email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Friday, December 23, 2016

Brambles Be Gone

I had arranged for a person with a serious brush-cutter to come and cut down and remove the 1/8 acre of trashy undergrowth last month.  When I called to see why he hadn't called for a day to do th work, he said he was in the hospital with appendicitis.  No more hard work for him this year...

I expressed my sympathy.  I had the same operation at 18, so I knew how he felt. 

But that didn't solve my problem.  I need those brambles removed.  And he was the only person I could find willing to do a "small" job.

I guess I am going to have to use the gas-powered steel-bladed I've had sitting around for 3 years.  It scares me.  The instructions suggest that using it can injure the operater unless used perfectly and with fancy leggings to clog the blades.


On the other hand, most injuries are caused by carelessness, and a certain level of fear is a good protection from carelessness.

Those brambles have to be eliminated.  I want that part of my yard back!  They grew when I cut down a few tall trees that were blocking some sunlight to my veggie garden.  It's the Law Of Unintended Consequences".

Improve the sunlight to the veggie garden improved the sunlight to the rest of the backyard.  And apparently, the brambles were just WAITING for a little extra sunlight. 

I have 4 specimen trees waiting to be planted in there.  They will grow to about 20".  Not enough to shade the veggie garden, but enough to shade out the brambles again... 

The weather forecast suggests warmer than average temps around Christmas here.  I hope to take advantage of that to cut down the brambles.  After that, I can mow them.  The terrain is uneven back there, but a regular old manual rotary mower I have can handle it.  Push the mower, tilt it up on the back wheels, lower it down on the bramble shoots and move on.  It will take an hour a day for a week, but that should kill all the brambles.

If not, I'll keep doing it.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Last Gardening

I've done about all I can do outside until about March.  The ground finally froze (it got down below freezing for several full days and nights).  The surface will thaw and refreeze for a few weeks, but I can't do anything useful with that.  I thought I was done 2 weeks ago after I cleared off all the garden debris and filled the framed beds and planted 250 daffodils.

But I discovered that 450 crocus bulbs that I ordered last year and never got around to planting because I wanted to make wire cages to plant them in to protect them from the voles and squirrels were still solid and seemingly sound after sitting in my garage for the whole year.  So I set about planting them everywhere I could think of.  Some 150 went into a bed I plan to move hostas to next year.

Most ended up in containers, though.  I used to grow Yukon Gold potatoes in 4 large plastic bins, but the grocery store started selling them, so I stopped.  I just buy them now.  That gave me 4 bins.  And several years ago, the County switched from hand-carried recycling bins to bigger-than-trash-can sized ones, so I had 3 of the old ones.

I filled them all with 4" of topsoil/compost mix, planted extra daffodils, covered those with 2" of soil, planted crocuses on top of that and added another 2" of mix on top of that.  So I have about 100 daffodils and 300 crocuses in 30 sq ft of those.  Hopefully they will grow and I can reharvest them in Late Spring for more permanent locations (in wire cages for the crocuses).

I don't know if they WILL grow after sitting around for a year, but I know for SURE they won't if not planted.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Solstice And Gardening

One of my favorite days of the year!  It is the most natural holiday I know.  The days start getting longer.  It means the next season is Spring.  Spring means light, warmth, and gardening.  And I am planning a lot for next year.

25 years ago, I was deeply into perennial flowers.  I bought from an online place that sold 3-packs for $5 and planted a dozen here and a dozen there, etc.  Some perennials aren't very long-lived; they kept dying out slowly and there would always be holes in the flowerbed.  And even at 3 for $5, they aren't cheap.  My flowerbed is 75'x8', so 300 perennials would cost $500 and half died out after 3 years.  And perennials only flower for a few weeks.

So I switched to annuals after I retired.  Annuals flower all season, they are available as seeds, and they are easy to grow.  Planting each year is a bit annoying, but I have time and 40 sq ft of lighted shelves (a 5 shelf 4'x2' rack with 4 4' fixtures in the basement).  Plus a 4 shelf 3'x2' stand at the southern-facing deck glass doors upstairs for germinating seeds that want warmth.

Anyway...  I can grow a lot on annuals from seeds.

But I still want some more permanent plantings.  I discovered "cottage garden" planting this past month.  It's a combination of long-lived perennials and self-sowing annuals.  And you plant stuff at random.  No big patches of one flower here and another there.  The idea seems to be that what thrives thrives and empty spaces self-fill.

We'll see!  I am going to give it a try.  Large portions of my flowerbed were flowerless last year, so most of it needed to be re-done anyway.

I have a large serious roto-tiller for work in large areas.  But this will take some detailed tilling.  So I bought a 10" wide electric tiller in September.  My first attempts using it were dismal!

The grassy weeds wrapped around the tiller blades.  10 minutes tilling meant 10 more minutes cutting and pulling grass off the blades.  I learned to use my string trimmer to cut the grass tops off and rake them away.  Then use the tiller to chop up the soil.  There were still roots that wrapped around the tiller blades, but easier to remove.  Better than manual shovel work, anyway!

I have a catalog from a company that offers a wide variety of cottage garden plants and seeds.  It is from 2011 (I keep interesting catalogs), and I have arranged to get a 2017 catalog in early January.  I have some long-lived perennials that will suit a cottage garden (coneflowers, goldenrods, daylilies), and I will be ordering seeds of self-sowing annuals when the catalog arrives.  I may order a few plants for which growing from seed is very complicated.

And I have 2 planting areas in the middle of the yard that I didn't do anything with this year.  Nice edged areas I can mow around to control invasive flowers.  I want one to be for Lysimachia ‘Firecracker".  It's invasive.  I tried to kill it for 2 years and it keeps coming back.  So next Spring, I'm going to transplant it to a 10' edged circle and mow around it.  That should stop the "invasiveness".  It's annoying but lovely.  Purple foliage and bright yellow flowers most of the Summer.

The 2nd edged area will be a wildflower patch.  I scattered seeds from a packet I bought last Fall.  The instructions said to raked the soil roughly, scatter the seeds and smooth soil over them lightly.  I got a few flowers, but not many.  Most are perennials that need 2 or 3 years to flower, so I will give them time.  

But another old catalog I have offers high-quality seeds suited for scattering on bare ground in Winter.  That's actually the way they normally grow, so I'm going to give that a try.  And they offer a flowering enhancement packet for $10 to give some flowers the first year.  I'm going for 2 of those.

The 3rd edged area is mostly planted already with caged tulips, caged hyacinths, and lots of daffodils.  I added 2 dozen daylilies, some common and some fancy.  

This year, I thought I would remember exactly where the tulips and hyacinths were.  HA HA HA!  Next Spring, I will mark the spots with landscaping flags so that I can plant flowers in between the spots.  I want no spot to be un-planted if I can manage it.  The bulbs like to stay dryish most of the year, so I need to plant Summer flowers that don't mind dry conditions.  So I may plant 200 marigolds of various varieties among them.  They like hot dry conditions too.  The point being that I will never deliberately water that 3rd edged bed.

They will do fine with normal rainfall, I just won't add to it.

A cottage garden bed, a wildflower bed, a purple Lysimachia bed, and a Spring bulb/Summer annual bed...  Should be a good view from the deck!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Trailer Tires

Some things are just frustrating!  One of my trailer tires went flat 2 weeks ago.  It was just rubber fatigue.  They are 20 years old.  There are cracks on the sidewall.  So...  time to replace both of them.  I called a tire store and they were all snooty about "trailer tires".  They want to sell you high-end all weather tires for cars.  They said they could special order them for $150 per tire.

So I went to a trailer company.  THEY were overwhelmed by putting snowplows on trucks, but did have a combination tire and rim available for $120 each and they had 5 of my size in stock.  I said OK and drove right over.

They didn't have 5 in stock.  In fact, they had none.  The person I had talked to was embarrassed.  Her computer said they had 5 and they didn't. 

I mentioned to her that I had worked for a tire store once and as assistant manager (responsible for tires among other things, we came up one tire short in inventory check and they took that out of my salary.  She was amazed but apparently that doesn't happen these days.

So I had to special order 2 tire/rim combinations for delivery last  friday.  Prepaid with an assurance that I would be called immediately when they were received.  Guess what didn't arrive Friday?

So I asked about the next delivery and that was Monday.   On Tuesday, they were still unloading the truck into the storage area.  Sure to have it complete Thursday.  But certain my tires were on the truck. 

Haven't heard from them yet.  Tomorrow I'm calling again.  Fortunately, my need for the trailer is not urgent.  But I hate unsettled matters.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Spring Bulbs

I always order too many Spring bulbs.  I'm overly ambitious (well, that's better than being underly-ambitious), and estimating the number needed is always tricky.  So this year I had ordered bulbs to add to an existing bed.  Some of the same 2 varieies I planted last year to enlarde the are, and a new variety for a 3rd section. 

It turned out that the additional bulbs of the existing varieties used up all the space and I had 150 of a 3rd variety to plant.  "Somewhere"...

I love daffodils!  They are truly perennial.  There are hillsides in Washington DC where Lady Bird Johnson had them planted in the mid 1960s!  Nothing bothers them.  Voles and mice won't eat them, insects don't bother them, and their spot would have to become either a swamp or a desert to kill them naturally.

