors would take better care of their yards. Heck, the back yard to the West is getting so overgrown we’re about to lose sight of their bird bath.

The floods in Iowa

Our hearts go out to the people, including friends, in Iowa this week. We lived in Iowa City for seven years, and still consider it home. Seeing the pictures, reading the stories, it has been wrenching. While nobody we know has been displaced, everyone we know has been affected. We wish them the best of good fortune and goodwill in the coming recovery.

Below is a picture of the Danforth Chapel, on the University of Iowa campus, where we got married. Hundred of volunteers worked tirelessly to keep it (and surrounding buildings) in as good a shape as it is in. Thank you.

(Here is the original link)

Danforth Chapel

Elm as ground cover

Last weekend we noticed a million (and I am not kidding) little weedlets coming up in our flower beds.  And we have lots of flower beds.  This weekend they were all still there (stupid mild weather and stupid rain).  We started weeding them, by which I mean, we sat for a couple of ours, plucking them up by hand, and managed to clear a 4 foot by 3 foot area, roughly 1/200th of our flower beds.

American Elm ground cover

A little research on the Intarwebs turned up the culprit.  Our great big American Elm.  Apparently these are little tiny elm trees, struggling for survival.

American Elm seedlingsAmerican Elmlet

I guess I’m not so worried anymore, since elms are so rare these days, there’s no chance we’re going to have a million successful elm trees growing in our yard.  But they are successful so far.  Witness the photos below.

There isn’t any useful advice online, except the one piece we are going to follow.  Ignore it, and they might mostly die off.  We’re going to accelerate that by putting fresh mulch down on top of them.

If you’re looking for an elm tree, you might get back to us in about a month.

Upside down tomato

We have planted our upside down tomato.  We’ve also planted some tomatoes in the usual direction, but I am most curious to see how the Topsy Turvy planter fares.  The idea is this: you plant your flower, vegetable, or whatever, in this vinyl bag, and hang it from something tall.

Until about a month ago, we had nothing tall enough or sunny enough to do it.  Then my father in law built the tree house, complete with protruding spar (where the swing was going to go).  And now we have a spot.  Not sure if it is tall enough, given how tall tomato plants get, and this one won’t be acting against gravity.

If need be, we can always throw a rope over a tall branch and string it up that way.

The tree houseTopsy Turvy on the tree house

Topsy Turvy tomato plant

Anybody had any luck with these Topsy Turvy planters?

Can haz weather, plz?

One of these days I will be glad we have a weather radio.  But in ten years of being woken up by the piercing warble of the weather alarm (a delightful feature that has no volume control) I have yet to experience that gratefulness.  

Last night we had a tornado warning.  The weather radio shocked us out of our slumber sometime after midnight to warn us of that tornado warning.  There was no tornado.  We probably could have stayed in bed.  Though our neighbors, about fifty feet up the hill over there to the left, had a tree go through their roof.  Here’s the article (jump to “The Loud Boom”). Wherever it says, “Brandenburger” you just read, “Danny’s neighbor.”

At 1:15 am, about the time their maple tree was meeting their living room, we were all huddled in the basement bathroom, feeling a little silly, tired, and worried that Oliver would not go back to sleep easily.  He did though, and we count ourselves lucky.

I do not regret getting the radio, nor do I regret using it.  But I am not yet thankful for it.  I am thankful, however, that the dulcet sound of chainsaws in the morning was not coming from our front yard.

Nearly Always Fatal

The phrase, “nearly always fatal,” or words to that effect, appears in every description of rabies I have managed to find in the last twelve hours. Here is why I’m looking up rabies.

Late last night I was working in the basement, on the computer, as I usually do, and I heard behind me a thump, then another in rapid succession. I turned to look, and a bat swooped out of the darkness, took a right at the treadmill, and disappeared upstairs. It took me a few seconds to realize what had happened.

