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Incoming BYTES
contains highly variable subject matter including commentary on the mundane, the extraordinary and even controversial issues. At Incoming BYTES
we want YOU to think...if you dare...


Monday, May 28, 2012

Mother Nature is BOSS

 We are not exempt...

Do we think we are exempt from the whims of Mother Nature?  Sometimes we do magically luck out, sometimes there are 'narrow misses'.   The worst and most extreme bad weather events always happen 'somewhere else'.  A third world country, some 'other' unfortunate place. At times it seems the poorest of the poor countries get hit the worst.

We caught some bad weather last night.  TTT ad ETS were edgy;  animals always seem to know when bad weather is on the way,  so Tilly the Tall and Ebony the Short were not impressed. It suddenly began to rain. But good. Not at the level of a tragedy,  no tornadoes or earthquakes,  no lives were lost,  let's make that clear, but the weather was 'difficult' if being 'dry' is your thing.

Heavy, sudden rain,  a virtual deluge,  and  lightning--  a major strike close to our house sounded more like a major explosion than the usual, casual rolling thunder that accompanies sweet, gentle summer rain.   After the smackdown boom we still had our chimney, roof, and trees surrounding us; upon inspection,  everything seems to be intact with the exception of our digital TV converter which apparently did not appreciate the power surges.

Municipalities are reporting roads washed out all over.   Highways closed. Flooding. We only  measured 18mm of rain. Curiously, my flooded garden plot does not look any worse than yesterday.  It doesn't look any better either.  Still ponding on the surface.  Still not planted. I may have to plant water lilies. Just kidding.  I'm not complaining.   It will dry sooner or later. If it doesn't rain some more. Maybe.There are people worse off.

Down in the city of Thunder Bay,  for example.  They had hail too. A mall is flooded.  Big stores with water floors.  Acres of water in parking lots. Basements are flooded.Water everywhere.

Northwood Mall  in Thunder Bay, On May 28/ 2012
 In the City of Thunder Bay, the main waste-water treatment plant is flooded.  A state of emergency has been declared.

Who's boss now? 
Apparently Mother Nature is BOSS and we should not be forgetting that fact.
We should consider ourselves lucky and blessed. 

Is that incoming I hear?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Renovating: Tile took a While !

The Ceramic Tile is Done!

From 30-year old vinyl composite floor tile to modern ceramic tile in a flash!  That's what I thought would happen. Oops.
 At Incoming Bytes, all DIY'ers are advised that when you choose to do a renovation project, seven other essential projects immediately line up and get in the way first.  Par for the course. To be expected. *sigh
Loyal readers will recall the ceramic wall protection we installed to keep our wannabe escapee team  --Tilly the Tall  (T.T.T)  and Ebony the Short  (E.T.S.)  from shredding the drywall  and trim around the door (and the door itself!) for the third (or was it the fourth? ) time.
We did it. Turns out it was a fantastic idea!  Uh-huh...
 Don't you think it's amazing how something shiny and new makes everything else look worn and tired?  You got it.
So--we tackled the floor. That was a fantastic idea too, it really was looking kind of dull. A couple of pieces of  the flooring were showing cracks and signs of loosening, -- and the old self-stick tiles had even shrunk just a tiniest bit, allowing water staining of the sub floor plywood.
Onward we went.

The floor managed to go from this;

  It only took seven days.
( to just after grout sealing, tile complete,  but before all of the baseboards were reinstalled.)
To This.
Tile's Done! (before baseboard install)


Tile took a while.

 It seems in any do-it-yourself project there is a lot of digression, putzing around, and injected in-between stuff that can be both necessary and a genuine challenge. 

 This is "all"we had to do to complete  this simple  DIY'er tile project!
  •  Measure the area carefully and best-guess extra required for tile cuts.
  • Go shopping, choose tile, haul it home. 
  • Clear the area of all boots, shelves and closet stuff
  • Remove all of the baseboards
  • Remove all of the brittle old composite vinyl tile bit by bit
  • Cut off bottom of all door jambs, door trim, etc. to allow for tile installation,
  • Scrape off  hardened glue lines left by the old self-stick tiles
  • Test the sub-floor plywood to make sure it is solid.  (It was stained but perfect).
  • Sand the floor and joints, 
  • Remove loose nails, set raised nails, add screws where necessary.  
  • Procrastination and Delays and Preemptive Strikes: Executive Decision to upgrade insulation in crawl space below floor which required:
  • Accessing crawl space by cutting hole in floor (Remove  a section of sub-plywood and plywood)
  • Removing old, inefficient, damaged fibreglas insulation from crawl space

  • Power vacuuming out all dust, bits and pieces, spiders* and cobwebs.  The garage shop vac worked perfectly.
  • Disposing  of all old tile, old insulation and other bits of wood and trash; 
  • Re-insulating under the floor and walls
  • Closing up the access hole in floor   

  Progress resumes!  

