Thanksgiving Photo Travel Log
During the week of Thanksgiving, Randy and I packed up the car and headed west to enjoy the festivities with my sister Wendy and her adorable kids. Our travels began with a stop at Carhenge in Nebraska. Roadside kitsch at it's finest!
Once we made it to Rapid City, South Dakota, we spent some time exploring the Black Hills, which are just a short drive from Wendy's place. Here's a shot of pronghorn deer grazing at Custer State Park.
Custer State Park is full of wildlife. We took lots of animal photos, but I'll spare you the agony of viewing them all. Here's one I think came out pretty well.
On our second day in South Dakota, it snowed up in the mountains, but that didn't stop us from getting out to enjoy the scenery. Bundled up like polar explorers, we took a magical hike around a small lake.
We took a quick tour of the Natural History Museum in Hill City, SD. The Black Hills are home to lots of dinosaur bones.
Thanksgiving Dinner tasted fabulous! After dinner, we rounded up the kids went on a walk about the neighborhood. Aren't Wendy's little ones adorable?
All too soon, we needed to hit the road for home. On the way, we took an obligatory road-side stop at Wall Drug to check out more tourist kitsch.
Our last stop on the way home was at the Badlands National Park. We wish we could have spent more time exploring the park.
Who's that tiny person on that steep cliff?
This week I cut down two trees. There I was, poised at the edge of the "Great Wood" that begins at the very edge of our back yard. The trees along the edge are crowded and weed-like. One tree was a nasty, thorny thing (I think it might be a hawthorn). It was time to make it clear who the gardener is around here.
Saw in hand, I scrunched down and scratched away at the tree trunks, wondering all the while if I was doing this right. There was this point with both trees that the weight of the trunk smashed the saw into place, making it difficult to move the saw at all. I had an image of abandoning the metal thing inside the middle of the tree for the winter--not a pretty thought. With raw brute force, I managed along. Timber! The trees feel to the ground in grand style, one after the other.
Actually, both trees were pretty young, slender things. Still, it took some hacking to make it happen, and I'm feeling rather adventurous to be working out in the yard this late in the year. This spring, I made some modest progress in my yard. (I'd like to call this place a garden, but I don't think it qualifies yet.) I moved a bunch of hostas into a new bed out back, and Randy and I built a mighty brick planter along the steps at the front of the house. By the end of the year, the beds remained relatively weed free. That's an accomplishment, I think.
Next year, I have much grander plans. I see blooming things everywhere. Veggies, old fashioned sunflowers, herbs, cosmos..... I see it, just beyond my grasp... A living garden...
With the goal of making next year more successful than this, I've been doing some purposeful surfing. My best find is the Garden Web forum on Winter Sowing. The idea with winter sowing is to start many hardy seeds in plastic-covered pots outside, instead of fussing with indoor seed-starting contraptions. Apparently, many wildflower and other hardy seeds appreciate the cold spell outside, and they'll bloom in the spring with they are ready, with every little intervention from the green thumb. Because the plants are grown outside, they are ready to go into the ground much earlier, without all that stuff about "hardening off" that's required for indoor grown seedling. Starting plants from seeds saves a lot of money, plus you can grow many more varieties of plants than are offered at the big box hardware store.
This is it, Dear Reader. The key to the Garden Kingdom. Check out the forum here, and be sure to browse the FAQ pages for all the details.
May I Recommend
The gardening bug is back with a vengeance. With only a few moments of light left in the evening after work, I've been looking for small garden chores I can still tackle while the weather is mild. Last night, I sowed some winter rye on my little veggie plot and covered the bed with a row cloth. The winter rye seeds smelled just like the rye I used to bake into bread (back in the days when I actually baked bread). I had one of those "so this is gardening" moments as I cast the seeds across the dark soil. Grow little sprouts, grow!
Funny how I did not feel this way at all back in August when the weather was balmy and it would have been the perfect time to plant some shrubs, maybe even a tree, around our bare plot of earth. Ah, but one can always dream about next year's garden.
On my gardening Internet daydream list:
You Bet Your Garden, an NPR radio garden show that features a little humor and a lot of gardening advice.
Kitchen Garden International. The article about sauerkraut caught my fancy, and I enjoyed the brief bio about the Cambodian-American gardener.
The Bookish Gardener, a blog by a Wisconsin gardener who is now shy about her feelings towards the bane of gardens everywhere--the bunny rabbit.
Horticultural, another blog. This one by a UK journalist and gardener
Alas, You Grow Girl has not been updated since spring. Perhaps the site's name was too perky for it's own good. I very nearly purchased one of the "Garden Hoe" t-shirts the site offered for sale.
Let Me See You Shimmer
A reader (yeah!) asked me about the "Blue Shimmer" cardigan kit I have in my knitting stash. Last year, I purchased the kit at Stitches Midwest from Kimmet Croft Fibers. This is the yarn company that is recommended in Wendy Keele's Poems of Color: Knitting in the Bohus Tradition. At the time, I wanted to learn more about doing two-color knitting, and a sweater featuring a color pattern around the collar seemed a good place to start.
Sea of Blues
Back then, the knitting blog world was awash in traditional knitting. It seemed everyone was doing their first Fair Isle or Norwegian sweater. These days, even venerable traditionalists have moved onto more fashionable fare, but "Blue Shimmer" is still on my To-Do list.
