15 October 2012

One Million Bones

This is happening, November 12, UNCC campus. 
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02 October 2012

Exercise from Magical Words Blog

Ok, so I've decided this is never actually going to get done, so I'm posting it now as an unfinished...thing.  Enjoy.

Magical Words is an excellent writing blog which I skim fairly often.  This post showed up a couple days ago (probably more by the time you read this***) and I thought it was an interesting idea.  I have started the fall semester and this week has been a bit busy, so doing the exercise could also be a good way for me to remember to write instead of just freaking out about school.  Prompts are also a good thing for me.  For some reason I tend to be much more creative when I have a jumping off point rather than starting from scratch (a trait that has served me well in academics, but something that I find worrisome when thinking about the future).

Here's the basic idea from Magical Words' Catie Murphy: 
Here’s the rule: first, before you go any further in reading this entry, right-click on “leave a comment/# of comments” and open it in a new tab or window. This is really important for this exercise. The entire point here is that you should absolutely *not* read what other people have written until you’ve done yours. Please, please follow this rule.
I am going to present you with an extremely generic story point. I want you to rewrite the material I have provided the way *you* would tell it, and then keep going for a little while. Five or ten minutes, a couple hundred words, something like that. No more; this isn’t a long writing assignment.
Post your retelling of the story. Then, and only then, may you read what other people have written. Again, I ask you to please, please follow these rules, because doing otherwise will defeat the point.
Here’s your story:
Robin ran up the stairs in the tower to the locked door. A wooden bird was beside it. Robin’s heart pounded, chest tight with needing air. Robin poured water on the bird’s head and it sang, making the door open. On the door’s other side was a beautiful princess.
I won't be commenting on the actual post on Magical Words, because to the best of my memory I don't have a WordPress account and I don't want to mess with registering (you can't post a comment unless you have).  But, here is my version of the exercise:

               The tower was swaying with the weight of so many birds.  Robin would never have guessed that creatures as small as her animal namesake could shake a structure made of stone, but it wasn't their mere physical burden that disturbed the balance of each stone on stone beneath; it was that the enclosed air in the narrow neck of the tower had begun to slosh with their chaotic, ever-present movement, like water in a tidal pool.  Arms upraised in instinctual terror of losing her eyesight, Robin leaned against the wall and began crawling up the stairs, resting on the balls of her feet and bracing her shins on the step above.  cracks and fissures in the walls joined the intentional gashing slits of archery windows to stab the dusty, seething air with blades of light.  Twice before she reached the cracked wooden door at the top of the stairs Robin was dashed by a maddened bird, and each time she nearly fell, each collision left her with fresh blood - on her scalp, in her hair, across her cheek.  Finally reaching the door was as unexpected as a No Trespassing sign in a dream where running is eternal and the monsters behind are only ever just out of sight.
                 A nook in the wall beside the door was just above Robin's head.  Slowly, pressing her hands against the door without minding the splinters that caught and dragged and came away in her skin, Robin unfolded.  The nook was shaped like a fancy window, with a horizontal bottom that Robin could see now was actually some kind of well with water rippling strangely, and sides that were vertical for about a foot and then tapered sharply to a point six inches above that.  At the point where the taper began, there was a shelf, and on that shelf sat a wooden bird.  It was so plain it might just have been a lump of wood, but Robin knew better. 
                 The sudden, hot prickle swept across Robin's upper back, and she twitched spasmodically.
                 Water trickled in the fountain, but was voiceless in the vortex of swishing wings.  Or maybe the two sounds were so similar that they just bled into each other.  The thought of touching that dark, swirling mass made Robin's stomach clench, and she couldn't say why.  When she finally dipped her fingers in, breathing so fast and so shallow her vision was beginning to spot, the water was sickeningly warm - why had she thought it would be cold?  She dribbled the clinging droplets over the wooden bird's back and head.
                    It wasn't that the bird moved, or even became more lifelike, but suddenly new shadows appeared, outlining curves and depressions in the wood that described the essence of life; maybe it was just that it was more like the way a tree is alive, instead of the way birds and other animals live.  The maelstrom behind her cut off jaggedly.  Robin, desperate not to turn around and look, sent every muscle rigid.
                    And then the wooden bird sang.

***See follow-up post here - have I really messed around with this for two whole weeks??  I need to get going so I can go read the other entries.

