Makin’ bacon, the first BLT sandwiches of the season

There is nothing like the first BLT of the season made with homegrown tomatoes. Among the veggies in our garden this year, the Early Girl, Mr. Stripey, Cherokee Purple, Beefmaster and Roma tomatoes are the most welcome. Our spring and summer have been unseasonably cool, and tomatoes like hot days and warm nights. They do their magic during those warm nights. We’ve had an abundance of rain this season, though, so much that I’ve only watered our veggies and flowers a handful of times the whole season! This week, the tomatoes finally began to ripen.

Last night and today, BLT’s have been dinner, along with chunks of a particularly succulent and sweet seedless watermelon.The results were, well…Just take Emma’s word for it.

Picture of dog panting and drooling for BLT sandwich

Yeah, baby! It is time for fresh tomatoes plain or with Tzatziki Sauce (we get ours from GFS, Gordon Food Services), a splash of balsamic vinegar, light Italian dressing, or served up on sandwiches. Miracle Whip is our condiment of choice for the latter.

I cooked the bacon in the microwave the second time around, because it is less messy and the grease is absorbed as it cooks. Just layer a few paper towels on a plate, arrange slices of bacon side-by-side on the plate (no overlapping) and cover with another few sheets of paper towels. Cook on high for 4-6 minutes and let cool a bit. If your microwave doesn’t have a turntable, you will probably need to turn the plate part way through to make sure it cooks evenly.

There are also some great microwave bacon cooker kitchen gadgets if you want to save on paper towels and lessen the amount of bacon grease you consume. Nordic Ware makes one that’s both a bacon cooker and meat grill. There’s also The Original Makin’ Bacon Microwave Bacon Rack, which suspends the bacon during cooking, letting the grease drip down into a reservoir below. I’d like that one myself, since it lets you cook more pieces at a time, certainly more than I could using a plate and paper towels.

What’s your favorite thing to do with an abundance of fresh garden produce, especially tomatoes? We are going to have a BUNCH of Roma tomatoes coming ripe at once and I want to use them up. I don’t know if I want to bother with canning, but I might try it. It would be good to make some tomato sauces for later. Hmmmmmm. At least it’s been a cooler summer so canning wouldn’t be so doggoned hot. I thought about setting up a hotplate out under our gazebo and putting my big Ball 21-quart waterbath canner out there so it won’t heat up the house.

Snow, ice, and dog hors d’oeuvres

Back in late January, our temperatures plummeted. At one point, our city was the coldest one in the US at -20F. We beat out Alaska and Minnesota! Just because it gets cold doesn’t mean the dogs get a free pass and don’t have to go outside, though. The more cold-hardy of the two goes out in her own fur coat, but our greyhound mix, Emma, wears a sweater or a doggie coat. She has a metal plate in her leg from a bad break, so she’s especially susceptible to the cold.

Here’s a shot taken of the more robust winter dog after the snowstorm, when we took a frigid walk down the street. Poor Emma only made it a few houses down the street before my husband had to turn back toward home with her. Stella and I soldiered on, because Stella was still playing in the snow and I wanted to get to a better vantage point for the gorgeous sunset.

Photo of my dog walking in the snow

Our rugged individualist.

 

Just as spiritedly as she played in the snow, she suddenly stopped and looked up at me before starting to limp. Her feet had reached their limit! I thought I was going to have to carry her back home, but right then my sweet husband came driving up in our car, figuring we might need to be rescued. It was below zero out and terribly windy. We gladly got in the car even for that half block drive home!

This is the sunset I wanted to photograph. Aren’t those clouds gorgeous?

The magnificent sunset of January 25, 2014.

The magnificent sunset of January 25, 2014.

 

More snow fell this past Monday evening through Tuesday morning and, after it, a layer of ice. This has made for some interesting time outside for our two dogs who, at only about 42-45 pounds, alternate between skating atop the ice and breaking through spots. It also serves to make piles left by the dogs and other animals quite prominent in our landscape. While walking one of the dogs today, I noticed this:

 

Iced deer poop hors d'oeurves

Culinary perfection to my dog: Iced deer poop hors d’oeuvres

 Yes, the deer who frequent our yard at night left their usual calling cards. This presents iced deer poop hors d’oeuvres for Stella, who has a disgusting fondness for these morsels. We have to keep her away from this feast. Dogs!!

Ohio garden in the winter

Here are a couple of photos of our snowy, cold garden pond and yard, taken this morning at about 9:15AM. Yay, sunshine! It is bitterly cold, but we have had sunny days this week. That’s been wonderful, a break from winter’s normally grey and dismal days. These shots were both taken using the Snow setting in the Camera ZOOM fx app on my Samsung Note II.

Winter garden and pond

Winter garden and pond with ornamental grasses

 

If you have winter photos of your garden, post a link in the comments below so others can check them out!