During the past year, I've completed a few small projects to practice two-color knitting. My biggest problem has been getting a consistent gauge between the two-color sections and the single-color sections. Row gauge has also been a problem for me. In fact, when I purchased the cardigan kit, I also purchased a matching hat kit, for the practice. As I worked on the hat, I was able to get the stitch gauge pretty close to what's recommended in the pattern, but the row gauge was way off. I didn't realize this until I'd knitting several inches of fabric, enough that the hat would completely cover my ears, but the pattern still called for several more rows.
The good thing about a Bohus design is that it is pretty abstract. The last few rows on my hat are improvisations, and I like that about it. Once the weather dips to the low 10s, this hat will accompany me everywhere. And the cardigan? It's slated to move from my stash into the knitting basket after Christmas.
In other knitting news, I finally finished a baby blanket for my sister Mary who lives in DC. Mary's baby Lindsey came five weeks early, so all other projects were put on hold so we could focus on the little one. This baby blanket is knit in Patons "Look at Me" baby sport yarn, and hopefully the colors won't clash too much with Mary's pretty lavender-and-sage nursery. This blanket was the world's easiest pattern. It is all garter stitch with a simple eyelet at the beginning of each row. I'll probably get kicked off of the Knitting Blog Ring for admitting this, but even though I put all other projects aside so I could focus solely on this project, and even though it is nuttin' but knit stitches, it took me two full weeks to complete. Does anyone out there teach a speed knitting course?
Moving on to Books
My sister Wendy mentioned she's looking for a book about battles. Arts and Letters Daily recently had a link to an article about WWI that sent me hunting for some new reads. The article is called "Our First View of the End of the War", and it reviews several books about The Great War. One book looked particularly striking, and I've requested it through Interlibrary Loan (another great reason for working at a college). The book is 14-18: Understanding the Great War .
And on to Movies
Randy recently purchased an MVP pass to Hollywood Video. This means we can check out as many movies as we like for $10 bucks a month, and believe-you-me we've taken advantage. The last two weeks, we've done little else but watch movies.
Over the weekend, we caught Eternal Sunshine in the Spotless Mind. I loved the way the characters were so off beat and really pretty unlikeable. The story winds backwards, which I thought worked great. At the beginning of the movie, you see two characters who's relationship is really strained. Randy kept saying, "Red flag, man. Dump that girl, she's trouble!" Then, as the movie goes on, it's clear their relationship had it's good parts, too. It's interesting to see a relationship portrayed as an ongoing challenge with both characters driven crazy by the very traits that originally drew them together. The movie's ending definitely is not your typical "and they all lived happily ever after"--another plus, in my book. (Disclosure: this one is Rated R.)
A second film we both loved was Spirited Away, a Japanese anime film. I'm pretty sure this film was nominated for an Oscar. The story is about a young girl who becomes trapped in a magical world ruled by a witch. The setting is unlike anything I've seen before--it's one of the few films I could really say was "otherworldly". (Though perhaps if I were more familiar with Japanese folklore, the ghosts and creatures in the story may have been more familiar.) In order to save her parents, the girl finds a job working in a bath house in the spirit world. The bath house customers are river spirits, radish spirits, and mask-wearing monsters, and it takes all of the girl's wits and honesty to escape. The animation was stunning--really beautiful. It may be a little scary for younger kids, but otherwise a great family film.
On my Sunday phone call to my parents, Mom pointed out it had been more than a week since I'd posted to Prairie Tide. Yikes! Time for some catch up.
In the Prairie Tide world, Harry Potter is all the rage. I turned my graduation garb into a Halloween costume, and became Positively Hogwarts for one day. For one entire day, the word "Brilliant!" spilled out of me over and over. I wore the costume to work, but apparently, none of my other coworkers thought Halloween costumes were a good idea this year. Brilliant!
The late-fall gardening bug bit me this past week, I worked mightily to make up for my garden-variety laziness during the past few months. Below is the small bed I hope to turn into a Square Foot Garden. It is November, but I'm already dreaming about next summer's brandywine tomatoes. If next summer's plans produce fruit (or veggies), we may see this little plot expand.
Small Garden Thumbprint
The bed below was full of some really ugly plants. We're talking snaggle-toothed! A few were promoted to the first yard, but most of the buggers are on their way to becoming compost. With the bed cleaned out, I added a bunch of top soil and compost, plus I added some peat moss and some sulfur, with the goal of lowering the pH in our soil. This bed is really quite large, and I really want to plant two blueberry bushes here. I know, I know, the brick wall around this bed is hiddeous. Rebuilding the wall is a project for another year. Should the blueberries survive an entire season, I want to find space elsewhere for strawberries and raspberries. It's Berry Delicious!
In other gardening news, I cleaned out a bunch of brush from "the woods" that border part of our yard, and I shredded piles of leaves, and we're makin' compost. With the help of Randy and his dad, we cobbled together two compost bins out of some fencing material. The bins are quite large and full to the brim with leaves.
The black tarps in the picture below are killing the grass on the slope in the backyard. That hill is murder to keep mowed, and I want out of the mowing business. Next spring, we're digging in groundcover plants to keep things green, weed free, and lawnmower safe.
Into the Woods