TRAVEL INCENTIVES

I had to give up ice cream. Our local grocery store, Publix, has a license to offer Denali Original Moose Tracks as ice cream and frozen yogurt. I always opted for the frozen yogurt because of calories. Considering that the taste is addictive, a lower calorie count is moot. You get the picture, right? Three bowls later, I berate myself about the calories, right? I stopped buying the Moose Tracks just before people looked at me and thought, “broad side of the barn”.

Instead, I drool down to the Dairy Queen once a week for a Mister Misty Lime Freeze.  This is a product that your DQ Confections Expert may not be familiar with because it dates back to the Baby Boomer ‘s youth. At some short-sighted moment in the DQ’s history, it was taken off the menu. No problem. I can tell these wrinkle-free Confections Experts just how to make it. Put a few squirts of that green goo in a cup. Add some ice, vanilla ice cream and blend. A divine concoction and the $4 price most certainly discourages me from pigging out.

Dairy Queen-0181
My Dairy Queen — drive-up or walk-up only
The building posts mimic ice cream cones

I headed to Atlanta for Mother’s Day weekend to see my sister, Priss. I’m not one for the journey. I much prefer the idea of Time Travel – you stand at Point A and are immediately whisked to Point B. Driving 6 hours just to get to Atlanta required incentives.

At the top of my incentives list was the DQ Mister Misty Lime Freeze. All along I-75, my searching eyes watched the road side billboards for Dairy Queen exit numbers. One of them I stopped at was brand new and I marveled at the clever advertising for Grill & Chill. I didn’t remember seeing that phrase at my DQ but if I was trying to get people to pull off the interstate at a wide spot in the road, I’d try clever phrasing, too.

This was an indoor restaurant version of DQ and they really should have posted a warning on the door. The minute I opened that door, hurricane force winds attacked my body. It was a Candid Camera moment. I flailed against the wind and looked around wildly for its source while wondering, “WHAT are they trying to do? Blow the bed bugs off me?”

I wasn’t far from the mark. Priss being a licensed architect, I asked her why the Dairy Queen tried to blow me out of the building before I even got in it. According to Priss, these gadgets are Air Curtain Fly Fans. The purpose is to supply a high velocity stream of air at an opening to prevent flies and other insects from entering the building. I can now add “insect” to the list of insults heaped upon me. The rest of you can go on with your day forewarned about Air Curtain Fly Fans, should you encounter one.

 

TULIPS AND CATS

Sometimes I wonder about things.

Like tulips and cat fur. Tulips require a minimum number of chill hours in order to bloom. Do cats require similar chill hours to grow a winter fur coat?

I wonder only because my big old tom cat has a lot more fur this winter than my baby Zorro. I probably shouldn’t call him a baby. In cat years, he’s likely a teenager by now; but he’s so much smaller than the old tom.

Baby Zorro
Baby Zorro

Looking at my two cats, chill hours for fur seems possible. The old tom spends more time outside and not all of those hours on my two acres. When I try to call him in on cold nights, he doesn’t hear me, unless, of course, he’s just ignoring me. That’s another one of those things I wonder about.

The baby, however, comes in every night to sleep with Mama so he’s not getting the same chill hours and his coat is thinner. Apparently, he’s skittish when it comes to cold. When he’s had enough of it, he wails at the front door so that Mama, his butler, will let him in.

Last night, we had some serious frost. This required the butler to get out of a warm bed three times to open the door and allow the baby to feel how cold it was from three feet away. It’s a good thing he decided to go out that last time because the butler was considering toasting his hide.

SS – SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS

I want to caution you about recipes you find on the internet written by bloggers with unknown education and experience. Basically, people like me.

I found a Toilet Bowl Cleaner recipe (hereinafter referred to as “cleaner”) on one of those natural living websites. Interested in trying less toxic cleaning products, I decided to give it a try. It was a simple recipe calling for 1 cup of baking soda, 1 cup of castile soap, 2/3 cup of distilled water and ¼ cup of hydrogen peroxide.

most of the ingredients

The blogger indicated it would make 3 cups. I prefer frugal recipes and this doesn’t qualify because Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap (Certified Free Trade) was $16.19 for 32 ounces via Amazon. That amount will make the recipe four times at a cost of $4; add the baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, distilled water and this recipe is just not frugal. Another Dr. Bronner’s, without the “organic oils,” was available for $14.02 which would bring it under $4 but that’s still too much for a cleaner. Perhaps, if I had looked through all 20 pages on Amazon, I might have found a cheaper brand of castile soap.

