fauna, Parsnip Swallowtail

This guy was mad-busy on this planter so long, I decided to take some snaps. It’s REALLY HARD to try to capture one with their wings open when they’re, ya know, constantly fluttering!

I’m lucky to get a partial open wing to show his brilliant blue spots towards the bottom.




Flora: wildflowers

20130418 wildflowers.jpgThese are amazingly fragrant, as you’d expect!

I only pick when there are loads more or you’d see a wider variety (over-harvesting could ruin the ‘colony’).

Last night’s walk showed many ‘pop ups’ from the insanely-hot day (for spring). It was 90F/ 30C. Tomorrow’s low will be nearer freezing — although we don’t expect it, we could still get a hard freeze!

This high temp belongs in July but here it is! Tree frogs (extremely loud, unlike the joyous noise of spring peepers) are coming out, Mayapples and Dogwood peeked out and a WASP!

Melty Snowy Walk

Almost all of our snow is melted now, although they’re calling for more to come tomorrow! By late afternoon, it’s only about 1/2 inch thick expect where it drifted deeper or in deep shade.

Bottom of a ravine

Bottom of a ravine

felled tree is telling you something...

felled tree is telling you something…

tree fungus covered with moss and snow

tree fungus covered with moss and snow

Knew the ice wasn't thick enough but thought I'd see how far I could make it...about 18 inches and it cracked :)

Knew the ice wasn’t thick enough but thought I’d see how far I could make it…about 18 inches and it cracked 🙂

Here's a totally melted (bit of snow in center) area, covered with evil thistles. I'll have to eradicate them.

Here’s a totally melted (bit of snow in center) area, covered with evil thistles. I’ll have to eradicate them.





redux: attack of the leeches

brought back

(this was written a couple of summers ago)

My nieces and their daddy were out this weekend (for too long) and it got hot. Finally the kids jumped in our front pond! They’ve all had swimming lessons. I float. As a child, I preferred OldHelen’s pond (bigger/cooler, cleaner/ clearer water) to ours…

I’ve had lessons for two summers but too many years of having my head held under water by a family member developed an aversion. Point is, I’ll get in water but it’s not a common occurrence. It was hot, though, so there we were, splashing in the muddy pond. Good times!

I’d seen a critter swimming by moments earlier. It looked like a small, water snake. Most snakes of this region are non-venomous; however, a local folkway is “all water snakes are poisonous, treat them as such.” (it’s not poison, it’s venom but that’s what everybody says)

Being the female hillbilly version of the Crocodile Hunter, I grabbed it and chucked it onto the bank, never mentioning to the kids. After the eldest and baby got out, the middle and I stayed in for a bit.

“Ta? What’s that squiggledy thing on you?”

I looked down and hoped it was vegetation. It was greenish-brown…

Mmm, leeches in a candy jar!

Mmm, leeches in a candy jar!

When I grabbed it, it was super-sleek and moved of its own accord. That’s when I realized it looked a lot like that “snake” I’d chucked out earlier.

“Is that thing attached to you?”


I yanked the six-inch leech off my underarm and chucked it on the bank. As I turned back to middle niece, I saw another one snaking towards me. I must smell delicious. I chucked it, too.

“Time to get out!”

When we got to the house, I ran a load of wash. The washwater was so dirty, I ran it again. It was still dirty. Dang. That’s some filthy pond water! Told you I preferred OldHelen’s! I’m unsure how one “acquires” leeches. We did not have them in that pond when I was a kid and we’re the top of the valley, so there’s no run-off coming to us.

blue heron[since writing this, I’ve considered: we have blue herons that love to come hang out with us…maybe they brought them in from afar]

I don’t want to skive this person’s art (it’s ©). It shows a blue heron track next to a human hand for an idea how effing large they are! They’re amazing and beautiful. I’m humbled that they love the Reed Ranch.

DIY: “ranch” seasoning

Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix


½ cup dry buttermilk
1 tbsp dried parsley, crushed
1 tsp dried dill weed
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried onion flakes
1 tsp salt
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in your food processor and grind until it becomes a fine powder. Store in an airtight container. To prepare the dressing: Combine one tablespoon mix with one cup of mayonnaise and one cup milk. From: http://www.momadvice.com/food/create_your_own_mixes.aspx#q68hsRlDCU7Ry6hr.99

I would not use mayonnaise or milk but I do love Ranch Seasoning for meat! I’m going to try this one–where to find powdered buttermilk is the thing…

lazy: lean beefy skillet


frying in background whilst making carrot salad--added carrot shreds to the skillet, too!

Cooking everything in a skillet (read: frying) is an Ozark staple. It’s cooler in summer (stovetop puts out heat but not as much as an oven; for my grandparents and parents, it meant a wood-burning stove in the kitchen!), dirties less dishes and … well, I grew up doing it. You can bring home the beef and fry it up with less fat than ever before, too!

Lazy-Lean Beefy Skillet:

  • 1lb 96% fat-free ground beef (alternately use “ground turkey BREAST”–“ground turkey” includes fattier cuts)
  • at least 1 full-sized bag frozen veg of choice (mine was “Mediterranean” plus I added some carrot shreds)
  • 2T Ranch seasoning dry mix
  • 1 tin Contadina Tomato Paste
  • salt and pepper to taste

Toss beef into skillet and fry, crumbling as you go. I didn’t add fat, although beef this low in fat doesn’t produce much melted-fat/ self-non-stickiness. Water will cook out, carrying tiny droplets of fat (which I drain and give to Bobby, once cooled). Drain when finished.

Whilst frying, microwave-steam (I said lazy!) veg. Drain veg when finished.

"secret's in the sauce"

Add 2T Ranch dry seasoning* and make sure it’s evenly distributed throughout beef. Add veg and mix well with seasoned beef. Taste. If it needs salt & pepper, have at it.

Add tomato paste (not sauce, see link above for more info) and 1 tin of water (we raise and can tomatoes but it’s grand to have a lazy, pre-made, thick tomato paste to add to quick recipes). Stir well, taste. Tomato paste is bitter/ strong-flavored. You may need to add some more salt or something else. When I tasted, I opted to sprinkle a tiny bit more of the Ranch dry seasoning.

Lower heat to simmer and let all of the skillet marry for 15 minutes or so. Serve.

* A gal at work mentioned a couple of years ago that she always seasons ground beef with Ranch seasoning mix — whether it’s meant for meatballs, hamburgers or lasagna! I do not like creamy stuff or hardly any condiments (unless vegetables, like hummus, pico de gallo, tahini, etc.) and I’d never heard of such a thing! I took a taste of one of her burgers and it was great. I hate sour cream, cream cheese, etc. but there’s something about a little bit of its zing that punches up beef. I haven’t tried it on ground pork or chicken. I bet it’s okay, too. If you try it, let me know!