Monday, April 30, 2007

One Down and One To Go

Today I finished Western Civ II, after correcting two questions on the test I should have a 100% on the final.

Tomorrow or Wednesday I'll finish Sociology of the Family, the completion of that test will bring an end to my first two years of college. The sociology class was by far my favorite of the two classes this semester. I learned so many things about myself, my wife, our marriage, and the way we communicate. I thought the most interesting thing was learning about how to deal with the differences in how men and women think, act, and communicate (and yes, fight). I would recommend this class to everyone that doesn't plan to be a recluse, it's definately a class I'll use throughout my life (I'm keeping the book too, surely I'll need it as a reference at some point).

I don't feel like adding up the number of years it took to get the two year degree. Maybe the fact that it has taken forever to do the first two years has something to do with my GPA, which should round out to about 3.97.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Famous Dogs and New Findings

Check this out, look who's on April 25th, 2007... Tucker is FAMOUS!

We didn't lose all the Goumi berries to the Easter freeze. We found a few berries that survived.

We also found these in an Azalea bush in our front yard.

First Blood

Ron picked up his new roadbike yesterday after several hours of deliberation at the local Performance shop so we decided to break it in today. He settled on the Schwin Fastback Pro, a very well equipped bike with the full Ultegra kit.

There was just a bit of carnage out there, just a bit. Ron and bike are fine. Take a look at the other pics.

Friday, April 27, 2007

New Favorite

I know you should love all things equally, but I admit to picking favorites. Even worse, I am fickle--my favorite thing changes weekly, sometimes daily in the high gardening season.

Right now, my favorite plant is Baptisia 'Purple Smoke'. I bought this plant two years ago from the local Plant Delights Nursery, which specializes in, well, specialty plants. It was a tiny wee stalk back then and with each year has returned faithfully and quadrupled in size. What gardener wouldn't love this plant?

When it first emerges, it looks like purple asparagus.
(The picture below was taken on March 29th.)

Later, green leaves emerge on the smoky stems.
(The picture below was taken on April 15th.)

Here it is today, in full bloom and glory.

The peonies should be blooming soon...

Thursday, April 26, 2007

New Black Beans

As a strict vegetarian for 12 years and a quasi-one for the last three or four, I have long sought a solid, flavorful recipe for black beans. I finally found one in last month’s Gourmet magazine. To my surprise, my time-honored technique of overnight soaking or preboiling the beans is not necessary!

Last night, I made Kemp’s Black Beans and was introduced to the seasoning triumvirate of sherry, balsamic vinegar, and soy sauce. I incorporated the beans into an impromptu dinner with shredded cheese, diced avocado, roasted sweet potatoes, cooked kale, and diced tomatoes tossed with cilantro. This was served on a warm flour tortilla sprinkled with a store-bought Rosa Mexicano salsa (I personally think the flavor of a roasted salsa is important to this dish) and finely chopped pine nuts. The sweet, nutty, roasted, and fresh flavors of this dish had a remarkable, but not overwhelming depth.

The good news is that the bean recipe makes more than enough for leftovers (which we will be happily eating for lunch today) as well as for other recipes later in the week. Some of Kemp's suggestions include her own Black Beans and Rice Your Way and Black Bean Soup with Sherry and Lime. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

You Like Reggae Music?

I don't normally shop at Wal-Mart, particularly after learning how the chain displaces local businesses and since reading Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. The book chronicles the author during her tenure working for the company and yields some insights into the life of a Wal-Mart employee, many of whom are among the working poor.

I digress.

I went to Wal-Mart during my lunch hour in search of Luigi and Guido, Chick Hicks, King, Fillmore, Sarge, and Lizzie. These characters from the Disney Pixar movie Cars are the beloved of my nephew Alec. My brother is collecting two of each--one for Alec to play with and another to put away for safekeeping. Some of them are hard to come by and thus a cross-country search for the characters has ensued.

I digress again.

As I am walking through the parking lot, a woman leans out of her driver-side door and hollers, "Excooose me!"

