email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Thursday, August 17, 2017

MalDonald

MalDonald has got to go.

I was convinced of it months ago, but he has really done it this time.

You can't not say bad things about Nazis and White Supremists.  He tried.

He equated a bunch of Nazis and White Supremists who were carrying heavy wood torches, batons, bats, police-quality shields, and AK-47s with those who were unarmed and protesting the demonstrations.

He defended people who arrived lethally armed at the removal of a statue of a traitor who were dedicated to prevent the removal of the statue,

Let us not ignore that Robert E Lee fought in rebellion to the Government.  He made a very conscious decision to rebel.  That may seem admirable in an age of State Rights, but keep in mind that 40% of the Southern Generals did make that same choice.

Robert E Lee did not start the war.  The Governors of the Southern States did.  THe Confederate Constitution specifically stated:

Article I, Section 9, Clause 4 prohibited the Confederate government from restricting slavery in any way:
"No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed."

Article IV, Section 2 also prohibited states from interfering with slavery:

"The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States; and shall have the right of transit and sojourn in any State of this Confederacy, with their slaves and other property; and the right of property in said slaves shall not be thereby impaired."

Perhaps the most menacing provision of the Confederate States Constitution was the explicit protection Article IV, Section 3, Clause 3 offered to slavery in all future territories conquered or acquired by the Confederacy:

"The Confederate States may acquire new territory; and Congress shall have power to legislate and provide governments for the inhabitants of all territory belonging to the Confederate States, lying without the limits of the several States; and may permit them, at such times, and in such manner as it may by law provide, to form States to be admitted into the Confederacy. In all such territory the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress and by the Territorial government; and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories shall have the right to take to such Territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the States or Territories of the Confederate States."


So let it not be misunderstood.  The Confederate rebellion was all about maintaining slavery.

There has been some argument I've seen lately that other people have had slaves.  And that African tribes captured people of other tribes to be sold into slavery.

Slavery has existed from ancient times.  My own ancestors were English serfs and essentially slaves.  The Romans captured losing armies and enslaved them.  Asians did the same.  Everyone has done that in the past.

But it was never a racial assumption of slavery based on the idea of complete inferiority until the modern age of European colonialism.

And even then, when all other civilized nations had given up the idea, realizing that all people were equally human, equally capable of thought and education, the US South held on to that idea.

And the Southern Generals held onto that idea with dedication of mind and military action.   The South said Africans were incapable of thought and culture in spite of the examples of literate and erudite Africans in the North.

And Robert E Lee was their leader.  He chose to fight for Southern States that declared in their Consitutions that slavery was good for Africans.

He was a traitor to his country and it is past time we acknowledge that.

There should not be one single statue commemorating him.  Not one commemorating Stonewall Jackson, JEB Stuart, or any other traitorous Southern general.

Robert E Lee and every Southern General should have been hung as traitors.  That might have stopped the emerging KKK in it's tracks, but that is another post.

And President MalDonald thinks the South was right!




Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Garden

My enclosed garden has been a bit of a bust this year.  The beans were slow, the cukes didn't grow tall, the melons stay short with no fruits.  The tomatoes and unproductive.

So I was reading an article in the Washignton Post magazine Local Living section.  There are articles bout gardening and cooking included there.  The gardening article today was about nurturing the soil and the various micobes, fungi, and insects that live in the soil. 

And I realized that I had gone away from all that lately!  I got casual the past few years.  Bad move...

I used to pay attention to all that stuff.  Time to start doing that again.  "Feed the soil, not the plants".  Grow cover crops in Winter, encourage worms.  Don't fertilize the soil, grow the soil.

TGey say not to dig the soil, but after I rebuilt the framed beds, they had large amounts of bad soil in clumps and that's not good.

So at the end on this season, I'm double digging the framed bed soil to mix it up, adding worms, adding shredded leaves and some kitcken peelings, some healthy soil from the old compost bin (for microbes and minor insect life, and covering it with permeable landscape fabric (to let rain in). 

Time to start re-building the soil...

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Diplomacy

A little dark humor...

Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump are on the telephone reluctantly "diplomacizing"...

Kim:  You attack us, The Greatest of Nations, and we will level Seoul with our mightly artillery!
Trump:  Yawn, not our problem...

Kim:  We will atomic bomb Guam!
Trump:  Is that ours?  Well, hold on 30 seconds...  OK, I just sold it to the Japanese.

Kim:  Then we will nuke California!
Trump:  Go ahead, it's all Democrats.  Besides, it's only our 10th biggest State.  Besides, you probably couldn't hit it.

Kim:  Well we'll hit SOMETHING!
Trump:  Sure go ahead.  You'll kill a bunch of Mexicans picking grapes in Napa Valley.  Then I won't need a wall at all...

Kim:  But think of the destruction!
Trump.  Actually, we have laser satellites.  You won't get a missile into reentry.  Wait, hold on 30 seconds, Bannon is yelling in my ear.  OK, he says I shouldn't have told you that.  Forget I mentioned it.

Kim, Then I will send a nuke in a container ship!
Trump:  Go for San Fransisco, thats where all the LBGTQIAs are.

Kim:  WHO?
Trump:  Google it.  Oh wait, you don't have internet there, HA, HA, HA!

Kim:  I will send an skilled Korean assassin to work at Mar-A-Lago!
Trump:  I only hire Mexicans, no matter what South American country they come from! 

 Kim:  Then I will post a sniper in the woods of your golf course.  You slice terribly!  He will know just where to wait.
 Trump:  That's a body double.  I have a dozen.  I'll put a bomb in Dennis Rodman's basketball next time he visits you.  BOOM!

Kim:  You would blow up the Great Dennis Rodman?
Trump:  In a NY second.  He has better hair than I do.

Kim:  Then I will nuke Japan!
Trump:  Please do, that will improve our tech industry profits.  But as a favor, do it while Rodman is there on his way to visit you.  Two birds with one stone.

Kim:  OK, I would never nuke Japan or anyplace where Dennis Rodman is...
Trump:  I know.  Well, guess who just got named the Ambassador to Everywhere, travelling secretly and with 100 body-doubles in all embassies ...  GOTCHA!

Kim:  Dennis Rodman HAS no body doubles!
Trump:  You haven't been following the South Korean DNA experiments lately, have you?

Kim:  I thought he was a ET!
Trump:  You watch too many movies.  BTW, we have The Avengers and they have The Hulk.



Kim:  Well, um, I think you are weak.  I can pole vault 32', run a 3 minute mile, I shoot par golf, and, um,  throw a shotput 60'.  My Secretary-General of My Athletic Skills says so!  Or at least will tomorrow.
Trump:  Yeah, I have one of those too.  I can throw a football in a tight spiral through a swinging tire, hit a baseball 500', and have a 0 handicap at golf!

Kim:  Really?
Trump:  Of course really!  Would I lie to you?  Come to Mar-A-Lago anytime and I'll prove it.

Kim:  Sorry, I'm busy that week.
Trump:  Well ANYTIME is fine, I play golf all over the country at my 100's of resorts.  On government time and cost.  Name a day...

Kim:  Sorry but I am an booked up through 2025.  Really busy here.

Trump:  Well, yeah me too.

Kim:  (Whew, escaped that exposure)
Trump:  (Whew, escaped that exposure)

Kim:  You are insane!
Trump:  Funny, I was just thinking that about you.

Kim:  You have ugly hair!
Trump:  My hair is HONORED on the internet!  Have you seen the "Trump Your Cat" pictures?  It show they love me.  Hugely!  Beat that...

Kim:  You're FAT.  Too much hamburgers and french fries.
Trump:  Not much to look at yourself.  What are you?  4' 6" and 225 pounds?  I bet you don't get there on just rice.

Kim:  I am the most well-fed person in the country.  I am 7' tall and a trim 250!
Trump:  I'm 6'6" and 275.  Won the Presidential Wrestling Competition in 2016!

Kim:  Really?
Trump:  Would I lie to YOU?

Kim:  You know, you are an interesting person.
Trump:  Yeah, we think alike.

Kim:  Maybe we could exchange some emails.
Trump:  I'm more on Twitter, but emails might be good...  I'll ask Hillary how that works...

Together:  "I want you, I need you, I love you"


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRRmm0d7VcA




Sunday, August 6, 2017

A Person Died

I only knew because his sister posted a message on the forum.  And she only did that because he had a list of places for her to tell.

I didn't know him all that well.  He just posted poems sometimes.  I liked his poems enough to have his page bookmarked.  We emailed a few times.  He wasn't a happy person, and his poems showed it. 

I told him I admired his poetry.  He appreciated that. 

He killed himself.  I don't know the details and don't have to know. 

