August 17, 2009

The Circle of Life Rambles On

Things in life come and go.  Lately my big left toenail has done more going than coming.  It got ripped off a year and a half ago while moving a couch from our rental house into our new home.  It was nearly all the way back in, looked almost normal, when it got torn off again a few days ago.  On a whim, I was moving a chair in the living room when it got bumped.  It must not have been as normal as it looked because one scrape with the wooden foot of the chair and it popped up like the trunk of a car.  The first thing I did was find Veep and ask for her help.  The first thing she did was let out an obligatory howl of disgust, "eeeewwwww."  And then, without even blinking, "Do you want me to get the kids so they can see too?"

After about fifteen minutes of kind of dabbing the thing, trying to get it to lay back down properly, I accepted the fact that I was going to have to debride it.  With only a little hesitation, I grabbed the sucker and quickly yanked it clean.  A very strange feeling.

Below is a picture I snapped after cleaning it up.  It is small so you don't have to see it if you don't want to.  Click on the toenail to see the full size version (pun intended, sorry).


Fortunately it's not too painful and doesn't interfere with biking whatsoever.  Which got me thinking, what are toenails or fingernails for?  I assume they're some sort of vestigial claws, but I don't know that for sure.  In fact, after about 10 years of medical training, I don't remember a single lecture or article that stated "finger and toenails are important because..."  Anatomy was mentioned, how to treat a subungual hematoma or toenail fungus was mentioned, but an essential function or purpose was never alluded to.  I'm sure a quick Google (or Yahoo) search could clear it up but I'll leave that to the gods of the internet.

In keeping with my theme in the title, I was out in the garden the other evening, harvesting some sweet homegrown organic tomatoes when I saw this:


Those are several wasps attacking a grub.  I've never seen anything like it before.  I usually despise wasps and have spent several hours this spring and summer knocking countless nests down from under our eaves and deck.  As a result we've had fewer stings this year (excluding a friend's 7 year old son who, unfortunately, was the first to sit at the table on our deck after we had been out of town for 4 weeks where the wasps had built a large nest with many young larvae they were aggressively "protecting" and stung him no less than 8 times).  

I've always questioned the value of wasps, since I don't think they do much to pollinate flowers the way bees do, and only seem to annoy and possibly sting.  So the above photo was singular in that I now see their value in pest control.  I honestly had never thought about why these particular hymenoptera are a necessary part of life, but apparently they are.  I will, however,  continue to destroy their nests near the house, but will revere their homes on the edge of the yard.

I've mentioned frogs before on this blog.  We have a lot of frogs around our house.  And now that we actually have irrigation in the yard, we have many more.  Last summer I befriended a single frog in our garage.  This year we've found countless frogs bounding around the garage at night.  When the light is flipped on, several small and medium sized frogs can be seem making punctuated getaways to the fringes of the storage area. 

 However, we recently got a furry little black kitten to keep our poor neglected children company.


As reluctant pet owners, Veep and I have insisted the cat's digs are in the garage where his smell will be less noticeable.  True to his species, this as yet nameless cat is a hunter.  I initially thought it cute to see it chase a few hopping frogs around before bedtime.  This, unfortunately, has been to the dismay of the now threatened garage frog populace.  At least twice now we've chased down funky garage smells only to discover disemboweled amphibian corpses.  I'm not sure there is an answer to this problem and have so far let the order of things alone.


Finally, my latest little home project is building some bird houses for the back yard.  We've put up several bird feeders and have attracted a whole host of hummingbirds, robins, and finches.  Unfortunately, the seed has also fortified our burgeoning population of chipmunks that live in the apartment-like rockwork we had installed last fall.  So far they haven't been too bad of pests, but I'm concerned they may overwhelm our garden some day.  But how to control chipmunks?  Apparently it is illegal to kill them in Washington state, so I haven't invested in a nail gun or poison.  The other night, however, the answer became clear. 


Around bedtime Monday we heard an animal shrieking outside our bedroom window, a new animal sound we hadn't heard before.  I went out on the back deck to investigate, only to see a dark winged flash at the edge of the back yard lights.  Squinting, we cold make out a large screech owl on a tree branch.  He continued to scream, perhaps a mating call or hunting call, I don't know.  But it became clear that he could prove to be a big help with the chipmunks--if he hadn't already been snacking on them.  In fact he returned a few nights later when the kids spotted him from the basement windows.  Ironically, their screeches of excitement drowned out the owl's calls and it didn't stick around long.