16 September 2012

Green Tomatoes of September

This last week.  It's unbelievable.  The switch on the weather has been flipped.  From scorching sauna to light and crispy fall.  Man, I gotta figure out where that switch is.

So.  Tomatoes.  As I've mentioned before, I haven't done much gardening this year, but PapaBear put in three tomato plants and one pepper plant.  One bush was a hybrid yellow variety, which was the first time I'd had a yellow.  The fruit it produced it were delicious, but it didn't bear all that many.  The other two bushes were cherry and plum varieties, and they were a little more active, but the squash bugs from the spring of 2010, still in residence, apparently, seem just as happy to murnch on tomatoes as on precious, white Italian heirloom zucchini.  Not that I'm bitter or anything.  The pepper plant hasn't done much of anything.

All in all, it could have been a better tomato year, but you get out what you put in, so meh.  But now it's about time for those tomato plants to come out, and there was maybe a medium sized bowl of unmolested green tomatoes.  Not that I bothered to find that out before coming across this post on A Way to Garden.  Following the hyperlink rabbit trail, we find this recipe for canning green tomatoes, and this recipe for roasted green tomatoes, which I'll be making later today.

This youtube video is where I first learned the waterbath canning technique...only, in my kitchen it's a little more low-tech. Think big casserole pot and matching steamer basket and a bigass spatula.

Speaking of A Way to Garden, it was the day after I saw this post about hornworms that I found this critter in our own garden.  Here's your gross-out nature moment of the day.  This, I believe, is a tobacco hornworm, just like the one from Margaret Roach's garden.  It has been made into a meatsack by a parasitic wasp, who planted her larvae on its back.

Looking at my post list, I see that I've really been focusing on the garden a lot.  That will change if I have time to do some blogging in the next week; there's a creative writing exercise from a blog I read that I've been messing around with for the last three weeks, and I hope to get that up soon.  I also want to do a post on some of the reading material for one of my classes this semester.  It's a topics class on war and genocide as represented in children's literature (I know @_@), but it's really interesting, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts about it.  (As if I won't be doing plenty of writing for that class already.)

But before I go, lemme show you what I done!
 <--These will be the roasted tomatoes and below are my dilled green tomatoes all canned up so pretty!


06 September 2012

I Bring to You an Announcement...


Well ok maybe not - but it's pretty freakin' awesome.

Amazon and Audible have just announced whispersync for voice.  You don't need an Audible account; you can use your Amazon if you have one - and let's face it if you don't you're not really living in the 21st century.  Your soul might be intact, but, really, as I sit here totally geeking out, who am I to judge?

And make no mistake, if you haven't picked up on the fact already, I am TOTALLY geeking out.  On the list of books available for whispersync, there are a whole bunch of free (FREE!  It rhymes with spree!) classics.  Which means you get the book.  And the audiobook.  And the two versions keep track of your locations so that you can switch off between them.  For free.  Did I mention it was FREE?

There's also a list that, sadly, is not free, but still, you can't have everything.

From what I can tell, whispersync should work with the desktop reading app that Amazon provides (also free).  I also noticed a new cloud reader that openss up directly in the browser - although only select browsers are supported.  (Not something I have to worry about because I have a Kindle Fire *ridiculously self satisfied smile*)

So go, my Imaginaries, go, and feel the love.

05 September 2012

Weedy Wednesday: Mare's Tail

...also known as horse tail, also known as horseweed.  Being the feminist that I am, I shall say "Mare's tail."

         I periodically (as with everything I do) become obsessed with weed identification.  Through repeatedly letting my garden get wildly out of hand and then going in and pulling everything up by hand I've become closely acquainted with a few of the (in my opinion) more pernicious weeds, such as spurge, crabgrass, brambles, and the invasive-but-at-least-it-has-a-pretty-flower knotweed.  But weed ID is even more satisfying and fun when I'm out and about and can look at plants by the roadside and know what they are. 
          For Weedy Wednesday (look, I already told you I'm a sucker for alliteration, ok?), I'm going to do a series on weed identification, focusing on one weed each essay.  I will post the official source of identification (usually from what seem to be state university student projects, although some information comes from the NC Extension Office), where you can see their pictures of the plant, information from those sources, and my own personal pictures as documentation.  Often times there are several closely resembling varieties and what I hope to accomplish is that by posting pictures of the actual plant I'm looking at, any random imaginary passerby (yes, I'm looking at you - goshdarnit, I need a poster) can help decide whether or not I've correctly identified the weed.

