ONCE MORE WE TRAVEL INTO THE LAND OF THE LOST.

I was not sure how to approach the interesting thing that happens this time of year.  Yes, it is a new year, but it is also re-visitation time for garden prep season.  With this season comes the attack of  The Gardening Catalogs from Hell – dun dun daaa!

seed catalogs

Those of you that have been gardeners for more than a year are fully aware of this danger.  You receive so many catalogs, filled with so much fun stuff; you become a Seed Catalog Junkie.  Sad but true, this is a disease.  I have been lucky enough to not become infected.  I limit myself to the task of making only the final decisions.  My sister, however, is severely infected.

The ritual is for me to pick up the mail and gently place all garden and seed catalogs into her favorite chair.  Her fav chair is on the mud porch (where she smokes – yuckie I know, but another bad habit she has), where she is solitary most of the time.  Friday nights we hold game night in there, and the dogs get to stay in there at night or days that are super cold.

In her solitary confinement, she meditates on the varieties, colors, sizes, shapes, prices, and shipping.  All of these things are used in determining who will be the prize winners and receive our selections.

1st place winner-ugly dog

It must be noted that all of our entries are from organic, natural, and mostly heirloom variety sellers.  We do not get into anything GMO and only look at hybrids in flowers.  Each year we try to select something that we have never tried to grow before (Last year was melons and winter squash – in the greenhouse.  Had some tricks to learn, but it worked – woohoo!).  Tried peanuts once – big mistake but an interesting grow.  Until we tried, I did not know that they had to grow up, down, back into the ground to create the peanut.  Weirdest thing I have ever seen a food plant do.  Not much for peanuts anyway (love P.B.J. though-yum).

peanut plant

My secluded sister spends about two months going through all the catalogs (starts around Thanksgiving) and then presents me with her selections about mid-January.  The poor thing comes to me like the Hunchback of Notre Dame; all bent out of shape, glazed eyes, staggering – it’s sad.

hunchback   (yes, hee hee, her hair does look like that – she’s gonna kill me for this post.)

I gingerly accept the catalogs and various spreadsheets from her (including all the scribbles, highlights, and sticky notes) and quietly slip into the office to review.

I then have to remember to ask her if she checked all her findings against our current seed collection.  You would think by now either she or I would remember do to this first – not.  Angry, frustrated, and mentally over-worked she snatches back the documents and heads back to her solitary confinement.

angry kitty face

Once again she emerges from the bowels of the porch and presents me with the “updated” documents, and once again I gingerly accept them.  I do fail to mention that I have, while she was re-working everything, dug up last year’s seed order inventory, compared it to our spreadsheets on planting and growing progress, and created an updated inventory with which to begin this new year list. Finally:

TADA –  HOUSTON WE HAVE LIFT OFF!

AB snowman

Gold stars all around! 

This new year’s seed orders are complete and thus sailing into charted waters and:

our bounty 2016    A boon be the bounty ahead.   Arrrgg Matie.

 

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HOW COULD WE HAVE A WORLD WITHOUT THESE?

Those of you have been following me know that I am a “natural” nut.  Our farm and gardens are all grown using natural methods.  We do not like or use chemicals, nor do we care for hybrids (as most will not produce viable seeds for the next year growth), or GMO’s.  We grow mainly heirloom fruits and veggies, and we try to encourage the natural vegetation for our area (Even the bindweed as long as it stays out of my gardens.  It passes that line, and I feel I have a right to use all the salt, vinegar, and soap as necessary.).

I also subscribe to emails from the Smithsonian, and the Health and Science section of the Washington Post. (Nothing with politics as it stops me from sleeping.)  The email I received on 10/12/17 got me all upset.  This was the headline:

BANANAPOCALYPSE:  The race to save the world’s most popular fruit.

had heard about a month ago, the threat of a disease to the crops in South America.  I also know that is where the US gets the majority of its bananas.  I am a self-proclaimed banana-holic.  I love the darn things in so many different ways:

  • Banana bread (the obvious choice)
  • Strawberry-banana smoothies (Grandsons favorite choice).
  • Frozen Bananas dipped in chocolate (These were called “Monkey Bars” at a long-gone little drive-in, in Wisconsin, called the Tinker-Tot.).
  • Bananas sliced on cereal with milk cold.
  • Bananas sliced in oatmeal with a bit of honey and milk.
  • Banana malt (milkshake to most, however, I prefer the malt flavor best).
  • Just plain old bananas.

