Friday, July 1, 2022

Let Us Grow Lettuce, He Said Crisply

The lettuce planters on the deck continue to grow new leaves after I harvest them.  I love that.

They got limp after a dry spell but recovered nicely.

 I do have to have salad with my dinner...

Wednesday, June 29, 2022


 It has become the time when flowers start blooming.  

Snow On The Mountain...

Star-Gazer Lillies (no fragrance but upright blooms).

And it is going to get better...

Unfortunately, the Poison Ivy is thriving too.  I'll have to spray carefully...

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Garden Enclosure Repairs

 I finally got at the broken garden enclosure PVC/conduit pipe frame the other day.  It was harder than I expected.  The problem with re-attaching 10' pipes is that you really need to be at both ends at once, and my reach doesn't go that far.

So, I had to make supports at one end to attach the other.  2 ladders involved.  And the far end kept slipping off the support.  It was sort of maddening, and a few times the pipes just fell on me.  But when things fall, you just pick them up and try again.  

What do you do then?  Try again.

I didn't want to use PVC cement too often.  Friction holds them pretty well and allows pulling them apart again if required.  But many of the connections were broken enough to really require cementing.  That in itself was awkward.  The cement comes in a can with a built-in brush.  But using too much melts the PVC.  So you have to wipe the brush almost clean.

Standing on a stepladder, holding the PVC pipes generally in place, and then wiping the cement brush around the PVC pipes is not easy.  But all you have to do is succeed once for each one and I managed.  

It went from...

There are some more connections to replace at the sides, but the center one was the hardest and most important.  There is only so much you can do in one day.  

I have to mention that it took more than 2 hands.  Sometimes people don't think about other parts of their bodies.  I supported PVC tubes on my shoulders, lifted chicken wire with my head, and even stuck one PVC tube supported with my suspenders at one point.  Whatever works, LOL!

Next to do, the PVC sides and the chicken wire top...

Monday, June 27, 2022

I Am Back

I went offline for a few days because I was angry and didn't want to inflict that on friends.   I am very political in some ways, but it is more personal views than organized politics.  I am not a member of any political organization.  Well, OK, I am registered as a Democrat.  Maryland US is a very definite Democratic State, and I want to vote in the Primaries.  

I have strong political/social views.  Always have.  When I was 10, I was allowed to stay up late to watch the Nixon/Kennedy debates in 1960.  Then in 1964, I supported Goldwater because the Democrats were just dithering about Vietnam and Goldwater said he would settle it.  I was 14, what did I know?  

In 1968, I went off to college (safe from the draft) but demonstrated against the increasing warfare (to no purpose as I saw it).  The body bags were coming home...

And I hated Nixon.  He lied and cheated.  I didn't know worse was to come with Reagan and Trump.  Today, I would take Nixon over Trump any day.  But you never know what the future will be when you are in the present in the past.

I screamed and yelled when Gore was denied the Presidency for reasons I considered cheating.  Probably slightly the same as Trump supporters do now.  But Gore conceded after the courts decided against him.  Trump did and does not.  So there are differences in accepting "the rule of law".

Which brings me to today.  I had "anger issues" in the past.  I spent my time on yelling and screaming sites into the early 2000s.  I punched a few holes is those cheap Luan doors I have (had them replaced later).  

I left those sites and I left the anger.  I started following a few calmer sites.  Max The PsychoKitty, a book discussion site (Clan Of The CaveBear) which focussed on the story and facts about 20,000 BCE.  A site that discussed religions factually (which was surprisingly calming, as it forced rational replies).

Last week, the US Supreme Court approved anyone carrying concealed guns.  I have concerns about guns.  I can argue about what a "well-regulated militia" means regarding the 2nd amendment.  But I did not "lose it then".

I "lost it" Friday morning upon hearing the the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade.  After the leaked draft opinion a couple months ago, I thought it would have to alter the opinion because of what I (personally) thought were serious errors and was in opposition to the know general will of the population.

I really just didn't think they would do it!

I threw the radio across the room, scattering backup batteries everywhere.  Talk about "blaming the messenger" (sigh)...  I wanted to yell and shout here.  I stopped myself...  I decided to go offline for a few days to not say anything to upset friends.  It took several days to calm down.

I am no less angry, but I am back in control of it.  Being angry won't change the Supreme Court decision.  I will focus on future political actions.

I was wrong.  And I shouldn't have been surprised.  We have a very conservative Supreme Court now.  But I am not going to argue about it here.  I don't want Cavebear's Lair to be a political debate venue.

