Thursday, November 30, 2023

Ayla's Special Spot

 TBT:  Not my usual kind of post...

I have never been so reluctant to bury a cat in the Memorial Garden.  Or had so much trouble trying to do so.  And I have to relate a sad story.

I recall doing it for Iza in Summer 2020 and it took some effort then.  Not the burying (with love and respect) but the mechanical difficulty.  It is not easy to dig a hole 2' deep and 2' across in hard soil.  There were some tree roots in the way.  It took an hour of cutting through and Iza's death was new, so I was crying all the time.  

This dig for Ayla is harder.  There is a neighbor's tree just across the fence and the roots have grown larger.  The tree is my fault.  It is a mulberry tree seeded by one I had 20 years ago.  Mulberries are messy.  I cut mine down.  I didn't know at the time that a new one had started in the neighbor's yard.  

The roots have grown through my flowerbeds and the Memorial Garden.  I spent an hour trying to dig the roots for Alya's Special Spot.  The roots of the tree are soft and dont get cut with a shovel.  Or a spade.  Or an ax.  Everything just sort of bounces.  I finally had to crush them with a pruner until they gave up.  

Which still left hard rocky soil underneath.  I soaked the soil to loosen it.  Which left mud.  And I managed to step in the hole.  And because I was in there with one foot, I had to stand in with the other.  And catching the toe on one foot, I fell over.

I just sat there and cried for a few minutes.  Why couldn't the sad task of burying such a beloved cat be "just" a little easier?

But it was obvious I wasn't going to finish digging the site that day.  So I basically crawled out with sore knees and hands pressing down on thorny vines til I reached the lawn.  Took off the muddy workshoes in the basement and went upstairs.

That was 3 days ago.  Yesterday, I cleaned the workshoes.  That may sound odd, but you have to start somewhere.  They were caked with dried mud, but I needed them to stomp on the shovel.  And I kind of thought they ought to be clean for digging more of Ayla's Special Spot.

I got down another foot.  It was ridiculous.  Small rocks everywhere that needed to be pried out one by one.  The wheelbarrow has more soil in it that could possibly come out of the small hole, but it did.

I'm active, but old enough to know when I am over-exerting myself.  The rest of the dig will be tomorrow.  2' deep will be enough.  Her body will rest on a blue towel.  And then I will cover her in the earth I dug out.

So now I have to build the Memorial Marker.  That will be both sad and happy.  Sad for the reason, but a last act of what I can do.  Happy with every sawcut, drilling, and screw in the memory and love of her.  A last act...

I couldn't find a brown resin 10" cat statue like those for Skeeter, LC, and Iza.  But I found a teak one 8" high that has a nice little necklace.  That will have to do.

And then, she will just be there with the previous Mews.  A wooden box on the surface above her with her name in brass letters and a small statue on the top showing she was a cat.  

And all my memories of her...

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Compost Bin

 After turning over the older compost and adding new material to it, the bin is finally heating up. It is 120F now and I expect it to get to 160 in a week or two.  

I had little compost last year (mostly just kitchen scraps).  But even that turned into "soil".  This year's batch will be much better.  

And I am adding more each week.  The English Ivy along the fence is mowable.  And I have 4 trash cans of shredded fallen leaves.  They make a good combination.  Both just grow themselves, LOL!

I am constantly amazed at how a pile of green and dead leaves turn into soil!

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Bulb Planting

 My daffodil bed is all yellow and white.  The red tulips died out a few years ago.  So I decided that purple tulips would look good.  I planted 25 in groups of 5 yesterday.  

Purple Tulips Photograph by Allen Beatty

And I planted 50 hyacinth in groups of 5 in the front yard.  They are unusual-looking. and supposedly deer-resistant.

Muscari 'Night Eyes' bulbs — Buy dark blue grape hyacinths online at ...

I was bit worn out.  The drill auger helped.

Both the purple tulips and the hyacinths will be great to see next Spring.  And the hyacinths will spread fragrance all over the front yard.   It was worth the effort.

Friday, November 17, 2023

The Pansies

 First, here is the spot emtied of the dead tomatoes...

And here is the Winter's Pansy Bed in the same spot.  Might as well use it for something...

That was a lot of plantings for one day!

They are basically triangulated and I tried to not have the same colors next to each other, but I had a LOT of yellow ones.  And they look a bit weak right now (got a bit dried), but I watered them for 15 minutes, so they will perk up tomorrow.  And will grow.

Some had no flowers, so I don't know what color they will be.  That will be fun to watch.

I have saved a dozen for the deck pots...  Some of the best.  You'll see them growing and blooming soon.

