Friday, November 25, 2022

Problems Commenting On Blogs

I may have solved it.  To reduce possible retaliation, I will refer to the famous blogging site I currently use as "GB".  I'm being careful...  ;)

I have had increasing difficulties using GB the past year or 2.  Even trying to comment with my GB p@assword and accou@t name was less and less successful.  I recently got a clue that GB doesn't like me using some other brows@rs.  So I tried theirs.  So far as I can tell, I'm suddenly getting through to all sites.

I have always tried to avoid using a single c@mpany's services for everything.  They get control of too much informati@n.  

Since my bl@gg comments suddenly get through using the Chr@mme browser, I feel forced to stay with it for a while.  It is a matter of success vs priv@cy, and for bloggy comments, I will accept that.

So, if you are having troubles getting c@mments through to some "places you like", you might want to give chrr@me a try. 

I'm not paranoid, but some business are retaliatory...  LOL!

If it's on the Internet, it isn't private. | Sayings of Donk… | Flickr




Friday, November 11, 2022

Answering Questions

I get many more questions on Mark's Mews, but sometimes I get some here.  And Megan asked a bunch!  She was on a roll...  And since they were posted on the blog (sometimes they are email), I'll answer them on the blog.

Comment:  "You'll laugh when I say it - your experience is exactly what Australia has all over the country! Our polls are always conducted on Saturdays and many of the polling stations are school assembly halls or church halls etc. Drive, park right outside, walk in, get your name checked off, vote, put the paper in the box and leave. Done in 10 minutes. And ... voting is compulsory, which I know is always of some amusement to Americans."

Answer:  I was pleased to read that Australia has my positive experience with voting.  It should be like that everywhere.  I do note that voting is compulsory.  That probably wouldn't work here, but I like the idea of getting more people to vote.  In invests them in the results.

Saturday is a good choice of days to vote.  As I understand it, Tuesday was chosen in the US for religious reasons (though practical ones).  The US was so rural once that it took a day to get to a place to vote.  So, since so many were church-goers, they needed Monday to travel in order to vote, so Tuesday it was!

Comment:  "I'm voting for no daylight savings where I am - it means that in summer, it can still be quite hot at 9pm or 10pm." 

Answer:  Many people want a single time system (and most seem to like Standard over Daylight Saving).  But there are good arguments for both or just one.  Most in favor of Standard mention schoolchildren or farmers.  Most in favor of Daylight Saving mention commuting conditions or being retired (and appreciating the later daylight).  For myself, early morning daylight is wasted daylight.  I haven't gotten up at 7 am in 16 years!  And around here schoolbus pickups would be in daylight even if Daylight Saving was year-round.

Comment:  "Could you not poison the invasive stuff?"

Answer:  The invasive vines are intermixed with my flowers in many places, so I can't just spray them (and I try to stay organic).  But also, this particular invasive wine is resistant to herbicides (waxy leaves) and have very deep roots which survive and regrow.  Among the flowers, I would have to cut them out or dig individually.  Among the solid areas of it, smothering them with black plastic for a year is really the only solution and I should do that!

Comment:  "I lurve the way you just slip into the conversation that you've been holding onto leftover timber for 30 bloody years, Mark! What a hoot!!!

Answer:  While I am not exactly a "hoarder" (the living areas are fine), I do keep stuff that seems potentially useful.  I have a weakness for identical glass jars (for refrigerator stuff), large plastic shelled nut containers (to keep cat kibble, distilled/rainwater water for the Venus Fly Traps, and goldfinch thistle seed in).  The black oil sunflower seeds for the rest of the birds are kept in a metal trash barrel.

So, when I built the 6' high fence

 

around the backyard (to keep large straying dogs away from The Mews and deer out) with 8' boards, I ended up with a lot of 18"-24" pieces.  My yard slopes.  It was a step-down fence, which meant every board had to be cut to exact height.  Which means the leftovers are all slightly different in length.

But since I had LOTS of those pieces, it seemed useful to keep them.  I have used some over the years for various projects.  All The Mews Memorials were built from some of the pieces, I have used some short ones vertically to anchor framed landscaping bed boards horizontally, and some have been part of 1"-4" platforms for my Spring seed-starting.

