Wednesday, May 30, 2012

No Fences

It rained off and on all day yesterday. Yeah rain! I took a much needed break from the fencing to do some work in the garden. The peas are coming up. So are the weeds.
Greenhouse #2 is coming along, and so are the weeds. Most of the transplants are doing well, but I did lose a couple of cucumbers and a few tomatoes. I didn't cage all of the tomatoes right away, and I think they may have been stepped on or hit by the hose, rather than weather losses. Lots more tomatoes to transplant still, so no worries.
I think (I hope) that these are parsnips. I planted a row of parsnips outside of greenhouse #1 last year, but I never noticed anything come up. There are five or six of these plants in a row in the same spot now. I don't remember what the tops are supposed to look like though, and I don't want to pull the roots yet.
Greenhouse #1 still isn't planted! I just hung some fence for the cucumbers to climb. It's wire fence and needs some stretching to hang straight instead of curling up at the bottom. I measured off 1 foot sections with rope. I need a couple more logs for walking on yet. I transplanted cucumbers, and planted squash, beans, corn and mangels. I need more beet, radish and onion seed, and I can't find my eggplant or kohlrabi. I've got to stop leaving things on the table when I'm done for the day!
I transplanted a blackberry bush, picked some more chives to dry, pulled a bucket of weeds for happy geese. Then I went to check on the chicks and turkeys. The wee beasts need to move! I opened the door of the work shop to be greeted happily by the little buggers.
They've been flying out of their brooder box, a few at a time, for a couple of weeks now. But yesterday, they were everywhere. They knocked the cardboard off the side of the box. They were in the chick brooder, the feed bins, under the work bench, and one had found a whole in the floor and got himself trapped.
I enlisted #3 and #4 to help catch them and load them up to move to the turkey shack.
We have one duck who is mean to the other birds, and I didn't want him attacking the little turkeys, so I divided the shack with a piece of fencing.
I don't want the little buggers getting loose and into the garden, so I also nailed a piece of hardware cloth at the bottom of the door. They can fit through the holes in the fencing still, but not through the hardware cloth. So they have a safe place to get away from the bigger birds, but no outside access yet. They lose their heat lamp, because there's no hydro in the turkey shack. They're pretty well feathered though, and it's been hot enough to turn the lamp off most of the time for the past couple of weeks, so they should be fine. They got a bucket of grass, and seem happy in their new home.
The geese are a bit disturbed by the new neighbours. This is the first batch of young for the two newer geese to raise.  The turkeys were just as big as them when I bought them last year.  Old goose has experience.  The turkey hen (who has been sitting on her eggs with no tom to fertilize them) is very interested and chatty. I wonder if she'll think they're all hers?
The chicks are staying in their brooder for now. They're still well behaved, and fluffy. They need more feathers before they lose their heat lamp. I think they might be Rhode Island Reds. They're quite large compared to the last couple of years.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It Rained A Little

And then it rained a lot!
I think we are out of the woods.  I'm still waiting to hear how last night's thunderstorm turned out in relation to the fires.  It was pouring buckets here, pounding on the roof.  Excellent.  But also a lot of lightning.  Bad.  Everything is well drenched this morning.  I think we are safe now.

Mindy is doing ok, mostly back to her former self.  She won't allow us to milk her, but the engorgement has subsided.  She jumped the gate (4 feet high) to escape the milk room.  She's not looking for her baby, and looking thinner.  Whatever may have happened, I'm not expecting her to be raising a calf this year.

Dorie still looks quite hefty, but not as big as she was. Sharlotte is doing well. She's very energetic, and oh so cute. Very shy though.
Rear view of Dorie still shows quite a bulge in the belly, but she's lost weight in her hips since winter.  I will probably keep watching and waiting all summer.
4 days of steady fencing, and Casper is still escaping. We've got three strands of barbed wire above the field fence on the south side, and uncrinkled the field fence where it was smooshed up. We replaced 10 posts so far, that were broken, damaged, or weak. The west side has two strands of barbed wire above the field fence, and one below. There were a couple of low spots  that he may have been going under. The north side is still good and solid from when we fixed it two years ago.

