Sunday, August 29, 2010

State Fair jelly, tomato hornworms, and young scientists

What a strange combination for a blog post!

Big news first: While my lo-sugar plum jelly placed 10th and therefore out of the running at the Texas State Fair, my lo-sugar cherry jelly earned a 4th, or honorable mention. Yeah, me!

On the I-can't-believe-what-I'm-still-finding front, my hornworm collection is now up to 14. It seems that every time I go out to pinch off more leaves for them to eat, I find more of them eating! They are getting big and I've split the population into two jars. I think maybe some of them aren't going to survive since they barely move when prodded. I may have to find a third jar.

The grandest grandkids were fascinated by them this weekend. Little scientists in training.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

August 24, 2010

I started this blog 4 years ago today, so happy anniversary to me. I had just set up my first laptop. It was shiny and new and I was going to play with it! I still have the laptop, some of the key tops are worn off (a,s,e,n) and I've upgraded the OS, but I still love it, even if it's not shiny and new.

In the good news/bad news column, I found baby-baby hornworms on my tomato plants today. Of course this is bad news because they were eating my tomato plants, but good news because I captured the 7 I saw and have confined them to a jar. Here we go, I'm trying again. Since the grandest grandkids are coming to stay Friday night, maybe one of the blessed worms will still be alive so we can watch it munch away.

Whereas their predecessors were about 4 inches long and as big around as my little finger, these guys are about an inch long and skinny. But they do have that distinctive horn and it is disproportionately large. I could say something, but I won't.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Zipcode profiling strikes again

In January 2009, I blogged twice about zip code profiling, the idea that manufacturer's released their coupons according to where one lived. I live in a small town, but have access to the Dallas paper, so I could compare their coupons. Often, I found I wasn't offered the same deals as those living in the Big City.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...

A couple weeks ago, I'm merrily trimming out the coupons I want from the Sunday inserts. I find one for a product I might use for 85 cents off in the Dallas paper. That's an unusual number, but the product looked interesting (it was for a recycled version of something I already buy), so I clipped. As I made my way through the stack of inserts, I looked for it again in the small town version. Sure enough, I found it: only it was 75 cents off.

Same product. Same enticement ad. Different amount of savings.

I was really put out by this. I even sat down and wrote the manufacturer, then dished the letter because as good ol' advice columnist Ann or Abby used to say, don't write a mean letter in haste. The next day I decided it wasn't worth it and wouldn't change a thing. My husband, in the meantime, said it was because there was more competition in the city.


Anyway, I looked for the product on my big box's shelves and it wasn't there so I couldn't have used it within its short use-by date anyway.

Then today (heeheehee), I see the product. ON THE CLEARANCE SHELF! Now it could have been on the real shelf last week for all I know cause I only looked once, but it was being clearanced! No one else had bought it either! It was marked to 2/3 its original "value." Now, had I had a decent coupon or two, I might have relieved them of one. Or two. As it is, it'll have to be 2/3 off before I spent real money.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Wherein I have killed the hornworm with kindness

Yesterday morning, our hornworm was slumped onto the bottom of the jar. Just resting from a night of vigorous munching? The food provided by his waitstaff did not seem to be eaten. Perhaps he'd like something fresher?

Snippers in hand, I plucked some tender new tomato bits for him. (Just how far was a I willing to go in the name of science?) Maybe he was thirsty? So I rinsed them off, shook them, and put them in the jar with him. He seemed to revive.

A few hours later, the interior bottom of the jar was slimy. Not a good sign. The hornworm was in similar condition. So I gingerly dumped him out on a paper towel, patted him drier, cleaned his jar, only put in the tastiest of leaves and left him to it.

He was too far gone to enjoy the freshness of his environment.

I consulted my son to see how hornworm #1 was doing, only to fine that it too had died. Not that either of them was going to have a long future, but still, I wanted to see this out to the end. No doubt, in the wild, they would have continued the destruction of my tomato plant before spinning themselves into a new occupation, that of egg-layers.

Perhaps they just don't do well in captivity.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

My own personal hornworm

That's right. I found number 2. You may have to look closely at the photo but he has white stripes and is curling downward on the right side. If you look REAL close, you can see the brown spike on his tail end which gives him his designation.

I noticed this morning that, despite my watering them every morning, my tomato plants in a bag looked a bit wilted. There were many sagging brown leaves, particularly near the bottom. Could it have something to do with nearly two weeks of over-100 degree days? In order to find out, I needed to clear up the brown. In doing so, I found my own hornworm.

