Monday, February 27, 2006


Got through my midterm! I think I did really well. I certainly hope I did. Next week, we'll get them back and go over them, and then we'll get a chance to take them home over Spring Break and revise whichever essay we choose for a reconsidered grade.

I also got all of the corn planted this past weekend. I don't know how I was able to manage that and studying, but I did. Thank goodness!

Let's see... What else...

I started on a second Twilight Hood, since it's just plain knitting, and I plied the Corriedale that I spun several weeks ago. I think I'll probably use it for a simple shawl for myself or I'll work it up into another Twilight Hood or two because it's the same weight as the Cotswold that I'm working with. Still working on the Sontag as well. It's slow going at this point as I'm trying to figure out how to decrease for proper effect. Also thinking of spinning up the rest of my black Merino for muffettees... I'm going to see if I have enough.

Also, has it's Winter Surprises up... I like "Starsky." I think I'm going to try to knit it up for myself with some of the cotton I have... but first I have to finish the 2nd cuff of my pair of Mrs. Beeton.

In current events...

I'm glad that Mardi Gras is going on this year. New Orleans still needs help... if only I knew what I could do...

I'm totally outraged by Dubai Ports World possibly being allowed to purchase American ports. I'm actually outraged that *any* foreign company period is allowed to buy American infrastructure. If I had known about a British company owning it before now, I would have been outraged then... Outsourcing America, Homeland Security, Americans should do for Americans, yada, yada, yada... Can you tell I love watching Lou Dobbs on CNN? And Jon Stewert and Steven Colbert on Comedy Central. Did you see on CNN that representatives sent to the UAE embassy in DC (to meet with elected officials there to assure them that DPW's deal for the ports is on the up and up) *refused* to speak to CNN because, and I quote, "CNN won't shut up Lou Dobbs"? I couldn't stop laughing... Do they not understand the concept of a free press, not to mention freedom of speech? Apparently not... Over a week later, I remain completely unconvinced that it's a good idea, and have written to all of my DC elected officials appraising them of my opinions. I hope you have too. And unlike Bush, I do see a difference between a British privately owned company and an UAE government owned company. Britain - ally... UAE - *if* an ally, a recent one... Britain - not involved in 9/11 attacks and biggest supporter after 9/11... UAE - involved in 9/11 in the following ways: 1) several hijackers UAE citizens, 2) money for Al-Qu'ida funneled through UAE banks, 3) UAE refused to allow US government to trace funds of hijackers through UAE bank system immediately following 9/11... UAE slightly and justifiably suspect? I'd say, "yes." Is it because the people of the UAE are Muslim as some people have vocally claimed? No... Notice how that doesn't even need to enter into my list of differences... I think bringing that up as a reason is no different than people defending OJ saying that the only reason he was suspected of having murdered his ex-wife and her friend was because he is black... It's ridiculous.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


I've had to be very strict with myself this week. I have an exam on Monday evening, the 27th, which takes top priority. But until Saturday, I'll be working on getting the garden planted. The corn has to be in the ground this weekend or there will be no chance for a decent harvest. I've got the okra, peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, lima beans and cucumbers entirely finished. I've started planting the yellow squash, and I'm just waiting for the zucchini to sprout. I've started them inside this year. The green beans, peanuts, and the rest of the herbs will get planted after that. But the corn has to be in the ground before the end of February come Hell or high water. And we might have to have Joe put in two new sprinkler heads this Saturday so that the corn will get watered like it should. I should have checked on that before I tilled and put the corn plot further out, closer to the back sprinklers because as it is neither the front set nor back set will reach the corn plot. But oh well... we'll get it worked out.

The pear trees, blueberries, blackberries, and apples have all come out of their winter dormancy and are sprouting new leaves. That just leaves the pecans, peaches and persimmon. The figs look like they'll sprout leaves any day now. The banana... I'm still hoping that the freeze didn't nip it. Most of the leaves have turned brown... But there's still green, so I'm still hopeful.

So all serious knitting is on the back-burner until next weekend. My wrists have to be saved for planting and writing. Nearly killed my right wrist last week in class with all the notes I was taking... I think my prof stopped lecturing a little early because I had to start stretching out my hand and wrist, and I know I looked pained... Didn't count how many pages of notes I took, but it wouldn't surprise me if it were close to 50 pages...

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The local color

This article is reproduced here from the Saint Petersburg Times by me in its entirety. At this time, to the best of my knowledge, it is not available elsewhere online. I was highly amused by this article, however, and was compelled to share it here for the enjoyment of others.

St. Petersburg Times
February 19, 2006
Floridian - 1E, 5E

Real Florida

Howard Solomon started building Solomon's Castle in Hardee County in 1972. He has run it as a tourist attraction for years but says he is ready to sell the 12,000-square-foot castle and 90 acres of land. Solomon wears a knight's costume in this photo, but he is actually partial to gnomes.

