Monday, April 22, 2024

no AC, tomato windfall, flowering things

Losing track of the days. Wednesday we went to Costco to stock up on some things but not until after I watered the gardens some, we need rain and it was so hot and humid I came in sweaty. Took a half hour to cool off enough to take a shower. Later in the day it was 80˚ in the house with 80% humidity…in the house! Marc turned on the AC set at 78˚, which is our summer setting, mostly to offset the humidity. An hour later it was 81˚ in the house, another hour 82˚, coming back from yoga at 6:30, 83˚. Well fuck. This unit is only a couple of years old and fortunately still under warranty. 

Thursday I wore shorts to SHARE for the first time transitioning from capris which transitioned from jeans. Marc called the AC guys and oh fun, the motherboard shorted out. Part ordered on Thursday but in all likelihood will be Wednesday before it’s repaired and functioning again. Fortunately, last night a front blew in with minimal rain, boo, but has cooled it off considerably, 57˚ outside when I got up this morning.

We got a lot of frozen packages of ground beef and fresh vegetables donated to SHARE last Thursday by the Wharton County Farm Bureau…carrots, kale, sweet potatoes, cabbages, beets and then Walmart sent over two huge boxes of tomatoes on the edge, some big ones but mostly romas, some firm enough but mostly just good for cooking. We gave out as much as we could but it was a slow day for food orders. I picked out 11 pounds of the firmest tomatoes to make tomato sauce and some sweet potatoes. Other volunteers took what they wanted and the rest went with Cora who said her horses would eat it.

So Saturday I made the first batch of tomato sauce using half the tomatoes. I slow roast them with garlic and olive oil and basil leaves, salt and pepper, until the tomatoes are soft, wrinkled and bursting and then put it in the blender and hit puree. I filled 8 - 1/4 pint jars and three vacuum sealed bags of one cup each. The second batch done yesterday yielded 6 vacuum sealed bags of 1 cup each.

I tied fishing line on each of the new crystals with which to hang them. So these newest ones with the three I still had not hung and the five I acquired previously gives me 16 to hang. I laid them out in the order in which to hang them, maybe.

Garden stuff…I planted a pot of morning glory bush up against the front of Pam’s house yesterday. It’s from cuttings I took in the fall of ’22 that never got planted anywhere. I wanted to plant it where I just did but Pam didn’t want it. I also have a pot of a volunteer confederate rose from the same year that never got planted anywhere. While both of mine came back after this winter, Pam’s did not so I’ll plant it over there too. Also at Pam’s her catalpa trees are blooming.

The pink angel trumpet is blooming, not quite as voluptuous as last year but sitting on the driveway it’s not getting quite as much sun and it is pot bound so I need to get a bigger pot for it, especially since the one it’s in is broken from being blown over.

There’s more but I’ll save it for the next post as this has gone on long enough.


Tuesday, April 16, 2024

a surprise, wild berries, and a big score

I was working over at Pam’s house Sunday, finally sprayed the fence line with poison and in the ditch specifically the things that grow tall with thick stems, all done up in long pants, long sleeves, gloves, rubber boots, hat, and mask. I hate using poison but this is not the tame city. I refused to use poison for over a decade out here but I am defeated. There are things that will swallow you whole and take over an entire yard. I was joking with Joe the last time he came to mow the shop yard that the area was getting smaller and smaller with two of the four fences lines getting swallowed up. There are places along the back and east fences that are at least 12’ deep full of trash growth.

After I got done I got the long handled nippers and started pruning the wisteria back some to get it off the ground so to be able to mow down the weeds growing under there when I saw my daughter and Jade pull into my driveway. I hailed them from across the street. I brought you a surprise, my daughter says. So I put away the stuff and came back across the street and this was my surprise,

my great granddaughter Paisleigh who is about 2 1/2 now. 

Minnie was being such a good dog. 

Paisleigh and her Granny.

My grandson has been here all week working on some cars for his parents and also making some money at the auto shop where he used to work, things are slow in Arkansas apparently, and Audra and Paisley came in this weekend to get him and they are talking about moving back to Wharton.

