Saturday, June 25, 2011

Review - Clif Bars

Clif Bars are a brand of energy bar that seems to be popular with hikers and outdoorsy types. In the local stores, all I ever see are peanut butter and chocolate chip. I've never bought one because although I like those flavors, I already have trail mix that has those, and I wanted something different as a snack.

After having talked to several people that liked them, I added two bars to a recent Amazon order - a Carrot Cake and a Blueberry Crisp. Both were highly recommended, even among those who don't normally like Clif Bars.

I just tried them and have to say, no thanks! The flavors weren't horrible, but they were nothing to write home about, but the killer to me was the texture. They're sticky and flexible as a bar, but individual bites are uber-dense and chewy. Not pleasant.

There's a half of each left. I offered them to my son and his first comment was, "tastes like week-old oatmeal."

Yeah, I don't think I'll be spending any more money on these things.

Dirt Watch - Continuing the Micro-Harvests

I just harvested the two largest carrots and two largest radishes from the garden. They were all very, very tiny. But tasty! Bonus because the rabbits are going to love the fresh, fresh carrot greens and get to try radish greens for the first time.

I'm pretty convinced that I need a drip irrigation setup for next year and will need to add fertilizer too, because most of the early crops are running really late and not thriving.

Gardening is not an instant-satisfaction activity.

Tomatoes and cucumbers are going great guns, there's already fruit started on all three varieties of tomatoes (Roma vine, cherry and beefsteak). The cukes are starting to climb the trellis now and have tons of the little yellow flowers that mean it's ready to start putting out edibles.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sky Go Boom Boom

You know a story is going to be interesting when it begins:

First there was this gun ....

Oh fine, you need more than that to follow the link?

How's this?

Thanks to Ace for the pointer, and I saw it in other places but I forgot where.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

From Deep in the ol' Photo Folder

Lightening the load, so to speak.

Needs no introduction:


I have no doubt that the Japanese can top this.

Well, duh.

True dat.


All right, you caught me. By the way, I'm looking for models...

Nothing like a bit of the ol' Ludwig Von, eh?

Not quite Motivational material, but still...

Amazing photo.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Dirt Watch - Attack! Edition

During last week's lunches, I packed a few snap peas picked from my garden. Yum.

Then one evening I went out to water and discovered that the garden was under attack by vicious things. One thing was certain, they loved broccoli, to the tune of completely deforesting one plant, damn near the entirety of a second, and were well on their way to devouring a third. I referred to them as "Broccoli Worms", for lack of any better name, but later found out they're called Cabbage Worms*. Go figure.

Normally, I'd be upset at the carnage, but the broccoli was doing nothing this year. Two of the plants pretty much bolted and went to seed almost immediately and the third was only just beginning to develop the edible head - way late and probably too bitter to eat. So I figured I'd live and let live.

Then this happened.

You can tell how quickly it happened by the blur, he was moving so quickly the camera could barely catch it!

That's right, the little peckerhead attacked me! He went from slow munch-machine on auto-pilot to bloodthirsty and life threatening in the wink of an hourglass.

I pulled the broccoli plants, death spawn and all, and tossed them into the compost heap.

And here's the rest of the garden beds.

In the two bottom left squares you can see the damage those worms did. Those stalky green things are the main stems of all the leaves they ate - overnight! Yowza!

Right above them are parsley and basil, then eight bush bean plants. Those bean seedlings are like two weeks old. I'm not a green bean fan, but the rest of the family loves them, so they're worth planting (have I said that before? Deja vu.) At the top are two green pepper plants. On the right, next to the broc-stalks are two Roma tomato plants. They're doing well and just starting to climb the netting. North of them are my snow peas. This hasn't been a good year for peas, and I'm not sure why. On the other side of the tomatos and peas are some spinach and lettuce, neither of which are doing so hot. I have theories to test.

In the top right sqare of this one are some lettuce, not doing great but getting there. To the left of them are two thriving cucumber plants, next to them are two squares of Swiss Chard I re-planted after the first did nothing. Bad seeds? Bugs? Dunno. Top left are two squares of carrots that are doing well. At the bottom are two squares of radishes that are doing good, and then finally snap peas. They look raggedy but have been producing ok.

Not pictured are two large pots with a cherry tomato plant and a beefsteak tomato. They're doing great, but they're getting more sun where they are.