"Gnome man's land"
Howard Solomon has spent more than three decades building a castle from scratch in the Florida swamp. Now he's ready to sell it, complete with moat, dungeon and countless elfin subjects.
by Jeff Klinkenberg
Times Staff Writer
Ona [Florida]

Solomon's Castle, sometimes called Florida's real Magic Kingdom, rises from a swamp in the middle of Hardee County nowhere. In the castle are many gnomes. They are point-headed gnomes carved out of wood. A man's gnome is in his castle.

You ought to hear Howard Solomon talk about his gnomes. He goes on about them like a Borscht-Belt comedian.

"I have made so many gnomes that I've learned their language. It's called gnomenclature. If you give them a feather it's a gnome de plume. If you put them on the stove it's a gnome on the range. If you put them on a piano it's a metrognome."

What do you call a gnome on a chair?

"A suppository."

Solomon is a little gnomish himself. He is about 5 feet 5 and weighs 120 pounds when he is wet from a soaking in the moat. He wears a sailor's cap upside down and when it is dark as a dungeon in the bell tower his head appears a little pointy. He is somewhat wrinkled at 71. His chin hair, bristling like a shaving brush, prompts the question: Anyone seen Dr. Seuss lately?

Solomon began building in 1972. He didn't intend to build a castle, but when he realized he had bought a swamp he decided to build up instead of out. Solomon doesn't do safe, sensible things like the big-time contractors who are building condos and townhouses everywhere. He spent $19,000 on lumber, but otherwise the Rembrandt of Reclamation gathered his materials from roadside junk.

Today Solomon's Castle is a well-known B-list tourist attraction near Arcadia. It is a throwback to Florida before the Big Mouse. It belongs to the era when tourist attractions were found on roadsides, behind gas stations, even in swamps - and inevitably owned and operated by eccentrics.

It is terrible, truly terrible, to report that Solomon wants to sell his 12,000-square-foot castle. Asking price: $2.5-million, or $5.5 million with accessories.

Accessories include a 65-foot Spanish galleon, a dungeon and many, many gnomes.

The good news: Solomon admits the castle has been on the market for 15 years.

The old gnome may make his home at the castle for a long time yet.

In modern Florida, "in the sticks" often means a block or two outside the city limits. Solomon's Castle is authentically in the sticks. From the Tampa Bay area, go south on Interstate 75 into Manatee County, exit at State Road 64 and head east 30 miles. Suburbs yield to pines and palmettoes, cows and citrus. Turn south at Florida 685, a narrow two-laner that winds 9 miles past tin-roofed barns and road-kill raccoons before reaching the Solomon swamp. Look for a little sign that says "Castle" and hang a left.

For years Solomon Road was mud, but cars got stuck, so Solomon paved it. He put in a lot large enough to park tour buses. In a good year, 20,000 tourists pay $10 a head to see his castle and get a tour, often from Solomon himself, who delivers quite a spiel.

Striking a pose in the lot in front of the castle, he says, "I'm out standing in my field."

Solomon's teachers in the New York public schools told his parents that he was borderline retarded. He failed second grade but could do anything with his hands. He built cars from wood scraps and razor blades. One time he told his dad, "I invented a box without corners." His dad said, "It's a bowl, dummy." He was expelled from high school and sent to a trade school, where he was expelled again, mostly because he seemed more interested in becoming Henny Youngman than welding and hammering.

He was an unlikely soldier, but served in Korea anyway. Later he followed his parents to Florida, settled in St. Petersburg with wife No. 1 and toiled as a carpenter. In 1962, Solomon moved his family to the Bahamas and began his career as an artist.

Trash was Solomon's artistic medium. A bedspring could be the spine of a crooked man. A rusting V-8 can might power a fantasy automobile.

The Da Vinci of Debris was just warming up.

Solomon's Castle features buttresses, towers, a lighthouse, a drawbridge, a dungeon, a moat.

In 19991, Solomon built a full-sized galleon in the moat. It doubles as a restaurant and includes a poop deck, cannons and three masts. Inside are stained glass windows and a painting of a naked mermaid whose breasts are hidden behind a fishing net. "We covered her so there would be no tittering in the restaurant."

Solomon often leads the groan-filled tours of his castle. Every room contains Solomon paintings and sculptures and toys. If Dali, Dr. Seuss and Willy Wonka were imprisoned in the same studio, they might produce Solomon's kind of art.

Every piece has a story.

One room bulges with oddball sculptures of impossible guns.

"Here is a square shooter made with a toilet valve for flushing out the perpetrators... I made this one for restaurants. It fires a fork to get the waiter's attention... This is the hernia gun. It weighs 70 pounds. It used to weigh 60 pounds but we're afraid to dust it."

A barge, sliced in half, transports a black-haired woman who wears too much eye makeup.

