Saturday, April 28, 2012

Remembering the Good instead of the Bad

Twenty years ago the riots were in full swing and L.A. was self destructing with racial tension that had melted into uncontrollable violence.  Probably the most vivid memory I have is seeing the live broadcast of truck driver Reginald Denny being dragged out of his truck and viciously beaten.  But there were heroes that day as well.

Titus Murphy, Terri Barnett, Lei Yuille and Bobby Green were four that came together to save Mr. Denny even though he was a complete stranger to them and they were strangers to each other.  Four black strangers risking their own lives to save a white man in the midst of riots that were based on race.  We need more people like this in our world, heroes who don't think of themselves as such.  Remember the heroes instead of the evil when you think back on this piece of our history.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Smells Like Rain, Sounds Like Freedom

Temperatures around here hit a high of 103 last week.  It's been hot, sunny and typical.  But not today. 

Today, there are thick, heavy clouds of varying shades of gray stacked one upon the other.   Today, there is a crisp and steady wind that is moving through my trees and bushes creating an ever changing melody of movement.  Today, the rain is coming down in spurts, sometimes thick, heavy drops and sometimes needle sharp.  And today, the fighter jets from nearby Luke AFB are out practicing in the weather that is so very different from normal.

Today is my very favorite kind of day here in Arizona. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Some Girls Have All the Luck

As a (slightly early) birthday present for Miss Lee, Mamoo and I picked up two hibiscus plants and three grapevines to replace the ones Miss Lee killed. Yeah, I said it. She totally killed them. It turns out she only killed two of them and even those I'm pretty sure were savable because their roots were pretty decent. But anyway, the main point being that we bought five new plants for here. And since Mamoo is still nursing a sore arm from something or other, I knew I was going to be the one actually digging the holes.

Now, I've lived in Arizona long enough, and dug enough holes for new plants, to know what to expect. We have caliche here in the southwest and it's an absolute bear to get through. For those that don't know, caliche is what happens when various minerals leach from different layers of the soil and create a solid layer. Sometimes it's just a thin layer, sometimes it's several feet thick. It really depends on the exact location. But either way, it's ridiculously difficult to dig through. And dig through it you must because if you don't, your plants won't grow properly. Put it this way, caliche is used in the production of concrete for a reason. So if you don't dig through it, your plants aren't going to be able to get their roots through it for nutrients and growth.

Several weeks ago I helped A put together her landscaping extravaganza and the biggest time sucker that day was getting through the caliche layer. Some of the holes took FOREVER to get through. So while I was looking forward to getting Miss Lee's new plants in the ground, I was dreading having to dig the holes.

I brought the hibiscus plants around to where they were going and raked back the rocks where I planned to dig the first hole. Mamoo came around the corner and asked what she could do to help so I asked her to move the three grapevines from the front patio to the backyard where we would be planting them. By the time she returned from that task I had the first hibiscus planted and had started digging the second hole. Five minutes later I had the second one planted. It was really quite easy. And then I moved to the back.

The backyard bakes in the sun most of the day so I expected it to be much tougher to dig through. Amazingly, it was even easier than the front. The soil was loose, dark and smelled wonderful (don't mock me, earthy is a good smell.) It was like she Midwestern topsoil in her very arid Arizona backyard. It was wonderful and I was done planting the three grapevines in record time.

Now I don't know if her soil has always naturally been that way (probably not). I don't know if maybe the land her house sits on used to be one of Phoenix's agricultural areas (maybe). I wouldn't even rule out the possibility that previous homeowners have amended the soil over time to where it's at today (most likely). But whatever the history or reason, Miss Lee has some damn good soil in her yard and with a little bit of water and patience she could probably grow about anything she wanted. And it sure made planting her birthday presents a whole lot nicer as well.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today is internationally recognized Holocaust Remembrance day. I don't think about the atrocities of that chapter in history too often but I was reading an article in our local paper the other day that triggered some thoughts. The article was talking about one of the original rail cars from Macedonia that had arrived locally to be displayed in the Holocaust and Tolerance Museum being built in Chandler. The story centered around the experiences of Helen Handler, a woman who had survived the camps after arriving there when she was fifteen. Seeing pictures of her today at eighty three reminded me of someone I knew.

When I was a young teen, I lived in a small town in Connecticut and used to babysit for several local families. One of those families happened to be a Jewish family that I babysat for over several years. Tom, the dad, was a gruff guy who scared the bejeebus out of me when I first met him until I eventually figured out that he was really just a big teddy bear. A highly intelligent, multi-multi-lingual, cranky teddy bear. But, I loved this family and was basically treated as a member of it. Suffice it to say that I know that matzo ball soup will kill you if you don't eat the stewed fruit.

Over the time that I was taking care of the kids and being a part of the family, I met quite a few of the extended family, included the grandparents. Tom's parents were this little (literally) old couple who spoke English with an accent. But I never made a connection until one day his dad reached for something and his shirt sleeve rode up. He quickly covered his arm back up but I had seen what he was hiding. A tattoo of a number. And I knew exactly what that meant. Even today, twenty five years later, I can still see that tattoo and the horror it signified. It broke my heart then and it does now, all these years later.

