Friday, July 30, 2010

Resurrecting William Cooper

William Cooper, founder of Cooperstown, father of James Fenimore Cooper, came from Philadelphia, lived in Burlington City, NJ, and owned much of what is now Willingboro, NJ, the town where The Husband and I grew up. Every time we make the 4-and-a-half-hour trip in the CR-V, I think about him on horseback, without the benefit of the Northeast Extension OR the Lehigh Tunnel. And then I think about the fact that his wife was never happy in New York...she preferred her home in NJ... I don't think I will feel the same.

The other somewhat amusing connection is my baseball eagle, Casey at the Bat. (I don't really approve of having a photo of the artist on here, but it was the best eagle pic I have!)

In 2005, when the RiverLine had just come through South Jersey, the County celebrated by placing painted eagle sculptures at several locations along the line (The Eagles Have Landed). Artists were instructed to celebrate the history of the area, so I chose a baseball theme because I had heard that the source of Lena Blackburne's Baseball Rubbing Mud was in Palmyra, somewhere along the Delaware River, maybe in Palmyra Cove. Probably Palmyra's only claim to fame, although the real location of the mud hole has never been revealed by the collector. (C'mon, Jim, you can tell me!)

So I collected 100s of dirty old baseballs, stripped the skins and made them Casey's feathers. The painting on his chest is the Tacony/Palmyra bridge, and his perch is a Louisville Slugger bat. And the little bucket between his feet is the Baseball Rubbing Mud that is used to prep the too-shiny baseballs before every Major League game. There is a bucket of it in the Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown.
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Monday, July 26, 2010

A bajillion fireflies!

No time to post right now, I will add more later, but I wanted to share with you the best of The Husband's NY photos. Every year about this time the fireflies rise from the grass (weeds). It is quite a good show they put on, but usually hard to capture with a cheapy little camera. Phenomenal shot, Husband o'mine!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Return of the dreaded squirrels and upstate cats

We have had quite a few days of a squirrel-free backyard. I knew they would eventually return, either the same nasty boys (and girls) or new ones to fill the vacuum, but I was hoping for a longer vacation—at least until some of my tomatoes finally ripen.

Back to setting the trap...

The Husband has been in NY all this time, settling into a less stressful life. He and Sophie are relaxing and gardening in much cooler weather than what we have here in steamy South Jersey. There have been so many above-90° days this summer that it has been like living in the tropics, minus the cool ocean breezes. Yesterday the heat index was 106°. How did I ever survive without air conditioning in years past?

The Husband and Sophie return today for a week. I am hoping he returns with more photos. The cellphone pics I have been posting just aren't the same quality.

All of us, including Dave and Will, our cats, are going back upstate next Sunday. We are pretty sure the cats are not going to enjoy the 4.5-hour trip, so we only want to do it once. Once they become New Yorkers, they will forever leave their cushy air-conditioned life behind. No more squirrel TV at the french doors. No more attic-window view of the birds nesting in the cedar trees. But I am sure they will find their new channels acceptable—plenty of new critters, plenty of new large screen TVs.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Selling the old house, planting the new garden

I had never heard of this before, but apparently there is some internet craziness (imagine that!) about how burying a little plastic St. Joseph statue along with lots of praying helps people trying to sell their house. My uncle the Monsignor says that praying might help, but burying a $10 plastic statue in your backyard will not. I would never have done this on my own, but a few days after my sister told me about it, a package arrived from my friend, J. Catholic hocus pocus is what she calls it, but J says it worked for her. Of course she sold her house when prices were crazy high and lots of people were looking...

Yesterday my realtor called to say she has given them to 2 people, and both times it worked. Being very Catholic herself, she recommended setting poor St. Joe on the windowsill rather than burying him head-down in the backyard. So I did. I made up my own pathetic little prayer, placed him in the front window, and apologized for the embarrassment.

Maybe St. Joe combined with lowering the price $5k will get things moving (literally).

The Husband appears to be enjoying his temporary retirement. He has quite the garden plot going in NY (photo), and left me here to maintain the one he started in NJ.

Here we have tomatoes, purple bell peppers, 2 varieties of hot peppers, radishes, lettuce, shallots and sunflowers. The NY garden has tomatoes and sunflowers as well, along with corn, squash and buckwheat (an experiment). Previous crops up there were destroyed by groundhogs and deer which are even more destructive than the s-words.

So what have we learned thus far? Chicken wire is our friend.
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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Art and no squirrels (or just one)

Working on artwork for new business cards for both of us, now that address and probably phone numbers will be changing. This is the stage where I can play play play, and not worry about whether it's good or not. Then I can settle down when the playing is done.