They have got to be my most favorite fruit, and they help keep up my potassium levels (bonus!).  So I am very saddened to hear of this latest epidemic.  I hope you all read and share the full article, then pray for a natural miracle.

I did not read in anywhere in the article if they have discovered where the TR4-resistant strain (disease) originated?  My first thought was if you know what it is, and you know what it does to the target plant (in this case my lovely bananas), then why wouldn’t you spend the scientific time and money to figure out how to kill the fungus in its tracks?  What good is all their GMOing if it just the fungus just catches on and comes up with its own new tweaked version of attack?

I do not want my amazing bananas to go away completely nor forever, but I also am not thrilled about the method the people in the know are taking to try to help.  I do not believe that in the long run, splitting and splicing, mixing and matching, is not the answer.  They knew that this first appeared as TR1 discovered in the 1950’s, found a unique variety in China and cloned it – why haven’t they been working on a cure for the fungus since then and not just a disease resistant temporary fix banana?

To me, it is like using makeup to cover up acne.  The condition maybe masked but it is still there, and without the proper medication it will continue to thrive.

Then again, we still do not know how to cure a common cold – oh well.

Thank you for allowing me to share my soapbox with you.

silly bananas

 

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PLOWSHARE THURSDAY – Do you have one?

There are so many times that I have been asked for help, or asked someone else for help and got hung up on the description.

“WHAT IS THIS GROWING ON MY HERB LEAVES?”
“WHAT KIND OF BUG HAS WINGS AND IS EATING MY PEPPERS?”
“WHY IS MY PLANT DYING?”

Sound familiar? Either you have confronted someone with these issues (and more), or someone has approached you is just as vague. This brought me to my plowshare today – cameras.

Yes, it sounds simple enough, but try to remember it every time you go outside or to your gardening area. I usually take my cell phone with me. However, when I go out to water, I don’t (fear of getting it wet). I finally figured out that’s a dumb thing to do. When I am watering is when I am up close and personal with most all of my plants. This is usually when I spot something I need help with, or that I can use to help someone else.

So instead of being afraid of getting it wet (yes, I get carried away with water, and I am proud of it!), I am now trying to remember to bring it with me outside more.

The biggest reason for this change is (after whacking myself in the forehead a few times) physical proof. It doesn’t matter if you are using your cell phone, an Instamatic, digital, or even an old-fashioned camera; just as long as you can get a clear picture.
I can not believe how long it took me to figure this one out, especially in light of my home repair methods. Decades ago I taught myself an invaluable lesson:

When needed a piece to do any home repair work – remove the old one and take it with you.

This has become my subconscious creed. It is automatic for me to do this anymore. So, duh, why am I not doing the same in my exterior areas as I do in my interior areas. Both are in need of a variety of maintenance procedures. Well, as of this fall all that silliness has ceased. I now either carry my phone or a camera with me every time I go outside, even if it is just to sit and relax for a nice evening, a mode of picture capture is in my grasp.

I hope that all of you reading this, begin this habit IMMEDIATELY! I wish I would have years ago. I would have enough pics now for a full book on problems and conditions in gardens and what to do about them. Oh well, life goes on. Happy gardening!

leaf-bug-10-3-17.jpg

(Leaf Bug – first year on our farm that I have ever seen them – woo hoo!)

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HOW DANGEROUS IS YOUR GARDENING?

This question came up while I was driving by a farmer the other day.  He was out on one of their huge new-fangled tractors (you know, the kind with the cab over it for heating and A/C), with the strangest thing I ever saw behind it.

My father’s influence made me pull over and watch it for a bit.  He is long gone now, but I still look at all the newest farm stuff with him in mind.  The thing behind the tractor, at first, looked like a normal plow – no way.  It turned out to be anything but “normal” in my eyes.

(ours – pretty close anyway)                     (the newbies)

We used to have to take wide swatches when we plowed because it was not easy or safe to turn a tractor pulling any heavy equipment in tight formation.  So, the common practice was to begin in the center of the field, plow through it and along the far side bottom to the farthest corner.  Turn and plow up to the top, across the top, then go back down next to the row you first created.  You simply drove in a type of rectangle/circle formation moving one row over each time until you got back to the gate where you entered the field.  It worked perfectly fine.

