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Sunday, December 9, 2018

The "BAD" Room

There is always some room where the junk goes, right?  For me it is the computer room. 

I'm changing things.  But things look at their worst before they get better.  I moved a bookcase that had been in place for 32 years.  And the cheap carpet I had installed there was awful.  It faded fast.

The middle part is the carpet that was covered by the bookcase for 32 years.  The bottom part is how it looks today in spite of vaccuuming and even a few "steam" cleanings.  The top is all the awesome gross dust and grime that settled behind the bookcase all those years!

I am replacing the carpet of course.  And with linoleum.  It is the computer room, after all, and having a solid surface easy to roll a chair in makes sense.  I haven't decided on a color/pattern...

I could go with anything from jet black to solid blue too speckled.  Need to wash the walls and repaint too. 

But it was astonishing to see the difference in the original carpet and the current look!

I bet I end up with soothing greens.  What colors and floors are YOUR computer rooms?

Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Bramble And Sapling Jungle, Part 3

So, my back working again, and ready to wreck it again if need be (that area WILL BE CLEARED) I went at it again 2 days ago.  There were some last saplings to be chainsawed and hauled out of the way.  There was most of the underbrush and brambles to be mowed and turned into mulch, and there were vines still attached to saplings.

I went after the vines first.  My habit of bad luck is that any vine attached to a sapling I cut down will fall on me as opposed to away from me.  So the fewer of them connecting saplings, the better.

Funny thought:  The vines don't show up to neighbors.  They might have seen me thrashing around at ground level and up over my head with a hedge trimmer and concluded I was completely nuts, LOL!

But then I went after the remaining saplings with the chainsaw.  MUCH more carefully this time.  Instead of leaning over to cut, I knealt carefully so as not to strain any back muscles.  And I dragged the cut saplings instead of lifting them. 

After that, I took out the DR brush mower and went over the entire area.  I was so pleased to see the results...  I also chainsawed the saplings into stemless trunks.  The trunks are worth saving for the fireplace.  The twigs and vine debris went into piles. 

I used the brush mower on the piles of stems and twigs and vines.  It was like mowing leaves into the lawn until there was only leaf-shreds left.  HURRAY!

From the deck...
And in directions all around the former jungle...

I was so happy to uncover my bridge...
And discovered a hose stand that had been covered with vines.

There is still debris there that I may or may not remove (it might smother new underbrush).  But the important thing is that the entire area is clear.

I finished it.  And with only some slight muscle complaints.  I'll count that as a victory.  

The next step is to make sure the undergrowth does not return.  Trees shaded them out before; I will plant new trees.  But these will be smaller ones; Dogwoods, Sourwoods, a dwarf apple...  They will shade the space under them, but never grow tall enough to shade the garden.  I have 4 in a raised bed ready to transplant in January and will have pre-dug holes ready to receive them.  I just need to decide exactly where to put each.

And I can get at the pond again.  That will be in Spring when things warm up.  It is too cold to try and install a new pond liner now.  But I WILL get the pond and raceway set up and working again come Spring!  That will be SO nice...

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Bramble And Sapling Jungle, Part 2

Well, the DR Brush mower is pretty fearsome.  It basically says that if you use it carelessly, you could lose a foot.  The blade under that shroud is very heavy, fast, and sharp.  You can't cut a 1.5" sapling into mulch with a simple lawn mower!  A word to the wise is sufficient...  I was careful.

Here is what the half of the backyard looked like before...
The cleared portion on the right; uncleared on the left...
The view from the deck.
And that was after an intial test of the DR brush mower.  I could tell it would work well.  It is self-propelled and can push over and mulch saplings up to about 1.5" diameter.  At the same time, it is a large machine for an individual and turning it around takes some effort.  But it mowed down the brambles mercilessly!!!

I wish I could say all it took was guiding it around the brambles, but there are limitations.  There were old 12' tree strumps.  There were 3" diameter saplings.  There were rabbit holes where a tire would spin helplessly.  I did the open areas first, and when I had to force the tires out of rabbit holes, I did.  The reverse propelled gear helped.