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Fire Across The Street

 I was at the computer a few hours ago and heard a dog seeming to be barking in fear.  So I looked out the window.  The toolshed of the neighbors (whom I don't know well) across the street was burning.

I ran for the phone and called 911.  They knew about it.  Said firetrucks were on the way.  Good.  

I pulled my garden hose out hoping it might reach the fire, but I heard the trucks arriving, so I pulled back so as not to bother them.

The toolshed was on fire.  And the shed was next to the house.  The fire spread to the house.  The neighbors have 2 cars.  Both were driven onto the street.  One was badly burned on the back end and there was some concern about the gasoline catching fire.  They were driven/pushed next to a field.

The terrified dog seems to be loose.  It bit one person.  I hope it returns, and more calmly.

Pictures...  Not all of them very good, but I processed all of them slightly.  Perhaps some might be useful to the authorities about the fire.  But I show them all here without regard for duplication.  They are all in time-order though.

There were a dozen fire trucks with lights flashing.

Some of the hoses didn't fill properly at first.  The nearest hydrant is 2 yards away.  Maybe it was blocked from lack of maintenance.  Or they were depending on the watertank trucks.  I don't know.

I saw a firefighter frustrated at not getting water from a tanker truck into a different hose.  He kept trying some levers with no success.

A hose did finally fill.  Maybe 15-30 minutes after first try.  Glad it filled eventually.

There were a LOT of trucks!

The fire-fighters did their usual good job.  I admire those people.  

They got up on the roof and chopped a hole in it.  I assume to let smoke out...

They say no one was in the home at the time.  But they said 1 adult and 2 children lived there.  They are probably wrong about that.  There were 2 cars, I've seen 2 adult women there (driving both cars), and I've seen no children there ever.  

Regarding possible causes for the fire...

I advised one of the firefighters (who seemed to be observing and recording into a phone) of the possible residents and pets.  I advised her that I've never seen the residents lighting a charcoal fire or  using gasoline equipment.  

I also advised her that the residence had been visited by some sort of house and lawn service so there had been gas-powered equipment there that afternoon.  It may not be important, but it might be.

3 hours after it started, the trucks are all gone.  I haven't seen the residents back.  When I do, I will offer help.  What a horrible event for those people!

Monday, November 6, 2023

Compost Bin Plans

 I meant to mention yesterday that if any DIYer or handyman has any questions about details, feel free to email me at cavebear2118 at verizon dot net.  I will be glad to take additional pictures of areas where the existing pics were not as informative as required.  Or explain why I did some particular piece of work.  I've thought of a few improvements...

And I can give some general guidance on composting in general...

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Compost Bins

Marcia mentioned "compost bin envy".  So I thought I would discuss it.  I built a really bad one many years ago.  It kind of just fell sideways...  Who wants a bad compost bin?

So when I decided to build a new one, I gave more thought to structure and support. That time, I drew on paper, saw weaknesses and corrected them.  Sometimes, I can just "build" something, sometimes, there need to be plans...

So that time, I thought in terms of repeatable pieces.  So I thought of 2 backs, 2 outsides and a middle one, all the same.  Easier construction; just make the same thing 5 times.  And since I had a 4' roll of 1/4" wire mesh, that defined the size...

So I made 5 identical frames of 2" framex4" pressure-treated wood and attached the wire mesh.  After looking at them, I decided to add an angled 2"x2" diagonal braces to each.  

The corners are 4'x4" posts, buried about a foot deep.  I dug larger holes for those than required, but it gave me some wiggle room for bad measurements.  Nothing actually ever fits quite like the measurements suggest they will.

The pieces in front had 1" boards to create slots for removable front boards.  So I could slide them up and get at the lower compost.

Then I built hinged tops with more wire mesh in frames.  Those were kind of heavy.   But it occurred to me that counter-weights on the back would balance the weight of the tops.  Two more 2"x4" boards attached to the tops supported 4"x4" posts on the back.

Mike McGrath (former editor of Organic Gardening magazine) had a once a week 5 minute radio spot at the time and mentioned building compost bins.  So I sent him pictures of my new one.  The next week, he mentioned mine saying it was the best one he ever saw!   High praise.

I only mention all this because someone might want to build (or have someone build) a similar one.  It really is a gem.

I posted about the entire process of building it at the time.  If you want to build a similar one, here is the starting link...

It starts at compost-bin-part 1 and moves several posts forward from there.  I hope the explanations of the construction are clear enough.  An average DIYer or handyman can easily follow the steps.

It is easier than it may seem from all the pictures.  I tried to be very detailed about it.