Well, this new creation would have made my cousin squeal with joy.  Before he even got his drivers license, he was elected (pretty sure he didn’t volunteer for the job) to plow up one of our fields.  He was kind of cocky so when he got the general gist of the project he took off.

We happened to be riding along the lane next to the field when it happened.  He was going too fast and not paying attention to the plow in the back.  Took a corner too fast and too tight, and the tractor wheel got caught in the plow and lifted the front end of the tractor right up off the ground.  Luckily he was so scared and shook up that he took his foot off the peddles too fast, and the tractor quit right there.  He could not get it all undone by hand and had to go, teary-eyed, back up to the house for dad’s help.

I am glad I was there to see it. However, this new-fangled plow would never do that.  The farmer had some type of hydraulic system that actually picked up the plow into the air, flipped it around, and set it back down.  He was able to go whipping back-and-forth, up-and-down through the whole field with barely slowing down – AMAZING!

Pretty sure my dad is in heaven somewhere, wetting himself, watching me watching that.

angel dad humor

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PLOWSHARE THURSDAY – COMPANIONS.

The thing I am most grateful for in our gardening endeavors today is that we learned how to use “companion planting” to our benefit!

Those that may not have heard of this before: It is the method of planting that puts one or more plants next to each other, to naturally protect and strengthen them.

What this means is very simple:

  • Plant carrots with tomatoes.

carrots n tomatoes

  • Plant dill with just about everything.

dill-in-gh.jpg

  • Plant marigolds with just about everything.

marigolds

  • Oh, and when possible, leave a place totally natural – untouched!

wild plant area

The last one is a HUGE secret that we found out about last year.

The fire three years ago set us back on all of our normal routines.  The biggest damage occurred on the land and gardens.  To have something, anything, for harvest in the fall of 2014; we chose to let parts of the farm and gardens go natural.

Then in 2015, we were still trying to get a handle on things, and I was still doing surgeries.  Since I am the main person working on the farm and gardens, I was in no shape to keep up with it all (and we only garden on about 5 of our 20 acres.).

It was summer of 2016 when it came time to finally tame the whole area.  We have one long field that is about 100-feet wide by about 200-feet long.  It is the length of the whole main area of our farm.  Nothing is growing in there except weeds and wild grasses.  The chickens loved roaming around in there after bugs and worms.  The problem by mid-summer is that we could not see the chickens in the tall grasses anymore – HUGE DANGER FOR CHICKEN FARMERS!

Even though we had not seen or heard a coyote or fox in a couple of years, we did not want to take the chance.  Thus the major mowing finally began.  My sister was smart!  Out of the fire funds, we managed to purchase a John Deere Riding Mower – best investment ever!!

I put on my pretty sun hat (not – but it works- ha ha), doused myself with sun screen and bug repellant started the monster up and away I went.  What fun it actually was!  I could get pretty close to things so we would only have to push-mow a few spots when I was done.

When I got to the long field, I went around the first corner, and a praying mantis landed on my arm!  I stopped mowing, caught it with my hand and put it into the greenhouse.  It took me about 3 hours that first day to clear that long field (normal is only about 1 hour), due to the friendly critters!

We then realized that the corner where we had a pile of old wooden posts had attracted a bunch of bad bugs, which then attracted a bunch of good bugs – viola – natural pest controls!

We used to trim up everything thinking that this would keep the nasties away – nope, the best we ever did was to leave the woodsy area alone.  Most of the long field gets mowed now, but a large section with the wood gets left untouched.

Companion planting works in the same manner.  You plant things next to each other to deter the bad bugs and naturally attract the good bugs.  I even let the dill in the greenhouse run amok this summer.  It is over five-feet tall.  Has seed heads the size of basketballs, and attracts the aphids.  I have no clue why they love the dill more than all else, but they do.

I can now plant dill in succession and simply cut down and bad the old buggy stuff and throw it in the trash.  The plastic bags will suck out the air and kill them, or they will be moved to the dump when the trash guy comes.

I can still find a bit on my food plants – but not as much and it is easy to take care of with wash or wiping.