I had noticed some ripe dewberries along the fence line when I was cutting down the new growth in the ditch so after they left I went and checked the patch at the end of the shop and came home with these.

And yesterday I picked another bowl full. Dewberry cobbler on the menu for tonight.

Jade was still here yesterday so we did a couple of the shops while waiting for some work to be done on her car. She bought some things at one and then we went to JT’s which is a ‘junktique’ but they have lots of old glass chandelier crystals so we rummaged through them to see if there was any I don’t already have and I came home with ten new ones.

and a new glass drawer pull, which as it turns out needs holes a bit bigger in the face of the drawer for me to be able to use it. 

Saturday, April 13, 2024

ditch work, butchered tree, pho, and flowers

The plan was to get up early yesterday morning and get out there with the trimmer and do the ditch. Best laid plans and all that. I didn’t wake up, deep in dreams, until my pill alarm went off at 8:30. So it was after 11 before I got out there and oh yay, I needed gas for the trimmer. One more delay but I finally got going about noon. Did the longest half and started on the other half when the second tank of gas ran out and I was done. Two full tanks of gas in a row is about all I’m good for. Today I got out there a little after 11 and finished the other side and then since there was still plenty of gas in the trimmer I went around the edges of the flower beds and around the trees in the big back yard and omg why won’t this thing run dry! Finally, hot and sweaty, I came in a little before noon. I figure it takes about 45 minutes to use up a full tank of gas. It took a good 25 minutes under the fan on high before I cooled off enough to take a shower before we went out for lunch.

We found out there is a Vietnamese restaurant in Eagle Lake, a very small town, less than 3500 residents about 26 miles away so we decided to try it as we both like Vietnamese food and haven’t been to one since we moved out here where barbecue and Mexican food are about your only choices. There is a new Italian restaurant (the previous one closed) but we haven’t been there as Italian food isn’t high on our list. Anyway, the Vietnamese place is primarily a pho and fried rice menu with some beef and chicken dishes and the typical appetizers. I’ve had pho - basically a big bowl of broth filled with asian noodles and meat or shrimp with a side plate of bean sprouts, cilantro, and other green herbs that you add to your taste - once before and wasn’t all that wowed but I thought I’d try it again. It was decent but still not wowed so I doubt I’ll ever order pho again.

Friday it appeared the people who bought the house across the street were having the live oak in the front yard taken down, a mature gorgeous maybe even 70 year old tree. The previous residents would have a crew come in every year and do good tree work, trimming back the branches that were growing over the roof but keeping the shape of the canopy. The crew that showed up yesterday were cutting off/out whole limbs. It’s a shame and a sin and just downright heartbreaking and I imagine their electric bill is going to double at the very least. Why would anyone cut down a glorious shade tree when our summers here are climbing to triple digits for months. This is what it looked like this morning after they cut on that tree all day yesterday. 

OK, so I guess they aren’t cutting down the whole tree. The crew came back today to cut a little more out but mostly just cut up the stuff still on the ground from yesterday and hauled it all away. They seem to be gone for good but they butchered the fuck out of that tree, cutting any hope that even the tiniest branch had of maybe growing towards the roof, completely denuded bluntly cut limbs sticking out. Why they didn’t just take those naked limbs off completely I have no idea.

In the yard…the amaryllis are almost done but the byzantine gladioli are starting up.

I had three or four poppies come up this year, one of which was the multi frilly petaled one that looks like a pom-pom.

A shot of the back flower bed with tomatoes, squash, and potatoes in front; confederate rose, poppies, crinum lilies  and banana trees getting bigger behind that; and behind that clasping leaved coneflowers coming into bloom and waning evening primrose.

A nice clump of love-in-a-mist over at the other house.

There was a queen butterfly on the german verbena but the camera wouldn’t focus on it but I did get this good pic of a fritillary.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

the eclipse, a helping hand, and Sibling's Day

That horrible ditch my neighbor so kindly cleared for me 3 1/2 weeks ago has new weedy grass growth already a foot high but it’s sparse enough I can get in there and use the trimmer and I’ve been telling my self that as it gets higher and higher. Should have done it last weekend or the weekend before when it was only half that high.