But they are just combinations of yellow, orange, and white.  So they can be a bit boring.  I wish some geneticist would make daffodils as colorful as tulips and hyacinths.  But they haven't, and some daffodils are getting better over the years.  Some have fancier flowers, some have contrasting colors, some bloom earlier or later.  I have to admit they are pretty good plants.

But still, I had 150 of 'Hillstar' to plant "somewhere.  Where, where, where?

And it hit me.  The front border of my main flowerbed has always been a problem.  Nothing I put there seemed to last.  My last attempt (planting alternating blocks of yellow and purple crocuses with a space left every foot for Summer annuals didn't work.  The voles ate them all.  And I have tried some perennials that never seemed to look right and died anyway.  The soil seems fine, BTW.

AHA, space to plant the Hillstars!  The planting was relatively easy.  My drill auger went down easily into the soft improved soil.  But still, it meant kneeling down to set the bulbs in the holes, backfilling with 50/50 topsoil and compost mix, sprinkling some 2-6-6 slow release organic fertilizer, raking over the augered-out soil across the top, and watering deeply to hydrate the bulbs so that they can slowly grow roots over the Winter before blooming in April. 

I came up 8' short of the border!  Darn.  But I ordered another 25 and they arrived in 3 days and I got THOSE planted.  Which left me with extra bulbs of Hillstar and one other from the main bed. 

Before I explain what I did with those, I should mention that I had 500 crocus bulbs I never got around to planting last Fall.  I intended to make wire cages to protect them from the voles.  But by the time I finally made cages for tulips and hyacinths in the main bed and got them all planted last year, the ground was frozen and I was worn out digging in the bad soil (rocks, tree roots, clay).  The tulips were buried in wire cages and in great soil and came up wonderfully this past Spring.  I never saw a hyacinth.

Because of that, I carefully dug up one of the hyacinth cages.  No easy task.  But I finally cleared off the top of one and the tops are hinged with wire so I could open it.  I pulled out several.  They were hard and healthy, and had roots growing.  Why they didn't send up shoots and flowers is a mystery to me, but I rebuyied them and will hope for blooms next Spring.

So I just set the boxes of the crocuses in the garage and left them.  Last week, after most of my regular garden shut-down chores were done, I thought of those crocuses.  I brought the boxes onto the tool bench.  There were  few leftover hyacinths.  They were like paper husks, utterly dead.

But the crocus bulbs were all hard solid and no signs of mold.  Well, I hate to waste living things.  So I thought of what I could do to give the crocuses and leftover daffodils and chance to live. 

I keep stuff.  Not "hoarder keep stuff" just useful stuff.  So I looked around.  What I wanted to find were cat litter boxes.  Something shallow to grow the crocuses in and harvest the bulbs next Fall when I found a good place.

What I realized was that I had 3 old recycling bins and 4 old storage bins I used to grow potatoes in.  I used to grow Yukon Gold potatoes in them before they became readily available in the grocery store.  And they were filled with rich soil!

So I wheelbarrowed all of them to my patio.  The cinder block wall is a perfect height for gardening work.  I dumped all the soil out into 35# kitty litter tubs (very useful as buckets),  put 4" of soil back in the recycle bins, set in the extra daffodils and added 2" of soil and sprinkled 2-6-6 fertilizer on top.  Added another inch of soil and crowded in crocus bulbs 2" apart.  Covered THOSE with 3" of good soil and sprinkled on a slight amount of fertilizer.  Added another inch on that. 

I filled 7 tubs and used up 300 crocus bulbs (of 500).  Watered them well. I'm hoping for a great container display in Spring and to be able to plant them someplace permanent next Fall.

I STILL have more crocuses.  I will be planting them in 6" black pots just to see if they grow.  I'll stick the pots in my veggie garden to give them some "normal" temperature and rain/snow.

Hope springs eternal...conditions. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Difficult Errand

I have a watch that is 50 years old this month.  It was a gift in 1966 when I was 16.  It is the only wristwatch I have ever owned.  It was one of the earliest cheap digital watches.  I love it! 

It doesn't do anything but tell time.  Well, I mean it shows the day with a line over a row of letters and there is a smaller number for the date.  And if I press an awkward button, the date goes away and shows seconds.  And another push shows m/d/y (12 8 16).  But that's all.  No timer, no weather, no footstep count, no anything else. 

I have to have the battery replaced about once a year.  Any jeweler will do it for about $10.  It requires  weird tool to get the back off or I would do it myself.

So I went to me usual place to have the battery repaired.  There was no jewelar there.  There was no building.  The spot had been scraped clean.  Wow!

So I went to a new place I had found called "Bulbs & Batteries".  Their watchpin removal tool was broken.  Well, I needed to buy some groceries and I knew there was a jeweler nearby, so I did my shopping and stopped there. 

Oh boy, was I surprised!  They wouldn't replace a digital watch battery.  "You need to return it to the manufacturer", the store manager declared!  "Otherwise, the circuits will get shorted out".  I pointed out that the watch was 50 years old and the batteries had been replaced many many times with no ill effects.  He replied that "That's why the battery only lasts a year, it gets shorted - a battery should last 5 years".   It was a high-end jeweler (Jared's) and he looked down his nose at me (and my watch) as if I had walked into his cocktail party wearing dirty gardening clothes.

Well, Exxxcccccuuuuuuujse Meeee!

So I stopped at the last place to replace my battery.  It had only lasted 6 months, so I was doubtful about the freshness of their batteries, but a working watch is worth a few dollars.  They were closed.

At home, I looked up the manufacturer of the watch (Phasar).  They are long since out of business anyway.

The next day I went back to the place that was closed.  They were happy to replace the battery.  By good fortune, they had a new employee, so the main person was explaining about changing watch batteries.   I couldn't have asked for a better refutation of the Jared guy's claim...

She explained the watch back removal tool to the newbie and demonstrated how it worked.  She explained how to insert the new battery without shorting it or the circuits, she showed  a small insulating collar to prevent that.  She mentioned "these old digitals are long-lasting" (so she recognized it's age).  She even mentioned that batteries in new watches last several years, but after some years of corrosion and dust; last only a year.  So much for that snooty Jared's guy's claim...

But upon replacing the battery, the display was pale.  She said they could try cleaning it, failing that, finding a replacement circuit insert.  But I would have to leave it and they would call with an estimate.  She showed me the watches they sold, but they were all analog.  And they were all a bit too fancy and "jewelry".

I don't wear a single piece of jewelry.  I'm not a metal kind of guy.  Even my watchband is velcro...

So I left it with them went home, and looked at cheap digital watches on Amazon.  They all displayed Too Much Information at once.  And that means ALL the info is small.  I don't want to have to put on my reading glasses just to see what time it is!

So I was sad.  First, the watch means a lot to me personally.  I am a dedicated watch-wearer.  It has gone everywhere I have for 50 years.  It has been through below-zero Winter camping, it has gone into Canadian lake water when a friend tipped the canoe over, it has gotten me to countless meetings on time over my career, and it has reminded me when to stop working outside and go inside to feed the cats.  It has reminded me when to turn on the TV for Specials I wanted to see.

How much more can you ask of a watch? 

So 2 days later, when the jeweler called (VM message) and said I could pick up the watch, I was worried.  I assumed they could get the part to fix it.  But I had a pleasant surprise when I arrived.  The watch was suddenly just fine.  The display was strong.  No reason, it just was. 

Hurray.  But gosh, that sure was a lot of effort to find a place that would replace the battery!

BTW, seeing what the watch back removal tool looked like, I went to Amazon to see what one costs.  The jeweler charged $15 to replay the battery.   The battery itself costs $3.  Guess what, the watch back removal tool costs $3 at Amazon. 

I think I'll buy one. 

And I'll NEVER shop at Jared's...

Friday, December 2, 2016

Thanksgiving Dinner

Before and after shots...

Smoked turkey thigh, corn on the cob, mashed sweet potato with honey and butter, tossed salad with italian dressing, asparagus with cheese sauce, assorted garnishes, and wine and a Cavebear Sling (1.5 oz gin, 1 oz of lemon juice, fill up glass with ginger ale over ice)...

Good holiday meal for oneself...  A bit late posting, but I enjoyed the meal. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Got Stuff Done

Its been a working week. 

I planted 250 daffodils.   And I did it RIGHT.  I have a drill auger that gets down about 8".  I tossed loose soil back in the holes, set down the bulbs, filled the holes with 50/50 topsoil/compost, and sprinkled 0-6-6 N-P-K fertilizer on the top to seep down over the winter.

100 of them were to fill in the area not planted last Fall.  Guesing where the planted ones were was done by pictures I took last Spring.  I lined up the pictures using background landmarks.  I got it very close.  I only augered up ond existing bulb.  And I filled in the entire unplanted area.  So next Spring should be good.

But that left 150 Hillstar daffs.  I REALLY over-estimated the number of daffs I needed to fill the existing bed.  So where to put the Hillstars? 

Oho!  I have never found a good plant to use as the border for my fence-side flowerbed.  The Dusty Millers died, the annuals had to be replanted each year, and the crocuses got eaten by the voles .  So the Hillstars went into the border.
 Image result for hillstar daffodil
I came up 5' short, but that's OK, I'll fill in.

Meanwhile, I got 2 bucketloads of 50/50 topsoil/compost from the local nursery (about 2 cubic yards).  My framed beds settled since I filled them the first time last year.  That was some work moving the stuff from the trailer to the beds. 