I'm glad this rail car is here and going to be displayed for people who are too young to have any connection to what it signifies. I will bring my son to the museum as soon as they open up. It won't be a "fun" trip, but it will be one worth doing.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

From the Garden

I got the first food from our garden today. Unfortunately, the birds (or something) had gotten to the first strawberry before me so it doesn't look great and will be going to the chickens later today or tomorrow. However, the cherry tomato looks awesome and I suspect Mister C will eat that in about .005 seconds flat when he gets home today.

The cherry tomato came from this plant and it looks like there will be more tomatoes soon.

The grapevines are starting to look viable finally.

A few weeks ago they looked like this...

And today look like this...

Here's one of my raspberry plants starting to leaf out nicely...

My blackberries are as well. A few weeks ago this particular plant was just starting to leaf out.

It now looks like this...

Here's a couple of cantaloupe plants...

A few cucumbers...

Our strawberry patch...

And last but not least, here's something starting to push up through the soil in one of my pots. I'll be honest, I don't know what it is other than that it's not a fruit or vegetable. It's some kind of bulb that Mister C and I purchased through Master J's school last fall that I never got around to planting. There were two different kinds of bulbs and when I found them while cleaning out my pantry a few weeks ago I just threw them in the pot and have been watering them since. Should be interesting to see what we get.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Update post

Wow, look at me not posting for most of March! I guess this just became an update post...

My father in law spent the better part of March here at our home in Arizona. He and my mother in law had planned to spend a week at the very beginning of March but then he decided to try a laser spine surgery. While she went home, he ended up staying for three weeks. At first I was a little concerned about having him (or anyone) in my house for that long. Turns out my fears were unfounded. He and I had a really nice time together. Since he's a photographer (and a Realtor) and an avid people watcher, we had a lot in common. We managed to go out shooting pictures one day and would have liked to have done more but it just didn't seem to work. We enjoyed our days drinking coffee and talking on the patio. Just my kind of company. I was surprisingly sad to see him go when he finally did leave.

The Flockers are no longer at our property. They are now residing at Mamoo and Papa's acreage where they enjoy several snacks a day (instead of just one), bedtime stories and constant supervision by Mamoo. One of those things is a fib, I'm not saying which one. So basically one of our neighbors had a problem with the racket the girls were making on a daily basis. The singing about laying an egg routine was one particularly annoying factor apparently. So I begged Mamoo to please take them to her home so we didn't have to give them away. Eventually she and Papa gave in and said they would take them on. Mister C and I loaded up the coop in our neighbor's pickup truck (why yes, it was the same neighbor that complained, why do you ask?) and loaded the girls up in a kennel in the back of the jeep, and headed three miles over to my folks place.

Unfortunately, since they had been free-ranging for a majority of their day at our house, they were less than thrilled at being more cooped up (literally) in their new locale. You see, Mamoo and Papa live on a acreage that is in a little bit more natural setting that our home. They have coyotes running through their property regularly and hawks circling overhead daily. So the girls couldn't just be running around loose unsupervised. Additionally, while our yard is small, we have a substantial number of trees, shrubs and plants. If a hawk did fly over, the girls would dive under the nearest plant and get out of sight. While my folks property is about seven times larger than ours, they only have a few trees that are fairly far apart, and a couple of shrub-like plants. The girls would be sitting ducks, sort of.

Last week I started searching in earnest for fencing to put around the coop so they could be loose safely during the day. I tried Craigslist with no luck and finally decided I needed to buy new. I priced out Home Depot for their fencing and then decided to try Lowes. Lowes had a ten by ten dog kennel that was six feet tall. And it was going to cost me about 1/2 the price of the same sized fencing at Home Depot. Additionally, since this was a kennel and not a fence, there was no holes to be dug for the support poles. Perfect. So I got the go-ahead from Mister C to make the purchase and Papa and I went back after he got off work to pick it up. In the meantime, Mister C had suggested using the block wall surrounding my folks place as two sides and expanding the kennel from ten by ten to twenty by twenty. Good call Mister C! Papa and I put everything together and released the Flockers, who proceeded to get even dirtier than normal taking a sand bath in their new expanded space. I haven't spoken to my folks yet but I think I'm going to try and get a few plants in the fenced in area for my girls to chew on. I'll just casually sneak them in under the cover of darkness and claim ignorance when they ask me about it.

Moving on.

Everything is leafing out in my yard. My strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries are really putting out leaves and looking good. My grapevines both look really healthy and are growing daily. The cherry tomatoes have a bunch of green babies all over them and the peppers are starting to get little peppers. We have sprouts of cantaloupe, watermelon and cucumbers starting as well. The orange tree is finally finished flowering and if even half of the currently pea-sized fruit makes it to fruition it will be a banner year for oranges. I still haven't plucked the last of the lemons off the tree yet and Mister C is working his way through the grapefruit (which I don't love). Yeah, it's looking like there's going to be some awesome fresh food in our backyard this year.

And lastly, I am now on the "Jeep Diet". What the heck is that you might ask. Well, that's when your charming husband removes the doors from your jeep and you realize that all the world can now see exactly how much extra weight you're carrying so you decide to start keeping track of your food and trying to exercise. Miserable man.