Wednesday, March 3, 2021

I had other good things to report on but the grumbling took up too much space

I got all the plants out of the house and garage Saturday and gave everything a good watering which I'm sure they were glad of. There is so much to do out in the yard, so much dead foliage to trim off. It's depressing looking at it. I'd rather see nothing. On Sunday I cut back boston ferns, katie ruellia, easter lilies, some of the leatherleaf ferns, cut the damaged leaves off the aspidistra working on the west side of the house and across the front and 3 1/2 hours later I ran out of steam. It was 80˚ and really humid out there. The yard is littered with all the debris, big and little, that I've cut off during the week. I should really get all that picked up before I cut anything else.

Then this happened. I had the door to the little backyard open as I do when the weather is neither cold or hot and no screen and as usually happens, a wren will come in, check things out and then leave. So I could hear them outside and then a little female flew in (and I know it was a female because of what happened) and flew to the far side of the room and then perched on the chain of the temple bell. I told her she didn't want to make a nest in here and then another wren flew in and also perched on the chain. Next thing I know, the second wren is mounting her (it was really quick and I can't believe I got the picture) and then he flew out and then she followed.

So of course Monday turned overcast, cold, and wet. Grumble grumble. Then at lunch I got a call from the dentist's office that I needed to come in for a new impression for my permanent crowns. What? Why? Grumble grumble. But you know what I did the rest of the day? I worked on my drawing (not a tracing which I do when I'm feeling lazy) of the angel trumpet flower and I've transferred it to my sketchbook for a colored drawing. 

Then it was time to go to yoga and Pam pulled up in the driveway just as the predicted rain started sprinkling, I got in, grumble grumble, and we made it to the highway crossover and we looked down towards the oncoming traffic and it was wet and rainy and dim and cold and I said it's not too late to change our minds. I could do that she says. Good. Let's not go so we turned around and came home. Then I texted Abby to let her know so she wouldn't worry about us not showing up since we come from Wharton and the class is in El Campo. Because we always show up. 

Yesterday morning, cold and overcast, and I arrived for my dental appointment for the new impression only it wasn't just an impression. When they sent the crowns back to darken the color the lab guys decided that the crowns were too thin on the backside because of my bad overbite and therefore too fragile and more material needed to be removed from the stubs that remained of three of my front teeth. So more grinding I asked? Yes, he says, more grinding. The first new impression was setting up too fast. He took another one but he didn't position the tray right at first so I'm not sure how that one came out so then he just took some of the 'stuff' and mashed it on and around my stubs so who the fuck knows how these new crowns are going to fit plus my gums were sore from all the trauma.

After lunch I went to check on my bird heads to see if the ants had done their job and I could only find the titmouse skull of which I could now see the back was crushed so I guess when it froze and fell, it landed on the back of it's head and crushed it's little skull. And the robin head/skull was nowhere to be found so I guess some creature...squirrel, possum, or raccoon perhaps got it. So that was a wash. Grumble grumble.

And now yesterday our dumbass republican governor in a bid to distract from the near total failure of our 'private' unregulated power grid and all the damage and the astronomical bills people are getting for a few days of power and the criticism raining down on his head has announced the end of the statewide mask mandate leaving it to the 'common sense' of Texans, individuals and businesses, to decide for themselves if masks are appropriate as well as allowing businesses to open up to 100% capacity. In other words, Abbott has decided that the pandemic is over even though all the major covid strains have been identified in Houston and only a small portion of the population has been vaccinated and Texas is still #2 in infections and #3 in deaths and yesterday there were more new infections and new deaths than there were the day he imposed the mask mandate and limited crowd size last July which he had to do because both those things surged after an  earlier attempt to open up. Oh, counties can still require masks but no penalty for non-compliance. Couldn't even give Biden his 100 days and just plain doesn't give a shit about the health of people in this state. He's beholden only to his big business donors. Yesterday wasn't turning out any better than Monday. The only good thing is that by afternoon the sky had completely cleared and it was warming up.

I was going to post about some of the promising stuff in the yard but this is already long, so next time.

