Growth.

Posted by DmentD | Aggravation,Domestica,House,Rambling | Wednesday 7 October 2009 12:01 am

Well, to keep up the blogging streak I seem to have stumbled into, I’m going to continue to talk about gardening.

For just a bit.

Our seedlings are doing well, with one exception… the onions.  We’re on our third try of germinating seeds and starting seedlings as a result of very few seedlings surviving from the first two batches.  They germinate perfectly, lovely little green shoots pop up, and a few weeks later they sort of rot away.  At first I thought it was a result of too much water, but honestly once the seeds germinate and I get shoots, I mist them daily and give them a light dose of water (in the well drained seedling bags we make) a few times a week.  The other seedling varieties are thriving where these are dying.

After a little homework, I think I have the solution.  Light.  Lacking a greenhouse, we have to raise all our seedlings inside, and the best place is near the west-facing windows of our dining room where we get the most light during the day.  It’s not as much light as I’d like, but we’ve had decent success there.  Doing some poking around online, it seems a lot of folks who start onions from seed use grow lights to get them to the point where they can be transplanted outside… depending on the “season” your onions are (long or short), it can be up to 12 – 14 hours a day.  We don’t get anywhere near that much light, and with the glorious rain we’ve been having the sky is more often than not overcast these days.  I think the poor little guys are just dying off from light starvation.

So, I’ll be setting up an inexpensive grow-light system in the next few days that will hopefully let me generate strong onion seedlings, and will more than likely give a good healthy boost to the tomato, broccoli and Brussels sprouts seedlings.  Stick it on a timer, and there’ll be nothing to monitor except growth.

There, that wasn’t so bad, now was it?

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Yet Another Gardening Update.

Posted by DmentD | Domestica,House,Links,Pictures,Rambling | Thursday 1 October 2009 11:22 am

So, yeah, apparently I can’t stop talking about my garden.  Suck it up, this is my blog and I’ll talk about my dry elbow skin if I feel the desire to.

I’ve been moisturizing… so there.

Anyway, I had the presence of mind to bring out the camera this morning while the pumpkin blossoms were still open and looking beautiful.  They are the most shocking shade of yellow-gold contrasting against the greens and browns of the surrounding yard, and they are HUGE.

Pumpkin Blossom

Pumpkin BlossomPumpkin BlossomPumpkin BlossomPumpkin BlossomsPumpkin Vines

Also, our seedlings are doing very well.  The broccoli and Brussels sprouts are growing like weeds.  Meanwhile the tomatoes are filling out nicely and growing more true leaves.  Another few weeks, and they’ll be ready to plant outside.

Tomato Seedlings

Tomato SeedlingsBrussels Sprouts SeedlingsBroccoli Seedlings

My constant, obnoxious companion while I work in the yard is the neighbor’s dog — a pitbull mix — named “Noisy Bitch” (ok, more like I named her that, but it has stuck).  From the moment she hears me open the patio door she starts barking incessantly.  I’ve tried making friends with her, to no avail.  She will stop barking as long as I bribe her with homemade treats — which she will happily and gently take from me through the fence — only to have her start yapping again shortly thereafter.

She has had some training as I can, most of the time, get her to sit on command in exchange for treats.  When she does sit, or otherwise obey a command, it’s like I’m using some sort of mind control to forcibly make her obey… the look on her face speaks volumes, as if to say “I’m sitting, but I’m doing so against my will, and I’m getting no pleasure from this humiliation at all… now give me the goddamn treat.”

I have on occasion used negative reinforcement on her when she barks or lunges, such as a quick shot of water from a spray bottle while I said “no” in a stern alpha voice.  Oh, she REALLY doesn’t like that, but she backs off and barks, growls, snarls and looks for all the world like she’s gonna jump the fence and go for my throat.  It got to the point where all I needed to do was show her the bottle and she’d back away noisily.  Now, I’ve abandoned the bottle, and when she won’t obey a command or barks viciously at me, I toss the treats earmarked for her over to Killer (again, our nickname for her), the other neighbor dog that went from barking at us from a distance, to practically hopping the fence to have us pet her.

