email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Presidential Candidates, 2

 Angel AbbyGrace asked "Are you remembering the "Russian Reset" with Hill?"

Well, I did have to google "Russian Reset" and it WAS kind of funny.  Something about a mistranslated American word into Russian  on a symbolic fake "reset button gadget" (and noting it had been signed off on as accurate by the Russian embassy).

But I wasn't arguing politics.  I was thinking about the current presidential candidates and who could stand up among world leaders facing someone like Putin.

There are darn few of the current crop that could.   It's awful! Marco Rubio comes across like the intern designated to bring the serious leaders their coffee. Jeb! is a wimp.  Trump would be out-bullied by Putin.  Walker and Kasich would be dismissed as bullying teacher unions (though at least Putin would like THAT!

And I'm not being mean to just Republicans.  Politically, I'm more aligned with Bernie Sanders; I'd love to talk to him all day.  But he is basically a mayor of a small place.  He has no executive or international experience.  O'Malley was a great Governor of a minor State (and for all I know,he could be a very good Chief Executive in calm prosperous times).

It is just that I can't find anyone but Hillary Clinton who could look eye to eye with someone like Putin and not flinch.  She's hard as nails.  And I don't mean fingernails...

To prove the point that I am politically unbiased regarding "strength" of presidents, who would I take today from the past?

Teddy! (Roosevelt, not Kennedy), Franklin Roosevelt, Truman, Reagan...  Yeah, some democrats and some republicans.  Like I said, I'm not arguing politics here (yet). 

So if I wanted someone from the current  crop of people desiring to become President,  who would I want?  Well, aside from ME of course...  I would want Hillary Clinton.  She just has the personality to handle the job.  Seriously, you don't WANT some inexperienced and stupid "hey, I might actually get lucky and win" type as President here.

I remember seeing some political cartoon showing some guy being sworn into office and then in the 2nd panel he says to his political advisors, "OK, so what do I do NOW?".   THAT'S SCARY, and that's what I'm afraid most of the candidates WOULD do.

There are too many people who desperately WANT that job, but too few who really seem to have any idea what to DO with it. 

Clinton's politics don't align with mine perfectly.  And yes, she is a politician and bit of a slippery one at that.  But at the top job, experience and talent matter.  Few leaders are "nice" or "clean". 

At the risk of echoing Donald ("I went Wharton, so I'm smart") Trump, I have to say I have a degree in Political Science.  I study this stuff to this day.  We are far past the times when we elected successful Generals because they knew how to manage a whole army.  World affairs are bigger than armies now. 

What a US President needs is the skill to manage international chaos.  The only candidate I see who could do that is Hillary Clinton. 

Presidential Candidates

The Republicans...

Donald Trump - Middle school bully, with brains to match.

Ben Carson - The quiet crazy guy who thinks everyone is either a Nazi or a slaveowner.  I think maybe we are all both.   In his mind..

Ted Cruz - I could be both of those guys above, really.  Let me try harder... 

Marco Rubio - Sure I look like I'm 20, but I can talk that way too.  Oh wait, is that the prob?

Jeb! - Hey, never mind if I don't mention the last name, I'm The Next One.  You all know it, right?  Unless you don't want me to mention I'm a Bush..  Then I'm not.  Dubya says not too, so...

The Democrats...

Hillary! - I'm the ONE right?  I mean we all agreed on that after the last go-around.  The Black GUY first and THEN its my turn...  Um, OUR turn, Right?  It's my turn now?  And you get Bill back for a 3rd and 4th turn...  He's not dead yet.

Bernie Sanders - Look you want an angry guy who is usually right (well leftist if ya know what I mean), you have ME!  Never mind that I probably couldn't manage a candy store, I'm always right. (er, left)  And I yell a lot, so that proves I care.

Martin O'Malley - I talk nice, I'm from Maryland, I'm classical liberal, I'm not Spiro Agnew.  What more do you want?

  ******************

What we are missing here is the person who can meet with Putin and say "I'll punch ya into the middle of next week" convincingly.  And with a plan for that...

Putin would laugh at Trump, remind Jeb! that his whole family are wimps, ask Rubio if he shaves yet, and tell Sanders that he isn't the socialist he imagines he is.

But he wouldn't know what to say to Hillary Rodham Clinton...  She's unflappable, unstoppable, and unbreakable...






