Sudden End of Autumn?

Gee, the leaves have just started turning to their glorious fall colors up in the mountains and already there’s snow in the weather forecast!

Here’s the forecast: “Big changes starting today as a COLD storm system moves in from the Northwest. Highs only 60s today– expect rain at times and maybe even a few thunderstorms. Snow level starts high today– but drops tomorrow. We could even see snow down to the high benches Thursday and Friday. Accumulation likely in the mountains. Valleys with rain at times next few days. Looks like better weather for the weekend.” -Grant Weyman, KSL Weather 9.25.13

Lovely.  Yes, the local weathermen have predicted that a cold winter storm coming in from the northwest and Gulf of Alaska could bring 6-8″ to mountain elevations over 10,000′.  That means ski areas like Alta and Snowbird will get hit.  There’s also a chance that eventually the snowfall, in the form of a dusting, will include the benches on the Wasatch Front.  The benches are the foothills of the mountains where houses are built.

Out here, on the valley floor, where we live, we’ll probably just get cold rain, if anything.  But we’ll be able to see any mountain snow, as the mountains are only 7 miles to the east of us.

Of course, there’s a warm up coming in next week, which might melt a lot of it, but it sure is a warning shot across the bow!  No frost is predicted for us yet, so the late garden is still safe, but October will usher that in with the attendant Indian Summer (first really warm day after a first frost).

On the subject of the garden, the cantaloupe crop is winding down, but we are still getting loads of tomatoes.  We cut the sunflower heads off the tall stalks, but many of the seeds–to our great disappointment–are hollow.  I guess they didn’t get pollinated.  We have many fewer seeds now to roast and enjoy as snacks.  Who knew?

Carrots are still in rows in the ground and are safe there for the time being.  We are literally sitting on a bumper crop of these veggies, and boy are they sweet and good!  We’ll have enough mini-pumpkins to create a small bowlful for the table, so that’s nice.

All year long we compost in a pile our vegetable and non-dairy/egg waste in the garden and we have a nice starter pile for all summer to molder over the winter into rich loam.  Sure helps when planting in the spring and it’s FREE!!!!

We’re even sitting on red raspberry canes we bought in the spring to separate and replant soon so we can get that crop going for next spring and summer.  We have to be careful where we plant them, as raspberry canes have a will of their own and will send up new shoots where they please.  Originally, we were going to create a new bed along the side fence, but thought better of it when we realized the neighbor might not appreciate canes poking up through his grass.  So, we’ve dedicated a place near a window well and next to the mint for the final home of the raspberry canes.  That way they’ll be safely contained and near a crop (the mint) of which we have plenty, so we can trim it back.

So, that’s what’s happening this week outside my window and in the backyard.  We’ve got grilled pork chops on the menu for tonight; I hope we can sneak using the patio grill in between rain storms!

Published in: on September 25, 2013 at 3:45 pm  Comments (1)  

Keeping Up With the Menagarie

Since it’s been a while since I wrote about our pets, I thought it was high time I revisited the topic and brought you all up to date.  After 10 months Sammy, the cat, and Charlie, our corgi, have really bonded and except for the occasional high-speed chase through the house, tolerate each other.  Of course, if we talk to the cat or pet him, Charlie appears instantly from wherever he is and exhibits jealousy.  Below is a shot of them in a calm moment.

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Charlie has fully recovered from the scare in May of a skin tumor on his left ear.  A bump appeared near the tip of his ear and, better safe than sorry, it and an inch chunk were removed.  It turned out to be benign, but his hallmark corgi ears don’t match now as he has on that’s a “flat-top.”  At least, as a friend pointed out, this gives him instant street cred.

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He’s almost 6 now and is a mature dog.  He still likes to chase thrown tennis balls in the back yard until his little butt is run off and he’s panting like crazy.  It’s really funny to watch him chase down a ball as it nears the solid fence and he times his slide, back legs splayed wide as his braking system, to snag the ball before he hits the fence with his snout.

He has become a bit of a beggar at meal times and positions himself in the kitchen, underfoot of course, in case any food just happens to “fall from heaven.”  Of course, this activity is not lost on Sammy and he has learned well.  If Charlie gets to lick a cereal bowl in the morning, Sammy is right there to lick a few drops of milk from the spoon.

