Wednesday, March 30, 2011

wild thang...

This has not been a good year for bluebonnets.

one small clump of bluebonnets in my front yard

see the little spider at the top? I didn't until I downloaded the image

the spots on the flowerlets change from white to red when they have been fertilized

Or indian paintbrush for that matter.

a small clump of indian paintbrush in the adjacent half acre

Not enough rain.

The seeds are still there and if we have good rains next winter, they will spring forth. (get it? spring forth?)

But, it has been a great year for evening primrose, or what we called buttercups when I was a kid.

All the pastures that were filled with indian paintbrush last year are filled with evening primrose this year.

...I think I love you.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

something fishy going on

As you may remember, we finally got the big pond set up and moved Big Mama out to the country house last October. For those of you who are newer readers, Big Mama is our 20 year old red ear slider turtle and her new pond is a 600 gallon plastic stock tank.

When we moved Big Mama we also moved the pond filter. It hadn't been cleaned out in a few years so we gave it a good cleaning in the process, which kills or otherwise gets rid of the bacteria that eats the scum it filters out of the pond. It also has a foam pad and a charcoal pad the water first seeps through.


I situated the pond in a spot that gets sun most of the day in the winter and morning sun in the summer. We moved Big Mama and her attendant goldfish groupies into a pond of clean clear water and a couple of weeks later added four large goldfish and a handful of minnows that needed a new home.

As the weeks went by, however, the water got murkier and murkier until you couldn't see anything at all. We would see the turtle slip into the water from her sunning spot and then nothing til her head popped up somewhere. And the fish not at all.

The pump was taking a long time to regrow the bacteria and the two other filters were only catching the big stuff. I think that by the time it finally started working again, the pond was too far gone. We were waiting for spring to clean the pond out and start over.

Long about the beginning of March I happened to notice that the water seemed a little clearer. And every couple of days a little clearer still. And the foam and charcoal filters were beginning to collect more and more stuff. To the point that they were totally saturated every three days or so.

And now, the water is perfectly clear.

I can't decide if the filter finally got the better of the algae or if those first two weeks in February when the nighttime temperatures were in the 20s finally killed it all. Probably both.


Now that the water is clear and we can see the fish and the turtle, it adds a whole new layer of enjoyment to it. I'm no longer surprised by the turtle for one thing.

She has eyed my dangling fingers one too many times for my comfort.

Because I feed her by hand.

She really loves snails but I don't get the big ones out here that infest the city. And fruit. Bananas, peaches, grapes, watermelon. She really likes watermelon. When I give her watermelon, she'll take it over to the other side of the pond to eat it. When I feed her, the fish all swarm underneath her for the crumbs.

They are a thing unto themselves, the fish. They have formed a little school with the four big ones and the ten or so small ones. One of the large ones is swelling with eggs. They have learned the system, who feeds them. When I walk by, now that we can see each other, they swim toward me.

The minnows, they got their own thing going.

Yesterday, I was giving Big Mama some banana, holding another piece just under the water level while she consumed the one I had just given her. The pregnant big goldfish swam right up and tugged on it in my hand.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

G is for...

G is for galaxy

This planet circles it's sun on one of the outer arms of a swirling mass of stars circling a black hole that is slowly but surely sucking everything in. We are all 'circling the drain' so to speak.

No need to worry though. The human species won't even be a memory when this planet gets sucked in.

The Milky Way (image shows our satillite galaxies, the Magellanic Clouds, lower right)

Our beautiful Milky Way, the galaxy we belong to, as seen from this planet, is a stream of sparkling gems and wispy clouds. I remember the first time I saw the Milky Way, or was cognizant of it. I was a pre-teen and we were at the bay house of a friend long before light pollution reached that area. I learned to pick out a few constellations and I've been enamored of the night sky ever since.

an artist's rendition of the Milky Way at 10,000 light years away

They say our Milky Way is a spiral galaxy. This is based on scientific 'stuff' as we cannot actually see what our galaxy looks like from topside. The only view we get is an edge on view.

the Hubble deep field

But we can see many other spiral galaxies. Our view of the universe has been steadily expanding with the construction of better and larger telescopes but until the Hubble orbiting telescope was launched it was easy to think that we were fairly unique. We know now that not only are we not unique, we aren't even particularly different.

