15 November 2011

That Mom

I have a post over on my friend OutsideMom.com's blog today about letting the kids get muddy, and being 'that mom' at the playground. Check it out!

23 August 2011

Busy exploring

My lack of blogging is not due to lack of material. Rather, we've just been too busy soaking up summer with outings and adventures to sit down and type about it.

Here are some photos from our adventure last week at Poe Valley State Park.

Roo & Doodle on the nature trail. A one-mile loop, we spent three hours(!) hiking it at an observant child's pace (read: very slowly), soaking up all that there was to see and experience.

The view of the stream. Here we discovered two different salamanders, watched water striders, threw rocks and sand and sticks, and thought deep thoughts about streams and clouds and their connectedness.

Bee petting, yet again. This little bumblebee worker was licking salt from our fingers, and Doodle was eager to oblige.

...not that I have any idea where she gets her fondness for bees.

22 August 2011

Overdue garden update

Current photo of our tomato jungle.

The garden is doing pretty well. Tomatoes are producing enough to keep up with our family's daily consumption (though not enough for canning surplus, unfortunately). A lot of the plants have an early blight, so some are dropping leaves and decreasing production. Lesson learned: plant tomatoes farther apart in this wet climate for better air circulation and less fungal infection.

I'm glad we let the volunteer tomato plants in the onion bed grow - they are producing enough cherry tomatoes for us to bring home a surplus after each garden visit. Plus they were free and took no effort - the best kind of garden guest!

Here are some glamor shots of our produce so far:

Kosovo, Kellogg's Breakfast. I love both of these varieties. Flavorful, beautiful and large. Definitely hoping to get them in the garden again next year.

Hillbilly Potato Leaf (beautiful, isn't it?), various peppers, fresh herbs.

A day's harvest (Black Krim on left, Kosovo on right and top), and our onion harvest for the year.

We are learning a lot this year about gardening in a community garden plot and in a far wetter climate than I've ever gardened in before. While I like the community feel of the garden, it's a bit frustrating when garden neighbors neglect their plots and let pests run rampant. I've resigned myself to a cucurbit-free garden plot for the foreseeable future, as the squash bugs are going crazy and transmitting wilt all over the place. Not a scene I want to mess with. BUT the tomatoes seem very do-able, and will definitely be a large component of our garden again next year. Plus Doodle now knows how to spot squash bugs, Japanese beetles, potato beetles and striped cucumber beetles, and will squish them on the spot. That's my girl.

20 August 2011

Bellydancing pic

My new favorite photo of me bellydancing:

Pepper Lotus Tribal performing at the People's Choice Festival in Boalsburg, PA.

02 August 2011

Roo's hair

Poor Roo keeps getting left out of the blog. The big Roo-news from just before J left on a trip: his first haircut.Before


Quite a dapper little fella, don't you think?

31 July 2011

Beware SpongeBob

These are the tomatoes that made it home from the garden yesterday. Handfuls of cherry tomatoes were eaten before Doodle took this photo.

Look out! SpongeBob is eyeing the tomatoes! (awesome photo by Doodle)

There she goes

Doodle jumping off the diving board at the end of swimming lessons.

28 July 2011


It has begun. The big'uns are slowly becoming ripe. Pictured here from left to right: Hillbilly Potato Leaf, Black from Tula, and Early Annie. Not pictured: the dozen Sungold cherry tomatoes that were instantaneously devoured by Doodle and Roo, and the couple of Jaune Flammes that have been consumed before making it home as well.

The munching was, sadly, not our doing. Some critter got in the garden through the big gaping hole that's still under the darn fence (*grumble about contractors and slowness and bureaucratic crap letting the rabbits in my garden patch*). I found these partially munched but still on the vine. We brought them home, cut off the yucky parts, and ate them nonetheless. Deeee-lish.

Dang rabbit.

27 July 2011

Well, I've done it...

...I've added another bee-petter to the world. Sorry Mom. It couldn't be helped. I mean, they're just so cute and fuzzy!

Does it help if I tell you this is a male carpenter bee? He can't sting.

No, doesn't help? What if I tell you she was giggling here about his buzzing tickling her? No?

But look at his face! So cute! Totally makes me want to pick him up and snuggle him. And Doodle feels the same way.

19 July 2011


Peeking in zucchini flowers the other morning, J discovered some visitors.

Awww, bee bums.

Oh, hello there, lovelies! Sorry to disturb your breakfast. Please resume coating yourselves in pollen - the flowers do so appreciate your efforts. Carry on! I shan't bother you much longer.

We have squash bees (Peponapis sp.) visiting our potted zucchini plants here in the back yard! The larger bee in the photos is a Peponapis male, and the smaller one is a sweat bee of some sort (Halictidae, probably Lasioglossum sp.). I was very happy to see these beautiful squash-loving bees zipping into our blossoms. Now if only the zucchini plants would set some female flowers we could get some zucchini out of the deal.

17 July 2011

Macadamia Nut Pesto

MacNut Pesto. Yes, it is as good as it sounds. Here's J's recipe:

3 c. basil leaves, packed
1/2 c. spinach leaves, packed
1/4 c. parsley, packed
1 c. oil
1 tsp. salt
4 cloves garlic
1 Tbs toasted sesame seeds
1 handful raw macadamia nuts (just over 1/4c.)

Chop mac nuts in food processor. Add remaining ingredients except oil. Coarsley chop, stopping to push leaves down. Slowly add oil. Mix with pasta and devour (see above photo).

