Friday, May 29, 2009

boring and busy

pretty flower picture

I’m feeling very boring lately.  When I can’t think of anything clever to say I fall back on pretty flower pictures.  Lately I’ve had lots of pretty flower pictures.  All my blog buddies are such great writers, coming up with interesting topics, profound thoughts, funny stories, great recipes even.  Me?  All I can come up with is pretty flowers.  Not that pretty flowers are bad mind you.  But I’m getting a little tired of asking myself ‘why didn’t I think of that?’.  I suppose it could be because I am so tightly focused on getting this job done.  We had wanted to finish by the end of this month, but I see we are going to need at least one more week of long days.  That will give us one week to get it installed before we leave town to teach a workshop in upper state NY.  I really want to get it installed before we leave.

Today is the end of the week and almost the end of the month.  We head home for the country house this afternoon.  All four grandkids are coming down as well.  It’s going to be a busy weekend.  My sister sets up a stall at the farmer’s market.  They sell produce from their garden and the soaps and dried herbs, teas, jellies and pickled stuff that she makes.  My b-i-l runs the mail route to all the little rural post offices in the mornings and evenings so he can’t get there til about 10 AM.  So I go help her til he gets there.  That means I have to be there at 7:30 in the morning.  Crap!  I don’t even usually get up til 7:30.  We’ll also have 6 kids running around to keep an eye on.  My great-nieces are visiting their grandmother (my sister) this week which is one of the reason all four of ours are coming with us.  My sister’s grandkids live in New Mexico and only come once a year and we want the cousins to grow up knowing each other.  From this afternoon to Sunday afternoon when their parents come get them, all I’m going to be doing is cooking and cleaning to the chorus of ‘granny, granny, granny’.

I’m not taking the computer this time since I’ve already used up all my free dial-up hours for the month and I don’t see having any free time anyway so I’ll be awol til Monday.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

a lily a day

Day lilies are so lovely.

Most of these are from the country house

but a couple are from my sister’s yard,

a couple from the Houston yard.

There are so many varieties of these beautiful lilies

and the flowers are open for one day only.

All that glorious beauty

for just one day

and at night they close up.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

a chicken by any other name...

This is really part 2 of my chicken story (chickens are sneaky) even though it seems to be about ducks.

Besides having chickens, my sister and brother-in-law have three ducks.  When I approached the duck yard, I noticed that there was a wood duck there.  When my sister and b-i-l first moved out here, there were wood ducks nesting in the tremendous pecan tree in their backyard.  They didn’t return the next year but I guess they’ve been around because my sister mentioned having seen them on occasion with the other ducks.  When I finally got too close for this one, it flew up and joined it’s fellow on the roof of the chicken coop.

So, my sister and b-i-l used to have two ducks but then one night something got one of the ducks.  Ping, the other duck was very lonely because ducks are social creatures so they got two new ducks.  Were supposed to be both female but one turned out to be a male.  The lone female started laying eggs (you can read about my encounter with duck eggs here) until one day the duck started brooding on one of her eggs.  The other drake, Fred, started to take exception to Ping’s attentions to Ethyl (the girl duck) and became aggressive and though poor Ping is bigger, he was getting pretty beat up so he had to be separated.  So now they are back to square one because Ping is alone again, only now, they have 2 more ducks.  (So, just in case you were wondering, it is NOT a good idea to put a duck in with the chickens for company.)

Ethyl on her eggs.

Well, it seems the duck hen, this is the hen that lives with the ducks because she doesn’t get along with her sisters, also laid a couple of eggs in the nest because the duck is sitting on one duck egg and two chicken eggs.  Ought to be interesting.

the good life

Do you see the little bee?

I was sitting out in the little fenced back yard Saturday around noon and the tree above me was buzzing.  Not real loud but definitely buzzing.  It’s a chinese tallow tree, not native and tends to be invasive as introduced species tend to be, and it is in full bloom.  It took me some moments to begin to be able to see the bees that were swarming around it and in it.  They were very busy. 