Monday, March 1, 2021

winter reading list

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara – another book I considered a couple of times before I checked it out. The story takes place in India where 9 year old Jai lives with his 13 year old sister Dunu and their parents in a slum settlement that has sprung up outside the Bhoot Bazaar and the hi-rise apartments and condos where the wealthy live and where many of the residents of the 'basti' work. Jai spends his days at school or the bazaar or watching TV, especially detective and police shows so when one of their classmates goes missing and the police, who can't be bothered with the problems of the basti residents, do nothing Jai decides he and his friends Pari and Faiz will investigate and solve the case. Only as more and more children go missing tensions increase, children are not allowed to leave their homes, and the Muslim residents are blamed, it's not until Jai's sister Dunu goes missing that the community finally bands together and enlists the aid of the son of the leader of the neighborhood and his underlings and the pack of children and their guardian that 'pick' the rubbish ground that the truth and extent of the kidnappings finally comes out. It's not a happy story and there is no happy ending.

Twisted Twenty-Six by Janet Evanovich – the further adventures of Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter, and her sidekick Lula and the two hot ass men who claim her. This one was mostly about Grandma Mazer who married a mobster on a whim and 45 minutes later he keels over from a heart attack. His mobster buddies are sure Jimmy handed off 'the keys' to Grandma (he didn't) and Stephanie, Morelli, and Ranger are hard pressed to protect her.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig – Nora, who backed away from everything she was good at, competitive swimming, member of a band, marriage, education, etc, on the verge of becoming successful at it, finds herself in a life in which nothing good has happened, she has no friends, her only living family, her brother, isn't speaking to her, she is constantly unhappy, her cat dies, and she loses her dead end job and decides she has no life worth living and no one to care if it ends and she takes an overdose of pills and passes out and wakes up in the midnight library. The library is full of books, each book being a life she would have lived if she had made a different choice at any point in her root life and she now has the opportunity to undo the regrets of her life and see where those different choices would have taken her. When she finds the life she wants to live, she can live it, otherwise as soon as it becomes disappointing she finds herself back in the midnight library hovering between her root life and real death. After endless forays she discovers some truths about herself, foremost that she does not want to die. She learns that things are not what we see but rather our perceptions of it and perceptions can change.

Fortune And Glory (Tantalizing Twenty-Seven) by Janet Evanovich – the latest in the Stephanie Plum series and the sequel to Twisted Twenty-Six. Stephanie and Grandma Mazer set out to find the location of the Laz-y Boys' treasure that the keys are supposed to unlock in between hunting down and re-bonding small time and big time criminals while trying not to to get kidnapped and tortured along the way. Sidekick Lula and a guy named Potts who has decided he needs to be Stephanie's bodyguard assist. A record number of cars are destroyed and Ranger steps in when Stephanie and Morelli take a break in their relationship.

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton – This is essentially a murder mystery, it could also be considered an historical novel as it takes place in the mid 1600s on an United East India Company cargo ship except the author plays loose with the actual history of the time and also the details regarding an Indiaman galleon. The ship is laden with spices as well as secret cargo, commoners as passengers and nobles; the regional governor, his wife, daughter, mistress and her two sons and a few attendants. Also on board is prisoner Sammy Pipps, a popular and well known detective, and his bodyguard Arent. As the ship is being boarded, a man dressed as a leper leaps up onto some crates and issues doom to the ship and all on it and then bursts into flames. When the mainsail is unfurled it bears the sign of a demon, Old Tom. With Pipps in a cell, it is up to Arent and the Governor's wife Sara to discover who is the threat and prevent the destruction of the ship and everyone on it before the three predicted unholy miracles come to pass. As superstition starts to take over the ship, dead bodies start to pile up, the unholy miracles are performed, a mutiny ensues and the ship grounds itself on jagged rocks during the fighting and is torn in half with the survivors barely making it to an island. It's a good story that I enjoyed so I'm not going to tell you more except that the ending is surprising, or was to me.

The Suicide House by Charlie Donlea – another murder mystery. A year ago two students were murdered at an abandoned faculty boarding house on the grounds of Westmont Prep, an exclusive private high school, during what was to be an initiation of 6 juniors into the secret Man In The Mirror club. The evidence pointed to a teacher who attempted suicide in order to avoid arrest but only succeeded in becoming brain dead. In the year since 3 of the surviving 5 teens committed suicide at the abandoned house. There are several storylines that alternate...the unknown person reading from his journal about how he killed his brother and father, the students who were invited to join the secret club leading up to the night in question, a year later the crime writer and blogger competing with another blogger investigating the old murders and the newer suicides, and the psychologist and his dead case investigator girlfriend who were approached by the original detective to review the case. I thought I had figured out who the murderer was twice, wrong both times.

