The Cabin

The Cabin

Saturday, August 17, 2019

My Barrel Cactus Surprise Flower

Five years ago, I was given a small barrel cactus.  It wasn't any bigger than a quarter.  I brought it home and put it in a pot.  I have done nothing with it except water it occasionally.  In the summer, I put it outside,  and in the winter I put it where ever I can find room for it.   It has grown quite a bit.  This summer was no different.  As soon as the danger of frost had past, I put the cactus outside on our deck.  I didn't pay it much attention until one day I noticed a slight bulge on the side of the plant.


I wasn't quite sure what it was.  I was hoping for a flower or at the least a baby cactus.  It grew very fast and in a few days it had grown a lot.


I still didn't quite know what it was.  I watched it very carefully everyday.


Then in a couple more days, I could tell it was going to be a flower.  Having no experience with this, I didn't know how long it would take to bloom.  It didn't take long, within a day or so I woke up to a beautiful blossom.



Within a day the long stem separated from the barrel and fell off.  I think it was supposed to dry up and fall off but we had a heavy rain the night before which probably made the blossom too heavy.

I picked it up and put it in a jar thinking it would only last a couple hours.  It lasted a couple days and then shriveled up.


This whole process was complete in eight days.  I noticed the bump on August 6, the larger bud on August 9, the full bud on August 12 and the full flower on August 14.  I am hopeful that this is just the beginning of more flowering to come.  I should take it out of its tacky little pot with a hole in it, but I don't want to ruin a good thing.  Soon it will be too big for the pot and I will be forced to repot it, but hopefully I can get one more year and another flower or two. 

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Sometimes It's Hard To Help Mother Nature

Whoever said you can't mess with Mother Nature is correct AGAIN.  We see it with the polar ice caps melting.  I read recently that Greenland lost 11 billion tons of ice in one day.  As most of my friends know, for several years I have been raising Monarch butterflies from egg, to caterpillar, to chrysalis and then to the adult.





I have blogged about it many times and enjoy it so much.  The feeling of seeing the process never gets old.  Now in light of new developments, I have to suspend this activity.  At least until scientists change their minds about the value of this activity.

There are a few reasons for this.  The first involves scientific evidence that this activity doesn't really help increase the population.  I can't imagine why it doesn't make a difference with so many individuals and school classrooms doing it, but scientists say that even if it is effective for some species it doesn't help the Monarch butterfly population.  They say it may even have a negative effect.  There is not much of a risk on the small scale if they are being watched for educational purposes or enjoyment.  The risk is when the Monarchs are being raised in high numbers in a captive situation.  There are companies that sell Monarch caterpillars.   The butterflies aren't used to being in such close proximity to others.  The chance of disease is greater than in the wild.  If unhealthy Monarchs are being released it's chance of survival is lower, reproduction is compromised and then migration is a problem because they are weaker.  Another article I read says they may be disoriented because spinning a chrysalis indoors confuses their sense of direction.  It is important to release the adult butterfly in the same area as the egg was collected.  The last argument is that over time the genetics can be changed.   

I really want to do what is best for the Monarch butterfly population.  I also had another problem this year.  It had never happened before, but one of my caterpillars was parasitized by an adult female Tachinid Fly.  What happens is the fly lays eggs on a host.  This fly is beneficial most of the time because it helps control garden pests like tent caterpillars, Japanese beetles, cutworms and other pests.  The downside is that this fly also feeds off Monarch caterpillars.   A few days ago I noticed one of my caterpillars had formed the "J" shape.  Usually within a day they spin the chrysalis.  This caterpillar was going through the motions and suddenly it stopped moving right before I went to bed.  In the morning I found a four inch thin white strand hanging from the caterpillar.  The caterpillar was dead.  I learned that after this fly lays eggs on the caterpillar, a larva hatches and burrows inside to feed.  This kills the caterpillar and when the fly larva emerges it leaves a thin white strand.  The larva is worm like but soon hardens into a reddish capsule resembling a bean.  This is the pupa stage.  In a couple days a new fly hatches from the pupa and the process starts all over. 