Monday, October 26, 2015

The Last Edging Circle

It nearly done.  I did the last digging yesterday.  Almost...  There are 3 tree roots crossing the edging trench.  I don't want to chop them out; the tree needs them.  They ARE slightly below-ground though.  I think I will cut the bottoms of the edging to fit over top of the roots.  But I sure need to have the whole rest of the edging perfectly fitted around the trench before doing any cutting-to-fit.

Seriously, it has to be about as precise as wood-working.

So I went round and round the circle trench to get it as uniformly deep as possible (but not too deep either, so I can lay in this last area of edging.  The edging is heavy (but cuttable) plastic, and I'll get it to all fit in tomorrow.

But I thought this would take 2 weeks and it has been 6 weeks.  *sigh*  Other demands get in the way.  Laundry, grocery-shopping, cooking,  etc...

At least I'm close to done!  But that's not "quite" done.  The center areas is edged, but that is for transplanted Lychimatria Firecracker to.  Lovely plant; very invasive though.  So I have the circle for it that I can mow around all year and keep it from spreading.

The last area is for semi-shady wildflowers, spring bulbs, and some dwarf azaleas.  I have no idea how that will work out, but I don't have to worry about THAT until next Spring.

Meanwhile, the older flowerbed along the fence has been ignored for months.  I needs work.  Mostly, it needs areas that have been taken over by grass killed.  Fortunately, it won't take more than a day (he said optimistically)  to pull the grass tops off and cover the areas with black plastic for the Winter.  I hope they will die.  And least they will be weakened.  And that whole area needs to be rebuilt next year.

There is too much space there with "just a few of this and a couple of that" left in spots after years of gradual die-backs.  Even perennials don't live forever.

I need to collect the surviving ones from various spots together (9 same plants together look better than 3 spots of 3 plants).  Some long-lived perennials (like purple coneflowers and black-eyed-susans) tend to self-seed to places the prefer, and some plants get exposed to more sunlight than they like when other plants die back and need better conditions.

The good news is that I have 15 daylilies saved in pots from the ridge that was removed, I have 30 azalea cuttings that have been rooting for 2 months, the dwarf butterfly bush and the dwarf knock-out rose seem healthy enough for cuttings (I have a well-lit plant light stand),  and I have LOTS of viable seeds of marigolds, zinnias, salvias, forget-me-nots, butterfly weed, herbs etc.

I am slowly changing from multi-yearly troublesome perennials, that bloom briefly, to replaceable annuals that bloom all year long.  The nice thing about annuals is that you can turn the soil early each Spring before planting and expose the germinating weed seeds to be killed with a shallow hoeing.

Some perennials solve all the problems by growing high and thick so that no weeds thrive.  That's why I'm trying to give the Lychmastria their own space.  There are 2 areas of plants where no weeds grow.  The Lychimastria and the Stokesia (Stokes Asters).  I'll divide the Stokesia (guidance says in Spring, which seems odd, but OK).  To set up another 6x6' area.



Saturday, October 24, 2015

Projects

Ever feel you are mentally done doing yard projects for the year?  But they're not finished?  I'm tired, but there is more to do.  I did finally get one done.  The far edged area intended for wildflowers...

I needed to loosen the soil, and I couldn't get the rototiller to start.  It has always been an "iffy" engine.  So I tried to rake the soil loose.  Too much gravel.  But it is supposed to rain lightly tonight and tomorrow while staying above 50F and that would be good for germinating the seeds.  So I thought about it...

Well, I had 2 trashbarrels of a half compost, half topsil mix.  What the seeds want is to get thoroughly moistened to trigger germination, some soil to surround them to trigger rooting, some soil below for the roots to penetrate, and some regular moisture after that for the roots to absorb water and minerals to send upwards to stems and leaves. 

So I used my 2 barrels of compost/soil on the area.  It only came a 1/4" deep when spread around, but the soil under there is decent.  So if they root, they will grow.  Wildflowers are exactly that; "wild",  They don't depend on people spreading fertilizer and in fact usually don't want it. 

So I spread the meager compost/soil mix, scatterred the seeds, walked all over the surface (and using a flat rake to also press down), and then watered the area.  Once lightly, waited 10 minutes and did it a gain, and repeated. 

Why water before a light rain?  To settle the soil around the seeds.  There is less chance now of a rain causing the seeds to get washed into uneven pockets.