Garden pond with stock tank heater is an oasis for wildlife in the winter

This has been cold winter for us in Ohio. It seems like we’ve been shivering forever and that spring will never come. Our garden’s avian visitors are eager for food and water, frequenting our feeders of black oil sunflower seed and drinking from our garden pond. One of our guests is a flock of dark-eyed juncos. They’re members of the sparrow family. You can identify the slate colored dark-eyed juncos by their dark grey heads, grey bodies, white bellies and white outer tail feathers. They are winter visitors here in Ohio, little birds we love to see make their appearance each year. We love watching them hop around in the snow.

Here are two photos of dark-eyed (slate colored) juncos:

They leave these tracks on our pond when they come to drink.

bird tracks on frozen pond surface

 

The floating stock tank de-icer you see thaws the surface enough that there’s a hole even in the sub-zero temps we’re experiencing this year. Brrr! If you get a stock tank de-icer, make sure it’s safe for plastic if your pond is a formed pond or has a rubber liner.  They’re great things, ensuring the local wildlife has fresh water and lets oxygen into the pond so our pond fish don’t suffocate under the ice during prolonged freezes. There are raccoons and neighborhood cats drinking from the pond as well. So far, no deer have ventured up, at least not as far as we can tell.

 

We had our last heater for six or seven years, maybe longer. We finally had to replace it for this season. Even if you don’t have a garden pond, it’s possible to provide water for wildlife in the winter. You can either keep a hole chipped in a container of water or get something like we used to use, heated birdbaths. There are traditional bowl-shaped models as well as more natural-looking birdbaths that just sit on the ground, patio or deck. Here are some examples:

 

At some point, we should find an alternate way to aerate our pond in the winter that is more cost-efficient. Our pond heater pulls over 1000 watts when on compared to the smaller heated birdbaths that only use the equivalent of a light bulb. However, the little heated birdbaths don’t necessarily keep the water thawed down to frigid temps like we’re experiencing this winter.

Dogs die from being left in hot cars

mydogiscool-puppy-oven-poster-small

I came out from Walmart today to find a dog baking in a hot car next to mine. The one back window facing my car was down about 5 inches.

The dog was an older beagle mix, grey muzzled with slightly-clouded eyes. It was panting heavily and salivating. While I stood watching it, the dog alternated between standing with its front paws on the armrest between the front seats, climbing down into the shaded spot on the floor in front of the passenger seat, standing on the back passenger arm rest with its head tipped up out the open window, and lying on its side on the back seat. Its sides were heaving as it panted; it was obviously hot and in distress.

I hoped the owners would be right out, so waited eight minutes before I called the non-emergency number of the local police. I was on the phone with the dispatcher when the couple approached their car about two minutes after I placed the call.

The woman saw me standing behind her car as I was talking to the dispatcher. She said, “Why are you looking at my license plate?!”

What, this one?

I told the dispatcher the owners were just coming up to their car. I turned to the woman and said in a low, calm tone, “I am reading your license plate to the police. I called to let them know there was a distressed animal in a hot car here.”

The woman snapped, “We were only in there five minutes!” I replied that I had been next to their car for ten minutes at this point.

She said, “The back windows were both down!”

I said, “M’am, do you have any idea how quickly a car reaches dangerous temperatures for an animal on a hot day like this, even with the windows down?”

DID YOU KNOW…
When it’s 85 degrees outside, the temperature inside a car — even with the windows cracked — can soar to 102 degrees in 10 minutes and 120 degrees in just half an hour. On hotter days, the temperature will climb even higher. Outside temperatures in the 70s can be dangerous, as well. Source

The dispatcher took my contact information and ended the call. The patrolman arrived just after that and came over to the passenger side of my car (the opposite side of my car from the couple’s) and leaned down to talk to me. He asked me what happened, and I told him what I’d seen.

While he was talking to me, the woman yelled, “Both the back windows were down!” The officer glanced her way and said in a flat tone of voice, “I’m not talking to you right now. You’ll get your chance.” He leaned back down and said to me, “You can’t control who has kids or pets.”

Can I just say, I *heart* that officer? When I left, he was walking over to their car. I hope he educated them about the dangers of leaving a dog in a hot car. I hope he encouraged them to soak their dog down with cold water as soon as possible. In the end, there wasn’t anything else I could do.

I know I made a couple of enemies by my actions today (woof, if looks could kill!), but how could I keep silent when faced with an animal suffering in the heat? Several times each summer, we read stories about people whose children die due to being left in hot cars. Sometimes we hear about dogs that die from the same cause. It even happened recently with a K9 officer whose partner left him in the patrol car.

On a hot day, a car reaches uncomfortably high temperatures even if you park in the shade and have all your windows down. It amazes me that some people lack the common sense to realize it’s not safe to leave a dog in the car on warm days. These same people would never choose to sit in their car, on a sunny, 87-degree day (that’s the temperature in the shade, mind you), out in a parking lot.