Hope this helps – happy gardening!

(If you enjoyed this bit of humor, please feel free to visit my latest blog: Life Lessons Lived  to get more laughter in your life!)

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SEASON TWO – WOO HOO!!

It’s time for the next game-plan here on our little slice of heaven – food season!

The grandson started school this week. Therefore I now have more time to spend on/in the gardens (can you hear me jumping for joy?!).

First thing I am working on is revamping the greenhouse.  It’s been going well for the last five years, but it’s time for some improvements, at least I hope they will be in the long run.

  1. Tomato Racks: We have tried a number of ways to work with our tomatoes to get the best results:
    1. Wire tomato cages – not good in the greenhouse. The weather in there makes the cages fall apart after only a couple of years.
    2. We took an idea from our local Corp. Hydroponic Tomato Plant. They “hang” their tomatoes on long lines.  Once I understood the necessity of trimming off lower branches and useless branches, hanging seemed like a great idea.  Nope, the ropes disintegrated, and wires cut the stalks.
    3. Let them lay where they will. VERY WRONG IDEA!  Yes, we had tons of tomatoes, but we could not find most of them until too late.  Either they would rot or get stepped on.  Unless we could see them, we would lose them (and we lost too many for our liking!).
    4. Now we think we have a solution – a wooden rack:

 

So far, so good!  The only issue we have is that I thought of it too late.  The tomatoes in the background (pic on the left shows best – the walkway disappeared – hee hee), are how long and bushy we are already.

We had to go on one row/side of the plot and flip all the branches over to the other side.  Then we installed the rack.  Once in place, we very delicately found each vine and hung it on the rack.  There is a metal field fence (has 4”x4” squares to it) piece attached to the wooden rack for us to build the vines on.

They went into a bit of shock right after propping up; however, it has been about two weeks now, and they are starting to bounce back.  During the whole time, we had plenty of tomatoes.  We had enough that we can begin our barter time:

  • Eggs for tomatoes.
  • Squash for tomatoes
  • Fruit for tomatoes
  • Even got a new thermostat on the truck for a loaf of bread and a bunch of tomatoes (tiny eaters and large sandwich type).

We hope to have the three racks installed in that row by the end of the month (mid-September at the latest).  The front faces west which is our most intense heat.  This leaves the east side in full to partial shade by mid-afternoon.  Carrots, lettuce, spinach are going in there.  We are also building frames to go over the racks for extra cover on really cold nights.  One other year we had tomatoes through Christmas. Hope we can do that again this year.  Fresh tomatoes make such a great gift!

Happy gardening!!

(If you enjoyed this bit of humor, please feel free to visit my latest blog: Life Lessons Lived  to get more laughter in your life!)

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PLOWSHARE THURSDAY AUGUST 17, 2017:

I was away for a bit, but am now back.  Since I was also away from my gardens and garden work, I had a TON of catching up to do.  Funny how falling out of sync for just one week can throw your gardens into an ugly frenzy!

My share today, because of the garden frenzy, is this great little invention:

y-faucet connectorHere we call it a Y-connector.  Most people will attach it to their outside faucet to obtain the ability to water two spots at once.  We go the next step.  We have drip lines EVERYWHERE in our gardens.  They are most helpful in the greenhouse as there is no rain to supply backup water in there.

Even with our whole end swamp cooler going, the plots in there can still dry out pretty fast.  Especially on those 90+ degree days with full sun.  When we initially started up the greenhouse, everything was watered by human power.  Dragging a hose with a nozzle on the end of it up and down, over and under all the plots and plants – not a good thing Martha!

Then (as it always seems to happen) we got smart!  Drip lines were installed.  We tried several different types with several different connections and extensions.  Over the years, and a ton of trial and fail, we came up with running two long lines about six to eight inches away from the edges of the plots the full length of the plots.  Since the plots are about forty feet long and the lines are about fifty feet long, we looped the ends to come back into the center of the plots.  We used to connect to each line one-at-a-time – DUH!  Thus the inclusion of Y-connectors.

We now have both drip lines connected to the same single y-connector.  The end of that has a quick-connect attachment which we can then simply snap on and off each plot for easy, even watering.  We have our own well, but I set a timer for everything I do.  The normal time of each plot is thirty minutes.  This manages to place the water right where the plant root systems are set.  We also (just this year – another “get smart” idea that came to us) set the lines about two to three inches below the surface.  This has managed to deep water beautifully!

