Saturday, August 29, 2009

Scutigera coleoptrata

What is this vicious creature, you ask?
I woke up at about 2:00 yesterday morning, and went downstairs to the kitchen. To my horror I spotted this guy, about 3 inches long all in, at the edge of the counter about a 6 inches from where I was working. I jumped back and grabbed a rag off the counter to prepare for battle. I did not want this guy in my kitchen!
As I stared him down and prepared to attack, I felt something tickle my hand. With a quick flick of my wrist this guy's brother was scurrying across the floor. He had crawled into the rag (probably to hide from the light?) and I'm sure was no happier to be picked up than I was to have him crawl across my hand. 
I made a lame attempt to kill the one still on the counter, but decided to let my knight in shining armor take care of them. Apparently, though, knight in shining armor duties do not apply in the middle of the night, unless there is an immediate threat. When I crawled back in bed and told Mike about the kitchen crawling with hideous bugs, his response was, "Did you really just wake me up at 2:00 to tell me about a bug? That's in the kitchen?"
I'm not typically this squeamish around insects, but these guys are creepy! I did some research on my flight out later that morning. House centipedes. It seems they are fairly common, and in spite of the fact that they were in the kitchen, they only eat other bugs, not people food. So now we have to decide if we should wage war on the centipedes or keep them as pets to keep the rest of the bugs and spiders out. I have always found our house curiously insect free.
The centipedes can bite people (it is supposed to be similar to a bee sting), but this is rare. My favorite learning is from a USDA pamphlet published in 1902 "It may often be seen darting across floors with very great speed, occasionally stopping suddenly and remaining absolutely motionless, presently to resume its rapid movements, often darting directly at inmates of the house, particularly women, evidently with a desire to conceal itself beneath their dresses, and thus creating much consternation." It seems not much has changed. I must admit I'm still a little afraid of the kitchen at night!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The earth oven

There is a pizza place just down the street from us called Punch Pizza. They have amazing Neapolitan pizza made in a huge earth oven, and it is one of Mike's favorite restaurants in town.

Somewhere between Punch Pizza and my sister's place, Mike recently decided to make his own version of the wood fired oven, and the pizza. Here is Mike making the oven with our neighbor Bert. They built the base, and I got to help with the mud. First we stomped it with our feet. It has been a long time since I have squished mud between my toes!

Then they put the mud on a sand form to make the oven. You can see it's quite an art.

We had the inaugural pizze bake-off last night. My friend Julia joined us, and the first pizza came out with perfectly bubbling cheesey goodness.

We do have a few bugs to work out, though. Instead of the hours of bake time we expected, by the time we got to pizza #3 the oven had fallen to about 200 degrees. We will continue to perfect our craft, and when we do, watch out Punch!

The saga of the strawberries

I have been trying to grow a vegetable garden this summer. So far, I have had multiple green bean harvests of around 6 green beans each (I did hit double digits once), a handful of cherry tomatoes, and a single carrot the size of my pinky finger. I think back to my parents' garden, and the full-day harvests we used to have, and wonder how it was possible, and how my father's green thumb can be completely missing in my gene structure!

Case in point: early this spring I bought 4 Ozark strawberry plants. So far, the results have been quite mixed.

Plant #1 has was immediately eaten by something. It has started to grow back, but still only has a few leaves.

Plants #2 and 3 are vigorous growers, but as far as I can tell, they only produce additional strawberry plants. I have kept the runners to 1 per plant, and now have 6 strawberry plants.

Plant #4 is my sole producer. I counted over 50 strawberries - amazing on a single plant! I can't wait for them to turn red, and hope the squirrels and chipmunks don't decide they are as tasty as they seem to find my tomatoes : )

I guess, if  I get no strawberries from the non-producing plants, and no runners from the producing plants, at least I'll have a nice ground cover!