           I chose mares tail for my first Weedy Wednesday  because, one, its really, really common in my neck of the woods - it even showed up in my garden; if you go look at the before picture you can see it. And two, MamaBear asked about it and since I didn't recognise the adult plant, I was prompted to check the online sources that I mentioned earlier...which got me rooting around even deeper, looking for other plants I recognised in one stage or another, and well, one thing led to another and here we are.

           So, there are several source for mares tail.
           There's the NC State University TurfFiles (*snicker* I like that)
           Apparently mares tail is ubiquitous in more states than NC, since the University of California included it in their Integrated Pest Managemnt gallery
           And this...company (I don't know, and really couldn't care less, I just think they have a really good weed ID thingy) has a really good weed ID thingy that you can search by state.  It has an oh-so-fancy pop up function though, so to see mares tail you'll have to scroll down because I can't link directly to it.

           So, finally, Duh-tuh-duh-duh, we come to MY pictures!


There are several fallow roadside fields that are practically nothing but mare's tail.  The NC State blurb (it's really not very detailed, but what more can you say, I suppose?) informs us that the height of the plant depends on the soil in which it grows.  I think our local soil agrees with mare's tail tremendously.  The blurb also states that the plant produces copious seeds.  I think I got the specimens in my garden pulled up before they were done flowering, but if not, I hope my mulch stands up...

30 August 2012

Mulch Update

It's been two weeks since my grand undertaking, and I think a progress report is in order.

First, the good: my garden is relatively weed free.  It is much more attractive.  Walking and working in the garden are a breeze.  Some of the plants, notably the 4/5 yo lavender bush, have perceptibly benefited from the attention.  I'm particularly glad about that, seeing as it was a garden warming gift from PapaBear.

Now, the bad: my garden is only relatively weed free.  Now, I think I want to practice a mildly tolerant form of gardening, especially since I want to avoid non-organic weed-prevention/plant care products, and don't have the pocket book to buy organic products or the knowledge of what to buy even if I did.  So, relatively works for me.  As long as that's the way it stays.  Some repeat offenders are bramble shoots, crabgrass, and mint.  (Of all the plants I had to ignore planting instructions for why did it have to be mint?  I shall have "She should have put down a root-barrier" engraved upon my headstone.  Or tattooed across my forehead.)

Lastly, a caveat: I goofed.  I weeded that sucker on Monday the 13th, laid down what cardboard I had on Tuesday the 14th, laid down several years' worth of figure study newsprint on Wednesday the 15th, forgot that newsprint is very very light, came back that afternoon to nekked peppal all over the yard, replaced the newsprint and weighed it down with the four 1-cubic foot bags of garden soil I could afford that day, and came back on Friday the 17th with three 2-cubic foot bags and one 1-cubic foot bags of garden soil that I was able to buy that day.  Goof #1, I could already see where the weeds were beginning to grow around the cardboard/newsprint.  Goof #2, eleven cubic feet of garden soil wasn't enough.  It covered everything, but just barely. 

Ok, one more thing - it's really part of the last lastly so it doesn't even really count; it's a caveat to the caveat: I really, really hate that I bought garden soil from a chain home improvement store.  Is that a redundancy?  Chain + home improvement store?  Anyway, my point is that I would have much preferred to use my own compost, as Anna Hess did with her asparagus bed (her own compost, my ever-present on board editor says in the back of my head), but I just don't produce that much compost, and I figured buying soil this once would be better than letting PapaBear spray and rototill.  I hope to keep things nailed down enough that the total garden kill mulch won't have to be repeated and I can manage with the minimal amounts of compost that our deciduous tree-less household can produce.

So there you have it.

24 August 2012

The Man Who Planted Trees

Lovely, lovely artwork.  I just don't think modern animation, particularly in the west, has this kind of character. 
As for the message, I think the video (in the dreamy tones of Christopher Plummer no less) speaks for itself.

17 August 2012

Tiger Patch

  Here at the newly rechristened Many Fingered-Pie (a title that is a bit garbled, admittedly, but it fits), I freely concede to the charges of being inconsistent - a glance at the archive dates alone will prove that - scatterbrained, and, included in the new subtitle, haphazard. 

