Monday, June 21, 2010

Father's Day Potluck 2010

After a slight vacation from blogging, we're back again.

Yesterday was Father's Day, and being a crowd who never misses any excuse to eat, we had a potluck dinner. Originally scheduled for the beach, threatening rain clouds made a change of venue necessary and we laid the food out in the office and ate under the movie marquee.

Not many highjinks going on after this bunch has food in front of them, we are definitely dedicated to the art of dining. We have some fine cooks among us, and usually go away groaning.

Join us, as the lady with the stealth video-cam strikes again.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Make a Loan - Change a Life

Last night I ran across an incredible website called Kiva. Kiva works with microcredit organizations around the world to provide small loans to poor people who want to start or improve their businesses. Kiva's mission is to connect people who are willing to loan $25.00 to a person who needs a small loan, for the sake of alleviating poverty.

Kiva is the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs around the globe.

You can go to Kiva's website and lend to someone across the globe who needs a loan for their business - like raising goats, selling vegetables at market or making bricks. Each loan has a picture of the entrepreneur, a description of their business and how they plan to use the loan so you know exactly how your money is being spent - and you get updates letting you know how the entrepreneur is doing.

The best part is, when the entrepreneur pays off their loan you get your money back - and Kiva's loans are managed by local microfinance institutions who have a lot of experience doing this, so you can trust that your money is being handled responsibly.

I went through and found a group of women in Uganda Africa who had applied for a group loan of $825.00. Each woman in the Tumwebaze B Group will receive a loan of $103 for a 12 month term. Each month they pool funds to make a loan payment, and each of them is responsible for helping the others repay their part of the loan. I love this picture. Each woman holds her application and tries very hard to look appropriately serious and trustworthy. I hope they dance with joy when their loan money is distributed.

Jane Mbasagi is the leader of the group. She operates a grocery store selling sweet bananas, tomatoes, cabbages, and other produce. She is 45 years old and has eight children, four of whom are going to school. She is also taking care of one sibling. She has been in business for over two years. She will use her loan to purchase grocery items to add stock to her business. She is a hardworking business woman whose dream is to educate her children.

My small loan, combined with loans from 20 or more other people have now raised the $825.00 for the group loan, which each of them will use to finance business activity. So now, Jane Mbasagi, Scovia Kavabunga, Jane Pande, Damali Namugabe, Aida Kafuko, Alice Chandia, Suzan Nanja and Sarah Nakwaga in the wee village of Kaliro, Uganda have the opportunity to use their skills and hard work to improve the lives of themselves and their families.

This is powerful. It's finally easy to actually do something about poverty. Using Kiva I know exactly who my money is loaned to and what they're using it for. And most of all, I know that I'm helping them each build a sustainable business that will provide income to feed, clothe, house and educate their family long after my loan is paid back.

There are thousands of others waiting for a chance. Please join me in changing the world - one loan at a time.

All the best!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Ruth's Golden Thumb

Tony says Ruth doesn't have a "green thumb", she has a golden thumb! Her 4 x 4 garden has been spectacularly successful this summer, and the latest evidence is this green pepper which she picked this morning.

And the "gardeners" are not the only ones who enjoy our labours. I can see into the community garden from where I sit. I can't count the number of visitors who respectfully enter the space, who bend to touch a leaf, or show a tiny child a blossom, a squash, a tomato or other plant. And yes some kids have pinched a tomato or two, but maybe it's the first time they've ever popped a tomato, warm from the sun, off the vine and directly into their mouth. Maybe 10-15 years from now they will remember that little tomato and plant some of their own.

The Community Garden is about more than cabbages and pepper plants. It's as much about growing community as it is about vegetables. And since I am keenly interested in communities I see it as a bit of a social experiment. I ask the question, "Does it make this a better place to live?" and the answer must surely be yes.

You begin to create a safe and secure community when you decide that you will be a good neighbor. Like charity, building community begins at home. Building community is something we each can do, right here, right now, in this place.

Nobody is an island. We will do better, and have a better place to live, if we think of this little park by the lake as our village, and discover anew the truth that we have learned many times in history: united we stand, divided we fall, cooperation is as important as competition. Anything and everything we do to make this a better place to live helps us all, and helping us all is what community is about.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Don't You Wish You Were an Insomniac?

Look at all the stuff you miss while you are sleeping!

Critters eating my tomatoes! I went out yesterday and picked a colander full of almost-but-not-quite-ripe tomats. This is what was left after I shared the bounty with Kent, who was kind enough to let me put a 4 x 4 raised bed in his sunny site.

Purple Princes, who are living up to their name, and Brandywines, who are almost the same colour, just a little different in shape. The Tiny Tims and Sweet Millions are red, there's a yellow pear tomato in there somewhere, a couple of green pepper and a few burgundy bush beans.

I wanted to leave the tomatoes on the vine until they were really ripe, but as soon as they get a day or two from "really ripe" some critter eats them. Anybody have a double-barreled shotgun? I've about had it with this thief.

But the spectacular thing you are missing while you sleep is this sound and the show that goes with it.

Great Horned Owls Chicks Calling Mom

I was sleepless at 1:00 am a few nights ago and heard that sound, to the right, to the left.... I knew it was a bird but wondered what sort of bird it was, and worried (as I do about everything) that a young bird had fallen from the nest and was calling to its mama. But two? There were obviously two screamers, as the second's rasping call would begin before the first one quit.