I have always planned to make a similar list with passwords and sites to tell if I die.  Just so people know why I vanished.  And I sure don't plan to die anytime soon.  But there is always that surprising skidding semi-trailer or a piece of beef or a little too little blood to the brain, ya know?  Maybe I would have really made the list the day after I die.  One day late.

My youngest sister just fell down dead from a brain artery thing one day.  She was only 44.

A sadly appropriate poem from his site:

   _______________________________


"Inconsolable"
Solomon Zorn


No sadness more
Profound
No absence more
Permanent

A human
Cannot be replaced
A heart in mourning
Will accept no comfort

Promises of heavenly reunion
Offer soothing
For a pain
That cannot be soothed

Death is tragic
Death is final
Death is painful
For those who survive

But survive they will
And build on the
Legacy
Of the one who died

The same fire
Which burned in that soul
Continues
In those who were touched

Eventually time heals
Survivors move on
But not today
Today we are inconsolable
   _________________________________
I think I better get started on that list...

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Home Improvements.

I really have to sit down and make a list of things to hire someone to do.  There are some things I could do "well enough" myself but just haven't for years.  There are some things I could do "barely" but would not be as good as a professional.  There are some things I realize that I'm just not up to any more.  There are some things it is just too hard for one person to do on their own.  There are some things that require some destruction to get to new things and I can't even figure out where to start. 

I was braver about home and yard improvements when I was younger.  Between 37 and 42, I built a 2 level deck, a toolshed, a 350' fence with 2 gates around the backyard, a 2' deep 9' diameter pond and 40' raceway, panelled most of the basement and added electrical outlets and a hanging acoustical ceiling tiles and lights. 

I cleared about 500 sq ft of underbrush, vines and junk trees.  I built framed gardening beds, roto-tilled a couple hundred sq ft of flower beds, installed edging and border stones, and planted some fruit trees, shrubs and a hosta bed. 

And then I pretty much wore out!  In the mid 90s, I decided my yellow walls and "bitterweet orange" carpet had to go.  Don't laugh too hard, the carpet should have just been a deep gold, but I was into bright colors at the time and I was stuck with the yellow paint by the builder (it was white by contract but when I complained a bit, the builder said he had lots of yellow and I thought anything was better than white).  And I hated the 1" mixed tile in the bathrooms.

So I hired a general contractor to change some things.  Well, *I* sure couldn't do those things.   So I had a general contractor remove the carpet and install oak floors, add baseboard and crown molding, and connect the 2 around all the room openings with wood and side molding.  I had the bathroom floor and wall tiles changed to 4" cream tiles,  I had them stain all the unfinished doors moderately dark, add a fold-down attic stairs, and some stuff like that.  

Afterwards I painted almost all the walls new colors.  Dining room, cardinal red; living room, hunter green; bedroom, Aztec Rouge; Computer and Guest rooms, Blueberry Mist; Kitchen, Bright White (a mistake); and left the bathrooms yellow.  I even painted the stipple ceilings in the living and dining rooms and hallways/stairs a very pale version of the wall color.  I liked the way it looked like the walls were reflecting onto the ceiling.

I left the kitchen floor (brick linoleum)  and counters (butcher block laminate) alone.  I liked then then and like them now.  30 years and they are still in great shape.  I don't get bored with good colors...

But I did replace the cheap appliances in the kitchen.  Energy efficient, well-rated Consumers Reports models, all black. 

The changes were WONDERFUL!  I was thrilled.  And that was when I realized that (except for painting), I couldn't do those things.  So I stopped for years.  Well, I liked what I had, so why not. 

And then it got harder to do things myself.  Professionals could always do it better.  So I spent years improving the yard further.  That's a never-ending job, so I was happy.  Having a sense of accomplishment is good.

But the home improvements were 22 years ago, and there are changes I want to make in the house.  I wish I had extended the crown molding and baseboards and frame covers into the kitchen.  I want tile walls in the kitchen around the oven and sink and counters.

I had the bathroom tiles and tub last year by professionals (cheap original tub with a failing surface that couldn't be cleaned properly) and tiles falling off.  They did that, and I painted the walls a Soft Moss color.  The whole deal.  Removing all the fixtures (towel bar, outlet covers, lights etc).  Cleaning the walls with TSP, rinsing them 3 times, waiting a week for utter drying.  Taping all the edges.  Painting.  Reinstalling fixtures. 

And discovering it needs a 2nd layer of paint...  Argh!  Well, I can do that easily enough.

But I want to have more done.  Extending the crown and base molding (I mentioned previously) in the kitchen, and wall tiles for easier cleaning (and I might consider mirror panels).  But I can't figure out a mix of tile colors (want varied ones in a color group) that will go with the existing red brink linoleum and butcher block counters.  Red/oranges? Or golds?  Or something else?

But that is only part of the changes.  When I panelled the basement, I added a 1/2 bath.  Dumbest idea ever.  Total waste of space.  It has to go.  So I need professionals to rip it out, extend the hanging ceiling to match the existing ones, cap off water pipes, etc. 

Plus, there are few things less welcoming to visitors than an ugly garage door a front door.  Those a probably things I can do myself.  The question is the color.  My house siding is a medium green.  My shutters are a dark green.  I'll color the inside of the house to suit myself, but I should probably make the outside pleasing to the neighbors and visitors.  It is already unique, being green with a mixed brick foundation in a sea of beige siding houses.  So this is about trying to match some colors. 

The garage door and front door are white.  I'm bored with white.  I'm thinking of making the front door match the shutters.  Maybe the garage door too.

But I keep seeing these stick-on fake pictures for garage doors and can't escape loving the idea.

I need to make a list!






Thursday, August 3, 2017

Weird Stuff

There is always something new around the yard. 

The last stuff in the broken compost tumbler...
The cleared spot where the original passive compost bin was against the first toolshed .  The lower color is the original color of the T1-11 panels of the toolshed.  Weather wore the panels out more than composting material did.
A weird moth showed up.   It doesn't like to spread its wings, so the picture is strange.  But it has markings I have never seen before.  And after 30 years here, I've seen ALL the regular bugs.  I bet tghis one is newly surviving by warming conditions.
On the other hand, katydids are familiar.  It it their time to show up.  
I saw my 1st japanese beetle in years today.  It was walking around a marigold flower.  I grabbed it and stomped it flat.  I've spread Milky Spore around the yard every few years for a decade.  It is a ground-dwelling bacteria that parasitizes japanese beetle grub larvae.  Seeing one reminds me do apply the milky spore again.  It has been about 7 years.  Milky spore in the soil lasts as long as there is an infestation to feed on.  After that, they die out and need to be reapplied.  But it is a very effective grub control that lasts for years and is not harmful to worms, birds, or pets.  Or humans.

Also, I have castor oil to spread around on the lawn.  The moles have discovered the front yard after all these years.  It makes their insect food taste horrible to them.  I'll start with the centers of the front and back yards to establish a "no good food" zone, and expand it slowly outwards and chase them to the neighbors yards. 

Then I'll tell the neighbors about castor oil spray and let them ruin THEIR moles lives.  As long as I keep them out of my yard, I'm happy to help the neighbors do the same.

And when the moles go, there are fewer voles.  Voles use mole tunnels to travel.  Moles don't eat plants, but voles do.  Fewer moles; fewer voles!

Friday, July 28, 2017

The House Next Door

We can't figure out if the house next door to me was purchased as a rental or a primary residence yet.  In one way, there seems to be a lot more contractor work going on than if it was "just a rental", but then we don't know how much work was needed inside after 30 years of several owners.

There have been cabinet contractors, wood flooring contractors, and gutter replacement contractors there. A rather strange and ugly wood railing around the front porch (apparently installed by the bank) was removed and replaced with a vinyl one. 

So, a few things a rental would see and some it wouldn't.  I hope it is someone moving in themselves. 

I hope whover moves in is quiet and has no dogs or teenage children.  That means noise and I have gotten used to the quiet.

I hope they garden.  That way, they might understand why there are a couple of junk trees I would like to see removed (and I'm willing to pay all or most).

I'm not sure of the timing.  If it is someone planning to move in or rent by the end of the month, there isn't much time left.  Any time without a neighbor is good. 

Oh sure, it might be someone I am thrilled to meet, but the odds on that are pretty low. 

I think it is the possibility of a neighbor who is really annoying that worries me.  The previous resident was great.  You could hardly tell he existed.

I learned that the house had been sold for way less than I expected.  Now I really wish I had bid on it.  Any renovations could have been combined with some I plan here at a better price and would have gotten me going with my own.

I'm one of those people who can do what is required for business (like a rental) but will procrastinate for myself, LOL!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

TOMATOES!