Don't let the expression fool you - Mr. Serious Face loved it. See the pesto all over his face?

16 July 2011

Papa-Doodle climbing team

We went to the New River Gorge in West Virginia for the 4th of July weekend. We went with a friend and met up with a crew of his climbing buddies down there. With a bunch of laid-back climbers we had plenty of belayers when Doodle wanted to climb with Papa alongside.

Doodle looking like a natural. Papa helping with foot placement.

Other highlights of our trip to the New include: Doodle and Roo's first ride in the back of a pickup truck (on a dirt road out to a little-known crag), driving across streams and through mud puddles (with Doodle yelling "get mud on the windows, Papa!"), hiking out in a rainstorm the last day there, cool critters found on hikes and between climbs, and relaxing time hanging out with friends. It was a good weekend.

11 July 2011

Critters of the New

We found a bunch of cool critters on our hikes to and from climbing spots at the New River Gorge over the 4th of July weekend.

Luna moth
Leaving the crag one day I spotted a newly emerged luna moth (Actias luna) hanging out on a stick. The camera was buried somewhere in the backpack, so I found this (undoubtedly much better) photo on flickr to share. This was my second ever luna moth spotted in the wild, and the first for Doodle and Roo.

We found six of these juvenile red-spotted newts (Notophthalmus viridescens, red eft form) at the base of the Honeymooner's Ladders at Endless Wall. They made themselves scarce not long after we arrived, but we felt lucky to have spotted them out and about.

The Good One
While J was retrieving the last bits of climbing gear at the end of our final day there, our friend Brenda spotted this brilliantly-colored bird hanging out in the understory - turns out it's a Scarlet Tanager! This is another flickr photo, as yet again the camera was buried.

7764 Newborn Promethea Moth, IMG_1442_1.JPG
We also found a beautiful Promethea silkmoth during our hike out in the rain. This is another photo from flickr, as we only paused briefly during the rainstorm to admire the gorgeous, large male moth obviously trying to stay dry on a tree trunk as we passed by.

10 July 2011

Only two things that money can't buy...

...and that's true love and homegrown tomatoes. (C'mon, sing along!)

06 July 2011

Berry picking

The kids and I are becoming reacquainted with the joys of berry picking. In Utah we had a raspberry patch in our backyard and, from an early age, Doodle learned to check it daily for delicious morsels. We no longer have a berry patch in our yard, but we did discover a good-sized patch of black raspberries just beyond our community garden.

Roo with the booty. Doodle showing that she's only a little messy.

We have made it out to the black raspberry patch four times so far, and will hopefully squeeze in one or two more pickings as the plants are winding down. We've made berry fruit leather, berry preserves, berry ice cream and dried berries. Tonight: more berry ice cream with yesterday's pickings.

Doodle looking for blueberries.

I'm really enjoying getting out and foraging with the kids, and they enjoy it for short bursts too (about an hour is the max). Doodle eats more than she picks and Roo only eats the berries, so I feel triumphant when I manage to pick enough to bring some home after feeding my helpers. Really, though, I'm just happy to get outside with them and they're happy to be out and eating straight from the bushes.

Doodle happy with her flower despite finding few blueberries at Bear Meadows. Roo eating two of the four ripe berries we found.

Last week we went scouting for blueberries. The short plants are just starting to ripen and the large bushes are probably another week out before we'll head back out for some picking.

What is your favorite thing to do with blueberries?

01 July 2011

Catching fireflies

Wishing you a happy and safe 4th of July weekend. We're off to the New River Gorge for some climbing, hiking, and playing in dirt. :)

20 June 2011

Ashy gray

There have been an interesting sequence of insect events transpiring in our yard. As new leaves emerged on the shrubs this spring we observed an abundance of aphids. They seemed to be everywhere. But then we started seeing these critters:

fierce future ladybug

our knights in shining armor, the ladybug larvae. The aphids vanished.

Then the larvae started pupating, and we were finding things that looked like this all over our house.The larvae had done such a number on the aphids that it seemed they were lacking prey; we observed some larvae attacking and eating some ladybug pupae!

Fortunately the predation seemed minimal because now the ladybug adults are emerging and, lo and behold, the white pupae turned into this:

Ladybug Olla_IMG_0092

The Ashy Gray Lady Beetle. I had no idea such thing existed. So cool!

13 June 2011

Quick garden update: 13 June

The garden is looking lush, green and awesome. The potato beetles have found our lone ground cherry plant, so every time we go I squash a couple egg masses and 2-6 potato beetle larvae on that plant. They're avoiding the peppers, and have only shown up on one of the potato-leaf tomato plants so far. I'm hoping it stays that way.

The onions are getting bigger and we've started thinning them, using the picked ones in dinners.

We also had our first ripe strawberry, tiny though it was.

It's nice to be bringing things home from the garden, feeling like it's starting to produce more.

10 June 2011

I spy...

Last weekend J and I were sitting in the yard, watching the kids and enjoying a mellow morning. I looked up at one of our oak trees, the diseased one with a butt rot that seems to still be fairly healthy so far. Looking at just the right angle I saw something.

Look closely. See anything?

I looked closer, I changed angles. J pulled out the spotting scope and set it up across the street. Yes! I was right! We have...

...a feral honybee colony in our tree! I am very excited and hopeful for these ladies, and will keep an eye on them over the summer. Yay honeybees!