And I did it later than I should have.  The package instruction say they want 2 weeks before the first hard frost.  Well, we've already had a frost, but that was before I planted the seeds and the forecast is for at least 10 days without another freeze.  So I may get lucky...

I'll know in a week to 10 days...

Friday, October 23, 2015

American Politics

Megen posted "What I don't understand is why politicians don't get it that voters want politicians to act in the best interests of the country in a manner that is consistent with the policy platform of the party that they represent. All this time and money wasted on attempting to score petty points while the big issues float on by is appalling."

I agree. In the US, people want politicians who agree with their most basic desires.  I personally object to such selfish  and biased opinions, but I recognize them as existing.

Personally, I think most voters are idiots.  Too many can't comprehend basic science like climate change and human evolution.  Some might even barely allow for gravity...  LOL!  It's partly religion (the percentage of atheists and agnostics here is ONLY about  15-20%). 

I find my country to be one of the dumbest population of citizens in the industrialized  world.  It drives me crazy sometimes.  On the other hand, as Winston Churchill once said, The Americans will do the right thing eventually.

Our political system is scatterred.  The 3 branches (legislature, judiciary, and executive) are constantly in contention.  Each has balanced powers. 

That doesn't make things easy here.  But it has worked pretty well so far.  It is a GOOD thing that the Legislature can force Executive Branch members to answer questions, that the Executive Branch can bring pressure on the Legislature and that the Judiciary can make decisions about law but not have some army/mob to enforce it. 

May everything stay in balance that way forever...

Now back to the politics of today...

The Congressional Representatives only care about what their own local voters think.  Seriously, what I think here in Maryland is utterly irrelevant  to what they think in other US States.  And that is deliberate.  However insane *I* think other State voters are doen't matter.

Now that isn't to say it was always this way.  When I was younger, there were liberal and conservative Republicans, and liberal and conservative Democrats.  The parties weren't aligned ideologically as they are now.  Democrats and Republicans USED to be able to work together across party lines.  No more...

I better stop, I'm getting angry...

Mark


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Politics and Congressional Inquisitions...

I watched a lot of the Congressional Benghazi Inquisition today.  It was extreme and partisan.

I'm pretty much oriented to facts (to the point where if the side I agree with does a bad job being factual and engages in evasion and emotional responses I won't think they did a good job.

Hillary Clinton did a good job today.  After 11 HOURS responding to partisan questions, many of which had no logical connection to the sad events at Benghazi, she did very well.  And let me say that as someone who participated in chess tournaments when younger, I know something about the pain of just sitting for hours at a time.  It is called "sitzfleisch".  German, meaning literally "sitting on the flesh".  It is a requirement for playing long chess games.  I used to have it.  Today, I am a pacer.

But Hillary sat, and listened, and sat, and listened.  Sometimes she could get to give an answer.  Mostly, she had to just sit and listen to Republican speeches, some of which applied to Benghazi but most didn't.

So who won the Republican Benghazi debate?  Hillary.  The lozenge did it...  I'm not joking.  When Hillary finally had to take a lozenge out of her purse after about 8 (9, 10?) hours into the inquisition, she had won.  It meant she had spoken more than even a professional politician could be expected to manage.

And the Republicans hadn't been able to find she had done anything wrong about the sad events in Benghazi in 11 hours of questions...




Good Things

After mentioning the horrible beef short ribs recipe, Tuesday, I should mention that I did cook a lot of good food at the same time.  So its not me.

Cooked 3 chicken thighs, bone in, baked, with my own version on "shake&bake" coating.  Came out wonderfully.  Sauteed 3 hot italian sausages for later use in a sausage stew with roasted green and red bell peppers, cannellini beans, minced carrots and tomatoes.  Marinated some large shrimp in garlic, ginger, and onion for a few hours.  Then coated them in bread crumbs and deep fried them.  Added onion rings to the oil coated in pancake batter after that.  I love my Fry Baby.  Once a month though for the fried stuff.  

And I smoked slabs of Boston Butt pork in my offset cooker.  Came out great.  Most was cut into smaller pieces and frozen, but I made a wonderful pork stew with the bit I kept in the fridge. 

That was dinner.  With steamed asparagus in a cheese sauce, a corn on the cob, and fresh green beans, with a tossed salad with homemade Italian dressing.

I don't eat too plainly, LOL!  So that bad beef rib recipe the other day really annoyed me.  Maybe that why I made sure to eat well today, though.

Tomorrow, I'll have tenderloin steak.  I "fry" it, but with the good cast iron pans, its like broiling.




Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Old Car Blues

I drive a 2005 Toyota Highlander.  Wonderful vehicle.  I don't drive very much, so MPG don't matter (10 years old and 25,000 miles).  Its even garage-kept and the garage is in the house.  The temperature never gets below 45F  Maybe 50F.

But the darn thing just won't start in the Winter.  The dealership says I don't drive the car often enough for the battery to stay charged.  I doubt that.  The past 3 Winters, I kept jump-starting the battery from 2 old boat batteries and THEY sat around in the car and the garage for months fully charged even using them to start the car every few days.

There has to be something in the electrical system going wrong, right?  The internet says (and we all know the internet is never wrong *koff, koff*), that the starter solenoid brushes have gone bad.   The dealership says that the startes don't HAVE brushes anymore (but upon my interrogation, they admitted that actually, they do, but they just replace the whole starter when needed).  So they lie without shame...

I'm waiting for a call back about the cost of replacing the whole starter unit (like it takes them hours to figure the cost of replacing a starter?).  I know the part costs $200, so they will probably want $600 for the job.  I hope solves the problem, but it might not and the options are to jump start the car all Winter (AGAIN) every time I want to drive out for an errand, or buy a new car.

I told the TOYOTA dealership that if I replace the car it will be with a Subaru Forrester.  That got some attention.

But is seems stupid to replace a car with only 25,000 miles on it.  I'm not into having the latest car or new gadgets.  I tend to buy highly-rated cars and drive them until they DIE!   And I don't care WHAT car it is or how old, 25,000 miles is too new to die.  I'm still on the original tires!

I can't wait to see what weird explanation the dealership offers when they call back.  I suppose I will have to go to Corporate HQ for some more expert solution.  But I will be hopeful until I can't be...

Mark


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Bad Recipe

I like beef short ribs.  Tastey stuff, but I've never found a good recipe to keep them moist the next day.  So I tried one online for the slow cooker.  It sounded interesting.  Onions, brown sugar, ketchup, red wine vinegar...  And make a gravy after.

OMG, it was horrible!  I have certainly made stuff that I wouldn't serve to friends and eaten it myself just not to be wasteful, but THIS took some work to make palatable.  I had to remove the short ribs from the godawful concoction, rinse it all clean, and then remake a standard beef stew (potatoes, carrots, celery, tomato and add the ribs back in.  It is "OK".

Who makes these recipes and who on Earth rates them 5 stars of 5?  OK, tastes differ, but this had conflicting tastes only an orc could love... 


Monday, October 19, 2015

Oh I Did A Stupid...

I kept calling the car dealership yesterday.  Kept leaving messages with the Service Department.  Got at the online chat help, etc, to try and get an answer to a battery problem...

It was Sunday... I thought it was Monday...  ERK!  No wonder no one answered the phones...

Being retired is like that sometimes.


When I retired, I told my co-workers I didn't want some fake gold plaque, I wanted a big digital display gadget that simply showed the day of the week!  This is why.

LOL!

And yes there IS this...
And YES, I did just order this...  It wasn't available when I retired.  Trust me, I searched...

What annoys me is that some time in the future, there will be a version that shows the YEAR.  And I will buy IT...

For you younger ones, don't laff TOO loud; for you there will be an App for that...   And you'll buy it.    Well, OK, you will just ask your implant what day it is.  But you get the idea...   ;)


"They're coming to take me away ho ho he he ha ha
To the happy home with trees and flowers and chirping birds

And basket weavers who sit and smile and twiddle their thumbs and toes
They're coming to take me away ha ha."


I hope.
Its a joke,
But you never noke.

. Mark

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Digging Edging Trenches Blues

I am getting rather tired of digging trenches for edging around the new landscaping areas...  So I'm writing about it.  So here are "the blues".  Or at least, "the aquas"...

"I'm grabbin my shovel,
And digging the ditch.
All round the outside,
Then inward, kapish?

Its tedious working
And boring as Hell.
Can't wait til it's over, 
I'm sure you can tell.

I got the busted cramped left foot jambed down on the shovel blues....*

The shovel's 6 inches
The edgings 80 feet.
That's 160 times,
Foot and shovel must meet.

And sometimes there are rocks,
And the pounding repeats,
It aint nice at all 
Pounding shovel with feets.

 I got the busted cramped left foot jambed down on the shovel blues....

