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.