The eclipse has come and gone. We were in the 95% range but it was overcast all day so I didn’t even look to see what time it was happening here which was about 1:30. I was sitting at my desk looking out at the overcast day and if I noticed it getting dimmer I guess I attributed it to the overcast getting denser. Later, walking the dog I chatted with two neighbors who came out and said they could see it, the light noticeably dimmed, crickets started up. It wasn’t a clear sky like other parts of Texas had but it cleared enough to see it. So I’m kicking myself in the butt for just assuming it wouldn’t be visible. I shall strive to live another 20 years to see the next one.

Yesterday my neighbor and her son in law came to the house in the morning, interrupting my morning routine, to help get my printer to talk to the new mac mini or vice versa as I haven’t been able to print anything since November. I don’t really print all that much, a recipe now and then, mailing labels, an occasional picture but it’s nice to be able to instead of sending whatever in a PDF for my neighbor to print out for me. After breakfast I did a little weeding in one of the flower beds, same as Monday, but when I came in I started sweating profusely, then it was time to do the week’s grocery shop and as the day wore on I felt less and less well. I didn’t feel sick, I just didn’t feel good suffering with some intestinal distress and a funky stomach and after lunch took a rare, for me, nap. Later, standing in the kitchen organizing my binder of recipes I broke out in a heavy sweat. What the fuck! Being Tuesday it was my night to fix dinner but all I managed was a big salad. 

I don’t know what the deal was but when I woke up today I felt fine. Didn’t sleep all that well because about midnight the rain they had been predicting for the last two days finally came, preceded by distant lightning and then as it got closer, thunder and finally high wind and rain. They were also predicting the possibility of tornadoes and I think one must have passed through here because when I was out running errands today I passed one big tree laying on the ground and another that was all broken and splintered and the ground here was littered with downed branches from small ones with green leaves attached to large ones 2” in diameter. The little dog was, of course, panting and shivering and in perpetual motion, hence the lack of sleep.

Last year my sister planted a peach tree, a magnolia tree, and gathered the seed heads from some queen anne’s lace growing in the ditch at the end of our street. We had both tried a couple of times to get it to grow in our gardens with zero success but this spring she has a magnificent stand of queen anne’s lace, 

just one of the things she will not see come to fruition just as her peach tree has baby peaches on it and I think her little magnolia tree will give at least a few blooms. 

I miss that woman. I heard on NPR coming back from yoga that today is Sibling’s Day. And so here is the last picture that will ever be taken of the three of us, taken last fall.


Monday, April 8, 2024

delving into the underbelly

image via the internet. overcast here and not dark at all just out of the totality path.

How is it that in this day and time people still harbor superstitious nonsense about the mechanics of the solar system, about something that happens with regularity and can be predicted to the minute, a 30 minute event, the eclipse of the sun, whose totality lasts all of about four minutes?

The wackos are out predicting doomsday and retribution. Governor Sanders of Arkansas declared a state of emergency yesterday that will last until Wednesday to mobilize producers and deliverers of essential goods because the sky will dim briefly today. Another group tells us to be ready for the Rapture. Marjorie Taylor Green warns us that her big daddy in the sky is sending strong messages via earthquakes and eclipses telling America to repent! Her boyfriend goes even further claiming this may be the last normal weekend because who knows what this ‘very rare’ eclipse will bring (newsflash, solar eclipses are not rare and happen with predictable regularity) and that next is the plague of locusts that will attack mankind (he’s referring to the 13 and 17 year cycle broods of cicadas that will hatch this year and, no, they will not be attacking humans and no, cicadas aren't locusts). Alex Jones has gone off the deep end claiming that all kinds of rituals are going to be performed by Masonic, Esoteric, Satanic, Brotherhood of the Snake, and other Occult groups to usher in the New World Order! (Thanks to Jeff Tiedrich for this compilation).

And then on the way to the vet with Minnie for a wellness check NPR was interviewing a woman about christian nationalism and evangelicals and their plan for forcing a repressive theocracy on the US. Fun stuff.

