31 August 2008

august days :: thirty one

My desire that the triple digit temperatures stay in August may be a bit over-optimistic, but a girl can have ambitions, right? This month just seemed to slink away from me much like the ocean tide recedes slowly and quietly back into the great vastness, leaving scraps and wreckage scattered about.

Well, I refuse to see this last month as "the cup half empty". My nature is to look and see what can be salvaged, what was good, solid, and true. Sure, my cup isn't completely full but I see potential to the scraps and wreckage we experienced this month. There's a bit of recycling, scrap-booking, and re-purposing to be done. It was a month of peaks and valleys. But that's life, right?

28 August 2008

august days :: twenty eight

Amber gold...nectar liquid. We have fresh honey from my brother's hives!

How sugar-rich nectar from flowers is converted to honey is so amazing. Each year I share honey with students, as part of my attempt to add ecology, biology, and other sciences into their lives. First we taste and savor {I have had students who have never tasted honey before!}. Each flower's nectar is distinctly different in taste, which affects the color and taste of the honey, so I like to have several samples to "test". With that sweetness still lingering, we learn and discuss about the world of bees, their important role, and beekeeping. Lastly we learn the steps of making honey. Of course, this "lesson" takes several hours, which is spread over several days.

So, do you want to know the nitty-gritty of making honey, too? The worker bees (yes, they are the women of the hive) gather the nectar from flowers and return to the hive. In the hive, they swallow and regurgitate the nectar several times. Once the partially digested product is the right quality, it's stored in the honeycomb. Left alone at this stage, the nectar would ferment since it still contains a large amount of water and natural yeasts. The bees leave the honeycombs unsealed and use their wings as fans to slowly evaporate the excess water and condense the sugar to amber honey. Then the combs are sealed.

This honey? Notice how there are two distinct hues, one darker than the other. The lighter one is nectar from mandarin orange trees, up in Newcastle. Oh, yes, you can taste the hint of orange in the honey. The darker one is from the area by Rough and Ready. {I just love the name of this little town, don't you? It is the only mining town to have seceded from the Union, only to vote itself back in three months later so that they could celebrate Independence Day with the rest of the country. How fun is that?} Sorry...I can't remember from what flowering plant the nectar originated. But the overall "flavor" is much stronger.

A few of these jars are destined as sweet gifts of summer delight.

24 August 2008

august days :: twenty four

The wisteria is blooming for the third time this year! (Oh, yes, and the seed pods are still exploding on occasion.)

23 August 2008

august days :: twenty three

These two have slept like this, close to each other, since they were kittens. Brother and sister, together, always.

22 August 2008

21 August 2008

august days :: twenty one

Love Thursday:
Is this not a wonderful, beautiful specimen? I don't know what her "title" is in the arachnid world, but I just love her fuzzy blackness. Do you see the white heart on her back? How about the cobalt blue eyes?
She lives in the the amaryllis foliage. This is a good thing since she tends to keep the population of insects under control. At last sighting, she was about an inch long, head to toe. Of course, this is only a guess.

I don't know that this spider is a "she". I just tend to say that. I find it interesting how things like ships are named as female. I named my vehicle and computer female names, but not my calculator or dishwasher. I will have to ponder on this a bit more.

Really, look again at this magnificent spider. She is amazing.

20 August 2008

august days :: twenty

My wall of potted plants gives me great joy. These are plants that, for most people, would be under the category of "indoor", but here at our house they live outside year round. If one happens to die because of a freak frost, I replace it with another plant, giving it a try for hardiness. Drip irrigation makes this display of greenery pretty much carefree, even in the heat of the summer months.

19 August 2008

august days :: nineteen

Good morning to...ha...yet another day of triple digits!

18 August 2008

17 August 2008

16 August 2008

august days :: sixteen

Oh, my! This is me! Jen Gray is channeling me, or I am her...whichever, it is a bit liberating to read that another soul is feeling fragile and splintered. Thank you, Jen!

15 August 2008

august days :: fifteen

This is my first year growing okra, and I think I will grow it again. Sliced and added to soups, it makes half-inch stunning, round arrays of seeds which seem to dance among the other vegetables.

How can one go wrong with okra when learning that it's related to both cotton and cocoa!

14 August 2008

august days :: fourteen

Hibiscus mosheutos to the botanical types, but most people know this brilliant flowering plant as a "Dinner Plate Hibiscus" or a "Swamp Mallow". These popping flowers range from eight to twelve inches in diameter--a definite show-stopper in any garden!

13 August 2008

august days :: thirteen

Falling deeply for:
  • already-shelled sunflower seeds--a slightly salty, crunchy snack that reminds me it's summer.
  • still-warmed-by-the-sun deep-red tomatoes from the garden paired with aromatic basil leaves and slices of fresh soft mozzarella cheese. yum.
  • "Eat, Pray, Love" and getting lost in language.
  • the intricate designs of spider webs.
  • Simple Carousel Hemp shoes--made with recycled rubber car tires, organic cotton, recycled paper pulp, and hemp (I think I really need a pair).
  • the re-emergent popularity of the fondue pot in tandem with a love fest of the outstanding variety of cheeses available.
  • freshly made lemon sorbet with roasted almond slices sprinkled on top.