After the minor delay and annoyance created by executive decisions,  we had to:

  • Reinstall plywood on access hole:  plywood and sub-floor plywood with screws.
  • Prepare floor, screwing down all areas tightly where required, final inspection for squeaks, movement, clean, and vacuum
  • Loosen and lift stairs and prop up temporarily
  • Contemplate the dry layout of tiles; decisions, decisions.....
  • Plan and pre cut to fit tiles
  • Forge a mixer blade for the  electric drill on the anvil by heating steel rod red hot. What!?
Making stuff !........a perfect distraction for the quintessential do-it-yourself  tile-worn type!   
About that time I wanted to hammer on something nonchalantly for a while anyway, practice smacking moving targets with BIG hammers, mop the brow,  etc.  
Bottom line,  'a change was as good as a rest '  to  'distract the troops with R&R' ,  to 'use built-in ingenuity',   'create something' --and all that. 
We digress....back to tile for a while eh?  We also had to:
  • Mix up a half bag of thin set  (acrylic-modified dry cement, looks like gray, gucky pudding)
  • Lay tiles using spacers and straight lines.
  • Keep the  T.T.T. and E.T.S.  C.P.B. (curious puppy brigade)   and all curious comers off of the tiles for about 4 hours.
  • Clean grout lines of all excess thin set before it becomes set like a rock and was too hard to remove;
  • Mix coloured grout (This cool stuff looks like chocolate pudding!)
  • Fill grout lines, both floor and wall.  (We pointed (finished) the grout  using my favourite custom  tool made from 1/2" copper pipe.)
  • Clean floor tiles using the two-bucket system which works beautifully, for the record.
  • Admire floor for 24 hrs as everything sets hard as a rock
  • Seal grout lines (including wall tiles,  remember those?)  with special grout sealant
  • Set stairs back in position and re-trim
  • Reinstall baseboards, including replacement of broken, ugly, or scratched sections.
Finally, we were able to  relax, admire the tile job completed, have coffee and wonder how come it took this experienced DIY'er team 7 days. 
um..........I know. Any excuse in a pinch.
We apparently work diligently and do good work...or something, I bet!

 Hmm....now the next floor looks kind of worn too. *sigh.   Imagine that.

Is that incoming I hear?

 *Worth noting:  A  DIY'er and Homeowners Caution

 During the insulation upgrade portion of this project,  I chance-encountered  a *Brown Recluse spider in the  crawl space. They are not supposed to be in this geographical area, but in the last few years, clearly do NOT follow the rules.  
All DIY'ers and homeowners must be aware this is a dangerous North American species of spider. 
Necrosis of human flesh can occur if a bite from this species of spider is not treated in a timely manner. 
The range of  this spider has clearly expanded northward into Canada.
  Also known as the 'violin spider' or   'fiddle back' spider for the violin-shaped marking on it's back,  the Brown Recluse spider is typically found in undisturbed,  enclosed spaces but can be encountered in woodpiles, closets or undisturbed, unused clothing such as gloves or boots. 
Caution is warranted.  If bitten by a Brown Recluse spider, seek medical advice.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Update: The Intruder....Guess what?

 Would you like Butter with that?

Loyal readers of Incoming Bytes will  recall our  recent post and call for information and identification of an unknown plant, an invasive  nuisance, an unknown intruder  that we are blessed with.  Or plagued with, depending on how you look at it.
 We asked "What's this? " 

Here is the original picture of the plant we were attempting  to identify.  The intruder:

Various helpful suggestions were made including sub-varieties of poison oak, poison ivy and other nasty plants . A common thread was "it looks familiar"  and 'it looks poisonous',  but nobody could quite put a finger on it.

I would like to, but I cannot take credit.   Well, okay,  my personal gardener, another green thumb type, to be specific--- discovered the identification,  true nature,  and characteristics of the intruder.

The plant is  Aegopodium podagraria from  the plant family Apiaceae 
 Isn't that nice?  What's that, you say?  Eh??   Do you know what that is?  I sure didn't !   

