Although It's Been Said, Many Times, Many Ways, Merry Christmas to YOU and Yours!

     Every year we send out our homemade Christmas cards. This year we sent out over a hundred and sixty of them. If you did not receive one, here is your copy, just as filled with love as the ones sent by mail. Truly. We hope this Christmas finds you and your loved ones happy, healthy and richly Blest by The Lord.

"So far, so good...I'll try to stay out of trouble...Mom and Dad will let you know how that works out, I'm sure."


The New and Better Cover

Since we published our book, Space Freighter First Dock: Neo-Eden last August 8th, a little more than four months ago, initially it didn't 'take off', as far as sales. Folks commented that they didn't like the cover which I, Peggy, had quickly put together, (seen below),
so, we opted to hire a much awarded book cover artist, Tatiana Villa. As you can see, she did an amazing job and it has made a big difference in our sales. While as yet, we haven't actually 'launched' our advertising campaign, it has been selling, and a few of the readers have been nice enough to take the time to give us reviews. 
  We are thrilled that every review has received 5 stars! This has so encouraged us that we have been busily working on the next book in the (what we hope to be) a series. This next leg of our adventure will be to the airless 'rock' called "Oer". As of yet, we have no working title.
Although I have friends who tell me that they aren't fond of science fiction, I let them know that while it's always not been the kind of subject I like reading, either, Cappy and I 'write like we write'. We write our books in the same style as we write our blog here: Once't ya get past Cappy's highly scientific information that's needed to put our readers where they need to be in time and space, the story blooms and the characters come to life.
We just thought we should give you an update, because, actually, many of you, our readers, have encouraged us for years, to "write a book...write a book!" So to this we say, "Well, there ya go!"


Merry Christmas from Cappy Claus

I have been really enjoying wishing folks a Merry Christmas and asking God to Bless yall and everyone I see as I go around town on my Christmas errands.  Here I am with my beloved ol' rusty "sleigh", Tinker Bayl, run by horsepower instead of reindeer, pullin' her along.
I go around, "Ho! Ho! Ho!-ing" and smiling, and passing out candy canes to the very young and old, who seem to appreciate the gesture.
So with a hearty "Ho! Ho! Ho!" Here's wishing you and yours the most joyous and Blessed of Christmases.
From Cappy Claus


The "Get Well" Gumbo

When we usta come down with the winter sniffles, Mama would make what she called her 'get well gumbo'.  It starts with a full 5 lbs. of yellow onions julienned, and a full head of garlic in a stock pot of water.  She seasoned it with her own special blend of Cajun Seasoning, a lot of powdered cayenne pepper and 2 tablespoons (!) of Zatarain's concentrated liquid crab boil.  
  When she got all this to boiling, she added a big baking hen that the butcher had cut into "gumbo pieces", being that, even the bones are sawed open, exposing the rich marrow. To all this, she added sliced smoked Cajun sausage and also special South Louisiana Andouille sausage. 
    As part of her larder, there were quarts of smothered okra lining the shelves of her pantry, so she'd open one and put that in to help thicken her gumbo.
   Well, seeing as Peg has had a bad case of tonsillitis, has been running a fever and aching all over, I followed my Mom's 'prescription', as laid out above.
    After it had been merrily boiling away for a of couple hours, I added green onion sliced and parsley, both from our garden and let it boil some more. 
   The fiery spicy hot soup with the overdose of onion and garlic is supposed to be healthy and good for your cold; apparently the germs can't take the heat.   
Next time, I need to remember to make this amazing 'medicinal' soup, but not wait for someone to be sick before I decide to cook it.  It's truly is an amazing soup and as Mama usta say, "It's good for what ails ya."
   ...Now, this particular pot of gumbo is the most special pot of "get well gumbo" that we have ever made.  Rooting around in our freezer, I came across a pack of Andouille sausage that our recently dearly departed friend, Todd had given us this time last year. Peggy and I both were in tears when we realized that it hadn't been that long ago that Todd had been alive and busy making sausage, boudin, wine...so alive enjoying his whole world and sharing it with everybody. Todd was so popular and poured out his life helping others, and he was a highly esteemed critical care nurse. He had chosen his profession well.
  So, here I was, alone in the kitchen making a gumbo to make Peggy get well, but...I wasn't alone, because Todd, even from Heaven was helping me minister to Peggy, nursing her back to health. (She's feeling much better now)
    God Rest ye, merry Gentleman, and thank you again, so very, very much!