 The east side still needs a couple more new posts. There were about 8 posts that the critters had managed to push the staples out of at the bottom, so the field fence was hanging loose. That's all fixed, and two strands of barbed wire above. We'll put a third strand up before we call it done, although I can't believe he's getting out there. #2 keeps joking that it's starting to look like a prison fence.

Which brings us to the mess around the barn. The fence that they all wreaked havoc on throughout the winter. There's field fence, with chain link attached to it right around the barn. The previous owner raised turkeys where we have the hay lean-to. There's one strand of tight barbed wire, and about 6 strands of loose, patch worked barbed wire over the bad spots. I don't believe he's getting out there either. Time will tell though. Another week at most, and it will all be repaired/replaced. If he's still getting out then, my suspicion will be confirmed. I believe he's jumping the fence. And if that's the case, he will be living in his own paddock around the barn, once we get the winter sacrifice area fenced off eight feet high.

 The bad news to all of the fence repairs- particularly over those low spots on the west side- is that the goats appear to be trapped. They are supposed to go out the back and browse through the day, cleaning up the brush and reducing our fire risk. We're making plans to install a goat gate for them- a narrow opening in the fence with a bend that the bigger critters shouldn't be able to maneuver.  In the meantime they're stuck eating hay and grass, which really isn't an ideal diet for a goat.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

My Awesome Work Crew

#1 digging a post hole. #3 holding the fence back out of the way. #4 wiring in barbed wire. #2 trimming a tree to make a new post.

We've got three strands of barbed wire up on this side now. At this rate we'll have a solid barbed wire fence in place by the time the field fence rots off. Just a little at a time.

Scary Mixed Up Day

Over 40000 hectares burning (98000 acres). 46 active fires.

The closest one to us is about 30 minutes away, as the crow flies, with a highway to cross. We've been watching the updates daily, watching where it was headed, watching when the wind shifts, celebrating every drop of rain that's fallen on our dry land.

Yesterday the wind shifted. Wild and crazy, 45km/hour winds. A couple of trees fell. The sky turned dark. It looked like a storm was moving in.

And then we smelled it. That overcast sky wasn't overcast at all. It was smoke. Dark heavy smoke that makes you feel like the flames of doom are just over that hill. I called the police. I didn't want to disturb our already overburdened fire departments, but I needed info. Where was it coming from? How much time did I have? Thankfully, it was just smoke. The wind shifted a couple hours later, and blew it all away.

 This smoke is from the big fire. The one you may have seen on the news. It's over an hour away, and has many lakes, streams, and creeks to cross before it gets to us. It's over 30000 hectares in size. It's putting out a lot of smoke.

For now, we are safe. Our area isn't even on alert, let alone evacuation orders. I finally got my butt in gear, and backed the bug out bags. I haven't worried about it before, because a forest fire is the only thing that would drive me from my land. This is the first year that we've had a fire this close, this out of control, this scary. I decided I'd rather not wait for the police to knock on my door and tell me I have to leave.

When the boys were little I kept a bag in the car for each of them with a couple of changes of clothes, jackets, extra diapers, blankets, candles, granola bars, water. Mostly it was because we always seemed to be out later than expected, with no coat for the chilly night air. Also because I worried about my crappy car breaking down on the side of the road. As the years went by, the boys grew, they remembered to bring their own coats, we bought a better car... and the stuff just sat there taking up space. I remember the last time I sorted through those bags, and finding that the Bigs would have to go naked, but the Littles could wear the stuff I had packed for the Bigs. Their appetites had increased, the trunk space had not. They were involved in more activities, with equipment and supplies to cart around. I took the emergency supplies out, and never looked back. Until yesterday.

Yesterday I dug out some old backpacks and packed everyone two changes of clothes, hooded sweaters, and an extra long sleeved shirt (for the bugs), and each bag has a water bottle. The bags are on the bunk in the trailer, along with extra pillows, sleeping bags, and tents. One quick and easy stop, grab, and go. I know there are a million other things I should pack, like knives, flash lights, rain coats... But at the moment I don't have extras of those. Time to get off the pot.

