Archive for April, 2010

Iris are blooming!

I think I have failed to mention that our iris have begun to bloom!  This is very exciting news, because last year they did not produce so much as even one blossom.  Of course, the transplanting may have had something to do with that.  Last spring, Scott (with minor assistance me) transplanted some 30 to 40 iris from various points around our property into our front and back flower beds.  It was a lot of work, and we had high hopes for two lovely beds of iris, but that was not to be in 2009.

As of last week, we now have several violet iris blooming in the back bed, and the front bed has both violet and pale yellow.  So far, so good.  Each plant is producing about four blossoms, and there are LOTS of plants that don’t have any buds – yet.  We are expecting all of them to get with the program soon.


I think common sense has finally prevailed.  A couple days ago, I mentioned to Scott that it seemed we had positioned our front dogwood in a lovely but completely impractical spot.  He agreed, and “we” (that would be Josiah digging the new hole, Scott moving the dogwood, and me saying how nice it looked while adding mulch) transplanted it to a shady spot on the far side of the driveway near the ditch.

We think the little puppy will be quite content in its new woodsy location.

A tale of three trees

Last week our friend, Eva, was out and about in Branson and ended up at the fish hatchery, where there was some kind of special celebration going on (Earth Day, perhaps?), and “they” were giving away trees.  She came home with a 15-inch tall redbud sapling and instructions on how to plant it.  Mainly a hole had to be dug that was 12 inches deep and 12 inches across.  Eva was widowed last year and some problems with her shoulders, back, and hip, so we walked down, Scott dug the hole for her, and we helped her get the little guy into the ground.  Her yard being one massive expanse of grass with only one or two trees, she had plenty of room to add a redbud.

Yesterday, Eva phoned Scott and if we wanted a redbud tree and a dogwood tree – no charge.  I’m guessing she was at the same place.  We told her sure, we’d like to have one of each, and just a few minutes later she brought them by the house.  However, we actually ended up with two dogwoods and a redbud, and one of the dogwoods even had tiny leaf buds!

Today we went out to plant them and you wouldn’t think it would be so hard to figure out where in a one-acre yard to plant three trees.  In the end, I am not sure we made the best choices, but the trees are in the ground and we shall see how they grow.  One dogwood is in the front yard between the driveway and the sidewalk.  Yes, there are two other trees in that same area, but the paper birch is almost dead and needs to be cut down, and the red maple that my flower bed surrounds is not looking too good either.  So the dogwood may get center stage there one of these days.  That is, if it doesn’t get trampled by everyone who ever pulls into our driveway and comes to the front door.

The other dogwood is on the back property line, just about where Scott did his Samson imitation in pushing over the dead tree last week.  It is near to another very large tree which I just realized today is very dead and which Scott assures me will be able to be removed without either crashing into the power line to the wellhouse (read “down power line equals no water”) should it fall one way, or landing on the baby dogwood should it fall the other way.  Hmmm.

It was easier to figure out where to place the redbud.  Along Coffee Road we have a number of trees all in a row, among them a red maple, a HUGE Bradford pear, an ENORMOUS boxelder, and two plum trees.  There are a few more in that line, but I’m not even sure what they are.  However, there is a nice spot just out from the laundry room door where there’s a big gap in that line.  The gap is fairly shady, well-drained, and obviously crying out for a lovely, blossom-laden redbud.

Scott was all ready to dig the hole there, but then he came around the corner to ask me how big of a deal it would be to plant a tree directly under a power line.  Grrrrrr. . . ?  I went back over to the site and studied it.  While it is true that the power line coming to our property IS directly above that potential redbud site (might that be why there’s a gap in the tree line?), that same power line already runs directly THROUGH the leafy branches of two of our other trees (those planted on either side of that site).  They are both massive trees with massive branches.  Redbuds are said to have “thin wispy” branches.  The line is some 18 feet above ground at that point, and we decided that if and when this eight-inch-high twig gets reaches 18 feet, we’ll deal with the conflict of interest then.  So the hole was dug and the tree was planted.

I watered all three well – which may have been unnecessary as it rained off and on today, including two different frog stranglers – and applied the mulch we had on hand.  Today was my day to stay home and Scott’s day to make multiple Wal-Mart runs, so when he went the second time to help Andrew return his defective bicycle inner tube, he also picked up more mulch, which I will add to the trees tomorrow.