  It is commonly known as  Ground Elder  (by everybody except us, apparently)    and is also known by  various names such as Bishop's weed,  Goutweed, Goutwort,  'Snow-on-the-Mountain', Garden Plague, and Herb Gerard!  --( **and many other historical names, see below)
 It is a perennial, and a variegated green/white version of the plant is sold for artistic, decorative ground cover. Here is  our original variegated Ground Elder in the back yard :

Variegated Ground Elder
 Apparently, the variegated version can revert to plain, old annoying GREEN Ground Elder! 

 Am I surprised now?  Well....um........no.   
We did plant the white variegated version in that location a number of years ago and  for some reason it 'didn't show up' the following spring.  We assumed it died.  Transplanted stuff does that.  No such luck.  It seems the plain old green one appeared instead.   

For further confirmation, both plants have  the same triangular cross-sectioned stems, same leaves,  same roots and  plant structure. No wonder!    
Here is  what Ground Elder looks like 'officially', and the link gives the complete scoop on it.
 You can even eat the stuff, it is a pot herb,  it tastes a bit like celery.  Cook it like spinach if you like, --but out in the garden,  it's really hard to get rid of!  The roots, flowers and seed pods are all identical to those observed on our intruder. 

*Ground Elder  1.0 

Now what?  Did you know that variegated plants could change colors?  Some flowers can too, in different soil, different environments!  The soil in the problem area is different, quite acidic, and moss grows on the shaded, damp surface.
I guess there's not much point in trying to get rid of it. It's supposedly good medicine for gout and rheumatism too.     
 Hmm...it does taste a bit like celery or spinach, or 'something like that'.  
 I tried it.  
Guess what?  Food! The dried roots can even be ground up for flour.  It is worth a buck!

**addendum:   (2.0)   Here's another great link with a lot more information about Ground Elder  that was brought to my attention by W. Diane van Zwolhttp://www.spookspring.com/Umbels/Ground_Elder.html
There are many  historical additional traditional names, botanical data,  uses  and other information on Ground Elder in this link, so check it out!   Thanks, W. Diane !

Is that incoming I hear? 

1.0       Photo credit  'Ground Elder'  and information  courtesy of  www.dgsgardening.btinternet.co.uk
2.0       http://www.spookspring.com/Umbels/Ground_Elder.html

Friday, May 18, 2012

Special Techniques in Bonsai: Grumpy Update

The Delusion Continues:  Create Old Bonsai from New

Remember Grumpy? 
        Once upon a time, along a poor and dusty roadside  far away, a sapling, admittedly a skinny orphan,  grew lazily by the wayside, sneezing heartily from the dust.   
Few branches he had,  for he was but a poor sapling, indeed, born in soil naught but unkind, sharp pebbles and sorry, salty road dust. 
 In spite of his poor start in life and being blessed with few branches and sparse roots, he remained eternally hopeful, dreamed of greater things and stood proudly, waving happily at passers-by.

He was finally chosen by little more than fortuitous luck, rescued he was,  carefully lifted and taken to a strange land by a lowly woodsman seeking to rescue such an imperfect tree.  
Rather than being freed, he was bound firmly to a venerable piece of silvered  wood named Grumpy, and  planted somewhat strangely in a pot.

He was not unhappy, for the new soil was good, the water delicious, and he was not alone. There were others to befriend;  curious, small trees that lived contentedly in pots big and small.
 His lot in live was to wait  five years through snow, rain, storm and sunshine to learn his destiny. 

At first, he stubbornly refused to grow up, the young always expecting more out of life and being rather impatient. The other trees whispered about it regularly among themselves, he duly noted. 
 As time went on,  he accepted his fate,  settled in and began to grow as one with Grumpy, who clung miraculously and silently to the outside of the pot.  They watched  the world go by  for the longest time as they surprisingly grew ever closer together, until it seemed they must be one.

"Oh, what shall we call you? the master asked, one day as he watered the soil carefully and nonchalantly spoke to chickadees flying past.
"You  mean me?....
  Alas, I have no name", the little tree offered bravely, " for I was but a seed dropped by a sparrow in the wind." 
" ---But I had nothing, no hope, no heart, and no life! Grumpy spoke up suddenly, yawning. 
" You bravely gave me your friendship, your heart and a new life too",  , ----"so I must share my name with you, dear friend, for Grumpy I was without a heart, without  life itself until we became one." 