So while my first instinct was to yell and scream about the decision, I decided to avoid doing that.  You are all too important to me as long-standing friends.

I apologize for upsetting you all with the too-brief post saying I would be gone for an undetermined time.  I wasn't sure how long it would take.  But it was all I could say at the time.  Best to stay offline a few days than to post something I might regret for months or years.  

Friday, June 24, 2022

 I will be offline for the immediate future.

A Day Of Small Tasks

Yesterday my lower back wasn't bothering me and  my right knee wasn't feeling stiff, so I spent the day doing constant but light work.  Well, I didn't want to stress my back of knee (give them another day of rest).  It was mostly clean-up stuff like collecting broken 6-packs of seedling planting pots, slow-speed kitchen and bathroom cleaning, watering houseplants, gathering up scattered cat toys, etc.  It is good for the body to just stay mildly active sometimes.  

But I did get a few more serious  things taken care of:

1.  One of the more important things was to straight the bent electrical conduit pipes that fit inside the PVC tubes for the frame of my garden enclosure.  That may seem like serious work, but it is more tedious than physically hard.  It is most just getting some leverage.

I stuck one end of the metal conduit (which is thin compared to real iron pipe though not exactly flexible) under the trail hitch of the riding lawn mower and set a cinder block a few feet out.  Mild body weight was enough to bend part of it straighter again.  Then turned the pipe around and did it again.  Repeated that for the 4 bent conduit pipes.  Then moved the cinder block a little further away and did the middle part.  

They aren't perfect, but they are "straight enough".  They are just there to keep the 10' lengths of PVC tube from sagging.  I had to use PVC for the framing because the connections were complex at spots.  PVC has more connection options than electrical metal conduit (like this)...

1" White 5-Way Furniture Grade PVC Fitting

The image is upside down to show all the connections.  The top one actually is used pointing down to attach a support pole to the ground.  The others hold ceiling poles to support the chicken wire covering the top of the enclosure.  

2.  Then I had to figure out what broken PVC and connecters I needed to replace.  To my relief, I only need 3 straight-line connectors and some new PVC cement and 3' of straight PVC tube.  The parts broke at angles that can be cemented back into place.  

Then I can roll the chicken wire back over the top and sides.  Actually, that will be harder than it sounds.  First, vines have grown up the sides and connected in fallen chicken wire and they all need to bu pruned away a few inches at a time.  I've done some of it, but it is slow work and I'll leave that for next week.

Second, part of the reason the top chicken wire collapsed was that the stuff is 4' wide, so there are 5 strips of it over the tops and sides.  I had clips holding them together, but they were weak.  They really need to be "sewn" together with aluminum wire.  I didn't do that when I built the enclosure and meant to every year after.  This time I will.

3.  I've been cutting apart old overgrown shrubs along the fence where I have a long 50' straight flowerbed of perennials and The Mews Memorial Garden.  I don't do too much at a time.  It takes a lot of twisting and bending, and too much of that causes muscle cramps and stiffness.  But I have the trailer stacked about as high as I can safely tie down, so I will be off to the County Recycling Center some Saturday soon.  

They pile up yard debris to make mulch/compost.  If I go on a Saturday, I can get the trailer loaded with it for free, and I have plenty of places to use it.  I could go there any Saturday, but I feel slightly guilty if I'm not providing fresh material.  LOL!

4.  Planted 2 cherry tomatoes in a large pot on the deck.  Well, 2 grew in one small pot, so rather than damage their roots separating them, I just planted them as one.  They are draped over the lower rails.  To ease the bending, I stuck foam tubing on the rail boards. The stuff is actually insulation for putting around hot water pipes to reduce heat loss, but I have a talent for "repurposing" leftover stuff.  I try to help my plants as much as possible!

5.  My meadow bed has wild grass growing in it, which competes with the flowers.  Since I went to a lot of effort to plan 40 seedling and transplanted 8 existing Black-eyed Susans there a couple weeks ago (and they seem to be getting established - at least none have died), I wanted to think of a way to help them a bit.  Well, I collect a lot of thin cardboard from cat food trays from the stores.  So I cut them into 10" squares.  I'll cut a 2" hole in the center and a slot to one edge.  Then I'll slip them around the seedlings to smother weeds/grass.

6.  Mowed the daffodil bed.  In previous years, weeds and grass grew over the Summer.  I've tried covering the area with black plastic sheeting for several years (after the daffs died back), but it collected rainwater and mosquitos bred there so I kept having to poke holes for drainage.  It finally got too brittle from U/V rays and ripped apart.  This time, I'll cover it with black water-permeable fabric.  It is more U/V resistant and lets water sink through.  But that's for "next week" too.


