Current score: Birds – forfeit by force!

My dad has completed his project to protect my garden from the birds.  And not only are my strawberries protected, but so are all my other plants.  Drumroll, please …

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I just love it!  It is the most functional thing I can imagine.  It’s lightweight enough that I can easily lift it and rest it on its side and tend to my plants.  And my last strawberry that was on the plant when I bought it is still intact!  Although, Daddy reports that the birds were fussing at him as he built this handy little contraption, so they’re not fans of Daddy’s creation.  Too bad for the birds that they aren’t calling the shots!  I’m glad they didn’t gang up and dive bomb at Daddy’s head in protest!  It’s just the greatest thing.  It makes me feel more confident that this garden might actually be successful.  It is also so much fun for me to come home and check their progress every day.  I genuinely look forward to it.

The amazing thing was that on Monday, when Daddy began this project, he texted me a photo of the frame in progress and my cucumber pot looked simply like a pot of soil.  When I got home a couple of hours later, Daddy pointed out that the plants were starting to make their way through the soil.  It was so cool to me.  I realize that is what happens when you plant seeds, but I never plant seeds!  So it was pretty neat stuff to a girl like me.

It has been nine days since I first started my garden.  The first night, Daddy suggested we go outside with a tape measure and take a picture of how tall the plants were, and that maybe I could do that every week or just periodically and watch their progress.  So this afternoon, I took the tape measure out and got some new photos.  All of my plants are doing well, but the squash plant has definitely seen the most growth!

Here are my tomatoes, nine days ago and today.  (I realize the photography angle was much better on the “before” shot!  Daddy was my lovely assistant that night, but I didn’t have a lovely assistant today.  Maybe next time!)  This plant is the one that looks the most like it did when I first got it, but I’m sure it’ll pick up some steam.  My tomato plant is now roughly 3″ taller.  Wow, I thought it was less!  Yay tomatoes!

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My strawberry plant is less two strawberries from the beginning thanks to those pesky birds, but it has grown taller!  It is roughly two inches taller, but it seems wider, too!  You might notice my bright yellow plastic snake in the background of the second photo.  Now that the birds can’t access my strawberry plant, and since they didn’t fall for my tricks anyway, I suppose I could just let Sayid have that toy he’s been coveting!

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Here’s my overachieving squash plant!  Look how amazing this is!  It has doubled in height, and is way wider than before, too.  This squash plant just makes me so happy.  My squash plant is this week’s MVP!  No, wait.  Daddy is most definitely this week’s MVP.  My squash plant is the runner-up!

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And last but not least, my lovely little cucumbers.  They started as small groups of three seeds sprinkled in three sections of the pot, and now look at them!  They look so proud!

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I’ve concluded that thanks to my sweet Daddy’s ingenuity, quality soil, and the fact that I’m actually paying attention to my plants this time around and enjoying it, I might actually be a successful gardener this year.  Fingers crossed!  So far, I’m finding it to be really fun.

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Current score: Birds 2, Lindsay 0

I mentioned that the birds got my beautiful prized strawberry a few days ago.  Saturday morning, I had another pretty little strawberry growing.  I bought a fake snake at a garage sale that morning and put it in my strawberry pot, hoping they’d be tricked and stay away.

Sayid & I went with my parents to the park that morning, immediately after depositing said snake into strawberry pot, and then about an hour later, Mama and I left the park to pick up lawn chairs at their house and Sayid’s soccer ball at my house.  Upon getting the soccer ball out of the trunk of my car, I realized it was really flat.  So I walked through the back yard fence and around the corner to get the air pump out of the storage room.  As I rounded the corner, a bird frantically flew away from my garden area, squawking a warning to all his friends.  I think I actually yelled, “Hey!” at the bird, but being a bird, he wasn’t concerned with anything I had to say.  I glanced at my strawberry, and at the moment, it still looked lovely.

Fast forward to a couple of hours later when I got home from the park.  Once again, they had gotten my berry.  The fake snake my parents had in their garden last year was much more realistic looking.  My bright yellow snake didn’t fool these birds for a second.  (Also, Sayid has been eyeballing that snake ever since I brought it home, and last night while Melissa was in and out of the house grilling burgers, he got his chance.  She went back outside to find that he had stolen and was chewing on the snake.)  I started brainstorming a little and asked Daddy, who thrives on problem solving, to help me come up with an idea.  I needed something to protect my strawberries from those obnoxious birds!  And preferably, something big enough to also cover my tomato plant, because that’s probably the other part of my garden they’ll be interested in.  Daddy told me he’d think about it and come up with something.