"Then Grumpy shall you be" the master said, smiling wisely. 
"We shall give you a suitable new home immediately!"

And that is how our friend Grumpy the Bonsai  came to be....

 Remember?   You might even want to revisit
Bonsai: Specialized Techniques Creating Unique Trees

We originally rescued our little hero, the spindly white spruce sapling free of branches and little crown  --from along a roadside and certain doom. It was fitted it into a groove carved in a trunk-shaped, silvered piece of driftwood, and the live root system was planted in a deep pot of  rich, free-draining soil.  
You'll recall small wooden blocks and wire were used  to retain the tree in the groove until growth of new wood filled  the space. It took a few years.  That makes sense, doesn't it?  If a live trunk is not retained in the desired position adequately, expansion from new growth can actually push the live trunk out of place.  

As you can see, Grumpy's new trunk  had to be mounted outside of the pot for several growing seasons  to prevent contact with potting  soil while  the tree came back to health --and the spindly trunk expanded. It seemed to take forever, but it was only 5 short years!
 The tree crown is coming into it's own and is as healthy as a weed.  Good thing, too.   It needs to be healthy, because Grumpy's next operation is a major challenge!  He has to be tough and in good condition!

  In this photo, notice the live sapwood and trunk have now pretty much filled the groove, securing the trunk in place.  Additional growth will continue to occur in the narrow visible live strip as the tree grows, but even though future expansion of girth will take place outside of the groove the live trunk will  now remain locked in place.

You can see Grumpy's face on the left side on the lower half of this photo. Pretty cool dude, isn't he?                                                              
Adequate development of the root system and improvement  took several years because the sapling chosen was really a rescue tree from very poor roadside soil--not ideal, and  perhaps a bit stunted and too spindly for the job.  The root system was minimal and poorly suited with a single, long taproot.

In the spring it was time to prepare Grumpy for his new life.  A major operation was necessary which involved pruning of the tap root, branch pruning, trunk preparation,  and finally,  re-potting and securing into a much shallower training pot.  
  •  The tree is removed from the deep  training pot and carefully prepared to fit into a shallow, simple  training pot . 
  •  The long tap root must be reduced (pruned off)  substantially to allow the fine, healthy  root growth already developed to be arranged directly under the pseudo-trunk.  New growth of  fine feeder rootlets will quickly replace any large roots  or tap root  removed.
  • The old soil  is soaked and washed off of the roots rather than just broken off dry,   to minimize damage to the delicate feeder rootlets. Pruning is completed, and the newly-prepared root mass is protected with wet peat moss so it will not dry out while other preparations are being made.
  • The  new trunk is treated with lime sulphur to preserve the deadwood. A solution is mixed and  applied with a suitable paintbrush. Lime sulphur  is excellent for this purpose,  preventing mould and decay, and smells terrible --but does not negatively affect live trees.   
  • Surprise!  *I followed the instructions on the  product, there's a first to be sure! Two coats are applied, paying particular attention to the bottom of the driftwood piece which will be in constant  contact with damp potting soil and mosses.  
  • When the lime sulphur is dry, the tree is established in the new pot and supported with plastic-coated guy wires to hold the trunk securely in position.  ( I use #14 copper wire.)  The root system is arranged directly underneath the large new trunk. With time and growth, the enlarged root system will eventually support the tree without help. 
  • New,  free-draining potting soil  is tamped firmly around the roots to eliminate air pockets and ensure excellent growth will continue. 
  • Several varieties of moss are added to the surface of the soil  immediately to replicate the natural symbiotic environment of the  Boreal forest and minimize  moisture loss. The soil  is thoroughly soaked and will be watered carefully each day.  The recovering tree will be kept out of direct sunlight for a week or so to minimize stress. 
  • The crown ( top) must be  reduced  (pruned) to compensate for  the reduction of the tap root thereby reducing excessive demands on the downsized root system.  Branches and twigs not needed for the final design are carefully removed first.  
  •  Minor  branch  wiring is also conducted where branches need to be adjusted as they grow, only because the timing for growth was correct to do so. Normally one would try to avoid  repotting, extensive pruning  and wiring a tree all at the same time to minimize stress,  but Grumpy was strong and healthy, growing very rapidly. 
Now Grumpy needs needs serious time out  to rest and adapt to all of the new changes. The design of the crown is not finalized by any means. Additional branches will be removed over several  seasons to facilitate the final design- depending on the success of the new growth.
All of the remaining branches will be left intact for a couple of growing seasons to ensure the health of the tree, thickening of the trunk and stabilizing of the root structure.

