Friday, February 27, 2015

sun salutation

Back before we bought the country house, before we moved out here 4 years later, I belonged to a gym and went and worked out and did cardio for two hours mostly three times a week plus an hour and a half of yoga once a week. I loved the way I felt, the way I looked, no jiggly bits and the strength but it was a big time commitment out of my week. Moving out here I only had one gym available and it was attached to the Junior College with restricted hours of use. Plus having to travel back and forth to work even after another gym opened just made it too hard to establish a routine.

Fast forward, four years later, to now. I miss my firm strong body but I'm not likely to start going to the gym again. I guess I'm over that whole body building culture. I do have a pair of 10 pound weights that sit on the shelf totally ignored. Same problem, developing a routine. I'm really bad about developing a routine at home. Same with yoga.

But. I read something on FB towards the end of January about New Year's resolutions which I don't really make. I did make them for a few years running and my most successful one was to spend my change, especially my pennies. I still do that even if it does take maybe a whole extra minute for me to pay, much to the impatience of the people waiting in line behind me. Actually, I don't really do that much anymore since I started emptying my pockets every night and putting my change in a jar for the grandkids to divvy up. But, I digress.

What I read was about resolutions and difficulties keeping them because they are usually just too ambitious (with regard to exercising) and the article suggested doing just 5 sun salutations (surya namaskar) a day. Sun Salutation A is a series of 12 yoga postures done in a single graceful flow, and it warms you up, stretches just about every part of your body and builds strength and flexibility. Sun Salutation B is a little different, a little more strenuous.

So, I'm thinking...5 sun salutations a day? I can do that. Pffff. I can do it. It's the will do it part I have trouble with. But come February, I decided to try and do it, every morning after I get up and before coffee. I do 2 rounds of A, one round of B, and 2 rounds of A. Well, I haven't been quite successful, I'm kinda hit and miss, have probably done it less than half the days but I'm getting more frequent. Sometimes I even add in some other poses before I head for the coffee pot.

You can see Sun Salutation A here (though the one I do is slightly different, like the image above, but I couldn't find a video of it that didn't have a long lead-in).

You can see Sun Salutation B here

I'll be happy when I have some sun to salute.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

work stuff

The gallery that has the Botanica Eroticas sent me a pic of the installation. I think they did a very fine job of arranging them.

You might remember that I had a meeting with an architect scheduled for last week and I did meet with him last Wednesday and the window is about 4 feet square and I brought books and he selected a border to go around the words Grace's Bar. It's the only decorative element at the entrance to the bar area of a new restaurant named after the owner's grandmother using her recipes and the building is built to resemble a home with different rooms for dining vs the one large room with partitions. The bar will be a little more upscale than the restaurant proper. And they are ready to get started as soon as I present my proposal.

So I wrote that after meeting with the architect last week. I warned him that what he was asking for, carved glass with cream etch and lace etch, three techniques and three stencils, was high end, and he indicated that that was acceptable, just send him the proposal and he would get a check to us. I spent the better part of Monday working on sketches and sent my proposal yesterday.

Well, now it seems that the architect will 'hopefully' get his client's approval (this family can afford it) today at their meeting. How quickly it went from a sure thing to a maybe. The last time he had me come out was for a residence...two side doors with full lites and the front door side lites for a very wealthy woman. I figured it was also a sure thing but she never responded to my proposal. Oh well, that's how it goes. I do have two other proposals in the works and another proposal to write this week. At least I'm finally getting some inquiries.

Oops, just heard from the architect. It's a go. I guess I'll be busy now as if I had trouble filling my days before.

In the meantime, I have not been back over to the shop and still have the last 4 molds to fill, been having a little gastric distress and, besides, it's been really cold and damp here this week but today the cloud cover is breaking up and it will be warmer. Speaking of which I should get over there and fill another mold since my plan was to have them all done by the end of this week.


Monday, February 23, 2015

the wheel is trying to turn

Late winter is like an impotent old man angry at and frustrated by the budding young woman of spring.

Another cold front blew in last night after a week of warm spring weather and most of this week will be in the 30s to 50s range with one day in the 40s.