Friday I had to drive to Chappel Hill which is about an hour away slightly NW of Houston for an initial consultation with the committee of a church that is interested in some art glass.  You have to go through Hempstead to get there.  Hempstead is a small town farming community in the hill country.  I wanted to get some Texas peaches before they are all gone.  Texas peaches are the best peaches you will ever eat (OK, I may be a little prejudiced here), small, sweet and juicy.  Used to be the highway went right through Hempstead and the produce market was on the corner of the only light.  Now the highway goes around and I had to turn off.  Guess it’s been awhile since I was in Hempstead but the market was gone from the corner and there is more than one light now.  I  went back to the highway and passed a market on the roadside so stopped there on the way back from my meeting.  These peaches had just been picked the day before and they didn’t have very many.  Only 30% of the crop came in.  I mentioned having to go to Fredericksburg then if I wanted peaches.  “Oh, they don’t have any peaches either”, she says.  No peaches in Fredericksburg?!  “Nope, they’ve had even drier weather.”  Man, this drought is killing me.  No peaches.

This was our sunset Friday night.  Soft subdued pastel colors like a painting.

The farmer’s market started here in Wharton last weekend.  I bought 30 ears of corn and put them up in the freezer. Got another 15 ears today destined for the same.  Well, not all of it.  It’s so good, sweet and juicy, kinda like the peaches.  Also got potatoes, carrots, squash, cucumbers, kohlrabi.  We’re getting japanese eggplant and banana peppers out of our garden.  No tomatoes are ripe yet though. 

We got down here the previous weekend to find that my butternut squash vines were all in serious wilt.  They had squash worms (every single one!) so I picked out the worms with a toothpick and ‘squashed’ them and then buried the damaged portions of the vines near the roots and also buried sections of the undamaged vines further along (to encourage root development) and kept them well watered until we left for Houston last Monday.  I was pleased to see this weekend that at least half the vines have survived and two of them are putting on new fruit. 

Monday, May 25, 2009

chickens are sneaky

Little dinosaurs

Don’t you believe that they aren’t aware of the larger world around them.  My sister calls them The Borg.  Every time they run up to me when I enter the chicken yard, I’m that guy in Jurassic Park when all the little dinosaurs run up to him right before they start to eat him.  It’s eerie, they move the same way.  Consequently, they freak me out a bit, but I am Human and I’ll be darned if I let a bunch of chickens scare me.  They don’t scare easy, by the way.  They are flat out stubborn.

Three hens, one nest

One of the hens started brooding on one of the nests.  This was unusual in itself because supposedly, these chickens had been bred not to brood (ya gotta love the instinct to reproduce, doncha).  Shortly thereafter, the amount of eggs started to decrease til yesterday, all she got was 4 or 5.  She had looked in the coop the other day and there were now two hens brooding on the same nest.  We surmised that the other chickens were sneaking in there and laying eggs in the nest when the brooder got up for food.  We figured pretty soon that hen would be sitting on a hill of eggs.  She called me yesterday, told me our suspicions were confirmed.  The other brooding hen got off the nest when my sister was in the coop.  She counted 11 eggs and those were just the ones she could see.  No telling how many were under the first and main brooding hen. I guess there got to be so many that she called in a helper.  I thought this to be very funny so I went over there Sunday to get some pictures and there were not one or two, but three hens sitting on those eggs all crammed into the same nest.

Chickens or eggs?

She’s still not getting very many eggs and is hesitant to gather any of the ones that are being sat on, not knowing what will be found inside them.  Now she is content to let the hens hatch the ones they have been hoarding but she doesn’t want any more added to the nest.  And now she has to set up a nursery.  Who knew keeping chickens was so much trouble.  You can’t just let them mingle.  Territory and dominance issues that get intensified in a confined space.  Kinda like people.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


I hate drama in my life.  I love excitement, mystery, energy, discovery, but I hate fucking drama.

