Tuesday, January 29, 2013

my 5 essentials

Back when I was doing the river guide thing, canoeing and kayaking, I also assisted a friend on occasion who taught kayaking. He would always begin any soiree on the water by asking everyone if they had their 5 essentials...kayak, paddle, helmet, spray skirt, and pfd (personal flotation device commonly known as a life preserver). Also necessary but not considered essential was water and a snack.

I don't kayak anymore, have given away all my kayak gear, not that I wouldn't again but all my paddling buddies have either moved away or moved on in their lives, but I still retained the principal of the five essentials.

Instead of applying it to getting on the water, I now apply it to leaving the house.

wallet, glasses, keys, phone, and camera

Sunday, January 27, 2013

spring a ding ding

Yesterday was my 4th blog birthday. I've been writing about stuff for four years now and although I manage about 26 less posts every year I plan to continue on. Still, 692 posts seems pretty impressive to me.

It's been very spring-like here for the past week and a half. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that spring is here. The weather prognosticators are telling us that we've already had our coldest weather. I'm enjoying the beautiful days and don't want to complain but it's still freaking January!

February is notorious for a late season freeze though. Not that I want any more freezes but if it is spring in January, what does that portend for our summer.

I don't even want to think about that.

Anyway, it's spring-like weather and I haven't even seen the pear trees blooming yet and they always bloom when it's still cold. I think the tulip trees (japanese magnolia) are blooming though I haven't seen any of those either but Marc says he thinks the one behind the Houston house is blooming which they also do in January.

I went and looked at the red bud next door. Nope. Nada. Nothing.

A little tour of the yard this morning showed that the ground orchids (bletilla) are just sure that this time it's for real. 

 You can see that they've already been fooled once by a warm spell followed by a dip into the low 30˚s.

The little orchid-like flowers open close to the ground.

The seed pods from last year float above the emerging flowers on long thin stalks, ready to burst open.

The warm weather is also making everything in the winter garden want to bolt.

The bees seem to be glad about it though.

The maple tree is always the first of the trees to welcome spring,

with the ginkho a close second.

The other trees are still not convinced.

The althea is pretty sure though.

The wildflowers are getting ready even though they are probably wondering why it's so warm already.

poppies and rocket larkspur


So what the hell am I doing inside?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

the couch

When I was born in 1950 we lived in one of the post-WWII housing boom neighborhoods. As the wealth of my family increased, my parents decided to move to a higher end neighborhood and they had a custom home built. Each of us three kids got our own bedroom.

My sister and I had shared a room before and we would often divide it and not let the other on 'our' side when we were angry. She was (is) three years older than I am and never wanted to play with me. Her side of the room always had the closet but my side of the room had the door. I always thought that was better especially if I could keep her out of our room altogether. Of course, I never could.

In the new house we had to share a bathroom which wasn't so bad as it had two sinks. Our brother had his own bathroom attached to his room which we girls thought was unfair, but then as the only boy and the baby, he got a lot of perks that we didn't.

I think I was about 8 when we moved which would have made my brother 6 and my sister 11. Since us kids were still pretty young, the front room, which would eventually become the formal living room and filled with Louis the XVI spindly legged gilt marble topped tables and carved curvy legged gilt and brocade and satin chairs and sofa, functioned as our playroom.

My parents were upwardly socially mobile and the formal living room was intended for entertaining or for us girls to sit with our dates while the rest of the family hung out in the family room. As it turned out about the only time it got any real use though was Christmas Eve. Our family always dressed formally for Christmas Eve dinner and that is where we would sit after we dressed while we waited for dinner to be served in the formal dining room which was attached.

The formal dining room was also a room that only got used two times a year, Christmas and Easter, as about the time the playroom was converted, my mother was accused of having an affair with the husband of their best friends, something she always denied. She told me once that he named her because she knew who the real paramour was but as far as I know, my mother never revealed the name of the 'other' woman and it wasn't like her to be that selfless.

Anyway, it was a real scandal that my parents never really recovered from socially and it made my mother even more desperate to climb that ladder to the point of denying me friendships with girls who didn't live in the right neighborhoods.

But I digress.

Back in the late 50s when we moved and my mother was furnishing the house, she was in the bargain basement of Foley's downtown looking for furniture for the playroom. She found and bought on the spot a 50s modern plastic leopard print couch.

The story she told was that it had been a special order for a woman who, when she saw it, refused to pay for it because she thought it was the ugliest thing she had ever seen and so it ended up in our playroom. From a distance, because the plastic was textured kind of hair like, it almost looked real. In fact, people often thought it was real leopard skin until they touched it.