  Who is my accuser?

  Myself.  And by extension you imaginaries reading this ill-advised article.  Hmm, "article."

  Also included in the new subtitle, I tend to really like things, and get excited about doing things, only to sally forth to do whatever latest shiny idea has caught my eye and discover - I like it much more on a theoretical level.  That usually doesn't keep me from trying to do, or, once the shine has temporarily worn off, from coming back and giving it another go once my head of enthusiastic steam has built itself up again.  It doesn't even keep me from gleaning a modest enjoyment and satisfaction from the practical side of the project at hand.  That just doesn't seem to be enough to keep me faithful and true for more than a few weeks, months at the most, at a time.

  I suppose the root of my problem could be considered a mixture of short attention span combined with a real struggle with the expectation of instant gratification. 

  Of course, my problem could also be that I'm a fickle, wishy-washy twit.

  Usually, my spurts and lapses of interest cause no more trouble than persuading me to spend way too much money on something I will not consistently use (and driving my family nuts), but with gardening, it's a somewhat different proposition.  There is a distinct need to be on top of the ball.  Hard work is needed, and often.  If it's time to plant, and I'm not in the mood, I need to either get the heck off my seat-warmer or miss an opportunity not easily regained.  That's what happened this spring with my garden.  I wasn't in the mood, and my seat remained warm.

  There are excuses, naturally, some of them even valid.

  For one, last spring, I planted a beautiful, luscious, lovely, spec-TAC-ular white zucchini - an Italian heirloom, no less.

  It was eaten alive by squash bugs.  Organic product controls listed in my bug reference book, Good Bug Bad Bug, were beyond my means at the time.  The only viable option under preventative action once I discovered the infestation was "hand pick."  I found myself not up to the task.  Yes, I know.  My failings are many.  Sigh.

  An interrelated reason for my lack of enthusiasm was that here in the central Piedmont of North Carolina, we had a winter that was so underwhelming it left us looking at each other and asking, "What happened to January?"  It must have seemed like the greatest thing since sliced bread to the local insect population.

  The best excuse for the tendency toward garden deterioration near the middle of summer, even when I do get out there in the spring is that overheating through exertion is a sure fire migraine trigger for me.

  So my poor little garden languished while my "People say I'm easily distra - SQUIRREL!" attitude found other momentary points of focus.

  Well, bugs and all, my focus has rolled around again.  In August.  Sometimes I wonder if I'm a closet masochist...

  Anyway, I'd like to get my garden in shape at least for a meager fall crop of greens, so I set out into the jungle.  I live at home, and while it is my garden, PapaBear has quite the veto power.  When we have different ideas about what should be done, it can get... a bit sticky.  (Another reason I lost interest, an attempt to avoid conflict - because I'm a coward - except, duh, letting the garden go feral caused even more conflict).  He wants to spray everything.  I don't.  So I've been looking for an eco-friendly, quick-result method to tame my tiger patch.  I settled on this kill mulch, no-dig technique from the Walden Effect homesteaders (whose delightful month-by-month ebooklet series you can find here).  My beds are, well, maybe just a wee bit worse off than hers, but I'm hoping it will still work.

  So, here are the ubiquitous before and after pictures:

Before.  *Hangs head in shame*

In between. A good two year's worth of figure drawing newsprint supplemented the cardboard I dug out of the garage.
Aaaaaand after!  *Pats self on back*
  I shall be keeping a weedy eye out, as I've already flagged some trouble spots.  Developments shall be logged as they occur.

13 August 2012

I think I'll go weed OVER THERE

  This is an Argiope aurantia, more commonly known as the Black and Yellow Garden Spider, or the Writing Spider, so called for the dense zigzag of silk, or "stabilimentum," that the females put in the middle of their webs. She's taken up residence in the airy branches of my gigantic Rosemary bush.

  And lest you read this entry as surprisingly complacent, the Wiki article the scientific information was gleaned from states that B&Y garden spiders "are generally considered harmless to humans." Still, I've never gone so fast from "Yay, playing in the dirt!" to "I need biohazard gear like NAOW!"