After that, it was making dinner, watching The January 6th Insurrection House Committee Report summary/analysis on MSNBC, and processing some pics off the camera.  

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

A Nice Morning

I got up really early yesterday (for me, 9 am).  It was nice outside.  Fed The Mews and we all (except for Ayla of course) went outside.   Cool and calm...

Walked around the backyard and they followed me.  Not in a trail, but generally around me.  They like it when I am outside with them.  Too often, when I am outside, they can't be (lawn mower, open gates, etc).

But not this time.  I followed them around.  Marley knows his territory well and never leaves it.  Laz is a bit more explorish, but stays inside the backyard "usually" (he sometimes seeks mice in the front yard but understands the street is dangerous and stays away from it).  Lori barely wanders the backyard but will follow Laz "some".  I could see Ayla sitting inside on the bathroom windowsill.  

So I was there just watching them walk around.  And wherever I went, they did too.  Not like they were at my feet, but they generally stayed "near", like 20-30'.  So I was under the backyard Saucer Magnolia tree and laid down on the "needs-to-be-mowed" lawn and looked up at it for about 5 minutes.  It was a nice change of view...

And suddenly realized that The Mews were all sitting within a few feet of me!  Not snuggling close like in bed, just sitting around me some few feet away, ya know?  

Beautiful happy cats, all unique in some ways, getting along, enjoying their lives here, happy to be around me...

I must be the luckiest Cat-Daddy on Earth.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Fathers Day (Late), But Other Stuff

First, Happy day-late Fathers Day to all Dads out there.  Since I am not one myself (unless you count The Mews), and my own Dad is deceased,I tend to forget it most years.  I mentioned it on The Mews blog around mid-day (when I finally realized it), but didn't post here then because I was busy.

Second, the "busy" was cooking chicken thighs in the smoker.  It was a total coincidence.  Last time I used it was late October.  Well, I've been learning to use the air-fryer since then.  But I bought 10 chicken thighs Friday, drowned them in dry rub overnight Sat/Sun and started the smoker up at Noon.  Naturally, a stiff wind sprung up after I started, so I had to spend more time than usual just making sure things were safe.

And I am safe.  Hose on and ready to use, welding gloves, long tongs, bucket of water below the incoming air vent (in case a bit of charcoal falls out through it), and the skoker is visible through the kitchen window while I am doing work inside.

Lori spent most of the time inside.  She was out when I started, but she likes to jump onto the smoker (she has never experienced it being hot).  And when she made a move on the deck rails toward it, I put her inside.  Like I said "safe".

The chicken turned out well.  I've read that all the smoke you are going to get into the meat happens in the first hour.  So I give it 2 hours and then finish it at 225F.  I can safely say you will never see me on one of the outdoor cooking contests, LOL!

Third, have had 2 minor but annoying wounds recently.  Contacted the Fry Daddy Friday night while making shrimp rolls.  It hurt at the time, but seemed to stop quickly.  Next morning, I discovered a blister the size of a grape.  Right between my right thumb and forefinger, and that was an awkward spot.  I soaked a needle in mouthwash (cheap sanitation) and popped it.  Don't go all "ick".  It is just broken cell contents.  

I dried it with a tissue, dapped some Triple Ointment on it and put a large flexible band-aid on it.  The band-aids hold against water, but not soap, so I've gone through 6 of them.  I leave it exposed when I can (heals faster), but it is a spot that gets brushed often in regular daily activities.  So it is annoying.

I also found a splinter in a finger.  Not anything important in itself, but I kept picking at it.   And when I finally got it out it wouldn't stop bleeding!  That is unusual for me.  I get a shot, they put a bandaid over it and it is clean when I take it off.  I cut a minor cut (I do live a wild life, LOL!) and a wipe ends the bleeding.  So this was odd.  So I end up with bandaids on 2 places on the same hand.  

Fourth, I have 2 digital kitchen probe thermometer/timers and 2 digital non-timing thermometers.  All of a sudden, none worked!  Three of them have batteries I can replace (love those rechargeable batteries).  One has a special battery.  I hate those round one-use batteries.  One registered the house temperature as 200F.  2 wouldn't display at all, and the last has to be tapped a few times to display.

Four all at once going bad?  That is like lottery ticket odds.  And none were especially accurate before.   I tested then all a few weeks ago (using a crushed ice/water slurry and then boiling water).  One of the digital kitchen probe thermometer/timers was 4F low and the other was 4F high.  I could deal with that putting labels on each.  