Drama has entered my life.  I am trying to control the effect, any possible damage, but it is already taking up too much of my attention.

Over a decade ago someone who I considered to be a good friend, best friend even, ended our friendship abruptly by letter with a list of grievances and orders to never to try to contact her again.  She was not the only one.  Many of the people who I associated with at the time turned their back on me.  Some stood with me and they remain my friends to this day.

I will say that I do not think I was entirely blameless, but some of her accusations were unfair and some blatantly not true.  But I was left with no recourse.  And these people themselves were no better, no worse, than I.  We all had faults.  We all had redeeming traits.  But they determined that I was no longer worthy of their continued friendship.

It took me a very long time to move past this pain.  I had to purge my house of everything that reminded me of, mementos, memories.  Years later, they would pop in my head and I would have to order them away...go away, I’m tired

of you.

I think I finally understood what it was all about which only made me angry considering what I knew of their own behavior.  But they rallied around someone in particular, a person of whom I had some damning knowledge, knowledge I had kept to myself.  But that person knew and fanned the flames.

So now, all these years later, this person who cut me out of her life so abruptly and completely and painfully, has contacted me.  She’s all newsy with no mention of the past.  “Remember me?”, she asks.  How could I possibly forget.  

So what do I do with this?  Where do I go with this?  I want to be a better person to her than she was to me but I am wary of opening myself up.  I have forgiven the past but I am not instantly trusting as I once was with her.  I don’t know how much of myself I want to give.  Or if I want to give any.

Her request for friendship hangs between us.

Friday, May 22, 2009

formulaic essence

I was watching Nova on PBS Tuesday night about ‘the examination of fractal geometry’.  It was already part way through when it captured my attention.  It was a very interesting show which seemed to me to be about describing nature in terms of mathematics.  Mathematics before fractal theory was all about straight lines which don’t really occur in nature.  

Everything in nature is rough...

the edges of a leaf, 

the limbs of a tree, 

the curve of a shell, 

the outline of a cloud, 

the silhouette of a mountain, 

the path of a river, 

even a healthy heartbeat is somewhat irregular.  

It also talked about how nature uses the same forms over and over again, this fractal geometry...

the river as it flows to the sea, the structure of a tree and branches, the human circulatory system; 

the spiral of a solar system, the spiral of a sea shell and the unfolding of a fern frond; 

the veining of a leaf, the wing of a grasshopper and the cracks in dried mud; 

the spots on a giraffe and the crystallization of minerals in the cracks of rock; 

the thorns on a rose and the spines of a blowfish; 

frost patterns and palm leaves.  

Fractal geometry has advanced our scientific knowledge and we all benefit from that but it just struck me that they were missing some vital part.  That no matter how precise they got in their formula, it would not convey the beauty.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

if there was any doubt before...

If the +/- 90ยบ temperatures with attendant humidity were not enough,

then the white puffy cloud sky,

the blooming crepe myrtle

and the sound of cicadas in the evening are.

Summer is here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

like dominoes

Time to tighten the belt another notch.  If it gets much tighter, my belly button will be pressing up against my spine.  The optimism of the requests for proposals earlier this year is giving way to the reality of the economic condition of the country.  We’ve been doing what we can to lessen our expenses...consolidated our phone service, let our magazine subscriptions lapse, let the newspaper go.  All nonessentials are just that.  Not the first time we’ve been through this exercise. 

Two of my six proposals out there have fallen through due to tight budgets.  Two are still possible but the people are moving so slow on their projects that they appear to be standing still.  Since I am ever hopeful I keep those in the current file.  One is still a big maybe.  The art consultant got the job but no guarantee that he will use me and not another artist in his stable.  I know that at least one other person submitted a proposal for the windows in the hospital chapel.  So that leaves one that is actually going ahead, the least of all the proposals but I am grateful for it anyway.   