Last year, I shoveled it from the trailer to a yard cart towed by the riding mowers them shoveled it into buckets to carry and dump into the framed beds.  That was a real pain. 

So this time, I shoveled the mix from the trailer into buckets I loaded into the yard cart and drove the trailer to the framed beds.  Then carried the buckets to the beds.  Much easier.  I have 3/4 moved.

And I need to empty the trailer.  One tire finally just broke after 15 years - rubber fatigue!

And now I have a real problem.  I can't drive the trailer to a repair place with a flat tire, and the bolts on the wheels are 15 years of rust.  ACK!

Well, I have to remove the tire (both actually - the other tire has to be about to fail).  I'll soak the wheel bolts in Liquid Wrench (a lubricating oil that claims to loosen rust), heat the bolts to cause uneven expansion that might loosen the rust connection, and then use an air-powered impact wrench to finally break the nuts free.


And I need the trailer to be working again soon to pick up a mower I couldn't get started and brought to a repair shop...  So that I can mow down some backyard brambles.  So that I can lant 5 specimen trees in the backyard.

Everything is connected.  Empty the trailer, remove and replace the tires, pick up the mower, rent a brush-cutter (hauled on the trailer), use the mower to cut the bramble stubs lower, dig holes for the specimen tree saplings, keep the brambles cut low until they die, and surround the saplings with old carpet so the roots don't have competition until they grow tall enough in a few years to shade out the ivy.

I had the whole backyard cleared out 5 years ago, and I let it go for 2 years.  I'm paying for that lapse now!

Next year is going to be killing all the wild ivy, the unknown vines, and the mock strawberries.

The good news is that I learned how to use my battery-powered string trimmer properly.  Used hard at an angle, it can clear weeds to ground level.  It gets long stringy grass wrapped around it if I'm not careful, and that drove me crazy at first unwrapping them.  But I learned how to disassemble the head in 20 seconds and slide all the wrapped grass right off. 

Experience is wonderful!

Now I think I might be ready to use the gas-powered steel blade whacker on the briars and brambles in the far back yard...  Without losing a foot in the process. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

New Camera

My current camera has been acting oddly.  There seems to be a waterspot "sometimes" near the center of photos, but mostly, it has been showing strange wavy shadows around the edges of pictures.  I can usually do some "straightening" (which in this case means "unstraightening") and/or cropping to eliminate most of them.  But it was obvious I needed a new camera.

So I went to Consumer Reports website to check the recommended point and click cameras.  The cameras are getting expensive $400 and over-featured.  I don't need an 83X zoom lens or 16MB pictures (I resize them all down to 100-250 KB for the blog or emails anyway).  And when I went to Amazon, people didn't like them!  The 1 star ratings were up around 12% and that's getting pretty high.

So it occurred to me that I had liked my previous camera pretty well.  It took fine pictures, the menu was easily to navigate and I liked the non-pop-up flash.  Its just that I left it outside one night and it rained.  So I looked for it refurbished.  Those got REALLY bad ratings!  But I found a dealer (through Amazon) who had new unopened ones.

It arrived yesterday, the battery was charged this morning, and I took a few pictures.  Just got done processing them and they look fine.   Its a Canon Powershot ELPH  130 IS.


Friday, November 18, 2016

Getting Busy Again, Part 3

Tomorrow is  Hosta Dividing and Moving Day!  The deer have "loved" my front yard hostas too much; they have to be moved into the back yard where the deer don't go (good fence).  I have 2 spaces for them.

The first is just under the edge of the deck.  I planted coleus and impatiens there this year , but I stuck in 2 small hostas and they thrived.  So it is a good place.  I will add my fanciest hostas from the front, ('June' and "Paul's Glory' and a few 'Gold Drops').  The larger ones will go into a hosta bed I created years ago along the fence to replace some that have died and increase the number of them.  I have decided having more in the bed is better than just having a few several feet apart.  Well, the originals there didn't grow as big as I expected.

I also have a few dozen Japanese Painted Ferns.  The deer never bothered them, but I would prefer most of them among the hostas.  I love the combination.

However, there was 1 large LARGE hosta the deer never bothered.  It is 'Blue Angel".  It is HUGE!  It is 3' across and 2' high with thick bluish crinkly leaves, slug-resistant and (apparently) deer resistant.  It might get larger.  But the important thing is that each is large enough to divide into 4ths.  And I have 3 of them.  That makes for 12.

3 of the divisions went back into nearby spots a little more spread out.  Instead of 3 across (where they were overlapping), there will be 2 across and 1 centered behind.  They were covering my paver path to the hose spigot, so they needed to be moved anyway.

The good part is that  that leaves 9 divisions for the larger landscaping box to the other side of the front steps.  They will fill that box mostly and I will put some of the volunteer Japanese Painted Ferns between them.

After removing all the existing deer-loved hostas first, of course.  I will leave no plant behind.  I stuck landscaping flags in the center of every existing hosta last month, so I know where to dig even if the leaves are all gone.  I expect 90% will survive the transplanting.  Hostas are tough! 

I had 4 very common boring solid green hostas I removed before a landscaper scraped the soil off a ridge leaving it flat.  I divided each one in 1/4s and stuck them under the stairs from the deck there it is really dim light.  15 of 16 thrived!  I expect all the other hostas I divide and move will do as well.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Getting Busy Again, Part 2

So I had to get the mower to a repair shop.  Home Depot has equipment repair services, but I prefer to support local business when I can.  There is a local place called "Tool Solutions" and I have brought some equipment there in the past.   They got my riding mower running last time, tuned up the engine, sharpened the blades, and just because it bothered their sense of "equipmentness", they scraped all the dried grass clipping from the bottom of the deck.  It is just 3 people, and it is good to support people doing work like that out of a small shop. 

I attached the trailer to the riding lawn mower (it has an attachment on the back for things like trailer hitches and baggers), drove it out to the front yard, and hooked it up to the car.  Got the push mower up onto the trailer, secured it, attached it to the car, and drove the the repair place. 

And since I was going off with the trailer, I put a large tarp and a bunch of bungee cords in the back of the car.  I wanted to get a few bucket-loader loads of 50/50 topsoil and compost from the local nursery.  The soil in my framed beds settled during the year and there is room for 4' more soil (leaving 2' from the top).  And I can always add any extra on other spots. 

2 bucket loads is about 60 cubic feet.  It is sure cheaper than buying "by the bag"!  I have done this before and learned a few things about transporting soil, compost mulch, etc.  The trailer came with boards on the bottom with spaces between.  I used to put a tarp on the bottom to keep stuff falling out through the spaces, and put another on the top to keep stuff from blowing out.  I kept ripping up the bottom tarp shoveling the stuff out.

I got tired of that, and 2 years ago, I fitted pressure-treated plywood on the bottom.  And I figured out a trick for the top tarp.  I set up the top tarp so it was slightly under the front inside of the trailer.  The contents hold the front of the tarp in place, so there is no driving-wind flapping and ripping.  Even the landscaping guys were interested in THAT idea.  Then I just use bungee cords to hold down the sides of the tarp tightly in opposing directions.  Logic is wonderful.

So I left the house with a mower needing repair and returns with 60 cu ft of topsoil/compost.  A good day.

It feels good to get busy again at practical projects...

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Getting Busy Again.

I got at the rototiller, mower and snowblower yesterday.  None of them would start on the previous day's try.  I tackled the rototiller first, since I had an immediate need for it.  There was gas.  The spark plug was clean and dry, the air filter wasn't clogged with dust.  The wire controls at the top were moving levers down below.  No reason I could find  that it wouldn't start.  I had started it right up last year and it had been sitting around for several years with old gas in it then.

So I tried this trick about leaving the air filter off and spraying carborator cleaner insidethe exposed carborator, waited a few minutes to let it dissolve old gas, gave it another spray for fuel, and pulled the rope a few times.. It coughed, sputtered as I tried to adjust the choke, and died.

But that was better than before!  So I gave it another spray of the cleaner stuff and it stater again.  And died.  Took 2 more tries before I get the choke adjusted to keep it running and then it purred like a kitten.  Well, OK, its not a quiet machine.  I sounded like a congested bear snoring in hibernation.  But you get the idea.  I used it immediately!

Wheeled it to the big bulb bed, set the manual depth at 3" and went through the weed/grass roots easily.  The occasional baseball-sized rock made it jump around a bit, and I had to make sure it didn't till down too deep (I was going over some existing bulbs).  Took only 15 minutes, but that beats at least and hour on manual spade work. 

I raked the area and was pleased to see no bulbs dug up.  I knew where they were generally.  I planted then from the outside edge inwards, but I hadn't marked there they stopped.  Fortunately, I have found a couple of good pictures, so I can estimate where to plant the additional ones this year, but that's anouther post.

So, encouraged by getting the tiller running, I attacked the mower.  I was in trouble from the start.  There is a hollow rubber priming button you push 3x to get some gas into the system.  I pushed it in, and it wouldn't come back out.  UH-OH!

Well, I then tried all the same tricks as with the rototiller, but it wouldn't even cough and sputter.  It had to go to the repair shop. 

So I checked the snowblower.  It has electric start and it wouldn't start.  I checked the spark plug, I checked the air filter.  No problems.  Sprayed in some carburator cleaner.  No luck.