In other news...
All of my cattle, nonchalantly chewing their cud. Where is that baby? I gave up looking for her and went about stringing new barbed wire. I think we may have missed a few things on Thursday, when Sharlotte arrived.  I found her tucked up against the fence napping, a good hundred feet from the nearest cow (Mindy, on the right).
In the excitement of Sharlotte's arrival, we may have failed to register some important facts.
First of all, #1 found her between the barn and Dorie at 6am.  No signs of any after birth.  She was clean and dry.  Dorie was engorged.  Mindy was in the barn.

A couple of hours later, when I went out to check on them, they were in the trees in the west side of the pasture.  Sharlotte was out in the open, not hidden.  Unusual for Dorie.  Dorie wasn't that interested in us, petting, cooing, taking the weight measurements.  Sharlotte got up and walked away from us.  Dorie came over, and Sharlotte backed away from her as quick as her little legs could move.  Sharlotte mooed in distress, and Mindy started mooing in distress.

Mindy was at the back of the pasture, on the WRONG side of the fence.  Dorie spun around and gave her an evil look.  Mindy came running up the north side of the pasture and I sent #3 to open the gate and let her back in.

Dorie started in with her soft, gentle, talking to my baby moos.  Sharlotte settled down and I finished my examination of her.

#3 came back and told me that Mindy had gone up the road and into the bush on the other side.  We checked the fence and made a couple small repairs.  I drove around a bit, checked with the neighbours.  No Mindy.  We stretched barbed wire for bigger repairs once the Bigs got home.  Mindy never returned.  Sharlotte was up and active, and nursing, although not with much vigour.  Dorie was much more casual with Sharlotte than she ever was with Casper.  We tagged Sharlotte with little more than casual interest from Dorie.

Yesterday morning Mindy came home.  She was out on the road talking to Casper over the fence.  I walked up and talked her into coming back into the yard.  #3 cut her off before she could get into the bush, and opened the gate.

Mindy had red fluid dripping from her vagina.  She looked thinner.  And she was starving!  She chased everyone off the hay bale and gorged herself.  Not exactly the behavior of a cow who's been out all day and night grazing on the long grass and forage in the bush.

At first I thought she must have calved out there.  My dad, former ranch hand, said if she's calved out there she'll be back through the fence to get to her baby, and we better be prepared to follow her, because we won't be finding that baby on our own.

Mindy never attempted to leave the barn yard.  She settled down after awhile, and eventually joined the herd and had a peaceful afternoon.

Which is when I started replaying things in my head.  Dorie is still pretty huge.  Mindy is definitely thinner.  Dorie has been trying to wean Casper in preparation for her new calf.  That could have caused her engorgement.  Mindy is engorged (full of milk).  Dorie was out of character in her mothering.  Mindy seems spaced out and depressed.

Last year when we got Steaks he was more interested in Mindy than Dorie.  We thought Mindy was in heat first.  Last week, Mindy was swelling and red.  Dorie was not.

It's possible that Mindy calved in the woods.  It's possible that Mindy was in labour yesterday and I might find a calf this morning.  But I think it's also possible that Dorie stole Mindy's baby!

So what's to be done?  I have no idea.  Mindy was a heifer (first time mom), so she's probably not going to take Sharlotte back (if she is hers).  Dorie will probably be fine raising two calves (if she's still pregnant).  But Sharlotte likely didn't get any colostrum (first milk, antibodies), and Mindy is engorged, and will probably need milking.

On a positive note...  Mama knows where her children are!  Cute and growing kids!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Introducing Sharlotte

Born in the wee hours of the morning, clean and dry when we found her. Dorie did it again. She's awesome.

Sharlotte is an 83 pound heifer. The tail lift is deceptive- everything looks a little poopy down there, but she definitely has udders and no testicles.

Dorie didn't seem too concerned with us (me and #3) at that point of the examination. When I started opening packages and rustling papers she came in for a closer inspection. I chickened out and didn't tag her. I'll wait for bigger help tonight.

For now mother and baby are out in the pasture enjoying the sunshine. Dorie didn't even hide her from me. Maybe the herd is finally big enough that she feels she needs to keep her baby close. Or maybe she feels like it's big enough that she doesn't need to hide the baby. Either way, it was nice to not have to traipse all over looking for her.

Welcome to the world, Sharlotte!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


The asparagus in the perennial bed sprouted early. I assumed it was the black compost drawing in the sun, warming the earth earlier than usual. There's another bunch yet to come that doesn't have fresh compost and wood chips yet.