I got a dozen all at once.  Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Pinapple, and Ponderosa Pink.






I ate one at lunch, one at dinner, one the next lunch and another the next dinner...

Heavenly.

They aren't pretty.  But they sure beat anything at the stores and farmers market.  And I already have more this year than all of last year!

The red plastic may have helped (no splashing up of soil-bourne fungals).  The waterbottles may have helped.  Large soda bottles screwed into plastic spikes that delivered water several inches underground slowly.  Into which I dropped slow-release organic fertilizer pellets to dissolve with each filling of the bottles.  And maybe lack of rain so I controlled the watering each week.

But for whatever reason, this is seeming to be a good tomato year here.

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Very Unfortunate Moth

I have really been enjoying my Venus Fly Traps.  In the past, I have tried a few and they didn't live very long.  It is sort of like buying an ant farm; a short-lived novelty.

My understanding of Venus Fly Traps was that they lived in shady bogs in upper Southern States.  So I kept them on East windowsills and caught a few flies to feed them.  They would last a couple months and fade away.

So, this year, when I some some for sale, I researched what they needed.  To my surprise, a site said at least 4 hours direct sun and more was better.  Plus NO tap water.  I knew they didn't want fertilizer (that why they catch insects), but they also didn't want dissolved minerals in the water.  Distilled water was best.

I was so surprised, I checked other sites and even asked about it on a forum discussing carnivorous plants.  I always do some research before asking a question at a specialty site.  Otherwise, you tend to get condescending replies.  But it WAS trustable verification.    So, armed with good information, I have kept the plants in larger pots than they came in, on the sunny deck.

I caught a few flies to feed them at first (I good at that).  But I quickly noticed that there were a lot more closed traps with something in then than the few flies I fed them.  So it really is true they can catch all they need. 

In fact, one plant is healthy enough to be sending up a flower stalk.  The forum recommends cutting the flower stalk to save the plant the energy required.  But given that the plants have doubled in size and have almost all of the dozen or more traps full, I think I will let at least one bloom to see what the flower looks like.

All well and good...

But I'm posting this to show one very unfortunate moth.  It must have landed on a trap with its wings up because they were outside the closed trap.  If the wings had been closed, it probably would have pushed its way out the side.
BTW, the part about them wanting distilled water worried me.  I'm not someone who buys water in bottles.  So I was pleased to discover the stuff costs 88 cents per gallon at Walmart.  I bought 2 gallons.  I used a half gallon just soaking the peat moss mix.  I had to keep preventing myself from soaking the peat moss in regular tap water out of habit, and I had to keep reminding myself not to water the Venus Fly Trap pots "as usual" when I am watering the deck flowerpots.  But it is a habit to skip them now.

One good thing is that rainwater is just fine.  Not rain off the roof, just direct from the sky into clean buckets.  3 well-rinsed kitty litter tubs collect more mater from an inch of rain than you might think, ans we got 2.5 inches here in one storm early this months.  I now have two 1 gallon jugs filled with rainwater now, and it only takes about a cup to keep them wet each morning. 

I still feed each trap with a fresh-caught insect every couple of days just to watch the traps close.  It doesn't seem to be necessary, but that's most of the fun of having the plants, so I do it.  Plus, it seems like sweet revenge to see the traps close on a small caterpillar I pick off a veggie in the garden.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Front Yard Island

Image result for astilbe fanal red

I've mentioned finally setting up a front yard planting island before.  I bought 60 bare-root Astilbes in early Spring.  I thought they would do fine planted in Spring instead of Fall since they were dormant.  I nestled them down into the 3" of 50/50 compost/topsoil mix and expected great result. 

Well, for one thing, a site I visited that listed deer-resistant flowers mentioned Astilbes.  And for perennials, Astilbes bloom a really long time.  Most perennials bloom a couple weeks and are done.  Plus, it is a shaded spot both under a small Saucer Magnolia Tree and shaded in the afternoon by tall trees in the neighbo's yard.  Seemed perfect.

Well, deer have a funny way of eating.  The don't nip leaves off, they just bite and pull.  And, apparently, deer don't mind eating Astilbe at all.  But when they pulled on the new plants, they just came out of the ground.  So I had to keep replanting them every few mornings.  The deer got nothing from them, but they kept trying.  So I draped chicken wire over the plants so the deer couldn't keep pulling them up.

Sadly, the constant air exposure to the roots killed about half of the Astilbes.  But the remaining ones seemed to be surviving.  With that problem solved (until they grow higher), I ignored them while doing other projects.

Weeds are insidious.  They grow just a little each day.  So one day, they are a few small ones and you think "I should pull those weeds" and the next week it looks like overgrown lawn!  And the weeds were suddenly 12" high with 4" tall Astilbes hidden among them.

So I went out to weed then Thursday (I'm a bit behind on the posts).  Naturally, Thursday was the hottest day of the year so far.  96 and a heat index over 105 with 90% humidity.  So I thought, OK, I'll do some today closest to the Astilbe and water the whole areas.

I did 30 minutes and then went inside for 15 (a good habit in hot weather).  Then did another 30 and 15.  Then another.  Well, to my surprise, I had done the entire 30'x15' island! 

Some of the Astilbes are surviving with only a leaf or 2, some had been pulled up and I didn't notice so I planted them again deeper, most of the surviving 30 of the original 60 were healthy and 6" tall.  I will plant new ones in the gaps next Fall, but my focus this Summer is on the survivors. 

Having ridded the entire island of weeds now, I am hoping that the 3" of compost will smother most new ones, BUT I will watch them more carefully the rest of the Summer!

And THEN there are the 30 Astilbes I planted in the back yard!  No deer there, but more sun.  And different weeds too.  The front island weeds were mostly crabgrass that came up easily in the loose compost.  The backyard weeds are some kind of grass that spreads by runners under the soil. 

I let that get away from me earlier, but it was a smaller area.  I went in with a trowel to get the runners out.  I din't expect the sun to be causing a problem, as there were some older Astilbes that do just fine there.  It seems new ones are more sensitive. 

So after digging out the fewer weeds left, I shaded them.  2' metal rods supporting shade cloth (like a loose-weave cheesecloth) attached with twist-ties.  And I'm watering them deeply every few days.  The good news is that some are doing just fine, a few are recovering, and the ones with only a couple weak leaves seem to be starting some new ones.  I only lost about 25% of those.  New planting are always difficult. 

One thing I didn't realize was that the area received more sunlight than it used to.  One reason is an huge mature oak tree I had removed 3 years ago.  It was losing large branches and I became convinced it was dying.  And it being on the west side of the house (from where the stormwinds blew) it might have fallen on the house.  As it turned out the top half of the tree was hollowing, so it was a good decision.

But that meant more sunlight (where I didn't need it).  And when I rebuilt the deck (25 years old and deteriorating) that gave more sunlight to the Astilbe bed.  I may put up a shade fence or move them in Fall, but again my focus is on keeping them alive through Summer.

One project of many, LOL!

And, BTW, the Astilbes in the front only cover 1/3 of the island.  In the Fall, I am going to move most of the several dozen Japanese Painted Ferns I have elsewhere to the island.  Deer DON'T like those at all. 











Saturday, July 15, 2017

An Interesting Person

I visit many odd discussion sites.  One is an atheist forum ( I am an atheist).  But because almost all of us there are atheists, a lot of the discussion is not about atheism.  One of the threads was about games.

I am a game-player.  And I don't mean the latest online game; old across-the-table board games.  This one guy and I started talking about old games.  We knew and had played the same ones.  So I mentioned a few odd ones.  One was a game were you searched for subs in 3D under a cover.  He said OMG, I loved that game but couldn't remember the name and he had been searching for it.  It was Sonar Sub Hunt. 
The green halves lift up and you snapped in plastic rectangles for subs and round ones for mines.  The grey things in the corners were working periscopes so you could watch your opponent move his destroyer around (just under the green covers).  If he brushed a mine, a buzzer sounded and he lost a destroyer (I think you got 3).  If he pressed a button it pushed a spring down and if it hit one of your subs, a light came on above (so no cheating allowed).

It was really quite a complex mechanical game for the 60s.  Sort of a version of 'You Sunk My Battleship'.  It was quite a popular draw for my neighborhood friends, and my Dad and I played it often too. 

Being basically a random-luck game, it was pretty fair for everyone, but it sure was interesting. 

My forum friend was thrilled to have the name so he could search for it on Ebay.  I checked, it is available there, for $100.

So I threw in another odd game I had played and said NO ONE had ever heard of it.  It was called "Feudal".  HE had and loved it, and described some of the strategies he used.  They were my strategies too.