Introducing:  Grumpy the Bonsai
The lime sulphur coating changes colour as it dries and will end up almost waterproof.  It becomes a pleasing shade of light silver-gray.
Now Grumpy gets to put in a lot of camping  time on the benches  to grow, develop a much larger root system. The crown will fill out, hopefully where required.

Certain branches are also wired   and temporarily but slightly over-bent for rapid spring growth.
 I use brightly coloured plastic-coated wire that is quite noticeable to ensure the wire is not forgotten and will be removed when necessary.
Some of those wired branches too, may eventually  be removed  in the design process, but only long after the tree is fully recovered** from this stressful day .  

We are one.  
Grumpy is smiling, complete with bold heart and trunk.  He gets to schmooze for a very long life.

Is that incoming I hear?

**Note:  Avoiding instructions may not have been the only problem we have run into.
          Since Grumpy was re-potted, an undetermined,  wide-spread major event occurred that affected a large majority of conifers, primarily White Spruce and Balsam Fir trees in Northwestern Ontario.  Major needle drop, bleaching,  browning,and drying occurred erratically within sometimes as little as  two or three days; some areas were untouched --at times  adjacent trees  were badly damaged while  some are totally unscathed.
Sadly, our bonsai collection of indigenous species was not exempt from this serious problem. 
 Grumpy suffered some minor browning damage, but at this date, looks like he should survive.  We shall keep you updated.   
Many  trees both in our collection and out in the wilds will not be so fortunate, some are already developing new buds and will grow, others appear to have  dried up completely --and are unlikely to recover. 
The cause of this damage is unknown at this time but correctly or not,  has been attributed by foresters to the early, unusual spring weather we  so enjoyed earlier this year!  

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Intruder: What's This?

Nobody knows. It is an annoying plant.

It spreads like quack-grass with running roots. Lots of roots. The smallest piece of stringy root will grow a new plant. It has a  herb-like smell vaguely  reminiscent of wild celery, but is not wild celery. I seem to be mildly allergic to it.  This innocuous-looking plant  is pretty enough.

It might be a weird variety of nettle. That's what our favourite gardening zeitgeist Glory Lennon suggested. It has no hairs on the stem,  and seemingly, no any attack equipment built in. Well, unless you count 'invasive'  and  'pretty enough', and then there's always  that herb-like smell vaguely reminiscent of wild celery. 

Here's a picture of the unidentified intruder.  You decide. If you do know positively what it is, please do let me know!

What is this plant?? All of the greenery  in the photo is the same species, hooked together by a complex root system.Notice it is growing around a double layer of old shag carpet placed in a failed attempt  to eliminate any new growth.

 The intruder is irritating to the skin and has proven almost impossible to get rid of.  It's on the north side of the house  and adjacent soil is moss-covered.

 It seems to like damp, cold soil.   This is what the root systems look like, the roots are fleshy, stringy, and tough. It spreads underground, out of sight,  and pops up everywhere just to annoy us.  If covered up, like in the above picture, it keeps growing underground until it is safe to pop up some more, just to annoy us.

The large, complicated root system spreads underground like invasive wild mint does

 Clearly this stuff spreads in the same manner wild mint and other invasive plants do  and  is capable invading and taking over an area --and pretty quickly.

 Here at Incoming Bytes I'm always looking for the bright side.  I'm hoping it's valuable or something!  
The area to the right has had most of the intruder removed but it will easily regrow within a season.  I'll be a major world producer of 'the intruder' by next year.   If I could have a dollar for each one of these plants, I would fill up the bank account in no time, don't you think so?.
Maybe not. It's virtually all hooked to the same root system. Does that mean it's really just one plant?  "That'd be one buck please."
One buck.    That figures.

The intruder spreads with a vengeance.

This intruder tops out at 12-14" in height.  We thought a lot about Glory's clever suggestion that it could be a sub-species of  nettles.

Glory does have a variety of height-challenged common stinging nettles,  that look like these:

Common Stinging Nettle

We too have common stinging nettles in this area, N.W. Ontario.  It is  the swamp kind  --but grows to about  4' tall or even higher, and by the majority,  they spread by seed.
Our  everyday Stinging nettles do look quite similar to these nettles but obviously a lot taller. They  pack a nasty welt that burns like agitated fire  if  a careless hiker accidentally rubs them across bare skin.