"Cleopatra's barge. She lost the other half in a divorce. They say that's why she's in denial."

Solomon puns about puns.

"Know what they call 50 puns? Punishment. Too many puns and they send you to the punitentiary."

Solomon is now married to his fourth wife.

Solomon is an accomplished carpenter. He is also an accomplished woodworker. He knows how to lay tile, hang paper, fit pipes. He is a talented mechanist. He welds, he plumbs, he wires, he sandblasts. He knows how to make stained glass. He fixes cars. He says there are 20 trades in which he could make a living if necessary. About the only thing missing from his resume is "real estate broker."

His real estate broker is Gordon "Mac" Martin over in Arcadia. Solomon has hired a number of brokers over the years with the same result: no contract on Solomon's Castle.

Mac Martin believes it will end differently this time.

"This is a heck of a fine castle," he says. "People all over the world have heard about Solomon's Castle. I know we haven't had luck, just yet, but I know there is a person out there, somewhere, who would love to own and operate Solomon's Castle. They may not know it, but they do, and eventually they are going to find it."

If someone drives up tomorrow with a wallet full of cash, Solomon says he will sign on the dotted line.

"Running a castle is a lot of work," he says.

Behind him, his daughter Alane Murphy, 44, makes a face. "I don't want Daddy to sell," she says. She and her husband, Dean, are in the process of building an opulent bed and breakfast a few hundred feet away. Solomon's Castle would not be Solomon's Castle without Solomon.

"It might be nice to live in the hill county of Texas," Solomon says. "It's a Democratic stronghold in a Republican state. There are no earthquakes and no hurricanes." He hasn't actually been to the hill county but has a friend who tells him it's nice.

In 2004, Solomon sat in his pickup truck and watched Hurricane Charley destroy his daughter's trailer and assault his castle. Everything has been repaired, but he can still hear those winds.

"Also, I have a few health issues," he says.

He recently was diagnosed with emphysema. He was never much of a smoker, but he fears he damaged his lungs by breathing in dust from welding and sandblasting.

"I've had two heart surgeries," he says. The first, in 1991, wasn't bad. The one in 2002 took something out of him.

"I have a pig valve in my heart," he says.

Has he noticed a difference?

"They won't let me in the synagogue anymore. And I have an urge to root in the dirt."

Jeff Klinkenberg can be reached at (727) 893-8727 or

Monday, February 20, 2006


Got this in an e-mail sent by my dad today... he got it from a friend from work, who got it from someone at the Superintendent's office. It had obviously been forwarded many times before that as well.


During a BBQ a friend stumbled and took a little fall - she assured everyone that she was fine (they offered to call paramedics) and just tripped over a brick because of her new shoes. They got her cleaned up and got her a new plate of food - while she appeared a bit shaken up, Ingrid went about enjoying herself the rest of the evening. Ingrid's husband called later telling everyone that his wife had been taken to the hospital - (at 6:00pm, Ingrid passed away.) She had suffered a stroke at the BBQ - had they known how to identify the signs of a stroke perhaps Ingrid would be with us today.

It only takes a minute to read this-

Recognizing a Stroke

----- A neurologist says that if he can get to a stroke victim within 3 hours he can totally reverse the effects of a stroke...totally. He said the trick was getting a stroke recognized, diagnosed an getting to the patient within 3 hours which is tough.


Thank God for the sense to remember the "3" steps. Read and Learn!

Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify.

Unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster. The stroke victim may suffer brain damage when people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke.

Now doctors say a bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:

1. *Ask the individual to SMILE.
2. *Ask him or her to RAISE BOTH ARMS.
3. *Ask the person to SPEAK A SIMPLE SENTENCE (Coherently) (i.e. . . It is sunny out today)

If he or she has trouble with any of these tasks, call 9-1-1 immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.

After discovering that a group of non-medical volunteers could identify facial weakness, arm weakness and speech problems, researchers urged the general public to learn the three questions. They presented their conclusions at the American Stroke Association's annual meeting last February. Widespread use of this test could result in prompt diagnosis and treatment of the stroke and prevent brain damage. A cardiologist says if everyone who gets this e-mail sends it to 10 people; you can bet that at least one life will be saved.