What is the first question the computer repair guy asks?  "Is it plugged in"?  Well, I checked the gas tank.  Bone, dry, clean.  Not even dried old gas.  I must have done what "they" always tell you to do with seasonal equipment; drain out and or absorb it out with a old clean towel, then run it until it stops.  No gas left; no bad gas left.

So I added a cup of gas, started right up!  I let it run for a couple of minutes out on the driveway.

2 out of 3 ain't bad!  

Tomorrow:  Two errands in one trip!

Monday, November 14, 2016

While I Was Gone

I moped around the house for a couple days and stayed in bed a lot.  Then I got up and did some hard angry work.

I took out the 10" electric tiller that I bought a few months ago for work in small spaces and attacked the area where I want to plant 200 daffofdl bulbs.  That didn't work out too well.  The tall grass wrapped around the tiller blades.  So I spent 15 minutes cutting and pulling them loose.  Then took out my weed whacker and cut all the grass to ground level.  Then went after the soil again.

That didn't work out any better.  The ROOTS just wrapped around the tiller blades.  So I removed THEM.  It was rather therapeutic.  Burned off some anger.  I attacked them with a ground digger knife and pliers and by hand.

But the small electric tiller is obviously only designed for bare ground and flowers.  So I pulled out the big gas one.  Which wouldn't start.  Old dried gas I suspect.  I'll try it again tomorrow after some new gas has a chance to dissolve the old gas.  And if that doesn't work, I can take apart the carburator.  I learned a trick from a repairman about shooting spray carburator cleaner into the system that often works.  Failing that, it goes to a local repair shop for real repair and tune up, and it has been a few years so it needs it.

I did get a lot of angry energy used up pulling on the starter rope.

The manual rotary mower wouldn't start either and I read online that that usually means the blade disengagement bar on the handle is stuck.  I couldn't find anything wrong with it, so that has to go for professional work too.

I better check the snowblower too.  When you need it is NOT the time to go looking for fast repairs.

I have a small cast iron Lodge grill good for cooking a couple of steaks at a time.   I didn't use it for a couple of years.  I stayed under my covered smoker grill, and with a cover of it's own.  I pulled it out a few weeks ago and it was COMPLETELY rusted under 2 covers!

Perfect "angry energy" project!  I wirebrushed that sucker for 3 hours.  THAT got a lot of anger out.  Still wasn't good enough.  It will never be free of rust again.  But I have a 1,000F temperature wood stove Rust-Oleum paint I can use on most of it.

According to online advice, the cooking surface will have to be soaking in 50% white vinegar and water for 4 hours, rubbed dry with a clean cloth, and then oiled and seasoned in a 300F oven like any new cast iron skillet.  If that all works, I will buy a tightly sealed plastic bin to keep it in afterwards.  If it doesn't, I'll buy a new one.  Maybe I can just buy a cooking rack replacement.

I had a nice little steel one decades ago.  Just the right size for 6 charcoal briquets and one steak.   I wish I still had that.  I can't find one like it.  Some stuff just seems to disappear over the years.  Maybe it burned through the bottom.  I can't recall.

Still need some projects to burn off "angry energy".   Maybe it is time to bring out the steel spade and start scraping under the roots of weedy grass in the flower garden.  I still can't kneel well, but if I sit on the ground and push on the back of the spade with my feet, that should work. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

I'm Back

I'm not even sure where to start.  The election night was a real kick in the gut.  Its not that being for the losing candidate is such a shock.  I supported McCarthy, McGovern, Mondale, Dukakis, Kerry, etc over the years, and I knew by Election Day they were losing..  Gore's loss was a hard blow to take too, and he actually won!

I suppose it is partly than I never considered the winning candidates I didn't support "evil or "sick".  Nixon in 72 seemed at least experienced and competent, Reagan had been Governor of a large State, and Bush Sr had been in government and politics for decades.

My biggest disappointment before was Bush Jr winning but even that was only because I thought he was rather stupid, Cheney WAS evil, and I thought Gore got cheated.

And part of it is that I thought Trump was a bad joke from the start, "running" only to improve his business prospects, and he would fade away like Ben Carson or Herman Cain.  As the Republican Debates and Primaries went along, I kept expecting Trump to be eliminated.

He was obviously not qualified for high political office, and as more information about his personal and commercial actions came out, I was sure Republicans would turn away from him in favor of some more standard like Jeb Bush, Kasich, Ryan, etc.

Even when Trump captured the Republican nomination, I wasn't all that concerned.  I thought it meant a Democratic landslide, and the polls seemed to support it.  Right up to Election Eve, it seemed there was no way Clinton could lose.

1.  That the voters realized she had experience when Trump had none.  That as a Senator, Clinton had domestic experience and a reputation for working with both Republicans and Democrats.  As Sec of State, she had international experience and a good reputation abroad.

2.  That voters realized the Clinton' "scandals" were minor.  The email server thing has pretty much been shown to be a molehill instead of a mountain, and even the most angry House Republicans published their Ben Ghazi report without any specific blame on Clinton.  The suggestions of Clinton Foundation conflict of interest proved to be way more minor than Trump Foundation outright theft and deception.

3.  That Clinton's personal behavior was so far beyond reproach compared to Trump's that there was no comparison.

So I went into watching the election returns come in slowly.   I watched a science DVD...  Later I returned to TV just in time to hear "So we are calling the election from Donald Trump.  Other channels agreed.

I went into a sort of shock.  I felt like I had shifted universes like in some sort of science fiction movie.  But wherever I am now ;) I am there and Trump won.  I was so stunned I considered moving to Canada or Australia.  It's harder than you might think AND if I can't get myself to relocate within my own State, I'm hardly going to leave my country.  I realized I was acting like a child considering running away from home.

The past few days of watching political shows on TV (I generally watch MSNBC, PBS, and CNN) have given me some hope.

1.  They point out that Trump is not yet President and we don't know what he will actually DO once in office.

2.  They point out that some people elected President have been considered unqualified yet gone on to do well in office "the office makes the man" idea.  Lincoln is the best example.  He was considered to be a buffoon by most; and "accident' of  politics.

3.  They point out that close associates say that Trump is very different in private than in public.  That in private he is a listener, thoughtful, and a fast learner.  That he adopts public personas that suit his private goals and casts them aside when he has gotten what he wants.

4.  They point out that Trump has previously considered himself a Democrat and has given more money to Left and Centrist candidates than Conservation ones.

5.  They point out that Trump considered the Republican party more vulnerable to a takeover than the Democratic party because of Clinton's assumed victory there.

6.  They point out that Trump is extremely practical, holds no extreme political views, and is creative in negotiations.

7.  They point out that he is entirely willing to talk to people of extreme opnions, while not being swayed by them.

8.  They point out that Trump has a habit of sitting be himself in a private room and thinking carefully about what he will do.

9.  They point out that Trump has a habit of trying to beat his oppenints into the ground, but recognizes and admires opponents who make good arguments and fight hard.

So I have decided to wait and see.  I don't have much of a choice.  I have no allusions that Trump is a nice person.  His sexist, racist, nativism, anti-immigrant comments cannot be erased.  I suspect most of his comments reflect his true beliefs.

But I also have to think that the pressure of the US Presidency can change people.  Some people change greatly after sitting in the Oval Office.  Truman was pushed for VP as a result of the powerful Pendergast political machine out of Kansas City.   Truman was basically told to "go home and don't bother us" by Roosevelt after the 1944 election.  But Roosevelt died and Truman was President.  O won't say he was a Top 10 President, but he did pretty well.  He pushed down the Pendergast political machine, and acted on his own.

He forced the Japanese surrender in 1945,  he pushed the foundation of the United Nations, Issued the Truman Doctrine to contain Communism, passed the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe, Supported and recognized the State of Israel, ordered the Berlin Airlift in 1948, helped create NATO, and helped save South Korea as a democratic nation.

Not bad for a former VP politico who was told to "just go away".    So I hope Trump can improve.

We will know a lot more when he announces appointments to executive agencies.  Does he have the slightest idea what HUD or the EPA does, or will he just trade those jobs to political supporters in return for political support?  Well he just put some gas company VP in charge of the Energy Dept so they can rip us all off and destroy renewal energy .  We don't know.  We will find out.

Will he govern from the middle, or from his party on the right.  Maybe not, Establishment and Conservative Republicans distrust him.  Democrats hate him.  Perhaps he will find middle ground, move left or right, or just fail.

We just don't know yet.

What I do know is that I have spent enough time angry about the election, and life goes on...

Wednesday, November 9, 2016



President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump, President Donald Trump, President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump, President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump.

Sorry, I just get can't get a grasp on that.

Something is very very wrong here...

It is one thing to disagree with a choice of President.  I disliked Reagan, weird choice.  I disliked Bush Junior intensely, but I never considered him a COMPLETE idiot.  And surely not evil.

Trump is evil, sick, and psychotic.   And I have 2 choices.  Stay the 4 years or leave.  I am exploring leaving. 

And it is not so much Trump, it is the people who elected him.  Nations thrive and eventually fade.  History teaches us that.  This election may represent the end of America.

In the 1930s, many smart people left Germany and the surrounding nations, thinking that bad things were coming.  This might be a similar time...