The small bits on top are double left-overs.  But I have plans for them.

But you have a point.  The first board I brought to the new house in 1986 was a 2"x12"x12' board I brought from the previous (rented) house.  It is still where I put it in the garage on Moving Day, LOL!  But every wood-worker has "stuff" they keep around.  It sometimes is useful.

Hope you all enjoyed all that.

But is it just me, or are you seeing reverse black/white text scatterred all over?  I have no idea why that happens sometimes...

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Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Dinner

TBT:   Sometimes I go all out...  


Home-made Spring Rolls, Onion Rings, and Fried Potatoes.  Diced steak with roasted red and green bell peppers.  Broccoli and tossed salad. Wine.  LOL!

The Mews wonder why I bother with all those "yucky" veggies...  Well, I don't ask them why they like mousies and kibbles so much.  😀

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Voting

I love to vote.  And in fact, I love to go to the voting place on Election Day.  I voted by mail-in ballot in 2020 and afterwards it felt like I hadn't actually voted.  The process seems to be important to me...

I walk in and go straight to a table where a election official asks my name, address, and birthdate.  No line!  Prints out a small slip of paper which I sign and take to the next table.  

That person exams the printed slip of paper carefully (even though he clearly saw the clerk next to him produce it).  He asks if I want to vote by machine or paper (I choose machine) and he creates a longer slip of sturdier paper which will record my actual votes.  No line!

I go to the machine side of the room.  No line!  I am amazed some people want paper ballots (no line there either).  I hate filling in little circles with a pen, but some appear to prefer that.  Which is fine.  I like the touch screen machine; it is so easy.  

I have my sample ballot all filled out at home.  I research every choice a week ahead, right down to School Board and Judge of The Orphan's Court.  Referendums especially; some of them are written to be confusing, but a little internet work literally explains each one sentence by sentence.  And I check the sources of the explanations, too.  No political party or "cause" organization sites; Newspaper "fact-checker" and .edu sites are usually good.

So there I am comfortably seated at the touch screen.  First choice was Governor.  And it wouldn't accept my vote.  Huh?  Then I notice a box that says you must view all the candidate selections first".  Oh, because of 3rd/4th/5th/6th party candidates, it took 2 screens to show them all.  Talk about the election system trying to be as fair as possible!  So I do that, make my choice again, and move on through all the various elections.

After I have voted in all of them, I get a display showing all my choices.  I have to review them and confirm my choices (in case I made an error in one).  Another example of the Election Officials trying to be as fair as possible.

My State (Maryland) is wonderful about election fairness and accuracy.  We have no "hanging chads" here.  

When I confirm my choices, the machine prints out the results and returns it to me on the paper I initially inserted.  I take that to the last station, where I scan it in.  It confirms my choices have all been successfully registered.  The person there gives me an "I voted" sticker.

How Maryland voted: Sizing up the 2022 primary election returns | WYPR

I was in and out in 10 minutes!

But I want to say it wasn't always like that.  When I moved here in 1986, my County Government was majority Republican.  Even back then, they didn't really much like or trust voters.  My 1st couple elections, they forced all voters in my town (of about 30,000) to vote at one high school.  The line was hideous and it took 4 hours!

And they liked it that way.  They recognized that more and more people from the Washington DC suburbs were moving to the County and they weren't mostly Republicans.  They (we) were escaping the high cost of housing, higher local taxes, etc.

My own town basically exists as a bedroom community of people who commuted to jobs in and around Washington DC.   If you saw a map of the town, you would see a semi-circle with the flat edge against the County line.  Everyone wanted to be close as possible to work but in "one County further away", LOL!

The result was that, after 10 years, my County became Democratic-majority voters and Democratic-governed!  The voting situation changed almost immediately.  Instead of 1 voting place in 1 high school (in my town), they set up a dozen smaller ones.  And with more voting booths.  The voting line went from 4 hours, to 30 minutes, to 10, and now 0.

I am not especially  dedicated to Maryland.  There are many other fine places to live.  I'm here because my parents lived in Maryland (Dad's job sent him here) and I simply went to the State University (and stayed around).  But I'm glad I did.

