Category Archives: Nature

Urban Legend

Today in 565 AD, St, Columba reported seeing the Loch Ness Monster.  I wonder how he would feel if he knew people were still talking about Nessie today.

Around Luverne, legend has it that Jesse James jumped his horse across a ridiculously wide gap at the Devil’s Gulch in Garretson, SD, running away from Northfield and the disastrous raid there.  I have seen the gap and I seriously doubt a horse could jump it, but what do I know? Luvernites also believe that a tornado will never strike the town because of some special characteristics of the Blue Mounds formations to the north of the city. Maybe. Maybe, though, we have just been lucky.

Any legends from where you have lived or where you grew up? What is your favorite urban legend?

 

A Day At The Zoo

I came home from work yesterday at 10:00 am.  Friday is my short work day.  Husband asked as I came into the house “How about going to Bismarck to the zoo today”? I said yes, and off we went.

We haven’t been to the Bismarck zoo for years, not since our daughter was little. It was a fun day made really special by watching a zoo keeper train bobcats. They are trained, with raw meat treats, to follow verbal commands like sit, paws up, follow the target, and go in your crate. She also exposed them to sprays from a bottle of fly spray so they would tolerate the spraying. Raising one’s paw above one’s head allows zoo keepers to check paw pads for cracks or injuries, and underbellies for impending kittens or too much weight gain. Rufus, the bobcat male, loves being trained and is really good at all the commands. Ginger, the female, is a bit stubborn. Rufus hates the spray bottle. He very willingly went in his crate, an important skill to have if you need to go to the vet.

What a fun job!  The zoo keeper paired the command and its successful completion with a loud click and a morsel of raw meat. I don’t fully approve of zoos, but I see their purpose in protecting endangered species.  I would love to train bobcats! I wonder how they train the primates?

How do you feel about zoos? What are your experiences in training animals?

Bean Freak

Husband and I lived in southern Indiana for a year just after our son was born while Husband finished his psychology internship.  It was much warmer than Winnipeg, and we were introduced to many garden plants I had never seen before. Salsify?  Who knew what it was and that you could grow it in your garden?  The real surprise for me was shell out beans. Those are  beans like navy beans, pinto beans, cannellini beans and all sorts of other beans that I had never seen grown in gardens and that you harvest fresh, not dried.  We became hooked on them.

We didn’t  grow them in our garden until the last 10 years or so due to limited space, when Husband discovered metal bean poles, and we have been growing them ever since. Growing vertically really saves space. This year we are growing Hidatsa Shield Figure Beans and Vermont Cranberry beans.  The Hidatsa beans are traditional beans grown by one of the three tribes husband works for on the Rez. They are big, plumpsters that parboil and freeze well.  I love them in soup and chili.

The problem with beans like this is that they are addictive.  You want more and more. You can read about this phenomenon in this recent New Yorker article:

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/04/23/the-hunt-for-mexicos-heirloom-beans.

Most pole bean cultivars of this type need 95-110 days to mature after they germinate. We don’t have that long of a growing season., and we will buy dried beans that we can’t grow here. Recently, I was searching beans on line and found  the source listed in the New Yorker article for dozens of exotic and long season dried beans. You could get the traditional French beans for cassoulet (Tarbais beans), flageolet beans, and every exotic South American and Caribbean bean that is currently produced. Husband had to stop me (But we have two ducks in freezer. Let’s whip up some cassoulet!)  He reminded me that we didn’t have to order pounds of beans at that moment, and that perhaps we should see what our harvest will be this fall. I agreed, but I am secretly planning an order.

What have you been obsessed with? What is your favorite bean recipe?

Backyard Revival

About 25 years ago we planted 15 feet of raspberries along the fence on the North side of our yard. Husband had inadvertently killed a 4 foot wide strip of grass along the fence the entire length of our property.   We planted day lilies and irises in the remaining length of the dead zone.   As our raspberries grew and flourished (and spread beyond the original 15 foot bed), so did an ash tree on the other side of the fence  along the property line in our neighbor’s yard, throwing increasing shade on the canes. The canes have  moved away from the shaded area under the tree over the years and invaded the lawn, leaving a large, empty space along the fence that fills up with weeds.  It is hard to walk between the invading raspberries and the strawberry bed. It is impossible to mow.