I don’t think I’ll ever gain her confidence and make peace, but we’ll see.  For now, here’s a picture of that loving, gentle creature known as Noisy Bitch.

Noisy BitchNoisy Bitch

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Gardening Update.

Posted by DmentD | Coolness,Domestica,House,Pictures | Wednesday 30 September 2009 1:01 am

Well, the bell pepper plants which had been threatening to pop open all those flower buds have followed through, and we’ve got some actual peppers growing on them.  As with the jalapenos, the first round of flowers opened up and fell off without pollinating, regardless of all my efforts to diddle them into submission.  Shortly after, though, the flowers actually stated producing fruit.

Bell peppers, unlike the jalapenos which grow through the withered flower (and wear them like a sad little tutu for a while), just pop the flower off and grow from there, looking for all the world like a miniature green little fat dude backing through a tiny round doorway.  I swear, the metaphor doesn’t stop there… as the tiny bell pepper continues to grow and bulge from the crown on the end of the stem, it looks for all the world like a green baby’s butt.  Sadly, I have no pictures of that, but I do have some of the bell peppers looking a bit more bell peppery.  The current batch are all a little larger than my thumb, and growing visibly every day.

Baby Bell PepperBaby Bell PepperBaby Bell Pepper

The jalapenos have gone nuts, and each of our five plants have at least a dozen or more maturing peppers hanging from them.  We decided that we’re going to let them continue maturing until they make it to the red stage, making them a little sweeter. We’ll harvest them then, along with any of the larger green ones, and do what we will with a good sized batch all at once.

Jalapeno PeppersJalapeno Peppers

Last week we had a ton of rain.  In the words of my family matriarch:

Shouldn’t you be blogging about all the rain Austin is getting, rather than about zombies?  If I got more rain for my drought-cursed area in one day than in the past 5 months, I’m sure I’d want to shout about it.

Here I am, mother-of-mine, talking about it.  We had so much rain over the span of three days that the ground stayed happily saturated for a week, the weather dipped into the 60’s during the day (and started to feel all Fall-like), and my previously-thought-to-be-dying pumpkin vines took off and grew like kudzu on amphetamines, and started flowering.

Sadly, I have no pictures of the gorgeous, gigantic, vibrantly yellow-gold-almost-orange flowers in bloom, as they open early in the morning and don’t stay open long, and my brain being deprived of caffeine doesn’t process things like “go get the camera, numskull” very quickly at such an early time of day.  Suffice to say, I do have pictures of the post-coital male flowers, and some that have yet to pop their cork — all taken quite artfully, so as to distinguish it from common garden-variety porn (I made a funny!).

Pumpkin Vines And Flower BudsPumpkin Vines And Flower BudsPumpkin Vines And Flower Buds

Our herbs are doing well… so well in fact that I think we’re about ready to do a second harvest of both types of basil (pictured below on the right) for dehydrating in a week or two.  They’re also contributing to the beautification of our little DeJockamo garden shrine, but I think that next season we’re going to have to move them into larger planters to give them space to continue growing.

DeJockamo's Garden

The last thing we have in the actual garden (rather than in planters all around the yard) are our peanuts… the great peanut experiment of 2009!  We planted four seedlings to see how they’d fare in this environment, and they grew admirably… at least above ground (we’re about to dig them up and see what’s been happening in the soil).  They have done so well, in fact, that they didn’t die off when they were supposed to — which is an indication that they’re ready to dig up.  They just kept on going, producing more flowers and sending more shoots into the soil.  The flowers, by the way, are gorgeous.

Peanut Flower

And finally, a picture of the plant we’ve finally managed to keep alive in Persephone, a wall-mounted planter that has the soil capacity of the average mouse’s bladder, and also lives outside in partial shade and extreme heat condemning any living thing planted into it to a life of Lazarus-like death and revival every few days.  Except for the aloe we planted into it four months back.  It likes drier soil, heat… and apparently being root-bound, as it has not only survived, but thrived in the pot, easily doubling its size since being planted there.

Persephone

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Swashing A Buckle.