Funnily enough, I can find no reference to this on the web other than copies of this e-mail posted on blogs and even a Navy Seal website. I suspect, while this may be sent with the best of intentions, that it is actually untrue. That a doctor... any doctor... would claim what the "doctor" in this e-mail claims is beyond all reason and isn't something that any doctor *would* claim. Also, I had a professor... my favorite professor... Roy Van Neste (PhD). He said that he had had, as of the Spring of 2004, no less than 16 strokes scattered throughout his life (that he knew of and all of them small) and that his doctors had no idea why he was still alive. He suffered no apparent ill effects from them and doctors could not determine the cause, though they were sure that they were strokes and that in tests brain abnormalities due to the strokes were detected. For many of them, he said he received no treatment whatsoever. He said that he'd even had them in classes before and went right on with his work for the rest of the day. (On top of the strokes, he was also told at age 19 that, due to a genetic heart condition, he would not live to see 25 and could not continue to work his family farm... So he quit working the family farm and went to college, got a PhD and took a job at USF where he taught until he retired to Boone, NC at the age of 67 in 2004 with his (according to his stories) brazen, at one time red-headed, Irish-American wife.) So while these symptoms may show up in some victims of minor strokes, they do not by any means show up in all, and with some strokes, symptoms may not present themselves for hours or possibly even days. Even in the narrative in this e-mail, the woman apparently was speaking just fine, was able to carry on for the rest of the evening as if nothing had happened... Right there, the theory which is afterward presented is blown out of the water! So if you get this e-mail, take it with a grain of salt.

And if any of that post was worded oddly... Sorry, I've been reading early Medieval Church doctrines, Imperial letters, and monastic Rules all day, while watching Shakespearean movies. It's beginning to effect my grasp of the modern English language...

Sunday, February 19, 2006

"Stage Beauty"

How it is that I missed this movie, which was released in 2004, until now is beyond me. Where on Earth was I? I saw a little bit of it the other day on Showtime and set my DVR to tape the next playing of it later that day because it looked interesting and I wanted to see it from the beginning... I thought, "Claire Danes in a period piece... It'll either be awful or tolerably good."

Well, wrong was I. It was wonderful! I may be far too generous in my praise, but Claire has out-done herself in this I think (I might actually forgive her for her part in ruining "Romeo & Juliet" for a certain portion of my generation who will forever prefer it over Zeffirelli's beyond all good taste).

Also Billie Crudup, whom you might have seen as "Will Bloom" in "Big Fish" or "Russell Hammond" in "Almost Famous," is delightfully good in "Stage Beauty."

They star as "Maria" (pronounced like Mariah Carey's name) aka "Mrs. Hughes" and "Edward 'Ned' Kynaston," 17th century actors on the English stage during the early reign of Charles II. Old Charlie is being played by the incomparable Rupert Everett, by the way... Richard Griffiths, "Uncle Vernon Dursley" from the Harry Potter series, is also in it.

I have seen it compared to "Shakespeare in Love" on Personally, I find "Stage Beauty" much more believable, since "Shakespeare in Love" is *obviously* fictional for a number of reasons I won't go into here. "Shakespeare in Love," though I enjoyed it, never surprised me. "Stage Beauty" surprised me more than once and in different ways. As "'Nell' Gwynn" said, we want surprises, "but we don't want to know they're coming." They do deal with the same topic, women acting on a public stage in a time period and place where such a thing was outlawed. But they are set in completely different time periods, and I think, though I am not sure, that "Stage Beauty" does a better job in recreating the time in an accurate and uncompromised way. I'd research it to make sure, but I'm afraid I'll ruin it for myself if they got things completely wrong. In any case, I *highly* recommend checking it out.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

More discoveries in Macedon

(copied from
sc_afp/greecearchaeology_060216191331 in its entirety)

Archaeologists unearth Alexander the Great era wall
Thu Feb 16, 2:13 PM ET

Athens (AFP) - Greek archaeologists excavating an ancient Macedonian city in the foothills of Mount Olympus have uncovered a 2 600-metre defensive wall whose design was "inspired by the glories of Alexander the Great", the site supervisor said on Thursday.

Built into the wall were dozens of fragments from statues honouring ancient Greek gods, including Zeus, Hephaestus and possibly Dionysus, archaeologist Dimitrios Pantermalis told a conference in the northern port city of Salonika, according to the Athens News Agency.

Early work on the fortification is believed to have begun under Cassander, the fourth-century BC king of Macedon who succeeded Alexander the Great. Cassander is believed to have ordered the murders of Alexander's mother, wife and infant son, Pantermalis said.

The wall's design suggests that it was "inspired by the glory of Alexander the Great in the East", as the young king sought to emulate grandiose structures encountered during his campaigns, Pantermalis told the conference.

Bronze coins from the period of Theodosius, the 4th-century AD Byzantine Emperor who abolished the ancient Olympic Games, were also found hidden inside the wall.

The discovery was made in the archaeological site of Dion, an ancient fortified city and key religious sanctuary of the Macedonian civilisation, which ruled much of Greece until Roman times.

Prior excavations at Dion have already revealed two theatres, a stadium, and shrines to a variety of gods, including Egyptian deities Sarapis, Isis and Anubis, whose influence in the Greek world grew in the wake of Alexander's conquest of Egypt.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

How exciting!