I scan the lot for the body of the voice and she says again, "Excuse me, ma'am."


"Do you like reggae music?" she asks.

I do a quick mental scan of my possible replies and the possible outcomes of this conversation based on each of my responses. I decide that nothing worthwhile could come out of telling her that yes, I do like Jimmy Cliff, Toots & the Maytals, Bob Marley, and Ziggy Marley among others.

"No," I lie.

Puzzled, and thinking that surely she knows I am lying, I carry on. And one day later, I find myself still wondering why she asked. I assumed she wanted to sell me some pirated CDs or other item, but who knows?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Spectator Injury Update

It did hit the news today, and luckily the guy survived. Here is the link for the story out of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
I'm sorry he won't be riding a bicycle again, but glad he lived.

Road Trip Report

Thursday afternoon John and I left Raleigh on eastbound I-40 on our 1st annual Tour De Georgia Road Trip. I was thrilled at the thought of having no particular schedule, riding the circle, and of course seeing "The Pros." It was 1:40 pm when we got on the road and weatherwise it looked like we were in for a perfect weekend. After a few pits stops and about 4 1/2 hours in the truck we found ourselves in Hayesville, NC (on the north shore of Lake Chatuge). After taking a few minutes to eat BBQ we finished our day at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds campground. By design we were camping at the start/finish of the Saturday morning ride. Camp set-up and a couple of beers capped off what had been a great day of driving and hanging out.
Morning came early, and cold. It was 40 degrees at 6:50am. Our ride began at 8:00 am on a very sunny Saturday morning, a bit cold for a road ride but we managed. The 36 mile route for the Circle the Bald was perfect. Check out the elevation profile here, it was tough with one section rated at about 24% grade. It's not the 3 miles of punishing climbing (peaking at 27%) that the Brasstown Bald held in store for the Pros later in the day, but it was enough for John and me.
After the ride we cleaned up and hit Hardees for lunch prior to hiking up Brasstown in search of the perfect venue. We found it about 200 yards before the 27% grade, or The Wall. Walking was torture, absolute torture. I think it would have been less painful to attempt riding up the course, maybe next year!

Anyhow here are some pictures of the big guys. Don't forget to check out the rest of them on our photo repository.

I can't imagine the physical pain this sign brings for the riders

The man from Montana, Levi Leipenheimer! King of the Mountains indeed!

George working it!

Missed the good pic of Tom :(

Tyler, not lookin so fresh after this stage.

QuickStep rider.

BMC rider

CSC rider

The only crappy part of the trip was dealing with the sobering reality of life. On our way down Brasstown we saw way too many riders riding way to fast for the conditions. There were so many bicycles, vehicles, and thousands of people walking down the mountain. I guess it was inevitable. There was a crash, and it was a bad one. We were probably 2 minutes behind this crash and luckily for the victim there was already a doctor onsite and within another minute or so there were 2 docs working on him. I gave up a heavy shirt to try and keep the dude warm and cover some of the fluids that should've been internal. Two doctors began chest compressions and rescue breathing, the scene was organized chaos for a few seconds but we finally managed to get some riders to head back up and get the rescue truck for this guy. It was not a good sight, I'm hopeful he made it off the mountain alive but I'm not sure if he did.
Keep your feet in the pedals, watch for the other guys, ride safe, and most importantly always within your limits.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Georgia on My Mind

The Tour De Georgia is going on right now. Today is Stage 3, Rome to Chattanooga. Friday’s stage is supposed to be a downright killer, and I’m going to see it! ROAD TRIP, ah yea… Thursday after John gets off work we are loading up the Burb and heading to good ole Georgia for a couple of days of camping, riding, and race watching. I’ve already booked the campsite and registered for a “challenging 36 mile ride” around Brasstown Bald.

Brasstown Bald is billed as one of the hardest climbs on any tour in the United States. I can’t wait to give it a shot. From what I’ve been able to read about the race we should be able to ride our bikes to the top of the mountain (should be a wicked climb). At the summit there is a “bike-check” run by a local church available for 5 bucks. We’ll check our bikes and find a good spot to view the carnage of the climb. I’ll do my best to get some photos.