12 August 2008

august days :: twelve

I recently traveled with Amtrak, on the corridor between the bay area and Sacramento. Now, the train doesn't go up regularly to my town from Sacramento, but Amtrak does connect travelers in that direction with a bus. It was an easy, stress-free, and delightful journey. Yes, even the bus ride...although, I must say it was due in a large part on my ability to be one of the first passengers on that bus and immediately acquiring the front seat with a free view of the road ahead. You see, I have a sensitive inner ear and motions tend to upset that delicate balance between ear and eye. Now you know: I am not astronaut material. I can make myself car-sick driving on twisting roads. Yup. Sad, I know.

I got some knitting done on the train. This is a good thing since the holidays will be upon us soon and, of course, I am behind. I don't have a picture of my progress, though, because I had to frog it (no laughing DeeDee)--lace stitches can be so aggravating if one is not paying attention.

However, I couldn't just sit there, knitting away, without a conversation to go with it. I didn't have my iPod Touch with me. I had prepared a variety of listening pleasures for myself but left it at home. No, I don't want to talk about my "grey" moment of forgetfulness. I forgot to bring my phone too, but we won't talk about that either. There I was with no podcasts, no NPR, no music, no communication. The train was quite full and I found myself sitting next to another woman. I tried several times to strike up a conversation with her on a variety of subjects, without any success. A small smile and a slight acknowledgment of a few words do not make a thriving exchange. Tragic, really, because we could have solved world hunger or maybe at least discussed the menu choices at a restaurant, who knows. About fifteen minutes outside of Sacramento, my "seat mate" excused herself for the restroom and, well frankly she never returned. It was then that I realized "huh, maybe I am that odd person who talks to strangers." I didn't fair any better on the bus ride either.

When I mentioned this to my husband, his response was along the lines of "well you are known as being that crazy lady who talks to just about anyone." I think he pictures me in my old age sitting with a couple cats, mumbling to strangers on the street. My daughter says that I broke the golden rule of public transportation: one is not supposed to talk to another person--ever--no eye contact--no conversation. Hum. That's difficult for me. It's just not me.

Ensete ventricosa, or better known as Red Banana. This plant will not produce bananas since it is strictly speaking just an ornamental, but it is just gorgeous with its red edges. So luscious.

11 August 2008

august days :: eleven

Lagerstroemia, or around here in California they are recognized quickly as Crepe Myrtle. These trees and shrubs are so fantastic right now. They are happy and colorful, lining streets and adding "pop" to homes. This is my favorite color, but they also bloom in lavender, pink, and white.

10 August 2008

august days :: ten

Alas, the specific type of wine grape here eludes me at the moment. My first inclination would be chardonnay, but these grapes are a bit dark for white wine. I love to watch them magically appear over the season.

09 August 2008

august days :: nine

Brugmansia datura, or known by the common name Angel's Trumpet. The flowers are over six inches long and very sweet smelling. In tropical climates such as Hawaii, these plants will become trees. Oh, the sight!

08 August 2008

august days :: eight

Cyperus papyrus, or better known by its common name of papyrus. If you have never seen the stocks of this wonderful plant, I will tell you that they are in the shape of a triangle, not a circle. So very amazing.

07 August 2008

august days :: seven

I am feeling fragmented right now. Small shards of me are circling around like the rings of Saturn, just out of reach, and I can't quite seem to get my footing. New territory for me. This temporary departure from the norm is at odds with the colors, sounds, and tastes of the summer. Argh.

So, for a few days, I will be posting scant words. Instead, you will find entertainment in visual treats.

06 August 2008

august days :: six

Behold, a new leaf set on one of our sago palms (Cycas revoluta). New, fresh leaves and growth on plants always makes me happy. We seem to be attracted to plants with a history dating back to the age of dinosaurs {curious? read about it here}. Don't be fooled by the soft look...these leaves are quite stiff and extremely sharp.

05 August 2008

august days :: five

Hello, moisture up from Mexico-way, bringing a few clouds to enjoy in the evening! I am loving this sunset. No, I haven't "doctored" this photo, although I must admit it was even more stunning mere moments before, but alas I didn't have my camera with me.

04 August 2008

august days :: four

Insects seem to be in abundance around me this summer! This lovely nest, however, will be "disappearing" later today, since it's directly next to a pathway used several times a day.

03 August 2008

august days :: three

I had a box of crayons,
All shiny, straight and new.
I lent a friend one crayon,
And -- oops -- it broke in two!

My friend said she was sorry,
But I said, "I don't care,
'Cause now we both can color
With one crayon -- we can share!"

I can't remember where this little rhyme came from, but I love the way it expresses turning a negative into a positive. It's a remnant of working with children and is floating around in my thoughts today. Celebrate and honor your friends, this day of International Friendship.

02 August 2008

august days :: two

I find myself walking gently into August. I want to savor the moments, the subtle changes around me. Hurray for Shutter Sisters this week with their superhero photo challenge: a self portrait of one's own feet. Hurray for pedicures and a hint of tan line from flip-flops. Hurray for swinging lightly in my Air Chair on the back patio, sipping iced Moroccan mint tea and reading a book. A lazy day, indeed.

01 August 2008

august days :: one

The traditional end to summer, a hold-over from classic school scheduling, begins this month. It's a bitter-sweet time. While still filled with quiet early morning bike rides, idle afternoon dips in cool water, and late evening night-crawler hunting, this month also hosts the stocking of pencils and paper, the buying of new clothes, and an ending of late-night movie watching.