Sammy, who will come at once when you call his name, is also getting over his fear of the great outdoors; he will venture outside and sit under the patio table.  We don’t want him to be a true outside cat, especially at night, but on pleasant days when someone is home, we can now keep the backdoor propped open so both animals can go in and out at will (it’s in the mid-60s today).

Sammy has also had his own health problem, but his is chronic.  Lara noticed some gum reddening and a trip to the vet earned a diagnosis of feline stomatitis.  In other words, it’s an inflammation of the gums and mouth (stoma meaning opening) and, untreated, could lead to loss of teeth and bad cat breath.  He got a steroid shot which will need to be repeated as needed to keep the inflammation at bay.

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Sammy’s favorite perch (this image shows him there) is on the top corner of the sofa where he has great views of the living area and down the hall to the upstairs bedrooms.  Is he a cute fuzzy fur ball, or what?

He’s smart, too and knows when we feed Charlie, if he hops over to the table, he’ll get a few cat treats.  And, besides his name, he also has learned the meaning of “No.”  Annoyingly, he has also developed the habit of meowing at Lara’s bedroom door at 2:00am, when he’ll awaken her to get thrown in the bathroom with his cushion and the requisit cat treats.  She can’t put him in there all night as that would deny him access to his litter box, so she split the difference.

On the whole, having a cat and dog has been fun, as each has his own personality and brings a sense of joy and petting possibilities.  Sammy is a tolerant, snuggly cat and Charlie is a nudge, but entertaining.  Never a dull moment!

Published in: on September 18, 2013 at 5:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Out My Door: Garden and Statewide News

The signs of impending autumn are all around.

The morning sun streams though the front windows, moving silently over the walls and hitting different pieces of art.  I cover the art year round at night so it doesn’t fade or get light-struck and I’m now putting the dark felt covers on different pieces.  The nights are refreshingly cool now, even though the days can still crank up the heat.  Obviously, the days are getting shorter for all of us.

The garden is still producing like crazy and I figure we still have at least another 4+ weeks of harvest possibilities.  We are still pulling in cantaloupes that are huge (very proud of this crop!) and the green beans and peppers show up regularly.  We have plenty of carrots still in the ground, as well as scallions.  A volunteer mini-pumpkin vine will unexpectedly provide a few decorative pumpkins in time for Halloween.  We’re thrilled about that as it was unplanned.  We finally picked–and tossed–the potentially award-winning cabbage we had in the garden.  If you recall, Ethan brought a seedling home from school in the spring with the idea that families should grow them and in the fall, there would be a contest to see whose cabbage was the winner.  I think the school forgot, and it’s probably a good thing, as when it was pulled, it had somehow become a condo for slugs (eeeewwwww……).  So much for that project!

The tomatoes are still loaded with blossoms and heavy with Beefsteaks, red and orange cherry tomatoes and Early Girl slicers.  We’ve even enjoyed Fried Green Tomatoes, seemingly only possible if you grow your own.  (Ever see hard green tomatoes for sale in the store?)  We even had a bumper crop of Princip Borghese tomatoes to split and dry for sun-dried tomatoes.

We had moderate luck with strawberries, until the aphids found the plants and we had to spray.  The basil and other herbs are thriving and handy for use right outside the back door.  The sunflowers are more fragile than they appear: a recent (welcome) rainstorm included wind gusts which pretty much laid them on the grass.  We’ll salvage the mature blossoms for the seeds and roast them.

The really great news is that the Honeycrisp apple tree we planted 3 falls ago came through for us.  We just pulled about 20 really rocking apples off the branches and they’re now in the crisper of our fridge.  Not bad for a small tree.  Hopefully, the amount will double in 2014.

As I already mentioned, we finally got some rain–not nearly enough–but at least we were treated to the soothing sound of raindrops for longer than 5 minutes.

