Friday, August 18, 2017

random glimpses of life around here

If I would check the okra every day, I'd be eating more of it than I toss in the compost pile. That long one in the picture is about 8". 

I wrote that a while back and since have got in the habit of picking every day. Usually I get about 6 a day, sometimes more, some days 10 or so.

the tallest plant is now taller than I am

I know where the bees that come to my yard go with their collected nectar and pollen. The side of my absent neighbor's house now supports a hive. I wonder how big it is inside the wall, how much honey. I'd call the beekeeper I buy my honey from for him to collect them but I like having the bees in my yard.

I'm picking up a gallon or more of green pecans a day. Big ones. I've picked up three 5 gallon size buckets' worth already. If this keeps up, between the squirrels and the no rain and the heat stress, we won't get any pecans this year. 

"You say that every year", Marc says. And he's right I do and every year I tell him that "yes, but this year is different". 

This would have been twins!

We did finally get a break in the heat and three good rains, too late for the pecans, but it did spur some growth for other things,

the next day they looked like this,

and these bloomed,

and these continue to bloom,

but now we are back to stifling heat with the south wind coming across the field behind us feeling like heat coming out of an oven, though this one, like the okra, likes the heat.

Buddha is overwhelmed.

And one more ray of hope...Bannon is gone!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

and now for something completely different...

Working at Miss Hattie's those three days of the 'estate sale' paid for, with a little left over, the things I walked out with. Mainly, this display cabinet (has glass shelves).

The first time I walked in that store and saw those two cases that one of the vendors was using, I asked if she was interested in selling one. No. Now, about 5 years later, I brought one home. The vendor is not going to seek another place and so she was willing to sell the cabinets. I also picked up this cute little birdhouse and this cast iron hook thingy which I'm going to hang my keys on.

And something for fellow blogger Mary Moon because every time I walked past it in the store it said her name. I'm not going to show you what it is until she gets it. And knowing me it will take me a week or more to get it boxed up and sent off.

Monday was our 41st anniversary which we just let slide this year. We have, after all, already spent a week in Hawaii this summer and there wasn't a single movie playing that either one of us wanted to see so now I'm trying to get back in my model making groove after this past week's interruption and distraction. Or maybe I'll work on making color samples for the drowned feathers. Something I have never done before. Oh, I have plenty of color samples that I have made but none made specifically for a project. Usually, I just wing it.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


I've been pretty much glued to FB and twitter, going to stay off for the rest of the day. I must say, I am heartened by all the pushback by citizens and politicians, excluding the racist-in-chief of course who was finally forced, 2 days later, to actually call out the KKK, white supremacists, and nazis by name and condemn them and what they stand for. You know that had to burn because he turned around and in almost the same breath said he was considering pardoning racist and white supremacist Sheriff Joe Arpaio. A&M University revoked the permit for the white supremacist rally scheduled there for next September 11 and I hope all the other universities where events like this are pending do the same. Our 1st amendment right to free speech only means that the government can't arrest you for what you say. It doesn't protect you from the consequences of the words you say; it doesn't give you the right to be heard in any venue of your choosing.

Still, it is going to get worse before it gets better. These people feel emboldened and Trump's first comment about the hate and violence 'from many sides' had these nazis feeling good and they felt they had his support and then threatened him by reminding him that they are the reason he got elected. They have heavily infiltrated the police departments all over this country, probably one explanation why the police in Charlottesville stood back and let the violence play out (the FBI has been investigating this infiltration and their inroads in the Army as well and while the Army has recourse to discharge them, the police forces do not).

I've read several comments by people though that are saying meeting these white supremacists with violence is not the answer, that violence begets violence and they reference Ghandi and Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. Let me just say that the nazis would have shot Ghandi in the head the first time he refused to do what they said and that MLK was assassinated and I think comparing the militant white supremacists to just regular old racists is a false equivalency.

When the KKK, white supremacists, militia members, nazis come to a rally armed, long guns across their backs, pistols on their hips, pepper spray in their hands wearing body armor and helmets and holding shields, shouting racist slogans, peaceful protest is not on their minds, flowers and peace signs and sit-ins are not going to make them stop and think. They are not interested in dialog. The only thing they are interested in is making this country white and christian and they have no trouble doing it with violence. This needs to be nipped in the bud by the police (who in this case stood by) and the National Guard because unfortunately, the only thing these white supremacists respond to and respect is force. We know that because as the meme says, we literally had to fight a war over this, the whole world was involved.

Now I'm going to go stroll around in my garden.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

this is how it starts, the question is how will it end

I've been working at the antique store the last few days as the owner decided not to reopen since she had the new location in Rosenberg that was doing well and she has put the buildings up for sale and needs to clear out what she hasn't already moved to the other location so she was having an 'estate' sale there at the old Miss Hattie's. She expected a big crowd, which had my sister and I shaking our heads because...Wharton, so she hired my sister and Jim who also had worked there and me to help with the enormous crowds and sales. Long story short, we did have a slow steady stream of people for the 2 1/2 days but no crowds, big or otherwise, and just one extra person besides the owner and the other vendor would have been sufficient for the amount of sales, so while it didn't keep me particularly busy Friday and Saturday, it did keep me away from the news.

Saturday, during a quiet period, I started a post...

What is the matter with that man? Not satisfied with threatening N. Korea with fire and brimstone he has now turned his eye to Venezuela, threatening a military take-over there because 'the place is a mess', not that he even knew where Venezuela is. John Kelly has started bringing an atlas with him to meetings says one of the rogue WH twitter accounts. He is even verbally attacking and threatening the few Republican senators that are finally showing some sort of spine as well as some of his own appointees.

Never mind, I know what's the matter with him. He's an empty shell who is incapable of creating anything and so he destroys instead. Well, that's just one of the many things wrong with him. There is so much wrong with him that he is a joke, albeit a dangerous joke, not just here but abroad as well. There's an interesting article on Alternet about how Trump is perceived by leading European officials and it ain't pretty.

Number one is his obsession with Obama and his primary motivation seems to be undoing everything Obama did...“It’s his only real position,” a European diplomat told the site. “He will ask: ‘Did Obama approve this?’ And if the answer is affirmative, he will say: ‘We don’t.’ He won’t even want to listen to the arguments or have a debate. He is obsessed with Obama.” Which of course we know since nearly every executive action and directive has been aimed at undoing something Obama did regardless of how good for the people it is, the most recent two being rescinding the ability of residents of nursing homes to sue for mistreatment and ending the highly successful program aimed at ending teen pregnancy which has been reduced by 40% under the program...

That's as far as I got but I recommend reading the article.

Now here it is Sunday and I've spent yesterday evening and most of the day today reading about Saturday in total disgust of what happened. Nazis marching down the street with torches in their khakis and white polo shirts spewing racist and white supremacist garbage, every single one of them a privileged asshole who has never in their lives experienced any form oppression. Armed Nazis wearing helmets and holding shields gathering for a 'peaceful' rally around the statue of a fucking traitor to this country to which he pledged his fealty, gathering in defense of white supremacy, gathering in support of Trump, of getting their history back as if the history of this country wasn't created by and written by people just like them, armed groups gathering in camo and body armor who were there to protect the Nazis during their demonstration and violence while the police stood back and watched it all without trying to stop them, not until one of the Nazi terrorists ran his car into a crowd of anti-Nazi protestors killing one and injuring 19 others.

This happened here in America yesterday.

And what was Trump's response? Did he condemn Nazi ideology, did he refute their support of him? Hardly. He namby pambyed around saying we should be united and condemn all that hate stands for, blaming 'many sides' for the violence. It was so vague and non-specific that the nazi crowd is seeing it as a positive.

Well, the nazi terrorists, and make no mistake, there is no difference between alt-right, white supremacists, and nazis, no matter what they call themselves, were eventually run out of town and denounced in the most concrete terms by Virginia's governor and some republican politicians are doing the same, most surprising among them to me was Ted Cruz who called them what they are, nazi terrorists, and condemned them roundly. They'll be back though. There is another such rally planned for September 11 at A&M University in Texas. I think they're testing the waters, trying out their tactics for the civil war they want to start if Trump is removed from office and Trump will embrace them as his own personal loyal army. It's going to get ugly folks.

This nation harbors a heart of hate and oppression. We have been at war for nearly every year of our existence. We whites have enslaved and committed genocide. We have repressed and subjected. With our completely unfettered access to guns, more Americans have died at the hands of our own citizens than have died in all the wars we have fought combined...see sentence 2. I'm afraid we are becoming what we have always been. Still, I never thought we would inherit the soul of Nazi Germany.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

5 minutes of fame

Well, I may have just turned down the chance of a lifetime. We were contacted last week by a research director for the show How It's Made on the Discovery Channel about taping for a five minute segment on the show, that they would be in Houston the first week of October, and were interested in our glass work, initially the etched glass but I told him I'd rather it be the pate de verre. Did it have a lot of steps, he wanted to know. They like a lot of steps and we talked about the process and about how it would be filmed and that obviously we would have to have stuff prepared since it was a multi day process and they would only be filming one day, kind of like those cooking shows. He would send me another email with more details and requirements.

I started thinking about what I would, could do. It would have to be a small sculptural piece or bas-relief and to be thorough I would have to do the original model, preferably in different steps, say 3...beginning, halfway, finished... and then make a reproduction mold for all the waxes I'll need for the rest of the for making the mold, one in the mold for de-waxing, one with the wax melted out, one with the frit partially laid in, one with all the frit in to put in the kiln, one already fired in the mold to break apart, one already out of the mold and washed to demonstrate the cold work, and one completely finished. That makes 3 models (2 partial, 1 complete), 1 rubber mold, 8 waxes, and 8 plaster molds. That is a huge time investment for a five minute segment that will reap us nothing except 8 of the same thing if we completed them all, time when I could be working on new stuff. Not to mention having to clean and re-organize the shop.

The next email was cause for some hilarity around here...

1. exact product(s) to be featured on the show: pate de verre

     exact product, OK

2. full coordinates (incl. cell and email) of the on-site contact person (preferably a production manager) who would chaperone our camera crew when they arrive on site

     on-site production manager...yeah, ha ha

3. coordinates of a second on-site resource person, in case first one unavailable

     back up? would that be you or me

4. complete factory address, including zip code. If there is a second manufacturing facility, please provide that address as well and indicate the distance between the two

     by now we're laughing out loud...factory

5. start and finish times of production shift(s)

     production shifts, sniff, hahaha

The guy clearly has no idea who he was talking to.

So I thanked him kindly for his interest and politely declined to participate.

Monday, August 7, 2017

death, infertility, and this crumbling nation

Thanks for all the condolences. Allen was a good neighbor and we'd BS at times but we weren't really friends in that we didn't socialize together. I will miss seeing him around though but I'm sure the property will stay in the family.

Allen's sudden departure did give me a little kick in the butt. We finally made out wills for the first time ever back in 2009 but we just never got around to signing them which does no good at all so I've been all about getting them updated and this week they get signed and notarized. Dying intestate in Texas is a pain for those you leave behind. I know of two people whose spouses died without a will and the children from the previous marriage of the deceased spouse laid claim to half the property because they could rather than any legitimate claim. Of course, there are no children from previous marriages, but still, the state has no problem making claims of it's own.

So, life goes on. I wonder what the world will be like in another 20 years when my grandkids are on the verge of their 40s with children of their own, if that's even possible by then with male fertility taking a big hit. I read a very interesting article recently on the overpopulation of the planet that predicts that the human population will stop growing within the lifespan of people living today. The planet reached 7 billion people sometime last March but it took longer than it did to add the 6th billion, the first time that has ever happened. The trend has been for shorter and shorter intervals but that has now changed and the reason for that is fewer women having children and having fewer children when they do. Some of that is from decreasing male fertility and some from urbanization. Urban dwellers typically have fewer children or none at all. Already Western Europe is losing population, more people dying than being born, and could lose 1/4 of their population by the end of the century. Russia and China stand to lose half their population by the same time.

It takes 2.1 live births per woman to maintain population equilibrium, more for the population to grow. In Germany, the birthrate is 1.36; in Spain, 1.48; in Italy, 1.4. The United States has managed to grow mainly through immigration. Immigrants tend to have more children than native born but even that is falling and with Trump restricting immigration and even deporting parts of our population, the US no longer has a birth rate that will maintain our population levels. Even high birth rate countries like Mexico and India and Brazil have fallen to barely sustainable rates and birth rates are diminishing in Africa as well.

Some experts believe the world population will top out at 9 billion sometime around 2070. If these trends continue and the world birth rate stabilizes at 1.5, then the world population will halve by 2200 and will fall to 1 billion 100 years later. This is all assuming, of course, that the current trends continue and we don't self-annihilate in a nuclear war.

Fertility issues aside, I worry about the society my grandkids will be living in. Will this country continue the decline it seems intent on, taking us back socially to the pre-civil rights era of repression for all who aren't white and male, ignoring the knowledge of science and in general discouraging education of the population, turning their backs on the poor and disabled, closing our doors to immigration? Already farmers' crops are rotting in the fields because either migrant workers aren't being allowed in or they just aren't coming because of the hateful atmosphere Trump has engendered and all those job hungry Americans aren't so eager to do farm work.

It is possible that this nation will not recover from Trump since the Republican controlled Congress seems content to let him and his white supremacist buddies turn this country into a dictatorship, trampling on our first amendment rights and attacking the free press substituting his propaganda arm, Trump TV while the NRA foments armed rebellion if Trump gets removed from office.

Our constitution is only as strong as the people who believe in it and defend it and it looks like those in power who swore to defend it and uphold it have no real intention of doing so.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

another one bites the dust

My neighbor Allen died unexpectedly Sunday morning. Allen owns the mostly vacant lot between us and what was his father's house, Frank of the Bountiful Garden, that the new neighbors now occupy. He has storage buildings at the back and his family would come and smoke the deer sausage from their hunting in one of the shelters every year. He kept it well maintained and in the spring he would mow around the bluebonnets and leave them there to go to seed before he would mow them in. He liked to hunt and fish and garden, shared the fruits of his labors with us more than once, kind of an all round country boy, checked in with his aging parents nearly every day while they were alive. 

Allen was scheduled to have double bypass surgery but he put it off because they had a trip to Alaska planned and he wanted to go and he also wanted to finish helping his friend with the work that needed to be done on his farm. He had the surgery a week ago. His double bypass turned into a triple and then all four and a valve replacement but he came through the surgery fine, was up walking around joking with the staff, no one was concerned and Sunday morning he had a heart attack they couldn't revive him from. He was 68.

The church was packed. He was obviously well liked in the community and loved by his family. After the service and the graveside across the street, everyone was invited to the fellowship hall to remember him with a catered lunch, because that's just the way these people roll. Allen and Michelle loved polka music and dancing so there was polka music played by a friend and musician on the accordion.  It makes me smile to imagine them dancing a polka.

I'm going to miss seeing Allen every few days moving stuff around, picking stuff up, dropping stuff off, mowing the yard. He was a good man and generous of spirit. If you needed help, he'd be there. It's taken about a week for it to finally sink in. I had seen him just days before when he came to mow the yard, probably right before he was admitted to the hospital because that's the kind of guy he was, taking care of business. Even Thursday at the funeral we were still in disbelief as I tried to visualize him in the coffin with his camo gimme hat on. 

Fly high Allen.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

work in progress - heron box

I'm still in model making phase, the sculpture part. I probably enjoy this part the most as this is the real making of the piece. What comes after is just transformation from one medium to another. I've switched from feathers to another box, the heron box. This is the last box I have planned. That doesn't necessarily mean it will be the last box I do but it is the last one waiting in the wings. The last four and this one, I've been playing with precast inlays as decoration. I cast all the pieces separate and then, with a fair amount of cold work, get the recess in the side of the box and the cast element to fit easily and then I glue the inlay in. Of course the separate wax pieces fit together as wax but there's a lot that happens between wax and glass and some tweaking is always necessary. I don't use the precast inlay as an inclusion in the wax box because in the mold, the inlay will be vertical and once molten again, the glass could start to flow out before the rest of the glass fills the space.

So far I have the inlay carved and mounted on a sheet of wax in preparation for the mold making 

and the box constructed and am carving water lines on all four sides. 

The top, which I haven't started yet, will have a feather as an ornament so in some ways, I guess I'm still working on a feather piece. I have an actual blue heron feather that I found years ago when the grandboy was here on one of his weeks. We drove out to Lake Texana State Park on the Navidad River, or what was Lake Texana State Park before the state relinquished it, and I took the boy out in a canoe and there on the opposite bank of this little lake was the feather. I made him get out and fetch it for me. I haven't worked out the feet to the piece yet.

I enjoy showing my models and their progress as I work on them though I am thinking I may stop doing that because maybe seeing the models prejudices the viewer's opinion towards a piece. My cast glass has never been monochromatic and working in the pate de verre technique was the first time I ever really worked with color. The other glass art that I have done, the commissioned etched and carved glass, has all been nothing but monochromatic. The point about showing, or not as the case may be, my finished models is sometimes people mistake them for the finished glass piece. Sort of the flip side to that are the ones who suggest casting it monochromatically because they love the way it looks in wax. I haven't so far because it requires a sea change in my thinking about whatever particular piece is being discussed and because the whole pate de verre technique is about color and color placement. I don't reject the idea out of hand but I'll have to do a piece with that in mind from the beginning.

I have done a set of pieces, the bark squares, in black and white, or rather 5 black and one white in the set so far, but I've put them aside for now because I'm still not sure what I am doing with them.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

summer heat and summer visits

Yesterday was the last day of July and now we head into the dog days of August, although the forecast for the first week shows lower temperatures than we had this past week, which went into triple digits, the hot south wind blowing across the field behind us like the heat that comes out of an oven. We might even get some rain. Yesterday morning at 8 AM, it was still relatively cool out, operative word here being 'relatively', and while we will be hovering in the low 90s and maybe even the high 80s this week, I saw that Portland, Oregon is predicted to hit 106˚ or higher. It hasn't even been that hot down here on the Gulf Coast plains. There is something seriously wrong when the Northwest gets hotter than we do.

In another couple of weeks, the twins will head off to their first year of college. It doesn't look like they will manage a couple of days here as there is still much to do before they leave and we have spent a week with them this summer, just not here. We did get a drop in visit from our 20 year old grandboy the other night. Drove all the way out here to spend about an hour and then drove back as he had to be at work at 8 AM the next day. Used to be I would have to chase him down to give him a hug under protest when he left after visiting, then a few years ago he started giving me one of those side hugs. The other night when I went to hug him as he was leaving he gave me an honest to god bear hug. First time ever!

Summers have gotten less busy. The only summer grandchild left is Robin. They all out grew the regular spring and winter break visits, when all four would come years ago, about the time they were old enough to stay at home by themselves but they kept up their summer visits.

And so, I picked up Robin on a Friday with the plan to return her on the following Monday not a week but hey, I'll take what I can get. We stopped at Trader Joe's and Costco on the return to lay in some supplies. At Costco I bought 2 cartons of blueberries, one carton of strawberries, one carton of raspberries. I had bought a carton of Rainier cherries at a previous stop that we had already polished off and Robin ate all the raspberries on the way home. By the time she left she had eaten all that fruit plus nearly all of a watermelon, besides just regular food. That may not sound very impressive if you've never shopped at Costco.

Anyway, she wanted to get her haircut so I made the appointment for Saturday and of course there is no 'before' picture but it was longer and no bangs

after which we poked around in a couple of shops 

until we got hungry, drove out to get the honey I thought I had arranged to buy but apparently there was a breakdown in communication, and then back for lunch and then we made a lemon tart.

She couldn't decide which movie she wanted to see so I bribed her with an extra night to see both. 

Sunday we went to El Campo to see the new Spiderman and Monday we went to see Baby Driver in Rosenberg.

I was supposed to take her back on Tuesday but she decided that since it was like being at home here only she didn't have to get her own food and there was more variety, she'd stay another night.

Wednesday though, I did return her home.