Thursday, March 31, 2011

Aloha Friday - Weed Killer

Welcome to this week’s edition of Aloha Friday. Every Friday (well, ok, almost every Friday) I ask a simple question for you to answer--nothing that requires a lengthy response. 

Today I've been doing some weeding.  I weed mostly by hand, because I try to avoid adding chemicals to my yard (I'll do it for ants, but not for weeds), and because I'm afraid the weed killers will kill something I want to keep, like the wild primrose that graces my yard. 

So, this week's questions is...
Do you use weed killer?  Why/why not?
You can answer in the comments.  Thanks!

If you have a blog and would like to post your own questions you can leave your link  at the linkys at An Island Life.

Sky Watch Friday - Clouds

To Weed or Not?

I'm a hand weeder. I don't like to mess with the chemicals as I don't think it's worth the danger and they kill things I don't want them to kill (like the wildflowers that grace my yard). So, this is the time of year I start pulling stuff.

It's the best time to take a stab at weeds like this....

If you get to these before they bloom, you'll have a much easier time at it.  Last year at this time there were hundreds of these.  I couldn't get to them all before they bloomed but got to a lot.  This year there are relatively few, which tells me I'm making progress.

But, beware of pulling everything that isn't grass indiscriminately, or you might pull up the wildflowers with the weeds.  Like this one....



So, I've been told those are "invasive" but honestly how could you have too many of those beauties in your garden?  I love them wherever they spread!

Some wild plants are not as pretty as the primroses above, but still useful, so you may want to thin them for aesthetic reasons, but leave a few in some corner of the yard for their other uses.

I let Plantain grow in my back yard but not my front....

Here's what Plantain looks like at this time of year:

 Later it will look like this...

The picture above is by Calindarabus, who not only has great photos of tons of plants on Flickr, but includes info about the plant with each picture!

If you dislike this plant in your yard you can blame the pilgrims.  They brought it with them for it's medicinal uses, and it was called "White Man's Foot" by the Native Americans because it cropped up wherever the Europeans settled.  The reason I keep some plantain in my back yard is because I've read you can crush a leaf and rub it on a bug bite and it will help, and you can eat the seed pods (I'm going to try them in salads).  Supposedly the young leaves are also edible...but in my yard they are fuzzy, so I'll pass on that.  But watch out, because these tend to spread.

Here's another useful weed people don't usually appreciate....

Dandelion leaves are great in salad, and the unopened dandelion buds can be fried in butter and eaten (find some recipes here).  The dried roots can also be a coffee substitute.  Plus, they have medicinal uses.  I've found that between my children picking the flowers and me using them for salads and such, the dandelions in our yard have thinned out without me having to pull any.  But if you are going to be pulling them up, why not collect the leaves, buds and roots and use them in the process?

To find out more about edible Texas plants, check out this Merriwether's Guide to Edible Wild Plants of Texas and the Southwest.

For more gardening blog posts try visiting the Gardeing Linky Party.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

5 Authors that Deserve More Recognition

Well, I found another Top Ten Tuesday I had to give a try...this one focusses just on books.  So, having nothing to do with California or Texas, it's a bit off topic...but fun!  I could only get up to 5, but here goes...

  1. Anne Tatlock
    I have read three of Anne Tatlock's books, and plan to read many more.  The first book I read, All the Way Home, made me realize how stereotypical or out of place so many of the characters in Historical Fiction were.  Her characters were not that way...not a historical stereotype or a modern person with modern sentiments trapped in the past...but fleshed out believable characters that helped me understand the mindset of the time without putting it in a box. 

    Her books deal with faith, but in a natural, subtle way that doesn't overshadow the story or make you feel preached at like some Christian fiction. I wish more Christians author's would write like that...not in the preachy, gotta get a message in every other line type of way. I think believers and non-believers would both enjoy her stories. (And she has gotten a little recognition...I read that All the Way Home and I'll Watch the Moon both won book of the year for the Midwest Independent Publishers Association. Not surprised, as I've read both of those. I think she deserves more.).

  2. Elizabeth Goodge
    I was introduced to this author by a dear friend. She writes in a beautiful, visual way. Two of the books that I've read, The Dean's Watch, and The Scent of Water, could be described as "a love story, but not a romance," which is a fresh perspective I enjoy (several of the book by Anne Tatlock I read could be described that way, also.)   I'm surprised she's not more well known.

  3. Jill Murphy
    A Quiet Night in (Large Family)I've been happy to have introduced friends The Large Family series by Jill Murphy's, but I've yet to meet one person who has actually read or heard of any of her books before I clued them in. She brings out some "truths" about parenting in a loving and humorous way. I enjoyed these as much as my children. And the illustrations are just precious!