Other parts of the state have, and continue to have, more than their fair share.  In fact, if you’re at all aware of the weather patterns in August and so far in September in the southwest, it’s been awful.  Flash flooding, hillsides and roads washed out and into people’s backyards and basements have been the norm.  Even as I type this, there are more heavy rain and flash flood warnings for most of the southern part of the state.  For folks not familiar with the geography in the canyon areas, a rain storm can happen 30 miles away and distant slot canyons can fill up with raging waters without warning and under blue skies, often trapping hikers.

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All this rain is part of the end-of-summer monsoon weather pattern, but this year has been especially dangerous.  One community, Alpine, has suffered massive landslides 5 times since last fall, due to wildfire burn scars, which leave hillsides vulnerable.  There’s no way to stop the devastation and it comes without warning; there’s no time to prepare.  Utah weather can turn dangerous rapidly.

So, right now out the back door it’s calm, cool, cool and sunny, but the forecast for tomorrow and Thursday is clouds and potential rain.  I’m sure the folks down south can’t wait.

Published in: on September 10, 2013 at 5:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Before Cell Phones There Were….

Last week I received an e-mail from The Islander editor; because the newspaper was hemorrhaging money, the owner had decided to pull the plug on the newspaper immediately.  So my run in the world of journalism is over.  As my swan song, I now share the last piece published, as the one I submitted by the next deadline on the new Scouting exhibit at the museum will never see publication (I may share it here on my blog).  Had I known what was going to happen, I might have chosen a different subject.  Such as it is, here’s my final history article.

Ringing Off the Hook: A Look Back at Phones

By now, most of us have them: cell phones and the newer incarnation, smart phones.  They have become an accessory of choice, an extension of ourselves, capable of wonders far beyond what Alexander Graham Bell could have ever envisioned in 1876 when he patented his invention of the telephone. As we are all aware, our smart phones just aren’t for calling people; they are cameras, offer Internet access and GPS assistance, stream movies, provide texting, let us play games for our diversion, and generally we are to the point that we almost can’t live without them.

But what were earlier phones like?  Most of us in the older generation can recall antiquated models with dials, and some might even recall having party lines to help keep costs down.  For the current teen generation, a trip to the Syracuse Museum and Cultural Center’s phone display can be a real eye-opener!

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The modest display which offers a quick history of developments in phone styles is housed in the main building, but the story really begins in the farm building where a truly old-fashioned wall phone that would have been the first phone line in Syracuse hangs in the replica of the Walker Brothers’ General Store.  Installed in 1901, bringing a line from Hooper at a cost of $300, this one phone served all of the Syracuse area.  Since phone calls were rare, callers would leave a message at the store and one of James Walker’s two young daughters, Mattie or Golda, would deliver the messages.  As you can guess, in a small community with messages being taken and delivered, everyone knew everyone elses’ business!

Within the next two decades, more phones popped up in homes who could afford the convenience. Wall units gave way to table models where the earpiece hung on a side hook and you’d put that piece to you ear and speak into the speaker assembly, hence the expression “the phone’s ringing off the hook!” These were also the days where actual telephone operators sat at a telephone exchange and manually connected wires to complete your call.  Party lines—where two or more families shared the same phone number to save money—were common and telephone numbers were usually three or four numbers because there were so few telephones.

Once more automation appeared, telephone operators were slowly phased out except for directory assistance and the day of the rotary dial dawned.  Now, you could put a finger in a hole in the dial and dial the number you wanted.  As costs came down, party lines faded away and now named exchanges based on location appeared.  I can recall we had a phone number that was Madison 6-2334.  Other exchanges from my childhood were Ludlow and Lehigh.  Of course, by the late 1900s phone companies started running out of phone numbers and the nostalgic exchange names were replaced with even more numbers and area codes.

One of the quirkier items on display is an early cell, or mobile phone.  It’s amazing to see how large and clunky they were, yet, for the day they were marvels of the future of communication.  The other casuality of smart phones is the pay phone booth.  They are getting scarcer and scarcer.  One can only dream what the future of smart phones holds and what we’ll be using in 2030!

The Syracuse Museum and Cultural Center’s hours are Tuesday-Thursday from 2-5 pm and by appointment (801-825-3633) and is located on 1700 South (Antelope Drive) just before 2000 West, Syracuse, UT.

Published in: on September 4, 2013 at 5:56 pm  Leave a Comment