We used this maneuver on one of our outside tomato lines for the first time this year – outstanding results!  Before this, we would just place them on the top of the soil near the plant stalk.  It never appeared to be providing the amount of water that we wanted.  By setting them up “BELOW” the surface, the results have been amazing.

It should be noted that we do not use any type of poking device to make a hole for the initial sets transplants.  Hands work just fine, and my finger nails get a strong dose of great minerals that make them stronger (don’t know how that works, just that it does?).

Please feel free to comment any questions you have in our method(s), and I will be happy to share our secrets with you.

Happy Gardening!

 

WHERE DO YOU DO “IT” AT?

Ok, most of you – get out of the gutter! I am talking about food processing here.
We have such a nice new house with outstanding new porches that it would be a shame not to use them every chance we get.
Well, the food processing season has come upon us once again. This time around we decided to do the messiest parts of the job outside whenever possible. The beginning project is beets.
Those of you have (and love) done up pickled beets know just how messy they get. The red in them, I swear, could dye the roughest of materials! With having such a beautiful, huge, new kitchen; the last thing we wanted to do was dye areas with bits of the red mess. Thus our decision to process them outside.
The cooking was done inside as that is easy enough to maintain, but the peeling and cutting are definitely done outside.
I sit on one side of the 8’x8’ area:

8-4 my fav process spot

My sister sits on the other:

8-4 d fav process spot

(Her delicate butt gets the extra chair pad – so not fair as mine is rutabaga style and deserves more!)
We have our garden tool box, music, some plants that will go back into the house come fall, and of course a place to set our drinks. The pics here are when we enjoy the area the most – early morning!
There is a yellow bug light bulb in the porch light to keep most of them at bay. The fun part is when we turn on the south door light (a regular 60-watt bulb), it will draw up all kinds of critters. The critters find their way to the front yard, and we can view them comfortably from our perch.
The honeysuckle is just past the porch which attracts some really cool critters: humming birds, humming bird moths, during the day we get a variety of bees and butterflies. I think I prefer the night ones; they are usually more interesting.
Once we have the base steps done in the house, it is time to venture to the veranda:

8-5 how we process foods-beets

If you look close at the bottom, you can see one of our many un-requested helpers doing what they normally do – sleep (animals!?). Also, note how smart my sister is! She remembered to put on her latex gloves BEFORE beginning – woo hoo smartie! We purchased boxes of the disposable things specifically for the beets and hot peppers. Now we need to have some type of auto-reminder not to touch your face when you are processing foods as you will end up with pepper juice in the eyes, and very pretty red dye streaks all over your face and neck (yes, been there, done that!).

If you enjoyed this (and maybe laughed a bit), then please check out my new blog: Life Lessons Lived where I share more bits and pieces of my humoristic life!

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PLOWSHARE THURSDAY – PREVENTION GEAR!

Hi, guys!  Sorry, I have not been keeping up with things, but if you read my last post, you know why.  This Plow Share is to tell you more about my new favorite best friend in the garden – the head cover.

bug net cover (This one is from Amazon – under $5)

I originally found these things years ago and purchased them through a sporting goods website.  Oh, silly me!  I guess at the time the only reason for one was when you went fishing.  It kept all the water bugs off your face while you fished.

Well, times have changes sister, and we need these everywhere!

At first, it was just the tiny gnats that were bothering me while watering.  Then came the black flies and their nasty bites as the weather warmed.  Of course, we cannot forget the mosquito and all its plagues.

If you read my last post, then you know (and saw) the reasons why this is now my new best garden friend!  I have gotten bit or stung on several parts of my body (mainly arms and legs but there has been the occasional buttox when I bend over) with very little reaction.  I was even bitten by a Brown Recluse which has left a nasty scar, but my great immune system held it at bay.  I have never had a severe allergic reaction to anything until now.  The funny part is that it was the cure and not the cause that had the bad reaction.

brown recluse    (FYI you are supposed to spot the “fiddle” on its back?!)

