Thursday, August 21, 2014

Summer Re-Runs

You may need to be of-a-certain-age to appreciate the title of this blog entry. Years ago, you had about 3 television channels to choose from - four if you considered PBS a viable channel because you liked to watch the artist with the funny hair as he painted landscapes ("Now there's a happy little tree") or the lady with the funny voice who cooked French food ("With enough butter, anything is good"). And, even worse, you were relegated to watching re-runs all summer long. All the major networks - yep, all three of them - would have a hiatus of prime-time programming during the summer and would re-air (television came to your house over the air waves) all the episodes that had premiered during the past fall and winter.

What does all this have to do with our recent adventures? This spring, as I was looking at our schedule of upcoming events, I realized we would be repeating many of the events of the previous spring and summer. Thus, we would be experiencing re-runs from the past year. Some of these re-runs were chronicled in my last blog entry: Strategically timing the planting of the garden to work around our scheduled absences from the property, a trip to Wisconsin in May for the birth of a grandbaby and worrying if the garden had survived during our travels were all repeats from the previous year.

Hanna helps her 'Hammy' stock
Mommy's booth at BreyerFest
Since my last entry, we have seen several more re-runs. First was our annual trip to BreyerFest to help our daughter with her sales event. Our daughter does a wonderful job with her home-based business and each year this three day event nets a large portion of her annual income. Last year, Alan and I had met our daughter and her family in Kentucky - she and her husband drove from Wisconsin with all the product, booth supplies and a not-quite-one-year-old-daughter while Alan and I drove straight from the Ozarks. This year, since she had given us grandbaby number four about a month before the sale, we decided we would drive to Wisconsin a few days before the event to help with packaging product and any other preparations that the arrival of a new baby may have disrupted. There was a great benefit to taking this round-about route to Kentucky - we got to have the now-almost-two-year-old ride with us from Wisconsin to the Kentucky Horse Park. She was a great little traveler and so much fun!

Note the walking stick sharing the
deck chair with one of our cats.
A series of reruns that have been progressing throughout the warm spring and summer have not all been enjoyable. Unfortunately we can not get up and turn the channel (dating myself again) to avoid the not so nice episodes of these reruns. I am referring to our various phases of insects throughout the summer. Some are quite enjoyable, such as the walking sticks, dragonflies and even the very noisy katydids which we actually love to hear at night at their glorious 82 decibels.

However, there are others we wish would be canceled all-together. At the top of the list of insects we wish had been cancelled before they even aired (or crawled) are chiggers. The chigger population seems much worse this year, I guess they have made it into syndication, or maybe it is just because I am spending more time in the garden that I seem to be getting attacked by them more often. It actually took me a long time to figure out what sort of insect was biting me so repeatedly. I was waking up nearly every morning with several  nasty, itchy bites and was starting to worry it was something in the house. An insect expert had once told a class I was in about house mosquitoes, which he said were much smaller than they typical mosquito and often got underneath blankets to bite people at night.

Two products use
on chigger bites
I was skeptical of this explanation and once again started googling to see what I could find. That is when I discovered what chiggers are. Chiggers can not be seen by the naked eye, they are prevalent in grassy and wooded areas and, if they get on you, they tend to gravitate toward waistbands and other areas of restricted clothing. I also learned that they can wander around, unseen, on your body for several hours before biting - thus the reason I was finding new bites in the mornings. One preventative action is to shower off immediately after coming in from outside. Our water supplies have been in good shape this summer so I have been able to put this practice to use and it has helped. I also found a couple products to help alleviate the itching aftermath of bites. There is a commercial product called ChiggerX which can be applied topically. Salt is also a helpful balm, it can be added to Vick's VapoRub (which holds the salt in place) and then applied to the bite area. We have also found the crystal salt deodorants are a great way of applying salt to the bite.

The wolf spider I noticed
on our grill cover.
Enough about insects, now I feel all creepy-crawly. So, on to arachnids which are also having a re-appearance this August. A few weeks ago I spotted a very large spider on our grill. I knew it was a wolf spider, which I had read was somewhat dangerous, so we quickly dispatched it. I commented about it on Facebook, and someone said that wolf spiders are actually beneficial. So, back to more googling. Though the first arachnid site I had read said wolf spiders bites are poisonous, but not as`dangerous as the brown recluse, I soon found another site that stated that the North American Wolf Spiders are not dangerous. It just proves that you never know what to believe on the internet.

Virginia liked to hang out
on our window eating moths.
Several days later we saw another wolf spider on the outside of one of our window screens. Since I was now more inclined to think that wolf spiders are beneficial, and she was not attempting to get into the house, I decided to leave her alone. Virginia (Wolf) stayed on the screen for several days and then moved to the wood siding of the house. Once we lost track of her whereabouts outside, I was a bit apprehensive, but since we had named her she is now a part of the family and thus a friend and not a foe, at least in my mind.