And since MY strategies were not the ones my only opponent (a roommate) used, it was interesting that we thought alike about that..


So we compared more complex games from Avalon Hill.  That company specialized in replicating historical battles in great detail.  Like, in Gettysburg, all the units entered the board at the correct times and by the correct roads, the terrain mattered in attacks and defenses, etc.  He played that for years too as did I.

We also compared playing other games.  We both played the same games and hated the same ones.  We are even almost the same age.  We have both tried to find local game clubs that play such games, without success.  We even like one computer game; Civilization 2 (that is a game where you start as a primitive society and slowly build or fight your way to either world domination of launching a spaceship to Alpha Centauri to establish a new colony.  You can also play the Civ games online against single or multiple players and against bots.

But it turns out that we are on opposite sides of the country and both hate traveling.  We will never meet.

But it is nice to know there is someone out there like me...  There aren't many.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Sister Visit, Not

I live 2 hours away from the town where most of my family lives/lived in MD.  When my sister and hubby decided to move to FL after retiring, she planned to visit me before leaving the area.  Well, moving is stressful and busy, and she couldn't get the free time.  I understood that.  I would have been equally pressed for time.

This April, she emailed that her hubby was returning to the old town to meet old friends and go fishing in Canada with them.  Susie decided to go along as far as the old town and stay with her daughter and visit old friends there.  She said she was going to drive the 2 hours to visit me one day here.

Things happen.  She decided driving 2 hours in a strange rental car (she doesn't like driving) was too uncomfortable.  We considered meeting in the middle, but that would have just been in a restaurant for or hour and that's not a great place to talk.  I considered some outside locations, but the temp is hitting 95+ and the heat index over 100, so that wasn't a good idea.

We decided to just keep talking on the telephone every so often.

I miss her generally.  She is not only a sister but a person I like.  I mean, if she was only a neighbor, I would like her too.

But with 2 months notice, I started fixing the house up.  I'm a single guy set in his ways; I don't worry too much about how the house looks inside.  But I repainted the bathroom, mopped the floors, washed other walls ( the kitchen really needed it), etc.  And I had yard stuff to show.  The new compost bin, the new deck (3 years old but she hasn't seen it), the enclosed garden, flowers everywhere.  Etc.

It would have been nice to show her the things I've done.  And to sit and talk to her.

But at least I have a nice clean house!  That should last about a month, LOL!


Thursday, July 13, 2017

While You Sleep

Have you ever considered what goes on in the world when you are asleep?  I know that when I go to bed, I am totally cut off from the world.  And the first thing I do when I wake up is turn on the radio on the headboard (tuned to a news station) to hear of events.

But what if something really important happened while I was sleeping?  What if the Yellowstone Supervolcano erupted?  What if India and Pakistan exchanged Nuclear weapon attacks?  What if the Sun went dead?  I mean, I would just sleep for days waiting for dawn and get colder and colder and colder.

I say this because I had the strangest dream last night.  Aliens arrived on Earth, and I didn't know about it.  And they were good aliens.  They announced they would take everyone who arrived at any major city by dawn to a newer better Earth2 (since they knew what we needed and had found one), and I slept through it.

I ignore the phone at night, I don't have smart phone with alert apps, and I doubt neighbors would beat on my door to tell me the good news.

Actually, it would be bad enough just to not know that some virus had been dropped in my area by some terrorists...

I suppose this has something to do with a feeling of lack of control over my life while I sleep, but it is still an interesting question.

"What if something really important happens when you are asleep"?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Batteries

I practically live on batteries here.  Everthing has a battery.  Sure, the oven and refrigerator and TV are AC powered but most things need a battery.  I have recharageable batteries for almost every minor thing in the house though.

I have flashlights, wall clocks, kitchen timers, weather stations, a cordless vacuum, a laptop, a cordless leaf-blower, a cordless hedge-trimmer, cordless tools, and portable stereo radios all over.  So I have rechargeable batteries for almost everything.  I am building a shelf in the basement dedicated to recharging things.

But there are some annoying devices that use those little round batteries.  Kitchen timers mostly, but even a caliper needs one.  I hate that there are not rechargeable versions for them. 

Two kitchen timers and the calipers all went dead last week.  So I set out to get new batteries.  First, I discovered that the 3 stores I went to do not stock the kitchen timer batteries, but they could be ordered at 2.  The batteries cost more than the timers.  I can buy new timers cheaper than the batteries.  That makes no sense. 

So I will buy slightly more expensive timers that have batteries of a type that I can replace with rechargeables. 

The kind that fits my caliper comes only in packs of 3.  The battery lasted 10 years; the shelf life of the replacement battery is 3 years.  I will never need the other 2 batteries!  But the joke is on them.  One of the batteries in the 3-pack wasn't even the right kind.  Same size wrong voltage. 

Yeah, OK, the joke isn't really on them, but the error costs me nothing as the last battery of the 3 would be long-depleted natuarally before I needed it so I could just throw it away and no loss. 

We need rechargeable small round batteries!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Newspaper Reading

I love newspapers.  And I am lucky that my "local" newspaper is The Washington Post.  So I get local and national news articles.  I love the editorials, science articles, political articles, and comics the best. 

But I got to the point where I wasn't reading the new newspaper every day.  When I got 3 months behind, I cancelled my subscription.  Kept reading the older papers of course. 

It was actually very interesting.  I could completely ignore the sports section as being old and the local news was outdated.  The comics were fine; few of them are topical. 

The editorials became hilarious!  You never realize how silly most columnists and editorials are until you read them after their predictions are made.  I was reading liberal and conservative ideas about what Trump would do in his first 100 days after the first 100 days.  None were right.  Well, some were, and those people were right very often!  It is a good way to decide who to pay attention to.

Looking back, what some of the columnists suggested would happen and knowing what DID happen was great reading.  George Will (conservative) was right about a lot, so was E J Dionne (liberal).  Charles Krauthammer was nearly almost always wrong.

I missed some of the comics that had story arcs.  But they aren't my favorites.  I find it pretty hard to care about those "soap opera" ones like Judge Parker. 

I missed the Style Invitational contest feature.  That suggests weird contests in the Sunday paper like writing haikus about current events, combining Kentucky race horse names together for humor, and creating puns by rearranging letters in Post headlines for anagrams and the like.  I entered the contests in the past and got mentioned twice.

For a first entry printed, you get one of those pine tree air fresheners.  Its your "first ink" (fir stink, get it?)

But reading old papers, I couldn't enter because of the deadlines.  Now I have new papers and can enter again hurray.

"There was a time when
I was gone but now I'm back
Never win again."

LOL!

But now I know which columnists to pay more attention to.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Inside House Work

I got the main bathroom redone yesterday.  Only too a year.  Really!

I had the tub and surrounding tile replaced June 2016.  It left raw plaster around it and all I had to do was repaint that.  But I decided the repaint the whole thing.  And didn't, and didn't and didn't.

I did Monday.  Now, when I repaint, I do it right. Remove all the outlet covers and towel bar and TP holder and mirror.  Sand the raw plaster around the tub and tilework to utter smoothness and use a tack cloth to remove any plaster dust.  Paint the raw plaster with a primer coat.  Wash the walls with TSP (Trisodium phosphate), rinse the walls with clean water 3 times, cover all the edges with tape, cover everything with drop cloths, paint the corners with a good brush, paint the walls with a roller.  I was only covering "golden bamboo" color paint.

I thought "a day".  It took 3.  And several hours yesterday after the paint dried for 2 days to re-install the outlet covers, towel bar, TP holder, etc. The mirror was a real pain.

Part of the problem was that all the screws that fitted the attachments were both rusty and clogged with drywall dust I could brush off.  I have a large assortment of screws, but of course none matched the type, size, and lengths I needed for new plastic anchors into the drywall.

I went around in circles trying to match what I had to what I needed.  No luck.  Then DUH!  Most of the towel bar attachments were wood.  So I just drilled the holes in them a little larger to fit the screws I had.  Sometimes the solution to a problem is right there.

So I got the outlet covers on first.  They were always slightly crooked, so it was easy to correct that.  NOT!  I had to adjust the actual switches and outlets a bit to get them straightened out.  Careful to not touch anything electrical inside the switches, almost.  I reached in too far once and ZZAPP!  A wasp sting, but I was wearing rubber-soled shoes so no grounding connection.  I got more careful after that.

But I got THAT done.  Then it was time for the 3'x3' mirror.  The mirror takes 3 hands to attach and I was just 1 hand short.  I will tell you that it IS possible to use your thighs as a hand to hold a drill in place with one hand holding a mirror upright and another hand to tighten a new drill bit in, but I WON'T say it is easy.