I won't include a picture of the dead caterpillar with the thin white thread.  It is just too sad looking.  I couldn't find the "bean" but disposed of the dead caterpillar hoping none of the others were parasitzed.  As a precautionary measure, I took everything out of the habitat except the hanging chrysalises.  I cleaned it and one by one replaced the caterpillars onto fresh milkweed leaves.  I did find two "beans" and destroyed them.  Hopefully they hadn't hatched yet.  If they have, we may be in for more tragedy.  Everything looks good right now.  I just want to raise the caterpillars and chrysalises I have to adult butterflies.  Then that will be the end of that.  I really enjoyed the process but what I can do now is provide an outdoor habitat with lots of milkweed plants and never use any pesticides. 

Hopefully future studies will prove this latest information incorrect, but until then I will love and enjoy these beautiful butterflies in my yard.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Cutting the Cord

As an older person, technology is always a challenge.  It changes so fast.  Every time we get a grip on the latest products, it changes.  When our oldest daughter went to college thirty years ago, she had a tiny Macintosh computer.  It was more of a word processor than anything else, but we thought it was the latest and greatest.  We had an even earlier computer.  It was an Atari computer.  We still have it in a box in the basement.  It's probably a collectors item at this point.

 
Fast forward those thirty years and look where we are now.  No wonder some of it is overwhelming.  Now small children have tablets where they can play games and watch movies.  Elementary school students have smart phones.  Go to any restaurant and see everyone at the table staring at their devices.  This is probably a very big downside to technology, but it is the way of the world.  My fear is that face to face communication will soon be obsolete.  People are much braver talking through devices than in person.  Even I panic if I go somewhere without my phone, and I went to college with a pay phone in the corner of each floor of the dorm.  I can't do anything about it, but there is something I could do about price gouging by cable and satellite companies.

I heard about streaming, but I thought it was just about watching movies on your computer.  I still don't really understand exactly how it works, but I discovered I don't need to know how it works but just need to know it does work.  We were a family who has gotten good introductory deals from the cable company and from satellite dishes.  They give you unbelievable offers.  When you ask if the price will go up, they lie and say no.  We know it's a lie, but decide to take a chance.  Sure enough, within 6 months the prices starts creeping up.  We call and they give us another offer.  It isn't as good as the first, but acceptable.  Then boom the price doubles, and they won't negotiate. Time to switch from cable to a dish system.  Repeat the pricing sequence and now it was time to move on again.  We were at that point, but didn't know where to go.  Then thanks to my Facebook friends, we discovered streaming TV.  Last week we tried a seven day trial offer from Hulu Live.  At first I was not impressed.  Hulu Live did not work on our Sony smart TV and another Vizio TV had distorted sound..  I consulted my nephew and a cousin.  They suggested a fire stick.  This is where I don't understand how it works, but it does work.  I went to Best Buy and they confirmed that my problems could be solved with a fire stick.  I opted for the 4K Amazon Fire Stick for $49 each.  If I could get the same or better TV for $44.99 a month plus a one time purchase of $98 in fire sticks, then I would be saving money after the first month.  We were raised to $172 by DirectTV which prompted this change in the first place.  It worked.  We can access Hulu Live from all of our televisions, laptops and phones plus the sound on the small Vizio is fine.  I have Amazon prime so I can look at all my photos by just speaking "photos" into the microphone. We are getting channels we didn't even get on satellite tv.  I just talk into the microphone to ask for a show or I ask for a series.  I'm given the choice of which season and which episode.  Then you just choose the show and watch or record to My Stuff.  My husband isn't quite convinced because there is a learning curve, but for me it's wonderful.

I know that now that we made this decision and finally caught up with this decade, we will be alright for a while.  Six months from now, who knows.  All this will probably be obsolete, but I will cross that bridge later.  There are several streaming companies with no contract, so we can try another if necessary.  I love that I can watch all my local programming, and my routine will remain the same.

