Saturday, February 27, 2010

Signs of Spring

Betsy got the camera out and took some early spring photos on Saturday. Because of an unseasonably cold winter, we are a good 3-4 weeks behind the usual schedule down here in North Carolina. The plants are pretty confused. They did respond to a couple of dry, windy, sunny, upper 40 degrees days.

Here’s what’s up in the garden.



The Veronica reopens:




















Hellebore. (Great name for a plant...)






























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Crocus of various flavors:

































Snowdrops:



















Sedum


Rosemary. It turns into a good-sized woody shrub around here. This one has been blooming all winter.



Coming soon: lots o' daffodils! But it's snowing outside right now...


Spiny gum balls. Ever-present. A new batch rains down every February.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Skippy The Rabbit update

Well, Skippy has moved right in, and has been making himself at home. The people at the animal shelter said he had lots of personality, and they were spot on. He's a really happy, curious, friendly, and generally fired-up rabbit. Pete has been teaching him the local customs - where to hang out, how to deal with food treats, etc. He tears around the deck doing multiple happy-hops, and will even roll over on his back when he's on break. I think he likes it here.


It took Petey only a couple days to get used to his high-energy ways, and now they are a nicely bonded pair, as you can see in the photos. That was fast!
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Left: Skippy _________ Right: Pete
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We like to let the rabbits hop around the back deck whenever we are outside. They love it, of course. Any deck has lots of rabbit escape paths between and under the various boards, but Petey and Bruno had historically ignored them. We would just temporarily block off the stairs. A year or two ago, Pete had taken to slipping under or through the slats and hopping off the deck. She wasn't interested in running away, but was totally fixated with going WAY under the deck and digging a hole to China. My idea of fun is NOT crawling around in the under-deck muck, trying to coral a whacked-out rabbit who had other things on her mind.
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So I had a plastic mesh fence stapled up. It was really more of a suggestion of a barrier, since any self-respecting rabbit could bite its way through thin plastic in about half a second. Let me tell ya - many an I-pod headphone wire has been nipped in two over the years! How come this... oh, jeez... But Skippy quickly figured out that the fence could be easily defeated, so I installed some proper metal screening the other day. I even did it in a way that doesn't look crappy.
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It's been relatively cold for NC the last month or so. But let me tell you, nothing heats up faster than a black rabbit in the sun. Unless its TWO black rabbits in the sun.


Toastin' up, taking an afternoon snooze

It looks like Skippy will keep his name, sometimes lengthened to the more formal "Mr. Skippy". It just seems to fit him.

Southern Snow

We got 4 or 5 inches of snow the weekend bofore last. Not really news, but we only get snow like this every other year or so, at most. It's beautiful, and reminds me of home. Or homes.

It was mostly gone in 8 hours. But it always makes for a good picture or two.




Carb o' the Week

Pancake Day 2010

Little did I know that there is such a thing as Pancake Day. How have I been missing this all these years? This was brought to my attention by the the folks at IHOP and their TV ads during the Winter Olympics.

A smidgen of online research revealed that Pancake Day is a mosty British variation on Fat Tuesday, which, of course, marks the last day before the start of Lent. This day rates as a Notable Date in England, a step or so below the lofty status of Bank Holiday (one of my favorite concepts). Related festivities include foot races involving running with skillets, and mob football. Tell me - what's not to like here? I think I have a new favorite holiday!

Also revealed were other variations on the Fat Tuesday theme, including Fastnacht Bay (large, Pennsylvanian Dutch donut-like things), Malasada Day in Hawaii (fried dough), and Bursting Day in Iceland (salt meat and peas, from the culinary tradition that brought us the split, singed sheep's head). You can look that last one up yourself, but I can assure you it is very real.

Anyway, all this called for waumping up a fresh batch of Bob's Random Multigrain Pancakes. This effort featured:

- 1 cup white flour, 1/2 cup semolina flour, 1/2 cup blue cornmeal
- molasses
- 1T or so wheat germ
- 1T or so ground flax
- 1T whole flax seeds
- blueberries
- the usual nuts and bolts (salt, baking powder, etc)


BEFORE:


AFTER:

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Feral Rabbits of the U.P.