But it got done...

Last was the shower curtain rod.  When the contractor removed it, it came right off after removing 4 screws.  Somehow, it became a bit longer while it sat around for a year.  I attached one collar.  That was a mess itself.  I was expecting to just drill into drywall and tap a plastic anchor in the hole to hold a screw.  Instead, I hit wood.  Wood is good.  Except the hole I drilled for the plastic anchor was bigger than the screw (that is normal).  So I had to get a larger screw to to match the hole sized for the plastic anchor.  Which meant I had to drill a larger hole in the shower curtain collar,

It is ALWAYS something to adjust or resize.  It's maddening sometimes.  So I got that screw to fit the hole and went to the one on the other side.  The drill went right through the drywall.  No wood.  So THAT one needed a plastic anchor.

OK, so at least I know the pattern for the collar on the other side of the tub.  Right?  Wrong!

The other side hit no wood.  So more plastic anchors.  I ALMOST screwed the other collar into the wall, but realized the shower curtain rod had to be in them both first.  At guess what?  The shower curtain rod didn't want to fit.  It seemed a hair too long and threatened to scrape my nice paint job!

I had to play around with the rod a few minuted before I discovered that the wall there is not perfectly straight.  Moving the collar and rod to one side gave me just enough clearance to get it to fit against the plastic anchors I had installed.

Screwing them in was easy.  NOT!  The curtain rod prevented my electric screwdriver from getting a clean fit into the screw slots.  ARGGHH!

I finally found a really long screwdriver and got it attached manually.

It was a real pleasure to finally reattach the outer decorative shower curtain itself onto the rod and attach an inner mildew resistant shower curtain.

2 days work took a lot of 4 days.  But it is done.

You may think I hate doing this kind of stuff.  I don't actually.  Sure, the problems drive me mad sometimes, but if I wanted to avoid that, I would just hire people to do it.  I do it because I want to know *I* did it.

Mom use to laugh as she told friends about how, when I was even a toddler, I would refuse help with tying shoelaces and getting dressed, saying "Mark Do".  And I haven't changed...

Tomorrow, I attack cleaning and repainting the kitchen walls...  After the bathroom, "piece of cake", right?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The House Next Door

Well, the house next door has been for sale for several months.  I have considered buying it as a rental property.  I don't really want a rental property, but there were reasons for this one.

1.  It is next door.
2.  I would like some control over who my neighbor is.
3.  I want to remove the trees shading my garden.
4.  I don't want a neighbor with dogs.
5.  I want to reclaim my property line.

Background:

The houses behind and on the other side are well separated from me.  This house is really close.  The trees shade my garden 1/3 of the day.  My cats like to wander in that yard, and if the new residents have dogs, that could be dangerous.  There are trees and invasive shrubs and vines I would like to get rid of.

When I built my fence 25 years ago, I set it inside my property line by a foot on the advice of my Dad (he said I needed to do that to assure I had a legal right to get on the other side to repair my fence).  It was bad advice; I essentially gave up that part of my yard through Common Law.  The neighbor at the time immediately built a small side fence that connected to mine, shutting me out.

The junk trees shade my yard, the row of forsythia I originally planted in naive ignorance as a property-divider invade my flowerbeds, and a maple tree planted in the side yard has sent surface roots ruining the lawn and making mowing like driving over railroad ties.  The roots are reaching my foundation.  I lose 3 hours of desperately-needed morning sunlight in my gardens, and I want the gardens.

Last Month:

I hesitated to bid on the property.  I don't think of myself as a "landlord".  I could do without the trouble involved.  My investments are uncomplicated; I have CDs and Index Mutual Funds.  I'm financially secure.  The "For Sale" sign was still on the property.

But I looked up "Buying A Rental Property" online at  few sites.  There are rental management companies that handle everything.  And being next door would be convenient for maintenance and repairs.  It wouldn't be as difficult as I thought, and if there were problems with the renters, I would know easily enough.

It's not for profit.  It's for protection and control.  Zillow suggests the house as a rental would pay for itself in 5-10 years free and clear.

I submitted a back-up bid on the property, but revoked it a week later thinking I had WAY overbid at $185,000.

2 Weeks Ago:

I called the seller ( foreclosure company).  They say the house was auctioned off last week.  DAMN, DAMN, DAMN, DAMN, DAMN!

I waited a week too long after 6 months of dithering about it.  I submitted a backup bid $10,000 above the apparent selling price i(the "earnest money" down payment was 5%, so I could calculate the purchase price) in case the auction sale falls through.    That would be trivial in the long run.  Zillow estimates the house to be $30,000 underpriced in 5 years. and that's not counting the rental income.  I probably couldn't have actually lost money buying it last month if I had tried.

Dear Deceased Dad made me hesitate.  He had a couple rental apartments and complained about them all the time.  But he didn't buy them for the reasons I wanted this property.  I should have realized that sooner... 

I don't want to go into money here too much, but I could just write a check for the house.  I bought stocks at the bottom in 2008.

My dithering has probably cost me decent sunlight, control over who my neighbors are (and some there have been bad - late night parties and constantly barking dogs), the ability to eliminate invasive shrubs and trees, and a decent investment (though I don't need it).

I'm probably going to regret not acting sooner, but I have no one to blame but myself!

Last Week:

I hoped the current sale fell through.  It was certainly bought as a rental.  Maybe I can buy it from the new owner.  Who wouldn't like a quick profit if it is merely an investment to them?  Or maybe I could pay the new owner to let me have those trees cut down at my expense.  I could even agree to replace them with small ornamental trees.

There are still some possibilities...  But I'm sitting here kicking myself for not having acted sooner.

Now

The sale to another went through and it turns out it was just $3,000 less than my backup bid.  I thought the highest bid was $157,500.  If I had left it, they MIGHT have found a way to accept my bid.  But the For Sale sign is gone, and I saw someone walking around the property looking like they owned it. 

Dithering and second-guessing yourself is the worst business decisions you can make.  I may never have another chance at controlling this property. 



Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Independence Day

We celebrate with this day that represents the day our Independence was announced to the world...  And also acknowledge the nation of Britain  (our very good friends) that set us to begin and gave us much of our beginning.

It was not an easy separation, but, as a child leaves the parent and also a servant leaves the master, the separation occurred.

That our relation has come to steadfast admiration and support over time is possibly unique in history, we also remember that this day.

But today we DO celebrate our freedom, born in battle, blood, and explosions.

Image result for fireworks displays

Image result for us flag

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Cleaning and Projects

I kind of stay to myself and don't have many visitors.  I'm even somewhat of a hermit.  And the inside of my house is NOT my pride and joy.  I could almost be happy in a log cabin and thresh floor, given a decent kitchen, stereo, plasma TV, Internet and waterbed.  And I'm sure the cats would be happy too. 

So my focus is mostly on the yard, cooking, excellent TV when I watch it, cats, and sleeping in comfort.  Dust bunnies on the floors do not bother me and what I can't see under the furniture matters even less.  I can go longer without vacuuming than you can imagine

I've been in my house for 30 years and I still have some of the original paint and carpet.  I smoke and the walls need cleaning.  Mostly, if something isn't broken, I don't worry about it much. 

But sometimes there is a visitor and I have to clean.  I used to have to do that about  once a month, but since I broke off with a friend 6 years ago and Dad had to move on to assisted-living several years ago, I haven't done much at all.  My house and I were going to slowly deteriorate together.  That's half humorous and half reality.  Most of you would cringe seeing the inside of the house.

My sister is visiting soon and I suddenly care about the inside.  I've been busy.  I filled 2 vacuum cleaner bags with dust bunnies.  I've been going around sweeping dust-webs out of the corners of the ceiling.  Tomorrow, I'll mop the vinyl and wood floors and vacuum the carpets. 

Today's project was to repaint the full bath.  It was overdue...  I had the tub and tiles replaced in May.  Of last year!  It had plaster repairs at the time, and I meant to repaint it then.  But there was always something else to do.  I have had the cleaning supplies, primer and paint and supplies sitting in a bag in the bathroom ever since. 

So yesterday I started doing it.  I used the TSP (trisodium phosphate) to wash the walls and ceiling.  The stuff works great, but needs several clean wipes after.  I used the (very clean) toilet has a convenient supply of clean rinse water.  It took 4 clean-water-wipes before I was satisfied it was gone.  When It all dried, I used a primer coat on the bare plaster.

Today I painted.  The taping of the edges was quite a job.  A bathroom has a LOT of edges (lights, outlets, tile, cabinets).  I have done a fair amount of painting (every apartment and house I've ever been in got thoroughly painted) because I don't like beige and white walls.  So the actual painting part is fairly easy.  Except that the ceiling needed painting also, that was awkward.

