Thursday, July 29, 2004

Squirrels are Evil

We live in the country. We have lots of critters in our yard and sometimes in our house. One of the more common critters in our yard are squirrels. I've never liked squirrels. They're so common that they aren't interesting to me. I don't feel bad when I see squirrel road kill. They make a nasty screeching noise up in the trees. Squirrels are expendable.

Until this summer though, I was pretty indifferent to them. Sure, I wasn't fond of them, but they didn't bother me so I didn't think much about them. Now that we have a bird feeder, they have taken over our yard. We had the bird feeder for a month before the squirrels discovered it. We got all kinds of birds. My favorites were a pair of cardinals. Now, the birds stay away and the squirrels hang from the feeder and eat all of the seed in one day. I've tried greasing the pole with oil mixed with cyanne pepper and that doesn't work. I don't want one of those plastic domes because this bird feeder is in the front of my house and I think the domes are unnattractive. I've heard they don't work anyway. Yesterday, I actually tried to push a squirrel off the bird feeder with my bare hand. He didn't even budge. He just looked at me with his beady eyes.

I planted sunflowers in my garden this year. They were in a perfect spot right in front of my hollyhocks at the corner of my split rail fence. Before they ever developed heads, one by one, they were chewed down to the ground. I suspect squirrels.

Now, my biggest problem is my tomatoes. To me, having tomatoes is symbolic of owning a home (or at least having a yard). I've waited years to be able to plant tomatoes. I was so excited to finally have my tomatoes this year. I've already harvested a few. Now, I see sqirrels feasting on semi-ripe tomatoes right in front of me! One squirrel, as a sign of who is in charge, left a half eaten tiny green tomato on the fence post. This is war.

There are several so-called solutions on the web for deterring squirrels. I saw a website that sells powdered fox urine that is supposed to deter sqirrels. Why is it that these things are only sold on the web? They're also expensive! I'd love to be able to run down to my hardware store and pick up some powdered fox urine today, but I'll have to spend $15 +shipping and wait several days. And then, it may not even work.

I just put up a makeshift chicken wire fence around my tomato plant. It's not tall enough though so I'm sure the sqirrels will find a way in.

If any of you readers have this problem and know a good solution, I'd love to hear it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

I'd rather be at work

I was anxious to see how this week would go, with me working from home.

After a day and a half, I've decided that I'm not the telecommuting type. My work station here at home is not set up ergonomically. So after only typing and mousing for an hour, my wrists are stiff and sore. Also, there is no one to talk to besides my cats. I miss my 10 minute walk between the subway and my office (twice a day). It makes me feel like I'm getting some sort of exercise. Oh sure, I could go take a walk around the block here, but it's different when you have to talk yourself into it.

There are some nice things about working from home. I can simultaneously do laundry and work. I can sleep later - that is really nice! I can make a more elaborate dinner because I have more time without the commute. I can take a break and weed my garden.

It is nice to know that I can work from home if I must. I'd prefer to be in my comfortable ergonomic work station surrounded by my kooky coworkers though. I guess if I ever see myself telecommuting on a regular basis, I'll have to invest in a new chair and a desk with a decent keyboard tray. And broadband. Speaking of which, I'd better disconnect in case my contractor is trying to call me!

I sit waiting

This is the week that a small porch was to be built on our house. The work was supposed to start Monday and today is Wednesday.

Late last week, our contractor called with some bad news. The town won't let us build a porch. Apparently, the zoning laws state that there must be at least 30' between the house and the street. Since our house was built before these laws were written, there is only 24' between our house and the street. We were having the porch built to solve a design flaw with or front entryway that allows water to sit on the foundation and rot the wood. It was to be an attractive solution that would help block rain as well as add some curb appeal to the house. We were going to replace the ugly pre-cast concrete steps up to our door with mahogony steps and have a lovely gable with a curved portico.

We can file a variance with the town and if the zoning board approves it, we can go ahead with the porch -- next year. To be honest, a porch would have been nice, but I'm not too upset about it. I mainly want the water problem solved. So we have a plan B. The contractor can rebuild our doorway so that it doesn't expose the foundation. He'll repair the water damage already there and spiff up the doorway with a fresh coat of paint. Not as nice as a porch, but it will hopefully solve the problem.

The reason I am sitting and waiting for this to happen is because the contractor is waiting for the permit from the town. I am working from home this week so I can be here for the contractor (and also to avoid the DNC headaches). Today it is supposed to rain really hard so even if the contractor does get the permit, I don't know how much he can do. I sure hope he is able to start and get a lot done before next Monday because I can't stay home next week. Also, I fear that the town won't let us do plan B either.

Nothing ever goes smoothly with this type of thing. I knew that ahead of time so I'm not as stressed or upset as I could be.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Hoodlums in Acton

I was greeted this morning in my lovely affluent town by a vandalized mailbox.