We are but one bauble in the sky.

Here are a few others all courtesy of Astronomy Picture Of The Day Archive (search galaxy):

Thursday, March 24, 2011

more shop talk

I've been working very diligently all week doing the cold work to finish these pieces and still they are not finished but I'm a lot closer.

The moon box needs it's 'stars' that go inside, small pieces of frit heated up in the kiln until they ball up. Need to get the kiln-wash brush back from my sister and I hope she still has it so I can kiln wash the shelf to fire the frit.

The wren box needs two feet cast to replace the ones I broke. I have the waxes ready for firing. It also needs the excess glass ground off the top. That will take an excursion into town to work in my friend's studio on her big flat lap. I also need to get the stick cast in bronze that goes on the top. I could cast it in glass, but I really want to do it in bronze.

The top to the memory box needs to have the excess glass ground off it as well and I need to work on the images for the pictures that go inside. Once I have the images ready, then I will have to get emulsion stencils made to sandblast the images on pieces of thin sheet glass. Rubbing a little paint or stain into the sandblasted surface will bring them out. On the other hand, I have two 'letters' that I cast and never used. hmmmmm

I'm back to square one with the moonflower box. I just don't like the way the box part came out (big error on my part caused the mold not to be made in two parts but I tried to salvage it to less than stellar results). I've been trying very hard to like it but I think I'm going to have to re-do it. I may not even put the vine and leaves on this time. I'm thinking it just distracts from the top which is beautiful. Also, I decided it needed four feet instead of three. The fourth is cast but it too needs the excess glass ground off. So any opinions on if I should make the new box plain or with the vine of leaves?

While I was at it, I flattened the backs of these little face baubles for a friend of mine who is a jeweler. A little surprise for him.

I had the gallery send back the bee box. It hasn't sold and now I think I want to glue the flowers onto the outside of the box. That was my original idea several years ago when I first made this piece but then I kind of liked the way it looked with the flowers scattered on the shelf around it. Now I'm thinking that keeping up with all those loose little flowers might be a deterrent for a buyer. I haven't even started on this one because I need to do a little grinding on all the flowers and glue them on as I go.

I also tried to make a reproduction mold of one of the leaves I'm doing for the upcoming gallery show. I used silicone caulk which works great for some things and I figured out how to make a two part mold, which this needed but unfortunately, the quality of the reproductions is crap so this is not the way to go. I'm shelving this idea for now and am going to go ahead and cast these models. Maybe I'll pursue it again later when I have the right materials for the reproduction mold and time to make the models again. Don't have time now as I need to get these pieces finished for the show.

Hopefully I'll have everything I need cast by the middle of next week (except for the moonflower box) and can head in town for a day at my friend's studio. Then all I'll have to do is assemble everything.

Monday, March 21, 2011

the day after

I slept late this morning and woke up to a quiet empty house. It will probably take me all day to finish putting away the extra pillows, sheets, blankets, sleeping bags; to gather up all the drawings left behind; to put the furniture back in it's proper places; to get my castings and wax models out and to remember just what the hell it was I was doing and trying to accomplish before the dogs and kids came to visit.

Oh, right, I remember.

I'm trying to get these boxes finished. I've not been very good about staying on task, jumping from this piece to that piece to new models while these half or ¾ finished pieces sit here doing me no good at all. We put two box lids in the kiln (one a re-cast) and another foot for one (decided it needed four feet instead of three) before the kids arrived and have yet to see how they came out. I need to remake the feet for the wren box as two of them broke (got knocked off the table). Plus I need to finish the castings for the show that opens next month.