I went to see if there were any early arrivals in the garden patch (outside the garden fence), and was I ever surprised.

I left two stalks behind that were far too branchy to cut, and debated a couple of these as well. First fresh asparagus of the year, and earlier than the rhubarb for the first time ever. Wonderful!

Chives Drying

I picked mom's chives while at their place today. They don't use them. Now they're chopped and sitting on a cookie sheet in the car for a couple of days. I've never tried this before, but I think it should work ok.

Another Surprise

In the perennial bed. Does anybody know what this is? It's stem is kind of woody. Could be a baby poplar for as much as I know. For now it gets some compost and left in place.

Black Flies

they come when you visit,
they come when you work,
they come for dinner with a knife and fork.

Black flies are a tiny little pest with a big bite.  They lay their eggs in cool, rushing water.  They hatch in the spring.  Then the little carnivores try to eat you alive!

Unlike mosquitoes, they don't pierce your skin and suck your blood, they take it by the chunk.  They come in swarms, so swatting them has very little effect.  And once they're done, the welts they leave behind make you want to scrape the rest of your skin off to stop the itching!

Lots of scientific info here.

We do wear bug hats, to help keep them off our faces, out of our eyes and ears, but some of the black flies are small enough to go through the mesh.  Then you have them trapped in there with you, so you squeeze the mesh and squish them in it.  By the end of the day it's hard to see through the blood and guts.  I wear rubber boots to keep my ankles covered.  Long pants and long sleeved shirts, no matter how hot it gets.  We buy calamine lotion in bulk.

The black fly season usually lasts a couple of weeks to a month.  That's when they're the worst.  Cool, rainy weather prolongs it, and can bring them back in hordes just when you think it's almost over.

Here's a little video of a couple guys in the woods being swarmed by black flies. But Wade Hemsworth said it best, with The Black Fly Song. (The Little Abitibi is about 2 hours north east of us). 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Check it Out

The trees have leaves!

The cherry trees are even flowering!

A little rain is a wonderful thing!

Due Any Day Now

I've been watching Dorie diligently for signs of imminent delivery. She's getting bigger and bigger all the time. i think she could possibly explode if she doesn't deliver soon.

While I was watching Dorie, I guess I wasn't paying attention to Mindy. SheKs still a lot smaller than Dorie, but #1 noticed tonight, she is starting to swell and redden. No fluid yet, but it could be soon. She is also bagging up nicely. Not as big as Dorie, but that's to be expected, with this being her first calf.

Meanwhile, Nelly is enjoying a daily break from the pasture to mow the lawn. Just short spells, for as long as I can stand to watch her while the black flies swarm around my head. We really need to get the fence around the garden finished so she can graze out there at her leisure.

Not sure what this will look like. Posting with Show Me photo blogger from my phone.

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Monday, May 21, 2012

It Rained

Real rain. Not just a drizzle. For most of the afternoon. Sweet blissful rain!

Forest fires still surrounding us. Hopefully they got some rain too.

Shiloh's in Training

Every morning #2 goes out, catches Knightmare, and ties her up. Shiloh follows her mother.

#2 catches Tori, and ties her up, so she won't interfere.

Then he gets our rope halter and goes about catching Shiloh and putting it on her.

Shiloh is not very cooperative, but doesn't know which way to run yet.

Once haltered, #2 spends about 20 minutes playing tug of war with Shiloh.

The first day it was an almost constant battle. The second day, she was beginning to understand that as long as she didn't struggle, the rope didn't pull.

Today was day three. She stood most of the time without struggling. She's a quick study!

Husband found a halter that will fit her tiny head today, and he and #1 wrestled to get it on her. Tomorrow's lesson will be the first with a lead.

More importantly though, she will have numerous lessons throughout the day whenever any of us go to give her some loving. Just a gentle hand on the halter, a tilt of the head, and let her go. She'll soon understand that the halter won't hurt her.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Time to Mow the Lawn

I guess #2 decided he's had enough dandelions. Or he just wanted to take a nap. Or maybe he thought if he looked busy he wouldn't have to do anything else. Any way you slice it, Nelly is quite content to eat my dandelions.
 Well, look at that.  I'm still finding surprises in the perennial bed.  This is a patch of rhubarb that I was thinking must have died when it didn't appear with the others.  But here it is, just coming up now.  Almost a month later than the rest.  What is that telling me about the soil?  the weeds?  the moisture?  Nothing good, I'm sure.  A good dose of compost and wood chips will help it out.