And the Vatican has released a doctrine statement defining gender affirming care, gender theory, and surrogacy as violations of human dignity when it is in fact these religious doctrines that violate human dignity, that proclaim a way of being they don’t like or try to understand to be sinful and deserving of repression and violence. I suppose all those child rapers and molesters in the Catholic clergy weren’t violating the human dignity of their victims.

And then there’s this…House Intelligence Committee chair says Russian propaganda has spread through the GOP. Ya think?

And here’s a big surprise…not. Trump is lying (hard to believe I know), now that it has occurred to him it might be a big issue in November saying he believes the abortion issue should be left to the states after he foolishly admitted supporting a national ban if reelected and bragging about ending RvW. 


Saturday, April 6, 2024

puttering, flowers, and alone time

Kind of a slow day at SHARE last Thursday. Most first Thursdays of the month usually are and we figure that’s because people got their government assistance. Even so we managed to pass on most the perishable food stuff and milk and a lot of the bakery goods which is all ‘sell by’ or marked down donations from Walmart and the area dollar stores that comes in in the morning. Those that did come in for food got a lot of extra stuff. What doesn’t get given out or we have no room in the freezers, volunteers can take for themselves or to give to others. I generally take left over stuff that won’t keep til next week to a family on the street.

Thursdays are always a busy day for me but this past one was especially so. Besides my usual routine I got another roll of the super strong black gorilla tape to re-do the black formed plastic shield under the engine compartment of the car. Marc had run into one of the concrete barriers at the ends of parking spaces and tore it up so that part was hanging down and dragging on the road surface which I did not know until I drove to El Campo that evening for yoga. I could hear a scraping sound so I pulled over once I was in El Campo and looked underneath and it was all bent and torn and shredded from being dragged for 13 miles. Later back at home I did my best to tape it all back together and to the surrounding frame. 

Since Marc was leaving on Friday for Dallas, a 5+ hour long drive and with the wear and tear and rain and dirt on my repair over the last year or so I wanted to redo it. So I did that. Then I wiped all the bird poop off the car and washed all the windows inside and out. 

This weekend is the Bar Mitzvah of our great nephew, Marc’s sister’s daughter’s son. All the family here was planning on going, as were the twins in Austin, so I opted to stay to feed my cat and dog, Robin’s cat and the boys, and the three wildlings. That was my excuse though I have other more personal reasons. So Friday morning Marc took off for Dallas giving me one full day, Saturday, and the lion’s share of Friday and Sunday to have the house to myself, some alone time (one of my personal reasons).

I puttered around in the yard yesterday, potted up some things, cut up some large branches, one that fell and others I cut off the native pecan in the back that were hanging so low they were almost touching the ground, did some watering over at the other house, fed all the cats, fixed myself a big salad for dinner. More of the same for today. 

Some of the day lilies are putting up bloom scapes but all the different varieties of amaryllis are blooming. 

And one new iris blooming over at Pam’s and some of these are coming home with me.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

winter? spring? reading list

My quarterly book reviews have fallen by the wayside mostly because I just haven’t had time to sit and read. I used to read two books every two to three weeks. If I get one book read a month these days I’m doing good. Spending too much time online or on my device playing games or streaming something in the evenings and now with spring I’m spending a lot of time outside working in the yard. Anyway, here’s the last six books I’ve read.

The Choice by Nora Roberts – the third in the Dragon Heart Legacy trilogy. I skimmed over probably about the first third of this final volume because it was basically repetitive stuff aimed at anyone who hadn't read the first two. Breen, Daughter of the Fey and granddaughter of the evil god Odran, has come into her powers but still spends her days training in Talamh  with Keegan, her lover and the taoiseach of Talamh, in the afternoons and writing her book in her cottage in Ireland in the mornings with her best friend Marco, all human, who has also been embraced by the Fey in Talamh. Odran is building an army of dark warriors to take over and burn Talamh. capture Breen so as to suck all her powers, make him god of all worlds and rain chaos and horror over all the worlds. He launches his attack on the summer solstice, a day of glorious celebration in Talamh but the Fey and Keegan and Breen are ready for him and the battle ensues. And of course good triumphs over evil.