I am looking at immigration rules for Canada and Australia.  I am prepared to sell everything I own, keep personal stuff, and move.  Because I don't want to live in a country that thinks Donald Trump is a good choice as a leader. 

Leaving your country is scary.  But my ancestors did, and for similar reasons.  I don't know if I have the same bravery they did.  I'll find out. 

In a sense, nothing President Trump does will affect me much.  I have a retirement annuity, I don't actively engage in politics, I keep a low profile, and I am not much known on the internet.  Just doing nothing would be safe.

But I can't do "nothing". 

Still, I'm between horrified and "sick" about this travesty of an election.  The people chose, and that is what democracy IS.  So do I flee or fight?

My initial shock is over.  I've talked myself a way through it.  What do I do tomorrow to end the Trumpism?

I guess I have my answer.  I had to work through it. 

Election Results

I am ashamed more than I ever thought I could be.  I never thought it possible that such a person as Donald Trump could lead our nation.  I have disliked some elected presidents, like George Bush the Shrub, as being an embarrassment.

Trump goes beyond all bounds of decency and obvious leadership failure.

Which means my fellow citizens are failing in the basic requirements of choosing leaders who have ANY basic leadership skills. 

The next 4 years, and maybe 8, are going to be a period of utter insanity and inanity in the US.  I won't accept the guilt.  I tried in many discussions and discussion boards to warn my fellow citizens about his insanity.  I failed. 

Apparently, the majority of Americans are very angry about the world.  That is not a good thing for the world.   Anger combined with power is very very bad. 

I sort of saw it coming, but I didn't see it coming so fast.  America is breaking up.  I was hoping I would die of old age before it happened. 

I am considering leaving the US.  I want to live in a more liberal and peaceful place.  Another option is to move to where I can basically go "off the grid" locally. 

I'm retired, I get an annuity, I have savings.  I could simply ignore almost anything Trump could do.

I bet Canada, Australia, and England are getting a lot of questions today about immigration requirements.   I never thought it would come to this.

The "Pax America" is over.  

I am reminded that through history, the people who dare to leave a failing place are the smartest ones.  They take chances in better places.  I'm not sure that makes sense to me at 66.  But I'm giving it real thought.

I have a few months to decide what to do.  But I don't expect to be blogging like I used to.  My heart isn't in it.  The idea of not wanting to be part of my country again is too distressing.  A country of people who want a leader like Trump is not a place I want to be.

Election Results

I am withdrawing from posting for a while.  I do not respect the majority of my fellow citizens.  I have to think about this.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


So much trouble...

Walked in and went directly to the registration desk.  30 seconds...

Went directly to the ballot desk.  15 seconds...

Went directly to a voting booth.  Filled in  some circles, 60 seconds...

Went directly to a scanner which read and stored my ballot.  10 seconds...

Received my "I Voted"sticker, 5 seconds...

Total time spent voting, 2:00 minutes...

I could have almost held my breath the entire time!

UPDATE 3pm:  I voted at about 1pm today, ran some minor errends, and went home.  Where I did some minor yardwork.  That was mostly laying traps for the last generation of mosquitoes for the year.  I set out a bucket of water in some shrubs last week and checked it every day to see if there were larvae.  

There were some today, so I dumped THEM on the ground to die and set out 6 small inviting containers  nestled down into groundplants and sprinkled some mosquito bT into each one  with some water.  This bT is a bacteria that specifically attacks moqsuito larvae.  If you see anything called "mosquito doughnuts, that's the stuff.  It is about 100% effective.  Used at the very end of the year, it REALLY cuts down on their start next year.

Update 6pm:  There won't be any election information for an hour, so I made dinner.  Full of nervous energy, I did too much cooking.  I cooked a 1.5" Del Monico steak, corn on the cob, a potato that I fried in the steak fat, a tossed salad in 1,000 island dressing, stir-fried mushrooms and onion and red bell pepper, and some fresh spinach.  Too much to eat for me, but half of everything was fine.  The rest tomorrow.  

Whenever I'm not sure what to do, I cook.  Some people clean, others read, I cook.

Update 10pm:  The election results are too close to be predictive.  CNN breathlessly announced that Trump was leading Clinton in North Carolina - with 1% of the vote in.  That is both utterly meaningless AND maddening.  I turned the TV OFF!  I will wait to see meaningful results later.  

I did some USEFUL work finding out what self-propelled surface-level brushcutters cost to rent for a day at the local Home Depot (only $94 per day) and confirmed that they have at least one to rent.  

I also have a serious gas roto-tiller and a mower than won't start, so I checked on the most likely problems and how to fix them.  Basically, I suspect the problem is old gas.  I haven't used either in several years.  That is "medium" easy to fix.  

Take a couple parts loose and spray the cleaner in usually does it.   And if it doesn't solve the problem, there is a local repair shop that does good work.  I have a trailer to deliver them.  

Meanwhile, I would still prefer to hire someone to do the brushcutting and debris removal (especially because they are mostly brambles and briars).  I'll accept any reasonable quote.  But it is good to know what the actual equipment cost is.  $94 per day rental is a LOT lower than what I expected.  

Update 12:30am.  I am horrified.  It looks like Trump might win.  I do not comprehend this.  Fortunately, there are some uncertain States to go.  It was just reported that Canada is postponing immigration requests from US citizens.  So they don't make rash decisions, I suppose.  Good idea.

Personally. I'm not sure what I would do if Trump wins.  More about that if it happens.

Monday, November 7, 2016

3rd Yardwork Project

The other major thing I want to do this Fall is move the surviving fancy hostas from the open front yard to the fenced back yard where the deer can't get at them.

The fancier they are, the more the deer seem to like them.  The good ones are marked with landscaping flags.  So where the impatiens and coleus have grown this year, there will be the best hostas.  The others will go into a 50'x6' long bed where there are some empty spots over the years.

I will be moving the numerous Japanese Painted Ferns all around after the far back yard gets cleared of blackberries in a week or two..  They seem to like it here and spread well.

The place where the fancier hostas will go is a framed area around my sunken patio.  And there is a reason.  I was in a carpool for years that met at a spot where hostas were up at stomach level.  I loved the effect.  I am replicating it.

Most will be Captain Kirk and June
Image 1

With Blue Cadet

 And small gold drop all around.

The deer DON'T seem to like the large rough-leaved 'Sum and Substance' and 'Big Daddy' hostas.  So I will be dividing them and filling the spaces in the front where I am taking out the other hostas.

I prefer to deter them from eating my plants passively.  But I will set up a motion-detector strobe light to drive them away.  And if that doesn't work. I can sit quietly in a blind in the corner of my yard with a crossbow.  Deer need to relearn to be afraid of humans again.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

2nd Yardwork Project

The next most important project is the bulb bed.  It is a 20' diameter edged circle.  I planted 100 tulips there in wire cages (to protect them from voles) last year.  They looked great this Spring.  I also had 200 daffodils of 2 varieties (one early and one late).  Voles don't bother daffs, so that was just drilling holes with an auger and setting them in.

I ordered more daffs for this year.  50 more each of the existing ones and 150 of a different one for the unused space in the circle.

I should have marked the space where the existing daffs were planted.  Well, you know, you think you won't forget exactly where they are but you do.  I have pictures, so I should be able to guess pretty well where to plant more of the same ones safely.  And where I can start planting the new ones next to them.  I HOPE, LOL!

But over the Summer, weeds grew.  I want a clean planting area for all the new bulbs.  My gas powered roto-tiller is just too big for the area, so I bought a small 10' tiller.

I tried it out today.  What a disaster!  Every grass leaf and root wrapped around the tiller blades  2 10' rows and the things was stuffed like a hard ball of cotton.  It took 20 minutes to pull them all out.  But it did do a decent job of tearing up the soil an inch deep, which was exactly what I wanted.  But that was way too slow and difficult.

So I used my electric string-trimmer to beat down all the long grass leaves.    That was an amazing 3 wheelbarrowfuls of plant debris!

So I tried the little electric tiller again.  It was actually worse.  The previous use has a lot of grass leaves in it, this time it was all roots.  It took 30 minutes to pull them all out.  They get wrapped and tangled very tightly.

So that wasn't the way to go.  The little electric tiller is great for small areas of bare dirt.  But it doesn't chop up roots.

So I raked off all the weed-whacked debris.  Then I decided to pull out the serious tiller.   It is kind of big for the job.  I couldn't get it to start.  So I thought about mowing the area.  I can use the drill auger to make holes for all the new daffs if weeds are down to ground level.  I couldn't get the push mower to start.  Last option was the riding mower but that is really awkward changing from forward to reverse (you have to stop the blade each change).

So Monday, I bring the gas rototiller and the gas push mower to a repairshop.  There is a good local one.  Fair prices.  I hope they aren't busy.

And then I can get back to MY interests which is USING the equipment to do things I need doing.

Saturday, November 5, 2016


The approach of Winter is pushing me to get some yardwork done.  My knee is about back to normal as long as don't kneel on something hard (walking is general fine again even stairs feel normal).

I have several projects to complete.  The major one is a 1/3 of the backyard that has become overgrown with ivy, volunteer saplings, and blackberries.  What a weird combination!

I attacked it 2x this week.  I can cut down the saplings with loppers (a few demand a saw), but getting at the blackberries is horrible.  They drape over in a circle, so every one I cut HAS to fall on me and grabs my skin and clothes like an angry cat.  I was spending more time getting each individual came loose from me than cutting them.