It's still pretty bare out there, only a few things budding green like the mock dogwood and the redbud and we think we might actually get a few flowers on the true dogwood this year.

It has never bloomed before, not for us, not for the previous owners who planted it. I always thought it was an understory tree but I think it hasn't bloomed because it wasn't getting enough sun. I saw one in full bloom out here last year that was in full sun. Now that we have lost four big branches off the pecan tree that was shading it, it has put on half a dozen buds.

The earliest bloomers are doing their thing though. Besides the daffodils, these early iris sprang up overnight, or so it seemed. These are the ones that were blooming when we got that late hard freeze last March. I was worried they wouldn't come back but come back they did and even earlier.

My little native peach is in full bloom as are the chinese fringe flower shrubs.

The fleabane in the yard is another white early spring bloomer.

And I saw this first early bluebonnet.

Sometimes the white 10 petal anemone bloom pale lavender.

This little frog was clinging to the window Saturday night.

And the buddha is contemplating the changing season.


Friday, February 20, 2015

the tempting warmth of proto-spring

The birds at the tea cup continue to entertain me, the cardinals and chickadees and titmice and now the orange crowned yellow warbler. And the little painted bunting who continues to be around, lately more often at the other bird feeder in the front that is farther from the window than the tea cup is back here under the eave. His colors have really come out since the first time I spied it. The cardinals are looking fine and healthy. Right now as I type there is a female on the cup and a male is waiting in the bush. They look directly in at me and I look back as they eat. A chickadee just flew in, tossed out a bunch of stuff (hopefully the empty shells) and then flew off. Outside, the red shouldered hawks are riding the thermals kee keeing for mates.

Despite the cold front that came and sat on us for a few days, spring is here, at least judging by the emerging green shoots and flowers and the chirping and flirting birds. Oh, and the warm temps and blue skies. It will still yo-yo back and forth for a while. I haul cold tenders out when it's nice and haul them back in when it's not. The small easily managed ones at least. The plumerias will have to wait until I'm thoroughly convinced that we won't get another dip into the freezing zone.

A week after Frank died, one of his peach trees was in full bloom, another was just starting to bloom, and a third was already covered with tiny future peaches.

I saw through the window of one of his greenhouses the huge cacti he has in pots all around and went in to get a better look. I heard some loud banging around and followed the sound to a small woodpecker, a flicker or yellow bellied sapsucker perhaps, that was trapped and frantically crashing into windows. I finally trapped it in a corner and reached out and grabbed and it started screeching it's little head off. I didn't think about that long stabby beak until I had it in a clumsy grasp. I carried it out and opened my hand and off it flew.

Early spring is pink and white, daffodils and dandelions notwithstanding. Pear trees, always the earliest, bloom white and peach trees bloom pink, pink chinese fringe flower and white narcissus, and pink and white japanese magnolia and apple trees, pink red bud tree and even in the wild the white 10 petal anemone and little wild onion flowers and the bright pink henbit. Later will come the blues, purples, and reds of later spring followed by the yellows which is the color of summer.

It's overcast today with high fast moving clouds heavy with rain. I don't think we'll get any of it besides the light mist we already got earlier. I've been in the shop cleaning up after filling a mold yesterday. The metal building of the shop is so noisy in this high gusty wind. It pops and creaks and shudders and squeaks and grinds and thrums, nothing like the quiet groans or creaks of wood framing even with metal siding. Still getting used to the new work environment.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

flip flop

Winter is back, overcast and damp though the sun, if it doesn't come out exactly, brightens periodically. It was cold and wet yesterday too so I straightened up the in-house workroom. I still have those four molds to fill but still don't feel like going over to the cold gloomy shop. Instead I'm working on some compositional sketches for a window that will eventually go in a master bath in Wyoming as part of the shower. Nice people who live down here in the winter and up there in the summer. So I'm dicking around with the photos he sent me of their cabin with the mountains in the distance. They want the log cabin and that specific skyline and treeline. You'd think it would be easy, them being so specific and all but the perspective in the photos shows the peak of the cabin's roof competing with the peaks of the mountains behind and I've got 30” of vertical space to fill. I gotta wonder, why they want the view they see outside on the glass in their shower. Unless I'm wrong about which house it's going in.