For all you cyclists out there, grab a mirror real quick so you can how green you are with envy!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Windy Day

I'm glad my race was yesterday! We've got wind in Raleigh today, after the 2-5" inches of rain yesterday. Trees are being uprooted all over our area. Check these out. I watched the tree fall on the first house, then watched the tree fall over the street about a minute later.

We just met the folks that built this house, it doesn't look like the tree did much damage. We'll keep our fingers crossed that nothing was seriously damaged.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Fury of Nature

At what point should humans give up on trying to control nature? Kate and I tried, we tried extremely hard, to minimize the damage Mother Nature had in store for our plants. We used every sheet in the closet to cover our bounty. The trees that would provide tasty fruits over the summer might have been okay with 1 night in the 20s, but 4 nights… They couldn’t handle that much stress from the freezing temps. I really feel sorry for all the fruit farmers, their livelihood may have just vanished over this Easter weekend. Pictures are posted below, but they’re not for the faint of heart.

The big Plum looks okay from a distance.

Now take a closer look at the fruit, they should be green.

Even the Mulberry tree didn't like the frost.

The Figs are bad, but not destroyed.

The Crepe Myrtles took a nasty hit, fortunately we've got many of them.

The Cana Lilly beds.

Sole Survivor.

Butterfly Bush isn't quite dead yet.

The Hydrangeas should bounce back quickly.

It is unfortunate, the curb appeal of our home took a nose dive with the temperature.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Free Brunch at the Dunn House

The birdies are enjoying a free brunch today at our house. It's still very chilly outside so I imagine they really appreciate the extra kibbles.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Pseudonyms and Gardening

It's Kate here.

Since I have lost access to our blog, I decided that while Jon was out on a 60-mile bike ride was a prime opportunity to assume his identity, ahem, I mean, use a pseudonym for posting.

Over the last few years, I have had several requests for information related to the yard or the garden. I decided it would be helpful to publish this information and since we won't be planting a garden this year, a nice way to reminisce.

Part I – Edibles and Related

Bluebird houses

Not edible, but bluebirds are native to this area and lots of folks in the region are very active in promoting their success. I include them here because they are offered by the purveyor of other blue things, namely blueberries (see below). You can read more about Jack Finch, the founder of the non-profit Homes for Bluebirds, Inc.
here. Also available is lots information about bluebird nesting and eating habits. The wooden boxes are sturdily constructed with metal roofs and last for years. Other birds like them, too, so you have to be diligent about ‘bluebirds only’. This sometimes means destroying the nests of encroachers which breaks my heart, but of course we don’t do that if they are well-established or have eggs in them.

We have had a lot of enjoyment from watching our bluebird families grow and leave the nest.


Dan Finch is also a local expert on blueberries and ships them all over the country and the world. We grow Tifblue and Premier (I think). I lost the tag for the Premier so that is a guess, but if you call Dan Finch he can tell you exactly what to purchase for your area. This will be the plants’ third season and we have yet to get a good crop. The first season they were planted in a really bad spot and I did not prepare the soil properly. Last year I moved them and attempted to create the right soil conditions. Last year they mostly put on foliage. This year we have loads of blooms so we shall see what happens with the berries.

Finch Blueberries


Craig LeHoullier, a.k.a. “the Tomato Man”, sets up shop at the North Carolina Farmer’s Market in Raleigh for four - six weeks in spring. He is a local guy who is a member of the Seed Saver’s Exchange and grows unusual and heirloom tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant simply as a hobby--this is not his full-time job. I have been buying tomatoes from Craig for two growing seasons. Last year we had 20 tomato plants and our neighbors had quite a few as well. If you have any questions about varieties, I might be able to answer them.

Craig’s website is
here. There are pictures and growing logs from past years as well as information on saving your own seed. Click the From the Vine link for information about what he is offering this year and when.