What if, in addition to that, they were forced to wear fur coats and lacked the ability to sweat and cool off by evaporation? This is exactly the treatment to which they subject their dogs.

I guess the only thing we can do is report the situations as we see them and try to educate people about the issue. The website, mydogiscool.com is a tremendous resource for the latter. Give it a good read through and print off a few of their free educational posters and fliers in PDF format. This one gets the point across:

This double-sided brochure contains facts every dog owner should know:

If you can’t print them yourself, you can order them for $3.00/25 pieces. Bulk pricing is available. See the website for details. It might be just as cheap to take them to a local copy-print place. Who knows, if the owner’s a dog lover, you might even get a discounted rate.

However you get them off the screen and into your hands, keep some in your car’s glove compartment for those times you see a dog left in a hot car. Go out on a limb and possibly save the life of a dog. If the owner comes out before you leave, great! Hand him a flier. At the very least, tuck a flier under the windshield wiper on the car as you make a call to the police.

Please spread the word. People don’t mean to put their pets’ lives in jeopardy. What they don’t know could cost them their beloved family member.

Pixelated satellite images, or pixelated landscapes?

Earlier this week, I was looking up some addresses in Florida on Google Maps. When I looked at one not far from Belle Glade State Municipal Airport area of Florida, the satellite image made me do a double take.

I thought there was a problem with the image because it seemed pixelated at first glance. Nope! The patterns created by the farm fields in various stages of tillage and growth was the reason for it. I’ve seen the Midwest’s fields from the windows of airplanes and they look similar. The bounds aren’t quite so rectangular as these, though. The bright green of those growing fields certainly makes a difference in their appearance compared to most you see in the Midwest (especially in summer of 2012, in this drought!). I thought this was pretty cool.

I love looking at satellite images and bird’s eye views like those given by Bing. One really cool landmark in my area is readily apparent on both, the DAWES ARBORETUM hedge letting at the nearby arboretum. That letting, comprised of arborvitae shrubs, stretches an impressive 2,040 feet! It was planted in 1930 and 1940, then replanted in 1990-91.

The famous Dawes Arboretum hedge letters.

Bing Maps bird's eye view of Dawes Arboretum hedge letters in Newark, Ohio

My husband and I were dating when they replanted; at the time, the new hedges looked like little green cotton balls, but they’ve grown together into the familiar letters. For many years, pilots used it as a point of reference en route to Columbus International Airport, so large are those letters. The map can be found here. You can find more information about the hedge lettering at the Historical Marker Database.

When I posted the Florida image to Facebook, my friend Elaine told me to look at Brownfield, TX on Google maps. So, I did:

Satellite image of the circular fields surrounding Brownfield, Texas.

Wow! The satellite image shows the circular fields surrounding Brownfield, Texas. That’s some dry country, and the irrigation systems are center-pivot irrigation systems (also called central-pivot irrigation systems). The water source is at the center of the hub. A pump powers the water through the long assembly of pipes and nozzles that slowly rotates the circle like the hands on a clock. How cool are those things when seen from that lofty perspective?

If you think that’s something, check out these crop circles in the vicinity of Garden City, Kansas.

Satellite view of circular fields with center pivot irrigation in Garden City, Kansas.

I’ll leave you with a wonderful HD video depicting wonders seen from space, the Garden City, Kansas, region in particular. I tried to get the embedded video to begin at 4:40 in the film, but for some reason it’s not working. If you want to skip to that point, drag the slider to 4:40. It’s breathtaking. Watch the whole thing if you have time, and watch it in HD on the biggest monitor you can.

After seeing that, do you understand the reason for this entry’s title?

June 29, 2012 derecho storm in Licking County Ohio

June 29, I headed home after doing a few errands. My husband called to tell me a pretty significant-looking storm system was moving through. I got home just as the skies began to darken. We live in south end of Newark, Ohio. Before long, this is what happened. This was shot looking north toward Heath, Ohio.

We’ve lived in our house since 1999 and this was by far the worst storm we’ve ever seen, including the one in 2008 when the remnants of Hurricane Ike came through Ohio. Here’s my first video of the aftermath, just in our home’s immediate vicinity:

The newspapers report the system as a derecho. Howie and I were unfamiliar with this term until we read about it regarding this storm. The Weather Channel online has good information about the phenomenon.

As of today, July 4, we are still without power in our neighborhood. AEP, Licking Rural Electric and the other area companies have been working around the clock clearing the substantial amount of debris, cutting down trees, and working on lines. The damage is just unreal. I’ll be posting more videos in the next day or two. I’m limited to working at places away from home since we don’t have service.

One resource that’s been a lifeline for me is Licking County Scannerheads. The Facebook group is very active, and members post helpful information there 24/7. When our T-Mobile service was down (four days – hello!) except for sporadic availability of SMS, it meant the world to be able to drive into a neighboring city who had power and get online to see what was happening locally, at neighborhood levels.