The leopard print couch at the beach house. That's my mother on the left looking a little tipsy. As nearly as I can tell this photo was taken in the early 70s.

When the playroom became the formal living room in the 60s, the couch was moved to the beach house where it lived until it got so old and cracked that it would pinch anyone who unwittingly sat on it. Eventually, it was consigned to the dump.

I didn't much care for my mother's taste in furniture but I loved that old couch.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

pumping it up

Did I mention that a new gym opened in my little town in December? It's an Anytime Fitness and it is very close to my house. Of course, anywhere in a town of less than 10,000 people can be called close to my house, but this is just down business 59/Richmond from my little neighborhood out in the county.

They have opened up in the old abandoned roller rink. The owner divided the building once they got a good tenant and is finishing out the rest of it for offices, as I understand, and have given it a completely new facade. Anyway, the gym takes up less than half, I think, of what is the whole space in that old building, though it does have the front section.

I'm happy we finally have a regular gym here. I'm used to working out and it is my main defense against the osteoporosis since I refuse to take the meds. They increase your bone density but don't necessarily increase your bone strength and the side effects are heinous. And they are finding that women who have been taking those meds, are still getting broken hips when they get older.

When we first moved out here permanently I joined the gym at the junior college but there were time restrictions on when non-students could use it and I could never get myself over there during the allowed times.

So, the gym is smaller than I thought it would be. I signed up for 18 months pre-paid before the buildout. Small, but well equipped I think. Right now, if I go late afternoon and am there when the after-work crowd starts coming in, then it seems a bit crowded. I imagine going very early gets the before work crowd. I'm lucky that I have the flexibility to go mid-morning to early afternoon.

Actually, the gym is open 24/7 with members having a little electronic gizmo that unlocks the door and they are very security conscious with cameras and everything but I'm not likely to go after about 5 PM. Cuts into the cocktail hour...or two.

Anyway, I know that participation will begin to taper off. I speculate on which ones will cave after a couple of months. Like the lady next to me on the treadmill who was ready to quit after less than 10 minutes. Or the ones that use minimal weight on whatever machine. Or don't really know how to use the machines. I wonder about the young women who come in with their slim hips, flat stomachs, and long trim legs who do half a dozen reps and then dick around with their iPhones while they rest. None of them ever break a sweat.

I still have to make myself go but once there I work out for at least an hour and a half and I'm already feeling better, abs and back getting stronger and leg cramps at night aren't bothering me.

This is my goal.

Just kidding. If you want to take a stroll down into grotesquery just do an image search for female body builders. This one is tame.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

when friends give you lemons...

Mid-December last my friend Kathy foisted off on generously shared with me the lemons from her Meyer lemon tree. Three bags worth. Actually, she snuck them in my car when I wasn't looking.

I finally got around to juicing some of them and made a lemon pie. We ate the pie too fast to get a picture.

After I had juiced 2 of the three bags of lemons, I ran out of containers to hold the juice.

Between the lemon juice and the pecans and the containers of leftovers for soup and the big bag of ice which we use in our cooler going back and forth to the city, I am quickly running out of space in our small freezer.

Friday, January 11, 2013

an excess of pecans

mostly empty husks left up in the trees

This will be my last post this season about pecans. I think they have finally all fallen except for a stray one here or there. It's been an exceptional season this year, for us at least. All three trees, four counting the native, produced an abundance of nuts and, unlike years past, nearly all of them were good. At least all that I have shelled so far, about 15 pounds worth that are in the freezer or our stomachs or been given away.

the tallest box is 14”

I've already sold 40 pounds of pecans and will be taking at least half of what you see here down to the wholesaler to sell. I need to do that soon as the season is over in February. I'll keep some for the squirrels too.

Several weeks ago, I picked up a still mostly green husk that had it's pecan still enclosed. It broke open easily and when I exposed the nut, I discovered that it had already sprouted, in it's husk, on the tree. I have never seen that before!

imagine how long that baby tap root would be if it had grown straight

Mostly now my survey of the yard and the fallen pecans is to make sure there aren't any hidden in the flower beds under the leaves because if I don't find them now, I will find them several months from now when they greet me as sprouted trees. Usually by the time they are 6” tall, it's already too late to just pull them up because of the long taproot they send out so they must be dug up.

Just cutting the growth does not discourage the tree one little bit. I have some that sprouted right next to a couple of the rose bushes so it was impossible to dig them out. Every spring and summer I cut off the growth and every spring and summer they grow right back. The root just gets thicker.