So then I was faced with saplings too large for the brush mower to push over and chop up.  I stopped.  I have to say that I sure liked the battery-powered hedge trimmer.  It cut the wild vines very well.  I still got stuck on a lot of falling brambles, but I found and old leather hunting jacket in a closet (I'm a bit of a "saver" and that was immune to bramble thorns.  It was so old I couldn't zip it closed (it was about 6" too small at the waist, LOL!) but as a cover, it worked well.

After hedge-trimming as many vines as I could from ground level to as high as I could reach, I went after the larger saplings with my electric chain saw.  I deliberately cut them about a foot high so that I knew where they were ( I wanted to know where they are for complete removal later).

That was several weeks ago.  Because after bending around awkwardly to chainsaw the saplings and haul them out of the vines and put them in piles for cutting the pieces to fit my hauling trailer (to bring them to a County place that makes free mulch)...

I woke up the next morning and couldn't stand up.  Yes, I mentioned that in a previous post and I'm just catching up.  I had 2 weeks of pain and used up 2 tubes of muscle relief ointment (Aspercreme, not that smelly type that athletes use to advertise their need for something).

A few days ago, I woke up and all was well with my back.  So, naturally, I went back at the yard work.  And more about THAT tomorrow...

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Bramble And Sapling Jungle, Part 1

IIRC, it was Disney's 'Sleeping Beauty' that had a briar jungle raised around her sleeping place by the evil Queen Maleficent.  Her briar jungle had nothing on mine (in my eyes).
 After I removed some junk trees that had finally grown tall enough to shade my vegetable garden 6 years ago, the increased sunlight below them allowed shade-supressed wild blackberry, wild non-fruiting grape vines, green-briars, and English Ivy grew rampant.  Junk tree seeds found a good spot to grow.

When I moved here 32 years ago, it was like that.  It took me 5 years to clear the area.  I dug out a 10' circle 2' deep and installed a pond liner.  I dug a 40' long raceway downslope to the pond and installed a liner and a submersible pump to push water to the top for waterflow over rocks I placed in the raceway.  The sounds of the splashing water were always soothing.  I bought a bench to sit on to enjoy the pond and raceway.  I built a nice little bridge across the raceway for convenience and planted hostas along both sides and planted astilbes all around the pond.

Somewhere over the years, I kind of ignored it for a while.  Fall leaves filled it and were hard to net out among the lily plants and sweet flag.  A fallen branch poked a hole in the liner about 6" from the bottom and the pond drained.  I tried to patch the hole, but could never get it properly sealed.  Then one hot Summer day, I realized there were tens of thousands of mosquito larvae growing in that 6" of water.  I poked more holes in it deliberately to drain it completely, intending to replace the liner and get the waterflow working again.

That didn't happen.  The pond liner replacement was always on my "to do" list but other things came first.

Two years ago, I decided to try to reclaim that portion of the back yard.  Loppers on 8' high 1" thich wild blackberries does not work.  They ALWAYS fell on me and getting those things loose is awkward and sometimes painful.

I decided to hire someone to clear the area.  Individuals said it was too much work; companies said it was too little work  One guy agreed to do the work.  He didn't show up.  When I called him, he was in a hospital with a broken leg and that he was retiring from yardwork.  I expressed my sympathies to him about the leg, but it left me no choice.

I was going to have to do it myself!

I bought a DR Brush/Sapling mower.  After delays (the shipper lost it) then (after they found it 3 weeks later) discussions about how it could be delivered (they wanted a commercial dock to deliver it to and I had to arrange a 3rd party delivery), I finally received it.

The Brush/Sapling mower works great.  But that is for tomorrow...

Saturday, November 17, 2018

A Surprize Today

I garden.  I garden a lot.  I've been gardening almost all my life.  My Dad gardened using "modern" synthetical fertilizers and chemicals.    His soil was hard as rock and his hybrid veggies tasted funny.  His garden struggled to survive.  Every year, he had to roto-till the soil to loosen it enough to pland seeds.

Grampa was a gardener.  He was an organic gardener.  He grew Winter cover crops that died back in Spring.  He used natural fertilizers.  To plant seeds, he merely dragged a grub hoe along the row in the soft soil.  He planted heirloom seeds.  His crops were lush and tasty.