In other news of horticultural interest, four of my six tomatoes seem to have survived the rigors of their first few days of  life in the barrels.  I have a few more tomatoes – plus some peppers – that have been transplanted into 3″ peat pots and are hardening off in the mini-greenhouse.  Hopefully they will all be ready to plant in another week or so.  I have 280 pounds of potting soil on hand (yes, I know that seven bags was probably overkill, but they were only $2.48 each), and several five gallon buckets ready for the tomatoes, but I’m stumped as to where to set them for them to get enough sun AND be within reach of the hose.  The couple places I had considered putting them (maybe along the smokehouse, maybe near the air conditioners) end up not getting much sun at all. They do get a few hours of sunlight, but then shade takes over.

Maybe it has something to do with the ever-increasing number of trees in the yard.

3B, 2B, & C

It was certainly a first in several ways.  Last night was the first softball game of the season, with the newly-organized Promise Keepers facing off against Exciting First (Baptist of Forsyth).

The former Promise Keepers (manager:  shortstop Kevin) decided that after several years of not being seriously challenged in the Thursday night church league they would shift to playing in the Friday night Men’s Recreational League, which is more competitive.  However, this posed a problem for my husband, as we have a prior commitment on Friday nights.  What to do?

Never at a loss when faced with a situation that is not in his favor, Scott decided to set up and manage his own team to play as the Promise Keepers on Thursday nights.  He convinced several of the former team members to join him (although a number of them are also playing on Friday nights and some are even playing Wednesday nights in the Co-Ed League, as well), and he had told us that he had about 12 players, which is plenty as only 10 play.

However, come 6:30 PM yesterday, several guys were gone, so Josiah was pulled in to play catcher.  Considering the circumstances, we fans think he did quite all right.  The circumstances would include the fact that he’s never played catcher (which he played standing instead of squatting); he doesn’t own a glove or cleats (he played in tennis shoes – noteworthy for a guy who only wears shoes at all under duress – and used an old glove of Scott’s); and in fact, he’s never played baseball or softball in his life!

Slightly more humorous was the fact that with one of their players running late, Jessica was recruited to play second base for the first part of the first inning.  Only one ball got by her, but she and all the fans were quite relieved when Jerod arrived for the outfield, allowing Mark to move to second.  At least Jessica had played softball as a kid, regularly watches the Promise Keepers games, and follows Cardinal baseball; she has a good feel for the game.

Given all that, for about 10 minutes there were three members of Team Roberts all playing for the Promise Keepers – in fact, they comprised a third of the team.  I was a proud and happy wife-mom.

Scott played well at third, hit nicely, and ran a bit more slowly than usual.  I think we all had December 19 on our minds as he loped around the base path, and we were reminded again of how very good God has been to him.  It should also be noted that Scott scored two runs.  = )

Final score:  PK 13, EF 8.

Can’t fool me, Oscar!

In a perverse twist of engineering design, the same company that so recently blessed us with the turkey lunch meat package that cannot be opened today brought forth its first cousin, the turkey lunch meat package that cannot be closed.

Yes, you read that correctly.  We all know that there are situations in which one simply cannot win, and my post-lunch routine today gives the proof.  First, I remove a couple slices of meat for Scott’s noontime sandwich.  Then I (the college grad, no less) do just what I always do and innocently slide the little red plastic tab to the left before returning the remains to the meat and cheese drawer, BUT fie upon my noble efforts – the package is still open!

I then study the situation and cleverly deduce that perhaps my friend Mr. Mayer thinks he can put (yet another) one over on me.  However, I  – insert sinister cackle here – am wickedly smart enough to see right through his ploy.  Realizing that Sam’s Club has obviously sold me the one package of OM turkey lunch meat in which the slider tab works in reverse, I gleefully slide the tab back to the right with smug satisfaction as I zip the package closed.  And guess what?

It’s still open.

So I run the slider tab back and forth a few times to confirm that, yea and verily, it truly is open to the left and open to the right.  I then shove the remaining meat into a genuine Zip-Loc bag and toss it in the fridge.  I have bigger battles to fight today.

So tell me. . .  do I REALLY have to be an Oscar Mayer weiner for everyone to be in love with me?  I remember that cute little dark-haired boy sitting on the dock and singing  – although he’s probably married with a couple cute little dark-haired boys of his own by now.  Yes, your bologna may have a first name, and your smoked turkey may taste great, but O, Oscar, your packaging is cursed!