I also have to prepare for my meeting tomorrow with the architect. We have a busy day tomorrow since we are taking a window that we completed this fall to the company that is going to crate it and ship it to the recipient in East Texas as well as my meeting and the plan is to get the materials we need to build at least one of our new raised beds for the garden since it's already planting time!

Plus, I've been binging on Walking Dead. One of the TV channels has become the Walking Dead/Breaking Bad channel as it seems that's nearly all they show, one marathon after another. Anyway, I don't, as a rule, watch much television; too many commercials and Marc channel surfs. Just when I get interested in something, he changes the channel. So I don't direct my attention to it when it's on. But Walking Dead has been on enough the last three months that I have seen enough interspersed here and there to want to know the whole story...who's that and how did they get there and what happened to that other guy. So now I'm trying to get caught up.

Well, it has cleared up here now in the late afternoon and the birds are singing and the squirrel is doing acrobatics to gnaw on the piece of driftwood that the oyster shells dangle from, but it's still cold and will get colder tonight, maybe down to freezing. Maybe this will be our last freeze. It's possible. But then it's also possible to have a late hard freeze in March like we did last year.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

the goods are gone, time to make new goods

Wednesday, shortly after 4 PM, I dropped the last two boxes off at the post office. These were the six small bowls for the gallery in Florida. She passed on the two wall mounted pieces and the shell sculpture. I was surprised she didn't want the two wall pieces but not the shells. I don't know why I continue to try and do shells as they have never come out that great, though this was the best so far, and they never sell. Ah, optimism springs eternal, an Island famous for it's shells, I figured it was a shoe-in. Too trite I suppose.

I'm OK that she didn't want the two wall pieces though, the bee one and the lizard one, because I was thinking about doing a grouping of small framed pieces like that and I thought those would make a good first start. So now I'm going to expand on the idea.

Anyway, Thursday morning after falling asleep early the previous evening, I woke up feeling heavy, my eyes never really woke up and my body was full of aches and pains so I spent the day mostly just being outside pruning here, weeding there, nothing too strenuous or busy. It's been a pretty labor intensive couple of months.

The three botanicas that were in the kiln with the shells cast very well and I washed them and did some very basic cold work, grinding off the little bit extra at the bottom. I probably won't do any more cold work on them til after the last four molds are in the kiln but before I can start on them I have to clean up the shipping materials and reorganize them in boxes. Right now it looks like a foam factory exploded in there.

So next week we have to go into the city to deliver an etched window panel so it can be crated and shipped. We have several errands to do while we are there and I need to meet with an architect for a possible job. I don't know how big the panel is yet but they want an 'old fashioned' design. What the fuck does that mean? Oh well, I'll get more guidance. I also have some sketches to do for a roughly 3 foot square window, a log cabin with a tree line and mountains.

I have mixed feelings about that. We can certainly use the income but I'm not ready to shift my focus.

Friday, February 13, 2015

the viewing

So Frank's viewing was last night and his funeral is today. I walked right up and gave him a look see, told him I was glad to have known him though I suspect whatever might be left of Frank was already with Dorothy. We went to Dorothy's funeral and it was the first catholic funeral we had ever been to. I had expected to see her body at the viewing, which I did, but was not expecting to walk into the small lobby of the church and see her there where everyone was crowded in. And I thought the whole communion thing around the casket was weird but I guess most ritual is weird.

This looking at a dead body thing is new to me. For all my life I had avoided looking at a dead person. The funerals I went to with open caskets, I would avert my gaze. I'm not really sure where this aversion came from. Probably my dad. He was a pathologist albeit a reluctant one. He wanted to be a surgeon but then he got TB during the war. Afterwards when he was well, he let others convince him it would be too strenuous for a survivor of TB and so he became a pathologist. Someone who dealt with the dead and with the diseases that killed them.

My father hated death, hated funerals, didn't want to have a funeral, hated black. We were not allowed to wear black in my house. He had a few black suits, of course, but he also had and wore a peacock blue suit, a canary yellow suit, an emerald green suit, a burnt orange suit. I loved his colorful suits. He wore red socks with his tuxedo.