When I got my first chance to garden, I followed Grampas practices mostly.  I subscribed to Organic Gardening magazine.  Organic Gardening magazine was rather dull.  The writer's were straight-forward folks concerned with getting good crops.  They would say things like "Don't fertilize your crops, improve the soil; good crops come from good soil" and "Grow earthworms" and "You should be able to push a finger all the way into your soil.

But the magazine was failing in the 80s, the old writers were dying off and they chagned their approach.  They hired Mike McGrath as editor, paid more attention to new crop varieties, and began to promote "organic living" as a lifestyle.  Which was not all bad, but I wasn't really interested in the newest organic clothes, installing bamboo floors, or cooking.  Well, OK, I was interested in cooking, but I had a cooking magazine for that.

Mike McGrath was editor-in-chief of Organic Gardening magazine from 1990 through 1997.   He brought a less-serious approach to the magazine.  In fact, he turned the Letters section into his own personal stand-up humor show.  My recollection is that Organic Gardening magazine tried to become "hip.  I didn't like the change and switched to National Gardening magazine.

Mr. McGrath returned as the the host of the nationally syndicated public radio show “You Bet Your Garden” since 1998 and WTOP radio Garden Editor since 1999.  WTOP is a local news/weather/traffic station in Washington, DC, where I live.  On Saturdays, he has a few-minute spot each hour with gardening advice..  "You Bet Your Garden" is not on any local stations here.

Trust me, this IS actually getting to a point eventually, I PROMISE...

I used to listen to WTOP weekdays during the morning and afternoon commute for traffic and weather information.  I only discovered his Saturday episodes by accident.  And remembering his tendency for joking about letters from subscibers, I was unsure about his advice.  And I was justified in that.  His radio spots usually took listener comments and made fun of them, always pointing out why they were wrong. 

BUT, he did give good advice on the timing of gardenwork and he was organic, so I listened.  Then I discovered the WTOP website and found all his spots each week were on a single theme and readable at any time.

I often disagreed with his advice.  I learned why this week (more about that below).

His Nov 2nd theme was composting and he said there were some things to never add to your compost (food scraps, wood ashes, junk mail, and lawn clippings) and that he would explain about that the next week.  In the Nov 9th article, he didn't!  And because I add 3 of the 4 items to my compost, I was curious.

So I emailed him.  He is experienced, but so am I.  I didn't want to challenge him, so I focussed on the food scraps (wood ashes are perfectly fine in slight amounts and lawn clippings from organic lawn are fine, too but there can be problems).

I pointed out that he had not explained about the "forbidden" compost items as promised and that I really wanted to know why not food scraps.  I included a few pictures of my compost bins and explained that I used food scraps successfully.

To my utter surprise, he replied!  And this is where it gets interesting...

He asked where I was located and added "Beautiful Compost Bin".  So I said MD and sent a couple other pictures explaining some of the details of the construction.  He replied again and asked for a more specific location.

After a couple more email exchanges, he stopped replying and I expected that was the end of it.  Well,  OK, he's busy and has radio spots to create, and exchanging some positive emails was reasonably exciting.  But that wasn't the half of it!

The sound bites on WTOP are actually written beforehand and posted on the WTOP website Fridays under a "Garden Plot" menu item.  The spoken radio spots are broadcast (usually) at :51 minutes on the hour Saturday.

When I casually looked at it Friday (yesterday), I WAS THE ENTIRE TOPIC OF HIS POST

I initially cringed seeing "Mark in Waldorf", because he tends to tell people what they are doing WRONG.  But not THIS time!  He showed pictures of my compost bins, adding "who built some of the most perfect compost bins I have ever seen".  I was drop-dead stunned...

Granted, he defended his position on wood ashes, lawn clippings, and even food scraps.  But he credited me with knowing what I was doing, and added something that made me reconsider my opinion of his posts.

He ended his post with:

"My weekend shots of advice are geared to impart the knowledge to accomplish success in 50 seconds".


"Bottom line: My goal here is to get as many listeners as possible to shred and use their fall leaves. Spent coffee grounds are the single best addition. Everything else introduces the risk of compost failure, and I want first-timers to achieve compost success.  So shred those leaves! (And, hire Mark to build your bins.)"

