Sunday, August 31, 2008

Update on tobacco

A few weeks ago I put up a lovely posting on shade tobacco grown in the Connecticut Valley. The only picture of the tobacco leaves I had were none. Today I was driving by the barns of one of our local tobacco growers and lo and behold there was the perfect opportunity to get some good photo's of Tobacco drying and wouldn't you know it, I didn't have my camera. We turned the car around and headed home and retrieved the camera.

This is a good photo of the shade tobacco after being sewn to the laths and hung in the barn to dry.

This photo represents the opposite side of the barn where part of the siding boards are pivioted and are pulled open for cross ventilation.
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Saturday, August 30, 2008

What's in a chair?

So what is so big about a stupid chair anyway? Well to start with it's my chair. I like it because its comfortable. It's stationed in our small garden at the end of our driveway and it is attached to the house. It is ripped and torn and soon it's going to die. I have already been thinking about when that day comes, am I going to rebuild it. You know, new webbing and that's a lot of work. When your done with the job the webbing doesn't stretch very much so it is not so comfortable. This one took 6 years staying outside in the elements to develop an unforgettable comfort level. Yup, when that day comes, I'm going to rebuild it

This view shows my driveway, the office on the right, the grass area is the pooping fields that I keep spotless with the pooper scooper sticking out of the garbage can. Only weeds and rose clippings go in the garbage can and the poop is removed from the fenced area in two different spots. In the upper middle of the pic you can see my pop-up camper that I have for sale for $100. Next to that is the playscape I built for my grandson as he is 11 now and doesn't use it very much. I's for sale for $300. The fenced area next to that is the large area I have for the dogs to exercise in and it has a shelter with picnic table and a stone fireplace. I keep all of this area under supervision from my chair. I have been thinking about adding some mirrors so I don't have to turn so much.

I have 4 tomato plants in wooden barrels that I can see from my chair. All summer I have kept them under my green thumb knowing when to add fertilizer, when to water. The closest plant in 4' away. Now I supervise the ripening process watching until each one is ready for picking. Pick too soon and the tomato is tough but if you pick at the right time the tomato is soft and you must be careful picking it. A tiny twist dislodges the ripe, red, ball from the vine. If you wait to long you will find the tomato on the ground. It's almost a lost art and to practice proper vineology you need a good chair as there is a lot to watch. I have one.

The roses are a different matter. From my chair I enjoy the three rose plants constantly. Their sweet fragrance chases away the sour smell of the dog poop. Their beauty cannot be duplicated and changes daily, even hourly and I observe it all from my chair. Occasionally I take a day, get my Falcos out and prune the rose plants. It bothers me to cut even the fading blooms but I know they will all produce wonderful blooms again shortly. The roses destroy my hands and arms as I attempt to isolate all of passed buds. The blood flows freely as I suffer through the ordeal. I bleed easily. Daily, there is much work to do, watering, feeding, pruning, but from my chair I sit back and smell the roses.

To my left, on the back of the records vault, are the bird houses that were active all summer with dozens of baby sparrows flying off to join the sparrowsphere. My chair is very close to the houses and it makes the parents very nervous to my presence. They land close and chirp me out for a long period and then fly off in desperation when I won't move. That is one of the privileges of having your own chair as you don't have to move until you want to.

A very important part of barbecuing is having your own chair to sit in while you wait for the meat to cook. The grill has to cook clean before that and the chair comes in handy as I wait. Usually a barbecue calls for a bud while the meat cooks and that old bud fits right on the top rail of the fence so all I have to get up for is to flip the meat once. To the right of the chairs is a door going into the house with a doggie door so I don't have to get up and the dogs and cat can let themselves in.