On the upside, I believe the church for which we are doing the chapel entry has almost got the next big window funded and I have an appointment next Friday for another chapel entry (doors and sidelites).  I don’t really understand where all this religious work is coming from as while we have done an occasional ecclesiastical job, they are by no means the bulk of our work.  Well, the Divine takes care of those that believe in it’s bounteous nature.  I am not a religious person but I do believe in the bounteous nature of the great spirit. 

In the meantime we are eating well if nothing else.  Our garden is producing and our neighbor’s garden is feeding us also.  Last weekend they gave us about two gallons of brussels sprouts (literally) and an arm load of carrots.

Chicken or feathers as my mother used to say.  Looks like we will have an abundance of feathers this year. Good for making boas.

Monday, May 18, 2009

at her bath

When we are at the country house, I set my computer up in the back bedroom (which is being set up as my wax working/model making room) by the window.  Outside the window, about 12’ away is the little bird bath I set up earlier this year (see my post ‘cat TV’).    

Saturday evening I was sitting there when a female cardinal came and availed herself of the services.  I shot this sequence of pictures.  The quality is not that great because for one thing, I’m using a little Canon PowerShot and, although the window was open, I was shooting through the window screen.

I delighted in watching her.  She actually came down twice.  After her first bath she flew up on a tree branch and groomed her feathers and then came and washed again.  She took her time about it and then flew back in the tree and groomed some more.

Friday, May 15, 2009

three little things

I found a third eggshell under the white wing dove nest in the pecan tree yesterday.  The other two hatched last week several days apart.  I could see three heads in the nest but one is the mom (in the middle).  I suspect the newly hatched baby is beneath her.  I climbed up on the roof of the sandblasting booth to get this picture.  Even so, I had to use the zoom to the max.

This baby butternut squash, about 4” long, is one of 7 in the garden last weekend, may be more now.  The butternut squash are volunteers from the kitchen scraps I buried all last winter in the garden plot.

This little flower is called bat-face.  My grandson picked it out at the nursery one day when we were shopping for flowers for the grandkids' little gardens.  Stuff that they pick out and plant quickly get overwhelmed because, while they love to pick stuff out and plant them, and enjoy the flowers, they are not too good about keeping the weeds out.  I moved a piece of this one onto the side of the ditch and it likes it there.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

a work in progress

No, no, not me, although I am a work in progress.

I thought I’d post a few pictures of the job we are working on (I’ve talked about it some in these posts:  brain block, presentation is everything and art is not pretty).  We’re way behind on the job, should have been finished by the end of March, and the bank account is reflecting that so much of my attention these days is focused on getting finished by the end of this month.

There are 14 panels that make up the entry (two doors and the side walls) to the new chapel at John Wesley United Methodist Church.  These shots are of the various panels in various stages of completion though none is complete.

on the rack:  the panels on the left have the sandblasting done but the stencil tape is still on, the backgrounds will be done with a different technique and will need a second stencil

on the table:  cutting the stencil

on the table:  the stencil is cut and ready for the blasting

in the booth:  carving the glass by sandblasting, the next stage is peeled off

If you would like to read in more detail about how this work is done you can visit here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

moving in

The new house.

It’s not all melancholy and sadness, this leaving.  The only thing that stays the same is that things always change and we are way past due for a change.  So there is also excitement, a new place to mold, a new community to learn, a new life to live.  

When I say we are moving out to the country, these words are coming from the lips of a woman who has lived in a city all her life.  Houston wasn’t always a top contender but it has grown in my lifetime to be the 4th largest city in the US by population.  I grew up on the edge of town amidst woods, fields and the bayou but the woods and fields are gone, paved over with concrete.  On the spot where my house was now stands a 20 story office building.  The private road that lead to a few driveways is now a major road connecting what used to be our neighborhood to the Loop.  What used to be the edge is now the center.