Anyway, he didn't want us, his family, to see his body after he had died. His father had died when he was 13 and he claimed that that final image of his dead father was the only image he could conjure up and he didn't want his children to remember him that way. So when he died of a massive stroke in the middle of the night and when I got to the hospital which was an hour's drive away and the nurse asked me if I wanted to see him and spend a few moments with him, I told her no. Judging by the look on her face, she didn't think much of that but that was his wish. And so I continued to decline to view the bodies of family and friends.

Then my brother-in-law was dying* and in hospice care at home and I was helping my sister and being there and figured it was time for me to experience death, dying, and dead bodies. It was imminent, my sister's girls who he had mostly raised had arrived and I went home for a brief spell and hadn't been home 10 minutes when they called, it was time, it was happening. He passed before I got back so I missed the actual dying. But I got a good long look at his dead body. And you know what? There wasn't anything icky or scary or terrible about it. And it's not the only way I remember my brother-in-law.

So back to Frank. Talking with his son Allen, we learned that Frank did not, as I had thought, die in his sleep. He actually had a pretty good day, even was outside in a wheelchair for part of the day. Allen had been over to visit, Frank ate a good meal, went back to bed. Zaide went in to check on him and Frank was awake, he reached out and took her hands and breathed his last.

I think that's how I want to go. Quietly, easy, in old age, but awake.

* I wrote about it extensively here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Frank of the Bountiful Garden

Some of you might remember me writing about my neighbor Frank, Frank and his wife Dorothy. Frank and Dorothy were our neighbors on the west side. Were. I'm sad to report that Frank died Monday night, at home. He was 88.

Frank built the house that he and Dorothy lived in and the greenhouses where they ran their nursery business for most of their lives, there on their acre. They were already in their 80s, or nearly, when we met them, when we bought the country house. Dorothy already had the cancer that killed her a few years later. When we first started coming for the weekends and then longer weekends they were both still out there in the yard and garden every day doing stuff. Frank was still climbing up on the roofs of the greenhouses and their house making repairs. Dorothy had a large garden cart that she pulled along behind her for the carrying of stuff.

Their yard was always meticulously kept with flowers planted per season, mowed and tidy and free of weeds front and back...flower beds and hanging baskets and planters. And the garden and fruit, pear, figs, peaches, blackberry vines, and two satsuma orange trees that produced literally thousands of oranges.

Frank was out there every day no matter how hot or cold. Hardly a week went by that he wasn't knocking on the back door with oranges or peaches or figs or long beans or carrots or broccoli or turnips or whatever. When my daughter would come out, he would load her up as well.

I liked to go over there and check out his garden, see what he was doing. It was always so abundant. Mine was, mine was definitely a beginner garden.

But then Dorothy's hip broke and her spine started to collapse and Frank was caring for her and then about 3 1/2 years ago she died and Frank sort of slowly lost his mooring. He still planted the garden though his son, Allen, was helping more and more but he'd forget to harvest with no one to cook or put up the food. A grandson lived with him for awhile but then Frank was living alone again and his mind was starting to deteriorate and he would forget to take his meds. Eventually his son and daughter arranged for 24 hour live-in care. And that has been the way of it for about a year and a half. We would see Frank out with his caretaker and go over and say hello or Zaide would bring him over if he saw us in the yard.

I hadn't seen Frank outside much since late last summer and Monday Marc saw Zaide out and went to talk with her. She told him that Frank mostly just ate and slept now, that the end was pretty near. And then he died that very night.

I'll miss Frank. I miss Dorothy. I miss our early years out here when they were both still alive and their place was full and abundant. Things will change now though as Allen thinks they will sell the property.

Fly high Frank.

Monday, February 9, 2015

overheard at the country house last night

Today was a good day, I said, sitting on the couch.

Why, asked Marc, because you got to dig?

He knows me well.