First it looks like no progress,
Just a few feet at most.
But then its some more feet,
And the ending is close.

But I'm fooled by the shadows,
And I finally see.
I'm just half-around,
Can that possibly be?

I got the busted cramped left foot jambed down on the shovel blues....

I wish I could do
Like Paul Bunyan did.
Drag a huge axe behind me
So a ditch I could dig.**

But I finally finished,
Halalluah I said.
Now all I have left,
Is to grub-hoe and dredge.

I got the busted cramped left foot jambed down on the shovel blues....

I'll wait til tomorrow
The grub-hoe work instead.
For now I have cramps
So I'm going to bed!

I got the busted cramped left foot jambed down on the shovel blues....

* Some things I do are lefty, some righty.  I think I was a natural lefty as a tot but taught to be a righty.  Sometimes I think that affects my thinking too.

** Legend says Paul Bunyan got tired of carrying his huge axe on his shoulder so he dragged it behind him once, creating the Grand Canyon.

But seriously, the end is in sight.   I did finally finish digging both around the outside and the inside of the edging and tomorrow I can scoop the loosened soil out of the trench and put the edging in.  There are a few shallow spots with largish stones that need to be cleared, and there are apparently 2 places where there are tree roots.  I'll cut the edging to fit over those.  Just one more bit of work, LOL!  But backfilling the edging is the easiest part and will only take half a day.  


Then I can finally plant!  I sure didn't expect it to take this long.  But I routinely under-estimate the time projects take.  Maybe that's what allows me to take on some projects.  I suppose if I knew how much time each one would actually take, I would never start any.  And then where would I be?

I guess I would rather under-estimate the effort and DO the projects then accurately estimate them and NOT do them... 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Solved It

OK, so the planting timing problem was caused by my wanting to plant lots of spring-flowering bulbs where I was planting wildflowers earlier and not wanting to walk on the sprouting wildflowers.  I had to think on that a while. 

Solution?  Walking-boards and cheap plastic tubs. 

The walking boards will be some pieces of 2"x12" boards left over from the deck construction last year.  With small pieces of 4"x4" scrap wood attached to the bottom, the footprint will be minimal, but allow me to walk out to the pre-dug holes for the wire cages for protecting the spring flowering tulips and hyacinths from the voles.

Each spot for the spring flowering bulbs will have a predug hole with a cheap plastic tub of the soil there.  I will walk out on the supported boards, lift the tub, set the wire cage down, add an inch of soil, set the bulbs down, add the rest of the soil, walk off the board and lift the board off the wildflower sprouts.  

Every problem has a solution...


Monday, October 12, 2015

Crocuses Border

While I was oredering spring floering bulbs (daffodils, tulips, hyanciths) for the new plantng areas, I also had the great idea of replanting the border to the older flowerbeds along the property line.  Sure, why not?  Like I had nothing else to do.  I get myself in these situations where work seems easy when I'm looking at plants online and "gee, how hard could it be to do that"?

ARGHHH!

So...  I used to have a border on the old flowerbed with alternating 1' sections of yellow and purple crocuses.  The voles ate most of them the first year.  But one section survives (for reasons I do not know).  So I want to replicate the gorgeous look of the row of alternating yellow and purple crocuses, but protected from the voles.

The solution is 1/2 "galvanized steel mesh wire cages buried just under ground.  OK, that requires building the cages, digging up the soil, and filling it back in.  It could be a lot worse.  At least THIS soil is well aged and loose, so digging it up is easy.

The real work will be making the cages.   But I am pleased to say I have solved that.  In design anyway.  I planned the cages 8" long, 6" wide, and 4" deep.  But then there was the problem of cutting the shapes out from the existing 3' width rolls of 1/2" wire mesh I bought. 

Well, I started drawing out shapes of unfolded cages.  You remember those IQ or SAT questions about "what is this shape unfolded"?  I got those every time.  Easy Peasy...  So I sat down with graph paper and started laying out the  shapes foldable into cages.  And because the stuff is a bit expensive and I'm cheap, I kept playing with shapes until they worked out with NO wasted material. 

Took an hour of updating software to get the sketch to scan, LOL!  My printer/scanner drivers always seem to be out-of-date...



































I'll try to clean this of on some drawing program, but it basically means that I (or you) can make twelve 8" long x 6" wide x 4" deep cages from 5' 4" of 1/2" hardware cloth.  But it means I found a layout of mostly foldable parts and some few ends that need to be wired in place to make cages with NO WASTE! 