Bonfires on the Mississippi River Levee; a Cajun Christmas Tradition

I have been told that the lighting of the bonfires on Christmas Eve to light Santa's way along the banks of the Mississippi River is the oldest local Christmas tradition in the country.  I am not sure if this is true, but "Laura, a Creole Plantation" has this wonderful picture in its archives:  
When I was a youngster, the origin of the tradition was explained to me in the form of a story:
     Years ago, families living along the River who wanted to trade merchandise or do business, and such, or, those who intended to get on board one of the vessels for travel, and needing the steamships to stop, would signal the Riverboat captains with a bonfire.  Naturally, as Christmas neared, people needed the steamboats to transport presents and Christmas cheer up and down the River, so many signal fires burned every night leading up to the holidays.
    Legend has it that a young child stood on the river bank with his parents, watching as they lit a fire to signal the boats.  The child asked, "Papa, why are there so many fires on the river tonight?"
  The quick thinking parent answered, "Mah, Cher, das so Papa Noel can find his way up da River bringing presents to all the good little children along the way." 
  And, maybe it was kind of true; after all, the steamboats were loaded with Christmas gifts and Holiday travelers.  
    This is the story I was told about how the tradition started and of the legend of Papa Noel finding his way along the River in the dark of night and seeing the bonfires, he knew where to stop so that he could deliver presents to the good little children's homes.
    And thus, the legend of the signal fire was born.  True or not, the tradition has been celebrated for over a hundred years in the little towns of Gramercy and Lutcher, Louisiana, who are right next door to each other.  
   Two years ago, Christmas Eve, Peggy and I crossed the Mississippi Veteran's bridge to take in all the intricate and beautiful bonfire structures atop the levee as folks were putting their finishing touches on them, in preparation for the lighting of the bonfires that night, after dark.  We made two back-to-back videos of our trip, and apologize for the sound on both. But...if you manage to "ride along" with us for the duration, a little more than half an hour, total,  you will get a good idea about the festivities that take place in our 'neck of the woods' on Christmas Eve, as though you were here along with 
 us. You'll need to click the lower right hand square kind of icon...the four corners with the sides of the 'square' missing, to enlarge the screen to get a better view of your 'ride'! (Next time we'll wash the car windows before we leave.)
After this first video, we attended Christmas Eve Mass, then,  
after Mass we began a slow wonderful trip home enjoying the bonfires in all their Christmas Eve glory.  This video does not give justice to this amazing colorful Christmas tradition, but we tried to capture it for you. We were in almost standstill bumper-to-bumper traffic, but we think it's the best way to see it all, not driving down the road in a rush. As you can tell by the diversity of loud music along the ride, the New Orleans area is truly a melting pot of cultures, and all joyously enjoying the celebration of the Season.  
  If you ever find yourself in South Louisiana around Christmas time, you really owe it to yourself to experience this unique Christmas tradition.  Until then, grab a glass of eggnog and come along with us as we ride along River Road, slowly making our way home enjoying this yearly Christmas Eve burning of the bonfires.


Under Construction

A note to those of you are already curious about this years Christmas card.  They are under construction.

Each one, and this is around a third or less of them, thoughtfully  highlighted and prayed over and lovingly stuffed and addressed and stamped as our gift to family and friends. 


Our Good Friend, Todd

       Friday the 13th, of November 2015, just a couple of weeks ago, was not a good day.  I lost a very good friend, that day.
  I don't rightly know how I came to know Todd Rodrigue; we are not kin to one another, we didn't go to school together, nor are we neighbors.  We met here in town amongst a group of good ol' boys who love to get together over a pot, or smokehouse, or stove, or fire in general to pool their talents and hone their bragging rights afresh about their own techniques and ways of cooking up some real honest-to-goodness Cajun foodstuffs to go along with a few of their own assorted beverages, jokes and stories. Over the years, Todd and I became good friends. (tall fella standing next to me) Many's the time he'd just stop by and we'd spend time comparing notes on...well, life in general. I cherish those times, knowing what a busy man he was, had so many friends and things to do, yet he'd find time to come and just sit a spell with me.
   Those of you who read our blog will know him from many boudin making and outdoor cooking adventures.  The man was indeed, a true Cajun adventurer and I couldn't begin to list all the things he loved, but he deeply valued the 'old ways'; the 'traditions' and struggled to live them and pass them on.  Just a few of these things were fishing, hunting, and he trapped. He was a competition shooter, who won lots of awards.  He was an avid gardener and home brewer.  Smokehouses, bbq pits, and garden boxes filled his back yard. I like to think I was the one who inspired him to do raised bed gardening, but he far surpassed me and branched into grape and berry production for his wine making.  He supplemented his income in typical Cajun fashion with commercial fishing and crabbing, hunting, and a number of other projects, but his main income was being a night shift ICU nurse, and was awarded nurse of the year 2015.