Posted by DmentD | Coolness,Domestica,Links,Pictures,Rambling | Tuesday 29 September 2009 1:01 am

September 19 was International Talk Like A Pirate Day, and in honor of the esteemed occasion, our friends over at Team Dandy threw a party.  The dress was, as you may have guessed, thematic.

Since all of my costuming perished in the flood, I’ve been sorely lacking the last few years — most notably around Ren Faire time.  This seemed like an opportune moment to start building the collection back up, for both Sweets and myself.  We could get good mileage out of the costumes this year, both for the pirate party and for Ren Faire.

Sweets has written an nice account of the costume making adventure HERE.

What I want to add to the overall experience are the following things:

Yes, I sew.  I can sew quite well — granted, I’m inexperienced at making complex things straight out of my head, but I am a masterful operator of a sewing machine and can follow a pattern (that isn’t written by cracked-out retards) with the best.  It’s a skill I acquired as a part of my “figure out how things work, and be creative with what you’ve learned” mentality.  This is a skill you learn quite rapidly when you are a die-hard Halloween/Ren Faire/Special Effects fan, and don’t have the money to buy pre-made stuff.  Additionally, in my case, I am exceptionally picky about the quality of what I buy, and the overwhelming consensus amongst commercial costume manufacturers is that everything must be made cheaply, lightweight, and temporary.  I call bullshit on that, and make my costuming out of heavy, long wearing material that both lasts forever and looks and feels like the era or theme I’m aiming for.

Yes, I’ll still kick your ass for sincerely mocking me for knowing how to sew — because no, sewing has not diminished my masculinity one bit.  *grins*

Enough people asked the following question that it’s worth mentioning: “where did you get that outfit from”, or more specifically “you MADE that?” The Captain’s jacket elicited the most surprise — not so much that it was me that made it, but that the jacket wasn’t professionally manufactured.  I’m flattered, I really am.  I made the shirt, jacket and pants… the sash too, but that’s really just a swag of fabric, as are the wraps around the boots.  All told it took 2 weeks of weekday evenings and one weekend, and the occasional need to share the sewing machine with Sweets.

I’ve swiped pictures from Sweets to show off here, and my only comment is: sofofabitch, I look huge!  I mean, I’m a stout guy, but the loose billowy shirt coupled with my “manly hero poses” makes me look like I need to start jogging the decks during voyages.  I wish I had a few regular poses to salve my wounded ego.

The next foray will be into leather working so I can make pouches, belts, hats and boots.  I’ve purchased quite a number of pouches over the years to go with my Ren Faire costumes, all the while griping about the prices.  Mind you, these were all hand made, and of exceptional quality, but it’s almost cost prohibitive to satisfy my tastes and needs.  I can make these myself, keep the cost down, and build to my specifications.

Maybe for next year.

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Loaves And Dishes.

Posted by DmentD | Cooking,Domestica,Friends | Monday 28 September 2009 11:56 am

Sweets and I take a certain amount of pride in keeping our freezer stocked with homemade, pre-made meals that take the place of the old “heat and eat” style of junk we used to get from the grocery (Healthy Choice, Amy’s Organics, etc).  Typically during the week we’ll cook dinner with the intention of having enough left over for lunch the next day, but sometimes that doesn’t work out and I end up having to figure out another plan.  Time was, I used to keep a stock of the ready-made meals from the store, and just grab one of those… but not long after Sweets moved to our shores, we started weaning ourselves off of those and just occasionally making a large batch of something that we can divvy up into meal-sized portions and freeze.

Common favorites of ours are lasagna, chicken pot-pie, pasta and homemade bolognese, soup, slow-cooker chicken with gravy and veggies, the occasional fricken chickasee… and beans and rice.  Red beans and black eyed peas are our staple (and let’s face it, I’m a Southern boy, so that’s what I grew up with).  Our freezer was getting a little low, so we decided to pull out the big pot, and re-stock.