And I finally understood what he was getting at.  He is trying to help beginners and casual gardeners to achieve some success in the easiest ways to encourage them to continue gardening and learn more.   His goal isn't to try to teach ME how to compost; I know how to do that.  His goal is to get some people started at it easily, and to help newcomers who are having problems how to do it better

Sometimes you can to help people start by making things simple, but workable.  I get that now, and my opinion of him is improved.  Sometimes, you have to understand intent in order to understand what other people are doing or saying, and that isn't always easy or obvious.

Mike wasn't telling ME not to use food scraps, wood ashes, and grass clippings.

He was discouraging beginners from just making a garbage pile of kitchen waste, dumping buckets of burned pressure-treated wood pallets (with all the toxins in the ashes), and putting chemically-treated synthetically-fertilized lawn-clippings into their new compost bins and being disappointed when nothing happens because the pH, toxins, and lawn-weed killers kill off all the microbes that make a compost pile work.

He knows *I* know that food scraps do properly decompose, clean wood ashes from normal trees are OK in small amounts and that grass clippings from my organic lawn are safe to use in my compost. 

And I will be sure to listen to his radio spots later today, LOL!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

In Memorium

Stanley Martin Lieber (aka Stan Lee) died November 12th at age 95...

I just read the sad news.

I was 11 in 1961.  In the newstand, a tiny little corner on the block of the main street of the town I had been moved to as my Dad followed promotions as a civilian working for the Army, I used to scrape together a quarter to buy used Ace Double books.  One day the owner said "Hey I got some comic books, you can get TWO for a quarter.  Not funny comics like Bugs Bunny.  "Adventure Comics".  I looked at one.

It was the original Fantastic Four.  #1.  It was new and crisp in my hand.  No one else wanted it.  I held $300,000 in my hand not knowing it.  To me, it was 12 cents, half my weekly allowance.

I was hooked.  A whole bunch of regular people, adults even, not like Superman who bored me being invulnerable.  They argued, they had problems, they sometimes didn't want to have POWERS... 

Two for a quarter!  That was a whole hamburger and fries then.  And I was a very hungry 11 year old.  I bought it.  And I bought the next one, and the next.  I was in a whole new real actual world where there were people I admired.  Not Supermen, just people struggling. 

I kept all those comics for years and added more.  And there were more.  Spiderman became my idol as I grew up.  He had problems just like I did.  High school, bullies, understanding girls. 

And one day, I noticed letters in the back of the comics and the same guy whose name was on the front talked to us who read them.  I was one of the "true believers" he spoke to.  His name was Stan "The Man" Lee and he had some friends who helped draw the books.

I wrote to him, but never got a letter published.  That didn't matter.  I knew he read them, and that was enough.  I followed FF and Spidey and Thor (back when Thor was Don Blake and smacked his cane on a wall in a cave).  What matterred was that they were PEOPLE who had powers, not powerful beings with a secret identity.  Like me, you know...  Spidey was really Peter Parker (high school nerd), not Peter Parker hidden alias of Spidey. 

The Thing was just a guy changed, not The Thing hiding as Ben Grimm.  Etc.  Other characters were included, all with some problems in their lives.  By the time I went to college, I had a steamer trunk full of the "comics" master-minded by Stan Lee.  And drawn by geniuses like Kirby and Romita. 

I had no space at my college dorm for the steamer trunk, and other expenses to fill my days.  When I got my first apartment, Mom told me I needed to take the steamer trunk of "junk" or she would throw it out.  No, she didn't throw them away, I took it.

At 25, I still loved re-reading them.  But I was also utterly poor and was eating hamburger-helper diluted with more hamburger-helper.  I went to sell them. 

None were in great condition.  The comic book store guy didn't even want them.  He showed me a dozen FF #1s in good condition (which mine weren't), selling for $1 each.  But another guy was trying to open his own store and offerred me a nickle per issue regardless of condition.  500 comics times 5 cents was $25.  It paid my rent for the month and some food.  I never asked Dad for money after college.

Worst deal I ever made in a way, but rent is rent and food is food.  I sure wish I had them back, though.

