The Mysterious Case of the Volunteer Spinach

Memory is a funny thing, isn’t it? I’m often amazed by the random things my brain chooses to remember, and dismayed by the things it chooses to forget. When I saw the date today I remembered that on this date in 1971, I broke my left arm in a bicycle accident. That was my first broken bone. A few months later I broke my right arm roller skating. I broke my foot as a teenager, and the left arm again as an adult in a car accident. I’m not even counting all the broken toes over the years. Here’s hoping I have reached my lifetime quota!

Today was my grocery shopping day, and I was thankful to be able to take Jasper’s car instead of having to pay for delivery. We have a couple of big meals coming up so I really needed to get some supplies.

I finished cleaning and organizing another area of the study and it continues to look better every day. The strange thing is, it is still pretty full of stuff—even after I’ve thrown away at least half of what was in there!

I did go walking this evening and it was a little weird as the gym was almost completely deserted. I could have been belting out showtunes and it wouldn’t have bothered anyone.

About the spinach. Last year I grew New Zealand spinach in one of my barrel planters, partly out of nostalgia because we grew it in Africa. It’s not really spinach—it’s a perennial tropical green though. Anyway, it took forever to really take off and even then it seemed unenthusiastic. I never had enough to use as a side dish in a meal—just a few leaves in a salad here and there.

When cold weather came, I pulled it all up and threw it on my compost pile. At least I think I did. I can’t imagine what else I would have done with it. This is not my bathtub compost but my “big” pile in the back yard. I have since replanted that barrel with sorrel, which seems to be doing very well.

A few days ago my husband came in from outside and said it looked like we had some New Zealand spinach growing beside the driveway. This seemed very unlikely as that location is nowhere near either the compost pile or the garden, but I went out to look. Sure enough, there is a little patch of New Zealand spinach there, that somehow transported itself from who knows where and furthermore somehow survived our unusually brutal winter. I can’t explain it—but I went ahead and picked some leaves for our next salad.

A Different Kind of Flag Day

Monday of this week was our national Flag Day here in the US, so of course we flew our flag by our front door. Today a different flag is flying, this time at half mast:

For those who may not recognize it, that is the Zambian flag. Zambia’s first president, Kenneth Kaunda, died today at the age of 97. He was president of Zambia from independence in 1964 until he was defeated in an election in 1991. In his youth, he championed the cause of independence (Zambia, then known as Northern Rhodesia, was a British colony).

My family moved to Zambia in 1967, shortly after independence. My parents both met the president when he came to visit the school where they worked. In his later years, he championed the fight against AIDS, which has so devastated Africa. He was far from perfect as a leader, but I believe he was for the most part sincere in his desire to create a better future for Zambia. And what really sets him apart from many other African leaders is that when he lost an election he expected to win—he stepped down. For the last 30 years he has been considered one of Africa’s “elder statesmen.” Rest in peace, mzee.

Today, while still hot, had lower humidity, making it much more bearable to be outdoors. I spent some time in the garden this morning treating all the areas where I’m aware of fire ant nests. I hope it works! (I don’t use anything toxic; just essential oils and castile soap.)

One of the things I did today was to trim down some very large photos so they will fit in the file folders I have for them. I am so grateful to have a good cutting mat and an exacto knife!

I also harvested my first cucumber, several beans, an okra pod, and some purslane and sorrel. Eventually I’ll have a whole salad . . .

I borrowed Jasper’s car to make a run to Walmart and purchase the things I’m pretty sure Aldi won’t have when I go shopping tomorrow (again with Jasper’s car).

And I finished the day by patching yet another pair of Jasper’s jeans. This is a job I truly loathe. I have so much admiration for people who do that for a living. I only do it for love!

Staying Out of the Heat

I had a little bit of a slow start today, but eventually I got around to some more organizing and then went out to water my garden before it got too hot. (It was already over 90° by late morning.) My squash plants appear to be dying, and insects are eating some of my greens, but everything else looks okay.

One of the things I worked on today was consolidating some files for family photographs. I found some pictures I had forgotten about, including this Walgreens-generated collage featuring my late grandfather Glenn Baker with all of my kids and also my mom:

These photos were all taken at a family reunion to celebrate my grandfather’s hundredth birthday in late December of 2009. He died the following summer. I still miss him.

This evening I was able to borrow Jasper’s car to go to the gym and get my walk in for the first time in a week and a half. I am too much of a wimp to walk outdoors in this weather. Still no news on our car situation.

A Hot Car & A Culinary Creation

This morning Walter and Jasper went out to get Jasper’s car inspected and registered, and this time they were successful! That meant that later today I could borrow the car to go to the credit union. My enthusiasm was tempered by the fact that there was no air conditioning and the outdoor temperature was in the 90s. Inside the car it felt hotter than my sauna! But I was very grateful to be able to run my errand.

