June 25, 2013

Late bloomer

It's hot, it's dry, it's windy in the afternoon. All plants and animals are pretty much shut down, waiting for monsoon rains. Except this guy. I don't really know what's up with him because he usually blooms on Kath's birthday, at the end of April. But, here he is, and the bees are happy.

Stuff gets done early around here now. Up at 4:45. Take Emma for walk. Eat breakfast. Go bike. Back at 8:00. Do chores. Go in around 9:30. This leaves a long time inside to get into trouble. But I have discovered the perfect afternoon entertainment: Coursera.

Coursera offers MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses). For free! Initially I thought it might be a bit "fluffy", it being free and all, but this is great stuff. I am taking two courses currently: Archaeology's Dirty Little Secrets and Nutrition for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. Both are 8 and 6 weeks long, respectively, and new material is posted every week.

The ADLS is taught by a team from Brown University, and it is total fun as well as educational. There are video lectures, conversations with archaeological teams, sound bites, great reading materials, quizzes, and assignments. I must admit that I faithfully take the quizzes, but I have been reluctant on the assignments. Not that they are not fun (they are), but they are peer reviewed. Hum. I do not need a certificate of completion so I have decided to bow out of submitting mine for review. So call me a chicken.

I have just started the Nutrition course taught by the University of California San Francisco and it looks to be more scholarly, but also very informative. I am very weak in the sciences and I already see that I will have to repeat some lectures a couple of times, but you can, and I am learning great stuff.

Both courses make a lot of other information on their topics available that is worth exploring. Oh my, what great invention the Web! It makes learning so much more fun; I love all the different approaches from listening to music to reading addresses to scholarly assemblies to movies to PDF slides to videos.

Sorry, gotta go to class.

June 20, 2013

First tomatoes

Like many a gardener I start off the year by saying "this will be the best garden yet", and I think that indeed this may be The Year. Mom was on my side as we had no late frost, read: apricots and (hopefully) a lot of peaches, and we had some rain in May which might have provided enough wild greenery for the bugs to leave the garden alone. Those early insects seem to bring diseases that affect the tomatoes.

So even though I am prone to whining a bit this week (it's HOT ... sniff), having garden tomatoes this time of year is a bit of a payoff. I did not plant a garden in Oregon until Memorial Day so I think that tomato plants in the Pacific Northwest are still little and they might even be shivering.

Now the problem is how to consume these beauties. Fresh on a salad? With Dan in Texas this week, I see some shrimp or scallops in garlic and tomato sauce in my future.

June 18, 2013

A meal fit for a queen ...

and a snack for some princes.

Green pasture is hard to come by in the desert this time of year, and the boys did not turn up their nose at some long-in-the-tooth lettuce from the garden.

June 8, 2013

It's time to fledge

It is June, and it is hot. The birds think so too. Above a Gambel's quail chick is finding a little shade under the bird feeder, and the 3 cactus wren babies are practically standing on top of each other in the nest box opposite the kitchen sink. They could be leaving any day now.

June 6, 2013

Defense, we need more defense!

The apricots are ripening. We were lucky enough to not have a late frost this year which usually does the always-early apricot blossoms in. I duly culled little apricots and have been watching the tree with anticipation. And so have the birds.

A blush was developing this week and the testing beak marks were not far behind. But it's war now, the birds are beyond pecking, they are eating. I have been testing too, and I think that for a fully ripe apricot I would have to wait a couple more days. By that time there will be no apricot left.

The gauze grape bags being already in use for the grapes, I used brown sandwich bags to cover some of the still undamaged fruit in hopes to at least have some ripe apricots for us to eat.

No idea whether it will work, but it is worth a try. While attaching the bags, first with tape, then with a stapler, some apricots fell off. They are good, could have used a few more days, but certainly edible.

Meanwhile, the garden is going great guns. We have already eating the first sowing of beets, some of the carrots and lots of lettuce. There are tomatoes, green still but likely ripening this month. Cantaloupes and grapes too.