And I've made a form for the bending out of scrap 2"x6"x8" wood.  Its simple enough.  Cut a nominal 6" wide 8" long and screw and glue supports under it.  Or just screw and glue 3 stacked onto each other. 

If you have questions about that, email me at cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT net.

My plan is to have an 8" cage, 4" space for an annual plant like a marigold or zinnia, then another 8" cage along the entire 75' flowerbed edge.  So I'll need 75 cages for 75'.  12 cages per 5' 4" = 64' of the cage mesh, and I have 150' of it.  The rest will be used up in 18"x18" cages for the tulips and hyacinths in the new areas.

It all comes together, see?  :)

With apologies to The Beatles:  

"And, in the end,
The flowers you grow
Are equal to the work you do... "

Or to put it another way I read once,  "If you like bacon, you need to get down in the mud and keep the hogs happy".  Meaning that whatever you do, you can do it poorly or well.  Poorly lasts a couple years.  Well, lasts a lot longer.  Doing things well takes less work in the long run.



Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Three New Planting Areas

You ever get yourself planned for more than you can do  by the time you should?  Of course you have.  Think of that last party you threw...  For me it is planting stuff.  And the order of planting stuff can get awkward too.

I'm tired of digging ditches for edging.  It's harder than I thought for the 3 new planting areas.
Perspective is strange.  That far one is as big around as the near one.  They are 80', 40', and 80' respectively.  So I had to dig narrow trenches 5" deep to set the edging down mostly in-ground.  The far area ground has a lot of gravel and rocks.  Half the digging required a leverage fork to dig dirt loose along the perimeter, a pick to loosen the rocks, a trenching shovel to scoop the loosened mixture out, and a grub hoe blade (the other side of the pick) to chip away the bottom to get in uniformly 5" deep. 

Naturally, all those tools have short handles, so I was either bent over or on my knees the whole way around with each tool.
OK, it's getting easier as I move toward the house.  The soil is better.  Maybe.  Fewer rocks, but more heavy clay.   The clay stick to the tools and I have to bang them on the ground to get the stuff off!  I was going to say I can't decide which is worse, but actually they both are.  :(

Then of course, the edging has to be set in the trench and the trench has to be refilled.  More fun...  Well, it's easier to backfill the soil than to dig it up, but it still takes some work.

So I have the far area finished (took 3 days of off-and-on work).  More "off" than "on" because I'm way past 30 (my vague recollection of when I was at my physically best).  At 65, I'm at the point where I don't mind working hard with rest in between but darn don't want to die of a heart attack just to plant some flowers.  At 30, that possibility never even occurred to me.   So I make sure to stop every 15 minutes and relax for 5.

I finished the middle edged area today.  Just the nearest one left to do, and I am pretty sure that area as the easiest soil to dig in.  I might get that last edging in in 2 days.

But today, it occurred to me that I have a timing problem with the plantings.  The far area will have a natural wildflower area and some transplanted purple coneflowers, goldenrod, and black-eyed susans.  The smaller middle area will have only the invasive Lychimastria Firecracker.  The nearest area will have half-shade wildflowers.  So far, so good...

But 2 weeks ago, I had the great idea of planting a lot of spring-flowering bulbs among the areas for early color (and most enclosed in below-ground 1/2" wire mesh cages for protection from the voles and squirrels).  Well, the daffodils don't need protection, but the tulips and hyacinths do, and that causes a problem. 

If a plant the wildflower seeds in the far are now (as I should), they will be JUST growing when it is time to plant the spring-flowering bulbs in mid November.  Ack!  I would be walking all over the new plants.  I can't plant them now, as they won't arrive until early November. 

The middle area isn't a problem.  The Lychimastria can't be transplanted until they go dormant, and that will be early November.  So they and the spring-flowering bulbs go in at the same time.  The near area isn't a problem, because the half-sunny wildflowers will get sown in Spring and I can easily walk around the emerging bulbs then.

I'll have to think about how to manage the planting of that far area some more.  I'm not worried; there is always a solution to any problem.  I just have to find it.

And I have more on the landscaping To-Do-List.  200 crocus bulbs to plant in vole-proof cages.  But that's for the next post...

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Change In Wildflower Design

I was looking at the 2 areas I was surrounding by inset edging, and realized an error.  I had intended the Lachymistra Firecracker, a very pretty purple-leaf and yellow-flower plant, to be enclosed in a small area I could mow around and prevent from spreading. 

