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Welcome! Our blog focuses on environmental conservation, education, green living & wildlife rescue! We have put together links to resources, books and information to help you and your children learn more about these topics. Please feel free to comment on any items posted. Rate or review us on NetworkedBlogs (Facebook app) & Blogged. Tell your friends about us. Follow us on Twitter and other sites listed on this page. There's a banner & widget if you would like to include us on your webpage. All we ask is that you please keep any comments here G-rated for the kids!

NOTE: The birds & squirrel pictured at the top of this page and in the slideshow below are just a few that I have helped rehabilitate.
WARNING: Please do not touch a wild animal, especially the young ones. If you remove a baby from it's home, sometimes the mother is just off getting it's baby food and will be back.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

the Gated Community - er, garden.

Last summer we tried. We had good intentions. But I was sick, Chuck had craziness at work, and we never got around to fencing in the newest garden plot. As a result, the neighborhood wild bunnies ate my broccoli.

Yesterday I came home from a baseball game with Amigo and found the wire fence had been tightened up, a gate installed, and my garden safe from bunnies! And when I say gate, I'm not kidding. I don't know where Chuck found this one, but it's very sturdy. Cute, too.

He was a little concerned about one of the tomato plants that had been squashed during the building process and the stem broken. I trimmed it, cut it back, and I think it'll be okay. If not, I have at least one other plant of the same kind.

The back view, behind the new gate, looks pretty good. It's no-till, so it's not gorgeous, but everything is growing nicely. If we don't get rain today, I'll use the rain barrel supply to water everything tonight.

By the way, I harvested spinach today, too. Anyone want some?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Weeding! It's not so bad. In fact, I enjoy it.

Finally, the plants are maturing enough that I can see what belongs and what doesn't. That means it's time to start weeding!

Readers, did you notice I didn't complain? Weeding is productive and therapeutic and even enjoyable. I searched through old posts and found out that I've discussed the positives of weeding in the past.

Here's one from June, 2007.
I enjoy weeding because I can see progress. My garden is divided into small sections, set apart by my stepping "stones" made from old deck and fence pieces. I set a goal of weeding one section at a time. When that's done, I can quit weeding or choose to finish another section. This is a managable goal; I feel productive when I can see the results in one part of the plot. It spares me the frustration of not "finishing" the whole thing, which is of course an impossible goal. Today I chose one triangular section of the garden and weeded out the many mini maples that flew in from the lot behind ours. If I ever abandon this small plot of ground behind my garage, I predict the mini maples will take over, leaving room for a blanket of clover underneath. But for now, look out maples! I have garden gloves and I know how to use them.
Here's an older post from July, 2006.
Weeding feels good because:
  • I can't hear the telephone.
  • Digging in the dirt is fun.
  • It doesn't matter if I'm all sweaty and grimy.
  • I can appreciate the growth of my vegetables by comparing them to the weeds I'm pulling out.
  • I see the little flowers that mean the plants will bear fruit -- some time.
  • I can laugh at the tiny "stray" tomato plants that grew where the rotten fruit dropped last fall.
  • The science teacher in me looks at all the clover and thinks, "Wow! There's a lot of nitrogen in this soil! Who needs fertilizer?"
  • I notice the little grubs and worms that aerate the rich soil; and they're not, I said NOT, yucky.
  • I notice how dark and rich the soil is, thanks to our home-grown compost.
  • The weeds (well, most of them) will become part of the cycle of life by decomposing in the compost bin.
  • Progress is noticeable. Every little bit of weeding shows results.

I heard a garden expert on the radio recommend that serious gardeners spend about 30 minutes a day weeding and maintaining. I don't come near that, so I guess I'm not "serious" by his standards. I do keep it up, though, and get my hands dirty and produce good things to eat. My garden makes me happy. Isn't that enough?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Jakoti has got it going on!

I can not begin to tell you how much I LOVE these new shears.  As a matter of fact, what got me to thinking about writing this post was the shears laying next to my computer.  That's right Rebels, these shears have become my right hand tool.

I purchased them as llama shears.  You know, to remove the wool from those fidgety creatures that inhabit my ranch...Well, let me tell you a little about shearing a llama at The Royal Ranch.  I don't think it's like shearing at typical wool producers.  We have to cut through hay and pine needles and whatever else is hidden inside that wondrous coat.  So over the years, I have learned A LOT about shears; and that is that they are truly lacking.

A good pair of Fiskars, which is our next choice since we hand shear will run us around $13-$15 with a coupon, etc.  If I sharpen it I may be able to get that one pair through one season of shearing, but sometimes they only last one llama!  If you get cheaper scissors, they will wear out your hands (not spring loaded), and big electric shears usually scare the you know what out of rescues so that is out for us.

I do want to give you a bit of background here, just so you know that I am sticking to my Rebel roots.  When I first heard of these shears, I was told that you could only get them in one place in the US; and that place is by a llama trainer that I don't particularly like.  This woman had rubbed my "animal sense" the wrong way over the years, but when it came down to saving hundreds of dying llamas in MT and all she did was offer reduced price behavior clinics for new owners while the rest of us small farms struggled with the starving...

Well, it made me decide to look a bit further for those shears.  And lo and behold I found them on the World Wide Web, funny thing about covers the whole world.  Better yet, I got two pairs, direct from the UK (yeah, I know, I'm normally a buy US only, but they just don't have this sort of shear...sigh), for a little more than I would have spent on one pair plus shipping on Ms. Behavior  Man, I hate it when people are buttheads.