(articles are reproduced in their entirety)

Archaeologists Find Massive Tomb in Greece
By COSTAS KANTOURIS, Associated Press Writer Mon Feb 13, 10:46 AM ET

THESSALONIKI, Greece - Archaeologists have unearthed a massive tomb in the northern Greek town of Pella, capital of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia and birthplace of Alexander the Great.

The eight-chambered tomb dates to the Hellenistic Age between the fourth and second century B.C., and is the largest of its kind ever found in Greece. The biggest multichambered tombs until now contained three chambers.

The 678-square-foot tomb hewn out of rock was discovered by a farmer plowing his field on the eastern edge of the ancient cemetery of Pella, some 370 miles north of Athens, archaeologists said.

"This is the largest and most monumental tomb of its kind ever found in Greece," said Maria Akamati, who led the excavations.

Archaeologists believe the tomb — filled with dozens of votive clay pots and idols, copper coins and jewelry — will shed light on the culture of Macedonia in the period that followed Alexander's conquest of Asia.

Alexander's empire, which stretched from Greece to Asia, broke into separate kingdoms upon his death in 323 B.C., as his generals battled over the remains of the ancient world's greatest empire.

Similar tombs from the same era have been discovered on Crete, Cyprus and Egypt, which was ruled by a Greek dynasty founded by Ptolemy, Alexander's general.

The tomb's size suggests it belonged to a a wealthy Macedonian family, Akamati said.

The tomb, believed to have been used for two centuries, was probably plundered in antiquity as most of the artifacts were strewn by the entrance to the chambers, Akamati said.

The complex is dominated by a central area surrounded by eight chambers colored in red, blue and gold dyes. Three inscribed stone slabs inside bear the names of their female owners — Antigona, Kleoniki and Nikosrati. A relief on one of the slabs depicts a women and her servant.

The discovery was confirmed on Friday by a senior archaeologist responsible for the Pella site and will be presented at an Archaeological Conference in Thessaloniki that begins Thursday.

- And -

Greek tomb find excites experts

Archaeologists in Greece say they are examining the largest underground tomb ever found in the country.

They said a farmer had stumbled across the tomb carved into the rock near the ancient city of Pella, the birthplace of Alexander the Great.

Archaeologists believe it dates to the period after Alexander's death, which was marked by mass power struggles.

The tomb was probably used by a noble family about 2,300 years ago - some of whose names are still visible.

Archaeologists said that the eight-chambered tomb was significant in style. It is accessible through a 16-metre entrance.

Rich family

Funeral tombs found earlier in Greece contained no more than three chambers.

Carved into rock, the new find is reported still to retain part of its internal wall colouring of red, light blue and gold.

It is believed that the tomb has been looted over the years. However, jewellery, copper coins and earthen vases were still found in the chambers, along with inscribed tombstones with the names still visible.

"This was a very rich family," archaeologist Maria Akamati told Reuters news agency. "This is rare as the cemetery is full of plebeians," or commoners.

She said at least seven people had been buried there.

The tomb was discovered by the farmer on agricultural ground close to the ancient cemetery in Pella.

The city was once the capital city of the Macedonian kingdom, which was ruled by Phillip of Macedon and later by his son Alexander the Great, who died in 323BC.

The period after Alexander's death was marked by power struggles and intrigues between the royal family and Alexander's generals battling for control of his empire.

Story from BBC NEWS: 2006/02/12 19:40:00 GMT© BBC MMVI

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


My first artifact of unknown origin to be found in our yard!

Joe found this axe head while tilling this past weekend. I wasn't told about it because, being quite ill, I was sleeping at the time, and with the weather, my mom didn't want me to go outside to investigate, as I was sure to do, until I got better. (Note: in the above photo, all the white is not glare... It is, in fact, frost. It was fuzzy frost... These were all taken about 7:30 am this morning, less than half an hour after sunrise.)

All I know for sure at this point about the age of the axe is that it must be post-1865 because it has "DROP FORGED" stamped into the head near the back end of it (you can see where in the photo below - its in the rectangular indentation), and that process was not used prior to 1865 (I've researched that much already - "yay!" for the internet!). My dad doesn't think that it is his... He's only had two hand axes or hatchets since they bought this property, both of which are accounted for and it doesn't look familiar. I suppose it could have belonged to the construction workers who built the house, but I can't imagine that construction workers in 1979 would have needed a small hand axe for anything on site, would they? It doesn't seem to have any visible remnants of a handle, and there is significant degradation of the metal. The blade is severely blunted and the steel seems to have cracks running from the blade end toward the back end of the head, as if they were sheets peeling away. There is also a significant chunk taken out of the bottom of the head. It does not appear to be recent, as the metal is as corroded in that area as anywhere else. There are also a number of fresh scrapes to one side of the head, probably made by the tiller's blades hitting it when it was kicked up (on the same side as "DROP FORGED" stamp, visible above). It measures 3" at the blade edge, 1-5/8" at the back end, 4-5/8" from the edge of the blade to the back end, and 3-3/4" from the top of the head to the tip of the handle piece.

