I’m still here

Yes, I know, it seems like I’ve dropped off the face of the earth, but…I’m still here.  Been dealing with a bunch of stuff.  Son’s transmission was trying to crap out again on his car that he already had the transmission replaced once a couple of years ago.  As time went on it turns out the make/model/year of the car became known as a lemon.  Despite treating it with kid gloves, it was trying to go belly up again.  Good news?  He was accepted into the Bachelor Degree program for nursing–YEAHHHH!!!!!  Hence, he needs a car.  After weighing the pros and cons of buying used, the price of a new vehicle being exorbitant, he went the avenue of leasing a new vehicle. MUCH better deal, low monthly payments, and in three years he has the option of either turning it in or choosing to finance to buy it.  It’s under warranty so no worries about it going belly up and having to pony up money to fix it.

One hurdle down.  Next up?  I break my glasses, so bad that I couldn’t even Urkel them with duct tape.  UGH!  Yes, they were two years old and I was needing a replacement, but I hadn’t planned on spending major bucks at this point in time.  My problem is, my eyesight is so bad I can no longer see the big E on the chart, hence I need trifocal lenses.  Nearsighted as hell, add in astigmatism, a minor cataract in one eye, a burned out case of keratoconus, lattice issues with my retinas, translation–I’m a mess vision-wise.  But hey, I’m not blind–at least I can still see.  Thankfully I researched docs in my immediate vicinity and found a well reviewed eye clinic that cost about 30% less than the last place I went to, and I was able to get the top of the line lenses I had before.  Once again I’m back to 20/20.

The munchkin is taking summer school to get ahead in her classes, so that was an additional expense, but looking at the bigger picture the cost was less than it would be for a college course.  She’s taking some of her junior year studies now, and when she starts in the fall for 11th grade she’ll then be taking her senior year studies for those subjects.  That will allow her during her junior year summer to take advanced studies, and her senior year to step up another level.  She’s decided she wants to be an architect, has already narrowed down the choices to one preferred university and four backup schools.  She’ll apply for early decision to her first choice and we’ll cross our fingers, toes, and any other body parts we can hoping she’ll get in.  If not, she’ll send in the applications to the other choices.  If she stays on track, she’ll graduate Magna Cum Laude, and given the courses she’s already taking and scheduled to take regarding architecture, hopefully it’ll give her a leg up in her applications.  Not to mention scholarship applications, grants, etc.

Of course, things happen in threes, so the wallet wasn’t safe yet.  I was walking by the back door and saw a puddle of water pooling on the patio from an outlet pipe.  I knew the AC pipe was on the side of the house, so I had hubby go investigate.  It led to the water heater in the attic.  Yeah, I know…who the heck puts a water heater in the ATTIC?  I reached out to some of our neighbors, got recommendations and called a couple of companies for estimates.  Turns out the water heater in the attic was 16 years old–WELL beyond its life expectancy.  It was leaking, and not heating very well as evidenced by the time it took hot water to come out of the faucet when it was turned on.  The water heater in the garage was 12 years old, and was showing signs of giving up the ghost that even I could see.  Long story short, one awesome company replaced both water heaters for the cost another company wanted to charge us for just the single water heater in the attic.  Yes, that left the checking account gasping for breath after everything in total, but at least we got it done.

Gardening has been going good this year.  I supplemented the raised beds with chicken poop provided by one of hubby’s coworkers.  The plants LOVE it.  I planted red potatoes, Catskill Brussels sprouts, New York eggplant, Yellow Pear tomatoes, Muncher and Hoffman’s Johanna cucumbers, Italian ice tomatoes, Verde Tomatillos, tomatoes that included Rose de Berne, Grappoli d’Inverno, Costoluto Genovese, St. Pierre, Black Vernissage and Old Italian.  Costata Romanesco and Fordhook zucchini, Grandma Edna’s Cherokee Long Pod okra, cantaloupe, Stone Mountain, Ali Baba and Dixie Queen watermelon, Canary bell pepper, Orange bell pepper, Emerald Giant bell pepper, Spanish Mammoth Pepper, Tam jalapeno pepper, Rouge Vif D’ Etampes Pumpkin, as well as basil, thyme, sage, yellow and red onions.  Watering every day now that the temperatures have reached 90+ degrees seems to be helping everything maintain the status quo.  Here are some pictures:

This is a cucumber that hid amongst the leaves.  Usually once they reach this size they are impressive, but inedible because of being fibrous, bitter, tough, etc.  This one was none of those things.  The second picture shows the small size of the seeds.  It was juicy, fresh, with superb cucumber flavor.  I don’t know if it was the Muncher or the Johanna because the vines intertwined, but it did grow vertically since I had it propped up.  I don’t know if that made a difference versus horizontal or not.

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Blake supervising the harvest, my first tomatillo on top of a Rose d’Berne tomato.

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Here we have a yellow onion, emerald bell pepper, Costoluto, Grappoli, Yellow pear, Italian Ice and St. Pierre as well as Black Vernissage.

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A pan full of a variety of tomatoes cooking down before being processed in a food mill, reduced and then canned.

 

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A close up of the Black Vernissage (striped) and Costoluto (ridged) as well as Grappoli.

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A full harvest:

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Now, this interesting little guy is a throwback from my childhood, albeit not exact.  My Grandma bought me every book imaginable, National Geographic, Wild Kingdom, Disney Classics, etc.  In one of my Wild Kingdom books they had exotic grasshoppers from around the world,  One day while playing in the backyard I saw one of these little guys, with the exception the one I saw had more red and blue on it.  I never did see one after that experience…until this year.  It had always remained a vivid memory for me, and when I saw this little guy I exclaimed “There you are!”, recalling that long ago memory.  Yes, he’s not exact, but close enough.

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Another thing I’ve noticed this year, sadly, is a drastic reduction in bees in the garden.  They are very important pollinators for plants, and some of my plants have suffered from that reduced presence.  Thankfully there have been a few here and there, along with ants, the exotic grasshoppers making homes amongst the leaves, ladybugs, and a variety of other bugs making the trek from plant to plant, helping in the pollination effort.  When hubby and I eventually move, one of the things we plan to do is raise honeybees.  Many people don’t realize how important bees are to our crops, blithely thinking we can pollinate our own crops.  Yeah…no.  At least not to the extent bees do it.  Why do you think bees are shipped nationwide, with the sole purpose of pollinating crops, then moved on to the next site?  Please, even if you don’t garden per se, purchase a flowering plant or two that are favored by bees for their pollen.  Don’t use pesticides that are harmful to bees.  We NEED them.  Trust me on this.

And with that last thought, I’m off to water the garden and gather the latest harvest.  So far I’ve canned almost two dozen jars of tomato sauce to be used for fall and winter soups and stews.  I just might get in a dozen more before the season is done.  And the next time you’re buying produce in the store?  Thank a bee.  🙂