I plan to be diligently busy this week.

As soon as the numbness wears off.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

spring break

The little dogs went home on Tuesday and the grandkids (if you are new here that would be the boy at 14, the twins at 12 and the youngest at 10) arrived the very next day. My plans of trying to get a couple of hours of work done everyday during their visit have gone right out the window. Oh, I'm getting plenty of work done but not the type I planned. I feel like I have done nothing but cook and clean up the kitchen since they arrived and I'm not even doing all the cooking. One of the neighbors at the other end of our street has four kids, three of which are in the same age range as the grands and also across the street is another boy so there has been a gang of kids here the last two days. Fortunately, we're only feeding our four.

The girls completely covered the entire concrete apron of the driveway in front of the garage with chalk drawings. As we were washing it off last night (so they would have a clean slate again today) I realized I should have taken a picture of it while it was still light. I must be brain dead from all the food preparation and clean-up.

Or maybe it's because of the late nights, up til 1 AM or so. Last night I made them go to bed early and by early I mean 11 PM. Needless to say, I haven't had access to my computer much. The only reason I've got it now is that they are all still asleep, well, except for the boy. He's always been an early riser.

They are good kids though. The boy has swept the floor of the big room twice and trimmed the grass around the edge of the concrete apron. The youngest girl cleaned up my desk and drawing table. They help with the cooking and set the table for dinner. The twins had a couple of school projects to do and have worked diligently to get them done, making their charts and posters. One of the girls made cookies for everybody.

Today will be more of the same though I am going to enlist their aid in enlarging the strawberry patch, moving the plants out of the cinder block. Tomorrow the parental unit comes to fetch their kids.

There's no way I will be able to catch up with you all so I will just meet you downstream.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

little dogs

These are the craziest little dogs. And spoiled too. Lap sitters, snack getters, hot dog eating, ball playing little dogs. And their tails are going 90 miles an hour the whole time. Unfortunately, they don't get the lap sitting here. No dogs on the furniture.

They're good little dogs though. Smart. They know a lot of words. Like ball. And bed. And squirrel. I took them with me when I went over to my sister's to check on the cats. When I went to get the mail, which is across the road, I didn't want the dogs to follow me.

'Go find a squirrel,' I told them.

Those dogs were off like a shot running across the yard to one of the large pecans on the property.

They're whistle trained too. Not any kind of whistle that you or I could do. well, no whistle that I could do since I can't whistle Part of their gear is a whistle on a lanyard. If they get out of sight, being in a whole new place and all, they will come to the whistle.

Did I say gear?

These dogs came with food bowls, a water bowl, bed, blankets, toys, harnesses, leashes, hot dogs and snacks.

Morgan and Merlin are sister and brother. They were rescued from a guy as half grown pups. Morgan first and then Merlin. My BIL went back for Merlin when he found out he was being mistreated. Poor thing just sat under the house and trembled until my BIL could coax him out.

Morgan is, of course, the dominant dog of the pair. She usually gets the ball when you throw it to them because she just pushes him out of the way and he lets her have it. After she is through with it, she'll toss it to Merlin to play with and then Merlin will bring it to you to throw again. Sometimes though, Merlin won't let her have it and she'll get real pissy about it. You wouldn't think a dog could get pissy about anything. Morgan will even play with the ball by herself, catching it in her mouth and then bouncing it and catching it again.

Morgan playing ball with herself

I have an old recliner in the big room that I draped a sheet over for them while they are here. I notice that Morgan has commandeered the comfy chair for herself while brother is relegated to the bed on the floor that they normally share. The cat is spending most her time outside which she does anyway this time of year, coming in to eat in the evening and then for the night around 10 PM. Every time she comes in we have to give her fresh water because the dogs ignore their big bowl of water and want to drink the cat's water in her little bowl. What is it about cat water?