Posted by PicasaMy two constant companions frolic about as I sit and watch the roses, or watch the meat cook, or watch the tomatoes grow, watch the birds grow or watch the dogs play or chase the cat. The usual chase path is from the front of the house, through the kitchen, into the porch and down 5 steps to the doggie door, crashing through the door to the garden, under my feet to the end of the "pooping fields" and back. A hoot to watch.
Stupid cat. Those two chairs are spares in case someone wants to come and sit a while, watching things grow, have a Bud, throw a little bull and maybe weave a sea story or two. If it gets too deep I just use the scoop shovel that is behind the blue barrel in one of the pictures. Ain't life grand?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Opting Out

It seems that we are on way to many special mailing lists Today we received a wedding announcement in the mail telling us that the young couple had recently been married and it requested that no gifts be sent but prepaid MasterCard and Visa gift cards would be acceptable. A reasonable request I imagine. We received an invitation to an anniversary party of some friends of ours and this would be their fourth anniversary party that we have been invited to. We received an invitation to the Baptism of our ex-son-in-law's new baby. Normally not an event you attend but it is our grandson's half sister and he was really proud. He asked us to go. We went, brought a gift, and had a good time. Enough is enough. In response I drafted the following letter to explain our new policy on gifting.

Dear Madam or Sir,
Thank you for your kind thoughts in selecting us, for your invitation, but we are no longer participating in any requests for gifts at Weddings, Graduations, Anniversaries, Birthdays, Baptisms, Communions, etc., etc. We have met our financial/social obligations and are no longer obliged to contribute. In return we will not be expecting any gifts, of any type, for our future Anniversaries, Birthdays and Retirement parties. In totaling up the amounts of money that we have donated to the above mentioned events we find that we are way over the half way point of a fair and honest trade of gifts and any future contributions just keep putting us further on the negative side of the balance sheet. In order to tip the balance sheet in our direction would require an endless array of Birthdays, Anniversaries and Retirement events just for us and we chose not to do that to you. Our retirement years are now upon us and we find that we are unable to retire unless we both continue to work. A bit of an oxymoron but that is the ways things worked out. It boils down to your request for a gift is another Medicare part B payment for us. Health care wins out so that all we have left is “Good Wishes for you from us”.Thank you for thinking of us and rest assured we are returning the favor and thinking of you.
Your friends,
Ted and Dale

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It's Hydrangea Time Again

Saying "It's Hydrangea time again" is a harbrindger to New England's most beautiful season, Fall. Our temperature this morning was 45 degrees. We do have a few tree turning but the full leaf tree experience is a while away, meantime we should enjoy Hydrangea Time. Our cemetery is bursting at the seams with the beautiful white blossoms of hydrangea quickly reaching their peak. We have Hydrangea bushes everywhere in our cemetery, just like most cemeteries around. We guess that they came from early benefactors planting them at their loved ones graves. Tomorrow signs will go up warning visitors not to pick the blooms as they can quickly strip the bushes bare. There is a market for the white blooms in NY and in Boston but recently that market has shrunk and it helps preserve out blooms. The early blooms are used in wedding flower arrangements. The active market appears to have shifted to dried flower market. Hydrangea undergo several changes during their season. They start out as the beautiful white blossoms that are seen in these photos and then they slowly start to change to a green blossom in the more southernly states and a brown color in the colder climates. This color change is symptomatic of the heads drying. It is at this point that the commercial dried flower shops pick the flowers. If the flowers are fully dried they can now be dyed with the same system that is used to dye clothing. This is a photo of a dried and dyed hydrangea basket so you can see the results that can be available. There are numerous methods to dry and dye the flowers. The basket photo is from the Internet and if you want to learn more about making this basket, drying and dyeing, give this site a click here. I think the site author said that the flowers in this arrangement were dyed 2 years ago.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

2008 Olympics

2008 Olympics
The 2008 Olympics are now over. Hooray! Now I can get back to watching the Red Sox and Cops on the tube again. Not really. We thoroughly enjoyed the Olympics and I have found a new love for Volleyball which was invented in Holyoke MA now home to the Volleyball Hall of Fame. Of all that the Chinese did, I will have to say that the thing that impressed me the most was the fireworks display and the rings.