I am putting this info in a blog for July 21, 2019.  It could be quite comical to see what it will be like in another thirty years or even five years.  I won't be here to see it thirty years from now, but my family members might get a chuckle out of how it was back in the old days.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Missoula Children's Theatre-Robinson Crusoe

This is the fourth time I have written about the Missoula Children's Theatre.  Twice a year they come to Green Lake Wisconsin.  On Monday, they auditioned children from the area for a play.  This summer it was for Robinson Crusoe or a loosely interpreted version of the story.  Then all week the children practice.  They learn the story, songs, and practice their lines. By Saturday afternoon, the show must go on.  It always amazes me how two or three young adults from the Missoula Montana theatre group can come to a strange town and organize and teach a cast of almost sixty children of all ages to be ready to give a performance in five short days.

Our granddaughter participated in Robin Hood (http://www.thecabincountess.com/2015/02/enjoying-another-missoula-theater.html),
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (http://www.thecabincountess.com/2013/06/missoula-childrens-theatre-snow-white.html) and
The Secret Garden (http://www.thecabincountess.com/2013/01/missoula-childrens-theatre.html).

It was a great experience for her and led her to having acting parts in two middle school plays and eight high school plays.  Now it is our youngest grandchild's turn.  He is nine and auditioned for the first time.  He was part of the Very Hairy Frowny-Face Tribe.



Ewan was excited and really enjoyed his experience.  It was a big commitment and a lot of hours.  They practiced from 4:00pm until 8:30pm each day.  The next show will be The Snow Queen next January 20-25, 2020.  I wonder if he will want to participate in that show.

Here are a few pictures of Ewan as a Very Hairy Frowny-Face.  Sometimes he frowned but he also smiled.









So that's a wrap.  Big brother Dylan was able to get off work in time for most of the evening performance.  The day was a big success.


Thursday, June 13, 2019

Our Grandchildren's Graduation From High School

The last two weeks have been full of proud moments for grandparents.  We had our two oldest grandchildren graduate from high school.  Our oldest is a girl named Melissa.  She loves to sing and act.  It started when she was young.  She participated in the Missoula Children's Theater and has been in school performances since 7th grade.  One of the ladies who does the costumes for all the plays, made this pillow.  It has eight pictures on it, one for each play she was in during the four years of high school.  They did one musical and one drama per year.  It is a treasure.


This year was especially fun for her.  She got a first rating for a solo at the State Solo and Ensemble competition.  She sang 100 Ways to Lose a Man from the musical Wonderful Town.


She also sang a solo (When I'm 64) and duet (Cover Is Not the Book from Mary Poppins Returns) at the final performance of the choir she was in.  Then came graduation day.  She is ready and her parents are ready but for me it's hard to accept she is done with this phase of her life.  Hopefully there are good times ahead with college and work and friends.




Our second oldest grandchild is Dylan.  He is 10 months younger than Melissa, but also graduated this year.  Dylan plays in the high school band and the saxophone group he was in won a first rating at the State Solo and Ensemble competition. 


This spring he  played Ali Hakim, a Persian peddler, in Oklahoma the Musical.  He's posing afterward with his little brother Ewan.  Ewan dressed as a cowboy for the performance.  I also see acting in his future.


Dylan's real love, however, is Math and Physics.  He is a person who uses both sides of his brain.  He has the artsy side and the math and science side.  Within the past year he has traveled to Cal Tech to work with NASA on a project and to Seattle to work on an Astronomy project.  He was valedictorian so he got to spend the day at Lambeau Field in Green Bay as part of the Best of the Class sponsored by a Green Bay television station.  Various kids will be featured on this station throughout the summer.


Leading up to graduation was a band concert, awards ceremony, tennis banquet and other finales to an awesome high school career.  His mother isn't quite ready to let him go off on his own, but I believe he is ready.  Fall will bring many new adventures and opportunities in college.



Then last weekend my daughters had the graduation party.  It was a combined party on a beautiful day and many people came to celebrate.