We cooked 2 lbs of black-eyed peas in the tradition that I was raised with… with more meat by weight than beans — a combined mixture of tasso, sausage and ham.  Now, 2 lbs is a hell of a lot of peas, so we had a few folks over to have a relaxed, casual visit and help us eliminate a little so we wouldn’t overflow our freezer later on.  All told we fed five people and divvied up two lunches for me this week, and we put into the freezer nine individual portions with rice, a portion for two with no rice and a portion for four with no rice.  That’s a hell of a good job, and considering the total cost of ingredients was around $20, I’d say it was a fantastic deal.

Oh, and breaking slightly with the bean/peas tradition, I added about a pound of sliced mushrooms to the mix near the end of the cooking.  It was a nice change-up, and added a slight earthy flavor to the dish.  Plus, Sweets and I just really enjoy mushrooms, so we put them in everything.

In addition the the black eyed peas, Sweets was on a mission to fix a dish from her side of the Atlantic, steak and kidney pie (and I have since decided that for the most part, English cooking is the same as Southern cooking… it may not always be the best for you, and you may not be able to — or want to — identify everything in it, but by Jeebus it tastes good).  Since kidney isn’t a popular organ for the average (Anglo, Caucasian) grocery shopper, she settled on steak and ale pie.  Beef cubes with onions were slow cooked for hours in a rich dark base that contained a dark mexical ale and beef stock, and was allowed to reduce down and condense it’s flavors.  Mushrooms were added near then end.  It was thickened a bit, then poured into a glass dish and covered with a crust and baked slow and low.  It was rich and powerful, the ale giving the dish a deep base note, and the beef was tender and delicious.  Definitely a winner, and it’s added to the list of things to make large batches of to divvy and freeze.

Sweets also baked two loaves of bread, experimenting with a new sourdough recipe she found.  The recipe was a bit of a flop, and the bread didn’t rise very well or have any tangyness at all (both problems owing to calling for not near enough sourdough starter).  It was dense, but straight out of the oven it was actually tasty with a bit of butter spread on it.  Not a complete failure, but the recipe didn’t give her any reason to keep it in her arsenal.

Not a bad way to spend a Sunday, all things considered.

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Continuing The Z Theme.

Posted by DmentD | Coolness,Entertainment,Pictures | Thursday 17 September 2009 2:17 pm

Seems to be the day for all things Zombie… they just keep shambling into my online surfing path.

Zombie shooting range targets, including the recently popular Nazi soldier theme.

Zombie Range Target

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ArtJournal Chai.

Posted by DmentD | Cooking,Coolness,Links,Promotion,Spotlight | Thursday 17 September 2009 11:26 am

Here’s an ArtJournal Chai Tea Syrup Recipe by Lucy Knisley, presented as only an illustrator can.  Looks tasty, actually, and I know there are chai tea lovers out there that read my blog.  Enjoy.

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Yet Another Zombie Webcomic.

Posted by DmentD | Coolness,Entertainment,Links,Promotion,Spotlight | Thursday 17 September 2009 9:47 am

Yes, the soft spot I have for the living dead is well known (I think it’s my abdomen…), and I ‘ve run across another very worthy webcomic.  Raising Hell by Andy Belanger, who is also a freelance artist at DC Comics, Transmission-x, Oni Press and IDW.  Here’s a preview:

And oh yes… I WILL make the bladed goalie stick to have in my weapons arsenal.  It is made of dreams and awesomeness… and cold hard steel.

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Uncle Sam Says “You can Stay”.

Posted by DmentD | Coolness,Domestica,Family | Monday 14 September 2009 1:31 pm

It’s official — The US Government was unthreatened by the presence of a quiet, deceptively sane-appearing, nerdy English girl in our country, and has granted her the permission to legally hang out as long as she likes… with the caveat that she check back in two years time to let them know that everything is still groovy, and deny wholeheartedly that she is turning the denizens of these shores into her willing zombie slaves through the cunning use of delicious baked goods.

Sweets has written a thorough account of the immigration interview that we attended on Friday, Sept. 11th (how’s that for an ominous date to have to attend a government appointment?), and I’ll point you in her direction for the big picture and just add my own embellishments here.  Go read, then come back.  I’ll wait.  Shoo!

Alrighty, then.