  When I took up gardening, I knew I was going to have to re-educate myself about culturally engrained responses to useful critters like worms and spiders and less familiar beneficials, but my success has been mixed.  I know, theoretically, that spiders are a good thing, but in practice I still tend to be of the "Getitoffgetitoffget-it-OFF!" school of thought.  This morning when I discovered my tenant I must have stood there for five minutes talking myself into a positive frame of mind about it.  It went something like this:

"It will keep the bad bugs down, it's a good thing, really, it's I think I'll go weed OVER THERE."

And yes, I said it all aloud.  I talk to the weeds as I pull them, too.  Don't judge; it helps!

Wiki article here.  Much better photography, in case you, I don't know, actually want a closer look.

15 February 2012


"What's that one?"


"Oh.  How about that one?"


---paraphrased from Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation

Apparently the Great Backyard Bird Count is coming up this month - and in just a few days.  From the 17th-20th, people all across the country will choose one spot to watch for at least fifteen minutes, counting all the birds they see and submitting the data here.  The GBBC also has a Facebook page with lots of great photos (ooooh, pretty).

I read about this in The Cornell Lab of Ornithology Newsletter, and also included in this issue were links to some really great bird videos from the Macaulay Library.  You can see Sandhill Cranes and Northern Gannets and Western Grebes and Greater Prairie Chickens... and a lot more if you go poking around in there, I'm sure. 

I'm dying to make another barnswallow joke, but I'm not sure how many of you Imaginaries have seen Mr. Hobbs.

...You know what?  I'm gonna do it anyway.

"Do you know what that is?!  It's an incredibly rare bird I've been looking for my whole life!"

"Oh, yeah?  What's that little guy sitting next to him?"


12 February 2012

Roast Beef Leftovers

One of my favorite things to do with roast beef leftovers is to make pasties with them.  I've found multiple pasty filling recipes that call for starting from scratch with raw meat (and tried several of them), but honestly, leftover cooked meat just works SO much better.  After Thanksgiving I even made filling from leftover turkey.  But roast beef is definitely my favorite.

3 cups flour
1 1/2 sticks butter
> 1 cup water (added according to baker's judgement)
(you could make a double batch since I always wind up with more filling than will fit)
+/- 2 cups roast beef leftovers (or cooked meat of choice), diced fine
1 small onion, diced fine
1 potato, diced large
1 carrot (if desired), shredded or diced fine
1 - 2 eggs
garlic as desired
thyme as desired
Rosemarie as desired
Barely soften the butter - just enough so it's easy to mold with your hands
Put flour into a large mixing bowl
*Put the butter in with the flour and mash together until the flour resembles fine bread crumbs
add the water a splash at a time, just until the dough is neither dry nor wet and doesn't stick to your fingers.  Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for half an hour.
Chop the meat, onion, potato, carrot, and garlic and scramble the egg(s) in a separate bowl.  Heat some olive oil in a big (BIG) frying pan and saute the onions and garlic.  You can either scramble the eggs at this point in the same pan, or you can add the other chopped ingredients to the garlic and onions and scramble the eggs in a separate pan while the main mixture is heating up, then add the eggs in once they're almost done.  Add the herbs as desired.  Once everything is heated through, turn off the burner and take off the heat.  PREHEAT THE OVEN TO 350 DEGREES F.  by this time the dough should be chilled.
Take the dough out of the fridge and work it in your hands until it has warmed up a little.  Now you can roll the dough out on a surface and cut out perfect circles until you need to lump the rest back together and roll it out again, but I find that the repeated rolling out ruins the texture of the dough, so I just break off palm sized pieces and work them out with my fingers, like you sometimes see done with pizza dough.  However accomplished, one you have a flat, roughly round bit of dough, drape it over your hand and scoop filling into its center.  Then fold it up so when it lies on its side on the pan it looks like a fat half moon.
The pan?  Oh, yes.  Just a regular cookie sheet will do - I always spread baking parchment over the bottom.  Repeat until you run out of dough.  Once the oven is preheated, cook the pasties for 30 minutes.  Then slide the rack out and slather the topsides with melted butter or an egg-wash, after that, cook for another 20 - 25 minutes.
Pasties can be eaten hot or cold, and keep in the fridge for several days.

I made a batch of these last night.  My brother likes to have them in his lunch, which is great...the only problem is - I'm on a no-wheat diet so I couldn't have any.

Yes, I'll admit it.  I cried.  Just a little.

*this is one of the most important actions I've discovered that helps give the crusts a nice texture - it works on bread dough, too.