By the way, nettles are not all bad, you can harvest, dry, and use them for tea,  or pick the tender growth for cooked greens . Wear gloves if harvesting. Good thinking.  I digress.
What is the intruder?  Anyone know? Is it edible?  Does it have any uses that such as curing incurable diseases? Is it healthy or dangerous?  Will it take over N. Western Ontario by next Tuesday? 
I do hope readers here at Incoming Bytes can help resolve this question.  What is this intruder anyway?  I know I asked already, but I'm in a hurry.  Is it valuable?  I could use a buck.

Is that incoming I hear?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Garlic Galore !

           " Think this is enough garlic? "

 Garlic's up!  Yeah, I know, I had a picture of  this garlic posted on Saturday, but it's just too good not to talk about.

Garlic's up.  Organized too!  Now 12" high

It's even taller now, and wow, it is growing fast. This larger species of  garlic will grow about 4' tall. Maybe higher!

I  didn't want anyone to think this little bed was ALL the garlic we had planted last September before the ground froze solid. This small bed is mulched with old hay and lawn clippings. 

The following picture is  the OTHER garlic bed.  It has tiny, medium and mature garlic plants growing happily almost in a row.  Well, okay, it's not really a row,  more like a collection of plants growing every which way in a raised bed and quite happily, too, I insist.  There are a few freestyle opportunists sprouting .  A bit disorganized,  dropped or missed bulbils or seed, I concede. So what?  It's garlic.

 This garlic was planted in mid-September about an inch deep or so,  and covered and mulched heavily with peat moss.  About two weeks later a couple of  volunteer test cloves were dug up for inspection. No top growth was visible, but the roots on the cloves were already a couple of inches long.  The ground froze solid a couple weeks later and they spent all winter under about 2 feet of snow. No matter, apparently  they continue to grow more roots anyway. Storing up energy for spring.  Good thing. With our weird weather, we never know!

Now THAT is Garlic--Big and Small

  Some might assume the fall planting  method is a bit of a stretch, a gardener's imagination at work. Perhaps it's just satisfaction at seeing a great, long raised bed of garlic springing up early in May,  thick as lawn grass on steroids.

Think this is enough garlic? There's at least a half dozen blades of grass in the bed too.  Any good gardener knows 'ya gotta have at least a half dozen weeds, or it wouldn't be gardening!

How to grow Garlic, or  'big and small, we like it all ' 
If you want to start small and inexpensive, but grow a lot of garlic,  take a longer term viewpoint. 
  • Get a garlic bulb. One will do for a small start, but get three or four, and divide the bulbs into cloves--or just pick up some garlic cloves from your closest garden center. Eat the small ones, and whether you intend to plant in the early spring or late fall, -- plant only the big ones.
  • Watch them grow.
  •  Let the stalks   (called 'scapes')  curl and grow full height, and when ripe, pick off  the florets which  consist of dozens of seeds called bulbils, and allow them to dry.  
  • The seeds , or bulbils  (they look like tiny bulbs) are your key to garlic galore. Let them dry; you'll have handfuls of them. Save them.  
  • Harvest the full sized garlic bulbs,  braid, hang and dry the big bulbs.  If you eat any, save the biggest cloves for planting again in the fall.   Why big and small?  Garlic grows bigger if big cloves are planted.  Best genetics and all, we must assume.
  • In the fall, a couple of weeks after the first frost-- plant  those big cloves you saved 
  • Plant the tiny garlic bulbils from the 'florets' while you're at it.  You can sprinkle  those in a wide, shallow trench and cover them with an inch of soil. Sprinkle mulch on top to keep the moisture in.  
  • The following season, you'll be harvesting mature garlic bulbs from the big cloves, and  small round bulbs from the gazillion  'seeds', --some may have even formed bulbs of tiny 'cloves'. 
  •  In the fall, you'll plant those small bulbs in nice straight rows, not like mine!  Plant them about 3 to 6 inches apart, they're only little anyway.  They will produce bigger bulbs.
  • Of course you'll also have big, mature garlic growing from the big cloves you planted!   Harvest, dry and divide the bulbs.  Again, always save the biggest cloves for planting.  Eat the rest, roast a few with butter, and scare off  vampires and old lovers.
  • Repeat the process every year, planting 'seed-bulbils', small bulbs, and the largest cloves.
  • Mature garlic bulbs and big cloves are now plentiful,-- and you have three generations of garlic.  
Now you can  make 3 generations of Caesar salad, and don't forget, once you get 3 generations of excellent garlic, you won't have to buy more seed unless you want more varieties. There are about 20 or so to choose from.  You'll want to expand your garlic beds or give away a lot of garlic seed to your gardening neighbours instead!