  4. Joanne Greenburg
    She might be a bit too well known to include here, and I  have to admit I'm including her based on ONE BOOK, as I haven't read her other novels.   But every person I've met who's read her novel, In This Sign, has told me the same thing about it..."It felt like it was written about ME." That's something when you consider that this book is about a deaf couple living through the great depression and WWI.  It's not a common experience, but something about the book transcends the characters and speaks to all of us. It's not a happy, cheerful book...and you may want to throw it across the room sometimes. But that's true of many things that touch so close to reality.  I think this story gets less read outside of the Deaf community and those connected to it...and that's a shame.

  5. A Night Without Armor : PoemsJewel
    Yes, Jewel, the singer. Did you know that she writes poetry (that's in addition to her beautifully poetic song lyrics)?  Ignore Bill Mar on this one. I remember him making fun of one of her poems, criticising her for using the "wrong word"...when he didn't even see that her un-expected word choice was a poetic device. Anyone who's read free verse much would have recognized it, and I wish I could have reached through the TV and smacked him upside the head. Really, her poems are deep and full of meaning and she should get more credit for them then she has.

    Monday, March 21, 2011

    The Tsunami in California

    Though it's nothing compared to what happened in Japan, California was also hit by the Tsunami.  I don't believe homes on land were affected (I could be wrong about that) but some people who lived aboard their boats lost their homes.

    As someone who grew up living aboard, the news story above saddened me.  Here's a clip from it if you have trouble watching video: 

    Time and opportunity are two commodities that once lost, we do not usually get back. For Jody Connolly of Santa Cruz, they are the difference between calling a particular 30-foot boat "home" or a total loss.

    "If I had known that it was going to be more than a foot tsunami, which was being predicted through the news and the Weather Channel, I would have easily taken my boat out to sea," he said.

    Connolly says they had ten hours warning, but no one in Santa Cruz harbor expected tsunami surges like the ones that hit last Friday.

    I contacted the Santa Cruz chamber of commerce, and found out that they are taking donations for people who lost the boats they lived on.  The Red cross in Santa Cruz is collecting donations both for local relief efforts and for Japan.

    Donations of cash or checks made payable to either “BFCU for American Red Cross Japan Relief Fund” or “BFCU for American Red Cross Santa Cruz Relief Fund” can be made:

    • In person at any Bay Federal Credit Union Branch
    • By mail, addressed to:
      Bay Federal Credit Union,
      Attention: Tsunami Relief
      3333 Clares Street
      Capitola, CA 95010 
    • Online at

      If you want to volunteer to help with clean-up you can contact:
      Phone: (831) 462-5660

        Thursday, March 17, 2011

        Clovers: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

        Welcome to this week’s edition of Aloha Friday and Two Question Thursday

        Happy St. Patricks Day!

        It seemed a timely day to talk about clover. The clover is a symbol of Ireland, and of St. Patrick Day specifically as it is said that St. Patrick used it to explain the trinity to the Irish people.    Legend says that he would explain that just as the clover has three separate leaves and yet is one leaf, so the three persons of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) are separate yet one.

        In my yard here in Texas there are two kinds of which I like, and one which I'm not as fond of.

        I don't have any of this kind of clover (White Clover), though it does grow in Texas...


        ...though I would love to have some, as you can make tea out of the blossoms and use the roots in soups.  However, probably the ones in Texas aren't the best for that, as clover grown in warm climate can contain cyanide (small amounts...but still).   Granted, it's a small amount, and probably no more dangerous than what you'ld find in almonds, spinach or soy  (surprize surprize...we can eat small amounts).  I've heard of many naturalists, including ones in the south, eating them with no harmful results.    Some people are allergic to clover too, so if you try some, even the safe clover from up north, try a small amount first.  Also, clovers should be eaten fresh or dried, never fermented.

        Now, here's another clover clover that does bless my yard....

        Yellow Wood Sorrel

        This is actually, technically, a type of Wood Sorrel, not clover.  I've seen this plant in Texas with flowers in yellow, white, and light pink.  Yellow Wood-Sorrel (Oxalis Dillenii) The seed pods are edible in small quantities, but toxic in large amounts.  So, throwing a few in your salad is great (they are high in vitimin C) but don't eat them by the cup-full, and avoid them altogether if you have gout, rheumatism and kidney stones.

        You can see a close up of the pods, to the right.

        The "clover" below however, is not so nice (but not as bad as I used to think it was).