Damping off and taking the plunge

In my never-ending quest for a crop of homegrown tomatoes, I decided this year to do everything imaginable to avoid the various fungal diseases that have plagued my plants in the past.

In order to be sure that the plants weren’t diseased from the get-go, I started with seeds.  In order to minimize the possibility that the seed-starting medium was contaminated, I used peat pellets that are supposedly sterile.  Out in the barrels, in order to ensure that the soil from last year wasn’t the problem, we started with all new soil.  In order to prevent any potential left-over germs in the wood of the barrels from migrating to the plants, we lined the barrels with black plastic before adding the soil.  The only other possible contaminants would be the water, the air, and the sunlight, and there’s not much I can do about any of those!

So in mid-March I started my seeds in the little peat pellets, and about a dozen of the little guys actually sprouted (yay!) and were looking great (yay!), so I was very, very happy.  The tender young fellows began to outgrow their peat pellets, and I transplanted them to 3″ peat pots filled with good quality enhanced potting soil.  Later, I moved the little gems out to my trusty mini “greenhouse,” so they could acclimate to the life outdoors before actually being planted in the barrels.

And then, one by one, it looked as if some very mean person had taken tweezers and pinched them right at the soil line.  The pinched area grew longer – maybe up to half an inch – and my precious plants keeled over like drunken sailors!  Then, gradually, they began to die.  I had no idea what was going on til I read this today on the Dave’s Garden Weekly Newsletter:

“My seeds sprouted but then the plants fell over and died”
This complaint demonstrates the oft-heard term in seed starting called “damping off” or “dampening off”. Your baby plants come up and all is well. Then, a few days later, the stem gets a pinched appearance right at the soil line, the seedling flops over, and the whole thing soon withers and dies.

“Damping off can be a problem for even the most experienced seed starters. Usually, it is caused by planting seeds in soil that is not sterile. I know a lot of gardeners don’t care for the peat or coir (coconut fiber) pellets sold for seed starting, but I do use them purely because of this. Peat and coir are sterile growing mediums. As a result, I rarely have a problem with damping off. Even the best potting soils are not considered suitable for seed starting, as they can contain a lot of other semi-questionable ingredients.

“This type of early root rot can also occur if you’re re-using seed starting trays that may have been infected with some type of disease. The bacteria enter the soil and subsequently kill the plants. Either wash your trays with a mild bleach and water solution before re-using them, or buy new trays each time.

“Lastly, don’t let your seedlings sit in water for extended periods of time. Keep them moist, but not sopping.”

Okay, so I didn’t think to bleach my trays from last year, and maybe I was a bit over-zealous with the watering can.  However, in the past two days I have taken two monumental steps to remedy the situation.

1.  On Saturday, April 17 – sadly before I received the Dave’s Garden Weekly Newsletter – I planted another round of seeds in peat pellets.  And no, the tray had not been bleached.  I also noticed this evening that the pellets are really soggy, so I took off the plastic cover to let them dry out a bit.

2.  Today, April 19, I took the plunge and planted the six still-living tomato plants out in the barrels, gave them a good watering, and asked God to have mercy on them.

Now it’s just a matter of watching and praying.  Oh, that vegetables were as easy to grow as marigolds.  My flower seedlings are looking great – so far.

Mow Meister

Josiah was gone this weekend to the AIM Leadership Conference, and that left Andrew to do ALL the mowing.  He split it over two days, worked very hard, and ended up very green when all was said and done.  He rode, pushed, and weed-eated for many hours, and although Scott found some areas he had missed the first time around, when he was finally done, it was all done, and the yard looked very nice.  I am proud to have such a strong and hard-working boy who can handle such a significant task so well.

Way to mow, Andrew!

Fun date

Last night was our every two week date night, and even though Jessica and Josiah were gone to the AIM Leadership Conference, we decided to abandon Andrew for a few hours.

He did fine, although he didn’t go to bed till we got home at 9:30 PM.  He was supposed to have turned out his light at 9:00 PM, but as he said, “I didn’t want to go to bed without a bigger person in the house.”  Quite understandable.  When we pulled into the driveway, EVERY light in the house except Katie’s was on and burning brightly.  Even our bedroom light.  It made me smile.

Scott and I have come to greatly enjoy walking together at Sunset Park.  It’s a long, flat, grassy, peaceful area with woods on one side and houses backed up to Lake Taneycomo on the other.  Recently, Parks and Rec installed a disc (Frisbee) golf course down there, and sometimes folks in our family who have stronger arms and better aim than I go down and shoot a round.