If you like eating salad greenery, don't forget to pick the scapes (the center stalk that produces the florets) after the scape curls and the bud forms, but before it opens. Scapes are wonderful sauteed or raw in salads.
You'll have a bushel of them in no time too.  You will also have garlic galore.

 Does garlic, allium sativum of  the Liliaceae family, have exotic medical uses, or scare away slugs and bugs and vampires? History suggests it does. Garlic, although the bane of fresh breath, acts a natural antiseptic, helps you get healthy, and lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
 Admittedly  it does give the garlic-lover  'garlic breath' .  Now what?  Chew a sprig of parsley.
 You have garlic galore. 
  I say, share it... , and enjoy garlic together.

Is that incoming I hear?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Reflections on the A to Z Challenge


  In the rear-view mirror, the dust from the A to Z Challenge of  April is almost settled. Perhaps with the flurry of activity it is even unsettling to see things returning to normal, whatever my undirected normal at Incoming Bytes may have been.
I haven't evaluated specific statistics, but  marginally  increased traffic to Incoming Bytes  continues to be a good thing. A number of amazing new and absolutely incredible writers  and followers have been discovered.  New friends. Stuff learned.

A couple of  off-the-cuff comments on the challenge:
  • Many wonderful blogs were signed up, and I looked at a lot of them  -it was impossible time-wise to read anywhere near all of them.  I simply did  not find myself with enough free time to devote to that luxury.  
  • I was amazed to find the incredible quality of writing and diverse content on impressive blogs that I was fortunate enough to visit, perhaps 400(?) or more.  Most were solid-value blogs,  high-calibre content -- and highly readable.
  • I certainly was not able to write comments on every site visited by any stretch of the imagination. I only commented on a few; I  found myself too challenged for time. The 'capcha's on many of them were  a  distinctive nuisance.  Waiting around for 'boxes' to show up and faced with trying to interpret smudgy idiotic captcha's  made me instantly "forget it an move on" with a vengeance. Yes, I  gained a few followers which I very much appreciated, and I reciprocated, but that doesn't preclude the fact that time is limited.
  • The blog list was HUGE which was good, but I ended up just clicking through a number of them.  What was the deciding factor?  Content type .                                                                                                
  •    I would have liked to see some kind of directory, an indication of the 'general content' of blogs. Even a category definition  "general interest" in many cases would have been helpful.
  •  A basic directory would be very simple and makes sense:
 As an example,  "Incoming Bytes:  A diverse, general- interest blog. 
  •  It wasn't a race or a rule by any means, but not surprisingly, I found it mildly annoying to be told 'you're ahead'  and "post "x"  or 'other'  on a certain day.  That  raised the middle finger of the mind.  Waved the red flag at the bull.  If anything was annoying about the challenge, that was  it.
 Excuse me, but let's digress and examine the question:
 Q: Whose blog is this anyway? 
 A:  Guess. Writing is a personal thing.  A freedom enjoyed. One to be kept free, and kept enjoyable.

In arbitrary observation, would one care if they were 'lagging the pack'  a couple of days
 Bottom line,  individual writing schedules are highly erratic--so, surprise! -- We  post offerings when enabled, when written, when the schedule allows, early or late, the kaflooie of being a non-conformist --or not
Interestingly, I even tried to 'meter' the  A-Z  postings to the 'correct day', -- only to find others ahead, behind, all over the place, or, imagine this, in some cases, abreast of whatever 'letter'  I coincidentally happened to be doing anyway. The spirit of the challenge was certainly not broken, displaced, or ignored.
  •  The objective:  26 posts using all 26 letters of the alphabet in 26 days
  • Status:  Completed.                                                                                                                          
 Overall?  It was an enjoying challenge and will be-- until  the fun is eventually micro-managed right out of it.    
Will writers continue to generate interesting content to generate excitement, making the A to Z Challenge an actual event?   
 Will we participate again? Perhaps.  

Is that incoming I hear? 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

An ordinary Saturday

Lonesome Daffodils

It's just an ordinary Saturday.
You know the kind,  'open the eyes when  clock-timer-dog  says  wake up,  yawn, prop the eye lids open, look out the window'. That kind.