In the morning I worked on making tonight’s dessert, something I had long wanted to make. When I saw a recipe for it in my Narnia cookbook, I decided to go for it. I have since discovered that the version I made is not perhaps typical, but I have no regrets. What I made is a variety of Charlotte Russe. I made the sponge cake last night and then used it to line a bowl. The inner surface was then liberally spread with strawberry jam, after which I made the vanilla mousse to go in the cavity. Then the whole thing was topped with more sponge cake and left to set in the fridge until time to unmold it and ice it with whipped cream:

Sorry my cream did not whip as stiffly as I’d hoped and also I think the recipe was a little skimpy on the whipped cream side of things.

Here’s what the middle looked like:

I think if I make it again I’ll be able to make it prettier. The reason for this splendiferous sweet was that Lucy and Tanner came for supper—and to do their laundry. I was a little sorry that I could not eat the dessert myself, but everyone else seemed to like it.

And . . . despite making a fancy dessert and a nice dinner, I still managed to finish organizing the north end of the study.  What a relief. There is plenty more to do but that was a huge job and I’m so thankful to be done with it.

Also–I picked my first okra pod today and 3 wax beans.

Brobdingnagian Blooms

Yesterday was a very special day for our church—a big celebration of its 150th anniversary. Since we have not been attending long, and know very few people, we decided to watch the service from home so there’d be room in the sanctuary for all those former members who came to celebrate. (Not to mention that we didn’t want to have to find a parking space for my husband’s work van.) There were several former pastors in attendance, and the music was led by a previous music director. The choir was huge! And I heard the handbell choir for the first time. Most interesting to us was the former pianist who had come back to accompany the music. When we were college students, he was on staff at the university and his sister was one of my suite-mates, so we are admirers of his musical ability from way back then.

In the afternoon during our regular Zoom with the kids, we got to see little Paisley playing in her wading pool. That made our whole day!

Jasper, meanwhile, went to the lake with other young adults after church and spent a strenuous afternoon innertubing behind a very fast boat driven by his pastor. He was tired and sore (and a little sunburned) when he got home after prayer meeting last night.

This morning I went right back to work on my organization project. I know you’re wondering how it could possibly take so long to work through just one room. Well, it is a very long room and it has been absolutely jammed with school stuff for almost 20 years. It’s a very daunting project. It was a relief to take a break and work on one of my curriculum projects!

My husband heard from the insurance company today (the one representing the other driver in my accident). Then Jasper had to talk to them. No one has asked to talk to me! But we are hoping to get some word on car replacement soon.

A couple of years ago I was browsing through an online flower nursery site looking for daylily tubers. I don’t remember what site it was. Anyway, I was looking for pink daylilies, because my color scheme for the front yard, what there is of it, is mostly pink and white. I have some lovely daylilies already, which were supposed to be pink, but are actually a salmon color, which is okay. Just not very pink.

So I thought I’d see if I could get some that really are pink, and plant them on the other side of that same bed under the pecan tree. I ordered the tubers and planted them. They didn’t do much last year, although there were a couple of blooms and they were most definitely not pink. They are yellow—my least favorite color. So right then I knew that what I received was most definitely not what I had ordered.

This year they are blooming much more extravagantly, and I still don’t know what they are—but I’m pretty sure they’re not daylilies.

Lilies, yes—but I have never in my life seen daylilies as tall as these giants. For scale I had my six-foot-tall husband stand beside the lilies:

Most of them are taller than him. Amazing.

In other gardening news, I should have my first okra pods and my first cucumber sometime this week. Looking forward to both of those things.

Love and Mercy Found Me

Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross

Fanny Crosby

Jesus, keep me near the cross,
There a precious fountain
Free to all, a healing stream
Flows from Calvary’s mountain.

Refrain

In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever;
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.

Near the cross, a trembling soul,
Love and mercy found me;
There the bright and morning star
Sheds its beams around me.

Refrain

Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day,
With its shadows o’er me.

Refrain

Near the cross I’ll watch and wait
Hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand,
Just beyond the river.

Refrain

Archeology & Envelopes

One week ago today, I was in an accident and haven’t had a vehicle since. Today went much better.

On Saturdays I try to do some mundane chores, but also something that is more fun for me. So today I put in some serious work on the former schoolroom, and I felt more than a little like an archeologist, digging down through the layers of our family’s history. I found things I had forgotten we had. I found a box full of adorable photos of the kids when they were little. I found Mercy’s first grade Math papers! I found things I thought had been thrown out years ago. I threw out piles and piles of stuff. I haven’t got everything reorganized yet, but the good news is that there is so much less to organize.

When my interest in that project flagged, I would go to another room and work on my envelopes. Or my knitting. Eventually I finished making all the envelopes I had traced yesterday:

There are 42 of them. Now I feel like I kind of have to start writing to my friends again, like I did last year.

I went outside this afternoon and pulled a few weeds and picked my first yellow squash. I didn’t think to take a photo. It wasn’t very big. I ate it for supper, while Walter and Jasper and Sammy were eating pizza.

While I was out there, I saw something very exciting:

Do you recognize it? That is an okra blossom, the promise of several month’s worth of okra, if all goes well. My okra germinated at different rates, so I have some that are still less than a foot tall, and others that are close to three feet tall.