But, anyway, these shears came and we have just been shearing our butts off.  Well, our butts are fine, and it is Tom doing most of the shearing anyway.  But dang do the llamas look nice.  And when I got on the link to send it to a friend, because believe you me, I'm telling everyone I can not to shop at so and so's-ha!, I read that they are great in the garden.

So, I took them outside and can you imagine the cutting power of these babies on grass?  Geez, if they can cut through that crap in the wool, grass and dandelions along the fence line is like butta, baby, butta!  And the best thing about it was that I wasn't polluting the air with a weed whacker.  I did go a little crazy and now the grass along the dog yard looks like it got a bad hair cut from Mom back in the sixties....

Well, I guess you get the point, if you're looking for either garden or llama, sheep or goat shears these are the ones.  Spring action, self sharpening, yes you read that right engineers, I don't really get it, but it says it does it...They are the best.  Oh, I do have one critique...they could use a "petite" size.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Rock on with a rock garden!

This is the "before" picture. Mint, mint, and more mint. A few tulip and daffodil bulbs, but other than that, the area is almost entirely occupied by mint. Sure, it smells good. I could use it to make mint syrup or garnish a refreshing beverage. But this plant is aggressive. A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E. It takes over. I've tried pulling it; it comes back. I've tried moving it; it spread. I placed layers over the mint last fall, hoping I could start a new raised garden over the top. Nope; mint was determined to find the sun.

I started this time by again removing the mint. I moved the bulbs (see the daffodil remains on the right?) to a better place. I set the mint on a drying table in the backyard. I might compost it. Maybe. Does mint seed get destroyed in compost or does it flourish? I'll find out.

Next step: cover the soil, again. This time I'm going one more step. The area will become a rock garden. This concept worked around my rose bushes, intimidating the clover and other weeds into submission so the roses could thrive by themselves.

For now, it's just a batch of packaging held down by large stones and heavy planters. I have extra gravel; but do I have enough? Maybe, just maybe, I can build this rock garden without spending money on the materials. I'll find out, and I'll let you know on the next episode, when I hope to have a picture of all rock, no visible packaging, and certainly no more mint.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Breast Cancer; a Family Affair

You know it's really funny that I chose today to write about the breast cancer story.  See, my sister, Kelly, is recovering from a double mastectomy; and she has been so amazing during the entire process she deserves a book all her own.  So when I wrote about her "journey", I really wanted the post to be all about her and what she has gone through; her family and what they have been through....and really to teach people a few things in the process would be wonderful.

But, what I hadn't realized is how her cancer would affect our ENTIRE family so deeply.  My parents have never had to deal with a life threatening illness in one of their children know the regular stuff growing up and even what some would consider pretty scary stuff as a parent, but nothing like the big "C" word.  And they too, have handled things with grace and dignity.  As a matter of fact my Dad has a blog also and has chronicled Kelly's "Journey" on his blog...well worth the read.

If I am totally honest, one of the reasons that had been holding me back from writing this article is my different opinion than my Dad's....Gee what a surprise, eh Dad????  As you will read in his blog, Kelly found her cancer with an annual mammogram and they are strongly encouraging folks to get their annual mammos.  Well, sorry, but I felt that that might be a bit much radiation exposure for my liking.  What about every couple years...that would cut a persons exposure to radiation in half in their lifetime and not make it too long in between screenings, right?

I also have another sister, Lisa.  Between us three girls we have four daughters (Kelly has 2 and Lisa and I each have 1), so breast cancer in the family scared the s**t out of us.  Lisa, ironically had had to have a second mammogram done the same day as Kelly's (second mammogram); and they had her scheduled for the ultrasound in case they needed more pics.  Thankfully they didn't.  So, I scheduled my damn mammogram.

Now, this is where the story gets a bit interesting.  I would like to point out a difference between organized healthcare and private insurance.  I am a Kaiser patient (organized).  My first mammogram was 5 weeks ago, I just had my second mammogram and ultrasound yesterday and found out I need a biopsy.  In the 5 weeks following Kelly's (private insurance) first mammogram she was already preparing for surgery.  Just sayin'.

Thankfully due to some testing that Kelly had done, we know that our family (or at least Kelly) is not genetically predisposed to breast cancer.  This to me, is a big relief...for ourselves, our Mother and our daughters.  But why then, are 3 out of 3 girls suddenly needing second mammograms?  And what about the biopsies?  Is the medical field getting so far advanced that almost everyone is getting called back?  And what does that say about our radiation exposure?

Even the gal who was taking the second pics yesterday kept apologizing to me if she had to retake the image.  I finally asked her if it was due to the radiation and she said yes.  Don't get me wrong, I firmly believe that we need testing like this to save lives, I am just wondering if there might be a happy medium.  But, on the other hand, I have not had any imaging done in about ten years; the stuff that they will biopsy on me is a mass, while my sister who was good about getting hers done, caught hers at the calcification stage.

Okay, so what the hell is your point Judy?  Check your breasts.  Do your self exams and get the mammograms done as frequently as you are comfortable with (you know, probably more frequently than every decade!).  Bottom line...they are there to save lives; that is what they are doing all over the country and they have just done so in my own family.  As melodramatic as it sounds, it is true.  We are all so appreciative of the fact that Kelly's cancer was caught early....

Cancer is a family affair, whether it is genetic or not.  To watch my sister's family go through what they have been through is amazing (and heart wrenching); because I know that they will only be a stronger unit after this is over.  It has brought us all closer in a I'm sure it would in most families.

And No, I'm not too worked up over the biopsy thing (75% of all biopsies are benign).  Not that I'm really looking forward to having a needle in my boob, but I do feel confident that the news will be fine.  At least it got me writing about it....And I am very interested in your opinion on this matter.  What do you think of annual testing and its risks/benefits?