Equally, I am sure that some States have good voting systems too.  But some don't.  If every State's voting system was like Maryland's (or at least my County's), voting would be a lot more easy, fair, and accurate.  And that would be A Good Thing!

Keep in mind that I am not praising the elections results (though Maryland is a solidly Democratic State) so much as I am praising the voting process it has established.  We did after all, elect a Republic Governor for 2 terms (sensible moderate and rational guy).

But mostly, I wanted to say what a wonderful voting experience I had today, and why...


Saturday, November 5, 2022

New Yardstuff, Part 2

So I had these empty spaces where the old trees and junk shrubs were cut down and the roots grinded out... 

I planted a crepe myrtle nearest the house (because it will be 8' tall).  I'm going to plant a 6" rooted cutting from a variegated Eononymous shrub and keep it topped at 4'.  I'm still debating whether to replant new Golden Rain trees at the front sides of the driveway.  Given that I seem to be layering by height towards the house, I might go with ground covers or small 'Knockout' roses (no aroma, but they drop the dead flowers and don't attract Japanese Beetles).  

I think I will root a few cuttings of my 1 remaining (of 3 original) Burning Bushes to go where the Beech Tree once stood.  The Burning Bush originally growing near that spot has been overwhelmed by a wild rose I want to keep.  

That one was a nice accident.  One was growing in the backyard when I moved here and I didn't know what it was.  Nice smell, pretty (but small) flowers.  Then, after it was graded out during some landscaping work, I saw a picture of it in a gardening article and regretted allowing it to be killed.  It was called a "Hawthorne Blush' or 'Hawthorne Rose' or something like that.

Second chances are rare.  But apparently, the Hawthorn Rose had gotten seeded next to the Burning Bush and grew along side vigorously.  I'll save the Rose and plant a new Burning Bush!

But my lawn is not easy to mow.  A riding mower is not the most agile of equipment.  I have too many curved edgings.  I think it is time to change that.  My neighbors across the street have nice curved high stacks of inter-locking paver bricks, so I don't want to copy them.

And I tend to be rather geometric.  In the yard, straight angles are easy to mow.  So what I'm thinking of is pulling up all the (rather useless) curved plastic edging and replacing it with rectangular wood frames.  But for the sake of visual interest, I thought of nailing various height scraps of wood to the outer side of the frames.

I have pieces to use.  When I built the step-down fence 30 years ago, I was left with about 100 odd-sized bits of pressure-treated board.  I saved them in the garage.  Now I have a use for them!  I LOVE reusing stuff!  I will cut the pieces to 4"-8" random-length pieces and nail them to the basic wood frames around all the shrubs in the front yard.  The small air-gun nails are weak, but will hold the pieces in place while 2 lines of exterior wood adhesive permanently affix them.

Have to make the shrub-frames first of course, but that is relatively easy.  And last about as long as I will.  And pressure-treated wood won't bother the shrubs.   I'll post pictures when I get that done.   

Next post, adding topsoil to level the lawn from the root grinding and planting grass to cover it...

Friday, November 4, 2022

New Yardstuff, Part 1

I am thrilled with the warm November weather here.  It is unusually nice.   It has been in the low to  mid 70s for days again, dry, and sunny.  Perfect for outdoor work.  

I roto-tilled the areas in the front yard where the tree stumps and roots were grinded out  a few days ago so that I could add topsoil, level the area and replant grass.  I filled fourteen 35#  kitty litter tubs (about 5 gallons each) twice and 4 more to complete the raking.

Those were about 1/2 stump mulch and 1/2 dirt.  I used it to completely fill one 4'x4'x4' compost bin in alternating layers with shredded mowed and bagged fallen leaves, and grass and kitchen waste from the old bin.  I was worried there wasn't enough "green" stuff to feed the worms and microbes, but it seems to have been enough.

I stuck in a kitchen thermometer probe (can't find my long compost bin thermometer at the moment) and left it there for an hour.  It went up from 70F outside temperature to 114F in the bin, so it is heating up well by microbial decomposition.  I did not expect it to start to heat up so soon!  😀. In a few weeks, it may get up to  140F and that it perfect.  