And come up with something, he did!  It isn’t complete yet.  He worked several hours on it this afternoon and still has a bit more work to do before it’s ready.  But I think it’s safe to say those birds are pouting on their perches as they watch my innovative, problem-solving father put an end to their berry buffet!  As soon as it is complete – which will likely be in the next few days – I will post photos.  I’m just so happy about it!

Also, Daddy pointed out that my cucumber plants are starting to peek out from the soil, so I’m pretty happy about that, too!  My tomatoes, strawberries, and squash were all transplants and had already started growing.  But my cucumbers came from seeds!  I’m feeling pretty optimistic about my garden’s chances.

Crossing my fingers that my thumbs are green

Growing up, until around the end of elementary school, I remember having vegetable gardens in our yard.  My mom informed me that the reason we didn’t have gardens during my middle school & high school years was because the house we lived in had a massive front yard and no back yard, and “nobody wants a garden in their front yard”.  I maintain that we could have had a garden inconspicuously hidden behind the massive hideous bushes that surrounded our property.  But, alas, nothing can be done about it now!

In the summer of 2008, my sister and I decided to attempt a garden in our yard.  It was not successful.  I think that was partially because we planted it too late in the spring, partially because we didn’t give it the attention it needed, and also maybe because our soil – which was just our yard dirt – wasn’t that great.

I’ve decided to give it another shot this year.  But this year, I am doing a container garden instead of a standard garden.  I did some reading on container gardening and it definitely has its pros!  For example, today when we’ve had storms and strong winds, I brought my pots under the patio, so they’re not in the crazy weather.  I actually bought a 99 cent book in the Kindle store over the weekend and got quite the education on container gardening.  It was 99 cents well spent.  If anyone is curious, the book is called Container Gardening – A Beginner’s Guide to Successful Container Gardening by Alice C. Murray.  It was a wealth of information for a buck!  It comes highly recommended.

After some research, a few visits to Lowe’s and Home Depot, and then sending my dad to pick up some better quality soil at a local garden mart instead of one of the major stores, I was ready to plant.  My sweet parents came over to help me Tuesday night.

Daddy scrubbed my hand-me-down pots from Mama with soap and water.  (This is something I learned in my Kindle book!  I would have probably just rinsed them out really well, but I learned that soap and water were necessary to make sure there are no lingering pesticides, insect eggs, salt deposits, etc. from the previous planting.)

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Sayid discovered my new watering can and kept drinking from it.  He also decided he liked snacking on potting soil, unfortunately.

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In the end, I got everything planted!  From left to right, I have Sayid (who at 85 pounds is pretty much still growing!), patio tomatoes, strawberries, squash, and cucumbers!

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I had three strawberries on my plant to begin with.  Two were green and one was red.  The red one was so lovely and it smelled so sweet!  I took a picture of my cute little strawberry.  And thank goodness, because by the time I got home Wednesday afternoon, a bird had been snacking on my precious little treasured berry.  But wasn’t it cute before the rude bird with great taste but no manners came & destroyed it?

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I am hopeful that my garden will be successful, but I’ve gotta figure out something to keep those pesky birds away!

Roaming around Louisiana Tech

Melissa found out about an event on Tech’s campus yesterday afternoon for dogs, so she suggested that Sayid and I come to Ruston after I got off work.  Mama ended up finishing averaging grades around mid afternoon, so I invited her to come to Ruston with Sayid and me to celebrate.  The three of us met up with Melissa and tried to find the event.  We realized it was at the softball game and none of us wanted to go to the softball game, but we didn’t let that put a damper on our trip to Ruston.  We found a great park – aptly named Hideaway Park, since I was a student at Tech for years and never even knew this park existed – and took a walk.  Then we drove over to the main campus and walked some more.  Sayid and I took a photo outside the Bulldog Kennel, where I was a student worker.

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We walked around Centennial Plaza where we found my sister’s and brother-in-law’s bricks.  (Speaking of which, I wonder if/when I’m ever gonna get my brick?!)

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We roamed around a little bit more.  Sayid made some new friends.  Sayid was obviously thirsty after all that walking around and he and Mama had emptied her water bottle.  Melissa and Sayid waited by the Lady of the Mist fountain while Mama and I went to the car and got Melissa’s keys so she could go in her building and refill the water bottle for Sayid.  When we met up with them again, Mama wanted to take our picture, and then this  happened …

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My sweet boy just fell backwards into the fountain!  Mama didn’t think she had gotten a photo, but I guess she had her finger on the button whenever Sayid started falling!  We could not stop laughing.  He looked so sad and ashamed at first.