Don't get me wrong, I don't mind having a few chipmunks in the yard.  But with lots of rocks to hide in and free bird seed to eat, their life is much easier than nature intended.  And thus nature's answer--the screech owl.  So along with several small cedar birdhouses, I'm planning on building a larger one, sized to accomodate a friendly neighborhood owl.  It may hoot or screech in the middle of the night, but we've already been conditioned to loud bird calls by the roosters at each of our neighbors' houses throughout the summer.


And thus the circle of life continues uninterrupted.

August 11, 2009

Preemptive Nostalgia

I'm glad that all my kids like the occasional cheap Greek food meal.  The girls won't eat Thai and Sal always acts like he doesn't like Mexican (even though he always eats it).  So Greek is one thing we can all agree on.



Veep took the night off on Friday and we hit up Santorini's.  Their hummus and gyros are in league with D'Lish's double cheese burgers and Linnie's Massamun curry.

And even though they don't ride their bikes much, I'm glad my kids are still sort of willing to humor us and go on a few family rides a year.




Even in overwhelming heat.



This was last weekend on our yearly tour of the "Route of the Hiawatha."  The girls were better about riding through the tunnels this time.  Veep was there too--she was the one taking all the pictures.  I love my powerful Tri-Newt light in the tunnels--you can actually see the walls.

I've got to admit that over the past few months I've developed a midlife crisis of sorts.  No, there's no new sports car or hair plugs, just the realization that my kids are growing and time is passing.  I came across this picture of our two girls the other day.  It was buried at the end of a powerpoint presentation I was re-using at work, which I had made about 8 years ago--a nice reprieve at the end of a boring lecture.

Savanna and Emmy

It kind of snuck up and slapped me in the face.  This is how they looked when we moved to Spokane.  At that age their world consisted almost entirely of fairies and playgrounds.  And they interacted with us all the time--too much if you had asked me back then.  Now they have their friends, books, and computers and they only need us to provide food and shelter--at least it seems that way in relative terms.  They require more than that, but it is so much less than before that it feels like too little.  I guess I'm just realizing that I should enjoy them now because who knows what will happen in a couple years when they're teenagers.  I'm pretty sure they'll be just fine, but I still wonder.  Still, if I could "Benjamin Button" them back to the above photo I would.

It's good to know that they can still be tempted by balloons.  This was at a Mexican restaurant in McCall, ID in July (Sal lost the fight for where to eat).  I didn't think they'd take our waiter up on his offer of balloons, but they did without hesitation.


Then they sucked the helium out of one and let the other free on the lake.


I suppose that's better than being too old for balloons entirely.

August 6, 2009

Slack Line Zombie




My mug while slacklining isn't too much different from these promising youngsters playing video games.

I set up our new slack line in the yard this evening after dinner, before the thunder started rolling in.  It is challenging.  I wore rock climbing shoes because the ground underneath is rocky and hard and hurts in bare feet--I couldn't find a good place to put the line that was over nice soft grass.  Perhaps I'll collect pine needles to make a soft landing pad while I learn the basics.  During the short time I was out there I looked most like the third photo.  It was fun though.  I could easily burn a few hours everyday trying to figure it out.  I'm positive it's been said before, but the time required to master this sport is probably what puts the "slack" in slack line.

A video for your enjoyment:

Summer is moving along quickly.  We've had a lot of heat here in the Northwest--some real "dog days."  We are going to escape in a few weeks to Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast.  With our luck it will be cold by then.  Also, Veep and I now have tickets to Venice, Italy for the first part of October.  This will be her first trip across the Atlantic and only my second.  We are excited and reading up in some signature "Rick Steve's" travel guides--seeing as how he knows what he's doing and he's not at all nerdy now that he's come out in support of the decriminalization of marijuana.  Of course he still sort of reminds me of the Tim Calhoun character on SNL.  In any case, he can still write a mean guide to tourism, it just might take a little longer to write.