 This bunch on the other hand, is looking absolutely divine!  It's really liking the compost and wood chip treatment!

 The daffodils are in full bloom now.  They're so pretty and cheerful.

 I took the pop bottle tops off of the transplants.  Most are looking pretty good, like this English Thyme (hopefully), but I do have one nasturdium that may have gotten a little too fried to survive.

 I'm not sure what these are.  They were growing in a random patch on the lawn when we moved in, and after being run over, stomped on, mowed down, and eaten, I decided to transplant them into the perennial bed two years ago.  Then they were dug up by Pig, stomped on, eaten, and choked out by weeds.  Some plants are really determined to grow!  I'm looking forward to seeing what they do!

And here's a pic for kymber.  Yesterday's dandelion fritters.  I had to hold #3's hands back to snap a picture of his plate.  They were eating them faster than I could cook them!  And I never did make a plate of my own, just munched them hot, as they finished cooking.  I sliced up an apple before I started the dandelions, for the picky eaters, and battered them as well.  It was quite a surprise when even Husband said he preferred the dandelions!  Definitely a hit!  Served with blueberry sauce and maple syrop.

This morning I went out to the greenhouse at 8am, and it was already 26°C in there!  I worked on the tomato, onion, and carrot section at the back and on the left side.  I transplanted the last batch of tomatoes I started, which might be a bit backwards, but again, if I lose them I won't take it as hard as if I lose the bigger ones.  It was 35°C in there when I left at 10am.  It's going to be a hot one today!  We're supposed to hit 31°C outside today.  I might have to lift the sides on the greenhouse to keep things from frying in there.

Still 3 weeks before frost free, but I don't care.  I think we're past that stage for this year.  The garden planting is in full swing.  Once the shade hits the perennial bed I'm going to start transplanting herbs.

Husband and the Bigs have gone to a friend's for a load of free tin.  The friend has a couple of buildings to demolish.  The tin will make better roofs for the lean-tos than the tarps and plastic we have been using.

What a great long weekend!

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Dandelion Post

Pictures for Linda, :)  This is the way I like to find them, with long, plump leaves and lots of buds getting ready to flower.
I take a large yogourt container out to collect the buds for us, and an old paint can to collect the leaves for the critters.
Back in the house, a quick rinse, and they're ready to use. Of course, we don't use any pesticides on our lawn, so no worries there. The yogourt container was enough to fill 4 snack bags- which is a perfect amount for winter stews, as well as a handful thrown in with the beans for supper tonight. These will be served with butter, and salt to taste.
And here's a picture of some of last night's leftover potatoes.
Potatoes fried with fresh chives, dandelion buds, and garlic. A hint of lemon juice, and a dash of seasoning salt. You can see that some of the buds open up while cooking.

Why eat 'weeds'?  

Well, for one thing, they weren't always considered weeds.  The settlers brought them over here on purpose.

For another, they are one of the earliest edibles available locally.  Sure, in this day of supermarket living that may not be a real concern to most people.  But have you noticed, you can buy dandelion greens in a lot of grocery stores these days?  My question is, who is buying them instead of picking their own?  I mean, seriously, one of the bonus points...

They're free!

They are highly nutritious, packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

They are easy to identify.  No field guides required.  Unless, of course, you've really been living under a rock.  Bigger than my rock, even.  Ha!

And in my neck of the woods, the next local item on the menu is going to need a few weeks yet...
Rhubarb coming up.

You can look online for recipes for dandelion greens, dandelion fritters, dandelion salad, dandelion coffee, dandelion syrop,  and dozens more.  Or, you can just toss a few leaves in a salad or a soup pot, throw some buds in your stew, soup, potatoes, or rice, or stir fry.  Yummy stuff!  I'm going to try a batch of dandelion fritters tomorrow for brunch!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Banned From the Garden

The ducks, geese, and turkey were pretty miserable without any greenery. No sign of the peas yet, but still, the garden is now off limits.

