Sunshine! Plants and burnt sugar

We have had a week of the most gorgeous weather, sunshiny and cool most days, even getting hot yesterday. For the first time I was able to have my windows open during the day, and it was cool and breezy all day inside. In fact, it was so cool in the house yesterday afternoon that I overdressed for my art class when I could have been wearing a t-shirt. However, it was cold in the room, so that was just as well.

Last Wednesday, my neighbor and I planned to go to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge to do our hike. However, when we got there, we discovered that the hiking trail was closed until May 1 because of breeding birds. They had another hiking trail up through town that we could have gone to, but we saw that they had a one-hour driving tour through the refuge, so we decided to take that instead.

We must have seen thousands of birds, mostly water birds. We really regretted not having our binoculars or bird books with us. We saw Canada Geese, and a subspecies called Dusky Geese, lots of different kinds of ducks, an egret (we think—it was far away), lots of red-winged blackbirds, swallows, and so many other birds we couldn’t identify. A large rodent came out of a pond right next to our car. my neighbor thought he was a muskrat, but after listening to our audio CD about the refuge, we decided he was a nutria. We had nutria in the river in Austin, but all you ever saw was their heads, poking out of the water far away as they swum. This guy was big, and he stood there right next to the car! He couldn’t be bothered.

The Great Blue Heron checking out the grass

A little further on, we encountered a great blue heron, who was walking along the road, apparently hunting for something in the grass. We followed him quietly down the road with our car for quite some time. He never paid any attention to us until we decided to try to slowly pass him. Then he flew away.

The Canada geese with their chicks. I don’t know if you can tell, but on the other side of the water are hundreds of birds.

Later on we came to a point where the road ran between two huge flocks of Canada geese. On the left were the regular Canada geese, and on the right were the Dusky Canada geese, a smaller and darker subspecies. With the Canada geese on the left, we were able to see some chicks! I’m sure there were a lot more there, but most of the geese were hiding their chicks away on the side of an embankment.

(I’m afraid I might have zoomed in too far on both these pictures, but I only had my phone.)

We decided we were going to come back again with our binoculars and our bird books. It’s only an issue of when.

On Friday night, my nine-year-old great niece had a talent show at her school. This talent show has history for our family, because of how it is run. Last year, my niece didn’t think to invite us to the competition, and they were all very upset when they came home. I have never actually heard of a school talent show that has prizes, but apparently this one does. The audience votes for the winner, and as many of the families in the area are very large, what happens is that the children from the large families win the prizes. My niece said that several of the kids who were actually talented did not win anything, including my great niece, who has a very good voice for her age and bravely sang Leonard Cohen’s difficult song “Hallelujah” to no reward. My niece said it was painfully embarrassing, because so many of the parents were shocked that my great niece didn’t win anything and came up and said so, or just stared at them. The little girl who won first prize last year stuttered out a few bars of her song and then quit. My niece said that one girl playing a cello, who sounded almost professional, also didn’t win anything.

When my niece explained to me how the show was run, I was shocked that it would be handled that way. It turns out the show is organized and run by the high school students. I think they need some suggestions from the teachers.

My great niece with her trophy after the performance. We are at a restaurant buying her a piece of cake to celebrate. The elbows belong to her parents.

This year, they set up the voting a little differently. Instead of giving the audience three votes and the judges only one, they did it the other way around. Also, I think the judges waited to see who the audience voted for before picking their winners, so that the prizes could be spread around more fairly. My niece also made sure that we were there, as well as both grandmothers, and an uncle. We’re not sure exactly which of those tactics worked, but my great niece won the audience choice award. She was so happy! My niece said that she was the only one of the talented kids from last year that actually came back and performed again. My niece sung “Rise Up” by Andra Day, which is a difficult song. I may be biased, but I think for her age group that she was one of the most talented performers.

My husband said the whole thing was excruciating, and he would not go again. He was nice enough to stay for the whole thing, though. Both grandmothers and the uncle left during intermission, after the younger kids had performed and they could vote. My niece also commented that far fewer people were there this year than last year, which was the first year of the talent show. I’m sure that there were lots of hard feelings after last year.

On talking with my sister and my niece, I found out that I could actually plant some starts at this time, ones for plants that are more cold hardy. So, on Saturday, I went out and bought starts for the cold-resistant veggies, and on Sunday I planted them. I think I made a beginner’s mistake, though, because I have a small garden, and I devoted too much space to large vegetables that only produce one plant, that is cabbages, broccoli, and cauliflower. Although I only planted a few apiece, I have very little space left for beans, eggplant, and tomatoes and peppers, which produce more veggies. Luckily, they grow upward, so I will squeeze them in. I planted some herbs, green and red cabbages, peas and snap peas, brussel sprouts, Walla Walla onions, broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach. I may have planted the spinach too soon.

In a few weeks, I’ll plant tomatoes, beans, and peppers, and my niece said she had a zuccini plant I’ll have to try to squeeze in. She is also starting me an artichoke. That will take up a lot of space, but I have saved some for it, and I love artichokes.

On Saturday, we also had a little incident. I had started cooking some sugar water for hummingbirds on the stove when my husband came in and we decided to (finally) plant the plum tree. I got so excited that I forgot about the sugar water. We must have been outside for about a half hour or forty-five minutes, and we were on our way back in when I heard a funny noise that sounded like it was coming from the neighbor’s house. Suddenly, I realized it was a smoke detector, and it was coming from our house! Yes, my sugar water had gone up in smoke. I don’t know if you have ever seen a lot of burnt sugar, but it is not a pretty sight. It sort of makes a black, shiny structure in the middle of the pan, which of course was ruined. (It was an old pan I should have thrown away long ago anyway.) However, this was the final straw for the smoke detector.

The geniuses that installed our smoke detectors put one at the very top of our very high ceilings. My husband had the contractors install all new smoke detectors last year, but he made the mistake, he said, of not changing out the factory batteries for new ones. The smoke detectors are wired into the electricity of the house, but apparently they are required to have batteries, too, in case of a power failure. Well, that top smoke detector decided it needed a new battery, and it beeped all night long. My husband is somewhat deaf, so after we closed our bedroom door and he put on his C-PAP device, it didn’t bother him, but it kept me awake all night long.

We have a 12-foot ladder, which isn’t tall enough to get up there. Our niece’s husband, Ares, said that his stepfather, who was our tenant before we moved here, used to lean an extension ladder up against the ceiling, which must have been very dangerous. My husband had already called about renting a 16-foot ladder but then realized that it wouldn’t fit in our car. Ares came over to help, because my husband thought we might be able to get the battery out using his grabber and the 12-foot ladder, but Ares couldn’t get a grip on the battery with the grabber. Finally, Ares got up on the stepladder with the grabber and a powerful magnet and was able to get the old battery out and put the new one in. What a relief!

 

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2 thoughts on “Sunshine! Plants and burnt sugar”

  1. I’ve burnt the sugar before, in a very similar way. It smells awful.
    I’m so happy for your niece for winning the award – she must be very good. What a sweet picture of her!

    Like

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