The area is 50'x65' and that is not going to work.  The job requires EQUIPMENT!  I priced those glorified gas-powered ground surface hedge-trimmers and decent ones start at $2500.  Not the best idea for something I'm not likely to use again.  So I called a couple of brush-hoggers.

One came by today.  He just cuts everything off at groundlevel.  A high-powered mowing and debris removal service.  That might be good enough depending on the price.  With that, I would have a clear area.  I have a good roto-tiller and used it back there once.

It's rough work, but if all that is left is 1" stubs and roots, it WILL tear them out and a regular mower will keep them cropped until the roots are exhausted and die.  I can handle THAT.

I would PREFER someone to come in with a small bulldozer and scrape the soil a couple inches deep, remove the plant debris, them spread the soil out smoothly.  I haven't found someone to do that yet.

Landscapers want to turn everything into lawn or planted areas with their own shrubs and flowers.   I don't want that.

Excavators just want to flatten everything in sight and leave the debris in place.  They really don't want to mess with removing piles of brambles.

Part of the problem is that it is a tricky area.  There is a 9' diameter pond needing a new liner and a 40' water raceway uphill that flows pumped water down into the pond.  They don't want to get close to that.

I may have to take what I can get and try to do what I can afterwards.  But at least on this, I am willing to pay someone to do the rough work.

This is all because I had some trees that were shading my garden removed.  As some as they were removed, the space under them received a lot more sunlight.  I knew I had ivy around, but the blackberries were a complete surprise.  They just erupted out of no where.  I assume the tree shade prevented them from growing before.

So here is my plan.  I have five 2' tall specimen trees (2 korean dogwoods and 3 sourwoods) that should grow only about 20' high.  They won't shade my garden.  But they shold shade the ground around them to replace the shade that kept the blackberries and ivy from growing.  The ground under the older taller junk trees was nearly bare.  I'm hoping for a return to that.

I will help the 5 specimen trees grow by surrounding them with scrap carpet.  Carpet lets water through but not plants up.  I done that with many shrubs and trees and it works great.

The trees I bought are not yet dormant.  I water them every couple of days waiting for the cold weather.

If it works, I will have lovely Spring and Fall small trees in the back, no wild growth, and no new shade on the garden. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016


I just HAD to post this...

That one was just too funny...

More Political Silliness And Illogic Comment

I received a comment from Angel Abbygrace's Mom in response to the original post.  The comment is detailed and it is valued.  And I don't want to change a normally personal and friendly blog into a heated discussion in the stress of the last week of an angry and partisan political campaign.

But a response is deserved, and I'll put hers it italics for ease of identification.  And unless noted otherwise, I will accept the accuracy of her statements (this is not Fox News, after all, and we are not competing talking heads.  She is a friend whom I respect).

And unless otherwise noted I am commenting on her quote, not her conclusions FROM the quote. 

As she quoted, From the group of 30,000 e-mails returned to the State Department, 110 e-mails in 52 e-mail chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received. Eight of those chains contained information that was Top Secret at the time they were sent; 36 chains contained Secret information at the time; and eight contained Confidential information, which is the lowest level of classification. Separate from those, about 2,000 additional e-mails were “up-classified” to make them Confidential; the information in those had not been classified at the time the e-mails were sent.

"Chains" are series of emails on the same subject.  They can, as we all well know, contain many subjects varying widely as the "chain" goes on.  What starts as a chain can be about personal family matters, get into a brief argument about politics and then go right back to family matters.

In this case, I see that there are some numbers that seem to have meaning and some that do not.  "110 emails in 52 email chains" sounds like a whole lot.  Many people will multiply 110 by 52 and think "about 55,000 emails".  No.  It is still only 110 out of the original 30,000 emails.

That is "not many".

The numbers of emails that were "sent or received" is deceptive.  It is not a crime to receive improperly-marked classified information.   If I sent anyone of my friends classified information not properly marked as such, you would not be guilty of anything.  *I* might, IF I knew the information was classified.

The question is whether the information in the emails was known to either of us.

From what I understand, most of the emails considered to include classified information fell into 3 categories.

First, there was information not classified at the time but classified at a later date.  You are not guilty of handling information that was classified LATER! Such as, if you take a medication today and the Government declares it illegal next month, you can't be charged.

And even with classified information, there is a "lag time".  If some agency declares "Fact X" classified today and you refer to it tomorrow before you are told about that, you aren't guilty of anything.

It gets worse.  Suppose Agency A declares Fact A classified and Agency B says it isn't?  You still aren't guilty because there is reasonable doubt.

Second, classified information has to be properly identified.  In the movies, every classified document has a big red "CLASSIFIED" stamped at the top.  And maybe they do.  But they don't always show up that way in emails.  I have seen claims by seemingly objective sources that WHEN a classified email or  attachment in an email was sent to Clinton, there was simply a large "C" at the end.  

And there are 2 problems with that one.  If you only learn the information was classified AFTER you read it, there isn't much you can do to forget it.  And a "C" is not the same as a "classified" stamp...

Third, most of the information that is being challenged was "upclassified", meaning it was classified only after recent review by one Federal Agency or another and at a later date than the emails.  And if anyone has to choose between classifying information and NOT classifying it, it gets classified.

If my job was classifying documents, I would classify my office softball team schedule rather than make a mistake.  Because the is no penalty for over-classifying docoments, but a HUGE one for not when you should have.

Which leads me to my last 2 point, which I will combine.  Just because a document is classified doesn't mean it should be.  Just how many secrets to you think we have from the Russians and Chinese?  I think it was Kissinger who said that the only Nations we can keep secrets from are our Allies.  And apparently, we can't even do that anymore.

So I ALMOST question our whole habit of secrecy.  The only people who DON'T know US government secrets are the US citizens, LOL!

From AbbyGrace's Mom:  "The Top Secret email chains alone should set off alarm bells whether you support or don't support HRC as a candidate. If you had sent or received classified email on your own private server while working in the Government do you think the FBI would have been as lenient to you?" 

HRC has about the highest clearance.  I don't.

"Also from the director's statement: Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.

"Careless" is not the same as "illegal".  If one classified person mentioned classified information to another privately at a party,  that is not illegal, but it is careless.

"One other note on classification from the Director: But even if information is not marked “classified” in an e-mail, participants who know or should know that the subject matter is classified are still obligated to protect it"

At a certain level, probably almost anything could be classified.  And you have to be able to talk to people in real time without having staff research every fact for classification status.  I suspect that our classified system has gotten way out of anyone's ability to keep within the rules. 

I bet I could find half of the US classified information on the internet without trying too hard.  I think the whole classified argument is a mountain made from a molehill. 

Not that some information shouldn't be classified, but that most shouldn't.

And let me finish by saying again, no harshness, just my best answers to a good comment...

Saturday, October 29, 2016

More Political Silliness And Illogic

This is partly about "the political games" but also about the illogic and careless language used by the talking heads on TV.  And I don't like either side of both issues!

First, the "the political games".   The Facts:  FBI Director Comey sent a letter to "Congress advising them that more emails were found that might involve their previous committee investigations, as he had promised to do if new information was discovered.  No specific information was included, and he noted that the possibilility of misunderstanding.

The basis of concern is that Huma Abedin (wife of Anthony Weiner of sexting shame-fame) is an associate of Clinton and there MIGHT be some Clinton emails not yet discovered.  She used a family laptop to send some emails to Clinton.  The content has not been made public at this time is not known at this time. Nothing suggesting anything improper has been offerred. 

The FBI, after reviewing all the emails on Clinton's server, has found nothing of concern and closed the investigation months ago.  A very few emails with classified information were sent TO her without proper notifications.  Her replies were lawful; if you don't know received information was classified, YOU are not at fault. The FBI said so.

OK.  As far as I can think, if Huma sent Clinton any emails, they are on Clinton's email system and already examined by the FBI.  This starts to look like the Kevin Bacon game.  Can you connect anyone socially unacceptable to Clinton?  LOL!

As far as I can tell now, the letter was addressed TO House Committee Chairman, all Republican of course.  I will explain something about the details of Government letter-writing.  There is "TO", there is "cc" (courtesy copy), and there is "bcc" (blind courtesy copy) just like on emails.

Only in Government letters, the cc and bcc is not on the original TO letter.  The "TO" recipients do not know about the cc and bcc list unless they ask for a file copy of the letter.  The cc list does not know about the "bcc" list unless they ask (and the originators admit to it).

So, unless things have changed (and they might have - I've been retired for10 years),  the Republican Committee saw only that they had been sent the letter, the Democratic minority leaders saw they had been sent a copy of the letter to the Republican Chairmen, and only Comey and his staff know who got sent a bcc copy (bcc's are usually sent only to internal staff who need to know about such things for media questions and file-keeping.

Is that confusing enough?  I spent 30 years in Government and got very used to those kinds of subtleties, LOL!  It all makes sense to me!  LOL!

Second, the talking heads discussions...

Everyone I heard on MSNBC and CNN got it all WRONG!  Clinton mentioned the Comey letter send to the Republican Committee Chairmen.  As usual, she was utterly technically correct.  The letter was indeed addressed to the Republican Committee Chairmen.  She said that with the same accuracy I would in discussing "TO, cc, and bcc".  She understands that stuff  and speaks of it accurately.