It only took 2.5 hours from opening the paint can to cleaning the brush and roller. 

I hated the color!  I didn't want a strong color in a small room, and a bathroom should be a relaxing color.  So I chose a very light green.  Picture  the innermost stalks of a bunch of celery and add a touch of gray...

I chose the color, the color matched the paint chip I gave the store, but it seemed so gray!  I decided I would have to mix more green into the paint and redo it.  But as it dried during the evening, it looked a lot better.  It was actually detectably greener as it dried.  It needs a 2nd coat, but it looks good enough for a visit.  And I still might add some green to the paint for the 2nd coat. 

At least now, I can rehang the shower curtain rod, the shower curtain, and the large mirror (for which I am surrounding with a stained wood frame that matches the cabinets and outlet covers).

I plan to do the kitchen Tuesday.  Everything is easier the 2nd time...

Wednesday will be for collecting clutter into boxes to hide away temporarily, LOL!  Also, cleaning the kitchen and putting all the stuff I use on occasionally into cabinets and closets.  And mop the floors.

Thursday is for grocery-shopping.  I will be due for that anyway.  My local meat/deli/liquor store (it is a weird combination) has a special this week on rib-eye steaks, standing beef rib roast, and large fresh shrimp.  I haven't decided which I will get yet.  But mostly, I buy fresh fruits and veggies, so that also means a trip to Safeway.

I have the outside looking reasonably good.  4 large new deck pots and 3 hanging baskets with flowers that are just beginning to bloom; possibly the first ripe tomatoes, beans, and fancy lettuce.  The new compost bin is "finished" (well, I will add a top later).  Flowers in bloom in the yard. 

I hope the cats don't panic.  It would be nice if they come out and greet her.  My sister is a cat person too.  Iza is most likely to come out.  She is generally fearless.  Marley is friendly but skittish.  Ayla routinely stays in the bedroom except at dawn and dusk, though lately she is going outside more often and so would have to pass through the main rooms if she wants to get out.

I feel like I will be ready for a visitor.  Sometimes, it is not so much how the house looks so much as how much better it looks that it did before.  Does that make sense?  Cleaner is cleaner, and showing a new improvement to the house (the bathroom and possibly the kitchen) matters.

The sad thing is that I have a list of home-improvement projects I will be starting in a few weeks.  When it gets really hot outside in July/August, I pay more attention to the inside.  And, in recognition of 30 years here, this is the year I'll be having contractors in to do stuff I'm no longer trusting myself to do properly or at all.

I'll be posting about those in a few weeks as I finalize choice of new flooring to replace old carpet,  extending basement siding and hung ceiling,  removing a basement washroom I've never had much use for, new driveway, and installing an attic floor for storage space.

I also plan to update utilities in the house.  The 30 year old water heater will be replaced with an instant water heater and a dedicated one for the kitchen sink.  A new refrigerator (the existing one will become a basement storage refrigerator for bulk vegetables), some damaged doors will be replaced, and there are various small things that need expertise I don't have.   I'm even considering one of those ceiling attachments you can hang skillets from for convenience.

I'll be busy with overseeing some work then.  I will probably be the last serious work I have done on this house.  

Ah Astilbes...

I love Astilbes.  Had several dozen at one time.  Around the pond, next to the deck, in the shade of an apple tree.  But over 15 years, some died out naturally, some failed because of additional sun, and some died from being too shaded by brambles.

So this year I decided to get some new ones growing.  There are really fancy ones, but I'm satisfyied with "regulars".  I found bare-roots on sale at ebay.  25 for $60.  I bought a set of 25 and planted them in the backyard where a few remaining Astilbes were growing happily each year.

I think I didn't plant them properly.  I went by the included instructions, but they never seemed to set roots.  Well, it was in almost pure compost and maybe they don't like that.  And it is sunnier in that spot than it used to be (a new deck, new shade patterns).  And it has been really dry in June here, so I maybe should have watered them more often.

I lost 1/3 of the backyard bunch.  I have shadecloth over them now, and some are doing better.

I also added some to a front yard island in the shade of a Saucer Magnolia tree.  I'm fighting deer now, and they ate up all my hostas.  But they don't like Astilbes much.  They pulled a couple up but didn't eat them.  I replanted them.  Some are starting to flower.  I water them deeply every 3 days.


(Add pictures)

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Flowerbeds

The newer flowerbeds are doing great.  I never imagined the meadow bed would look so good (last year was dismal, but the flowers were just getting established).
The Hummer etc bed is doing good for a first year with annuals and should be better next year when the perennials and self-sowing annuals get going.


I'm not seeing the hummers/butterflies yet, but the bees are busy.  The Summer has just started, and I expect more flowers to bloom there that the hummers and the butterflies will like.

Meanwhile, it's not like they are lacking pollen and nectar.  I have 3 of the best hummingbird feeders I have yet found and several butterfly bushes are blooming now  with various butterflies feeding at them.

Speaking of hummingbird feeders, I was so pleased to discover how easy it is to make the "nectar".  When I started doing it decades ago, the rule was to boil water, set a cup of it in a pyrex cup rinsed with vinegar, add 1/4 sugar, stir til dissolved, cool it, and add it to the freshly cleaned (no soap) feeders.  The boiling was to make the sugar-water supersaturated so it wouldn't crystalize out when it cooled.  So the instructions I had learned said...

When I mentioned it on a gardening site, I was corrected by many posters.  They said the sugar dissolved just fine in merely hot water and was ready to go at outside temperature.  Checking hummingbird sites confirmed that.

Wow, did that make things easier!  And if you don't think there are hummingbirds around your yard, try setting up a few feeder stations and they will appear.

BTW, the best feeders I have found are "Hum-Zingers" .
Easy to clean, easy to fill, and the birds love it.  And I have no connection to the company.  They don't know I exist.

Funny story:  I never saw hummingbirds when I moved here.  But when I bought my first hummer feeder and stood around outside looking for place to hang it, a hummingbird came to it IN MY HAND and fed!  They are around; most people just don't know it.

 Meanwhile, the daylilies are doing great!  I had a bunch of them in pots and ignored them for 2 years, finally planting them last Fall.  I didn't remember how many colors they had!
I might get really into those...

Friday, June 30, 2017

Compost Bin Onsite, Part 3

The compost bin is finished!  Well, OK, I can add a lid ta keep critters out, but that's not urgent.  Last time you saw it, it looked like this.
The front posts were constructed to form slots down the sides to accept horizontal boards that could be removed for easy access to the contents of the bins.  So the next step was to make the horizontal boards.

I could have just cut boards to length to slide down into the post slots, but allowing air into the composting material is very important.  So I wanted to add spacers between the boards to create gaps where air could get in.

One site suggested using 3" screws sticking out an inch to make the gaps.  I decided they would eventually push into the boards below. So I made 1" wide wood spacers.
 Glued AND screwed, of course...  I want this compost to last 20 years.  The spacers leave plenty of air to get into the composting material.  And the sides and back are all wire mesh, so that is even more air (see the top picture again).
When all the boards were set in place, they sit above the top of the posts.
That was deliberate.  It will make the top slightly sloped back so rain will run off.  The top will be hinged in the back so that I can easily raise it to add or mix the composting material.

I started building the compost bin in mid-May.  The major reason is for making the compost, and I have a LOT of compostable material in the yard), but it was also a labor of love in the construction.  I am no great wood-worker or even a decent carpenter, but I put a lot of technique into this project.

I used tools and jigs I have owned for a decade and never used before.  I deliberately did some things that weren't strictly necessary but improved the strength and future durability.  I overbuilt it in some ways...

Because the first compost bin I built here "fell right over" and it has annoyed me for a decade.  I knew all the mistakes and made sure not to repeat them.

And I loved every minute of building the new one.  I got much better at some routine building techniques and learned new ones.  The tenoning jig was a wonder to use and I am now amazed at my hesitation to use it before!  I developed some new skills of half-lap board connections.  I even finally used my jointer.


And my tenoning jig.

I can now read Sanskrit, can divide by zero, and program in C!  Just kidding...

But I did learn some really good techniques cutting and fitting wood.  And that encourages me to try some indoors furniture.  I think an end table with a floating top will be a good project.  I would like to get into building Arts&Craft style furniture.  Just for me.  I'll never be good enough for selling anything. 

But the compost bin will do for now...

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Catching Up

I'm surprized it has been 6 days since I last posted.  Well, I've been busy and put my posting efforts into the cats' blog.