I got my bird glass and went out on the porch. Heck, didn't need the glass. Circling under the street lamp directly across from our site was a HUGE buff-and brown bird, with a two-foot or more wingspan. I immediately thought red-tailed hawk but dismissed the idea almost as fast. The bird dropped to the pavement, fluttered a bit, and took off again, something in its talons. Into the dark it went.

The screeching grew louder and more frantic. Yes, two juvenile Great Horned Owls, yelling, "Here Mama! Here Mama! Bring it to me!" One from the big willow by the community garden, the other across in the tenting row.

In a minute she was back, first to perch on the fence post directly beneath the light, where she sat for a moment and then extended her wings out to the side and held them there. In a flash she dove up beyond the light, whisked back in again and was gone. (Obviously not this one, but imagine one like this under the street lamp on Landry, adjacent to the tenting row at 1:00 am, and be suitably impressed!)

The Great Horned Owl mama was hunting for her hungry young'uns in the streetlight. Was she grabbing suicidal mice who had chosen that moment to dash across the road, eating moths, or perhaps catching bats? Hard to say, we have some enormous moths here. I found one whose wing span covered my entire hand last summer.

This show has happened several nights. I have only gotten up twice to watch her pirouette beneath the streetlight, but if you haven't seen her it's worth a few moments of lost sleep.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Under Cover of Darkness

I should have been sound asleep, but like the cat, I am often nocturnal. Unfortunately, unlike the cat, I can rarely sleep during the daytime. What do you call someone who doesn't sleep besides tired?

Anyway, at the usual 1:00 am there was a scramble of little feet on my pots, little toenails scrabbling across plastic. I had left the spray bottle of home made Tabasco and soap Critter Off! in the garden, because though I'd planned to spray after turning the compost, I forgot.

In the middle of the night I paid the price of absent-mindedness. The park is full of people. While I was not shy about getting up and going out to shoo away critters when I was still sleeping in my (highly alluring) sweat pants and monster-sized T-shirt, I did not feel like getting up in my abbreviated summer jammies and causing alarm and dismay among any passersby. I gritted my teeth and listened for the munching of watermelon leaves. I dozed off and on listening for munching.

All night long a parade of critters came to call. When I did finally sleep I had a nightmare that my entire garden had been eaten to bare stems. That's scarier than dreaming of monsters!

I need a camera which takes pictures in the dark! Some of the critters had teeny feet, some were bigger. But as dawn was breaking there was a set of feet which were much bigger. I remembered Cat's belief that we have a resident weasel. Fine by me, the weasel is a carnivore and the hurried scrambling away of small feet that took place when those larger feet hit the pots cheered me up immensely. I never heard a squeak, so I'm not sure the weasel (or whatever) caught its meal, but I heard no more little feet.

I was almost afraid to look this morning, but to my surprise (and relief) not a leaf appeared nibbled, no new bare stems, no missing marble-sized melons (there are now three). I guess the cayenne spray lingers longer than I had anticipated. Yay! But you can bet I'll be out spraying tonight.

There's a new set of pictures in the Flickr album, mostly the 4 x 4's in the community garden but also a couple of the "Hen and Chicks" blooms in my garden. I didn't know they bloomed until last year, but they have beautiful flowers!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Non-Toxic Mosquito Spray

I was horrified last night when I was closing up for the night to find that there were about 100 mosquitoes on my kitchen ceiling and walls. Yikes!

What to do? I have no bug spray in the house and really wouldn't want to use a toxic spray in my kitchen anyway.

But I grabbed my spray bottle, put in 1/2 cup of water, added 1/4 tsp of dish soap and three drops of peppermint oil. I shook it a bit and started spraying.

The mist hit the 'skeeters and they sort of did a little tizzy dance, curled up and fell down dead. It took about three seconds. Yowzers. In two minutes my kitchen was free of mosquitoes, and smelled really nice to boot.

There were three or four lingerers this morning which must have been hiding in the curtains or behind the dishwasher. I sprayed them and they turned toes up and died.

No more skeeters. :)

Thursday, July 2, 2009


I have grown quite aggravated at whatever critter has been eating my garden. Other people are dealing with aphids and white flies. I have no aphids and only a few scattered white flies; But I do appear to have a cow visiting my teeny patch. Well, a small cow... but one who adores watermelon vines and bean plants!

My first two watermelon plants were eaten off right down to the stem. The second set have grown and produced a half dozen marble-sized watermelons. Still a long way to go but it's a start towards that watermelon I am longing for!

That is until the hungry hungry whatever came and began eating on them again. It stripped half the leaves and ate all but one watermelon in two nights. The only watermelon left is one I put a flowerpot on.

And my bush beans! Several plants eaten right down to the stem!

This calls for war! The live trap was baited, with a slice of watermelon and some ripe cherries. No luck. The "cow" prefers fresh, organic, thanks, not yer "boughten" stuff.

War is ramped up. As the shadows fell yesterday I mixed up two teaspoons of Louisiana Tabasco (aka known as Texas mouthwash), three drops of dishwash soap and a cup of water in a spray bottle and liberally sprayed/doused my melons and beans. I got caught in the spray drift at one point, gasp! cough, snort! Potent stuff! Good!

About 1:00 am I was awakened by the now familiar sound of little feet scrambling over the loose pots at the base of the watermelon SIP. There was a pause, the sound of nibbling (I have very acute hearing) and then....

Ah-choo! Ah-choo! AHHHHHH-CHOO!

Then Hisssssssssss....... Apparently a comment on the quality of my greenery! LOL

This morning, a bean leaf nibbled, but no further depredations thanks. Tonight I will repeat the spraying until "Mr. Hungry" gets the message and moves to the orchard next door.