Ten minutes later, I’m edging down the hall, a laundry bag inside out on my winter-gloved hands, my wife is standing as far behind me as she can get while still training a flashlight on this poor little bat, wedged as tight as he can into a corner jamb by the door to the garage. In those ten intervening minutes I had managed to locate the bat, get a flashlight, wake my wife, we’d called the 24-hour pest removal place (which was closed), and I’d tried to capture it once already, using fireplace gloves so thick I couldn’t even feel if I had the bat or not.

The poor bat was clearly scared witless, throwing off musky scent and chittering for all he was worth when I had him in my hands. I’m sure he was biting at me. I couldn’t bring myself to kill him (I know, Denny, I know), so we stuck him in the bag out in the garage overnight. Better for me, I’m sure it was worse for him.

This morning we called everybody and their cousin. Our concern was for our kids. Bats carry rabies (especially bats that sit there and let you pick them up). There’s been mention lately in the media that children can be unaware of a bat bite, especially if they sleep soundly and are bitten in bed. So we called our pediatrician.

He offered that he had once had sixty-five bats in his house, and the best remedy had been a tennis racket. Then he suggested that, rather than start our two little boys on a course of treatment (five shots in 28 days), as he considers it highly unlikely that they were bitten, we should send the bat off to be tested for rabies. So we called our vet.

They offered to take the bat, freeze it, and send it off to Kansas State for said testing. So I drove our bagged bat, which was no longer making any noises (sorry, little guy), to our vet and gladly handed him off, if only because I could hand off the guilt, too. I’ve always been a softie for animals, and this bat was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But I’m also a parent, and I will gladly murder cute little rodents to protect my family.

More when we get the results back.

State legislator says global warming is good for us and our crops

From my own backyard: Larry Powell, a Republican state legislator from Western Kansas, has asserted that increased CO2 levels will make crops flourish. He cites a study that says that, “atmospheric CO2 enrichment will boost world agricultural output by about 50 percent.” They don’t deny global warming anymore, instead they insist that it is good for us. Here is the link to the Lawrence Journal-World article. The comments are actually much more interesting than the idiotic assertions in the article itself.

Can I possibly pass up National Geographic for $12?

I know the price has always been low, but I don’t think I can pass it up this year. We just got a letter from the National Geographic Society offering a year subscription to their magazine (12 issues), a world map, and a “100% guarantee of your satisfaction” for $12.00. Unless you live in Kentucky. There it’ll cost you an extra 6% sales tax. I will pass on the obvious Kentucky joke. But I think we’re getting the magazine. I cut up many an issue from my parents’ stash for grade school reports, and I’d like a big heap of them for the boys to look through some day. (It’ll cost you $15 on the National Geographic subscription site.)

Turning parsley into butterflies

First one out

A few weeks back, we noticed the fattest, coolest looking caterpillar (or “calerpitter” as our four-year-old calls them) on our Italian parsley. We’d decided to grow the parsley because it was easy and cheap, and once we put it in pots on the deck (away from the bunnies) it flourished. The caterpillar was so cool, we did a bunch of research (they are swallowtail butterfly caterpillars, and they love parsley) and had just decided to build a caterpillar cage when… it disappeared. (Eaten by a bird, we think.)

Never fear, the three pots of parsley had plenty of caterpillars hatching on them. In a few days, all three pots were down to nubs, and there were five or eight or fifteen caterpillars on them. So we put the cage together (two pie plates, some small-hole mesh, baby food jars with water and parsley, and some sticks for cocooning), put it on our screened in porch, and started moving caterpillars. We started with just two, but eventually felt for the little guys on their parsley sticks, and moved ten more into shelter.

We’ve been feeding them, cleaning their cage, watching them, and moving the chrysalises out to a pot where the butterflies would have enough room to dry their wings.

And today, the first of them hatched. Once she starts to flutter about, we’ll have to corral her and let her out of the porch, where she can try to find more parsley (good luck) or get eaten by a bird.