This spring has been very busy but fun.  It was a new experience for my husband and me.  Hopefully we will be healthy enough to experience this with the rest of our grandchildren.  My one regret is that I didn't get pictures with us and the graduates.  So much was going on, we missed that photo opportunity.  We did, however, get pictures of the M & M's.  It's all about priorities.



  Now it's time for everyone to enjoy the summer before they are onto their next adventure.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Baking Bananas For Extra Sweetness

Are there times when you want to make banana bread, banana muffins or something else with bananas?  Many times we don't have any bananas on hand or they are much too green.  Bananas freeze very well for baking.  If you have some bananas that are past their prime for eating, freeze them.  You can either peel them and put them in a plastic bag or freeze them with the peel on.  If you do this, you will always have the main ingredient for baking.  The very ripe bananas are the sweetest and make the best baked goods.  If you have bananas that are too green, there is a way to make them suitable for baking.  My example bananas are almost ripe enough but I wanted them slightly riper.


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Put the bananas on a baking sheet covered with foil or parchment paper.  You need the paper because as they bake, the bananas give off a sticky liquid which sticks to an unlined baking pan.

Bake for about 25 minutes.  They will turn completely black on the outside.


Let the bananas cool before peeling.  They will be very hot inside.  When cool, peel the banana.  It will be very soft inside and can be used to bake your banana bread or muffins.


I had to ripen my bananas because I had a recipe to try.  I often watch Kelly and Ryan in the morning.  Recently Kelly made banana pancakes.  They are gluten free, and I am always looking for easy recipes for my daughter.

Banana Pancakes

3 bananas, mashed
2 eggs
1/2 cup almond butter
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. vanilla
a dash of sea salt

Mix these ingredients together to make the batter and make the pancakes as you do any pancake.  They turned out fine, and they looked like a pancake.


I have to say they were good.  I can understand if a person can't have a "real" pancake and has to be gluten free, this is an excellent option.  It's similar to the pumpkin pancakes I wrote about five years ago.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2014/09/pumpkin-pancakes-and-crockpot-pumpkin.html

As for myself, I like pancakes made with flour, oil, sugar and eggs.  Maybe that's why I weigh what I do and Kelly Ripa weighs the same as I did as a small child.  Even if you don't like the pancakes, the method for baking the bananas is an excellent one.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

A Mother's Day Buffet That Was For The Birds

It's Mother's Day weekend.  It's time to celebrate mother's of all kinds.  Some women are mothers to their dogs and cats, some to human children or some women just take the day to celebrate themselves.  Many of us are going out for brunch to a restaurant, are going to someone else's home or just staying home to relax.  Some mom's stay home and their children cook for them.  It's a sweet gesture, but sometimes it's more work for the moms cleaning up but she will never tell the kids that.

Although I didn't have to cook and my son-in-law's mother Beth made a delicious brunch, I set out a buffet for my feathered friends.  I put out a dish of grape jelly and made a special birdseed bundt cake made with meal worms, sunflower seeds, peanuts and regular birdseed blend.  I had many varieties of birds enjoying either the jelly, the cake or both.


My first visitors were the bluejays.  Papa took mama out to eat for Mother's Day

A Catbird which liked both the jelly and the cake.

A Downy Woodpecker

A Hairy Woodpecker

A Red Bellied Woodpecker

A Red Winged Blackbird

A Tufted Titmouse

A male Rose Breasted Grosbeak

A female rose breasted Grosbeak

A Chickadee

A male white breasted Nuthatch

A Red Breasted Nuthatch

Mr. and Mrs. Northern Cardinal

An Immature Orchard Oriole

A male Baltimore Oriole

This female Baltimore Oriole and soon to be mom showed up with some nesting material.

She had to put down the nesting material to eat but soon was on her way.

We had several different birds at other feeders.  I saw finches, woodpeckers, a variety of sparrows, blackbirds and starlings,  but this is a sampling of those who ate at the buffet.  We all, including myself, had a great day.