The 2 digital non-timing thermometers are more problematic.  One is WAY crazy and the other keeps changing the display 4F at a time.  The way crazy one needs the special round battery; the other uses an AAA baterry.  Replacing it didn't change anything.  Actually, I suspect the cabled probes have failed.  I'll have to see if new probes are cheaper than whole new thermometers.

Fifth, I bought an electric lawn mower a few years ago.  It was awful.  It has 2 batteries and each lasts about 5 minutes for light work.  So I bought a much better one (Ryobi self-propelled).  Each of the 2 batteries last about 30 minutes (self-propel takes energy), but it was worth it.  I only used it for trimming work.

But right after the warrantee expired, I hit something that caused the blade to stop turning.  I suppose the is a shear pin in there somewhere.  I keep planning to disassemble the blade connections and look for one, and I keep not doing it.  There is always something more urgent to do.  There is a mower repair shop nearby that mentions they repair electric mowers.  I should just bring it to them and pay to get it fixed.  I really miss the self-propelled feature (forward AND reverse).

Sixth, I got the 40 meadow flower seedlings planted days ago.  They all seem to be thriving and I can't wqait to see what they grow and bloom into.  But I strained my back and knees doing it.  Limped around for 3 days.  I'm finally feeling better today, so I guess I can go out and do something else to mess myself up again.  The garden enclosure that was damaged in heavy snow last January (oddly can't recall if that was this year or the previous) keeps calling out for attention.

Seventh, speaking of the garden enclosure, the problem is that the electrical conduit pipe I inserted in the PVC pipe was bent and in a couple places, the PVC connections actually broke.  FYI, the metal pipe was for strength; the PVC was for the convenient complex connections not available for the metal.  

It was all my fault.  Several years ago, a snowfall bent them slightly.  But I was able to straighten them in place.  So I added temporary supports at all the half-points on the top.  They are at awkward places in the garden, so the plan was to put them up in early Winter.  I didn't last year (was it 2 years ago?).  And when the forecast was for 2" of snow one night, I didn't worry about it.  But we got 8"!  Everything bent.

I never remember to keep the camera in my pocket, so no pics of the bent pipes...  😞

Well, any way, I was walking the yard and looked at the bent metal pipes and decided I was never going to fix the garden enclosure if I didn't straighten the metal conduit first.  How do that was uncertain.  But I tried sticking one end on the pipe under the shed It sits on cinder blocks).  That worked a bit but not completely because the ground was too sloped for full bending.  So I carried a cinder block to the other shed and put a pipe end under the riding mower trailer hitch and over the cinder block.  That worked.

Not that the metal conduits are as straight as when I bought them, but it was close enough.  That didn't help my back much, but now all I need is a PVC 4-way connector, 3' of PVC pipe (to replace what I had to cut off), and connectors to join the new short pieces.

I am considering buying serious black iron pipe.  A bit expensive, but snow wouldn't bend that.  I'll give the electrical conduit (with additional supports) another heavy snow before I try the black iron.

Eighth, I almost forgot about shaving my head.  Meagan asked why.  Well, several reasons.  I got tired of trimming my hair myself.  And I don't like going to the barber recently.  There are always a few people who just won't wear masks.  The last visit (last Fall), there was a guy coughing and maskless and I asked him about a mask.  

He was an anti-vaxxer.  Said he was a professional "pharmacueticalist" and that zinc and Vitamin C worked fine.  I said I doubted that, in the face of all the professional research and he got angry.  So I just said "no fight here" because he was leaving.  But I kept my mask on for a while until I had to take it off so the barber could shave around my ears.

The barber is a nice guy, but he isn't going to argue with anyone.  So I haven't been back since.  And so, I decided to just eliminate the need to visit at all.  Shaved my head...

Not like I still had a lot.  I was bald on the top anyway.  Not much to lose.

That odd thing is that my baseballs hats feel odd on my scalp.  I tightened each a notch and that helped them fit better.

Friday, June 17, 2022

A Slight Change In Appearance

A few weeks ago, I bought a hair grooming kit.   I had been using my electric razor trimming cutter to trim my own hair because I didn't want to go to a barber for haircuts (requires removing my mask).  The razor was awkward to use myself.

So I bought a trimming kit.  Naturally, right after buying it, I decided to eliminate the need.

Last week, I looked like this...

Not much hair, but some.  I really got annoyed with it tickling my ears.

And, oddly, a large impacted sebaceous gland on my head went away.

So I got bored bothering with hair.  Today, I look like this...

"Smooth and shiny", LOL!

Hats feel funny, but I'll get used to it.

I tossed the cut hair into my compost bin.