The Haunting At Bonaventure Circus by Jaime Jo Wright – this had the potential to be a good story but I just don't care for the author's writing style or the two main characters...Pippa and Chandler and halfway through I was ready to be done. In the early 1900s Bluff River, the winter home of the Bonaventura Circus, Pippa, a newborn infant with a damaged leg, a child of the circus, is left on the owner's doorstep. This has never been hidden from her but also never talked about. Now 19 and promised in marriage to the son of her father's dead partner she is chafing against the silent and obedient girl she was raised to be and longs to be a part of the circus and know who her parents are and why they gave her away. For the past two years she has been getting secret missives from someone who calls himself the Watchman who promises to protect her. She thinks perhaps he is her actual father. Her adoptive father, a mean spirited and cold man who only took in Pippa because his wife was desperate for a child, had ordered her to stay away from the circus grounds. One night she sneaks out to finally meet the Watchman but their meeting is interrupted by the birth of a baby elephant that is injured by it's mother who rejected it and Pippa is drawn even further into circus life and rebellion. But it's not all it seems as there is an undercurrent of evil and rumors of a serial killer. A hundred years later, single mother Chandler and her 7 year old son move to Bluff River to work on a development project for her uncle restoring the old train depot and costume house of the now defunct circus where she encounters stories of murder and hauntings in these buildings, the most recent the disappearance of her landlord's sister Linda several decades past. Chandler is fighting her own demons as well as Lyme disease as she tries to prove to the world that she doesn't need any help and pushes away anyone who tries. There she meets Hank who is determined to solve the mystery of Linda's disappearance which he thinks is connected to the old buildings and the defunct circus and the serial killer. Drawing Chandler into his investigation they stumble on the killer's secret hideaway where he kept mementos of his kills and the skeleton of Linda. The story is told from the perspective of Pippa and Chandler, switching back and forth as the story of Pippa's parentage, the Watchman, and the killer unfolds. For all my complaints about the characters and the author's style, in it's bones it's a good story and we as readers learn the truth that the modern day characters can only guess at.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

vaccines and golden idols

We got our second vaccine shot Thursday and this time it was much more organized. A sign on the front door of the civic center directed us to a door on the side which opened directly into the room where you walked up to a table and gave them your name and appointment time and they marked you off the list and then directed you to a row of chairs to wait your turn to get jabbed. Our appointment time was 10:45 and we got there about 10:40, waited less than 2 minutes to be called over, another few minutes while the jabber filled out the vax card and get stuck, wait the required 15 minutes and we walked out 20 minutes after we got there.

I'm a little achy this morning (Friday) and the injection site is sore but not the whole arm like last time and I didn't sleep well last night, couldn't get comfortable, so I'm unsure how much of my lack of energy is due to the vaccine and how much is due to poor sleep. I plan to be lazy all day today as it's overcast and a little chilly (but maybe that was just me). I might even get back to my drawing which I haven't worked on since the first day weeks ago due to my right hand buzzing like a subliminal electrical current when I grasp things but by afternoon even that subsides. I can make a fist now with no pain and the nerve jolts have stopped and while I wore the wrist brace for about a week, I now think the problem is either in my upper arm or my elbow and just manifests in my hand. Now that I've had both my vaccine shots I see a trip to the masseuse in my future and maybe the chiropractor too.


The next day: well, turns out I didn't work on my drawing after all. After breakfast I sat on the couch for an hour and read and then went back to bed til 2 PM. I felt better, less achy, more rested until the dog wanted her walk and she didn't just want a quick outing, she wanted a long walk and that used up all my energy and motivation for the day. Back to the couch and book til bed. But I slept well last night, feel normal today. Still overcast out but I may start moving all the plants back outside from the house and garage today.

