Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Go West, Young Man!

After much prayer, planning, and deliberation, we've decided that we're ready for a change of address.

We're headed west!

Most of my husband's family lives in Oregon, and we're excited to join them! Our house goes up for sale within a week, and we're both working hard to get it ready. Twenty-seven garbage bags of clothing and forty boxes of "miscellaneous" have gone to Amvets, and we're still rushing to de-clutter and clean the house before prospective buyers stop by.

I've been hard at work to get the yard ready, too, in the midst of these dog days...

...er, cat days of summer. This is the hottest, driest August on record in Indiana, and it shows. Even with daily watering, flowers wilt and parched swatches of dead grass grow exponentially. At least something is doing well...my sunflowers.

I planted around 30 seeds, comprised of seven different varieties of sunflowers, but only five plants came up. Sunflower seedlings are irresistible to squirrels. Still, I've got small sunflowers...

...and big sunflowers.

Unfortunately, squirrels are attracted to full-grown sunflowers, too. Their trunks are thick enough to support a squirrel's weight, and they take full advantage.

What a scamp!

It's a full time job, just keeping them in line!

This late-season Armyworm (Lepidoptera Noctuidae) finds a tasty treat on my tomato vine. Armyworms are so named because they tend to travel in large numbers, like an army platoon.

This unidentified caterpillar warns away predators with his brilliant blue and orange coloring.

This pretty lady (Argiope aurantia) caught my eye this week. I'm afraid of spiders, but I can't help admiring them.

Commonly known as garden spiders here in the Midwest, this female built her web low to the ground in a patch of phlox to maximize her insect-catching potential. Females are much larger than males and are easily identified by their unusual coloring.

I've been watching this lady all week. She spun a smaller web behind the main one, and placed a sort of "trip wire" strand in front. She never seems to leave her post. Even when I accidently cause her web to vibrate when I weed too closely (but not too close!), she simply clings more stubbornly. These spiders are said to have inspired E.B. White to pen "Charlotte's Web." They "write" a series of zigzags on their web each day, a phenomenon known as stabilimentum.

No one knows exactly why stabilimentum is utilized. Some people theorize that the dense white lines warn birds away from Argiope aurantia's hard-to-see webs. Others say that stabilimentum attracts insects. The resourceful Argiope aurantia eat their webs nightly, for the tiny bits of insect matter that may be attached. Every morning she has a new web in the same location as the old one.

Argiope aurantia is a wonderful addition to your garden. They eat mosquitoes, flies, and pesky moths. I'm just glad this lady built her web a good distance from my back door!

Fall is prime time for spiders. This small garden spider (Araneus diadematus) just caught a nice morsel in his web, and has retreated to the safety of a sunflower to consume his prey.

All over the garden, I've been finding these strange, single-strand webs that are usually full of dead ants and other small insects.

I've watched and waited, and finally I've discovered the maker of these clever traps. They're tiny, well-camouflaged spiders that sit quietly in the center of the strand and wait for prey to blunder into the fine webs they've spun. Then, they create a virtual spider buffet by lining up the insects, one by one, into a thick line that bisects their web.

Also attempting a camouflage - somewhat less successfully - is this grasshopper. I haven't seen too many grasshoppers this summer, but they are usually more active in the fall.

Working quickly to store away food for winter is this bee. He's got telltale orange pollen sacs on his hind legs. Bees have a crevasse behind their "knees" and they pack pollen there, tightly, until it fills the crevasse and then forms a bulge of pollen above it. Bees gather pollen for about an hour at a time, then rush it back to the hive to be stored for winter use.

My husband calls me "the butterfly whisperer." I don't know about that, but this black swallowtail was happy to clamber up on my finger and rest there for a while.

I haven't had much time to knit amid our flurry of activity. I'm knitting two pairs of socks. To avoid second sock syndrome, I completed one sock, and then started and completed one thrummed sock. Now I'm back to my first pair of socks, working quickly on the foot. Knitting is a pleasant, soothing break from the day's work.

During busy times like these, I turn to my "workhouse foods" to do the work in the kitchen for me. One of my very favorites is a wonderful sweet galette dough from Julia Child. One batch makes two galettes, so I usually fill one with fruit and one with vegetables for a complete meal.

Julia Child's Galette Dough
Adapted from Baking with Julia

3 tablespoons sour cream, yogurt, or buttermilk
1/3 cup ice water
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 - 7 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces

Stir the sour cream and ice water together and set aside. Mix remaining ingredients (except for butter) together, then then add butter slices. Use a fork or pastry blender to "cut" the butter and blend with the flour, forming pea-sized (and smaller) bits. When mixed, slowly add the set-aside mixture, a tablespoon at a time. Pat it into a ball and refrigerate for 2 hours.

When you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Divide your ball in half. Roll out to 1/8 inch thickness. For a fruit galette, I use 1 1/2 - 2 cups of frozen fruit, a dash of sugar, and a little honey. Spread this mixture in the center of your dough, leaving a 2 inch edge. Then fold up the edge and bake for 20 - 30 minutes.

For a vegetable galette, I chop up fresh-from-the-garden basil and tomatoes, throw in some mushrooms and cheese, and bake.

It's so easy and makes a wonderful meal.

Now I've got to hurry back to the garden. The dead plants need to be cut down and the perennials need to be mulched, and everything needs lots of water. I've got a little help, keeping an eye on things...

...but I've got a lot to do, nonetheless!

Have a great week!


  1. How exciting to be moving! We did the same thing two years ago, moved from the East Coast to the PNW (the Seattle area). We love it here. Hope everything goes smoothly for you.

  2. We're both really excited! It's a real leap of faith we're taking, but we feel like this is the direction God is nudging us. Can't wait for the adventure ahead!

  3. Looking forward to your move to Oregon! I'm in Roseburg if you are ever near that area :)

  4. Whoo-Hoo more Oregonians who knit, garden and love to cook. Can't wait to "read all about it".

    I used to take tons of pics of spider webs - I think they are fascinating but a little creepy - I can only stand spiders in the garden...YIKES, they give me the chills.

    Plus, love the mailbox pic :)

  5. I know what you mean! Not a fan of spiders in the house (shudder)! But in the garden, as long as you're aware of their location, it's fine. They're really interesting. Sadly, the garden spider relocated after a few really windy days here and her new location is unknown!