Here's 3 of my early stage designs. Don't be too critical just yet. They will be tinier on the cards than what you see here, so at least the top 2 still need to be simplified. (updated, simplified, but still not done—7/20)

No squirrels in the trap all day yesterday and so far today. I have seen 1 or 2 since I trapped the last one 2 days ago, but they don't seem to be bothering the tomatoes. Still not sure I am done with them, but it's a relief not to have to drive them all over town trying to find places to dump them where they won't become someone else's problem.

2:05 p.m.
Spoke too soon. Number 9 is noshing on one nice big juicy almost-ripe tomato.

3:10 p.m.
Caught him and dumped him across the highway in an industrial park (with lots of trees).
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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Tired of squirrels

And I'll bet you're tired of hearing about them. So far today there are none, but I doubt the war is won.

I picked a few shallots today for The Husband, but they are still small. Thankfully Lester and other critters don't care for them, but we think even the small ones are tasty.

Butter lettuce is just about all gone to seed, but produced a great crop this year. Radishes are bigger than carrots, but also tougher and less spicy, so I pulled them all. I bought some cheap straggly basil in a pot at ShopRite to spread out and fill in the holes. Used my first ripe bell pepper (a purple variety) chopped up in a fresh corn salad with alien (not homegrown) tomatoes, olive oil, lime juice and basil. Very tasty!

It has been over 90° here in NJ almost every day since July 7 when I came back. So hot and sticky it takes the stuffin' right outta ya. I wish I had more energy to spend time in my struggling garden, but all I feel like doing is lounging around the house like Will. (BTW, I love the wear on the stair treads in this 120YO house.)

11:49 p.m.
No squirrels in the trap today, but at least one running loose, and one tomato in the yard for Lester.
Still, that's progress.
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Friday, July 16, 2010

Counting squirrels

10:19 a.m.
Number 6
I am beginning to think I am not taking them far enough away and that they are finding their way back. I tried a new location this morning.

3:03 p.m.
Empty trap
Making progress?

3:50 p.m.
Number 7 (Number 8 was hanging around too)
Took 7 a whole 4 miles away just to see if it helps...

5:08 p.m.
Number 8 goes to yet another location.
Too tired of these trips to go 4.5 miles again.

7:50 p.m.
I am sure there are some more out there, but I think I am making progress.

8:58 p.m.
Taking a chance and leaving the trap set overnight.
Unless I chicken out of course...

11:06 p.m.
Chickened out around 9:45.
Trap not set.
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Thursday, July 15, 2010

War and whimsy

1:19 p.m.
Squirrel number 3 (in photo)

The Squirrel War continues. When there are only tomatoes in the trap, they don't bother, but when I add my little peanut butter sandwich, yum yum yum! Problem is, then I don't know if I am just attracting other squirrels from other places with those aromatic little treats.

I saw number 4 out there nervously nosing around, but I let Lester out to chase him rather than have to do my transport routine again only minutes after number 3.

3:42 p.m.
Squirrel number 4 awaiting transport
Not loving this squirrel bus routine...

3:49 p.m.
Sorry to say I think #4 was half-expired. At the most he was in the cage for 45 minutes. I transported him anyway hoping it was just a mild case of heat stroke/panic attack.

4:30 p.m.
Reloaded trap with a cracker only, no PB or tomato. Just when I think I'm making progress, I come back to see 2 of them running up the tree...

6:19 p.m.
Squirrel number 5
While releasing in my favorite location, I notice that #4 is, indeed, history.

Did not load the trap on return.

My dear friend J did a search on "squirrels eating tomatoes" for me. Seems to be a very common problem with no easy solution. Funny that in 20 years of tomato gardens, this is the first year that I lost more than maybe 2 or 3 tomatoes in a season. The only answers that seem to work for everybody are trapping or shooting the ornery little critters. Since I don't own a gun and wouldn't shoot them if I did, Hav-A-Heart will be my only defense, that and my genetic stubbornness.

As for the house: we are running out of loan money. That must mean we really are almost done. Jim the Builder says the guys are coming back next week to finish up the garage. Richie did the remaining pieces of porch brackets (otherwise known as whimsy) but from what I can tell in The Husband's cellphone pic, some pieces of the formerly missing pieces are still missing.

Further reports from The Husband confirm that everything inside the house is done except for some minor paint touch-ups and installing a last piece or 2 of baseboard in the basement. Oh yeah, and there are some mysterious leaks in the basement that need to be checked out...but by whom?