More about last night's freeze and the state of all things involving plants later when I have time to transfer all those photos from my phone. Can't tell if we lost any plants yet. There was still ice all over them when I skittered back inside with the axe and the sheets that were covering the plants.


8:30 pm

Le sigh... I showed the axe to dad again, and he says that it's one of his... He'd forgotten about it because he'd lost it so long ago, but I showed him the "DROP FORGED" stamp, which he'd overlooked before when Joe had first got it out of the ground, and that jogged his memory. Still, it's about 25 years old. So not an artifact of unknown origin, but part of the archaeological record that we've added to this land. Up until now, all I'd ever found was scraps of cement, flange from the gutters, Plexiglas and rubber screen bits from when parts of the screen over our pool had been destroyed by high wind over the years, and the occasional nail or screw.

Monday, February 13, 2006

It's freezing outside!!!


Hernando County (two counties due north of here) had a hard freeze last night and will have one again tonight, which does not bode well for their blueberry crops. Apparently, farmers lost a significant number last night, or so Bay News 9 reported yesterday morning. Apparently, there is a lot of fear and trepidation in Plant City tonight. Hillsborough County alone grows 15% of the fresh strawberries grown in the United States and make our state's farmers collectively over $200,000,000 per year. Most of the strawberries grown in Hillsborough County are grown in and near Plant City in the southeastern part of the county and on family-owned farms (not agricultural corporations). Farmers will be up late tonight watching their fields. Several farmers that the local news interviewed do not plan to sleep until after 9 am tomorrow morning. According to the late local news, they have all covered their plants, either with plastic insulation or with warm water irrigation. The water freezes on the plants and holds them at 32 degrees as long as the freeze doesn't dip too low (below 28) or stay lower than 32 degrees for more than three or so hours tonight... That's right! These plants are that delicate! Aren't you glad your family doesn't depend on them for their livelihood? Farmers really are American heroes for what they do, pinning their ability to put food on their families' tables on their ability to put food on ours. Citrus farmers are doing the same thing, irrigating their orchards. It's much more difficult for them though because they have to coat the trunks of their trees, averaging 15 feet in height, as well as the branches and fruits (strawberries are much smaller, see). As long as they get them covered and it doesn't get 28 or lower, they should be fine for the most part. They all have oranges (or whatever citrus they are) on them right now. The fruit that didn't get taken off in the fall is pretty much ready to pick now before the spring buds come on. Which reminds me, I really have to pick the rest of our grapefruit and start cranking out that marmalade...

We are not irrigating out plants tonight. Our sprinkler system would not reach all of them and it's far too cold outside for me to go out and mess with them at this hour. We covered our non-established apples, pears, peaches, blueberries and my prize rosebush. Everything else has been left to fend for itself. It will probably get to be between 30 and 32 degrees at our house tonight, despite the fact that the local news and the Weather Channel both say that Tampa will only get down to 33 degrees. We're so far inland and just barely suburban as opposed to rural in this part of the county. Two days ago we had frost on our roof and the official word was that Tampa only got to be 36 that night...

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Updates & The Olympics

I'm a little more than half done with the sontag, I think... No problems to report except that I've run out of the dark green yarn that I was using and will be forced to switch over to a rose pink... They go... kinda... in a loud, no-one-would-mix-them-except-in-upholstery-fabric-these-days kind of way... It's all good - just a practice run anyway. It's worked up fairly quickly and I'm learning a lot about the pattern.

I'm feeling a bit better. I've still got a painful cough, am very hoarse, and my throat is still a bit sore, but at least I can talk today... Yesterday, I lost my voice completely. I'd try to speak normally and only a very quiet whisper came out. Never had laryngitis before... not pleasant.

I've also spun all of my Corriedale roving. Still, don't know what I'm going to do with it... ::shrugs:: It's only 6 oz. of laceweight yarn... I liked the Corriedale. Not as fussy as merino, and seemed very versatile, but still soft... At least, I thought so... Not soft enough to wear next to the skin, but much nicer than the Cotswold. I'm working on my black merino roving now. I had 8 oz. when I started with it, but have spun at least 3 or 4, I'd say, on my drop spindle. And I have a pound of Shetland for cobweb laceweight.

Also, Joe has been invaluable in helping me get the garden space ready for planting, despite my illness. With this cold, obviously I can't go out and till and put weeding fabric down... I'd end up with pneumonia, I'm sure, if I tried. So I've just been doing little things, like starting seeds inside, for about a week now. Joe came over this morning and went out to Home Depot for me to get more peat pellets and then he came back to the house and tilled everything again. Probably won't need to be tilled again, unless some of the patches of grass that's still in there tries to come back from the near-dead again.