  His daughter, Taylor put it so well:
                                             Daddy's Eulogy
   Taylor Michelle Rodrigue .  Wednesday November 18, 2015
   "Saint John Paul the Great said, “Doctors, nurses, and other health care workers are called to be the living image of Christ and of his Church in loving the sick and the suffering.” My daddy certainly lived up to this reputation that JPII set. Within his career as a nurse, he has touched and saved many lives, but especially within those last seven months of his life.
Daddy told me many stories of helping other cancer patients in ICU and those who were dying. My favorite is this—while tending to another cancer patient one night in ICU, the patient complained of how no matter how much education the doctors and nurses may have, none of them will ever understand what it is like to live the horrendous disease of cancer in their body. To which my daddy responded, “I’m in the same fight as you,” and then he showed the patient where his port was located at. He began using his disease as a source of comfort and trust with his patients. He took his disease and used it for the good of others. This story is the basis for two lessons that daddy taught everyone encountered—never give up, and look for the positive in a negative events in life.
Other than his career, my daddy had a lot of pride and joy in his wine and beer making, shooting competitions, cooking just about anything, hunting, and most importantly supporting Ty and me in anything we ever did. The best memory I have of my daddy’s support is when I was ranked the top swimmer for the 50-yard butterfly coming out of prelims. I was super excited because I had always hoped and tried to be the fastest swimmer. In finals, I was beat by a hand-touch. I was so upset and went straight to him because I was now in second. I felt that I had let him down because he was just as excited as I was about me being the top swimmer. My daddy surprised me and told me that he was still proud of me, no matter the outcome.
My daddy was a strong man, and I have that same strength within me. I will miss him daily and know that not a day will pass that I won’t think about him. But, his suffering is over. The battle is over, but he actually won. Heaven is the greatest reward that one can win. My daddy saved many people’s lives throughout his career, but it was God’s time to save his."

Todd was amazing family man. He got to see his daughter, Taylor, graduate valedictorian. He leaves behind a wonderful family. 
   We, of course attended his funeral and saw that he was wearing his work uniform, a snow white shirt adorned with several medals he had acquired, but because he was such a quiet, humble modest man, he never spoke to us about them. He had been promoted as head of the nursing department at Thibodaux Regional Hospital. We were touched to see so very many nurses show up, wearing their uniforms, white shirts with navy trousers. One of his fellow workers wrote on his facebook page after the funeral:
"As I awoke today, still with swollen eyelids and bags under my eyes, I am somewhat at peace. Your last command to us, to wear our blue and whites and to follow behind you as we proceeded to your eternal place of rest, was an honor. Your family is so amazing, as they even comforted ME in my time of sorrow."
  During the procession behind the casket, the large contingency of nurses followed behind, and we noticed an EMT in his dark navy jacket uniform trying so hard to hold up, his face in a grimace of sorrow. Todd had no doubt worked with him to save patients that the EMT had brought to the hospital. Our thoughts were that, in his line of duty, this man has seen many tragic sights, but the loss of his friend, Todd, was about more than he could bear.
  So...so many people loved Todd. He touched so many lives. It was a true honor and privilege to come to know this big man and to have him call me his friend. I will carry my memories of our good times together to my grave.  As I light up the bbq pit, or take a sip of homemade wine, throw a fishin' line into the water, take aim with my rifle, I will remember him. I sorely miss him already, but I know he is with our Lord and Savior now. 
    Our Savior liked fishermen and enjoyed wine so much that when He didn't have any handy, He made some.  Fish not biting?...Hah! Talk about a fish tale! (but at least His tales are True!) I can imagine the Lord showing Todd how fishing is done up there while savoring a glass of His blend of wine.
  Men like Todd and me try to live by example. Todd was the finest example and I really look forward to seeing him again.    