Things In Jars by Jess Kidd – This is the second book of hers I've read and I really liked it. I just wish I had had longer spells for reading than the 15 or 20 minute time spans in which I did read it. I may even check it out again and reread it, something I rarely, almost never, do. Set in the late 1800's London during the Cabinet of Curiosities fad, Bridie is a street waif whose protector, Gan, provided dead bodies for doctors and medical students. Bridie is quick and intelligent and so impressed a local surgeon when she was somewhere between 8 and 10 that he bought her for a guinea to train her as an apprentice. Now grown, Bridie lives alone, her mythical husband dead, she provides for herself by conducting domestic investigations and minor surgery. Bridie is retained to find the kidnapped 6 year old daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, Christabel, around which there is much mystery. Christabel is not an ordinary child. Early in Bridie's investigtion she encounters a ghost, Ruby, who attaches himself to her, unable to move on until she remembers him, and who assists her in her search for the child. Bridie is determined to find and rescue the Christabel before she ends up with a Collector or in a circus sideshow. I don't want to reveal too much but I do recommend it. 

An Evil Heart by Linda Castillo – another Chief of Police Kate Burkholder murder mystery set in the English/Amish community of Painter's Mill. Amish Aden Karn is found on the road murdered and the weapon appeared to be a crossbow. The community is devastated, especially the young Amish girl he was courting, because Aden was clearly loved by everyone as the kindest, gentlest, most helpful, funny young man. Who would want to kill Aden? Days later the body of a young English woman is discovered and Kate is convinced the two murders are related. Kate sets out to learn as much as she can about Aden by questioning everyone who knew him, especially the young men that hang out at an abandoned gas station. The more Kate learns, the more she suspects that Aden was not who people think he was and when a young Amish girl comes forward with a horrible tale, Kate is even more convinced the two murders are connected. As Kate's own wedding day approaches, as she gets closer and closer to the truth, she comes face to face with the murderer and nearly loses her own life. 

Starling House by Alex E. Harrow - Opal and her younger brother Jasper were orphaned when Opal was 14 and her mother’s car suddenly swerved off the road and into the river where she drowned. Opal nearly drowned herself but woke up on the river bank. Since then she has lied, cheated, and stolen to support herself and her very talented and smart brother with the one goal of getting Jasper out of Eden, the small town where they live in room 12 of a motel. Eden, a snakebite town if ever there was one where tragedy frequently visits, was founded as a coal town and is controlled by the Gravely’s and their power plant and shadowed by the immense mysterious Starling house behind always locked gates. There are many stories about Starling house and Eleanor Starling who married the eldest Gravely who turned up dead the day after their wedding and who used his fortune to build the sprawling house. Eleanor eventually disappeared and a new Starling showed up to maintain the house and so it went decade after decade. Opal has dreamed about the house since she was a child, sometimes nightmares, sometimes not. Now in her mid-20s one day she passes by the gates and they open for her and she knocks on the door where she meets the current Warden of Starling House, Arthur. Arthur tells her to leave and never come back. When she refuses he hires her as a housekeeper and Opal sets about cleaning and painting and making small repairs to the dirty dilapidated house. Eventually she learns that there are beasts that come from Underland over which Starling House was built and which only the Warden can see and fight to keep them from the town to commit mayhem and tragedy. Arthur is determined to be the last Warden whatever that takes and Opal joins him in the fight as they descend into Underland to take the battle to the beasts where Opal encounters the vengeful ghost of Eleanor Starling. I’m not sure how I feel about the ending. I did enjoy the book though and I have, of course, left a lot out. It has small illustrations and two full page illustrations scattered throughout and also 22 footnotes the purpose of which I’m not sure and we do get the various stories about Starling House, it’s history. 