The local news is warning of possible freezes tomorrow night. Unless something drastically changes for the warmer in the next 24 hours, I'll have to go out when it warms up for about an hour tomorrow afternoon and cover all the newly planted trees, berries and grapes... We don't need them freezing! If I weren't sick, I could stay up on Freeze Watch and monitor the temperature and turn on the sprinklers when the temperature reached 32 degrees. That's what the strawberry farmers in Plant City do. They say that it coats the plant with a thin layer of ice and prevents the inside of the plant tissues from dropping below 32 degrees. It wouldn't work if it got down to say 20 degrees outside, but in Florida, where if it goes below 32, it pretty much never gets down below 30, it works even better than putting plastic or cloth over plants apparently. I'll be using the "cover-up and pray" method though... Best I can manage.

Been watching the Olympics since the opening ceremonies last night. Pretty cool so far. Can't believe that cowboy guy from Texas won gold in speed skating and he's only been skating since he watched the speed skating competition in Salt Lake on tv while sitting at a Black Jack table in Las Vegas 4 years ago... I guess he saw it and said, "I could do that," and actually backed it up with action. Craziness! I hope Michelle Kwan is feeling better and doesn't have to drop out of the competition. I've been rooting for her to get gold since her first Olympics when I was in the 5th grade and this is her last chance. Also, not sure what I think of this new scoring method for figure skating... I'm not sure if I get it.

Friday, February 10, 2006

"Good Night and Good Luck"...

I think I need to see this movie sometime soon... The following is something I found and feel is as applicable today as it was in 1954... The names have changed, but the methods and tactics are eerily familiar.

Quote from the transcript of Edward R. Murrow's "See It Now" broadcast on March 19, 1954:

No one familiar with the history of this country can deny that congressional committees are useful. It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one and the junior Senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between internal and the external threats of Communism. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men -- not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.

"This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy's methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation, we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.

"The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it -- and rather successfully. Cassius was right. 'The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.'"


First Twilight Hood done... Well, at least my part of it is... There's a ruler in the photo for scale. It's a little larger than the sample, but not too much. Maybe 4" wider across the top. I think it will drape very nicely when it's all done.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Theraflu is a wonderful thing 'cause Nyquil just doesn't do it for me anymore... I only wish that it didn't have enough acetaminophen in it to bring down a horse... I exaggerate, but seriously it's got 1000 milligrams a dose. That's a lot, especially considering the evidence of liver damage from high dosages... I need to get some more if and when I go out tomorrow though because I only have one packet left. They do have some types without acetaminophen, I think. Anything to make the headache and the sore throat go away... Oh and I can't remember the brand, but these things are called "Shower Soothers." They're like bath fizzies, except that they are used in the shower instead and smell of wintergreen and eucalyptus and other stuff that help with congestion. They are really nice and work pretty well.

To catalogue my symptoms for the record (skip this paragraph if you don't want to hear about them. I tried not to be graphic.): as of 4:30 am on February 9th, I have relatively minor sinus pressure and related minor headache, probably due to congestion... possibly some minor upper repertory congestion that is breaking up causing me to cough, and visibly inflamed tonsils, uvula and surrounding tissue resulting in a persistent "scratchy throat" feeling. All this has persisted since around 12 midnight yesterday. I've found that gargling the Theraflu before swallowing helps (although it does taste completely nasty). Previous symptoms of stomach virus have entirely disappeared.

For now, I'm off to gargle some salt water. Heard that it helps. Tips and advice are welcome...

... In other news:

I've figured out how to use my spinning wheel now. (Woo!) I've done about three balls of what is right now Corriedale lace-weight singles (averaging 22 wpi) over the last three days. I may eventually ply it all into something that will be (I think) around a dk weight 2-ply. It depends what I decide to make with it. I've got a few options and ideas at this point.

I also continue to work on the twilight hood and the heartwarmer. I've put down the heartwarmer for the time being though, trying to get the twilight hood done. I've got only a few dozen rows left on it. I'll finish it tomorrow or the next day probably with no problems.

Still working on the garden. When the sun comes up, I'll lay out more row plans. I've got the tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, and eggplant already laid out, and the approximate areas for the corn. I'm also getting the herb garden ready. The basil will go in the ground next week when the tomato, eggplant and pepper seedlings are ready to be planted, followed by the peanuts, sweet marjoram, and milk weed along the front walk for the butterflies. By the end of February, with Joe's help, the sweet corn will be planted, as well as everything else we'll be growing this season (yellow squash, cucumbers, okra, green beans, maybe field corn). For the rest of the season, I'll be adding other herbs and trying to get the silly pond in shape... I probably should have planned it out a bit better, but I can't see how I could have. It will look a lot better once there are plants in it and around it and the mulch is down.

School is going well. I've got about three weeks til the midterm exam. Not really worried at this point...

Can't think of anything else until this darned virus goes away...

Monday, February 06, 2006

Gonna be quick...