But I laid out 2 large areas.  OOPS!  So I had 5 40' lengths of edging; 3 in one shape and 2 in a circle.  Time to change that.  I changed things to a 40' circumference circle for the Lachymistra Firecracker; an 80' circumference circle for the transplanted Black-Eyed Susans, Purple Coneflowers,  Dwarf Butterfly Bushes, Knockout Roses, and Goldenrods; and a kidney-bean shape of 80' circumference for the wildflower seeds and some local weeds with rather nice flowers (they may be volunteer Pinks from some other yard). 

So now the edging looks like this...
The spaces between the edging are mowable widths...
And nice walkable paths...
I finished the digging of the trench to set the edging down in for the farthest back part today.  It was exhausting.  The trench had to be edged with a garden fork to get through the stones or regular spade where the soil was stone-free, loosened in the center with a heavy pick, and loose soil removed with a trenching shovel.
And I'm only 2/5ths done! 

But an hour a day gets things progressing.  3 more hours will do all the edging-trench digging, and who can't use more exercise? 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Appliance Failure

I hate it when major appliances fail.  They're "major" appliances not just because they are large, but because they are expensive and important (My M/V might object to being left out of the group since I use it daily).  And it takes some research and time to replace them.

Minor appliances are easy.  Your M/V fails, you get another anywhere in 30 minutes.  Same with toasters, slow-cookers, fans, radios, clocks, etc.  But try to replace a dishwasher in less than a week...

Anyway, I noticed after my usual dinner binge of opening and closing the refrigerator a dozen times for this or that, that the thermometer was up to 50F.  I keep it at 35-37F, and that is the middle cold setting (4 out of 7).  But I use a lot of fresh foods and it warms up briefly inside being opened so much.

But when I went to put leftovers away an hour later, it was still 50.  Uh, Oh!!!  Hoping it was the refrigerator thermometer, I also stuck my digital cooking thermometer probe in there.

I checked for internal airflow blockages, but it is designed so that blocking the internal airflow is nearly impossible.  I distinctly recall from the manual that no cleaning of external coils is required, and indeed after pulling the refrigerator out a few inches and shining a flashlight behind it, there is nothing to clean.

This morning, it was still 50!  *GLOOM*

I've gone through a few refrigerators in my time.  It's always the condensor, and replacing the condenser is most of the cost of a new refrigerator.  But you pay $100 for the serviceman to tell you that.

So I jacked up the cooling button to max.  After 4 hours, it got back down to 37F.  I can live with that for a week while I choose a new refrigerator.  But it does mean that a lot of stuff was held at 50F for 36 hours.  Which means stuff like mayonnaise and salad dressing are dangerous.  I don't keep fresh meat, so no loss there.  Veggies and fruits are safe.  You can tell when they go bad anyway.  So I haven't lost much food.

With the cooling selection on "maximum" I can wait a few days.  At least it's not like having the A/C die in the middle of Summer or the Furnace die in Mid-Winter...

The choice for a new one is ongoing.  When the previous refrigerator died (sadly only 5 years ago) I replaced it immediately without doing much research.  I like bottom-freezer models and I went to one store and bought the cheapest most energy-efficient model they had in black.  Bad move...

This time, I'm going for the largest, best temperature-recovery time, bottom-freezer, with slide out shelves, in black, high-reliability-rated refrigerator I can find that will fit in the space.  Right now, according to Consumer Reports magazine website, that seems to be a Kenmore Elite 79043.


I decided to ignore the energy-efficiency rating.  I don't do that lightly.  But I discovered something surprising about refrigerators.   The big low-efficient refrigerators cost about $59 per year to operate.  The best-efficiency (with slow temperature recovery times) cost about $40 per year.  The difference is irrelevant.  Why would I want a refrigerator that ages my milk faster each week to save $19 per year?

Its not like choosing a car that saves $1,000 in gas per year...  $19 is the difference between most and least energy costs?  Who cares?

There is more to the decision.  I keep an older refrigerator in the basement for bulk veggie and fruit storage, garden seeds, beer, wine, bird suet, sodas, etc.  I bet it is so energy-inefficient that I've paid for a new one several times over.  I should have replaced IT years ago...

So the new one will go in the kitchen, the current one will go in the basement (where 50F is just fine for the things I keep there), and the deliverymen will haul away the oldest one for junk.