How did they do that?Actually the entire opening and closing ceremonies were tremendous. Hats off to the Chinese for a great Olympics but most of all "Hats off to all of our Olympians". They all did a fantastic job and we are proud of them.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Big Trouble

These are really two cute little dogs just minding their own business. Molly is on the left and Bridget is on the right. Breaking away from play long enough to eat and pose for a picture. I think they look too innocent and as I looked at their bowls, I notice that Molly's bowl of water has turned dark brown as the water bowl is full of dirt.

These two get to play their day away in the garden next to the house. It has 3 rose bushes, 4 tomatoes plants, hosta, Lillies and one lone hydrangea bush. One third of the area is paved, and one third is nice grass and the rest is garden. They have been very good respecting the garden, staying on the grass or basking in the sun on the pavement. Through the doggie door is the house and a couple of air conditioned rooms to romp in. In the late afternoon I take them to our side yard which is quiet large and fenced and they run, chase and bark at the neighbors dog. The area is shaded by a large Maple tree and a large bush in the corner that they play under and can see into the neighbors yard. I sit with them, reading the evening paper and unwinding. My wife's sister has always said that when she dies she wants to come back as one of our dogs. So why would they go and ruin their perfect life?

You are looking at the exposed roots of one of our prized rose bushes. The hole is about 12 inches deep and all of the little feeder roots are missing because they ate them. One of the other rose bushes is just the same. As I looked around I found one of our beautiful Lilly plants had been dug up and they had eaten the bulbs. Wheather the roses will survive the attack is unknown.

I had to go cut green fence and put it on the ground around the bushes so they couldn't dig. The dogs were immediately banished to the side yard to spend their days without the advantage of being able to go into the house when they chose. They could see our office door from their prison and Bridget just sat their, plastered against the fence, crying and chewing on the wire. Molly seemed to enjoy her new digs.They did all of this damage before breakfast.

This last photo is of the finished product with the hole filled and the dig proof wire installed. Bad Dogs!

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Shade Tobacco

One of the interesting sights as you travel about the back roads of our Connecticut Valley is the sight of acres and acres of white tents. These tents shade the valuable Shade Tobacco Crop. The Connecticut Valley is a major source of some of the world's finest wrapper leaves. This golden colored wrapper tobacco is highly regarded and praised by many cigar makers and connoisseurs. Connecticut Shade, which emanated from the Hazelwood strain of Cuban seed, is shade-grown under huge tents to protect the delicate leaf.

Also from this area is Connecticut Broad Leaf. Grown in the sun, this wrapper tobacco is coarser, darker and produces a sweeter taste. The Broadleaf tobacco is in front of the tobacco barn. Shade tobacco is used as the outermost layer of high-end cigar brands like Davidoff, Macanudo and Arturo Fuente . Renowned worldwide for producing the large, caramel-colored, smooth-veined leaf favored by high-end cigar makers, it sells itself.
The shade is required to protect the delicate leaves. One good leaf will only wrap about 4 cigars.

This is not a mechanized process for harvesting. The man on the right is ridding a bicycle mechanized conveyor belt and that is about as good as it gets. Harvesting the leaves often requires workers to crawl the rows on their hands and knees picking the leaves.

This picture is showing the crop at the end with only one more picking left on the leaves. Then the shade will be repaired and rolled up awaiting next year’s crops.

Like many Connecticut Valley kids, my wife worked tobacco in the summers starting when she turned 13. The days were hard, hot and dirty as she worked in the sheds sewing the tobacco on laths. The money was pretty good for a 13 year old. 65 cents per hour. Workers were brought in from Puerto Rico as migrants to work the crop in the summer. It is the state of Connecticut’s No. 1 agricultural export in dollars, bringing in more than $30 million a year, according to the federal Department of Agriculture. In MA it is 5th with $12 million in exports.