Last year Jon and I took a gardening foray into potatoes. I don’t remember how I found
Wood Prairie Farm, but I was pleased to be able to obtain certified organic seed potatoes from their farm in Maine. With so many varieties to choose from and so many variables (time to maturity, size, skin color, flesh color, yield, etcetera), I was unsure which to choose. I called the farm and Jim Gerritsen, proprietor, got on the phone. We had a lengthy discussion on varieties as well as planting, harvesting, and storage. I won’t shop elsewhere. They also offer bread and other baked good mixes, organic seeds, and nuts.

Growing potatoes was one of the most rewarding garden activities I have experienced. The plants themselves are beautiful and it was fun to watch them grow, and then measure our bounty and cook our harvest.

Raspberries and other fruiting plants

Last year, I ordered a five cane bundle each of Fall Gold and Heritage Red variety raspberries (affectionately called blaspberries around here after our neighbor caught me tongue-tied), as well as one each of Red Gem and Sweet Scarlet Goumi berry bushes from
One Green World in Oregon. The raspberries did well, producing a regular supplier of snack-quantity berries. My morning ritual last summer involved pouring a cup of coffee and wandering outside to graze on fresh raspberries.

This year, the five canes have come back with a vengeance. I think there will be lots of fruit and lots of effort to keep them from encroaching on their neighboring plants.

I will let you do your own research on

Organic seeds

I choose
Seeds of Change as my source for organic herb, flower, and vegetable seeds. I think they offer an excellent product. Some of their varieties are grown onsite at their research farm in Nevada, but they also employ smaller organic family farms for seed supplies. They and their supply farms act as stewards for biodiversity, the heritage of traditional and heirloom cultivars, and small-scale farming. I think that is a good thing.

Happy gardening (and birding)!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Is it only spring?

The dandelions have been crazy here because of the warm weather. 85 yesterday, and they are using the word "flurries" to describe what the weather may be like this weekend. I'll be camping in the mountains of North Carolina this weekend, I hope it doesn't get that cold.

Remember the Dog Park?

I remember taking Tucker to the dog park on a regular basis last year. He remembers it too, I'm sure of it. Each time we turn down Glascock street he begins to pace in the back of the burb. When my blinker starts ticking and he hears my foot hit the brake pedal he starts whining in that very annoying sort of super-caffeinated way that most of our beloved pups do when they think a treat is in their future.

It's been awhile since we've ventured out to the dogpark. Even if Tucker could talk, he wouldn't be able to convince me that he needs to socialize with other dog owners. You see it's not the other dogs or even bad dog fights that have changed my opinion of dogparks, it's the SDOs (stupid dog owners) that really scare me. You can read about my last dogpark visit here.

Warning, you will probably be appalled at what you read. If you're an animal lover you may feel anger, or even shed a tear.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Work Work Work…

After we cut the extended cable we get 14 or maybe 15 channels, if you count the ever fuzzy HG channel. I don't watch nearly as much television, but I do have more time for projects. It seems like I've watched through the snowy picture what seems to be every home selling show ever made. From the reactions of the prospective buyers it seems that people would rather see a “move-in” ready home rather than a “place that has potential”.

I’ve been pretty busy around the house and yard trying to make this a “move-in” kind of home. You may have seen my rambles on here or maybe you had to listen to me rant about my chores, almost as if I were complaining. I wasn't complaining about it, I'm thankful that I'm able to do all this stuff. I can't imagine paying someone for this work, it would break the bank. The two college classes are not forcing me into major study sessions, nor are they making me write page after page of dribble about Mark Twain. I did get to write a pretty good paper on JFK for my Western Civ class. Sociology is, um. It’s a class that I really enjoy, but it doesn’t really take all that long to do the work in this particular class. . Thanks for reading and/or listening to me ramble about this stuff

Anyway, back to the work subject. To get a good sense of the scope of work we’ve done around here browse through these, and then check out the other house folders here. The older pictures are towards the bottom of the page. Along with school, preparing this home for sale seems to have become my work. Frankly, I'm happy to have the job :)~