If you build one or have someone build one, I sure would love to see the pictures...

Saturday, November 4, 2023

Busy Lately Outside

It is the end of the outside gardening season.   We had hard freezes 2 night in a row.  I covered the tomato plants because the next 10 nights are forecast to stay above freezing and I was hoping to get a few more tomatoes to ripen.

But they all died.  Well, tomatoes are actually tropical vines.  So I picked all the green ones.  There are some recipes for using them.  Fried in batter is routine, but I saw one for Tomato Parmesan and will try that too.

The Coleus and Mum pots were safely in the house, so they can go back outside for another week.  I will be bringing them and all the salad trays indoors after that to limp them through Winter.  Any color inside and any salad cuttings are good.

I disassembled the tomato bed today.  Not the simplest thing.  Pull out thge cage support stakes, remove the cages, take up all the labels, pull the plants, pull up the black landscaping fabric that kept the weeds smothered.  The fabric is all trash.  It seems to fall apart in 6 months.  

But at least the grassy weeds are all dead this year.  I'll be planting most of the Pansies there next week (a few will go around the mailbox and some in the deck pots this year).  

Did some serious compost bin work the past week (there are 2 bins).  

I bought a self-propelled battery Ryobi mower a few years ago and it is wonderful.  I have it set for mulching, and I can still use the bagger attachment (easy to attach and remove).  I shredded/mowed leaves all over the yard.  

Filled the empty bin 6" deep.  Then filled 4 trash barrels and 2 trash bags with leaves for future use.  There are more leaves in the trees, but I will shred them in place on the lawn as free fertilizer for both grass and trees.

I had too much green stuff for proper composting, so the leaves were nice to add.  Yesterday, I started turning the existing greenish pile into the other bin and mixed it with more shredded leaves 6" at a shot (the layers compress).  Found I had some good worms in the existing pile.

I got half of the old piled moved but it gets tiresome.  So the rest will get moved tomorrow.  Between the existing green stuff (kitchen scraps) and the newly shredded browns (leaves) and watered a bit, the new pile should finally heat up nicely.

I overseeded the lawn a week ago.  The shredded leaves won't bother them when I do that next week.  They will have either germinated or not and they can grow up between the leaf-shreds without difficulty.

Blew all the leaves off the deck.  They don't bother me any, but the cats dislike walking on dry crunchy leaves.  It offends their sense of stealth.  I indulge The Mews.  And the leaves don't do any positive good sitting on the deck.

Put a marinated chicken on the smoker.  Not exactly my old model (fancier shelves), but close enough.

[VERKAUFT] Smoker aus USA: Brinkmann Pitmaster Deluxe | Grillforum und ...

I can never quite get it to fully-cooked in the smoker, but I've read that all the smokey flavor gets in after 2 hours, so I just finish them in the oven.  Sometimes I brush half with BBQ sauce for variety.  I pulled off a whole leg for dinner (with veggies).  It was delicious!

More to do the next few days...

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Halloween And Other Stuff

I don't decorate much for holidays.  Once again, I bought a pumpkin and didn't carve it.  But no kids knocked on the door again, either.  It's been like 15 years.  I saw a couple outside, but they didn't stop here.  I was even wearing my wizard costume.  And I had good treats...  Oh well...

I'll set the pumpkin and 4 orange Mums out on the front doorstep to note the season, though. 

The Mums were cheap from Walmart.  The blooms all died, but I cut the seedheads off and they are re-blooming.  They will look good in 2 weeks, but I will have to bring them inside to escape the freeze predicted tomorrow.

I'm thinking of trying to cover and warm the tomato plants.  There are finally a lot of fruits getting ready to ripen.  Next week, the night temps are going to be warmer, so if I can protect them them for this one frost, they might mature.

Covering the whole bed of them is awkward, but I have a roll of 16' wide black plastic I could place over all the plants like a loose tent.  And a single standard light bulb under the plastic would keep them warm enough.  Anything for a few more ripe heirloom tomatoes!

Spread grass seed over the lawn 2 weeks ago.  They need water to germinate.  The forecasts kept saying it would rain, but it never did.  I watered the lawn with a sprinkler and the missed spots by hand yesterday.  Hopefully, some will germinate.

My compost bin is finally heating up.  Not as it should, but at least it is finally hotter than ambient air temp.  It was very imbalanced and dry.  So I soaked it, mulched and bagged lawn leaves and layered them.  Should start heating up seriously soon.

I need more earthworms in the compost bin.  I recall my Dad used to put plastic sheet in a clear ground area that encouraged earthworms to the surface.  He was doing that for fishing bait.  I'm doing that to encourage composting.