Good news...we got our Certificate of Occupancy in the mail yesterday! Yay!
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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

About being wrong, the squirrel war, and the wash

11 a.m.
Empty trap
The only orange(ish) tomato of the whole garden left chewed on the deck, and another big green one in the side yard.

I am going into work today, so I won't load the trap again with peanut butter until I get home. Don't want the poor thief to be stuck in there all day, and don't want to catch anything other than a squirrel! I should have known they weren't going to be enticed into a trap for a few small pieces of tomato when they have a whole garden full of big juicy ones. I really thought it was only that special 1 or 2 who had developed a penchant for green tomatoes. Wrong again. The war continues...

And here's the pic of the new washer and dryer installed. Now The Husband just has to figure out how it works without my assistance. Everyone knows that men don't read instruction manuals!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Relocation—one squirrel gone

3:15 p.m.
About an hour after I set the trap I had squirrel number one. I took him maybe not far enough away, but at least it's on the other side of the highway.

4:30 p.m.
Set the trap again: PB and 2 small tomatoes.

6 p.m.
Second squirrel

6:20 p.m.
Set the trap again. This time, I used tomatoes only, no PB sandwich—don't want to catch any unwanted nighttime critters (skunks, possums, groundhogs).

11:15 p.m.
Empty trap

The squirrel and the stove

Maybe there was a problem before I went to NY, but not enough that I really paid attention. When I returned though, my backyard was littered with half-eaten green tomatoes. All of The Husband's hard work in that vegetable garden, and all of the iron fencing which keeps my tomato-loving Lester out of there, and all of those big beautiful very green tomatoes on very healthy plants (first year in awhile they're all healthy), and our last possible crop of Jersey tomatoes—all of this and some varmint is not only stealing them before they get ripe, but also wasting them by only nibbling a bit!

Lester thinks it's party time because he gets to go out and clean up the yard as often as I will let him. He's actually had a bit of a bellyache (unusual for him) from eating so many of them in their unripened state.

I have tried to discourage said varmint by sending the tomato-AND-squirrel-eating Lester out as often as possible, but I am still losing the battle. So let the war begin!

When my neighbor moved, he left me his Hav-A-Heart trap (see photo). I set it up in the garden with some half-chewed tomatoes and a baby peanut butter sandwich. This is the first year that a squirrel has taken any great interest in tomatoes, so I am hoping it is just one that I have to remove. From what I hear, squirrels can find their way home from a great distance. I have to figure out where I am going to release him that he can't find his way back. Across the river maybe? But where?

The second photo is the woodstove finally in position to be installed. I believe they succeeded in connecting it the other day, but no picture-proof just yet. The house is now complete EXCEPT for two little painting projects (3 doors that were neglected, and lots of touch-up). And I might still be missing some baseboards in the basement. They dug the trench to send electric and propane out to the garage, and they filled in the dirt around the base of the front porch to get us up to proper height. Supposedly they are coming out this week to finish EVERYTHING else (siding, roof and electric in garage, concrete driveway apron and front walk), but I suspect there will still be some loose ends.

Right about now, my new Bosch washer and dryer should be getting delivered. Thanks Husband for caving in to this last-minute big expense. The loan money is all spoken for, but I just can't bear the thought of using a laundromat for the rest of my days...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Hot hot hot! Everywhere.

I came back yesterday from a hot new house. It was above 90° for 3 of the 6 days I was there. We agreed to go with no AC (duh!) because they all said we didn't need it.

This photo is from before I realized that the house does stay cooler if you open the windows at night and keep them closed all day. Poor Sophie was doing her best to stay cool by the fan. Big black Lester, surprisingly, doesn't mind the heat as much as Sophie. Good thing! because Lester came home with me and it has been over 100° here in NJ for the past few days. At least here we have central air.

The almost-done house is now REALLY almost done. We asked Jim the Builder to finish it before completing the garage. Richie has been out there for 3 days now, finishing up the last bits. At the top of the list was installing the last piece of screen on the back porch (finally done yesterday). Guess what? Screen porches don't work when there is one piece of screen missing. Instead, they catch the bugs and keep them trapped. I am sporting some very mosquito-bit feet to prove this.

The guys are also supposed to also install the woodstove today. Kind of a shame that they do this during the big heat wave, but step closer. I am not too worried. It will all be done soon enough.

My raindance includes a sell-this-old-house dance. That's the last "bit" left on my agenda. So far, no one is looking at my favorite NJ house... C'mon perfect family, come find us—this is a GREAT old house!