I did not get a picture of our balls of bouncing
baby spiders, so I found this one on the internet.
Soon after that, I was walking along the front of the house, heading to the north garden, and saw a fine web between the deck railings. Our deck is about 5 feet off the ground at the front of the house so the web was just about eye-level. There were three half-dollar sized orbs held within the web. Although I had read that wolf spiders carried their eggs and babies on their bodies, I assumed these were spider eggs sacks and did not want hundreds of spiders hatching onto our deck. I called to Alan, who brought out the spider spray. He was on the deck and sprayed the first orb while I was watching from ground level. As soon as the spray hit the orb, what had appeared to be an egg sac spread out into dozens upon dozens of baby spider to about a four inch radius within the web before they died. The orbs were actually masses of spider babies that had already hatched. While I felt bad about the mass spider-cide, I could not bring myself to let the other two masses of baby spiders alone knowing they would be spreading out all around the outside of the house. Back to Google one more time and I have concluded that Virginia, whom we have not seen since the eradication of the orbs, is actually a nursery web spider. These are often mis-identified as a wolf spider. Nursery web spiders are not poisonous.

Lets see, back to the topic of re-runs. Wikipedia actually categorizes several types of reruns. There were the Television Specials which were classics that usually aired annually, such as the Wizard of Oz and and a version of Cinderella that I remember watching as a child. Before the era of the VCR, these special programming events allowed people to view various classics annually. I would put the arrival of another grandbaby and the enjoyment we get out of the annual Kentucky trip to help our daughter into this category of reruns.

This raised bed is airing
a rerun of clay cowpeas
Another type of rerun, according to Wikipedia,  is the During Hiatus episodes. These are the types of television shows I described at the top of this article, where a prime-time series would run their new season from fall through spring and then show repeats of that just-viewed series during the summer. Thus, the reruns started up immediately after that year's series of new episodes had finished airing. At our house this year, I am attempting a hiatus-run in our garden. I have been harvesting various crops throughout June and July and some of the raised beds had been fully gleaned by August. With first frosts usually not occurring until late October in our area, I wanted to see if I could plant a re-run of various crops in early August in hopes of having a second harvest in October. I cleaned out 5 raised beds that had completed their growing cycle and planted a new batch of crops I hope will mature quickly enough. So far they are all making a quick start except for the carrots which appear to be slow germinaters wherever I plant them. This post is getting rather long, so I am not going to go into a lot of gardening details. I plan on writing a detailed garden post at the end of the season.

My pea shelling station - it is a permanent fixture
on our kitchen table this summer.
And then there are the Syndication reruns. If you are of my generation, think of The Brady Bunch or Munsters shows you would watch over and over again on weekday afternoons after getting home from school. Syndicated shows are often aired over and over to fill non-prime-time scheduling blocks. These are the soy (cheap fillers) of the television industry. They can be fun for a while, but often become boring and monotonous after viewing the same episodes over and over. So, what are some of our syndicated re-runs? The first that comes to mind for this summer is picking and shelling cowpeas (aka black-eyed peas). While I have been picking the prolific legumes almost every day since mid June, I am still in the 'fun for a while' camp of this oft-repeated event.

Today's bounty included carrots, delicata squash,
tomatoes and, of course, cowpeas.
Almost every morning I go out to the gardens to water and since mid-June that trip has included taking along a bowl to hold whatever is ready to be harvested that day. There is usually a variety of produce that can include tomatoes, onions, carrots, squash, pole beans, cayenne peppers, etc. But, no matter what the combination is on any given day, there are always cowpeas. You can pick and prepare fresh, green-podded cowpeas, but I prefer allowing them to dry on the vine and then shelling them and storing them as dried black-eyed peas. I could just wait until they all dried on the plants and then harvest them all at once, but I really enjoy harvesting our bounty out of the garden and this way I can shell them over time rather then sitting down at the end of the season with huge piles of peas and beans that need to be processed.

Watering the gardens is another syndicated event. I do this everyday after picking whatever produce is ready for the harvest. We have had a lot of rain this summer and Alan has constructed a pressurized water collecting system that is dedicated to watering the north garden, which is our largest and is farthest from the house. The repetitive watering is not as enjoyable as the harvesting, but that is because the amount of time I spend out in the gardens is proportionate to the amount of itching I will have from chigger and mosquito bites afterwards.

Sharing special places with
very special friends.
I am ending this blog with one more event we had this summer that I hope will become an annual re-run. As we were driving home from Kentucky, we met up with friends in Branson. Alan and I have been to Branson several times, but we do not go there for the shows, other than the show that started it all - Shepherd of the Hills. Our friends have also been to Branson several times and we had fun showing each other our favorite haunts as well as exploring new activities together.  We saw several shows that were quite good. Alan and I particularly like 'Six' and 'It', both are singing family groups and very entertaining.

Our friends have a 'mad money' jar in which they collect change all year and they cashed it in to help fund their trip to Branson. On our return home, I re-purposed one of my large, half-gallon canning jars to be our own mad money jar. Hopefully it will be a part of us being able to enjoy a rerun of this enjoyable outing with very special friends.