We are moving back to the edge, to a house on half an acre on the last (or first depending on which direction you are going) street of a small neighborhood surrounded by agricultural fields and pastures outside the city limits of Wharton TX.  Wharton is a small town, the county seat, of less than 10,000 people about 60 miles away from Houston.  The Colorado River skirts the town, brushing against it.

I actually wanted at least one acre and two would have been good but the forces at play at the time we finally acted landed us here.  We had been looking for a place off and on for about 6 years and were seized irrationally by ‘now or never’ in the summer of 2007.  Sometimes, when I am lugging stuff to the back end of our 1/2 acre, it seems enough.  Most other times though, not nearly enough but we have some great views here and we like it.  It’ll do for now.

Looking east from the edge of the property across our neighbor’s acre, across the farm road to the corn field (last year it was cotton) which extends basically as far as you can see.

Looking south behind us across the back fourth of our half acre, across the 13 acre field behind us (which currently is filled with coneflowers) and beyond that to the newly restored Tee Pee Motel (and RV park).  Kinda cool to have one of the few remaining historic Tee Pee Motels in our backyard.

Looking west from the edge of the property across the vacant half acre (that used to be a part of this place but changed hands long ago) towards our neighbor, of the fabulous garden.  He and his wife operate a nursury and his son owns the half acre in between us.  I’d like to plant some peach trees there but that will have to wait til we get moved and I can talk him into letting us use part of it.

Looking west down the street from the corner of our property.  At the end of the street is business 59 and on the other side of that is more corn fields as far as you can see.

Looking north from the front of the property across the street to this place on an acre and a half (I think).  It has an auto repair shop sign but the only time I have seen anyone there is when they mow.

Looking east from the front about in the middle of our property towards the farm road and the corn fields.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

moving on

You may have noticed that a lot of my posts are concerned with moving, not the physical parts of it so much, though there is a bit of that, but the emotional aspects of it.  I have lived here for 35 years, more than half my life.  I became a grown-up in this house, raised my family, made my life and livelihood here.  It has been hard to leave it, leave my kids and grandkids.  I love this old house with it’s 10’ ceilings, wood floors, fretted windows and deep eaves, it’s tile counters and antique single sink in the kitchen, the claw foot tub in the bathroom, the little porch off the bedroom.  It was built out of first cut timber well over 100 years ago and it is solid, impossible to hammer a nail without first drilling a hole.  It’s a small house, 1250 sq ft or so but it has met our needs, sheltered us from storms, nature’s and life’s.  There’s a magnolia tree in the front yard that we planted.  Sugar cane grows on the side where I threw a small piece down and it sprouted.  The gardens have years and years of my sweat mixed into the dirt.

But the thing I love about this house is also the thing that plagues us.  It is old.  The plumbing is old, the electrical wiring is old, the kitchen and bathroom are old.  It’s drafty in the winter, heated by antique space heaters, window units for the summer that only cool the room you are in.  And I start projects that I never finish because I don’t have adequate time.  Three rooms have the woodwork partially refinished.  We had the house leveled several years ago (pier and beam) because we couldn’t close a few doors and all the sheet-rock cracked and I swear, one side of the house moved away from the other half by half an inch.  This was a totally unexpected consequence of the leveling and we have not repaired any of it because we are living here.  And it hasn’t been painted inside or out for 20 years.  This house needed better stewards than a couple of artists living hand to mouth most of the time.

Soon we will be out, completely moved. and our plan is to hang onto it as long as possible, letting the land accrue value.  We’ll make some repairs once we are not living here and rent it out, but the repairs will be cosmetic.  No money for the big ticket items.  The water will still drain slow, you still won’t be able to have too many electrical things on at the same time, the kitchen counters will still be too low for a dishwasher.  And, eventually, it will be sold and torn down and my heart will break.

Monday, May 11, 2009

summer whites


White seems to have taken over the landscape as if it is already trying to cool down the approaching long hot summer.  

star jasmine

passion flower

ox-eye daisy



oak leaf hydrangea


easter lilies