        It's called Burr Clover for it's circular, spiky looking burs.  I USED to think that it was the culprit for these hard, painful spiky things that keep me from walking in my yard barefoot....but those are actually SANDBRS (also known as Goats Heads).   Sandburs are horrible because they are barbed in a way that makes them very painful to remove. You actually have to yank them out (which is hard to do without embedding them in your fingers)--you can't just pull them out gently because they're barbed like little hooks. I had assumed that "clover" burrs  hardened into those because I always seemed to pick up those burs when stepping through an area of my yard that was covered with them.  Turns out it was sandburs growing in the same area.  (sand burs just look like grass until they seed...horrid stuff).  Bur clover does catch in pet fur and clothing, but is more of a nuisance than a pain.

        You can't just mow low to get rid of sand burs or bur clover  because bur clover creeps low to the ground and sand bur will just go to seed spikes lower down...and plus there's a good chance if you do mow over the taller one's you'll be planting them for next year.  . The best way to rid either of these from your yard is to pull them by hand.  For burr clover you can do this before they grow burrs, but unfortunately sand bur is hard to distinguish from other grasses so you may have to get them WHILE they have the spikes, which is a little tricky to do without getting hurt. I usually wear thick gloves, and once I've found the bur follow the stem to pull out from the the base (below the burrs).   Sometimes I just just clip the burrs off at the top and throw them into a bag, then use a long weeder to remove the base once they've been de-burred  (this is much easier to do if you let the dang things grown long, and don't mow them short).   After seeing a bunch of these you might start to recognize the shape and slight purple tinge on the base of this gastly grass, and so be able to uproot some of them before they produce burrs.

        Sand burrs are a horrible plant and I really don't care if it does have any beneficial uses.

        There's is a song I found called "Burr Clover Farm Blues", but it's about missing some farm with that name. I wrote a Burr Clover blues version back when I thought they were the culprit, not the sand burrs.  Here it is with "sand burr" now replacing "Bur Clover."

        I got the Sand Burr Blues,
        Makes me gotta wear shoes,
        I try to get rid of it but
        it grows tried and true.
        I got the sand burr,
        sand burr, sand burr blues.

        Now for my questions...

        • What is the worst weed to curse your yard?
        • Do you have any weeds that you like?  That bless your yard?

        Thanks!  If you have a blog and would like to post your own questions you can leave your link on the appropriate day at the linkys at 2 Questions Thursday and Aloha Friday.

        Images listed as creative commons on Flickr by Burning Question, and Abbamouse. Illustration is public domain found here.

        Wednesday, March 16, 2011

        Of Sumos and Saints - A Review

        Oddly enough where I first learned the story of St. Patrick was from a short clip on the Veggie Tales Video Sumo of the Opera

        What do Sumos have to do with St. Patrick? 

        Well, not much, except in this case perseverance, which was the theme of that particular video (if you're not familiar with Veggie Tales, most of their videos have several short stories on a related theme).   

        Sumo of the Opera's main story is a Rocky style tale of a jokester sumo who learns the value of perseverance.  It also includes a silent film parody of Larry, Mo, and Curly, and my favorite silly song ever, "School House Polka - Homophones"  (teachers out there, this would be a wonderful teaching tool!).

        But the clip from this video I'd like to share with you today (which is also on YouTube...see below) is a tale of St. Patrick.   It's hilarious and informative, but like all Veggie Tales videos takes a few tongue and cheek liberties, so if you'ld like a more historical version of this story, you can find a short summary of his life here...or get the story straight from St. Pat by reading his Confesio (which is actually not too long, but not quite as likely to grab a kid's attention as the video below).

        Shared On
        A St. Patricks Day Journey
        Throwback Thursday

        Monday, March 14, 2011

        10 on Tuesday - Ideas

        I have lots of ideas for 10 on Tuesday posts that would would be wonderful on topic for Texifornia...and I could use your help!  So for this week's I'm going to share 10 of my ideas, and see if you can help me think of things I could use for these.  If anyone comes up with an item for a 10 on Tues list that I use in a future, I'll make sure to attribute you with a link to your blog.

        Before I may need to know what a Texifornian is.  A Texifornian is simply anyone who has lived in both California and Texas (even if they don't live in either of those places now).

        OK, so my 10 of my ideas for future Texifornian 10 on Tuesdays are... 
        1. 10 Books set in Texas or California.
        2. 10 Great Movies set in Texas or California.
        3. 10  Movies set in Texas or California that make you think the writers never lived there.
        4. 10 Things people miss the most when they leave Texas.
        5. 10 Things people miss the most when they leave California.
        6. 10 Things Texans say when they learn you're from California.
        7. 10 Things Californians say when they learn you're from Texas.
        8. 10 of best places to go/things to do when you're missing California.
        9. 10 of the best places to go/things to do when you're missing Texas.
        10. 10 signs you're a Texifornian.
        If you can think of any items for any of these, please share it!  You don't have to be a Texifornian to contribute, but please let me know if you are.  