But wondered how long that would take.  So I went internetting and found this...  And note the interesting right sidebar about cats and dogs.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Cat Toy Stash And Meadow Planting

First, after posting Monday about figuring out the loss of cable service, I realized I had a couple of pictures that I could have used.  To get at the TV surge protector (to check the cable connections), I had to pull out my stereo rack (yeah I still have old stuff like that).    Well, I discovered 1) that I hadn't cleaned under there for a long time and 2)  Lori has been losing toys under there for a long time!

This is probably a better picture...

BTW, those wheels are a stand to ease rolling out the stereo rack.  I need to get in behind it and do some cable-checking; the stereo isn't working.  It is probably a failed controller box, but I need to hook up each device to the speakers individually to be sure.  I miss having high quality music!

Second, I planted the 40 meadow bed seedlings.  I tried making the holes with a bulb plasnter, but the soil was too hard.  Fortunately, I have an auger that fits into a drill.  Not my own drill and auger, but you get the idea...

That made things easier.  The seedling company suggests randomly planting the seedlings, but since they were of very different heights and it is a small "meadow",  I grouped the largest in the center and the smaller around the edge.  It took a while, and I was pretty tired afterwards.  All that bending over to drill and plant and backfill soil around seedlings is hard on my back and knees these days.  But I got it all done and then set a sprinkler to soak the bed for 2 hours.  

I do what I can to make things easier.  I wear kneepads, wear gloves, and keep an upturned bucket near to use as a support standing back up.  BTW, baseball gloves are great for gardening!  The leather is thin but tough and supple.  They give enough protection from small thorns and dried holly leaves, but you can still feel what you are holding.  If you have a gardener on your gift list, give them a try.

No pictures of that.  Forty 6" seedlings in a 30'x15' bed just don't show up.  I'll wait for flowers.  And there are other flowers in the bed.  I transplanted 8 Black-eyed-Susans from where I later planted the 11 heirloom tomatoes (in new disease-free soil).  Plus, I broadcast a large packet of native wildflowers in mid-May.  Hopefully, it will all be worth it later this year and for some years to come.

Third, after cooling off inside for a half hour, I decided to plant some beans.  Kind of late in the season, but I will get some Sept and Oct.  Even that took work.  I have invasive periwinkle wines  and had to pull many out of the bed and around it.  But it will be worth it to have fresh Italian Flat Beans again.  The canned ones are too soft and salty.

Fourth, still more to do.  My Bok Choy planter succumbed to aphids and some sort of tiny gnat inside.  There are various kinds.  Fungus gnats, drainage gnats, fruit gnats.  I read that the gnats get in when you open a door (and you can't see them) and that most of them find any damp soil with organic matter.  

There are yellow sticky sheets that attract and hold them.  I found  20 sheets of the sticky stuff (and they are double-sided) at Amazon for $9, but I'm sure they are available elsewhere.  I have caught thousands.

I was going to say I can't figure out how the aphids find my inside plants, but I looked up their life-cycle.  Sure enough, there is a winged phase in Spring!  OK, next year, I am going to drape fine-mesh garden fabric over the planters.  Let's see them get through THAT!

If there are aphids in the planters next year, then there were eggs in the planter soil.

Next project is to shallowly till the soil around the Saucer Magnolia in the front yard.  The daffodils have died back, so it is safe for the bulbs.  I will scatter a packet of "deer-resistant" flower seeds in the disturbed soil and see what happens.  

Always something to do.  And I haven't even mentioned in-house stuff.

First Flowers Of The Year

Pictures of first flowers of the year:

Snow On The Mountain...

Don't recall the name...

Maltese Cross...



Stella D'Oro Lilies...

And I have 12 Butterfly Weed (that butterflies love) growing from last year's plantings.  I thought they failed to grow last year.  They take 2 years to flower.  This is the 2nd year are they are thriving!  

Deck Pots:  

Stargazer Lilies still blooming after 10+ years...

I went cheap this year on the deck pot annuals.  Lowe's (big box store) had a great sale and I bought "enough".


Pink Dianthus...

Red Dianthus...

Two pots of each of those dianthus.  And as a connecting theme, each has an orange Marigold in the center.  

I usually grow my own, but I got behind on the schedule again this year.  And Walmart was selling 6-packs of dianthus for $2 each.  Hard to beat that.  Still, I think they will look interesting in a month...

I'll try to get fancier next year, LOL!

Let Us Grow Lettuce, He Said Crisply

The lettuce planters on the deck continue to grow new leaves after I harvest them.  I love that. They got limp after a dry spell but recover...