Parting Shot:

The echinacea (coneflower) blossoms are just so pretty!

Vindication

I should have been in Tennessee today, spending time with my dad on what would have been his and my mom’s 67th anniversary. Instead, I was here in Texas and housebound as I have no transportation. It’s frustrating.

Today my husband was able to purchase the police report of my accident last Saturday. I have been so worried about the issue of who was at fault. I knew it wasn’t me, but I worried that the police wouldn’t believe me since the other driver also claimed to have a green light. I thought it was strictly a case of my word against his.

I was mistaken. Turns out, the gas station on the corner (the one where someone is always getting arrested) has a security camera, and it recorded the incident, proving that I had a green light and the other guy ran a red light, thus making it impossible for me to avoid hitting him. Presumably sometime next week a representative from his insurance company will come to inspect the car and give us a verdict. I will be shocked if the car is not totaled. It looks worse now than it did the day it happened!

Our friend Lee came into town today and brought Jasper some massive leaf springs. He is one happy blacksmith. He has enough metal to make swords now!

In the course of my sorting, I got a little distracted by my envelope making materials. I had calendars dating back to 2003! I threw out about half of what I had, but couldn’t resist cutting out a bunch of new envelopes, which I hope to finish tomorrow. It was a nice break from the other things I’ve been doing.

Also, I worked hard on an essay to enter into a contest. I just heard about the contest last night, and the deadline is tonight, so I’m afraid my entry was rather slapdash. But I am working on another entry for another contest and this time I have almost a whole week to do it, so maybe I’ll have better luck with that one.

Today was another very hot day so I had plenty of watering to do this evening. My tomato plants are finally starting to flourish:

I’m still weeks away from having fresh tomatoes, but am hoping to pick my first squash tomorrow!

Still No Wheels

Well, we had a little setback today. As we are still waiting for the police report, we thought that the best thing to do would be to get Jasper’s car on the road so that we could borrow it when needed. My husband had it added to our insurance, and a couple of days ago Jasper and I walked over to the campus where it was parked and drove it back here. This morning Walter and Jasper planned to take it to be inspected so they could then get the registration.

Except that it didn’t start. There is a problem with the battery. So, maybe tomorrow they can take a look at it and maybe by early next week they can try again. Meanwhile, I will be getting my groceries delivered tomorrow . . .

This morning I went out in the heat to work on my garden. I am having serious problems with fire ants and the time has come to come up with a battle plan. I have worked too hard to let those ants cancel out all my efforts. I have also already started spraying for powdery mildew because it just seems inevitable after all the rain we’ve had. I made sure to water this morning and also to fill up all the ollas. I have not had to make that much of a priority because of the constant rain, but we are now expecting several very hot dry days in a row, so I’ll be topping off the ollas every day for a while.

I also got more sorting done and more tossing of stuff into the trash and recycling bins. I feel I’ve got to keep going on this because I don’t want to lose my momentum. It has been so great to get rid of so much stuff. Plenty more to do!

Hello, SUMMER!

Well, that was sudden. After a beautifully mild spring, where temperatures rarely rose higher than the mid-80s, today summer arrived with a vengeance. The temperature this afternoon was 91 degrees with a heat index of 102. I lost my motivation to work in the garden, although I did do a little out there this morning.

Also, I shouldn’t even have been here at all. Today was the day I was supposed to be driving to Tennessee. Not sure when I’ll be able to make the trip as our vehicle situation is still up in the air. I am so sorry to miss visiting with my dad and my brother.

So I did other things. I worked on my curriculum project. I got Jasper to help me take down the alphabet posters on the wall of our old schoolroom. No one needs them now! I threw out more stuff—piles of magazines that I know I’ll never look at again. If I need any of that information, I’ll look it up online. The more stuff I throw out, the more I love it.

I made peanut butter banana waffles for supper, with peanut butter syrup (no, I didn’t eat that myself but the guys liked it).

And then . . . the power went out. I am assuming that the sudden onslaught of extreme heat caught the power company off guard and they weren’t able to keep everyone’s power on. It’s been a dark and quiet evening. Pretty much everything I had hoped to do required power, or at least good lighting. So I did a little reading by lantern light and also the amount of knitting I would normally do while watching a video with my husband.

The temperature in the house began slowly rising. I knew my chances of falling asleep were going down with each one-degree temperature rise. The power company said the power would be back on by midnight. Then 12:30. I didn’t see much point in going to bed before it came back on, as I need power for my bi-pap machine anyway.

Walter and Jasper both went to bed early, but I stayed up and loaded the dishwasher by lantern light. I’m sure you can imagine my delight when the power came back on shortly after 11:00, and with it the air conditioning!

Parting Shot:

One of the things I found today was this delightful portrait of me created by Lina when she was ten years old. I love it so much. I just don’t understand why my eyes are yellow. And that’s not a hat I’m wearing—that’s the lamp I installed over that green chair I had all those years ago. And notice I’m holding “little” baby Spencer. It’s a very accurate representation.