Spooky Black Cats and Rhoda

   Mrs. JingleBells seems to be the only cat left in our yard. The others have gone to find more deserving homes, no doubt, where no crazy bichons will terrorize their every move. The strangest thing happened this week. I told Mrs. JingleBells, while petting her as she sat on my lap in the grape arbor, "I miss all your kids. Where did they go? At least bring back Moe-fee to see me; he was a pretty silly boy, who loved me." He's been gone for about a month and a half. I was just talking. She was just purring.
   The next day...the very next day (!) who showed up! Moe-fee; he still has his baby mew...for some reason, while his siblings acquired a full depth 'meow', his was always a tiny 'mew'. So, how odd, but then his mom was  nowhere around that day. What's up with these silly black cats? He was gone the next day, and his mom was back. Spooky.
  Speaking of spooky, it, being today, I was trying to remember the creepiest thing I could remember about my childhood, but the only thing I came up with, was our cellar. We lived in Olean, NY, on top of the levee of the Olean Creek. From my Dad's memoirs, I learned that his uncle Dan, a tugboat captain, had built our house in the mid-1800's. It was a fine old house, built over a basement which was crudely dug into the ground. There were no real concrete walls, perhaps a few stones lined the wall here and there, the floor was just  flattened, tamped down dirt. It was dark, the air was dank and cool, there was one 40 watt light bulb hanging near the stairs. There were several rooms down there, of which I never dared go into; it was sufficient enough for me to peer into the first room where decrepit shelves were lined with old, old canned goods, from who knows what generation, and where thick, ancient cobwebs draped everything.  Actually, I never wanted to venture down there at all. Just getting down into the basement was a very creepy challenge. First a huge very old door had to be lifted and secured, which was built into the cement floor of the closed-in back entryway to the house. One day, out of sheer curiosity, I decided to explore, so, peering down into the gloom, and cautiously feeling down into it with one foot, finding the icy cold hard cement step, then the next, and next, while trying to duck under where I thought spider webs might be lurking. Just then my brother showed up with a flashlight which flooded the whole stairwell where we immediately spotted several families of spiders roosting everywhere! GAH! We've never seen spiders like this in our lives! They were completely white. They looked like their bodies were made of a cellophane-like filament filled with puss!  Even their eight legs! We just stared at them, horrified, frozen where we stood, until a couple of the larger ones started moving about. We were then OUT of there! 
   Our Dad was nonplussed about it; he said they wouldn't bother us, if we didn't bother them. We saw them occasionally over the years. My Dad would send my brother down there to put something, or bring it up. Since he was a brave teenager at that point, he didn't seem to mind.
   Because it was such an undertaking for the electric meter reader, since he'd gotten older, my Dad decided to just leave the cellar door open. Still, the meter guy wasn't happy about having to get down those stairs trying to avoid those white spiders and finding his way around down there in the dark...he said he never did like that place. Well....who did?
  Adjacent to our house, there on the levee, was our family owned sign shop. It was western New York's oldest sign business. Our great-great grandfather started the business by hand-lettering stagecoaches. The business grew, whereby many types of signs were built by our sign company. As such, there was always some odds and ends that had to do with commercial art stashed here and there in and around the old sign shop. Many of the 3-dimensional art objects ended up in the house, as well. One of these was a mannequin. My dad brought her in during his lunch break and named her "Rhoda" one hot and summer day.
   My grandmother scolded that we had enough stuff in the house already and to take his 'date' elsewhere, but we three teenagers, my young aunt Bev (same age as I am), my brother and I, all thought that Rhoda was the coolest thing we'd seen in awhile, so persuaded Grandma to let us keep her.
   "Well, just keep her out of sight when company comes," ordered Grandma, lightly dusting off something with her lace-edged hankie.
    Rhoda might have been out of sight of company, but we dragged her everywhere. Although she had no hair, Bev being a beauty school student, fashioned her with a scull cap, much like "flappers" in my Dad's younger days used to wear. So, Rhoda looked just fine, we thought, for public display. We packed her into our friend's car and cruised around town, one time she showed up at my brother's band practice, anywhere my grandmother would not be caught dead, we took Rhoda. It was "The Summer of Rhoda".
 My Dad, our friend, Paul, Rhoda and me.
 Me with another black cat, Rhoda, Paul, and Bev with her dog.
   Rhoda, Paul, Bev and me. We all had a wonderful summer with her that year. We loved her shock value, as well, of course. That was her charm.
    Well, Fall set in and so did the rigors of school, so Rhoda kind of got left to go her own way. Grandma got disgusted with her being in the way all the time, she said. We put her in our bedrooms, but she kept getting in the way there, too.
   Sadly, we never realized that we hadn't seen her around for awhile. We were busy with school and after school activities.
   One quiet afternoon at the end of October, we heard a tremendous SHRIEK from somewhere in the house and a thundering coming up the cellar stairs, followed by the back door slamming HARD, as wailing was heard all across the back lawn and into the distance.
   A true mystery. It was solved somewhat later, as the meter man refused to come read the meter for six whole months, when he retired. It seems that his nerves were already frazzled as he slowly crept down those dark stairs into the cellar. He shined his dim flashlight around to find the archaic cobwebbed meter, then suddenly had a strange feeling on the back of his neck that someone was watching him. "Impossible," he thought, turning his flashlight to find himself face-to-face with Rhoda's cold dead eyes staring into his, as she stood, hidden in the corner just inside the door where Dad had put her for safekeeping. 
  The meter company had to send somebody out to fetch the poor old guy's flashlight and writing pad, in whatever direction he had tossed them in his haste to escape our "dungeon".
  Good Ol' Rhoda, she still had one good adventure left in 'er. She was, of course, then banished from our house, but we always hoped that wherever she was, she was still havin' the time of her...well...Life?