All of this went into a 25 ounce dishwater soap bottle; 3 cups = 24 ounces, right?

I shook the bottle vigorously until the ingredients combined and the baking soda dissolved. At least I thought it dissolved. Maybe it didn’t. I got distracted and didn’t return to the cleaner bottle until the next morning. I found the cleaner bottle hideously deformed. The baking soda had separated from the other liquids so I gave it a few more of those vigorous shakes and opened the lid on the bottle. KA-BLOOM.

I picked myself up off the floor, wiped the baking soda fizz from my face and narrowed my eyes at the bottle. I couldn’t help but think that the blogger who published this concoction was guilty of foisting illegal science experiments on the unsuspecting. Just call me Gullible. Clearly, something in the bottle didn’t like something else in the bottle. I decided that stuff was never going into my toilet. It’s one thing to be blown off my feet but quite another to have a hole blown in my porcelain fixture.

It continued to foam at the mouth of the closed lid for another day or so until it had off-gassed whatever was in the bottle that didn’t like being hemmed up. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the baking soda didn’t like closed quarters but, really, I’m not a science buff. Once the off-gassing subsided, I figured it was safe to open the lid, which it was, and I gave it a squeeze in the bathroom sinks and tub. I can report that it cleans really great.

I question whether the expensive castile soap is necessary. I have successfully removed all kinds of laundry stains with just two of the ingredients in this recipe — baking soda (52 cents) and hydrogen peroxide (33 cents). It qualifies for frugal and works better than Shout, Shout Advanced and OxiClean. Pour a little baking soda on the stain, squirt it with the hydrogen peroxide and let it soak several hours or overnight in the sink or a bucket. I have removed all sorts of mysterious spots from clothing and kitchen towels. Throw it in the washer after the overnight soak and voila, no stain!

EAT YOUR YARD JAX

Tuesday I went with some of the ladies from Mandarin Garden Club on a field trip to Eat Your Yard at 8220 Moncrief Road West, Jacksonville, FL. It’s a local, heavily wooded 40-acre farm run by Tim Armstrong to provide cactus and succulents to the wholesale market but he also has edible garden plants, a few farm-raised tilapia, chickens and rabbits. He was also affiliated with a garden project on the grounds of a school for handicapped children. I think it was Berry Good Farms. I wanted to read the brochures we were given but being a perpetual dingbat, I accidentally left them behind and the condition of my memory is beyond hope.

Tim Armstrong of Eat Your Yard
Tim Armstrong of Eat Your Yard

Eat Your Yard embraces organic farming, permaculture and any good ideas Tim encounters along the way.

Permaculture - plum trees overhead, pineapple sage, jack beans as understory, sweet potato as root crop
Permaculture – plum trees overhead, pineapple sage, jack beans as understory, sweet potato as root crop
Close-up of jack bean 14 inches long
Close-up of jack bean
14 inches long

Coincidentally for me, he mentioned something called hugelkultur which uses stumps, branches and twigs thrown in a mound and covered with soil to make a raised garden bed requiring little to no water or fertilizer. I almost missed this nugget because my mind had once again wandered off to orbit the Crooked Moon. It wandered back in just in time to catch the name and see the hugelkultur bed. Near the end of the tour, I saw a hugelkultur sign for another bed and I snapped a photo so I would have the spelling for further research. This was the most important thing I took away from Eat Your Yard. One of the old women in our neighborhood, long deceased, once told Momma that we have “seven years of dry and seven years of wet.” I never doubted the woman but also never paid much attention until I found myself unable to grow a vegetable garden the last two years. My garden sits in a low area that becomes a virtual flood plain when we have a lot of rain like we did this past summer. Just a few months before the Eat Your Yard tour, at another garden club function, I learned about adding pine bark chips to our sandy soil. This nugget of wisdom came from our local County Extension Agent, Terry delValle, who briefly mentioned it. That’s the problem with golden nuggets of wisdom. The people sharing them seldom ever raise their voice, tossing the nuggets out almost as an aside and I often need some hysteria to snap my wandering mind back to attention. Worse yet, these nuggets are usually what cause my mental crayons to start scribbling like a rabid left-handed dog and then I miss the next nugget. Thankfully, I caught both the pine bark chips and the hugelkultur nuggets and I will now be saving my 3 to 5 trashcans of limbs that usually hit the curb every week.