        Saturday, March 12, 2011

        Prayers for Those Affected by the Earthquakes/Tsunamis

        I have been blown away as I've watched videos on CNN of the earthquake and Tsunami that have devasted Japan and other areas in Asia.  Tsunamis have even reached California, a danger that I was aware of as a child growing up on a boat in Southern CA, but luckily never experienced.   It's amazing that an event on the other side of the Pacific can have effects that far reaching.

        I've experienced Earthquakes too, but nothing compared to what they experienced in Japan.  Please keep all affected in your prayers.

        And, if you would like to help in other ways, here's some links....


        I've read Crescent City and Santa Cruz were the hardest
        hit in California, so you might contact local organizations there
        if you are near enough to help with the clean-up.

        The sister of the Harbor manager in Crescent City happens to
        be part of a forum I'm a memeber of, and she suggested
        contactings the Crescent City The Chamber of Commerce
        if you want to volunteer to help with the clean up.  I'm including info
        for both Santa Cruz and Cresent City Chamber of Commerces below:

        Crescent City Chamber of Commerce
        1001 Front Street
        Crescent City, CA 95531-4133
        (707) 464-3174

        Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce
        Sn Street, Ste. 1 Santa Cruz, CA 95060
        (831) 457-3713

        Also, in Redondo, a clean-up of King Harbor Marina from the
        sardines that for some un-explained reason flooded into the area last
        week was put on hold because of the Tsunami.  As late as March 9
        they were still needing volunteers and may stil need them.

        If you know of any local California efforts that
        people can help with, please e-mail me at 
        ecarian at yahoo dot com  so I can include them here.

        Here's a news article showing some of the damage to California and the west coast...
        again, nothing compared to what people experienced in Japan, but still bad.

        Tuesday, March 08, 2011

        Ten on Tuesday - 10 HEB Store Brand Faves

        I love HEB!  Yep, they give my kids balloons, they have two seater shopping carts, helpful employees (at least at my HEB), and great fresh produce.  I also happen to love many of their store brand products...some even more than name brand!  Here are my top ten favorite HEB/Hill Country Fair Store Brand Foods:
        HEB Fruit Spread (Jam)
        Their fruit spreads are delicious, have less sugar than most jams (and only one gram more than Smuckers Low Sugar jam), and even come in a cute jar!

        HEB Creamy Tomato Herb Soup
        Tastes just like La Madeline Tomato soup, only cheaper!

        HEB Bake Shop Bran and Wheat Bread
        Where else can you get healthy bran bread?  I've never seen it
        anywhere else in a grocery store!

        HEB Granola Bars
        I personally think both HEB and Walmart store brand granola 
        bars taste better then Quaker.  They're moister...Quaker's are more dry.

        HEB Fruit/Veggie Drinks
        That's not the actual name for it, but they're the type of drink like V8 splash
        I think they taste just as good too.

        HEB Oatmeal
        Just as good as Quaker, and cheaper.

        HEB Nacho Cheeze Chips (Dorito Style)
        Not sure if that's the name for them, but they are the ones that are like
        the original Doritos.  I can't tell the difference!

        These sandwhich rolls are made daily and you can get them for 4 for a dollar in the fresh baked bread section.  LOVE IT!

        Hill Country Fair Strogonof 
        Hill Country Fair may not technically be a store brand, but since it's store brand price and I've only ever seen it at HEB, I'm counting this.  We love Strogonof but have someone in our family with egg allergies.  Hamburger Helper has eggs.  The Hill Country Fair version doesn't...and tastes close enough for us..

        HEB Creamy Creations Ice Cream
        Oh, this stuff is good.  Super creamy, and no eggs (an essential if you have egg allergies). 

        I'd love to here what your favorite store brand products are!  I'm collecting a favorites list for various grocery stores, which you can read and add to here (or leave a comment below with a store brand item you love and I'll add it to the list myself.  Thanks!)


        Thursday, March 03, 2011

        Sonic Giveaway

        Sonic was one of my favorite find coming to Texas.  I love the fun of driving in, and adore their lime-aids and smoothies.  So I am definitely entering the giveaway over at Chief Family Officer for a $25 Sonic Gift Card!  Head on over if you want to enter too!

        ( By the way, I heard they had Chick File in California now?  What about Sonic?  Still just in Texas?  Anyone know?)