The time has been spent, mostly, in yardwork and finishing the compost bin.  The compost bin is nearly finished; I'm really only deciding whether to put a solid top or a wire top on it.  I made the mistake of looking that up on the internet.  Naturally, people come down on both sides.  Some want rain to fall in to keep the composting material wet, others say it gets too wet and better to moisten the material as needed.

Don't laugh, but I'm doing both.  The lid will have a chicken wire top for normal rain to fall in, but also an attached plastic top I can drape over for torrential rains.  It matters because composting microbes need air and too much water fills up all the spaces where air can enter.  If there are 2 good ways to do something, I will generally find a way to do both.

But most of the outside work has been in the yard itself.  I started several projects last Fall and some new ones this Spring and have a couple yet to start.  The veggie garden has been a priority.  As much as I like flowers, I would rather eat a tomato than stare at a flower.

The tomatoes are my favorites.  I have 9 heirloom plants and 3 hybrids.  All are in places where I haven't grown them before (to reduce diseases).  The 3 hybrids are backups in case it is a really bad year for diseases.  My 2nd favorite veggies to grow are Italian flat beans.  Last year they just didn't grow; this year I am harvesting already and can expect to continue that until the 1st frost.  Italian flat beans are not the grocery store beans; they have a deeper, nut-like taste.  My 3rd favorite veggie is bi-color corn.  Yellow corn is too starchy, white corn is too sweet; bicolor is just right for me.

And of course, I have cukes, radishes, carrots, melons, kohlabi, spinach, snow peas, leeks, scallions, chard, beets, etc.  I need to plant my Fall crops of broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage soon. 

The other major yardwork project is cutting down brambles in the backyard and killing wild ivy, wild grapes, and some persistent invasive vine from a neighbor's yard.  And there seems to be poison ivy cropping up everywhere! 

The flowerbeds are doing well, with one exception.  My oldest bed, along a fence, has gotten overgrown with grassy weeds.  That might be a Fall project (pull, cover, and smother) over Winter.  The meadow flower bed is doing wonderfully this year; much better than I expected from the poor growth last year when first planted.  The Hummer/Butterfly/Bee bed is newly-planted this Spring, but is showing some flowers now.  The oldest bed (Spring bulbs of daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths; Summer plants of daylilies is doing well enough, but I want to cover the Spring bulbs with sheet plastic to kill the weeds while the bulbs are dormant.  The daylilies are all along one edge and will of course stay uncovered.

My new Astilbe beds (1 in the front yard and 1 in the back) are struggling a bit.  I think I should have planted them deeper.  I put 3" of compost on the soil and planted them in that; it may not be what they needed to set grow out roots well.  The compost always seems dry.  The backyard Astilbes were getting too much sunlight and 1/3 have died.  I set a shade cloth over them last week and am watering both beds every other day.

So there is a lot to talk about.  I'll post on each part of the yard over the next week, with pictures.  But I wanted to get things listed first if only to make it easier for me to decide what to post about each day. 

And to add to the list of things I need to do, my sister is visiting in a week and I have a LOT of cleaning to do!  She hasn't been here for several years and THAT visit was focussed on moving Dad from here to an assisted-living facility near here.  So she hasn't actually "just visited" for almost 10 years.  It is a big event for me.

So...  More later.






Thursday, June 22, 2017

Weird Thoughts

A.  When you first wake up in the morning what do you do first?

1.  Look at the window to see if it is daylight?
2.  Look at the clock to see if you can sleep more?
3.  Jump out of bed joyous that there is a new day of work to be accomplished?
4.  Reach for a cigarette?

B.  When you wake up in the middle of the night and there is a cat in the very middle of the bed, do you...

1.  Move left or right toward the edge?
2.  Invite it in under the covers?
3.  Move in gently, ignoring the protesting claws?
4.  Get up and feed the cat so it will get off the bed?

C.  When you happen to be near the litter box and a cat is using it...

1.  Do you watch out of judging it's health?
2.  Do you watch out of curiosity?
3.  Do you turn away to give it privacy?
4.  Do you rush over to clean the litter box?

D.  If a cat catches a mouse...

1.  Do you EEEWWW out?
2.  Do you AAAHHH out?
3.  Do you grab the camera?
4.  Do you plan a party for the event?

E.  When the garden needs weeding and the living room needs vacuuming...

1.  Do you weed the garden?
2.  Do you vacuum the room?
3.  Sit down and make a To DO list?
4.  Wonder what the odds are that a visitor will show up unexpectedly?

F.  Your refrigerator looks like Mother Hubbard's Cupboard, and it is raining...

1.  Do you decide that pickles, nuts, and an apple is a good meal?
2.  Do you grab an umbrella and go food-shopping?
3.  Do you call the local Chinese delivery place?
4.  Do you go visit a single friend just before dinnertime?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Other Flowers And A New Moth

First,  there was a moth I have never seen before. 
Then there are the Venus Fly Traps I transplaned from tiny pots from Walmart to good ones according the instructions from several sites about caring for them.

I have to undo the potting!  The sites said to use 2 parts peat moss and 1 part sand.  I did that. Then one site mentioned not using "regular sand" because it comes from beaches and has lots of dissolved solids in them, which are bad for Venus fly traps (and explained why).  They said to use perlite instead.  I have perlite.  I will repot them. 

Meanwhile they are catching flies and seem happy.  I caught and fed each one a fly when I first bought them, but now I see that there are at least several traps on each plant closed and showing a dark lump in the traps.  I guess they can do well enough on their own.  On the other hand, I will feed them a caught fly once a week just because it is so strange to watch them close up on the flies.

And the meadow flowers are blooming nicely.  The first ones were all yellow, then sweet williams appeared.  Now I have some blanket flowers.
There are Queen Annes Lace emerging, but not in full bloom yet.  The goldfinches are starting to find seeds to eat in there, which is a natural event.  I have 2 niger seed feeders for them, but I'll bet a variety of seeds is better for them.

And the tomatoes are thriving.  They seem healthier than in years past, so I am hoping for a good harvest.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Not The Meadow

A couple of years ago, I had a ridge leveled and set up 3 edged beds in place of it.  One was a Spring Bulb and Summer Daylily bed, one was for meadow flowers I hope will self sow (according the the package), and the last was a smaller bed dedicated to hummer/butterfly/bee flowers.  And on a whim, I scattered all my "expired" seeds of all kinds.

The last is finally showing some flowers.  First, I noticed that the "expired seeds were quite fertile.  I've been harvesting radishes for a month and there are squash, broccoli, and even some corn plants growing.  Well, they are all annuals and won't be around next year.  And I planted some annual sunflowers in the center of the bed.

But the actual hummer etc flowers are now starting to bloom!  They are slightly different from the meadow bed flowers.



 I expect there will be tubular flowers for the hummers soon.   Meanwhile, they are still happy with the butterfly bushes elsewhere in the yard.

I haven't seen many bees or hummers around them yet,  but I have seen a few butterflies.  Maybe it takes some time for word to spread of the new wonderful feeding spot.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Weather

On Friday, the weather reports warned of severe thunderstorms arriving Monday.

Saturday, the warning were repeated and added "heavy rains".

Sunday, the storm warnings were updated to "torrential rains, hail, and strong winds".  The weather forecasts warned about  possible flooding, electrical outages, failed traffic lights, and falling trees. 

The forecast this morning was for all that to occur between 3pm and 8pm.

My patio tends to collect water because the lawn has slowly raised above the level of the patio.  So minor basement flooding is always a threat.  I have had to suck up incoming rainwater with the wet/dry shop vacuum.  So, as I have for several years now, I dug a small trench in the lawn to let the patio water flow downslope.  I keep telling myself that I should install a drainage pipe just below-ground, but it stays near the bottom of the To Do list; the trench works well enough...

At 2 pm, I brought trashcans into the garage, set out buckets to collect rainwater (for the Venus Fly Traps, brought flats of flower seedling inside so the strong winds wouldn't damage them, and filled  the trench with hose water to make sure it was flowing away from the patio.

The storm was scheduled to hit at 3:45, then 4:45 and it did rain at 4:45.  Drizzle for 15 minutes.  But the radar map showed other heavy rain coming later.  It drizzled another 15 minutes.

The radar map is clear now.  I got 1/4" of drizzle, no serious rain, no winds, no hail. I wanted that rain!  And there is no rain predicted for the rest of the week.

Which means I will have to water the gardens and flowerbeds deeply tomorrow.  I had put it off anticipating the heavy rain. 

I don't blame the weather forecasters too much.  It's tricky.  It would be one thing if a couple forecasters got it right most of the time, showing that it was a matter of individual skill.  But they are get it wrong together.  Which tells me it just can't be done very accurately by anyone.

But I sure wanted that rain!