Stan Lee, et al, brightened my life before high school and after.  His and other Marvel characters gave me the thought that a little luck and a lot of struggle could make you a good person, and that was worth trying for.  One could do worse for heroes...  And I knew who started them, Stan Lee.

And after decades, the movies started.  Pretty good ones.  I even loved the FF movies most people panned.  Didn't matter, they were my heroes.  Most movies ruin origins, and I hate that.  But it didn't matter.  I loved them all.  They were both memories and dreams. 

In my life with "comics", there was Marvel and there was DC.  DC was for high school grads and drop-outs; Marvel was for college level.  Superman fought idiots,  The FF fought Dr Doom.  DC characters had teen sidekicks; Spidey fought The Sandman.  And was who he was because he let the person who killed his Uncle go loose and struggled with that all the time after.  Not to mention Gwen Stacey.  DC characters always started each day without much of a history, like a sitcom.  Marvel characters carried their history with them every day. 

They were damn near "real".  Or at least human.

I loved the way Stan Lee showed up in all the movies.  No one important, just a cameo as some passer-by in life.  I'll miss that.

It's getting hard to type...

“Excelsior” and "Nuff Said", and Thank You Mr. Stanley Martin Lieber.

Ouch, Ouch, Ouch!

Yeah, "OUCH"!  I'm a fairly active person, but not an exerciser.   I have too much actual work to do to waster energy and time exercising.  And I do that somewhat regularly (bad weather intrudes sometimes for a few days).  And with yardwork and home projects sometimes comes stiff muscles, cramps, etc.  Getting older doesn't help much either.

I'm used to it.  If I have to grip something hard for a lengthy time (shovel handle, chain saw, rototiller, I know I can expect some hand stiffness hours later.  Lifting stuff and bending causes muscle cramps on my sides sometimes.  And I get leg cramps lying in bed irregularly.

And, as I get older, I have to get up at night more often (calls of nature).

But I didn't expect to get out of bed Saturday night and almost fall over from sudden lower back muscle pain.  I'm used to feeling a bit stiff when I get out of bed, but the usual solution is to just stretch.  And I'm agile enough to clasp my hands behind my back, lean forward and raise my clasped hands toward my head.  A few "popping" sensations and all is well.  I suppose a chiropractor would know what I'm doing.

Until Saturday night!  I put my feet on the floor and stood up and almost immediately fell forward.  Fortunately, I had my hands on a chair.  But my lower back muscled refused to let me straighten up. 

And it HURT!  I managed to hold onto things to do my business, but I could barely stand erect and only with some pain.  Same thing each time that night.  In the morning, same thing, but after forcing myself to walk around a bit, the pain reduced to a mild stiffness though I was aware of discomfort all day.  An Ibuprofen, and some Aspercreme on the lower back muscles helped.  By the end of the day, I was walking relatively normally.

Same Sunday night and Monday day.  Same Monday night and Tuesday day.    By the end of Tuesday, I was walking normally, but I can still feel it now even as I type.

I HOPE I merely over-exerted myself cutting down 3-4" junk saplings and hauling them out to open space for cutting up some other day, and that it is temporary and will go away soon.  But I recall my Dad had back problems younger than my current age and did some daily exercises. 

I sure hope this isn't permanent.  I'm scheduling an annual physical and will be sure to add this to the list of complaints.

But in the meantime, I have things I need to get done before Winter sets in.


Monday, November 12, 2018


My tadpoles have legs!  But they still have tails too, so they aren't ready to hop onto the surface (according to everything I read).  But I will put  small piece of wood in the tank for them to use when they are ready.
There were originally 7 tiny tadpoles.  I used pond water in the tank (to seem natural to them) and added plants and algae, and algae wafers.  Changed the water once a month (good for my bettas so assume good for tadpoles).

There are only 5 left.  Don't know what happened to the 2.  At least I never saw bodies.  Fed them ground spinach to help.

There is a small bubbler tube in the tank.  Barely moves the water, but I think it adds enough oxygen by changing the surface.  Not enough water movement to bother them AFAICT.
But they have been slow in developing.  I'm sure they should have been full-grown frogs by now in the pond.