I had the idea to take along our cuppers courts, and that ended up being a good idea.  We walked and talked the loop for one circuit and then played three games of cuppers – into a head wind from both directions.  = )

A game is played to 21 points, with a cupper (a washer landed in the cup) being worth five points.  If more than one person cups in a round, only the person whose washer lands on top (the last one to cup) scores, getting all the points for all the washers in the cup.  It should be noted that in the first game,  with Scott leading 13 to 8, he cupped once, then cupped again (AARRGGHH!), and then I had the sheer good luck to cup ON TOP OF HIM(!!!), giving me an additional 15 points and the game.  I was pretty happy camper – or cupper.

Scott wanted steak, and there are only a couple places in town that prepare a  steak he truly enjoys.  He suggested Golden Corral, which I also like very much, though not for steak.  My problem with Golden Corral is that in order to feel like I have gotten my money’s worth – and the price for their dinner buffet has jumped to over $12! – I have to eat so much that I am stuffed and uncomfortable.  However, since it was Scott’s choice to go there, he said I could eat as much or as little as I wanted and it didn’t matter.  What a sweet husband.

Usually at a buffet, I try to get a variety of things that provide a fairly balanced meal, but last night I threw all dietary logic to the wind and decided instead to eat only those things that I truly loved, no matter how the meal came out.  It was SO delicious, and I enjoyed every bite.

My Hero, meanwhile, was supremely challenged in his search for a steak cooked medium rare.  We won’t go into why he likes his steak that way, or how safe it is or isn’t.  Let’s just say that it took three tries by two servers and by the time he had obtained a chunk of cow to his liking, the meal was almost over and he was nearly full.  = (  I felt bad for him, especially because my meal was so totally perfect, but I guess such occasional disappointment is the fate of discriminating diners the world over.

Lest my culinarily curious readers wonder, I here, with no further ado, list my menu selections.  I warmed up with a cup of delicious potato soup and oyster crackers.  My second course (and yes, there were two plates’ worth) leaned heavily toward bourbon chicken, steamed mushrooms, and sauteed onions and green peppers, with several seasoned fries, a dollop of mac n cheese,  a small pile of tiny fried shrimp, and a few chunks of spicy orange chicken thrown in for fun.  My first dessert featured canteloupe and fresh pineapple, round two was a handful of orange slices (one of my favorite candies), and warm peach cobbler completed the dessert series.  All totally wonderful!

Of course, we had to stop at Wal-Mart on the way home.  What is a date without Wal-Mart?  It would be quick, as I only needed three items.  We found the chocolate chips easily and even though WM doesn’t carry an off-brand of those, their Nestle’s were on sale (nice).  Cherry pie filling was also a no-brainer, but eye liner, sheesh!

As with many tried-and-true products that I have been pleased to use for untold years, Wal-Mart no longer carries Maybelline New York Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner.  Some six months or so ago, I was beginning to run low on this stuff (I wear make-up as seldom as possible, so it does last a long time), and when I couldn’t find my usual at Wal-Mart, I bought a Cover Girl substitute.  I’ve still been slogging away at that same bottle of Maybelline, but is now VERY close to empty, so I pulled out the Cover Girl version to make myself look decent for our date.  It was bone dry!!!!  No waterproof, no liquid, and most certainly no eye liner.

That’s why the end of our date found me scouring the Wal-Mart shelves to find something that would work.  I found the Cover Girl, but was not about to buy another one of those empty dry tubes.  After MUCH digging, I did finally locate a different Maybelline product which I bought, and we shall see if it works.

Meanwhile, this morning I went online and learned that Maybelline has evidently discontinued my old stand-by (should be illegal), but I also found a site that appears to still stock it and I ordered four.  May they send me the right thing and may they last me a decade!  I just HATE it when things I use regularly disappear or are discontinued.

But, as I said, we came home to a well-lit house and a happy boy.  Plus, an hour or so later, seven delightful ladies appeared in our dining room.

It was truly a fun date.

Getting the lead out (or back)

Our pencils have wings.  They also have a home – a nice little cardboard holder mounted on our office’s outer door frame (this so that everyone always knows exactly where to locate a nicely sharpened pencil) – but once having departed, the poor pencils seem totally unable to find their way back home.  Every day, I sharpen the pencils that have accrued on or around my desk and put them back in the holder, and every day the pencil supply is smaller.