In other news, I'm trying to stay off the political stream. I read Heather Cox Richardson's newsletter every morning but I'm mostly staying off Twitter and FB. The adults are in charge now and I have to trust Biden's team to take care of things. The Republicans have completely devolved into the cult of Trump with very few exceptions, even Mitch McConnell has caved and said he will support Trump if he's the nominee in 2024, and at CPAC they rolled out a golden idol of Trump. I kid you not. 

And a bigger group of liars in one place you will not find while they jeer and 'own' the libs. And of course, so true to form, The House passed Biden's covid relief bill with not one single Republican voting for it. As usual, Republicans only want to help the rich get richer and fuck ordinary Americans, they should have prepared better.

So as not to end on such a sour note, here are the fresh prayer flags.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021


Windy today with a strong south wind. Overcast too and warm, currently 74˚. I've been out in the yard cutting off the mushy stuff and cutting back the things that froze to the ground even though they say to wait two weeks. The things I'm cutting back, if they survived, will come out from the roots, not the dead stems and branches. Some things I'm waiting on. The spirea, which I did not mention previously looks terrible but on closer inspection is already putting out tiny new green leaves as is the mock dogwood which I also didn't mention. Still, it's looking pretty bare out there.

The door to the little backyard is open and a wren just flew in, perched on the edge of my desk to see what I was doing and flew back out. The birds keep coming to check the bird feeder which is empty as they have cleaned me out.

I was out earlier replacing the faded and torn prayer flags strung between the two birdhouses on poles. A little challenging considering the wind. Too windy to get a picture of the new ones.

I also got my zinnia seeds in starter pots.

I finally called the El Campo hospital this morning about the second vaccine shot. You may remember Marc and I got our first jab January 14 and were supposed to get the second on February 11 which they pushed back to the 14th which they pushed back to the 19th which they canceled altogether due to weather and acquisition problems. Today it's 6 weeks since the first jab. Oh, the woman says, you're on my list to call today, can you be here tomorrow at 10:45? Yes ma'am we can. I'll have to miss my morning at SHARE but I'm sure they can muddle along without me.

Time to walk the dog and then get ready for yoga class.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

plant report

It got up to 60˚ on Saturday and briefly 70˚ today! I've moved the big plants out of the house and the smaller ones I brought in for the week of extreme temperatures. Then I walked around the yard uncovering everything.

Of the things covered:

The yellow and pink angel trumpets froze to the ground as expected but hopefully covering them preserved the roots.

All the gardenia's leaves are brown but I reached in and tested a stem which is still green so while it has lost its leaves, it lives.

Everything above ground on the plumbagos is dead but I hope the roots are good. Remains to be seen. I've lost plumbagos before in winters not this cold though they weren't covered.

The hibiscus was already cut back and dormant but I hope it survived. Maybe. Isn't looking good right now.

The ground orchid foliage is brown but there is some green under the thick leaf mulch so I think some of those will return if not all.

The yesterday/today/tomorrow froze to the ground, remains to be seen if the roots are good. It's in a pot. I should have brought it in.

The three big azaleas covered with buds next to the house look good and even most the buds look viable.

The two small azaleas by the driveway are all brown and those buds are dead but I think the plants survive.

The porterweed's new growth at the ground froze and some of the roots but I think some of the roots are still green. If not, I have a replacement in a pot in the house.

The sweet peas look great, in fact I think they even grew some!

The pony tail palm looks good. It will probably lose some of its outer leaves but I reached in and squeezed a neck or two and they seem firm.

Of the things that were not covered:

The small flowering senna tree is completely brown. I have no idea if it survives.

I'm pretty sure the rosemary is dead.

The phillipine lilies, purple and white flowered versions, are black. Don't know how hardy they are. I have a little volunteer of the purple in a pot in the house.

The crinum lilies, amaryllis, spider lilies, nile lilies, society garlic, elephant garlic, native alstroemeria, woodland pinks, bulbine (pretty sure it won't come back), and a lot of daylily foliage are all a puddle of mush on the ground. Only time will tell if the bulbs are still good. The daffodils are unfazed though and the two buds look like they'll open.

The azaleas around the pecan tree are all brown but I think have survived.

The camellia looks fine if a bit nipped.

The easter lilies are frozen so no flowers this year. I hope the bulbs are still good.

The rangoon creeper is completely brown/black. I think it will come back. I hope.