Thinking that it could use more greens for long-tern heating, I cast my eye on the wild english ivy growing in the far back yard.  Well, I had the collection bag on the self-propelled battery-powered mower, so off I went at it.  

I should mention that the ivy (English and Poison) are invaders from my backyard neighbor who simply ignores the back 10' of his yard.  I fight them (the plants) constantly.  Also, a previous side neighbor planted Some Damn Invasive Vine (which I keep forgetting the name of) which has gotten into my flowerbeds and raised garden paths.

So, it occurs to me I have a self-perpetuating source of green material for the compost bins!  If I have a fast-growing weed I want to eliminate, I might as well get some benefit from it.  I emptied a few trash barrels of old dried grass and leaves, so I can refill them until I have enough to fill the 1st bin with.  If life gives you lemons...

Having the mower in the far back, I also mowed around my 2 year-old specimen trees.  I want to build 4'x4' frames around them from old pallet wood, cover the inside with packing paper from Amazon shipments and fill it with mulch.  That should stop the underbrush vines from growing up the saplings until they get large enough to shade them out on their own.  

And by that time, the pallet frames and mulch should rot away. leaving the trees to grow naturally.  As the leader of the 'A Team' TV show used to say, "I love it when a plan comes together".

The next project is to get the DR brush mower working again.  I have a backyard of wild blackberries and undergrowth to remove.  But I left old gas in it for 2 years and it won't start now.  

The good neighbor guy across the street looked at it and suggested where I could spray "starter fluid" into the gas injector system.  I'll get at that soon.  And if I can't fix it, there are local mechanics who can.

But that's a future post...


Thursday, November 3, 2022

Daylight Saving Time

I am SO  not looking forward to the end of Daylight Saving Time next Sunday.  I was a Morning Dove when younger, but I'm a Night Owl now.  These days I get up later.  I spent 35 years getting up at 5 am to get ready to commute to work (45-60 minutes away) and I grew to hate it.  After I retired 16 years ago, I expected to sleep late for a few months to "catch up".  I haven't caught up yet!  Getting up at 10 am is routine now.  😁

So Daylight Saving Time means I have an extra hour in my day outside when there aren't as many of them as for earlier-risers.  Standard time means that by the time I shower, dress, and eat lunch (while reading the newspaper), it's Noon.  Having it get dark at 6 pm is bad enough.  Come Sunday, it will be 5 pm.  

5 hours of daytime...  I can barely get an outdoor project started before it starts to get dark.  It is actually worse than that.  The huge old trees on the west side of the yard (in my neighbor's yard, so I can't do anything about them) make it darker even before sunset.  

When I was still working, Standard Time meant that, for Dec/Jan/Feb, I left home in the dark and returned in the dark.  I could only do outside stuff on weekends.  Not that there was a lot to do outside in Winter, but you  might be surprised.  Winter is the best pruning season and I have a lot of specimen trees and shrubs.  There is compost in the bins to be turned over for faster breakdown.  It is a good time to attack weeds in the flowerbeds.  There are tools to be cleaned and sharpened.  And even doing work inside feels different; when it is dark outside, it feels harder to do useful work inside.  I feel like I am awake in the middle of the night doing work.  I need all the lights on (I do thank the inventor of LED bulbs for making that MUCH cheaper).

There was some discussion (here in the US) about just making Daylight Saving Time "Standard Time".  I supported that very much, but nothing seems to have come of it.  The Senate passed a bill supporting that (effective next year), but I don't think the House did.  

I understand the reasons why Daylight Saving Time exists.  I also understand the reasons why some objected to it and want the current bi-annual change to continue.  And I know some people want Standard time to be in effect year-round.

But I sure would like it if we decided to make Daylight Saving Time become "Standard Time"!

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Halloween

 I almost carved a pumpkin this year.  I even bought good one (cheap - $3.99).  And I found 2 nice cat designs online.



The 1st looked a bit complicated.  I would have cut off one of the legs or something.  And it might have been interpreted negatively.  I mean, who would approach a door where the pumpkin is "mooning" you?

So I thought maybe the 2nd would be better.  Lots of small cuts rather than a big one, more immediately-identifiable from a distance, and much more friendly-looking.