Of course, I'm sure the squirrels have been busy planting some, like next to the roses, and will no doubt plant some of the ones I leave out for them. I see them scampering through the tallow with pecans in their mouths.

Monday, January 7, 2013

short stories 11 – the birds


I found a dead cardinal at the base of the bird bath in the front the other day. It had been a cold night and I couldn't tell why it had died. I picked it up and put it on the brick planter beside the front door, not knowing what I was going to do with it exactly.

Two days later, it was mostly gone. I suppose a possum or some other night creature got it but whatever it was it left me the head, a wing, and three tail feathers. The tail feathers I picked up and put with other feathers I've picked up. The wing, I left but I did nestle the head in a fire ant bed hoping they will strip it for me so I can add the skull to my collection of bird skulls.

Creepy, I know.


new visitor

I looked out at the bird bath in the front yard the other day and saw a kind of dove I had never seen before. We get mourning doves, inca doves, and white wing doves. This one was gray like a mourning dove but considerably larger, didn't have the wing spots but did have a dark crescent mark around it's neck. The next day there were two of them sitting in the branches of the crepe myrtle that hangs over the bird bath.


Further investigation revealed it to be a Eurasian collared dove. These birds are not native to North America but several small populations have developed from birds that have escaped from captivity. There is one in Florida, one in Texas, and one in California (I think).


the tea cup feeder

You may remember I mentioned making a couple of tea cup bird feeders the other day and I finally got mine hung outside under the eave outside the window that I face when I am working at the computer.

It took several days for it to be found and so far only one bird has made the discovery. Granted, it's been cold, overcast, and rainy for most the time it's been up. Late yesterday afternoon, I was sitting here when I noticed a male cardinal was perched in the branches of the shrub right next to it giving it the eye.

He'd look all around, then cock his head towards the bird seed, hop a little closer, look around and then turn his beady little eye on it. Eventually he got up the nerve to actually perch on the rod and sample a seed or two. He was a little nervous especially if I was moving around but he seems to be getting used to me. He's been back a half a dozen times today already.

Several days later, he still appears to be the only bird that has discovered the little feeder and my presence makes no difference to him at all.


flying south

Large and small Vs of geese have been flying over for weeks now. I always hear them before I see them overhead in their often unsymmetrical formations, wobbling and shifting as they go. I read somewhere once that they change point position often, with the lead bird dropping back and another taking it's place.

Last Friday as we were getting ready to head into town, Marc hollered in the door for me to come look quick. I grabbed my camera and he pointed to the empty cotton field across the road. There must have been hundreds of geese on the ground with small flurries of birds taking to the air and then settling down again.

I couldn't get close enough for a good picture as they were on the far side of the field but I could see, when they took flight, that they were white with black wing tips so I guess they were either snow geese or the smaller ross geese.

An hour or so later they were all gone.


note:  most my pics were taken with the zoom through window and screen or with the zoom at maximum outside which accounts for their poor quality.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

the mountain wall

The panels for the mountain wall were picked up last Friday and installed yesterday. It took us nearly three months to complete the second wall for Invesco, 3 weeks on the drawings and a little over 8 weeks on the fabrication, a total of 4 ½ months for both walls.

All my misgivings and anxiety have vanished. We did a pretty damn good job of getting all the tones to match up panel to panel except for one small area which, of course, just jumped out at me but I don't think anyone else will notice it.

It looks pretty amazing even if I do say so myself though I wish I had gotten better pictures. Better lighting would help and I will suggest that to them but I don't know if, at this point, it's possible to add some spots.

The design firm first contacted us last January so almost one whole year later, after 7 months of proposals, samples, and meetings and 5 months of preparation and fabrication, the projects are complete.

Fortunately, I didn't have to drive in to the city Saturday for the installation like I did for the map wall because we had come in on Friday to get a couple of business related errands done. Still, by the time I got there about 9 AM, they already had panel 1 in place.

Same team as before and this time it went much faster and they were done shortly after 11 AM.

The first panel in place.

Setting panel 2 in place.

They were very conscientious about making sure the glass was clean.

Setting panel 3 in place.

Removing the protective film on panel 4.

Checking over panel 4 before setting it in place.

The mountain wall, 16' x 9'.

This wall was installed in a wide hallway instead of the open floor lobby of the map wall. Still a bit of reflection from the window of the small lobby. I wish now I had gotten a close up shot of the carving because there is a lot of detail that doesn't seem to show up in these pictures.