The poppies, love-in-a-mist, larkspur, ox-eye daisies, baby blue eyes look good which surprised me.

The roses are burned as are the leather leaf ferns and the purple coneflowers.

The boston ferns are brown and probably dead. We'll see.

All the ginger froze as expected but I'm confident the roots are good.

The night blooming jasmine froze to the ground but it will probably come back.

The indigofera also froze. It has survived that before but this was much colder and longer.

The firespike and shrimp plants are black to the ground and I hope they come back.

The bluebonnets are not happy but I think they'll recover and bloom.

And the banana trees are, of course, mush, but they should come back.

That's not everything but enough and I could have taken more pictures but one dead plant looks pretty much like another. Unsurprisingly, the dandelions and 10 petal anemones are going what arctic freeze?

Oh, and after the ice layer on the turtle pond melted I could see her down there and when I rapped on the side of the pond she wiggled her foot so she lives and today she was out on her sunning stone.

But there were two casualties...a titmouse and a robin found over by the shop. 

Both their heads are currently embedded in fire ant nests. Gruesome I know but I didn't have a skull of either in my collection.


Friday, February 19, 2021

so many people are still having it so much worse

My son was out of power in Houston for 32 hours and is currently under a 'boil water' order because...problems. Most of Houston's power has been restored now and it's warming up enough during the day for all the broken pipes to become apparent. In this little town every plumber is overwhelmed. Rocky spent the day repairing his own broken water pipes. Every store that carried any kind of plumbing supplies is sold out, empty shelves. Rocky called, could he have the pipe glue he knew I had? Yes of course and anything else you need.

People in the northern part of the state are still having outages and no food and no gas. Finally some relief efforts are getting under way. This is a total failure of the no regulation go it alone unrestrained capitalism policy of our republican state government where profit is king and infrastructure is an afterthought. Safety measures had been recommended after a previous frigid event but never acted on because profit always trumps infrastructure even though they would have still made a profit, just not as much. Another part of the problem, down here in south Texas at least, is that our homes aren't built to keep the cold out but to keep the heat out. Homes here have the air vents in the ceiling which is great for air conditioning but not so great for heating.

This isn't the first catastrophe from our no regulation republican government. The refineries blow up with regularity and a fertilizer plant exploded outside Waco some years back.

And of course one of our senators, that lying weasel Rafael (Ted) Cruz, packed up his family on Wednesday, called for a police escort to the airport, and got on a plane to sunny Cancun while his constituents were freezing in the dark with no water. And of course, people saw them and started skewering him on twitter, FB, and the news which he discovered Thursday morning and changed his reservation to return yesterday with a made up bogus story about trying to be a good dad because his daughters wanted to go be with their friends. The truth is that his wife sent texts to friends and neighbors complaining that the house was freezing and they were going to fly to a fancy resort that they have stayed at many times and urged their friends to join them. Rafael's original return ticket was for Saturday. Meanwhile AOC, who our politicians and ignorant lib haters kept blaming for the reason Texans had no power, her and the Green New Deal which isn't even a law, just a proposal,  has raised $2M for help and aid to Texans bringing them food, water, generators, etc. while Rafael fled to Cancun. Don't anyone ever tell me that there is no difference between Democrats and Trumplicans.

We did finally have our turn at losing power Wednesday. The smaller communities around Wharton lost their power right away and went days without. One of the other volunteers at SHARE had been warned by someone she knew and passed along the information so I had already dug out my extreme cold clothes left over from my river days and got out the candles and candle lanterns and we had plenty of blankets and a little after 5 PM it did go off. I sat by the window with a lap blanket as long as there was enough available light to read and then I lit the candles and Marc set up one of those clay pot tea candle heaters in front of the couch 

which had more of a psychological effect than actual heating but would probably work alright if you made a circle of them and sat inside it in a small room with low ceilings. Then he rigged up a flashlight from the ceiling fan so we could read snuggled under blankets on the couch. We fixed cocktails and just went without dinner so as to keep the refrigerator closed. We had some options for food but neither of us was hungry enough to stir from our warm nests. The power came back on 5 hours later right at bedtime. Yay!

Yesterday was my morning at SHARE, only about half the regular volunteers showed up and we were busy. Lots of food went out.