 There are no deer at the foot of the garden this morning.  It's actually spring, but it's still cool and a bit gray.  The cold air smells fresh.  The lawn is greening a bit and there are a couple of lonesome  white and yellow daffodils out.

Fall-planted garlic

 I inspect the garden out of habit, looking for deer tracks.  There are none.
 Out in the garden, the fall-planted garlic is 10" high already.  It was peeping through the last snowfall.

  Amazing. Promising.

I must take Tilly the Tall  and Ebony the Short  (TTT and ETS) down the trails for their morning dog-a-thon.  It's cool outside, even huddled inside a jacket.  Too early and wet to garden, the  chilly wet  morning avoidance contingency plan kicks in.

 It's a good one. I know, it's just a typical escapist N.W. Ontario morning plan Procrastinate. Stay in and drink coffee.  Read.  Maybe some toast and jam, the  homemade strawberry kind. 
The pups are already flat-back schmoozing, that took about a minute after the towel-down. They're  worn out after morning dilly-dallying  and incessant play.
The clock ticks softly. The coffee smells good.  The plan is shaping up fine.
 I settle in and read.  I enjoy reading, it's one of my hobbies. I collect 'bits and bobs' ( Brit. slang )--information, that would be,  but my loyal readers know it's construction material for Incoming Bytes.
  It's amazing how much  information, knowledge, and variety is out there. Web sites. Word mills. Blogs, thousands of them.  Musings. Short stories, articles, opinions big and small, the soothing rhythm and charm of souls poetic . 
Some articles  I envy, the kind I wish I could write sometimes;  serious efforts at repairing humankind. Let's make that mankind;   I have to be honest, I don't appreciate the hypocrisy of  PC jargon. Politicized crap and garble, mindless, misused protocol. How to sensationalize boredom--but I digress.
 I read technical articles, fiction, and pretty much everything  that catches the eye.  News. Columnists. How to writeTrain the muse to dance with two left feet and  write faster. How to write when the stubborn muse is on strike and refuses to cooperate. How to do woodwork, build shelves, stairs or lay ceramic. How to pan for gold.  All about bonsai, you know, the little trees in  pots. That's one of my hobbies.  I could learn to tan a hide, grow stuff, facet diamonds, rebuild a diesel engine, crochet, or construct a chicken-wire fence. 
I cannot hope to ever read all of the classics, old literature or complicated technical content I would like to. I tend to soak it up, and digest it, but it becomes relegated to it's status,  it's pecking order in life;  perhaps waylaid,  it's relevance lost in the brain temporarily.  Recall comes to mind. Restore when needed. File nine.
Creativity, art, substance, questions,  the human condition exacerbates the human  reality at times;  persistent content sticks in the mind, if reluctantly.  Is there a better day for remembering stuff?
The blogosphere doesn't discriminate. Saturday or Wednesday, Tuesdays or Friday. No matter. Monday, Thursday, or Sunday,  they're all out of order anyway. 
Which day is better to read, observe, and listen?  Can the brain ever be filled to capacity? I cannot imagine how.  The mind stalling at capacity could ruin this very ordinary Saturday.

 I wonder why I cannot read faster, too. It would be handy. I already 'speed read', but not nearly fast enough. Skimming pages, sites, blogs.  Look up words unknown, get the context right, the online dictionary comes in handy for that.
 The unexpected. Surprises.  Interruptions.  I know;  at times we must suffer wonderful cinnamon buns instead of cookies, but that's life,  that's what's in the oven.  The construction of life itself.  Baking.  Saturday morning stuff. 

 Now to do something different.   Review the A to Z Challenge. Twenty-six posts.
 We did it. I actually survived and completed it.  I met some wonderful writers in the process, great bloggers,  read a lot of excellent writing,  and learned an awful lot.  I received great and kind comments here at Incoming Bytes. I do thank everyone for their kindness, consideration, and dedication.  Back to the xylography of ordinary life if such a beast exists.
  Shall I play with the pups some more?
Nope, they're still sleeping. Running around all day can be tiring, I better let them save some energy
Like me, they'll need it.  Why not teach old dogs new tricks?
Anything is possible--later.
 Meantime the coffee and cinnamon buns call clearly on this very ordinary Saturday, and a little snooze might work too.  Oh..almost 2:00 pm......time must be broken.....


Is that incoming I hear?