After our tour of his small farm, we were treated to freshly made Yard Soup and bread. He had collected the ingredients from food-producing perennials as he toured us around. He mentioned dozens of plants that can be made into teas, including a cranberry hibiscus and another hibiscus whose name I didn’t catch.

A hibiscus for tea
A hibiscus for tea (this was not the cranberry hibiscus which looks like a red Japanese maple)
Close-up of hibiscus pods which are dried for tea
Close-up of hibiscus pods which are dried for tea
Several ginger varieties
Several ginger varieties

For more information on Eat Your Yard, check out their website.

TOURING META’S YARD

Orbiting the Crooked Moon as I do, I’m always having these “adventures” I would just as soon not have. Yesterday was no different. I headed south to visit with one of my blog’s first subscribers, Meta. I ran into more than my share of T-stops that had so much signage I couldn’t see the name of the street or either the name of the T-stop was different than it was supposed to be. Then, of course, because everywhere I was driving was mostly rural, street signs required a magnifying glass. Plus, when you get far enough south, they number all their streets which can REALLY confound you when you are in the northwest teens and you need to be in the southwest teens. It doesn’t help when your visitee gives you the wrong area code for her phone number, either. This was nothing personal I learned. She regularly gives hapless fools like me the wrong area code.

Meta came to visit my gardens in July 2014 and I wanted to see hers but not in the heat of July again so I waited until now. Although it was a scheduled visit, it came at a really bad time as her daughter-in-law was in the hospital. The three of them – Meta, her son and daughter-in-law live in a family compound arrangement like I have done for the last 25 years.

I took a few photos of things I had not previously seen. To see previous photos, check these links: Garden Visitors, Meta’s Gardening Ideas, Meta’s Lion Tail.

A plant grouping in deep shade
A plant grouping in deep shade

 

Metas Easter Island head-6293
Meta had several pieces of yard art, including this Easter Island head, from Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville. The hosta is one for hot climates.

 

A pathway with Aztec Grass on either side.
A pathway with Aztec Grass on either side.

 

A very sturdy, fairly inexpensive support if you are handy.Coral Vine, Antigonon Leptopus (sounds like a disease!)
A fairly inexpensive support if you are handy.
Coral Vine, Antigonon Leptopus (sounds like a disease!)

 

I had just missed the blooms on these bromeliads.
I had just missed the blooms on these bromeliads.

 

Same bromeliads in bloom.Photo by Meta.
Same bromeliads in bloom.
Photo by Meta.

 

Clerodendrum paniculatum or Pagoda Plant (tends to be invasive)
Clerodendrum paniculatum or Pagoda Plant (tends to be invasive)

 

Small pink roses but the sun was too bright for a good photo
Small pink roses but the sun was too bright for a good photo

 

This is me in Meta's side yard with all the loot she gave me.
This is me in Meta’s side yard with all the loot she gave me.
Photo by Meta.

My worst adventure happened on the return trip. I was looking for 326 and came upon another one of those T-stops that was NOT labeled 326. At that point, I had no idea where I was. I turned around and headed back and saw a County Sheriff trying to leave a gas station. I rolled my window down and waved my Google Map pages at him. The Sheriff said he hoped I didn’t want directions because he was awful at them. I would have liked to have seen my expression because it most certainly radiated “Oh shit.” Not only was I lost but this dude didn’t have a clue, either. I think he was pulling my leg, though, because he said NE 70th and 326 were the same thing and I should take a left there, go through two lights and turn right. I could have kissed his badge because he saved me a lot of grief.