Our mailbox (which was crummy and old to begin with) had been vandalized some time during the night while we slept peacefully and unkowingly in our house. The post of the mailbox is made from somewhat rusty wrought iron. Some hoodlums thought it would be funny to bend the thing all the way down to the ground. We just bent it right back up and it doesn't look much worse than it did before. We weren't the only victims. Many mailboxes along our street were hit as well. Some were outright smashed beyond repair.

I called the police to report the incident, but I don't think they can really do anything about it. Next week though I'll probably read my own police report in the local paper.

This is actually the second time I've called the Acton police this week. The first time was on Monday, when I noticed a cluster of small swastikas drawn on the inside of a rain shelter at the commuter rail station. Again I don't think the police can really do anything about it, but they should know none-the-less. I hope it gets painted over. I haven't checked since I first saw them.

I guess if that's the worst that's happened to us in Acton in the year that we've lived here, things aren't so bad. But now I worry about my car and my garden. You can hit my mailbox with a baseball bat, but if you even think about harming my garden, I'm gonna get mad. That is a threat.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Bouncing Baby Set

I recently finished a very cute knitting project for my high school friend, Meghan, who is due to have a baby any day now. This is the same Meghan from the famous Meghan's Mom's Pasta Salad post. I knitted the Bouncing Baby Set, which is a very cute hat, knee sock booties, and thumbless mitties. The pattern is from the great book "Homespun Handknit."

Meghan and her husband didn't find out the sex of the baby, which I admire since it's very unusual that people want to be surprised these days. This, however, made it hard for me to choose a color for the bouncing baby set. Not that I agree with the blue for boys and pink for girls stuff. I don't. But it's hard not to fall into that trap sometimes. Especially since there isn't always a whole lot of color choices when it comes to baby yarns. Luckily, the store had a nice canteloupe color. I think this will look appropriate on either a boy or a girl.

Here is a picture of the finished set. The set should fit a baby between 3 and 6 months old.

Bouncing Baby Set

Monday, July 12, 2004

Window Box Update

Our Ask This Old House window boxes have been painted, hung, and planted. This is what they look like:

You can see more pictures of the window boxes, plus some random garden shots here. In case you are wondering, I will probably not send these photos to the show. I will wait until the flowers fill in some. If they're going to show these finished window boxes on televison, I want them to look spectacular!

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Marissa's Cucumber Soup

Here's another summertime favorite at our house. My college roommate, Marissa used to make this in our third floor, attic apartment near Philadelphia. The soup is both good hot and chilled. I like it best the next day, just slightly warmer than chilled. Here is the recipe:

  • 5 or 6 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped

  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (I usually use a little more than that)

  • one large can of chicken broth (I've never tried it with vegetable broth, but I'm curious to know if it would be as good)

  • 1 and 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar

  • 3 Tbsp butter for frying the onions

  • 5 Tbsp farina to thicken the soup

  • lots of dill (fresh is best)

  • 1 cup of sour cream (I use light)

  • salt and pepper to taste

Basically, you saute the onions in the butter until soft, not brown. Then add the cukes, broth, vinegar, and dill. Bring it to a boil, stir in the farina, then simmer covered for 25 minutes. Then, let it cool down and puree it in a blender - I use an immersion blender. Add sour cream while blending. Add more dill and salt and pepper to taste. As I said, it's best if you put it in the fridge over night and then eat it the next day. I put some in a bowl and microwave it for about 40 seconds just to take the chill off. The soup goes extremely well with sour dough bread. Lots of tang.

Thanks, Marissa, wherever you are!

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Cherry Ice Cream

We spent our 4th of July at home, but we celebrated in a culinary way. I made home made raspberry mint iced tea. We had hot dogs on the grill with home made cole slaw and canned vegetarian baked beans. And for dessert we had home made cherry ice cream that I made in my new Cuisinart ice cream maker.

My brother and his wife gave us the ice cream maker for a wedding gift and this was the first time we used it. The ice cream was great and it was very easy to make, but it does require some planning ahead. In fact the ice cream wasn't really ready to eat until the next day because it was still too soft. There is a lot of waiting involved when making ice cream.

First, I mixed the basic ingredients together: milk, cream, sugar, and vanilla. Then I let it sit in the fridge for at least 3 hours before I put it in the ice cream maker. While the milk and cream mixture sat, I pitted and halved some cherries and cooked them in a sugar syrup for about a half hour. They also had to chill for a while. The ice cream maker part was easy. This process only lasted about 1/2 hour. When everything was mixed together and was the consistency of thick whipped cream, I transferred the concoction to a freezer safe container and put it back in the freezer. Ideally, it should sit over night to harden.

Needless to say, home made ice cream is not a last minute venture. It is worth the wait though. I am anxious to try making slushies or granita because I don't expect there to be any waiting time involved with that.