...And Thanks for all the Fish!

     Our beloved neighbors and good friends, Jude and Sonia
 own a camp down in the gulf marshes of South Louisiana, where they often go to relax and enjoy the wonderful coastal waters of our beautiful state.  The fishing there is among the best in the country. More often than not, they catch their limit of redfish, as shown here in the photos. These huge fish are no match for this li'l Cajun gal, Sonia! She hauls in monster-sized fish, right alongside the guys.
We've been blest on several occasions to be the recipient of some of their prized catches. Last month, they brought us an ice chest filled with three of these massive redfish, and the most beautiful flounder...we should have taken photos because they were all just that gorgeous...not to mention DELICIOUS!
Another fishing trip later and "here come da judge" with another two big beauties! (Jude is a judge by the way.) Can  you imagine? Words can't describe our appreciation for having such wonderful neighbors such as these.                                       
Thanking Jude, Sonia, and the Lord, we set about cleaning them, freezing some, and cooking some. None of it went to waste. Once everything was taken off the fish, we put the skin, bones, head...everything into a huge pot and boiled it, then discarded the bones (into the compost pile, which then will contribute to our gardening efforts). This "dirty broth" was then used to make dogfood, so even our "boys" benefited from the generous gift.
  What follows is another of the of the many ways we "honored" our gift fish with a hearty fish stew.  First, I cubed the succulent redfish into bite-sized pieces. By seasoning the fish in advance, it draws out excess moisture, which helps the fish to hold together while it cooks and keeps it from flaking apart.
Next, I added a li'l thick bacon cut into small pieces to grease the ol' black iron pot.
Once it's nice and browned, I added a couple of pounds of chopped yellow onion.  A trick I use when browning onions, is to season them with our own blend of Cajun seasoning.  The salt in the seasoning helps draw the water from the onions, which helps them brown quicker.
If the onions threaten to scorch as they slowly brown, I occasionally deglaze the pot with gluten free beer, wine, or water.  In this case, wine.
Once the onions are browned down to the point of caramelization, in goes an assortment of chopped bell peppers
and green onions from our garden.  
    Developing Cajun dishes is a slow process; it takes a little time, a little patience and a lot of love. After it finally "cooks down", we carefully stirred in a bit of cornstarch and water to thicken the gravy, then we added the seasoned cubes of redfish.
  When the fish was cooked, the dish was finished.  We plated a double serving over rice, with a side of green beans from our garden, and carried it across the street to Jude and Sonia, completing the cycle of the gift fish.
Thank God for good neighbors and great friends who occasionally catch too many fish. Now, I ask you: where else could we ever had come across seafood any fresher than caught-the-same-day fish? We couldn't have, unless we "judged the situation for ourselves". 


Smokin'!! Another 'Experiment' Gone RIGHT!

 While snooping around in cyberspace or watching food tv, lately, I've noticed folks talking about using coffee grounds in their bbq dry rubs. I normally take my coffee black and don't like anything in it...same with my beer, I want my beer to have beer in it. Well, despite this, my bein' a 'foodie' and all, it kinda got me curious.  
   It's really great having a friend with a smokehouse, 'cause he usually has an empty shelf when he's makin' his sausage. With that in mind, I mentioned to Sam that I was thinking about experimenting with a coffee ground rub on smoked meat. He said he was firing up his smokehouse in two days to make a batch of wild hog sausage, so it didn't take me long to hatch a plan. Two days later we were ready to start cookin'.
   The dry rub was simple: equal parts coffee grounds, Cajun seasoning, and light brown sugar.  I measured it out in a mason jar and headed over to Smokin' Sam's, taking along some chicken legs and pork steaks to give the dry rub a test run.
Here's what the chops looked like when they came out of the smokehouse where they had enjoyed a few smoky hours underneath Sam's 70 lbs of wild hog sausage.
I brought Peggy some samples, plus video and photos of the day's exploits, so she made a short video.
As you can plainly see, we had a good time like we always do, along with the results of our test. Now, I still don't want any chicken in my coffee, but I will take some coffee on my chicken, and I think I just might have to have another "chop" of coffee real soon.