This has to be quick because I caught the stomach virus that my brother had earlier this week yesterday morning, and although I'm feeling much better than I was yesterday, I feel like something just hit me in the head when I opened this window to type... But I want to write this down somewhere so I don't forget. I think I've decided on a name for my soaps... "Candide" or "Candide Soaps" or even "Candide Savons" (Would that be the correct plural in French? It's been too long and I can find my textbook to remind myself.)... Because candide (and candid - I just like the French spelling better) are from the Latin for "pure" or "bright" (and also "white," but that's neither here nor there). According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it means "free from bias, prejudice or malice," "marked by honest, sincere expression," and "indicating or suggesting sincere honesty and absence of deception." Since I intend to make soaps that are free of artificial colors and fragrances and composed of all natural ingredients, I think that the name is appropriate. It's also kinda a synonym of both "plain" and "simple," which I think is kinda neat since "Plainly Simple" is the name of Susan's site.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Another soap entry...

I've been researching soap making... The more I find out, the more I think I'll like it. I just have to get the blasted supplies... That'll come... In the meantime, I've been looking at ingredients.

I think I definitely want to avoid tallow for the simple reason that rendering animal fat will not be an option. So all vegetable oils/butters. I will use milk, beeswax and other animal products in some soaps though. I hear using tallow is "out of fashion" in the soapmaking community or some such nonsense for "philosophical reasons" (and let me just say that those who object for these kinds of reasons and yet have no problem eating steak are hypocrits). Whatever... I have no philosophical objection to using tallow. The part of me that likes to use every part of something and not be wasteful actually really likes the idea of tallow. I'm not a - to quote a very good friend - "crazy vegan" after all, I just don't want the mess and smell of rendering to deal with. So I think Castile and Vegetable soaps will become my speciality! ;D

I don't want to use fragrance oils... The ingredients are just too ambiguous. So if it needs to be scented, it'll be scented with essential oils. I've also heard that sandalwood is endangered now... (Why do people still use it if it's endangered?) So I guess I'm going to need to not use that. I will not go so far as to use recycled paper wrappers and natural inks in the labels... I would if it were convenient, but I think packaging is going to be hard enough without getting picky...

Got a good idea for wrapping though... Butcher paper, tied with twine (and of course, plastic wrap to preserve scented stuff until it's shipped)... Labels are going to be an issue though... Maybe Susan will think of something... She did have those nifty price stickers and tie-on labels for her stuff at Golden Girls Antiques. hmmm....

I need to get my work room organized before I start this... Must employ Joe with this as he is a master organizer. Can't do that until after the spring planting though. (I really must get my head on straight by Saturday, cause I've got major agricultural work to do this weekend!) I have to get my yarn stash organized and in a home, as well as all my needles and sewing supplies. Then I need to get storage bins for all this soap stuff. Pots, utensils, and oil storage as well as organizers for all the additives... This will be fun! Joe will enjoy it, at least...

I got the idea for this post from the "What Type of Soaper Are you?" page at . My favorite answer to this question is "THE UNSUNG SOAPERS: These girls (no self-respecting man would do it) are easily recognized by their inability to stand up straight. They stand for hours, in period costumes, hunched over cast iron pots hung from cast iron tripods, stirring endlessly, at the multitude of Historic Society gatherings throughout the land, in order to promote respect for soap's humble beginnings in this great US of A. Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor hail, nor 90-degree temperatures, nor poorly organized shows, will stop them from preserving and carrying on one of America's greatest traditions - the art of SoapMaking."

Now, I'm going to bed...

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Hand creams & such

After checking about the price of plastic and glass containers for stuff like hand creams and salves, I've found that it's probably not going to be economical to produce them to sell via the net unless I went way high production, which I really can't. Even so I tried out the recipe I had, since I have all the supplies and it very interesting... It's somewhere between a cream and a salve. I used peppermint oil and it has a very sweet, Christmas-y scent now. I put it in Ziplock storage containers about the size of a pudding cup... I have three of them. They will probably be given as gifts later this year, if I don't use it all up myself in the meantime. I think I'm going to stick to soaps... the other stuff seems too involved and pricey for me at the moment... It's just as well.

Mrs. Beeton

I've finished one cuff and it looks quite nice... It feels wonderful! (And why wouldn't it, being mostly cashmere and mohair.) Got some photos...
Made one mistake. I forgot to add the larger beads before joining the ruffles, so the larger beads are in the section where the yarns are knitted together. It looks fine, but technically a mistake. I also added small beads to the fine yarn ruffle, and also more large beads - used 27 instead of 9, in three staggered rows instead of just one. Wanted more sparkle. I was also not terribly impressed with the picot bind-off. It's not nearly as dramatic as it appears in the knitty photos. All in all, I really like the cuff though and I *love* this yarn! Wish it weren't so expensive to do anything bigger with it... On to the second cuff!