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Productive Stuff

Some days I just have to catch up on household stuff.  And yesterday and today were good for that.  I let things collect sometimes and then get through them all at once.

I made bread today AND rolls.  I make bread every couple of weeks.  I've tweaked the bread machine recipe until I LOVE my own bread and visitors who have any comment in surprise at the taste (yes, I'm bragging).  I use beer instead of water; and I add 2 tbls of dried oregano and a tbls each of garlic powder and onion powder.  It really makes a difference!  Making rolls is a bit new to me so I follow the recipe exactly, but I will probably start changing the ingredients in those too.  Bread and rolls freeze wonderfully, so I can store them.

The IRS sent me a notice that I owed them some money a couple of weeks ago.  I was surprised since I use tax software.  The notice didn't say exactly why.  I called them yesterday and got to an agent after 45 minutes on hold.  After going around in circles a few minutes with IRS terminology, I finally realized that I had simply forgotten to include a CHECK for the amount I owed above the withholding.  50 years of paying taxes and I finally messed up!

I figured out why afterwards.  I had intended to use the electronic payment the software offerred but decided not to because of the fee.  And then sent the tax form the next day thinking I had paid electronically.  At least the penalty was only $13.

Next on the list was a recurring fee on my credit card for an anti-virus software for the Windows computer I bought in March and then promptly stopped using because I like Apple better.  Researching the company, I found a number to call with questions.  The area code made me suspicious, so I looked up the software name and discovered it was a scam.

The recurring fee was $8.99 per month and that is almost $100 and I have never paid that for anti-virus software.  The scam-busting site stated clearly that it was indeed a scam program that prevented its own removal and also prevented other software from detecting it.  Further, it gave false reports of infections.   It could be downloaded directly OR unknowingly by a user visited a legitimate but hacked website without the user knowing about it.

Anyway, I contacted the credit card company and spoke to an agent who said they were removing the charges (I read them the scam-busting site description).  But they warned me the company could dispute my claim and then we would all have to argue about by letter.  I doubt the company will contest.  Meanwhile, I have printed out special instructions for how to remove the software.

You can't remove the software from the infected computer directly, but you can download removal software to another computer and transfer it to the infected one at boot-up with a USB thumb drive.  It's an annoying process, one of those deals where you have to press a couple of keys at start to enter a safe mode and do about 10 things after.  I've done that sort of thing a few times.

The last annoying thing was to change my Federal tax withholding so that I wouldn't owe anything next year.  I had printed out an IRS form and sent it to them in April, but it turns out you have to send it to the company that pays you.

I got to them online and struggled to log in.  They are one of those places I visit once a year and the password expires in 3 months.  So they wanted me to answer some previously given security questions.

I keep a printed list of all sites I visit with the user name, passwords, purpose, and security question answers in a notebook.  I keep the list in Excel on a computer not connected to the internet, of course.  My list didn't have the security question answers!  And my best guess to the one they asked was not accepted.  ARGGHHH!

Turns out I had an old page of sites in my notebook and found my password on a newer page.  I really need to redo the list.  It is full of hand-written changes and arrows to new passwords, etc, that it is nearly unreadable.  That a new project...

But I found the newest entry and signed in.  The site was so slow, I fed the cats while waiting for it to load.  But after that, I changed the withholding easily.  Yay!

Having taken care of the serious things, I balanced my checkbook, then turned my attention to the clutter on the dining room table.  I have piles on clipped out newspaper recipes, interesting sites to visit, DIY ideas, and gardening suggestions.  I have several boxes full of that stuff.  One of these days I will go through them and save no more than a 6" high stack!  But not today.

With enough space on the dining room table to actually eat at, I turned my attention to the basement.  Lots of work to do there.  I have been working on the new compost bin few a few weeks, and things clutterred up in the basement.

So, do the projects that stuff was sitting around waiting to be used.  None took a lot of time, but there were many.  First, mark the places in the Spring Bulb garden where I can plant more bulbs without disturbing the existing ones.   You may have seen pictures of cardboard covering the tulip cages.  Well, I had to wait longer for the hyacinth and daffodil foliage to die back naturally..

I surrounded the daffodil areas with rope and held it in place with tent stakes.  Then I added more cardboard to the hyacinth cages held down with more tent stakes.  I have daylillies arounfd the front of the bed, but they will still be growing when it is time to fill the rest of the area with more daffodils  In a few days, I will cover the entire non-daylily area with black plastic to kill the weeds. 

The Spring bulbs like to stay dry in Summer, so they will be happy.  And I should be free of weeds there by October.  The voles will like the cover, but they can't eat daffodils or lilies and the tulips and hyacinths are in wire cages!  When they emerge looking for food, the cats will have fun...

Next was to put the 3 Venus Fly Traps into proper containers.  I researched it.  Those tiny 2" pots they come in are no good.  They need deeper containers and more soil.  Not "dirt" soil, but  a mixture of relatively sterile peat moss and sand, 2 parts to 1 part.  The containers for each one are 6" deep and wide.  They also need at least 4 hours of direct sun (a surprise to me) and water "with few dissolved solids" (distilled or rainfall water).  No wonder most people who buy them are unsuccessful at keeping them alive. 

So I bought a gallon of distilled water, and I'm saving the rain from the large rain gauge.  I'm also making a rain collection device.  It's a plastic trashcan lid with a hole in the center attached to a 1 gallon container.  Distilled water is only 88 cents at Walmart, but free rain water is even cheaper.  I LOVE to make useful things!

Speaking of the Venus Fly Traps, I have had a blast feeding them.  They catch some insects on their own, but I want them to grow well and send off baby shoots.  Eventually, I want to have a wading pool bog of them.  So I've been catching flies and small cabbage worms for them.  Heh-heh-heh!

I and the cats are in and out of the house often enough so that houseflies get in.  I've learned how to catch them by hand,  I sneak up on them against the window and their escape paths are limited there.  I catch them about 25% of the time.  A quick flick of the hand close to the floor and they are stunned.  Into the Venus Fly Traps they go.  Watching the traps close on them (a slight rub with a toothpick triggers the trap hairs) is darkly fascinating...

The next basement project was to plant lettuce and boy choy and celery in windowsill boxes.  I don't keep the boxes on a windowsill, but those are good containers for the top of the deck rails.  I tie them down so Summer storms don't blow them off.  I harvest individual leaves so they keep growing, but eventually they flower and are bitter, so I needed new plantings. 

I have endive, red romaine lettuce, red leaf lettuce, and arugula in 3 containers.  Another container has bok choy (the grocery store stuff is old and tough).  Another has celery that was already growing in small pots but I transplanted to give them more space to grow.  If you have never just added celery leaves to a salad, you should try it.  They are MUCH tastier.

Refilled the regular bird feeder with black oil sunflower seeds (a weekly thing) and refilled the finch feeder with nyger seed (a daily thing).  Topped the 3'x5' pond with water; we haven't gotten much rain in June.  I have Sweet Flag and Oriental waterlilies in there.  I should add some goldfish.

Saw a groundhog in the backyard a few days ago, so I set up my live trap baited with a 4" piece of old honeydew melon.  They love melons.  Baited the squirrel live trap with peanut butter.  They can't resist that.  They get relocated.

I'm way late on planting the deck pots with flowers, so I reluctantly went to Walmart and bought 3 pots of marigolds; they were cheap.  They are all just 4 individual plants in each pot and easily separated, so I will have 2 in each small container and 3 in the larger ones.  I also have self-grown seedlings of Zinnias and Salvias which I'll add to the hanging baskets. 

I also found 4 matching 16" pots at Walmart and I will plant some Australian seeds in those.  The old pots are falling apart a bit and I wanted new ones that could stand being brought inside for the Winter.  I would have planted them sooner, but they need a lot of sand in the soil mix and I kept forgetting to buy some (my pre-printed shopping list somehow doesn't have "sand" on it, LOL!).

Finally, I went out and measured the tops of my new compost bin.  In spite of my best efforts, the 2-bin container isn't perfectly square and the tops have to be fitted to match what exists.  So I will be constructing deliberately non-square frames.  "Square" is theoretical; "Fitted" is reality. 

So after all that, it was time for dinner.  I splurged...  Thawed out a 4 oz beef tenderloin steak, cut up fresh asparagus, made a nice tossed salad, and de-silked a bicolor cob of corn.  Chopped up some cremini mushrooms, vidalia onion and red bell pepper.  Cooked all.  Got the steak to a perfect 130 degrees, the salad tossed with ranch dressing, and the aspargus and mushroom mix cooked al dente.  The corn was perfect.  Used the steak juice to make a sauce with horseradish, red wine, and garlic.

I think I earned it...