Supposed to get up to the low 40s today and tonight is supposed to be our last frigid night, 19˚, before a return tomorrow to our usual late winter/early spring weather. Tomorrow I uncover everything and see all the damage. And then I wait to see what still has life in it. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

cause things weren't bad enough

Believe it or not things are even worse even though the coldest nights are behind us though still getting down in the 20s. Today and the next two...35˚/28˚, 34˚/22˚, 41˚/20˚. Saturday we start warming up. Woke up to light icy rain this morning. The town sent out a text asking people to conserve water during the day and not let faucets drip or run while they make repairs to the water system. Got a text from Autumn in Austin about midnight, she's lost water. Got a text from Jade in San Antonio about 6 AM, second floor of her building had a broken pipe with water pouring down to the first floor. She lives on the third floor and thinks she still has water. Text from Robin in Houston about 10 AM, she's lost water and power again. Mikey and girlfriend Audra and their dog and Robin and her cat are in route out here to their parents' house. They have power but no water.

We still have both but we did have a water incident yesterday. We've been turning the water off at the meter at night and back on during the day which we learned later produces pressure problems for frozen pipes. So yesterday I was rinsing my plate off in the kitchen after lunch when I hear water sounds in the little bathroom. You might remember those pipes are in the attic and were frozen so while we had water in the upper house, we did not in the little bathroom. I went to check and the floor in the house studio room had water spreading out on it from where it was pouring out from under a wall in the little bathroom. Hollered at Marc to turn off the water, the house was flooding. Texted Gunnar (plumber) and started mopping up (7 or 8 gallons we think), waited a few minutes and called Rocky who came immediately, heard from Gunnar, swamped with 13 calls and for us to turn off the water. Rocky pulled the medicine cabinet out of the wall for a looksee, determined the leak was in the attic so up he went and good news was, no broken pipes, yay, but the connection from the old galvanized insulated pipes to the new uninsulated pex had come loose and he didn't have the necessary (expensive) tool to make the repair so he capped off the galvanized pipe and we had water in the rest of the house. Texted Gunnar, easy fix so he and his helper came by this morning on their way out to now over 20 calls and got the repair done. It was probably the turning the water off and on that caused the pex to come loose from the galvanized pipe, he removed the ice plug and now we have water in the little bathroom too. Don't shut the water off at night he says, just let all three faucets trickle. We weren't the only one this happened to here.

Statewide, millions of people are still without power and/or water and have been since Sunday night. People are dying from having their oxygen batteries die with no way to recharge, from carbon monoxide poisoning from sitting in their cars trying to get warm, if not dying yet being unable to get to dialysis centers that are closed anyway or get life saving drugs.

So, of course, our stupid republican senators and governor are lying and passing the blame for this catastrophe onto the Green New Deal, a policy that is not in effect, has not been voted on, has not even been sent to the floor of the House for a vote, and AOC who is sponsoring it. Also blaming the frozen windmills that provide only about 20% or less of our electricity. What they aren't telling people is that the coal and natural gas pumps and plants that we get the lion's share of our power from are also frozen up. The tin foil hat people are circulating an image from years ago in Sweden of a helicopter melting ice off a windmill passing it off as Texas.  The fact is that Texas has an independent privately owned power grid to avoid federal regulations and so we are not interconnected with any other states for power sharing and as usual, our republican policies put profit over infrastructure and the powers that be saw no reason to insulate or provide built in heaters at crucial points for cold weather while ex- Texas governor ex-energy secretary Perry is telling reporters that Texans are happy to suffer a little cold to keep regulation out of the state (I guarantee neither Perry nor any of our politicians are suffering outages). And while this weather is quite unusual, it's not the first time this has happened. In fact there was a commission after a hard winter in '79 or '80 that recommended winterizing that was never implemented. As many people have pointed out, windmills work just fine in places that get much colder than we do.

Pictures from today:

banana trees

flowering senna

ground orchids, pink angel trumpet, hibiscus, plumbago; I have no idea what it looks like under there but I'm pretty sure I lost the gardenia from what I could see through the clear plastic covering it

heritage rose

jasmine, every bud is encased in ice

pansies and violas

night blooming jasmine, ginger, leather leaf fern, fire spike, aspidistra