I consider myself very lucky in the fact that it never affected my lungs.  My breathing throughout all of this remained normal, as did my blood pressure – go figure?!  My doctors and I boiled it down to the fact that the sting was on my face (never happened with a wasp before – or a bee).  Apparently, the thin skin (who would have thought I have “thin” anything – ha ha), gave the poison a perfect reaction area.

So, my share this week is to also warn – GET YOUR GEAR ON!  I do not use bug spray on my head area (a weird thing I have about chemicals and my face), but this head screen gear is a Godsend to gardeners!  It may have been created just for fish folks – but herbivore’s like it too!

WHEN TROUBLE COMES IN THREES WHAT CAN YOU DO?

I started this post but got too wordy. So, instead, I am going to tell you a story.

Once upon a time, there was a young, old woman who loved to garden. She loved the seeds, the starts, the transplanting and even the weeding.

This young, old woman was so into her gardens that she did not mind if a bee landed on her to say hi or rest. It did not make her flinch to come across a spider the size of a silver dollar while working away. Even the surprise toad or snake did not deter her from her daily visits to the natural beauty.
lady and a bee
Then one week she had the terrible three’s visit her.
First: She ran into the turkey door latch and severely bruised her upper arm (which just happened to be right by her first major surgery: Reverse rotator cuff replacement).

Second: She tripped over the mat by the front yard garden gate and fell on her left side ribs. This caused her to take her breath away, and she was very sore, but still able to go on.

Then, late Friday afternoon that week the terrible third struck. While humming one of her favorite songs and weeding the front yard patio, she heard a buzzing sound by her right ear. The dreaded black biting flies had been around all afternoon, but she would put on a bit more bug repellant, and they would leave her alone. She believed it was just another fly, so she raised her hand to shew it away. Little did she realize at that moment she was irritating a wasp!

The monster stung her right by her right ear – on the face. She again did not flinch as she assumed it was the black fly. The evening went on as a normal Friday game night, but she realized that the right side of her face was very hot and kind of itchy.
On Saturday morning, she realized that her right eye seemed a bit blocked. Taking her normal morning trip to the bathroom, she glanced into the mirror and was shocked! The whole right side of her face was swollen. She now realized that it was not a black fly that stunk her – it was her old nemesis the wasp!

Then by Sunday morning, the swelling was growing across her face. Having been stung many times before (mind you there was NEVER a serious allergic reaction – EVER!) she simply took some aspirin, grabbed an ice pack and proceeded to place it on and off her face all the rest of that day.

Monday morning came, and the swelling was still getting worse, so she decided she had better visit her local hospital ER. Upon arriving and being all checked in, the doctor prescribed prednisone – 20 mg which is a type of steroid. She immediately went to her friendly pharmacy and filled the prescription. As soon as she got back into her car, she took the first pill.

Later Monday afternoon her head felt as if it was on fire. She was heating up but chilled, and everything (including her hair) had a burning itch which she was told not to scratch. That night she felt flu-like symptoms: Fever, chills, and a possible need to throw up.

Tuesday morning, she was the size of a party balloon! The swelling was not going down but seemed to be getting worse. Her eyes were so swollen she could not even see her beloved computer to write her thoughts. She took the 2nd pill.

balloon head

Wednesday was, even more, worse than Tuesday, but she took the 3rd of the four pills. Completely miserable, she could not sleep that night. Luckily the ER Doctor did tell her to schedule a follow-up appointment with her regular Doctor within 4-days. She had done so and was to see her doctor on the next morning.

Thursday morning came, and she did NOT take the last pill (by now it had dawned on her that the steroid and she were not in agreement!) and headed off to her doctor.
Once the Doctor took one look at her she knew – this was some type of allergic attack. Her Doctor proceeded to call over to her Pharmacist an order of Claritin and Zantac (prescription level) and over-the-counter Benadryl.

The young, old woman got safely back home and immediately started the routine of meds. By that same evening the burning, itching all over her head had ceased! Saturday morning she would see out of the left eye, but it was still fairly swollen. It took a full 10-days for all the bad steroid reaction to mellow out.

The moral of this young, old woman’s story:

Use the damn head nets you bought three years ago stupid!
(See Plow Share Thursday for more info.)

alergy pic 1 6-10    alergy pic 2 6-15

alergy-pic-3-6-17.jpg    alergy pic 4 6-26 all better

All better!