Each afternoon or evening or late night, I “flip” the boys’ academics.  This means I go over whatever they did that day, check and record scores on certain items, and then re-load their school boxes with whatever books, notebooks, checklists, and miscellaneous supplies (including pencils) they will need for the next day’s work.  Actually Josiah deals with his own pencils, but I always put three sharp one’s in Andrew’s school box.  I like to think that this has at least a slight positive effect on his irrepressible tendency to hop up from the table every four minutes.  He still hops, but it isn’t for want of a sharp pencil.

The problem is that the pencils that leave the office area never return under their own power.  Instead, I find them on Josiah’s desk, under the dining room table, on the kitchen floor, all over the living room, on the stairs, in Andrew’s room, and under Josiah’s bed.  Of course, when I find them, I sharpen them and return them to their nifty little holder, but tonight when I went to prepare Andrew’s school box for tomorrow, the holder sported a decided lack of lead.

I have found a great way to induce all the pencils in the house to rapidly congregate around the sharpener:  peanut butter cups.  Other chocolate also works.  Tonight’s version was actually some cheap Easter candy (chocolate with peanut butter and Nestle’s Crunch filling) I got on a deep discount at the grocery last week.

The proven procedure is as follows.  Mom calls the kids together and announces that she needs pencils.  One child – usually Andrew – says, “What will you give us?”  Mom then names her price; tonight’s being one chocolate/peanut butter/Nestle’s Crunch egg for every three pencils returned, with mechanical pencils score nothing.  She then commands the kids to go, and in something like 53 seconds, children appear in the office bearing fistfuls of pencils.

Tonight, for example, in less than a minute, Andrew brought six, Jessica brought three, and Josiah brought 12, two of which were mechanical.

Bottom line:  While I sat peacefully at my desk reviewing the geography of the Nile River, and for an investment of a mere six pieces of candy, 19 pencils magically reappeared.  The Llama sharpened them for me, and now the holder is cram-packed full.

Moral of the Story:  Why should a mom run, seek, stoop, grab, and sharpen when she has slaves children who will do it for her?

Just wind me up and I’ll talk

We’ve been doing this parenting/homeschooling thing for about 20 years now, and along the way we’ve learned a lot, had some significant challenges, and experienced numerous successes.  People also tell us from time to time how wonderful our children are.  That’s really gratifying in a profession with long hours, low pay and no health insurance!  However, it is very rare that anyone ever cares to ask HOW those kids got be so wonderful; so when our church’s preschool director, who recently began homeschooling her daughters, asked me to participate in a “panel discussion” about homeschooling, I was pretty excited.

As it turns out, I was the panel, and two moms came.  Jessica also came, ostensibly to hear what I had to say, but probably also to keep me honest.  I had decided not to prepare anything specific remarks, but to simply try to answer from my experience whatever questions they brought up.  Some of the questions were as I’d expected, and some were funny.

“Tell us your history with homeschooling and how you started.”  I knew hen Katie was six weeks old that we’d be homeschooling her.  We never actually started (no “first day of school” or “now you’re in first grade” kind of thing), but we will be celebrating Jessica’s graduation next month, so I guess you could say that we finish what we do not start.

“So, you never bought workbooks to teach the shapes and numbers and stuff like that?”  Well, no.  And most of them didn’t do any formal academics till they were 10 or 11.  And they all seem to be pretty terrific young adults.

“What kind of chores did you have your kids do?”  The same chores that all moms do in any given week:  cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.  Why should I do any chore I’m already good at when they could do it (for me!) and learn a skill and develop character in the process?

“What about them getting into college and getting scholarships?”  Hasn’t been a problem at all.  The girls have excelled academically, been accepted to colleges and offered multiple scholarships.

“Do you attribute their success to nurture or genetics?”  Yes.

“Do you feel like you are depriving your children of special experiences (kindergarten graduation, 8th grade graduation, prom, senior picnic, high school graduation, etc.) by homeschooling them?”  Those things are haven’t been priorities to us, so in a word, no.  We also don’t do grade levels, and we do academics year-round.

And on it went for well over an hour.  My goal was to encourage these two moms and give them some food for thought.  I think I achieved the goal.  Granted, as usual I talked way too much, but since parenting and homeschooling are my passions, and since I’m only asked to talk about them about twice per decade, when given the opportunity, I just keep talking till someone shuts me up.

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