Friday, October 27, 2023

Marley And the Sub Q Teatment

A few readers here are not cat-people or at least not familiar with some specific cat-problems.  So I'll mention that Marley has some kidney issues and needs subcutaneous fluid injection 2x a week and a special diet.  The vet will do the injections at no cost (though I have to buy the bag of fluids, but bringing him to the vet place 2x a week is a pain.

They said it wasn't that hard to do it myself.  I doubted that, but after watching them do it several times, I decided I could.  But I wanted to do it a couple times under their supervision.  The first time, I spoke the steps out loud while mimicking the procedure with the equipment.  

They said I had it right.  So I did it myself in the clinic 2x while they watched.  I passed, and have been doing it myself since mid-September.  It helps that Marley is a calm tolerant cat.

It has been an odd experience.  I don't mind getting annual flu and covid shots at all myself.  But doing it to a pet feels different.  Thankfully, it is not a muscle shot.  You lift up the scruff of the neck and insert a needle under the skin but above the flesh.

A hanging bag drips fluid into the loose area.  I hold Marley and the needle with a folded washcloth and watch the bag drip through a tube to the needle.  The better-positioned the needle is, the faster it drips.  The faster it drips, the shorter Marley has to sit unmoving.  There are markings on the fluid bag for each dose and a clamp to open or pinch the dripline tube.

It isn't expensive.  A monthly bag costs only $40 and the tubing and needles are included.  At least cost is not an issue.

That's the theory.  The "fun" part is that the needle has to be changed every time.  The needle comes with a protective plastic cover.  It is easy to put a new one on the tube.  The needle fits on easily and there is a plastic screw at the base that tightens easily.  

It's getting the old one off that is a problem.  I've tried several ways.  First, I just pulled.  Then I pried with a screwdriver.  Finally I used needle-nose pliers.  I've "only" stabbed a finger 3 times out of 12 injections...  


OK, I've gotten better about that.  But I was really stupid at first.  I was throwing away the protective cap after I attached the new needle.  So it occurred to me to save the protective cap.  😂

That helped.  Though, to make it even safer, I got the idea of taking a 2" 90 degree metal support bracket.

Prime-Line MP9221 Angle Corner, 2", Steel Construction, Zinc Plated, 4-Hole Bracket, 10pk - image 1 of 2

I'll cut a slot through the top hole and screw it to the subQ station I've set up.

Then just set the needle base in the slot and pull it safely off.

I have plenty of things to do on my workbench and outside, but after getting stabbed a 3rd time on Thursday, it went way higher on my list!  LOL!  I mean, that is a used needle, and it doesn't take much pressure to get stabbed 1/4" deep.

I seem to be pretty immune to general infections and I heal quickly.  But I'd be a fool to tempt fate...  Anything I can think of doing to make the subQ injections easier and safer is high on my To Do list!

Marley will go back to the vet for a blood test in 3 months to see how much the injections are helping.  I have been told it can keep him relatively healthy and happy for several years. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Light Frost Predicted

It was predicted to get down to the high 30f last night and I'm not sure what temp the coleus will withstand, So I brought them inside for the night.  Those shower curtain hooks make them a lot easier to grab and take off the hangers.  All next week is going to be warmer, so I'll put them back out later today.

I moved the deck pots close to the house.  Residual house-warmth should keep them going.  I cut the balsams at ground level,  They aren't blooming any more.  But I saved the seed pods in a jar.  I don't know if the seeds will bloom but I'll toss them around in early Spring in case they do.

Saved some dried Tithonia seedheads too.  They are supposed to be annual repeat self-seeders, so they should.  Both are in labeled jars in the basement fridge.  It all multiple flowers all Summer and Fall.  I could enjoy more of them.

The deckpot marigolds are showing off well.  After I saved the Balsam seedpods, I cut them off and soil level, so the pots are all marigold.  When they die back, I will add the pansies.  Ans I have enough pansies for several places.  

This is before I cut off the dying Balsam, but you can see the marigolds in there.

Most of the Pansies will go where the tomatoes are now.  They will be dying soon.  A whole bed of 60 is nice all Winter..  Other pansies will go in the deck pots after the marigolds succumb to the cold.  And some will surround the mailbox.  Flowers in Winter are amazing!

I think I will try to keep the Coleus thriving inside.  I will add some ceiling hooks near the deck doors and see if they will last a bit longer.  The deck faces South, so they will get some sun.  I might even add a grow light above them.

Ayla's Special Spot

  TBT :  Not my usual kind of post... I have never been so reluctant to bury a cat in the Memorial Garden.  Or had so much trouble trying to...