That wasn't what I was thinking specifically but it is true. I did get to dig today and that always makes me happy. I like to dig, I like to break up the soil and crumble it with my hands. I like to add compost and mix it in. I like to plant stuff and though I am not always gentle I always have the plants' interest at heart. Sometimes things are so root bound that for the plant to have any hope of surviving, you basically have to tear away most of it's root system away so it can start over.

But today was spring here and is supposed to be all week. It will get cold again but today I had to return my grandson to the city so I had time before and after to just be outside. I had bought a few annuals Friday when I was in the city picking him up so I had plenty to occupy me today, though I didn't get everything in. 

The grandboy wanted to come spend the weekend because he wanted to work on the truck that he is buying from his dad who collects old Ford trucks to work on as a hobby.

I wanted him to spend the weekend because I had a project outdoors I wanted him to help me with. My neighbor Alan, Frank's son, on one side between us and Frank Of The Bountiful Garden has a bunch of storage buildings on the back part of his half acre and he sprays herbicide twice a year back there to keep the weeds down on the packed dirt ground. If you know me at all, you know that this is anathema to me. In the city, my yard was a no kill zone and most especially no poisons and I practice the same here. Alan has been encroaching with the poison by a few inches to a foot over the property line so Saturday, I got the grandboy to help me erect 4 sections of wrought iron fencing back there. It doesn't extend all the way to the native pecan tree yet as I didn't have enough sections but I'll fill it in eventually. The plan is to plant flowering vines on the fencing or large flowering shrubs in the space between the fencing and the long day lily bed.

I have a full day of work ahead today and it's not yard work. Well, I do have several full days of yard work but today is work work. The castings are coming out today.

Friday, February 6, 2015

filling boxes and molds

While I have not been posting about work stuff, I have been working on work stuff. I got all the botanicas packed up and shipped out to Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery in Pittsburgh. They are going to install them on a front wall in time for their opening tonight.

In the meantime, I've been trying to get these last ones done. Marc got all the molds made and I got them cleaned up and inspected and did all the volume measures of the individual molds so I know how much weight of glass it takes to fill it.

The first three new botanicas, plus a little shell composition for the gallery in Florida, are in the kiln.

Speaking of the gallery in Florida, I haven't received a response from her about the pieces I have available to send so I'm not sure what exactly I'll be sending...the two finished bowls for sure (still haven't done anymore work on the oleander bowl)... 

(The oleander bowl has some issues that you can't see here, like half the bug is missing and the forehead of the little face peeking out from the flower bottom right is missing and there is a hole in the flower on the other side...all casting defects. It is definitely less than perfect but I may send it anyway. I won't be doing another one, that's for sure.)

...and the two framed pieces from the open house and perhaps all three of the small plain sky bowls and the cluster of shells and I have to send her my stuff the middle of next week. 

Yikes! Gettin' down to the wire though I should have enough time to get the last two things done...the shells and the oleander bowl...even with my grandson here for the weekend.

I'm driving to Houston today to pick him up after school so he can help me with an outdoor project on Saturday.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

little bird

That little red and black bird showed up again yesterday and this time I managed to get quite a few pictures...with the zoom. It was perched on the far side of the shrub where I had seen it the first time.

From my previous verbal description, my resident bird expert had offered up the orchard oriole as a contender since it was highly unlikely to be a red-breasted blackbird this far north of it's territory though I was pretty sure it wan't an oriole.

Left: red-breasted blackbird                               Right: orchard oriole

As you can see, the two birds are very similar...about the same size, red breast (though the oriole is more rust than red), black head. I didn't see any white on the wings like the oriole but then I only saw it briefly from the front.

Here is my visitor...

My local bird expert has identified it as a male painted bunting even though with the exception of it's brilliant red breast, it's colors are quite dulled, the head appearing black instead of blue though, this day, it was not looking quite so black as before and you can see a hint of the yellow/green patch on it's upper wing now. It's also smaller than I had guessed at first. One FB friend where I posted the pictures guessed that perhaps it had been caged and escaped or turned loose as their plumage typically fades in captivity from lack of the right kinds of insects and UV light.

The male painted bunting in his full color:

I saw the little bunting again today briefly on the tea cup from a different window and when I called to Marc about it, he must have heard me because he flitted away.