The TV talking heads did not!  They said Clinton claimed the letter was sent "only" to the Republicans and casitigatd her for a deception..  The ccs were sent to the ranking Democratic Minority Leaders.  But they received cc copies; they were not the original TO recipients.

Meanwhile, Clinton is saying that she would like any available information to be released ASAP, as there is noactual information in Director Comey's letter but there are suggestions.  Trump, on the other hand is claiming the non-information in Comey's letter as some proof of guilt  

As odd as that might seem in the real world, it matters in Government.  Comey very DELIBERATELY and EXPLICITLY sent the official copies of the letter to the Republican Committee chairmen  and NOT the official copies to the Democratic Ranking Members.  But cc'd them to cover his ass.  A true Washington wimpy asshole who needs to be removed...

Conclusion:  Comey wished to try to stay out of trouble by playing it both too carefully and too ineptly.  Whoever wins the Presidency, he is going to be gone for the crime of political incompetence.  He can't claim it was urgent (the FBI had the information 5 weeks ago), and he can't claim any factul reason for presenting the mere statement that the FBI was investigating new information 11 days before an election. 

Ex FBI officials have said there is an informal, but previously modern unbroken rule of avoiding all political statements 60 days before an election.  That Comey broke that rule says a lot about his intent. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Scary Movies

Cat blog friend asked about scary movies and I realized I had more to say about one than would fit as a comment. 

When 'Alien' came out in 1979, a friend and I went to see it opening night.  We stood in line for hours in the rain, and missed the first showing by only 3 people.  We thought is was about bad things from an alien's POV.  Boy were WE wrong.  When the first viewers cane out, they were pale and shaken!  I turned to my friend and asked what we had gotten ourselves into?

Neither of us were particularly frightened by monster movies.  I'm realistic, and my friend was a cinema buff, so we weren't either really TOO worried.  Space aliens were generally silly, and Earthly ones too unlikely. 

But as the movie started darkly, and a sense of unease came over us, and we thought about the looks on the faces of the first audience as they came out, we began to worry.  When we first saw the queen alien skeleton in the derelict ship, we both said "Oh crap"! 

And even then, we weren't prepared for the first egg.  How harmful can a newly-hatched creature be?  We found out!  And it all got worse from there.  By the time Ripley was searching for her cat Jonesie, I was watching most of the screen with partially-shielded eyes.  The SUSPENSE was what was killing me!

Right up to the end, I wasn't sure who was going to win.  The movie had been unique enough that it might well have been the alien left, sending the ship to Earth...

It is the only movie I have ever left with popcorn uneaten!  As we left the theater, I turned to the nearest people in line and said "You aren't prepared for this one".

I still have a T-Shirt I had made afterwards that says "Alien" on the front and "Here, Jonesie" on the back.  But I have never watched that movie on TV.

The following Alien movies were easier to watch, but not by much.  Enough (since I knew Ripley would win) to watch though.  My favorite parts of the later movies were when Ripley confronted the Alien Queen using the personal equipment-mover outfit in Alien2, and when she let herself fall into the molten iron pit in Alien3.  I cried as she fell holding the newly-irrupting Queen hatchling to her to prevent it escaping.

Tgere was Alien; Resurrection, but if I saw it, I can't recall anything about it.

But I was surprised some years ago by the movie 'Prometheus'.  I watched for a few minutes and realized it felt a bit like 'Alien', so I kept watching.  I had no idea it was a prequel.  As prequels to movie series go, it was much better than most.   It involved a superior humanoid species (likely  space-faring ancestors to ourselves in some way, 8' tall, built like giant wrestlers, and technologically-advanced) developing dangerous interstellar creatures as weapons.  I didn't watch the whole movie (in and out of the room cleaning) but apparently the human heroine is fighting and losing to the humanoid when a cage is damaged and a dangerous captive octopus-like creature gets loose. 

Apparently, it was like a dozen strong humans could capture a panther, but one would have a very hard time of it.  And even then, it was a close struggle but the humanoid loses.  And the octopus-like creature absorbs him - and his DNA.  Making the Alien of the original movies...

The heroine escapes the planet in a makeshift spaceship and instead of returning to Earth goes after humonoid race seeking revenge.  That last part is a bit weak, but I guess they couldn't have the Earth being warned about the dangerous aliens.

I understand that there is a Prometheus 2 movie in the works which may explain how the Prometheus heroine fights the sperior humanoid race

But I still can't watch "Alien'...

Friday, October 21, 2016

US Election

Well, we are down to the final few weeks of the US Presidential election, and quite frankly, I wish it was tomorrow.  Or even yesterday.  I am SO tired of it I could scream!

At least it seems that the decision is no longer in doubt.  We will be referring to "Madame President" for the first time ever here, Democrats will have won a 3rd consecutive term controlling the White House since 1940 when Franklin Roosevelt was re-elected to a 3rd personal consecutive term, and (to steal a phrase from an previous generation) a long national nightmare will be over.

The election results will probably give nominal control of the US Senate to the Democrats by a small majority.  It is possible that the House of Representatives will become Democratic , but I'm not expecting it today (but who knows what things will look like in 3 weeks)?  Trump and the Republicans have the 3 weeks to make things better or worse.

If the Al Smith Foundation Dinner last night was any clue, it will get worse for the Republicans.  As background, the Dinner "is an annual white fundraiser in the United States for Catholic charities supporting needy children, held at theWaldorf-Astoria hotel in New York, on the third Thursday of October. It is organized by the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation in honor of Al Smith the former New York Governor and the first Catholic US Presidential candidate.  The dinner is hosted by the Archbishop of New York.

The idea is for the 2 major Presidential candidates to engage in self deprecating humor and some gentle digs at their opponent.

Trump failed at that utterly.  That's not just my opinion.  He received boos and several points when he just made his regular speech at a few points.  Commenters said afterwards that they had never heard boos at the event before.

Apparently, Trump does not understand humor at all.  He did have a few funny lines, none of which were aimed at himself, and even as delivered fell flat.  I suspect several of them would have gotten laughs if delivered by a professional.  Sarcasm can be funny, but not when delivered in anger.

Trumps best joke was when he mentioned 'Michelle Obama made a speech and everyone loved it. It was great.   My wife, Melania, made the exact same speech and everyone gets on her case.'

The audience loved it.  It is probably the best humor about plagiarism ever!  But even THEN, it wasn't aimed at himself.

The crowd stayed with Trump while he ticked down a list of what he called "corny" jokes about being a former Democrat and sarcastically calling himself "modest." And they mostly laughed along when he joked about Clinton accidentally bumping into him back stage and saying "pardon me."
"I very politely replied: Let me talk to you about that after I get into office," Trump landed the punchline. Trumps as said previously that Clinton should be in jail for various reasons.  Clinton was seen laughing.

His 20 minutes went downhill rapidly after that.

Clinton, on the other hand went straight to herself for humor.  "I took a break from my rigorous nap schedule to be here," Clinton told the audience.   And "Usually, I charge a lot for speeches like this."

She got in some rather harsh zingers, but they didn't get boos and there were definitely Trump supporters in the audience.  Rudy Giuliani was there and was the subject of one Clinton joke.  Clinton mentioned the many dignitaries in the audience positively, and then said "and then there is Rudy Giuliani".  Ouch!

“Now, many don’t know this,” Clinton continued, “but Rudy actually got his start as a prosecutor going after wealthy New Yorker's who avoided paying taxes. But, as the saying goes, ‘If you can’t beat them, go on Fox News and call them a genius".  Giuliani, a Trump surrogate speaker of increasing vicious attacks on Clinton, looked like he had a hot coal up where the sun doesn't shine...

But for the most part, Clinton was making jokes on herself and light digs at Trump, and Trump was his usual mean self.  I understand that.  People who are internally confident and happy can make jokes about themselves.

Not to say too much about myself in all of this, but I don't find self-humor threatening.  I tripped over a cat once while a friend was there, and landed on my hands and knees.  My first words were "so this is what it looks like from their point of view".

People like Trump can't laugh at themselves.  If one of his staff had written the absolutely funniest self-deprecating joke ever created, Trump would not have used it.  It would be against himself, and he can't imagine anyone against him.  Because they would simply be "wrong".

My point here, long time in coming, is that Trump can't be President because he lacks the fullness of self-awareness that allows most of us to laugh at ourselves.  I had a friend who did the almost slapstick gag of stepping onto a small boat from the pier and fell into the water as the boat moved away.

I laughed my ass off.  It was as if you actually saw someone slip on a banana peel.  He was livid, angry, enraged...  If I had done that myself, I would have keeled over in laughter at myself as I pulled myself onto the boat, and asked if anyone got a picture of it!

Narcissistic megalomaniac bullies cannot laugh at themselves.  Most of the rest of us can.  At ourselves, and at them...

But basically, all this means that the US Presidential election is decided.  Clinton will win; the question is by how much and will she carry the Senate and/or House along with her.  For the Democratic party, life looks good for 2 Presidential terms.  The interim elections are always iffy.  But the gains of the day are sufficient for the day.

I will be glad after election night Nov 8th.  No mor3e Trump for a while.

But do you know what is generally annoying?  In several places around the US, some people are starting their campaigns for the 2020 Presidential elections...