But there is the dilemma.  Would any of them survived among the already full-grown frogs in the 5' diameter pond?  Frogs are cannibalistic.  I've probally kept them alive longer than they normally would, but mayb one would have grown to frogdom.

And what do I do with them now?  None of these are prepared to hibernate over Winter at so undeveloped a stage of growth.  I have an unused 20 gallon long aquarium I could keep them in over Winter, but what would I feed them?  Petsmart doesn't sell frog food last I checked (and I asked).

How did my Summer curiosity about watching a few chosen tadpoles develop turn into an ethical problem about the lives of a few wanna-be not-quite-yet frogs?

Friday, November 9, 2018

DR Brush Mower

I had brambles and wild blackberries and wild grape vines taking over 1/2 the backyard.  I tried lopping them down, I tried a hedge trimmer, I yanked and pulled.  Nothing was getting me anywhere.  The stuff grew as fast as I could cut.    And most of what I cut had thorns which managed to grab at me.  Some days, I looked like I had been attacked to a pack of rabid weasels.

So I bought a DR Brush Mower.  It wasn't an easy decision.  Those things aren't cheap.  And they come with serious warnings about possibly injury.  So I watched videos of people using them (happily and unhappily).  I read about them.

I admit that when I saw people just chopping and mulching shrubs and 1.5" saplings with the self-propelled kinds, I gave in. 

The delivery was all messed up (it got lost in Baltimore for 2 weeks), but it did arrive.  I uncrated it with some difficulty but got it freed.  I read the instruction manual 3x. 

It is a funny thing.  There are large heavily-treaded wheels on the back and pipes like thick sled runners in the front.  The engine could power a motorcycle.  The blade is a sharpened rod of metal 1/2" thick.  My riding mower blade is turned by rubber belts; this thing is all metal gears.  There are 3 forward speeds and 1 reverse by levers at the handle.

I got it started up in the garage and drove it around back.  I gave it a brief try into the edges of the brambles and it reduced them to mulch.  It doesn't cut and ground level like a lawn mower; it just pushes stuff over flat and grinds it up.

There are some limits.  It doesn't handle raised areas or stumps of saplings larger than 1.5 inches.  But OMG, does it chop up anything it can propel itself onto and over!  My first run-though was exciting; I left a path of mulch as I went.  The reverse gear is really valuable.  The brushmower gets into places where there are brambles left above, but just reversing pulls it back out.  Its not easy to turn around in tight places, but powered backing out helps.

It can't do much about grapevines and greenbriars hanging up in trees.  I've learned to use a hedge trimmer to cut through the wild grape vines and my electric chain saw to cut saplings over 1.5" at ground level first.  But using the brushmower to clear paths through the brambles gave me access to them.

Spent the first 2 days with the brushmower, cutting paths through the bramble and shrubs and small saplings.  Yesterday and today, I used the cordless hedgetrimmer to cut vines and small briars to get me access to the larger saplings.  I used the electric chainsaw to cut larger saplings. 

I was worn out, and rather minorly injured all over.  Even cutting as many vines as I could with the hedgetrimmer, there were still some out of reach creating odd tensions on the tree.  So everytime I used the chainsaw, expecting the 3" diameter tree to fall in a certain direction, it fell on me!

And malevolently!  The tree would fall, pushing of my hat, and then looping briars around my head.  This is AWFUL work!  But it is my fault I allowed things to get to such a state and I want to personally clear every last inch my self.  Matter of pride and obsession...

Here are "before" pictures...

And here are the first "after" pictures (before today's work which I haven't taken pictures of yet)...

More "after" pics soon.  But I can see some ground again.  I can see the back fence again. 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Post-Election Day

Well, you can't have everything you want on Election Day!  I suppose it came out pretty well well Progressives like me.  Possibly the best hint of that is that President Trump is royally annoyed.  But I'll stick to the election results...

Locally, there are no surprises in Maryland.  It is a rather solidly Democratic State.  Most every incumbent won, the 2 reasonably sensible referendums passed, and the local Board Of Education candidates were actually all pretty decent choices (sometimes there are whackos).  Gov Larry Hogan is a Republican and won re-election, but that is because he is rather Centrist and has done a good job of being bipartisan.  One has to respect a good Centrist if you want to get things done with support from all over.  His Democratic opponent was also good, but had less experience.