We stretched a roll of wire out in a loop around their gate. It's not much, but better than nothing. A little bit of green on a cool spring day.

We planted yellow pencil pod beans in a rectangle around the hugelkultur bed, and two rows of white navy beans on the inside.

Planted two rows of red mangels in the garden, and a few in the bed, for next year's seed. Planted two rows of carrots, and two rows of beets.

Got a load of firewood from the edge of our property along the logging trail. The loggers wiped out a bunch of small trees along the trail when they were clearing snow.

I picked a big bunch of dandelion buds for supper tonight. Cooked them with fresh chives from the perennial bed, garlic and potatoes. Delish!

A Little Rain

Wild weather in the north the past couple of days, but not at my house.  There were tornado and thunderstorm warnings Tuesday night.  Rumour has it a tornado touched down three hours away.  Forest fires have been breaking out every where, and most of the province is under a fire ban until further notice.  Down pours of rain in the neighbouring areas.

At my house, the temperature has taken a nose dive.  0°C last night, rain off and on, 3°C right now, high of 15°C today.  It feels very cold after the warm weather we've been having.  It is supposed to warm back up for the weekend. 

Yesterday I accomplished next to nothing.  I did bake 10 loaves of bread, and washed a mountain of dishes (I tend to get a little behind on the house stuff when I'm puttering in the garden), but every time I looked out, saw the sun, and thought I should go do something, it started to rain.

I transplanted another hollyhock and two more nasturdiums in the perennial bed, along with a little something else?!  It looks similar to the English Thyme, but the leaves are slightly different shaped.  That's the last of the tray of mixed plants, and I still haven't found the paper.  And I got rained on.

I checked on the greenhouse, and everything transplanted on Tuesday seems to be doing well.  I started working the next section, loosening the dirt, pulling weeds.  I started walking back to the house to get my seeds, and I got rained on.

I went out to pick dandelion greens for the doggy stew, and I got rained on.

I went out to pick dandelion buds for supper, and I got rained on.  I stuck it out through the rain, and got two nice handfuls to toss into a partridge stew.

Twice through the afternoon the rain turned to tiny balls of hail, and Husband said at one point it was wet snow at one point, but I missed that.

So, after all of that rain, you'd think we'd be tramping through fields of mud now, right?  Not a chance.  The garden is still dry, dry, dry.  The grass is looking a little happier now.  Hopefully it will grow in lush and thick.  I doubt it was enough to make any difference in the woods.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mother's Day

 This was supposed to post Monday morning.  Not sure why it didn't.  Hmmm.

#2 and #4 dragged these old pieces of carpet from the driveway (where they got dropped when I pulled them out of the perennial bed) to the garden. We placed them over the last section of the garden to be planted. I might as well keep the weeds at bay while I can.
A trillium making an appearance in the perennial bed.  Not sure how it ended up so close to a strawberry.
This might be a trillium getting ready to flower. The leaves might have some frost damage. Time will tell.
Unknown greenery coming up beside the Umbrella plant. Strange little thing.
I spent the morning puttering in the garden while Husband and #1 got the white quad running again.  Carburetor.  The trails are really dusty, and everything gets bogged down by sand.  #2 put in another fence post beside the garden shed, where the fence was sagging.

#3 grabbed the hoe, and he and I went walk about through the forest garden and emptied the rest of my jar of old pumpkin seeds.  If they grow we should have pumpkins popping up everywhere!  #3 found the hoeing much easier in the soft forest earth, and has requested a walk with watermelon seeds.  There's a small patch of trees in the clearing just below the forest garden, between the trails that might work well for watermelon.

Later in the afternoon we met my parents for a long quad ride in the woods.  Seeing the lakes made the boys start itching to go swimming, but I declared it too early in the season.  While some afternoons have us down to t-shirts, we're still mostly in sweaters and jeans.  Not quite swimming weather, regardless of how inviting it looks.

It was a nice ride and a lovely afternoon. I found some cute little white flowers on a vine in the woods and brought some home to transplant. I'm not sure what they are. I've been looking online, but haven't been able to match them with a picture.

Home for supper, the boys cooked taco salad. Then I tried to keep my eyes open for three hours of Survivor and two hours of Desperate Housewives. I didn't quite make it, and now I may never know the ending to life on Wisteria Lane.