I've had him in a jar for only a few hours and he has already eaten through a good deal of the tender little leaves I granted him. He'd better spin himself something fast because my patience goes just so far in taking good leaves off my plants in the interest of science. And, let's face it, his future doesn't exactly look bright anyway.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The tomato hornworm

While watering my largest and healthiest (so I thought) tomato plant, I noticed there was an abundance of suckers growing. I shut the water off and started to trim the plant. Only the first sucker I touched was, well, soft. And round. And LARGE.

Meet the tomato hornworm. He's a very bad fellow, as a closer examination of my once lush plant revealed. He had been consuming fresh tender little tomato leaves for some time. He didn't get to be 4 inches long overnight!

The caterpillar of the five-spotted hawk moth, he would eventually grow out of his bad habit of eating my tomatoes, but I certainly wasn't going to allow him to continue.

Many years ago, our dill crop was being devastated by caterpillars. I caught one, placed it in a holey-lidded jar and we raised, to our pleasant surprise, a spicebush swallowtail butterfly. Still not a nice fellow when in caterpillar stage, but at least pretty.

Not so the hawk moth. But an educational experience like this doesn't come along just any time, so I snipped him off the plant, put him in a jar with tomato leaves, and took him to the grandchildren. Should he do his magic and turn into a moth, I advised my son to destroy the evidence, lest the eggs laid this summer turn around and damage the tomato plants next spring.

Then I went to inspect my plants again for more of the nefarious fellows. Didn't find any but I'm being very vigilant now.

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Sunday, August 08, 2010

The Veteran's Wall at Walmart

On June 20 of this year was published in the North Texas e-News, an article I wrote about my Alzheimer's dad. It was called "Remembering the fathers who can no longer remember." I received many wonderful in-person comments about this. And I think Daddy and I've received another tribute, too.

Since that article appeared, people would say to me that they needed to get a photo of their veteran/active duty loved one out to Walmart. No sooner did the article run than Walmart started adding a row at the bottom of their 53 rows. This made Daddy's photo 7th from the bottom of row 52, not 6th. Then 53 rows became 54 and then 55 and then... Six weeks after that article ran there were over 120 more photos on that wall!

What a tribute to Daddy! We are remembering.

ETA: Visited with a friend who works at Walmart and found out that one woman brought in 78 (seventy-eight, that's right) photos of family members who had served--perhaps are serving--in the military. That's what swelled the ranks so rapidly, so to speak.

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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Throw it up there--see if it sticks

Words with Friends. If you don't know what it is, then you must not have a good friend who talked you into playing, like I do. It's basically Scrabble with a twist or two. It's fun and addictive and can bring your competitive juices out of hiding. Especially if you get beat 4 times in a row like I did. I have, however, evened out the scoreboard.

There are several ways to do that, even out the scores. One is to realize that there are more legitimate two- and three-letter words than you had any idea existed. All it takes is your friendly (?) opponent springing one of them on you for you to find the website. Qi, anyone? Try Phrontistery. Mark it.

The next way is to realize that the way the game works, no illegal words can be played. So if you're stuck with seven letters of dubious use, you can keep pushing an assortment of them onto your board until you find a combo the game will allow. Who knew pelf was word? Not me. Not until I tried it this morning. And it stuck.

It's like that old saying of how to test the doneness of spaghetti: toss a strand on the wall and if it sticks, it's done. Well, if the game allows it to stick, you've got your points.

And, mercifully, new letters.

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Monday, August 02, 2010

I know where your grandmother's kitchen is

Short answer: central Missouri.

During our three day stay in the Missouri wine country centered in Hermann, we branched out for day tours. Old St. Charles is reminiscent of Williamsburg. The Missouri wine country isn't exactly Napa, but we managed to find some excellent samplings.

Saturday we went to a postcard show in Columbia. My husband was a good sport about stopping at antique malls (if he got a gold star in his crown for every one we visited, he couldn't raise his head) and I have never seen so much 1950s glassware, dishes, kitchenware. It was, to put it succinctly, wonderful! How did all this stuff escape the families? Oh, I guess if you grow up with it, you find it old-fashioned and useless. I was fascinated, and I did grow up with it.

Next time you want a blast of the past, may I recommend the antique malls which dot I-70 near Columbia. I can hardly wait for my next reason to tour.

Oh--as to the postcard show--we finally had to stop the meandering and get there before it closed. And yes, I found a card I didn't have and that's hard to do with the depth of my collection.

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