Nationally, I was pleased.  It was pretty clear that the Democrats wouldn't get control of the US Senate.  Far more Democrats were up for election in States that Trump won in 2016, so even random voting would have kept the Republicans in charge there.

The US House went Democratic as expected.  They needed to gain 23 seats; they have gotten 30 and it seems they will get about 4 more after some final votes are counted.  Most experienced professional political types guessed 30-40 and 34 seems likeliest.

That will have a profound effect on Trump (although he denies it and at the same time threatens The House with "investigations").  He is worried.  He always accuses others of what he has done himself, and threatens others with what he fears most himself. 

The House can start investigations of corrupt Trump officials, investigate his previously-hidden tax returns, and can impeach him if enough evidence is found.  Though I should mention (because it is often confused) that impeachment is merely an indictment; any actual trial would be held by the Senate.

Democrats gained about 8 State Governors, which was good.  I particularly cheered the ousting of the Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker.  He was a real mess.  Among other things, he used an obscure emergency State Law designed to help cities with failed local mayors and/or situations beyond their control to appoint sycophants as City Managers with dictatorial powers. 

But the additional Democratic Governors will be in office during the 2020 post-census redistricting (an adjustment of voting districts due to population changes).  The Republican Governors have had a bad habit of arranging voting districts into weird shapes to arrange elections to their advantage. 

That is called "Gerrymandering".  It isn't a new idea.  The original example is from Governor Gerry in the 1800s in Massachusetts.  Gerry arranged a voting district so weird that it spread across the State in a very strange shape to gather all his opponents into one voting district he was sure to lose while winning all the others.  A local newspaper dubbed it "the Gerrymander" because it resembled a salamander.
Redistricting, Gerrymandering And The American Democratic ...

Some of that gerrymandering will be undone.  It matters because it violates fair voting.  It has gotten so bad that, in some States, voters can choose one political party by 60% and still only get 1/3 of the House of Representative members. That is obviously not "democracy".

I will mention that the Senate is designed to be unfair like that (because Senators were originally to represent the State, not the populace).  California has 40 million residents and 2 Senators (like every State), and Wyoming has only 565,000 and 2 Senators.  So Wyoming has 80x the influence in the Senate per person as California.  Republicans control most of the lower-population States. 

That is why the Republicans can elect Presidents with a minority of the total vote.  6 of the last 7 Presidential elections have had the majority of voters choosing the Democratic candidate but only 2 Democrats were Presidents.

There were some close calls in some important elections.  Some Democrats who lost came closer than any in a couple decades (see gerrymandering, above) even in places where Trump won in 2016.  Some elections are still in doubt and will be decided in recounts or by yet-uncounted absentee ballots.  And some of the losing Democratic candidates did so well as first-timers that they will surely be more experienced and campaigning next time.

The next couple of years with Trump in office with a Democratic House Of Representatives should be very interesting.

Aside from all that, voter experiences vary by location.  Gerrymandering aside, there are other ways voters can be suppressed.  There are tricks the party in local power can affect things.  The Republicans did their best to make sure the groups of people they expected to vote against them could be discouraged.

In places where they wouldn't get much support, they reduced the voting locations, made them hard to find, even moved them out of cities to where there was no public transportation service, demanded exact name matches on several ID forms (even I have several legal versions of my name because I misspelled my middle name and heaven help you if you have a non-standard english name or a hyphenated one), challenged anyone with a Post Office Box delivery.

In some places, voters stood in line for 6 hours because their voting place "inconveniently" had too few ballots to fill out.  I stood in line for 3 hours once myself.  But here in (Democratic) Maryland, there are voting stations all over the place. 

So I walked into mine Tuesday, went straight to the check-in table (no line), then straight to the ballot reception table (no line), and then to the private voting stall (no line).  I filled out my ballot (paper so that it can be recounted if necessary and hard to hack) and brought it to the scanner (no line).

I was in and out in 10 minutes!  That's how it should be.  And how it could be if SOME PEOPLE (Republicans) weren't actively trying to prevent unfavored people from voting.