We DID it!!

Well, now we are pretty excited. After more than a year and a half, we finally finished our book and it's on sale as an ebook. Within the first couple of minutes we sold one copy...woo hoo! There's an option to let people read 20% of the book for free, so about twenty (maybe) people are doing that right now...we hope they'll want to buy the whole thing. In a few days it should...we are HOPING... be available on Nook, Kindle, Amazon, and etc. The link is here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/566680
   I, Peggy, am not a huge fan of science fiction, so when Cappy asked me to co-author, I had a lot of input and fun weaving a lot of stories around the main story. I loved developing the characters and their funny dialogs.
  Cappy is amazing, to me. His knowledge of cutting edge science and imagination allows the reader to 'be there' in the future, living normal and exciting lives. There are no monsters, or witchcraft or aliens, but there are high adventures to be sure.
I, of course, am prejudiced, but to me, now, it's a "fun read". It's about a captain, much like 'our' Cappy, who pushed oil barges up and down the Mississippi River, and all around the bayous and back waters of South Louisiana. The barges he pushed were the size of football fields. The captain in our story, carries huge barges in the shape of octagonal freight containers from planet to planet. Pricey merchandise. Hmmm. Wouldn't a space freighter, traveling, isolated and alone out in the universe attract the attention of bad guys (pirates), looking to take advantage of the situation? Who's gonna survive?
Actually, we hope it's us! We hope it sells like gangbusters!
Well, since you've been along for so many 'rides' with us, here on our blog, we just wanted you to know where we've been and what we've been up to. Wish us well; we'll keep you updated.


2015 Fall/Winter Garden Experiment: Garlic; It's ALIVE!!!

Those of you who follow this blog, know we are always trying to raise new things in our garden beds.  We have a few square foot style garden boxes. The lengths vary, but none of them are more than four feet wide.
  One of our oldest 4'x4' boxes has been through several different incarnations.  We created it to be a simple, unassuming herb garden, and for several years it worked quite well, producing a variety of herbs, but also included one 'rosemary monster' who rose up and took over half the box one season. 
  We uprooted Rosemary and moved her to another part of the yard, where she pouted and decided to give up the ghost, no matter how hard we had tried to appease her. We tried resurrecting her, in a way, by buying more of 'her', time after time, planting, then digging her back up 'cuz she didn't like it there...or there....or nope, not there either. Finally,  we put her in Peg's new shade garden; the same spot 'she' had liked so well before. Well...so, then she got 'squashed' this year in the onslaught of the "Great Renegade Butternut Squash Takeover, Summer 2015." She's dead again, or so it appears.
  Next, in this same 4'x4' garden, we planted strawberries. This experiment lasted for several years. We bought strawberry plants from the local big box garden centers, and from the local ag. Since both of those efforts were unsuccessful, we then we hunkered like fiends over brightly colored seed and plant catalogs and rubbed our hands together waiting for our next strawberry specimen's arrival. Meanwhile, we fluffed up their bed with fresh straw from a feed store 15 miles down the road. We fertilized and watered and checked the chemical makeup of the soil. The healthy young strawberry plants arrived and got planted in amongst the paltry few who were still faltering, in their effort to survive. 
   Oh, they grew alright, these new ones. The bugs, the birds, and the blankety-blank weeds were having a ball in that bed, but we got barely a berry. And that last sentence was the best thing that we got out of that whole strawberry box deal.
   Talking with folks, we agree, that because of our extreme southern heat, strawberries will never do well here; at least in our yard. We live just south of prime strawberry growing territory. Drat! Foiled again.
  Back to Square One. What to try next?  Research!
  After picking a few brains; that of friends and garden forums, we decided to grid off the 4'x4' plot and try to bring new life into it. The body of our investigation and consultation of my associates led us to believe that we might be able to breathe new life into our garden by growing garlic. With that  in mind, we decided to execute this plan.
We dug through the old soil, worked it over and prepared it for another undertaking. 
 We scurried to the market and brought home a few cloves of garlic, then we pulled off their toes and stashed them in a large aluminum wash basin.  
    To make sure they were properly spaced, I dug out our old 4-hole garden stencil. Wiping off the cobwebs, I discovered it looked like it was old, decrepit, crumbled and mangled, so I quickly disposed of it.  Peg, my accomplice, unearthed a 1 foot square piece of cardboard and I laid out plans for making our new stencil.  The trick is to go in 3 inches from all the edges; that way all bulbs get planted 6 inches apart with 4 to each square foot. This way they will be buried 6" from their neighbors, as well.
After laying out the grid, I used a circle templet for the holes, then knifed them out with an exacto knife.
They didn't come out exacto, but what the heck, close enough for planting garlic.
This old pine box is, as best as we can remember, around 13 years old. The 2"x12" boards are starting to decompose and several of the nails slipped out and had to be relocated. Several others had were rusted, decayed and broken off .  I put the pattern down on the bed and poked holes into the sod with my finger, while Peggy took pictures and helped me place all the toes in the plot, and cover them. It was hot and thirsty work, and frankly, my stein of beer made that whole body of laborious toil well worth it.

We had prepared the garden box by working the old soil and adding compost, organic garden fertilizer and to top it off, we dumped in a sack of Miracle Grow garden soil. When we find it deeply discounted, we get a few sacks and use it to supplement whatever needs burying or worked into the soil around the yard...whenever it's called for. 
    This was 5 days ago. We must have done something right 'cause this morning when Peg went outside strolling and looking at the empty plot, she saw something coming up out of the ground! An early riser poking its little garlicy head out of the ground. So far, this experiment looks like it's working! This time if we have a successful crop, we'll be able to say, "That stinks!" but this time it will be a GOOD thing.


Tenth Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

   We wrote, "The Tolling of the Great Southern Belle" ten years ago, after Hurricane Katrina had devastated South Louisiana and the coastal cities of Mississippi and Alabama.
   Cappy was out on the boat, riding it out. His boat was tied up and he was alone. Everyone else had 'jumped ship', until after the worst was over. I heard him try to stay calm over the phone, but it was difficult, when he kept getting thrown hard from one side of the wheelhouse to the other. He thought he might not survive, but didn't tell me until much later.
  I had 'run' to Texas to take a young woman there, in my SUV loaded with her stuff and cat, plus our two dogs. We were in a news blackout so didn't hear how badly things had gotten back in New Orleans, until the next morning in the hotel. I was only getting bits and pieces between times when the young lady (I had driven there and I had paid for our hotel suite) kept turning off the television, disgusted that "anyone would want to watch that stuff." (The original mold of ingratitude was not created because of her, but just one more thing to have to endure because of all the confusion due to the storm.) The first indication that let me know I had run from a very bad situation, was from Cappy, when the phone service came on temporarily between us. He said, "Oh, Peg. This is not good. The levee breached and there are bodies floating in the streets of New Orleans. I've never in my lifetime heard of that happening." 
   At the time I wrote the "Tolling" blog post, here at home, a few scant days later, anarchy seemed to be ruling the streets in New Orleans. Chaos. Panic. Death caused by the hurricane and flood was now accompanied by lawlessness. The death toll kept rising. 
   I feared that the beautiful city of New Orleans may have been completely gone forever, and so I wrote:

            The Tolling of the Great Southern Belle  

She was one of a kind, our Nola. She was a grand lady, the finest example of gracious Southern Hospitality. She was a beautiful hostess, a lady of refinement, gentility, and humor. (And her food!...My, Oh, My, Momma NOLA's Cookin'!) But for all her artisocracy and proper Southern manners,we all knew that beneath all the lace and petticoats, she was a foxy seductress, a siren, who's wanton, bluesy, raunchy, soulful, music wafted through her French Quarter. We loved her for all that she was...with all of her sins and for all of her goodness.
What a terrible 'cat-fight'. Nola had been able to defend herself against Betsy and Camille; been battered and bruised, but recovered...eventually. It appears that Katrina has beaten our Dear City and surrounding area.
New Orleans Saints have multiplied beyond number as of yet. More go Marching In all the time; those not having been rescued, and now more recently, victims of crime. No one knows how high the death toll is going to be. New Orleans, Louisiana, or 'NOLA', the Great Southern Belle is still tolling.


Could Ya TRY Not to Get Creeped Out By These Very NICE Banana Spiders?

When we see the first banana spider we know Fall can't be far behind. (These are not to be confused with the Wandering Banana spider indigenous to Brazil, which is poisonous) Another name for these huge 'ladies' is the Golden Orb Weaver.
  This one took up residence under the patio underhang, not far from where the doves had raised their small family last month. What an intricate and fancy web she's got going for her this year. Looks like she's got it on zigzag.
She's apparently camera shy, and scurried to hide, but I caught this nice shot of her, below, as she hurried away.
She usually stays parked in the middle of the web unless we scare her by walking too close to her setup. She seems to be making a good living up there. 

She's rather small by comparison to our other banana spider standards. She looks to only be about the size of the palm of my hand.  As Fall approaches, there will probably be several of them setting up shop in various spots around our yard.  We try not to bother them unless they block a path.  They are great at catching skeeters and we appreciate that, as well as their beauty.  (It took Peg awhile to be able to look at them as one of God's creatures, and it helped that they ate a ton of mosquitoes.)
   As more show up, I will try to get some pictures of their webs covered with morning dew shining like glittering strands of tiny jewels sparkling in the morning sun.  
Sadly, these wonderful creatures have become the bane of Fall hunters as they walk through the woods, hunting.  Imagine creeping through the woods, concentrating on the tops of trees for elusive squirrels, or looking down, eyes darting behind bushes or shrubs for prey and walking face first into one of these huge spiders, whose web is exactly nose high.
Here, below, is a link to a couple of stories where Peg thought one 'got her', and only because of these dreaded South Louisiana mosquitoes, has she finally come to terms with the realization that, a lot of the bigger bugs are really on her side (NOT Literally!!) after all. 


Our Book got a 5 Star Review!!

After a year and a half of researching and writing, we finally got our book, "Space Freighter First Dock: Neo-Eden" published, for now, as an online ebook. This was a little more than two weeks ago. We have since, been anxiously awaiting any kind of feedback for all the hard work we'd put into the venture. We have been in the dark, wondering if any of the twenty or so buyers actually like what we had written.
   It's a long book, (nearly five hundred pages) with rich characters and a lot of, what we feel, are fun and interesting stories wound around the main story line. We were hoping and praying others would agree. That being said, we should have known it would take anyone some time to get through it, and comforted ourselves with that thought.
 (Peggy here: it's not what I'd call the usual sci-fi, but more read as though it were a fun tale taking place, even today. No vulgarity or bad swearing. Plus, despite, in today's world, it being politically incorrect, we honor God.) 
  So, two weeks went by and still no sign of anyone letting us know their thoughts on the matter. 
  Finally, we woke up the other morning and found this review accompanied by 5 stars on Amazon:  
Sci-Fi Fans take notice and buckle your seatbelts! Ray and Peggy Robin (Cappy and Pegody) authors of Space Freighter First Dock: Neo Eden, have written an exciting new book.
Original story line from Earths future filled with page turning delight. Well-developed characters, fast paced, outstanding descriptions of old and new earth, their ship the Intrepid, and other worlds.
Delicious mystery, thought provoking intrigue and brilliant dialog.
Space Freighter First Dock: Neo Eden is truly a page turner that catches the imagination and won’t let go. This is the best new Science Fiction story I’ve read in years and I’m sure it will become a fan favorite with the promise of many more installments.
Look for Cappy and Pegody to be 2016 Hugo or Nebula Award winners, if not both!
Truly a must read for Sci-Fi fans everywhere.

Just in case you think we made it up it is here on the Amazon link:


Don't forget you can get a free sample and distributor discount at smashwords:


If you decide to read our book, please do like the angel who wrote this review on Amazon and give us the review you think we deserve and/or drop us a note and let us know what ya think.
  It must be noted: the man who wrote the review above, is a noted author, himself, J.D.Ludwig, who wrote Overreach: Blood of Patriots, also available online and in bookstores.
  Whaa Hoo! It's getting to be a fun ride now!


The Mad Experiment Continues

Last Spring, as an experiment, we planted some yard-long beans in our little square foot garden.  We were told they were good hot weather plants that could withstand our South Louisiana Summers.  If you look a little ways back into our blog archives, you will see how we were thrilled when we planted them and they practically jumped out of the ground! Now, with them growing, we've harvested plenty and cooked them several different ways.  Well, here it is the middle of an almost record dry, extremely hot August, and we are happy to report that the beans have survived without us even watering them. Not wanting to venture out into the miserably oppressive heat, ourselves, we had given up, but they didn't. They are still producing aplenty, so here's a picture of yesterday's harvest:
These, along with a few okra and some small peppers are all the garden is producing in the summer heat. Peg used up the peppers already, or they'd be smilin' at ya, here along with the beans and okra.  
So, this is the freezer's haul for one day. Not a bad deal. Not shabby at all. (shade garden notwithstanding)
Even though the volunteer squash has retreated, because the heat has beaten them back,
taking another look this morning, it looks like they've gotten their second wind.
Maybe they plan to take over Peg's shade garden and the yard again this Fall. A few of her flowers survived the onslaught of Summer drought and squashes taking over their bed. If those viney beans and viney squash ever crawl across the yard and meet in the middle, head to head, who knows what kind of plant versus plant entertainment we'd find ourselves watching for the next few months or so. I guess this proves what simple folks we are. It's the little things in life that tickle our fancy that we find "Madcap" fun. Muah ha ha, anyone? (anyone?)