Christmas 2009,
City Park in Iron Mountain, MI

While visiting Iron Mountain, MI over Christmas, we went over to the City Park to go sledding at the old Myron ski jump site. Along with bocce courts and ski trails, this park has a fenced in herd of deer. I assume that is for showing the seven people in the area that don’t deer hunt, hike, or snowmobile just what these beautiful animals look like up close. Actually, it is pretty cool – it is a VERY large, natural enclosure, and they even have a rare white buck. But more importantly, this park is home to a pack of feral rabbits! Rumors are that this rabbit herd has been there for decades. It was news to me…

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If you’ve ever been to the Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I don’t have to explain that is area is truly The Great White North. Winters are long, cold, dark, and snowy. Summers are mild and very pleasant, with long days. On clear nights you can see LOTS of stars. Beautiful country. (One downside is that Novembers last forever.) Although elusive, they do have moose and wolves. This is NOT the kind of climate where you would expect to see ex-domestic rabbits out roughing it outside on their own. We had a good foot of snow on the ground, and winter was just starting. Nighttime temps are routinely below zero. A daytime high in the single digits doesn’t even stir up chat at the local diner. These critters seem to live under a cabin, and I’m guessing they have some substantial burrows dug. There doesn’t seem to be evidence of official feeding or watering. Talk about big, tough Yooper bunnies!

The rabbits seem to come in three flavors: Black, grey, and brown. We brought them some old lettuce and a fresh bag of carrots. Most entertainment I ever got from $0.79.

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I did a little searching, and there is a similar pack of rabbits that inhabit Victoria University in British Columbia.



video

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Tale of Mr. Skippy

We decided that Petey The Rabbit was acting pretty lonely since the passing of her good buddy Bruno. So yesterday I went to the Charlotte Animal Shelter to investigate getting her some rabbitly company. They did indeed have a good candidate bunny. I brought Pete along with me to the shelter, so they even had a speed date to make sure they got along (or, a rabbit-on-rabbit interaction, as they say at the clinic). He's a fixed male, all black, slightly larger than Pete, and goes by the shelter name Skippy. We're guessing 2 years old. He was a favorite of the staff there.

So far, this is a VERY fired up rabbit. Guess I can't blame him: rescued from the pound, large and expansive new digs, a female to hang out with, new stuff to sniff and explore. He has been spotted tearing around the various cage boxes in figure eights, doing happy hops on the straight-aways. Pete is a little perplexed by all this energy. And the, umm, male attention. It took him an hour to figure out how to get up on top of the highest box, so that is no longer a private safe haven for Pete. But Mr. Skippy manages to give her some space, at least some of the time.


We're thinking about whether Skippy gets a new name or keeps the one he came with.

This afternoon was cool and sunny, so they got to hop around the deck for a while. I took a few pictures and a video.




Skippy (for now) The Rabbit




Looks a lot like Petey, eh?



I’ll edit this video when I learn how to edit video.
I do like the chain saw buzzing in the background…


video

Cooking Errors

Always a fun topic. In the kitchen, not everything goes right all the time, as even Julie Child could attest.

1) I made a pot roast in the Romertopf clay baker last week. I had really forgotten that we owned one. But I heard my cycling buddy George going on about how he had just gotten a Romertopf and how great it was. So I dug it out. I had a big, honkin' pot roast from Costco, along with the traditional potatoes, onions, and carrots. The first recipe that came up on Google said 425°F for two hours. Well, that was not quite enough time to tenderize that tough old hunk o' meat - the veggies were great, though! I had to run out to a band rehearsal, so Betsy was tasked with the rest of the roasting. Well... time kind of got away from her. (I suspect knitting was involved!) I came home to a clay baker that now contained seven charred, dessicated rectangles that had been pot roast in a former lifetime. Should have taken a picture!
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2) This is what happens when you are late at adding the chopped nuts and raisins to the bread machine. It was too far into the knead cycle to incorporate all the bits. They essentially stuck to the outside. The raisins kind of got a bit, umm, toasty. Kind of a short loaf, too, but tasted good once you plucked the burnt up raisins from the surface...



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3) The old waffle maker croaked back before the holidays. Fortunately, Santa gave someone - guess what? - a new waffle iron for Christmas! Go Santa! The first waffle didn't turn out so great, though. They did get better after that.

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4) And this is what happens if you deep fat fry a chunk of plastic by mistake: