Tuesday, February 28, 2017

winter reading list

A stupidly short list...again. I don't seem to be able to read even a 200 page book without incurring a dollar or more in fines. My first excuse is that I have been gobsmacked by the election, the inauguration, and Trump's first three weeks in office. My second excuse is that it is spring here and I've been busy in the yard cutting back all the dead foliage from the deep freeze and getting the ground ready for another 4' x 12' raised bed and planting blueberries and a satsuma and potatoes and tomatoes and shoveling dirt and well, it's spring.

Blue Shoes And Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith – number 7 in the series. Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi suddenly have more work than they can attend to...a pervasive feeling of fear at a game preserve, a nurse who suspects the doctor she is working for of recording false blood pressure readings, and an assistant cook who fears she will lose her job because her boss is being blackmailed...so Mma Ramotswe presses Mr. Polopetsi in service to more or less success. Mma Makutsi fears she has soured her fiancĂ© on their engagement after she confesses to being a modern lady ie a feminist when he fails to show up for dinner on his scheduled night.

Trigger Warning - short fictions and disturbances by Neil Gaiman - Another collection of short stories that took me far too long to read but not because of the book. Gaiman starts out with a long introduction about the phrase 'trigger warning', you know, that thing we are supposed to say so as to prevent some fainting violet from feeling bad about something we are getting ready to talk about to which I say, grow up buttercup. Just because you had a bad experience about something does not mean that you should be shielded for the rest of your life from remembering it or hearing other people talking about something similar. We have become a nation of pansies. Anyway, none of that has anything to do with this collection of stories and I'm sort of at a loss to understand why he titled the book that. Next, after the introduction, is some commentary on each story, the where, when, and why of how it came to be written which I found somewhat interesting. And then finally the stories of which the author says, "many of these stories end badly for at least one of the people in them. Consider yourself warned."

The Good Husband Of Zebra Drive by Andrew McCall Smith – number 8 in the series...Mma Ramotswe has been asked to investigate 3 mysterious deaths at the hospital, Mma Makutsi decides she doesn't need to work now that she is engaged to a rich man and quits and then almost immediately regrets her decision, and Mr. Matekoni interviews a prospective client while the detective agency is short handed and asks to be able to investigate the case.

Progeny by Tosca Lee – the Progeny are the descendants of the most famous serial killer of all time, the 'Blood Countess' of Hungary, Elizabeth Bathory, in the late 1500s. Richer than the crown and a protestant, she was accused of torturing and murdering hundreds of servant peasant girls. The crown eventually locked her up and confiscated her lands and money but the peasants did not get justice so the families of the slain girls formed the Scions dedicated to wiping out the Bathory line. Now, modern day, Audra Ellison (because the Progeny do not raise their own children in an effort to keep them hidden), a direct descendent from Elizabeth who is the most powerful Progeny of them all (they have powers of persuasion sort of like the 'Force' those are not the droids you seek) has wiped her memory in an effort to keep some secret she has discovered safe from both the Progeny and the Scions (who also have a power, they can absorb the memories of the Progeny they slay and thereby learn the whereabouts of more Progeny). It's a good story as she relearns, on the run, everything she has forgotten because those that were hunting her were not fooled by her memory wipe and her faked death and her Scion hunter/boyfriend and are hot on her heels. Like I said, I enjoyed the read up until the end when I learned that this is not a stand alone novel. There is at least one sequel.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

busy Saturday, quiet Sunday

Back when we bought the country house, the Big Backyard had a very nice thick saint augustine lawn. It helped that the drain field to the septic system was back there and so it was well watered even during times of no rain. We have managed to keep it alive and looking fairly well until last summer when it got some sort of infestation...bugs, fungus, I don't know but large areas of the grass died. Because we don't use poisons or fertilizer it has over the years become the home to quite a few early wildflowers.

This year it's the more opportunistic grasses and wildflowers and, yes, weeds, than it is grass.

Walking around out there the other day patrolling for and digging up sow thistle and sticky weed I saw oxylis, dandelion, fleabane, evening primrose, henbit, walking onions, wild onions, woodland violet, 10 petal anemone and those are just the ones I can name. You can't kill st. augustine grass so I expect that long about mid-summer it will have filled in again if whatever knocked it down in the first place has run it's course. If not, then I guess we'll have a mowed field instead of a lawn.

That lighter green horseshoe around the end of the old garden bed in the picture above is orange cosmos which is doing it's best to completely colonize the yard. At the other end the rocket larkspur is making a similar, if weaker, attempt.

It's Sunday and the start of my week alone having taken Marc to the airport early yesterday morning for his week with my brother in Colorado at a ski resort. No, Marc does not ski but he does enjoy my brother's company and of course, pot is legal in Colorado. Plus one of his brothers lives in Denver so they will meet up at some point.

My journey back was a long and meandering one since I was taking advantage of passing through Sugar Land and Rosenberg to run a long list of errands...9 to be exact though the last three were all in walking distance so I only had to park once for those. Poor Minnie, stuck in the house alone from 7 AM to 2:30 PM.

Today I'm meandering around the house and yard, starting one task and then another with no thought to finishing any of them.

last night looking east at dusk across the fallow field

Friday, February 24, 2017

back to wax

I've had several days now when it has been raining or too wet to work outside since I finished the last wave of pieces, when I didn't have any other errands or distractions, when it would have been a good day to start on some new work, when I sat there with my model making stuff and then walked away. I finally figured out what the problem was. I was trying to start something I didn't really want to do. I was thinking I need to make some small stuff for consumption instead of working on what I was really interested in working on, what I was thinking about when I thought about it. So I finally got started. I'm going to work on the moon series and the feather/beach series and the big rock with the lizard and the 10 petal anemone that has occupied my thoughts. The lizard with the 10 petal anemone will be expensive. Well, it's all expensive.

By getting started, I mean I made some wax sheets for the moon blank I already prepared and a blank for the next feather/beach piece. I've decided to do the moon pieces differently, completely differently, not even cast but fused, so this blank is no longer the standard for the series. I'm going to do it as a stand alone piece.

I did make another hibiscus wax because I'm not entirely happy with the red one, my complaint mostly being that it is red, not a color I am comfortable with. And I wasn't really happy with the stamen.

It's still pretty wet outside as it's only been two days since the big storm and rainy Monday even though the sun is shining and the birds are chirping. It's a day that tempts you to be outside so I imagine I will find some little things to do, like fire ant remediation, but my main goal is to start the full moon piece.

Noon on Thursday and it's already hot outside. In the sun. In the shade with a bit of breeze is nice.

My progress at the end of the day.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

happy dog days

Monday morning we were woken early by lightening and thunder and hard rain. The dog was instantly in panic mode, panting and finally hiding in the closet. It continued to rain til early afternoon. She calmed down but being in panic mode is exhausting and she slept all day. I don't blame her. It was a dreary day and I myself was totally uninspired and I sat on the couch and read. Didn't even go to yoga though it was clearing by then.

Yesterday was a happy dog day. Clear blue sky, not humid, nice little breeze, warm. Did I mention it's full blown spring here? The tallows and gingkoes and crepe myrtles and ashes are leafing out. The red buds are pinking up. The birds are chirpy. The bluebonnets and other wild flowers are starting to bloom already! The horticulturist on the radio said it's about 6 weeks early.

Remember this list from the deep freeze?

*rangoon creeper that I planted three years ago and bloomed for the first time this year – not so far
*shrub that I can never remember the name of with the long spikes of small pink flowers – nope and the root is very loose in the ground
*Mexican bird of paradise – so far has not come back
*shrimp plant – yes!
*night blooming jasmine – yes!
*yellow angel trumpet that I didn't think to take a cutting of – yes!
*plumbago – yes!
*upright rosemary which still has some green needle leaves but looks terrible and is struggling – still looks terrible
*angel wing begonia – yes!
*all my succulents and cacti except for the hens & chickens, the big aloes, and the century plant – muertas except for the three exceptions
*most of the walking iris - dead
*butterfly weed- yes!
*pony tail palm – lost all it's 'heads' but has two small sprouts
*purple orchid tree which I just planted this spring – yes!
*white orchid tree which is in a pot – not so far

 ponytail palm

not on the above list...

*my poor struggling peach tree - has three flowers
*bulbine – muerta
*beauty berry – nothing so far
*morning glory bush – yes!
*confederate rose – yes!
*periwinkles – nope

My potatoes are starting to sprout, the tomatoes are looking and growing well. Can't get the onions or anything else in til I get dirt for the new bed but it's still too wet. I have two more cauliflower heads to harvest and when I do I'll pull out the remaining broccoli. Not sure what I'll put in it;s place.

Because the ground was too wet to do anything outside I got some wax sheets made and worked on the driveway guardian/bottle tree/totem that I started with my grandgirl Robin last summer. I got the sanding done and I'm starting to assemble it, playing around with some stuff to fancy it up.

I haven't fastened it all together yet and not sure I'm happy with the wings as they are pretty short for the height which is 8'. There will be bottles all down both sides albeit without the labels.

Friday, February 17, 2017

growing more food

I have spent this entire month so far working out in the yard clearing out the freeze and winter damage, cutting back the roses and doing some much needed maintenance on the big front flower bed, harvesting and cooking and freezing food from the garden, getting my spring planting started, preparing the ground for a new raised bed which arrived yesterday but which I can't fill with dirt yet because of all the rain we have had and are having. It's wet out there today.

Remember this?

It looks like this now.

Last year you might remember I bought 4 yards of vegetable garden improved soil for about $38 a yard from a big dirt, sand, and gravel company in Rosenberg that was so hot organically that everything I planted turned yellow and shriveled up. After it sat all spring and summer it did grow some beautiful broccoli and cauliflower and the tomatoes I put in earlier are growing well. So now, I need another two yards for the new bed and I'm hesitant to go back to the same company though they told me the mix is a little different this year and they haven't gotten any complaints. I called the local feed store for a recommendation and they hooked me up with a guy who sells caney soil which is supposed to be such primo dirt that adding organic material for fertilizer is unnecessary. He will sell me this soil for $20 a yard and he is much closer. Unfortunately, with the big rain storm Tuesday morning and a small shower yesterday morning and a small shower this morning, it's all wet and muddy and he just wouldn't feel right selling it to me this wet. He apologized about that but I told him I appreciated his integrity. Anyway, it may be mid-week next week before I can get the dirt for the new raised bed so I guess I'll go ahead and pull out the broccoli which I was letting get it's secondary growth and put the onions in the big raised bed.

About that new raised bed. Last I wrote about it I had decided against buying the vinyl 4' x 4' x 11” for $130 and was going to head into Rosenberg for western red cedar and build my own but then I decided to check Costco first and they had an almost identical one except it was 2 - 4' x 4' x 11” that could also be configured as a 4' x 12' x 11” for the same $130 (which is about what the cedar would have cost). Sold!!! It arrived yesterday and set-up was a breeze, no hardware needed.

Scalping the grass down to the dirt.

A layer of cardboard, a layer of weed cloth, a layer of compost inside the raised bed, hay will surround it.

Well, I was going to lay out more cardboard and weed cloth and some of the hay today and get the onions in but it's still raining, albeit lightly, at noon. So, no outdoor work today. I do need to box up the magnolia leaves pieces and send them to the gallery for their March show but I also need to empty the wheelbarrow of dirt so the wheel, which has gone bad, can be removed and replaced and I do have three leftover tomato plants and a nice basil and empty pots in which all that can go so I'll probably go out to the barn in a little while and do that. Keeping my hands in the dirt is keeping me sane while the inmates are in charge of the asylum in Washington though I'm starting to feel a little niggling in my brain that is telling me I need to start on new models and get making stuff again.

One of last years projects except for the spirea which will get planted elsewhere.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

tornados skipped through town

Early this morning one of the phones beeped an alert but seeing as how they were in the other room we ignored it and went back to sleep. A storm was blowing through with wind and lightning and thunder and we finally got up around 7:30. Shortly after 8, my friend Wesley, who lives downtown in the apartment above one of the buildings that is next door to the antique store, called to tell me that that little storm, which had mostly passed by now, had blown out two of his windows and peeled back the flat roof about halfway of the building next door which shares a roof with the antique store and stuff was getting wet. He didn't know how to get hold of Donna, the store owner, so he called me. I promptly called my sister whose day it was to work and who lives next door to Donna to let her know.

So, she and Donna went down to assess the damage, considerable, and to start moving furniture and cleaning up and I met them down there about an hour later. Two of the five small clerestory windows blown out and shattered, roof leaking, 2 small rugs thrown out, furniture dried and moved to the back of the store, pieces that couldn't be moved were covered by a tarp, same with the display cases. Probably several pieces will be a loss, a china cabinet for sure as the veneer was already peeling back. It's a good thing so many pieces had already been removed last weekend. Donna is opening another location in Rosenberg, 3 principles and other vendors, and the pieces were taken there.

Didn't really notice any damage driving in, but on the meandering drive home I saw quite a bit. The tornado/s skipped through town. We just had a few smaller branches down.

Somebody's trampoline upended and moved. Can't tell what that other toppled thing is next to it.

Lots of trees were downed or damaged.

Other storage units at the same place were damaged.

Closer to home this grapefruit tree was finally stripped of it's fruit. The deep freeze took care of the leaves and the fruit was left to hang like ornaments.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Bizarro World

I've been back on social media for three days now (it was three when I wrote this, now it's a full week and I need to publish this because it's already out of date!) and it's all just as awful, if not more so, than before. A completely unqualified woman who wants to do away with public education to put Jesus back in the classroom confirmed as head of the Department of Education and immediately a Republican introduces a bill to completely dismantle that very same department because who needs an educated population? Certainly not a country that considers itself the world leader. And why on earth should we pay to educate our citizens when we can import our medical personnel and scientists from overseas? Already about 20% of those positions are filled by the foreign born.

And now bigoted and racist Sessions as the new Attorney General who questioned Sally Yates at her confirmation hearing about whether or not she would say no to Obama if he wanted to do something unconstitutional. My question is does he practice what he preaches? Will he say no to Trump when Trump wants to do something unconstitutional? I'm not so sure he will. Rumor is Bannon is the real president who is calling the shots but there is another rumor that it is Sessions who is pulling Trump's strings.

Meanwhile Trump inhabits the White House alone and wanders around during the wee hours in his bathrobe, binging on fast food and hiding in the residence to watch movies and SNL, berating everyone, tweeting out his disgust and insults even during briefings, ordering his staff to not wear any clothes that come from Nordstrom's because they declined to carry Ivanka's clothing line and Kellyanne goes on Fox to tell everyone to buy Ivanka's stuff, a clearly illegal act. He and Spicer continue to lie about unreported terror attacks and the murder/crime rate, misrepresenting whatever it is they are saying and as to that nothing is a fact unless Trump says so and his staff can't even figure out how to turn on the lights in the West Wing. This would be a hilarious soap opera if it weren't our real life.

We have no ambassadors and he has alienated and insulted our closest allies. He insults Australia, one of the Five Eyes group that we share everything with, about our honoring an agreement forged with Obama and basically hung up on their Prime Minister. He chastises Mexico, our third largest trade partner, and threatens to send in the US armed forces to take care of their “bad hombres” if the President of Mexico couldn't and, of course, the Wall. He demanded France give back the money we sent them for NATO and he put Putin on hold so one of his aides could explain the non-proliferation treaty to him (apparently he doesn't bother with briefings from the intelligence and state advisors before these calls which always include him telling the other person how popular he is) and then proceeded to tell Putin that we got a bad deal (also how he characterized the deal with Australia to take in 1250 refugees). This is his guiding principal...it's not a good deal unless he gets some kind of advantage. Never mind compromise or both sides winning. If he doesn't always have the better end of the deal then it's a bad deal.

The first military foray under his watch was a complete disaster as the intended target was not killed but a bunch of innocent people were including an 8 year old girl and a Navy Seal and Trump is claiming it was a complete success and then insisted military actions should not be criticized.

Meanwhile, again, Republicans are doing all kinds of arrogant, complicit, and shady things to prevent any investigations into their behavior and actions from ever taking place and complaining bitterly that the Democrats are, astonishingly, being obstructive. The nerve of them. How dare they do to us what we did to them for 8 years. In addition to the bill above to dismantle the Department of Education, there is also one to dismantle the EPA, rescind it's regulations and dismantle it. Another to sell off our public lands to their highest buddy bidder and let the banks get on with their shenanigans. And shut those mouthy women legislators up.


Thursday, February 9, 2017

not so energetic today

I'm sort of at loose ends today, Thursday, been writing a post on the political Bizarro World circus but I won't inflict that on you just yet. Went to the garden club meeting, something that I am hit or miss with. I maybe make it to about half the meetings. Other than that, about the most I have accomplished today is pulling up handfuls of sprouted sunflowers and cow pea in the wildflower mini-meadow, something that I do every day sometimes several times a day. You might remember that it was solid with field sunflowers and salvia and I had to completely clear it out this fall/winter so my wildflowers could sprout. And things are finally starting to sprout. There's larkspur and poppies and bluebonnets and evening primrose. Other things I recognize as not a weed but not sure what plant yet like queen anne's lace and clasping leaved coneflower and black eyed susans.

I went by the co-cop Monday and got some tomato plants and a bell pepper and got them planted in the empty half of the big raised bed and had to put some of them in big pots because I ran out of room until I take out the cauliflower and broccoli. 

Then, the next day my neighbor Leonard who gave me the potatoes previously, gave me some onion sets as he had planted all he had room for so I've been perusing the raised garden kits at the big box store on-line as an alternative to building my own. I don't like the way the ones we have are constructed even though they are working just fine. I almost ordered one on-line but then changed my mind. If I would just go get the wood and put it together I'd have one twice as big for the same cost. So I guess I'm going into Rosenberg tomorrow.

Stuff seen around the yard the last week...

little wood violets

10 petal anemones are blooming all over the lawn

blueberries gonna bloom

sunset looking west

same night same moment looking east

and frogs!

this guy was on the inside of the textured glass window one morning

this one was hiding in this bucket

and his little buddy was further around the rim

and today this one clinging on the inside rim of the water lily pond though it's not the best picture

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Sunday notes

The grackles have descended on us. They are thick in the trees and the ground is black with them and they are noisy and loud and impossible to photograph. The least movement and the whole flock rises up as one and moves to a different tree or patch of ground.

I did something today that I swore I would never do, am against doing. I topped one of my crepe myrtles. Some people do it every year so that the trees look like poodle tails but it is stressful for the tree. I did it though because this particular crepe myrtle has been steadily taken over by a moss/lichen and it was killing the tree so my hope is it will come out fresh and I will be able to control the lichen. As usual I didn't take a before picture.

I headed off the the grocery store to get all the ingredients for the 6 broccoli and cauliflower recipes I had saved. I was only planning to cook one of each because we didn't plant that much but I didn't know which ones I would do so I prepared for all of them. I didn't realize it was Super Bowl Sunday til I got there and the aisles were crowded with everyone dodging everyone with dazed and confused expressions of their faces. Check out was quick though as the store had all the registers open.

Got the potatoes planted. I had enough for three rows in the small raised bed. I'd take a picture but all you would see is dirt.

Grandgirl Robin, who will be 16 this month, came out with her folks today. She found the brand new box of sidewalk chalk I bought over a year ago and put it to good use. Then she helped me make the cauliflower casserole.

And then I did a broccoli casserole. The two dishes are getting divvied up into containers and put in the freezer.

Well, my four days of self imposed exile are over. I never did get to the little model I'm working on as there was so much to do in the yard. Still is.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

day 4

Saturday morning...my name is Ellen Abbott and I'm a social media addict. It's been two days since my last log on. not to be making fun of alcoholics mind you Anyway, when I'm away I have no trouble not checking into FB. In fact I don't even think about it because my whole morning routine is different but sitting here in the mornings with my water first and then coffee, after I've read all the current blog postings or written my own then what am I supposed to do to fill the time til I get up to fix breakfast. I stopped reading the newspaper years ago and anyway, I'm avoiding the news as well for these four days. I don't want to hear or see anything Trump.

Here's an observation...white wing doves are bullies. They even chase off the blue jays from the totem bird feeder. They get on there, usually two at a time because that's all that will fit, though yesterday I saw third trying to come in and kept trying to land on the back of one of the others, and then they start knocking and tossing the seed out of the dish. The blue jay does that too and the sparrows. More than half the seed falls to the ground. The cardinals are very polite. They just perch on the rim and eat.

Overcast and chilly again today but I did get out there and worked on the front some more. Got the other yellow butterfly iris out, dug up all the baby century plants and weeds and grass that had colonized the front bed, fertilized and mulched the cut back roses. The twin grandgirls came out to hang out while their parents worked on their property. Jade brought 3 pairs of pants out to be mended so I did that.

My neighbor at the other end of the block, Leonard, gave me some seed potatoes that he had left over after he had planted some. Well, after I had grilled him on where he got them this early and were they red or white. Anyway he said he'd give me some but I had to bring his bucket back. Which I did today though I haven't planted them yet. That's one of the activities for tomorrow but I have to finish getting the johnson grass out of the small raised bed first. And I plan on doing some cooking and freezing of broccoli and cauliflower dishes tomorrow.

I have had friends I have relied on in the past to help us through lean times but never the government. I don't feel any particular pride in that. If you need food or housing assistance by all means you should apply for it for as long as it's available, which may not be long if the current administration has any say in the matter. I've personally been fortunate enough that those times when we have been on the brink, the universe has come through for us. That doesn't make me special, just lucky. Anyway, the plan is to plant more food and preserve what we grow and don't eat right away. Since I'm no fan of canning and the water bath, I prefer to cook the produce and then freeze the meals for later consumption. And so I have been looking at cauliflower and broccoli casserole recipes because tomorrow I have a lot of both to harvest.

Sunday morning and I did find something to fill the time...online shopping!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

finding balance

I need to work on the balance in my life. It's a lesson I'd rather not have to learn again. Therefore I plan to avoid all social media, well, not blogs, til Monday. No FB, no Twitter. I'm going to work outside. I'm going to get my hands in the dirt. I'm going to go out with my sister and explore Old Town Rosenberg. I'm going to finish the model I started and didn't finish because all the previous stuff came out of the kiln. I'm going to do what I can do to nurture the earth, enjoy a relationship, and bring beauty into the world. I have to detach and remember the divine flame within, that flame that inhabits all of creation and makes us one even if I don't care for this particular expression of the TATI* that I find myself in. However, don't think that this signals acceptance. No no. As my friend Reya says, this is a marathon, not a sprint. We have years of resistance ahead of us and it won't do to get burned out early. There is nothing I can do to prevent anything that will happen in the next four days.

I've been engaging in a lot of physical activity this week and last but as often as not I'm still awake 2 or 3 or 4 hours a night. Consequently I've been sleeping late, not rising until about 8:30. Since it seems to be spring here I've been cutting back all the dead foliage from the hard freeze. Ginger, yellow bells, confederate rose, morning glory bush, jasmine, Philippine violet, firecracker bush, and lantana one day, the century plant and the roses the next. 

I also finally dug up one of the large clumps of yellow butterfly iris that was crowding out two of the roses. That took me well over an hour and I cracked the handle of my shovel doing it. I still need to dig the other one up as well but they both got severe haircuts. 

remember this from last April?

it looks like this now

There are piles of debris everywhere, thorny stacks of rose cuttings, a trail of dead foliage and branches as I worked my way around the yard.

one of many

The azaleas will no longer be constrained and are starting to bloom about 6 weeks early. The red shouldered hawks are soaring in the sky calling for mates. The mosquito hawks are coming out. The birds are all chirpy. A woodpecker is hammering away at some piece of metal outside showing off for the girls and a wren is fussing at the cat every time she goes out. All kinds of new and regenerative growth is coming out. And it is barely February.

I harvested two big heads of broccoli last Sunday and made broccoli cheese soup, some for now and some for the freezer. I need to get the raised beds in order and build a new one since we plan to plant more food this year. And I got the satsuma orange planted.

The weather has been warm and dry all week, dry as in no rain but also as in not humid, and last week as well though today is cooler and overcast and wet and it's supposed to rain today. 

Perhaps I'll update my website today.

*The All That Is