The raspberries produced prodigiously until this year. The berries  were small and hard, and withered immediately after ripening.  I suppose there could be disease going on, or else, after so many years of productivity,  the new canes that grow up every year are just worn out and don’t have the vigor of the originals we planted.  The ash tree is too tall for us to trim, even though we would be within our rights to trim every part of it that hangs over our property.  We decided it is time to reclaim the area, dig up the raspberries that are too shaded, and plant hydrangeas,  ligularia (aka “The Rocket”), and ostrich ferns,  in their place.  That shouldn’t cost too much, but it won’t be a picnic digging up those raspberry canes. There are still raspberries that get enough sun, and we will leave them be.  They haven’t invaded the lawn yet.

Hydrangeas grow beautifully in our yard, and can cover a large area of landscaping sins.  I am tired of such a wild looking back yard. We will have to sell the house in the next few years and it isn’t too early to start sprucing the place up.  I look forward to a backyard revival, but not the expense and the labor that will go into it.

If money and  labor were no object, how would you change the landscaping  in your yard?

Reaping the Bounty. Now What?

I travel just enough to get some airline miles but usually I don’t hit that sweet spot where you can turn them in for airline tickets. Instead I have magazines.  Lots of magazines – most of them food related (imagine that).  At this time of year, food magazines are always filled with recipes using the bounty of summer gardens.  And just in time too!  I’ve harvested all my basil (10 jars of pesto) and the tomatoes have just started to turn.  The first handful of grape tomatoes didn’t make it into the house but the two Romas went into a pasta and green bean salad yesterday.  I’m guessing in about a week or so, I’ll be overloaded with tomatoes and trying as many of this month’s magazine recipes as possible.  I think this one will be first:

Tomato Salad w/ Charred Corn & Peppers

4 ears of corn, shucked
1 c. roasted red peppers (save liquid)
2 T. olive oil
2 T plus 2 tsp. wine vinegar
1 ¼ tsp Aleppo pepper
½ tsp chopped oregano
2 ¼ lbs. tomatoes
½ tsp salt
½ c. queso fresco

  1. Grill the corn on medium heat until nicely charred, 8-12 minutes
  2. Cut the kernals off the cobs and combine with red peppers, 2 tsp of the pepper liquid, oil, 2 T vinegar, 1 tsp Aleppo pepper and the oregano.
  3. Slice the tomatoes, tossing with the remaining salt and tsp vinegar. Arrange on a plate and cover with the corn mixture, queso fresco and the remaining ¼ tsp Aleppo pepper.

Note: If you don’t have Aleppo pepper you can make a good substitute using 4 parts paprika and 1 part cayenne.

What would you like to do with an overload of tomatoes this year?

Real Life

In a TV murder mystery I watched over the weekend, the heroine is trailing some bad guy at a hotel. He leaves the hotel and gets into his car right outside.   She comes out and gets into her car which is parked right behind his.  That’s when I realized that Aristotle was wrong about art imitating life.  When, in any movie or TV show does the hero or heroine have to circle the block to find a parking spot?  Or park 3 blocks away and hoof it to where they are going?  Or stop to pay a parking meter?  Never.

It made me think about other things that never happen on screen. Nobody ever scoops poop when walking their dogs, nobody ever seems to put groceries away (although every now and then there is actually time spent in a grocery store) and nobody EVER stops to worry about birth control.

I think it would be nice to have a world in which I could always find a convenient parking spot and have my groceries put away magically.

What daily task would you love to have disappear from your life?

Strange Portents

The cats and I noticed something alarming in the garden this morning-a large flock of Chipping Sparrows fluttering around the pea fences.  (Well, I was alarmed. The cats were merely curious.)

I usually see birds flocking around the time school starts in mid to late August. It is only mid to late July, and I certainly hope that this isn’t a portent for an early winter. Our garden is a couple of weeks behind as it is, and we will need as many frost-free days as we can get for a good harvest.

How good are you at predicting things?