So now you're caught up on... Dirt Watch, 2011!

* I originally called them Anthonys, because they're camoflaged, vaguely penis-shaped, and no one can identify them with any certitude. Topical! Git yer hot Topical right here!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Home Is Where The Heart Is

I've bragged many times about my home county - Prince William County in Virginia. My oldest daughter graduated from the #1 High School in the nation. A few years ago the county passed a tough anti-illegal alien law. A lot of neighboring counties predicted huge increases in law enforcement costs and proclaimed themselves "immigrant friendly." Instead, expenses dropped in both education and medical as classrooms and emergency rooms saw significant decreases in numbers as undocumented families left for, you guessed it, those "friendly" counties. Crime is down 30% too (not a direct result, but it had an impact).

Today we got the "County Report", and I read that the Board of County Supervisors reduced the real estate tax rate again to keep a promise that our tax bill would stay below 2007 levels.

What do we get for our money? Three new schools. Ten new full-time police officers. Needed road projects. Park and library expansion and improvements.

How can they do that when our taxes are 30% - 50% lower than surrounding counties? Well, for the last four years the Board of Supervisors has bit the bullet and cut spending. Painful reforms were undertaken. Priorities were set (schools, roads and public safety.) The county has 10 high schools, all were ranked in the top 6% in national rankings. I mentioned the drop in crime above. I recently participated in that event where a whole bunch of us volunteers worked to build some new hiking trails in coordination with the Parks Authority.

If you ever read the news and wonder when everyone went bat-shit crazy, I can honestly tell you that not *everyone* has. At least, not around here they haven't.

As A Parent, I Heartily Approve - Part 2

When I was growing up, my family spent a lot of time camping, hunting and fishing. One of my biggest regrets as a parent was not being able to pass along my love of the outdoors to my own kids.

This guy knows how to spend quality time with his kids. The photos at that link are from a hiking trip they took last year along the John Muir Trail in the California Sierras. The kids were ten years old (twins, I think) and hiked over 200 miles with Dad. They finished up by summitting Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous US.

I suspect the title of their first homework assignment in September was "What I Did During My Summer Vacation, Bitch."

Sunday, June 05, 2011

As A Parent, I Heartily Approve

Once, while in a store with my daughters, there was a situation where I did something I thought was funny yet my daughters were horrified. I don't remember details, but this conversation is etched, etched I tell you, into my memory:

Daughter: You are so embarrassing.

Me: Embarrassing you is the second best part of being a parent!

Daughter: What's the first?

Me: Telling you 'No!'

The adults within earshort cracked up.

So you can imagine how much I love this guy, who stood in front of his house every day of his son's sophomore year in high school, waving to his bus as it drove by. In costume.

Check out the blog, documenting each and every day, and how Dad never repeated a costume. The man is a freaking genius.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Good for the Soul

I have so many alternate titles for this one, but the above sums it up nicely.

Today was National Trails Day, and I spent the morning as a volunteer helping to build a connecting trail on the Potomac Heritage Trail system.

In fact, I helped build a footbridge. I'm feeling every posthole I dug, every bolt I wrenched and every footboard I levered into place before screwing and nailing it down. It's a good feeling to be tired and a little bit sore for something like this.

In Prince William County (and I've mentioned before how much I love living here), they've made parks and trails a priority because of the rapid growth of the last decade. Right now*, about 65% of the Potomac Heritage Trail through our county is complete, with about 90% scheduled to be complete within the next five years or so. The trail will run along the eastern edge of the county, following the Potomac River. At this point, they're connecting already completed sections, which is what we were doing today.

The group I was part of (maybe 40 of us?), tied together the trail system in the Julie Metz wetlands bank (pdf) with the trails in Leesylvania State Park**, completing another link in the chain.

I'll get pictures of the bridge and the area and post them in the next day or two.

* All these percentages and estimates were given to me as very rough estimates by a member of the County Parks Authority, who was on-site.
** Leesylvania - named for the Lee family, who's members included "Light Horse" Harry and Robert E. There's a lot of history in this area.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Hallmark Is Dead To Me

The cartoon is bad enough, but when the official Hallmark forum moderator starts deleting veteran's families posts, yet leaves up others calling them "inbred hicks", well...

Adios Hallmark. I won't miss you a bit.

But I will be spreading the word. Hallmark hates veterans.