Merlin at the edge of the 13 acre field

Merlin is desperate to explore the 13 acre field behind us or the wild space. I'm constantly having to call him back with the whistle. His sister is a little better about staying in sight. Everyday, we go over to my sister's house to check on things. The first couple of days they didn't want to get back in the truck to go back to my house but the last two days and especially yesterday, they weren't particularly interested in checking out their yard and they both jumped in the truck right away when it was time to leave. I guess they could tell that nothing had changed, mom wasn't there.

Well, mom is coming home today and the little dogs will be sleeping at home tonight.

Monday, March 14, 2011

evolution of a strawberry patch

This was my great accomplishment this weekend. First I marked it out (inside measurement 42” x 42”) and removed the grass, then I put the cinder blocks in place and filled it with dirt. I went and got the dirt from my sister's garden. She and her husband had a large raised bed garden that she is not going to fool with anymore and she told me I could use the dirt. So armed with eight 5 gallon buckets, I made two trips. Added a couple of buckets of compost from my pile and started planting.

Obviously, I should have counted the number of plants I had. Which I didn't. I started with 11 plants last spring and had them in the large garden. They didn't make very many berries, crowded with the other stuff, so I dug them all up about a month ago and put them in a shallow tub for the meantime.

Once the bed was ready, I picked out 16 of the largest and best looking plants and put them in. Then counted how many were left. 15! OK, already my brand new strawberry bed is too small. I hadn't intended to put strawberries in the holes of the mortar brick. I thought I would put chives and parsley in those.

Well, I guess I know what I'll be doing next weekend.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

short stories 8


We have a couple of visitors for the next 5 days.

Morgan and Merlin

Morgan, the pornographic pup.

My sister has gone to visit her daughter and grandkids in Albuquerque so the puppies have come to stay with us. Emma, the cat, is not really in favor of this but unlike the other dog she sometimes has to deal with, she's nearly as big as these two. And she's on her home turf. She gave them one mean look and they started backing up and looking up at me nervously. Still, she takes the high ground.


Yesterday we spent the day in the city getting the never ending job installed. I like to be on site during my installations so as to be available to troubleshoot or answer any questions about the installation that I haven't previously thought of. Also, I can engage the clients so that they aren't breathing down my installer's neck, though sometimes I'm probably the one guilty of that. Some installations make me very nervous. They are, after all the moment of truth. And this particular job was like giving birth. I thought it would never end. But Randy did his usual superb job and the glass really looks great. I'm almost encouraged to try it again!

A picture of the glass.

A picture of the wall (believe it or not, the glass is installed in this picture).

My photoshop skills are minimal and I'm using an old version of elements. If everything was square, I could easily cut the window and paste it into the wall. So, I'm wondering if any of my readers could and (more importantly) would do this for me I would be eternally grateful and I'd send you a surprise. If you think you would accept this challenge let me know and I can send you the raw photos to work with. These I dicked around with and resized them so they would load quickly.


Spring is truly upon us. Warm days and cool nights. The trees are popping out, well, except for the pecan trees which are always the last to be convinced. Though we are only an hour away from the city we are colder (not so much concrete) and so are behind by a week or two. Our red bud trees are just now starting to bloom. Two days ago the ginkos had fat buds. Today they are sporting little leaves.

I brought the big birdbath from the city a couple of months ago but the little funky one I put together in the back yard is the more popular. Or maybe I just think that because I don't sit in the living room much and so don't see the activity in the other one. This morning a white wing dove was splashing around in it while the smaller warblers and sparrows fluttered around trying to get a turn.

The wildflowers are starting to bloom but it's not supposed to be such a great year for them because we had a very dry winter. The garden has been planted, just the basic tomatoes, peppers and beans so far this year. I'm moving the strawberries into their own bed but have just now started on it. Late, I know. My neighbor's strawberries already have big ripening berries on them.

Frank's strawberry bed.

My future strawberry bed.


Last night's sunset.