Book of Night by Holly Black - Charlie never met a bad idea she didn’t like or a bad decision she didn’t make. In this world of shadow magic where gloamists, magicians, manipulated shadows by changing their shapes for aesthetic reasons or, more dangerously, giving them the power to do the bidding of their owners, an underground of magic books exists which are highly prized by gloamists so as to increase their powers, Charlie has worked for them as a thief for half her life. After ending up in the hospital after once such job she decides she needs to change her ways and gets job as a bartender. She’s doing her best to keep from being pulled back into that world and pay for her younger sister’s college when she reluctantly agrees to find a friend’s boyfriend, Adam, who has gone missing. When she locates him she steals one of those magic books she finds in his possession. When she is subsequently attacked by a shadow in the bar, her boyfriend Vince comes to her rescue and she discovers that he has been lying to her about who he really is and how he is connected to an evil person from her past, which evil person has now given her a deadline to find a particular book or else he will send a shadow to crack her open like a spatchcocked chicken. Charlie sets out to find the book, save herself and Vince and boy I did not expect the ending.

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh - the twins read this book and passed it on to me wanting to know what I thought of it. here’s what I think…don’t bother. It’s 260 pages of monologue by an older woman recounting her late childhood and early adulthood whose mother is deceased, the caretaker of her ex-cop alcoholic father with dementia who works at the prison for boys with plans to leave it all behind. She paints herself as an unappealing and envious person with no hope or future, filling her time with pretend interactions and conversations in her head and sexual obsessions when she’s not getting drunk with her father. When the new counselor at the boy’s prison becomes obsessed with one of the inmates, she draws Eileen into her obsession and hounding of the boy’s mother and which event finally precipitates Eileen’s flight from her home and life and that’s the end, she leaves, there is no what comes after. The blurb on the back called it “creepy, mesmerizing, and sublimely funny”. Creepy, somewhat. Mesmerizing, if mesmerizing means boring. Sublimely funny, uh, no.


Sunday, March 31, 2024

more spring yard work and don't they ever get tired of being outraged?

According to the pecan trees, no more freezes until next winter. I usually notice when their buds start to swell and certainly when they start breaking open. I notice because I watch for it. Only this year it all happened while I wasn’t looking. Walking the dog the other day I saw that the neighborhood pecan trees were looking a little green. Checked mine when I got home and not only did they bud out, they’re blooming. How sneaky. I guess my summer shade canopy in the big backyard won’t be far behind. 

So, busy days in the yard. Potted up the fire spike and yellow angel trumpet cuttings since they all had well developed roots, added more dirt to the potato tubs (and I swear they grew even more overnight), 

checked on the zinnia seeds which are sprouting, planted more green beans which are pushing their way out of the ground, picked up and hauled to the burn pile about a third of the dead stalks in the ditch and abandoned the rest for a later effort but Robin’s boyfriend Evan cleared all the rest of them for me, pruned out all the dead branches of the mock dogwood and the dead canes of the climbing rose that I could reach and hauled it all to the burn pile, fertilized and mulched the azaleas and the camellia, moved most the potted plumerias to their summer locations and planted the big one back in the ground, cut back the rock roses about halfway. I think that’s all. Weeding and trimming on the agenda for today.

The maroon japanese iris is blooming.

Oh, and of course, today is Easter, a high holy day for Christians, another pagan celebration co-opted by the fledgling religion to get converts. Not being christian (or any religion) it’s just a good day in spring to get outside but the far right wingnut outrage machine is in full gear because, gasp, today is also Transgender Visibility Day and they are all over social media castigating President Biden for declaring Easter!!! to be Trans Visibility Day, even going so far as to call him a demon. What an egregious slap in the face to all Christians! The governor of Mississippi called it “an intentional attempt to insult and mock Christians across America.” Except President Biden did no such thing. He simply recognized it just as he recognized Cesar Chavez Day since they both fall on March 31st. March 31st has been Trans Visibility Day since 2009 and Biden had nothing to do with it. Easter moves around and just happened to fall on March 31st this year. I suppose they think that Biden should not have recognized Trans Visibility Day this year because religious bigotry and hate should take preference.

Because one fake outrage against Biden on Easter isn’t enough, they're also blaming him for the rule by the American Egg Board that’s been in place for 47 years banning religious themed designs from the egg art contest. The American Egg Board sponsors the White House egg art contest as a promotion for America’s egg farmers. Once again Biden has nothing to do with the rule, which btw was also in effect during Trump’s White House days and no one blinked an eye then, but that didn’t stop Senator Tuberville saying the ban was because Democrats are “a Satanic cult”.

Sheesh people, get a grip.