I only considered it because there are new (but trick-or-treating age) kids next door and across the street.  I haven't had a trick-or-treater knock on my door (or seen any out visiting other houses) for 15 years.  But then it occurred to me that I didn't have any suitable treats (loose unpackaged Sweet-Tarts that I keep in a jar didn't seem appropriate).

So I decided not to bother.  I usually just keep the house dark on Halloween these days anyway.  So I decided not to bother carving a pumpkin.

Then, just before dark, I realized I had some candy safe to hand out.  I have Lindor truffles in mil-chocolate hazelnut, white chocolate, and extra dark chocolate.  

And I do  have a couple of costumes I could wear.  One is a wizard outfit I made 2 decades ago.  Black cloth, sleeves draping at the wrist, iron-on shapes of moon/sun/stars/comets, etc.  But it is kind of awkward to wear.  I also have a kind of cowboy outfit.  Boots, vest, gambler-style hat.  But I also used to collect T-shirts.  Weird ones!  I used to wear them to the office on Casual Friday.  One is covered with tarantulas.  I decided that was easiest to wear and appropriate to the holiday.

So there I was.  House lights on, uncarved pumpkin at the front door, Lindor milk chocolate/hazelnut for kids and extra dark chocolate for the adults, dressed in tarantulas.

Not one trick-or-treater showed up!  Again...  

Do any of you still get trick-or-treaters?  Or is the holiday dead now (for door-to-door visits)?


[Edited to add:  "Mark's Mew's is temporarily offline.  Google has locked it for "violating community standards".  I have no idea why (what can be offensive about a cat blog?) but I have asked for a "review" and hope to hear from them soon.  It is very distressing.]

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

The Deck Garden

I've shown pics of my deck garden in the past.  I grow various lettuces, celery, and pak choy.  Most of them are "cut and come again".  But eventually, they wear out and die, so I have to plant again.

So I planted all again a few weeks ago.  They are doing great.  They grow fast in warm weather and don't mind cool temperatures when they are mature.  I will have to take them inside (under lights when the first hard frost is predicted) but the current Weather Channel forecast says that will be a couple more weeks.

The late "first hard freeze" is amazing.  It used to be in late October, but in the past decade it has gotten later by 2 weeks on average.  And this year will be a week later than average.  My trees and shrubs are finding the change difficult to adjust to (my newer plantings are from what was a zone further south years ago).

But my deck garden loves it.  They don't know the date of course and have no knowledge of previous years; all they know is that the temperature suits them.  They are growing quickly.

The lettuces et al were like this 2 weeks ago...


Now they are this:

The celery doesn't make true stalks here. but it is the stronger-tasting leaves I like anyway.


The lettuces are thriving.

The pak choy leaves are for wrapping contents in my Spring Rolls.  The leaves add some flavor, but mostly the prevent the contents from poking holes in the wrapper.

I am looking forward to a new batch of "cut and come again".  


Monday, October 31, 2022

Mowing The Leaves

So, yesterday, I was ready to mow the leaves to add to the compost bin.  It went easily, though I thought the mower would shred the leaves more than it did.  It acted more like a vacuum cleaner that a shredder.   I expected some bulk but not so much.  But to avoid carrying the collection bag to the compost bin every 5 minutes, I brought out a big trash barrel to collect it in and drag that to the compost bin.  

A path of mowing from the barrel and back filled the bag.  The barrel held 3 bags.  So I would bring the barrel to the bin, dump it, and spread it evenly (about 6").  Then added kitchen waste from the other bin on top.  Then added 4 buckets of the grinded tree roots on that.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.  Literally, 3 layers of each!  I filled the 2nd bin to the top.  At 4'x4'x4", it should heat up nicely even over Winter.  


The 1st bin (where I had been dumping kitchen scraps for 2 years) was almost emptied.  There is some stuff left, but because of tree roots, I have to get the last 6" loose with my mini electric tiller.



So, all in all, it turned out great!  It has been a while since I collected enough plant material to fill either bin.  I'll check to see if the temperature is rising in a couple weeks (it takes a while to get going).  I might have usable compost by Summer.




Wow!

 Now, THAT IS A HOLIDAY SHIRT!