This photo shows a newly constructed tobacco barn and notice the boards pulled out on the sides. These siding boards are pulled out to allow the crop hanging inside to dry. The tobacco is picked in the fields, hung on trailers for transportation to the barns where they are sewn onto laths and hung in the barn. To view an old barn with leaves hanging just follow the hyperlink above

Friday, August 15, 2008

Pink Roses

These are photo's of some pink Roses that we removed a few years ago at a grave in the cemetery. We don't allow them on the graves because people tend to not take care of them and just let them go wild. They get very tall, after a while and there is nothing more exciting than mowing at 8-10 miles per hour, next to a stone with roses and the wind blows them in your path. Usually it means a trip to the emergency room. We try to contact the people and leave messages at the grave that they need to be removed. If they aren't removed, after a year or so, we pull them and plant them in one of our planting areas. This one failed to grow in the garden so we pulled it and took it to a holding area at our office and gave it a little TLC. Last week, after two applications of fertilizer, and two solid months of rain and intermittent sun it suddenly took off and this is what happened. I took 6 pictures today and I couldn't decide which to put on the blog. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Here's looking at you

Boo-Ellen, Michael and Sams
Black Lab! This is their computer wallpaper

Molly on left and Bridget on Right. Our Dogs Howling. Maggee, Easthampton. GG's dog. This is the wallpaper on my outlook express. 1st thing I see every morning when I turn on my computer. Love It!Ellen's garden frog. Can you tell she is a teacher?
Woops, My Bad!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Green Pool?

My daughter is a firm believer in a “Green World” and works very hard practicing what she preaches. She has got her family trained very well in the art of conserving and they all work equally hard at it. Trash recycling day is a big one at their house as they always have everything washed, stripped, sorted and tied all properly placed curbside awaiting the city trucks to arrive. They work at conserving heat in the winter and they have got rid of their big, gas-guzzling Suv in favor of walking and riding bikes. They are truly a “Green Family” and we are also so proud.

It came as quiet a shock to us when we heard that she had siphoned out the 3,500 gallons in their pool. The pool level was very high as a result of recent rains and the pool level needed to be lowered a bit so she hooked up a siphon hose and forgot about it until the evening while taking a shower and now the pool was empty. This would be the fourth time this summer that she has had to fill the pool which amounts to 14,000 gallons, all wasted. The first draining occurred when they realized that they had neglected to thourghly read the directions and had not prepared a proper base for the supports and the outside edges were settling, unevenly. Solution: enter Mom and Dad with wheelbarrows and transit, after the pool was drained for the 1st time. After repairs were made the pool was refilled for the 2nd time and lasted most of the summer. At some time little holes appeared in the bottom and the water drained away overnight. She made repair patches for the bottom and refilled for a running total of 10,500 gallons. After the “accidental siphoning the running total is now at 14,000 gallons. So far [not including her last fill] the water bill jumped $40. Not being green hurts the pocketbook, it appears. I asked about the sequence of events and she sent me an email that read: "It sank-drained Refilled; Tear-drained overnight by itself Fixed and refilled but forgot and overflowed for 4-5 hours (washed out sand from underneath pool)Rained too much so I wanted to drain some water off....22 hours later....the pool was about empty; Filled again for the 4th time. "
I don’t know how she is going to make up the total water she has lost but Mother Nature might be one solution. If our rains keep coming like they have been the past two months she would be able to make up those loses rather quickly with our “Green Downspouts”. Good luck Ellen.

A little water harvesting can be a good thing.

Water, water everwhere...

This is a late afternoon cloud photo, over our cemetery, I took a couple of days ago and it turned out to be a major producer of a couple of inches of rain. Our Western Mass area has been inundated with all sorts of storms lately. We are just coming off a July that turned out to be the wettest on record and August is looking to already be the same thing. Most of the storms are in the afternoon and evening and we are getting everything from torrential rains, to hail, to high winds, and even tornadoes. The upside of this is that our cemetery has never looked better but the downside is that we never get done mowing and weed whacking. Our crew now carry their rain suits with them, on their mowers. We have taken to mow and cut weeds even when it is pouring out or else it wouldn’t get done.