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But then he turned into a happy little hippopotamus when he realized it was water.  And he was thirsty.  And the water was at the perfect level where all he had to do was open his mouth on occasion and he could drink to his heart’s content!  I felt like I was at the hippo exhibit at the zoo!

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Then Melissa helped pull that big 85 pound body out of the water.  I thought I was going to have to roll up my jeans and get in to give him a boost, but they were able to manage!

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He is much easier to remove from the water when he’s wearing his life jacket that has a handle.  We’ve learned from experience that he’s not the most graceful fella, so when he rides in Grandpappy’s boat, a life jacket is required!  Who knew he’d also fall into this little body of water!

Okay, confession.  I think I was so busy trying to get him situated for the picture that I didn’t realize how much space Melissa and I were taking up, and I think I kind of shoved him off.  Ooops!  Nevertheless, it was a great little comedy routine!

Shortly after this happened, we left Ruston and drove back to West Monroe where Mama treated us to McAllister’s for supper.  It was a fun evening.

Branching out – spaghetti squash!

One of my favorite shows is The Biggest Loser.  The season that just ended was a great season.  There were so many likable people competing.  I think one reason this show appeals to me so much is that I love food and I love to find healthy new ways to cook different things.  I prefer to eat healthy food, so I learn a lot by watching this show.

I love squash, but I had never tried spaghetti squash.  I’m sure I had heard of it, but never gave it much thought.  Then this season on The Biggest Loser, one of the contestants, Jackson, mentioned spaghetti squash several times.  He talked about how much he liked it and mentioned that he could now enjoy one of his favorite foods – spaghetti – without all the carbs of pasta.  This definitely piqued my interest.  I also love spaghetti on occasion, but hate all the empty calories that come from pasta.

I found Jackson’s recipe online and then started my search for a spaghetti squash each time I was in the grocery store.  After several misses, I finally found one.  It was the last one in the store.  I bought it and followed Jackson’s recipe.  I had no idea that spaghetti squash comes apart and looks just like noodles when cooked.  It’s amazing!

My sister also liked it.  In fact, she liked it so much that she thinks we should always use a spaghetti squash when available and then just use pasta for our leftover sauce once the spaghetti squash is all eaten.  I tend to agree!  If you’ve never tried spaghetti squash and are looking for a healthier alternative, I highly recommend it.  The only difference I noticed between pasta and spaghetti squash was that the spaghetti squash has a bit of a crunch to it.  It just has a firm crispness to it.  But it’s great and so much healthier.  And, kudos to Jackson for the idea of putting baby spinach in the sauce.  I love spinach, but that thought never crossed my mind!

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Here is a link to Jackson’s spaghetti squash recipe – http://www.biggestloser.com/nutrition/recipes/jacksons-spaghetti-squash

Flat Stanley’s adventures with Sayid

My sister, Ashley, lives in Texas and asked me if her friend, who teaches elementary school, could send “Flat Stanley” to me.  Flat Stanley is a little character that teachers send on different travels/adventures for their students to follow.  I agreed, and a few days later, I received Flat Stanley in the mail along with a letter and instructions.

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Sayid is a fan of adventures, so I took the two of them on a few.  We went to the dog park but I kept Stanley tucked safely away in my book because the dogs that day were far too hyper to risk Stanley’s demise.  So his adventures were much more limited than Sayid’s.  Melissa and I also took him to the playground with Sayid.  I had hoped to get a photo of Stanley sitting in the cup holder on a bike ride around my parents’ neighborhood, but any time I had the chance, it was either raining or far too windy.  I certainly didn’t want to send Stanley flying on the wind into one of the lakes, which is actually where I was picturing this cup holder photo op taking place.  Also, I think the great hope was that I’d get by the Duck Commander headquarters since Duck Dynasty is West Monroe’s claim to fame.  Alas, I had the same problem as with the bike ride – always too windy or raining whenever I had opportunity to go.  I figured I had held Stanley hostage long enough, so I sent the following letter and photos back to the kids.

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Also, I must add, I’m not sure how Stanley got that black eye, but it wasn’t Sayid’s fault!

Grandnanny’s Snack Stash

My mom has a certain cabinet where chocolate can be found at her house.  A couple of weeks ago, Melissa was in search of a miniature Reese’s cup.  Mama didn’t think she had any, but she crouched down to help Melissa hunt.  Mama tends to keep goodies for all creatures in the same cabinet.  Sayid is well aware that his treats are in that same cabinet.  So he squeezed his way in between Mama and Melissa and started his own search.  I couldn’t help but snap a photo of this trio!IMG_5572