Looks like I am going shopping at Sears tomorrow!


Sunday, October 4, 2015

New Wildflower Enclosures

I've mentioned that the newly leveled areas in the back yard are being made into mostly wildflowers and some selected shrubs.  The first thing to do is set the edging into the ground.  I'm delayed on that because of the rain.  That newly-exposed soil is so loose that the rain has made it too muddy to walk on. 

But at least I can plan on what I'm going to plant there.  First, the nearest edged area is going to be mostly wildflowers with some existing  Goldenrods, Purple Coneflowers, and Black-Eyed-Susans transplanted from existing locations for structure.  The rain has been a good thing for that.  The soil is now deeply moist and that will encourage roots to grow deep rather than shallow.  And when you dig up existing plants, the rootballs hold together better when moist compared to dry dusty soil like I had until several days ago.  And the plants will be full of moisture themselves and less like to suffer transplant shock when some of their roots are cut off in the move.

And it occurred to me that I could plant a LOT of Spring-flowering bulbs in that area for blooms before the wildflowers grow and bloom in Summer.  But the wildflower seeds need to be scattered and raked in soon, while the transplants and bulbs need to planted in early November. 

So that left an awkward situation.  I didn't want to waste a lot of wildflower seeds by planting them next week, and then digging them up to add transplants and bulbs later. 

I love problems like that.  Really, I do.  Solving problems is fun!  So I bought a pack of 150 styrofoam plates.  Sound strange?  I'm using them as markers where transplants and Spring Bulbs will go.  So I can spread the wildflower seeds without wasting them (I'll just brush them off the styrofoam plates).

The Spring bulbs will by mostly Daffodils, but there will be Tulips and Hyacinths too.  The Tulips and Hyacinths around here get eaten right out by the voles, but I'll fool THEM!  I'm making barrier cages from 1/2" hardware cloth.  More on that in a future post...

 I can't wait for the soil to dry enough for me to get started!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Heavy Rain On New Lawn

After more than a month without and measurable rain, I was beginning to think I could ignore the possibility of rain in my new lawn plans.  Silly me...

I got the new lawn soil leveled and planted in the front yard in plenty of time for the soil to settle and the new grass to emerge and set down roots.  The back yard waited.  I got the back leveled and seeded about 10 days ago.  The grass barely emerged when we finally got some rain.  And of course, not just some rain, but a lot of it.  We have had 3.75" so far.

That left me 3 concerns for the front yard.

First, would serious heavy rain overflow the drainage easement and wash some of my new soil away at the edge?  Second, would the heavy rain wash some of the new grass away and/or create runoff ditches?  Third, would I discover new places of standing water (part of what my soil-raising efforts were intended to stop)?

The first is uncertain.  I can't see any drainage edge erosion, but I can't get too close to it to be sure.  The new soil is too soft to walk on to go investigate.

The second worked fine.  There was a full day of light drizzle and that settled the soil a bit, and the soil was so dry it soaked up almost all the rain.  The grass seems to have stayed in place.

The third isn't so good.  I have a 4'x10' standing puddle in the front of the lawn.  OK, there is supposed to be a "swale" there ("a slight depression for directing water runoff", in my case to storm drains at either side of the front of the yard).  But it ISN'T supposed to have a low spot that holds water. 

It wasn't obvious by eyeballing the new soil level, but water never lies.  There is a low spot that won't drain in either direction.  So I need some more soil to add there.  I don't need much; a cubic yard (cubic meter) should do fine.  I just need the rain to flow off toward either drain.  It could be worse; my adjacent upstreet neighbor has an actual concrete channel for a swale (makes for awkward mowing, it keeps filling with dirt and debris, and it is ugly).

The back yard did not fare so well with the rain.  I planted the grass seed there 8 days ago and it was barely up when the rains hit.  The day before the rains, there was a uniform fuzz of new grass.  Today, there are large bare spots and a few channels 2" deep where the rainfall flowed downslope.  I'm going to have to relevel that and plant new seed.  Fortunately, a local garden expert addressed that very question online Saturday and said there was still time to plant new grass seed in a week after the soil dries out a bit.  Of course, that's assuming we don't get another hard rain in a week (none forecast though).

Well, nothing is ever guaranteed when planting anything.  Sometimes, you have to do it again.  At least I'm not depending on grass as food, LOL!  If I was a cow, this would be a lot more serious.