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Yardwork Again

I wasn't sure I was gong to be doing much yardwork the rest of the year.  I usually try to do at least one useful thing each day.  Sometimes I don't, but that is the goal anyway. 

So when I twisted my right knee in early April, and it was difficult to walk the first couple of weeks, I grudgingly waited for it to heal.  I do these sorts of injuries every so often but generally heal quickly enough.  I'm used to it.  You live on your own, you push yourself to do more than you should sometimes, and there is the occasional time your body says hey ease off on me a bit. 

It has happened before.  10 years ago, I casually tossed a rock at a squirrel and strained my rotator cuff and I could barely raise my arm over my shoulder for 4 months!  But it healed fine and I kind of expect that.

But this time, April rolled into May, and May into June and eventually September and it was better but not normal.  Some projects got delayed.  I had planned to repaint the bathrooms and kitchen, but crawling all around washing the walls, putting tape along all the edges and then doing the actual painting seemed too awkward.  But it could wait.

I had also planned to use my gas-powered weed-whacker with the steel cutters to eliminate the backyard brush and brambles that sprung up after I had a few trees removed  several years ago.  That didn't happen.

A few weeks ago, my right knee suddenly felt much better.  Not perfect, but good enough, and I started some minor yard projects and felt ready to do more.  I got some work done.   Mostly de-clutterring the basement the computer room, and the cat room.

And then I went and did something to the left knee.  No idea what I did.  It felt like I had banged it against a door frame, but for 2 weeks, I had 2 bad knees.  I was worried I was sufferring some serious problem (like Lyme Disease affects your joints, or longer term problems like arthritis). 

But I woke up 2 days ago and the left knee was back to normal and the right knee wasn't bad.  I could walk around pretty much normal.

So I had found a sealed bag of grass seed in the basement left over from last year .  I mowed the front yard grass very short.  Today I raked all the loose grass and dumped it where I plan to put a flowerbed island around a large rock and tree in order to smother the grass and weeds and leave some improved soil.  Then I spread the grass weeds all around.  And then I spent 90 minutes carefully spraying straight down onto the grass to beat the grass seeds onto the soil surface and give them enough water to germinate.

It is a bit late to do that.  But I had the seeds and they won't last another year.  And we are having a warm spell, so the seeds should germinate if they are still viable.  There are 2 bare spots, so I will know if they germinate.  At least that is SOMETHING done.

And both knees felt just fine after all that.  So that's good.

The next things to do are planting Daffodils in mid November, tilling some dead areas of the flowerbeds, and eliminating weeds in the paths between the framed veggie beds.  

Are you familiar with those long strips of brown paper used as packing material?  I've been saving the longest strips for several years.  The stuff comes all twisted and crinkled, but I untwist it and lay in on the basement floor and use a push broom to flatten it out.  That works very well.  Then I fold it up in 4' lengths and put a piece of plywood on it to flatten it further and keep it out of the way.  I have several hundred linear feet of it now.

It seems like great stuff to put between the framed beds, on top of weedy dead sections of the flowerbeds, and on top of all the Spring bulbs to smother weeds (with shredded bark on top).  It will probably decompose by Spring, and in not, it will certainly be easy to pull up at planting time.

It may not kill all the weeds, but it sure won't do them any good.  I am reminded of a W C Fields vaudeville joke where he says he swallowed a few moths and said he swallowed a couple of mothballs to get rid of them.  The sidekick asks if it did any good.  Fields says "well it sure couldn't have helped them any".  (Do not do this at home, mothballs are toxic).

My point is that the brown paper cover is worth trying.  If it works, GREAT!  If not, it is easy to remove and will make good compostable material after 5 months exposure to rain and melting snow all Winter and early Spring. 

Gardeners might object that  covers the soil gives voles safe space to run around under.  I did cover part of my flowerbeds with black plastic 10 years ago, and they did love it.  They ate every tulip bulb, safe from predators.  But this time, there won't be anything for them to eat.  Well, the weeds, and if they want to eat the roots of those, they are not welcome, I encourage them.  Otherwise, they don't touch Daffodils or Daylilies (toxic to mammals), the Tulips and Hyacinths are in wire cages they can't get into, and the seeds from the birdfeeder will be on top of the paper where they waill actually have trouble getting to the spilled seeds. EVIL LOL!

So I am getting into the yardwork late, but not impossibly late.  The last project, which is to plant specimen trees that won't grow tall enough to shade my garden and flowerbeds is still in reach.  By "specimen trees", I mean Korean Dogwoods, Sourwoods, Wisteria shrubs, and Star Magnolias.  Those will shade out the brush and brambles like the taller trees used to do, but not cause shade problems across the yard.

I will surround the new trees with used carpeting.  That has really worked well for me over the years.  Rain soaks right through, but weeds won't grow up through it.  And it it is usually free.  Just look for some place being renovated and ask for the old carpet.  They will usually just give it away. 

OK, I'm off to buy some specimen tree saplings...

Back, I ordered 3 Sourwood trees and 2 Korean Dogwoods.  Sourwood trees are great in Fall.  They have small grapelike clusters of yellow berries and burgundy leaves and grow to about 25'.  The Korean Dogwoods are great in Springs, don't have the same disease problems as American Dogwoods, and spread sideways.  I have one on the shady side of the house that has been happily existing for 25 years at 20 feet, and I will take some tip cuttings next June.  It has pink flowers. The dogwoods I ordered have white flowers, so that will make a nice change.

I also filled in all the screw and nail holes in the main bathroom a week ago

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Odd Connections

Last night, I was thinking about a couple of songs that run through my head.  One is "Maria" from West Side Story.  I had read that the central syllable was a "dishordant" note. So I brought it up to hear.

Apparently, I don't know music.  It sounded fine to me.  But the lovely sweet song 'Maria' was followed by 'America', a joyful contratemps song where the boys expressed having to fight there way into NYC society and the girls expressed how much better life was for them even in the slums.

And I thought of the current times, where things are so much better for their children, but not yet equal for all.

And then I thought of the current election. 

Where some people do not want "others" to join in our grand US adventure.  Where some are afraid of change and "others". 

I was an "other" once, or at least my ancestors were.  Everyone here is "other" except Native Americans.  My English and French forced their way here and decided THEY were the new native people.  When Germans came here later, my ancestors decided "they" were too strange and didn't belong.

A few generations later, when the Germans were part of the culture, the Irish came, and they were treated like dirt.  But they became part of the culture.  Do even the most fanatical "nativists" now think Germans and Irish people living here aren't part of "us"?

Then the Italians and Eastern Europeans came.  They moved into the slums and worked their way out of them.   After  couple of generations, they lost their language (but added some to ours) .  Can you tell who of us it from those places anymore?

And other people came here.  Chinese who built the railroads, Russians fleeing the Czarist monarchies and the Soviets, Jews, fleeing from everywhere, and people from all over.

Can you tell who's ancestor was Russian or Polish now?  I can't and it doesn't matter. My BI is half Korean and one of the finest people I ever met.  I can't guess at the ancestry of my youngest sister's life partner,.

I might be surprised at my own.  I bet I come from all over Europe and given my maternal Canadian French ancestry, there might well be some Native American there too.  It doesn't matter!  I'm proud of everyone in my past and present.

So there is this loudmouthed, boastful, lying, deceitful, cheating,  groping, hate-filled nativist asshole  demanding MY vote, as an American,  to keep other hard-working people out of this country.

This country, where people dream of a better life not for themselves but for their children, this land where the best and the hardest-working people come to work and prosper, this land where we have a statue holding a shining beacon to the world saying all you who are willing to try your best, "come here, come here, our golden light shine bright", join us, become one of us, make our land a better place...

And this demogogue, this would be dictator, who feeds on fear says NO!  Stay away, leave us alone, we don't want new people and new ideas, DARES to want to become our President. 

There are always frightened people fearing for their routine life, afraid of "others".  They forget that their grandparents or great-grandparents were "others" once.   They forget what makes us strong.  

We grow and thrive in diversity.  New thoughts match to old habits, and better things come from that.  New ideas lead to new ways, new thoughts, new discoveries; a continuing change, a look toward the future. 

The German Chancellor Bismark once said that America is fortunate to have friendly neighbors North and South, and oceans East and West.  But he only saw a part of it.   The people matter more.

In 1860,  before our massive Civil War, people said "the United States "are"; after it, they said "the United States "is".   That was a profound difference.  The war was fought between some States against the Government. When it was over, there was a Nation.

And it was a "Nation" for the first time.  Nebraska farmoys and Massachussets  fisherman boys met for the first time.  Alabama cotton growers and Virginia tobacco boys met for the first time.   None had ever had a sense on the whole place as a "nation" before.  By the end of the Civil War, they did. 

And now we have the party of Abraham Lincoln and General Grant living in the South in fear.

Shame, I say SHAME on you Republicans for claiming Lincoln as your birthright and denying his ideals!

Nations come and Nations go.  All that is required is the failure to to keep striving toward democracy.   Let the first little dictator in, and others will follow  One just a little worse than the last.  Like a frog in a heating pan.

The time to act is not the next election; the time to act is NOW.    We have to choose the President who will keep to the ideals of Democracy, not the one  who says "trust me I will figure it all out myself and tell you what to think"...

That is how democracy ends, in dibs and drabs,