First, we’ve had an unholy amount of rain the last week — a refreshing change considering the drought that Austin has been suffering, but c’mon… overcompensating much? — and the drive to San Antonio on Friday was like nipping at Moses’ heels while passing through the Red Sea, all the while knowing that the mass of water coming down on your head was a mere few seconds lead-in to the crashing sea that was going to wash over you.  So yeah, a fun drive in the rain, both ways.  Being a NOLA native, and being accustomed to driving in the rain every damned afternoon in the summer months, this was no big deal — even down to dodging around the idiots who acted as if they’d never seen moisture tumble from the sky.

We got into San Antonio stupid early, on purpose.  Looking to kill some time we searched out a coffee house, and I’d have even gladly accepted a Starbucks… but it was a hell of a job trying to find one.  I mean for the love of Jeebus, you can see them from SPACE, but I couldn’t find one anywhere along the I-35 stretch we were searching along.  We were in what passes for a business sector and in the vicinity of a government office building… I mean, isn’t it in the zoning ordinances to have a Starbucks every 50′ or so given the area?  Eventually common sense gave in and we used our fancy-pants Blackberry to search one out.

Entering the USCIS building we had to put bags/boxes/etc through an x-ray machine, and pass through a metal detector.  The usual dance for metal detectors is to strip all metal things off and put them in a little tray and pass though.  I wear steel-toed boots and they can occasionally set them off, so I asked the officer (an honest to goodness cop, not a rent-a-badge) if I should take them off, to which he replies “no, because I’m not STUPID.” It took me a beat or two to realize he wasn’t insulting me, but taking a shot at the TSA and their retarded flavor of airport security.  We were then treated to a highly entertaining rant on why it’s ineffective, and “do  you know what grows on those floors with all those barefoot people walking through?” I liked this guy immediately.

As we waited to be called, we were concerned that with all the Latino names being called that they would mispronounce Sweets’ name (as the officer did when we were passing through security).  She suggests we listen for our last name as that ought to be distinct enough.  When they finally called for us, they used Sweet’s first and middle name, mispronouncing the first.  Figures.

The interview process was… brief.  Startlingly so.  Literally, it was confirming our basic information (with a check-off on the form as we did so), and I suspect it was as much to ensure we were the ones who filled out the form as it was to guarantee accuracy.  They quizzed me on Sweets’ birth date and our marriage date (and my brain has a retarded habit of transposing March and May, so I had to do a quick mental check off before speaking —  January, February, March, April… “May!”). The whole time I’m looking at the HUGE stack of paperwork in her folder on us and wondering what else is in there… just curious, as I always am about these things (“Wow, they have a copy of my high school art-class projects in here!  This is incredible!”).

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this brief polite exchange.  Maybe a bag would get slipped over our heads as we ascended in the elevator and we’d be brought to separate rooms to be quizzed under a single 100 watt light bulb, never seeing the faces of our inquisitors.  Electrodes would be strapped to our sweaty extremities to detect if we were lying or truthing.  Who knows?!  As nervous as we were about not inadvertently screwing up, I think none of that would have come as a shock.  At the least I was expecting a little more behavioral observation while being asked a few more probing questions about our relationship, you know, to see if we betrayed any of the common “tells” of someone who is lying — not that we were, but with my luck, I’d raise some suspicions from just being so nervous.  *shrugs*

I guess the answer lies somewhere between the fact that the English aren’t rampantly running/climbing/swimming illegally across our borders (the “Mexican Triathlon” — not my term!) and thereby aren’t much of a threat, and that we obsessively researched the entire process and over-anticipated their every requirement — not only on the forms we submitted, but on what we had to bring with us to the interview (as was evidenced by our box full of stuff, where everyone else had a single, limp folder with them).  We must not have raised any red flags.  Go us!

So, Sweets can now work and travel without restriction, and without the need for any other government issued IDs beyond the Greencard (once it arrives).  In 3 years time she can start the citizenship process and can eventually count herself amongst he ranks of “stupid Americans”… a title she will have not only chosen willingly, but will have worked hard to earn.

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Neurosonics.

Posted by DmentD | Coolness,Entertainment,Links | Thursday 10 September 2009 10:44 am

Bizarre and entertaining.  I felt like sharing.

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