Another casualty is getting to be that our farm crops are not appreciating the constant bombardment of rain. Rains once or twice a week is ideal but every day? The tomato crop is hard hit as the tomatoes don’t know when to stop growing and they look terrible and disease is much more prevalent. The tomato pictures are of my very own crop. They look great, green but once they are ready to pick they are not appetizing. Our tobacco crop is suffering and the upcoming apple crop is taking a hit.

John Edwards is a scumbag! Really, really, sad.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Relief is just a drop away!

We went for supper last evening at our daughter’s home and out of desperation I asked her “what can I blog about?” in fact I asked her several times as I was experiencing the dreaded “Blogger’s Block” and needed help.. She walked up and said “blog about this” as she tossed a box of Fresh Drops to me”. The scan of the box is below but the person sitting on the toilet caught my eye and it was blog at first sight.
This posting is a bit of a learning experience for me as I never really appreciated the fact that Americans are consumed with elimination of bathroom odors, post-defecatory bouquet removal, passing olfactory judgment from your personal throne of kings, eliminate malodorous gases, the ever so popular flatulence odor removal, and the equaly repeated Stinkey Odors. Every web site I visited, in researching this subject, had a different way of explaining the problem.

The best use of the English language in explaining the problem was a blog site, appropriately named ”The Dethroner” “post-defecatory bouquet removal” [even though my spell-checker went wild with defecatory]. The author also managed to use the following phrase in the same sentence “passing olfactory judgment from your personal throne of kings”. Great work Jason. I’m not sure why the product “Drops” was on their blog but it didn’t seem as though Jason was pushing the product because of 1st hand experience. A visit to their Blog site with the hypertext above will give you a great ad to experience.

Moving onward through the Google Search I came upon FREE! Oxi Odor Eliminator touts the fact that unlike sprays which just mask odors, FREE! has a powerful, effervescent oxygen releasing formula that eliminates 100% of the odors at the source and prevents odors from lingering.
So put out the matches, blow out the candles and stop gasping for air. All you need is FREE! Visit the website and find out how you can get a month supply and have an odor-free bathroom all month long.

If you would prefer more substancial proof about a product you can always look and see if there is a US Patent covering the item and this is what you get:
Bathroom odor eliminator
Document Type and Number:
United States Patent 5307525
As an improvement for eliminating lingering bathroom odor, a few drops of an appropriate fluid mixture such as a chlorinated hydrocarbon containing a small amount of a volatile fragrant fluid is added to water in a toilet bowl prior to the use of the toilet. A unique property of the first fluid causes the resultant mixture to spread quickly over the entire surface of the water, forming a nonpermeable film across which the odor emanating from unflushed feces cannot pass. The second fluid quickly vaporizes from this film allowing the resulting concentrated fragrance to neutralize within the toilet bowl the flatulence odor produced during a bowel movement. A person sitting upon the toilet seat actuates a semiautomatic fluid dispenser.

As I wander the aisles of our local Walgreens Drug store with a fresh outlook and a discerning eye for odor elimination I can’t help but wonder why we Americans are so determined to be odor free [actually that is “bad” odor free] as most of the odor solutions involve replacing bad odors with “good” odors. When I was on the Diesel boats, in the Navy, Canoe is what we used for everything.We want good odors; in our kitchens, in our bathrooms, in our beds and bedrooms, in our mouths, in our arm pits, in our private areas and behind our ears. I have yet to test any of these products but I will. I had expected my daughter to report back on the response of her family to “Fresh Drops”. Her purchase of the product started this posting after all. Her, two, odorous, guys should be excellent test subjects and I am looking forward to reporting back to you on the results. Maybe we can even put up our own U-Tube posting on the subject. I've noticed that with all of the different fragrences that have been tossed around for cleaning up the bad bottom odors no one has mentioned Citrus. My Dibs!