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Back to life

My blog has been dormant far too long.  I have found myself deeply embroiled in family, in making art, and in remodeling the house and gardens.  I think it is high time I rejoined the blogging world.DSCF8968

This is a native bumblebee on a lanceleaf coreopsis.  It was taken in the new prairie garden, which I began working on in 2016 soon after Dollar General built a new store adjacent to our property.  When they did that, they also built a fabulous privacy fence which serves as an admirable backdrop for the new prairie garden.

We have been on an odyssey of home update the last month.  This is a continuation of the quest to make our home salable when we finally decide to sell out when we need to downsize.  Last year we totally remodeled the main bathroom, and MAN does it ever look good!

When I had my hip replaced that bathroom was so cramped I could not even get my walker in there.  Fortunately the vanity had a counter I could lean on in order to get to the toilet, but that certainly was not ideal.  Getting a wheelchair in there was impossible.  Well, it is no secret that neither one of us is getting any younger, and “things” have a way of happening. When we decided to remodel that bathroom we wanted to make it handicapped accessible.  Just in case.

In order to accomplish that feat, we had to borrow space from the guest bedroom by changing its closet into bathroom space.  As there was no one using it, that was no big deal.  Well, except for the part where we had to move the filing cabinet that lived there into the family room.  Anyway, a bedroom without a closet is no longer a bedroom, it is an office or a bonus room.  In order to make this a three bedroom house again, we needed to provide that room with a closet.

Hence the big remodeling project.  We put a wall all the way across the family room in front of the existing wall and cut holes in the hall wall and the bedroom wall to form closets.  At the end of the new closet in the bedroom, we made a nook that has a built in desk.  After all that, we painted the new walls and closets.  Having the wall with the closet and desk painted and not the rest of the room made it look very tacky indeed, and since all the stuff was mostly out of the room we decided we would paint the old surfaces too.

Now, in my life I have painted a LOT of things: new construction, remodels, apartments that are being re-tenanted. I know what the procedure is.  If you are painting new construction, you wipe all the surfaces down with a damp or tacky cloth to remove the dust.  If it is old construction, you must wash the walls thoroughly.  The best stuff to use to wash old walls is Trisodium phosphate, TSP for short.  It has the virtue of etching old paint and getting it ready to receive a new layer at the same time that it is removing grease, grime, mold, sometimes the old paint, and the detritus of everyday living.  After you wash the walls, it is important to also rinse them down as well, to remove the last residue and the TSP that stays on the wall.

If you are painting new construction, it is a very good idea to prime the surface before you apply the paint to it.  That way, the relatively inexpensive primer will fill the pores of the sheetrock, or sheetrock mud, or wood, rather than the comparatively expensive paint you use for color and decor.  Also, the paint will adhere to the primer better than to the porous surface beneath.

If you do not do the crucial step of cleaning the surface you are going to paint, your paint will not stick to the wall.  Or it might stick, but it will not have a good bond with the old surface you have just covered with paint, and it may bubble up later on.

I am also a believer that when you are going to paint, you should use the highest quality paint you can afford, because your results will look better and last longer.  Accordingly, I went off to our local paint emporium and purchased the highest quality semi gloss latex paint they carried, had it tinted to my specifications and brought it home.

I spent several hours washing the walls of the back bedroom.  During that process I discovered that the last person who painted in there had used some sort of exceedingly cheap paint.  While I was washing the walls to remove grime, I also was removing large sections of paint as well.  I scrubbed hard, using a green scotch pad, and rinsed dutifully.  When the area was dry, I got out my sand paper and I sanded all the area as smooth as I could to feather out the edges of the existing paint.  Jim put some primer on the area, and also in a corner where there had been some particularly dirty issues more recently.  While he was doing that, some of the existing latex paint bubbled up and separated from the wall.

We scraped that mess off, and discovered that the wall under the bubbling old paint had been moldy when painted, and definitely had not been washed.  Or anything.  Well, we thought we had identified all the problem areas and corrected them, and proceeded to put the first layer of paint on the wall last night.  No problems.

Today, it was time for the second coat and the ceiling. While I was painting the walls and the trim around the windows and the baseboards, Jim painted the ceiling, bless him.  A couple of hours later  we had finished the job and stepped back to admire our work.  I began to clean up, taking the brushes off to the kitchen to clean them, and the paint pan, and roll up the drop cloth.  All that stuff, you know, that you do when a big job well done is completed.

I stepped back to admire the newly painted walls and saw a horrible sight developing right before my eyes.  As I watched, bubbles were forming on my newly painted wall where the new paint had adhered to the old paint and that old paint had decided that being washed and rinsed and sanded was not enough to loosen it, but my $40/gallon paint was certainly able to do that job.

I know exactly what is under that brand new paint and the old paint.  More mildew and dirt.  Tomorrow I will have to take my scraper back in there and scrape off my brand new paint in all the areas it bubbled up, and then WASH that old wall clean, sand the edges to feather them out, prime the area and paint it all again.  I know I have to do this because the lovely guys at the paint emporium instructed me on how to address this situation.

We had an interesting conversation about it, actually.  Apparently, there are a large number of people who think that if you want to paint a wall you just buy some paint and paint the wall.  Then they come to the paint emporium and complain that the paint isn’t performing the way they expect it to, i.e. bubbling up and/or peeling off.  Cleaning the wall never occurred to them.  And apparently, hairspray is a particularly egregious thing to not clean off your walls before you repaint them.  Who knew?  Certainly not me, I never use the stuff.  In fact, the only time I have ever used hairspray in my life was to stabilize salsify seed heads so they could be used in flower arrangements.

I am pretty sure I know exactly what the scenario was vis a vis this situation.  This house was on the market, and the Realtor came by to look it over.

“Oh my goodness,” she exclaimed, as she looked around the back bedroom.  “This place will never sell with that mold growing on the walls.  You need to do something about that PDQ.”

And so, the lovely homeowner bustled over to Walmart and purchased the absolutely cheapest paint she could find, came home and slapped it up on the wall without any preparation whatsoever. Problem solved.

Until now.  I’m telling you, I am not harboring particularly loving feelings towards the person who provided me with this trap to deal with.  But deal with it I shall.

People just amaze me sometimes.

dormant

Blogging just isn’t working for me any more.  It is a combination of a lot of things.  I am too busy and lazy to go around and visit other blogs, so they don’t bother with me.

I have been off air for way too long.  The habit of following me has fallen by the wayside.

It seems like people find other social media too seductive and easy to bother with blogs.

And so I am putting this blog to rest for the time being.

Sayonara

DSCF6652My mother died on May 5.  I took this picture of her on her front deck on April 24.  I had gone out to visit her because she had sent out an email letting us know that the arterial bypass in her lower leg that was done back in early February had failed.  She opted not to have her leg amputated, and since there was no circulation in that foot the tissue died and the necrosis killed her.

She was a remarkable woman, who hiked 700 miles of the Appalachian Trail when she was 60.  She was awarded a Hometown Heroes award by Laclede County for her work with the Literacy Council.   Who knows how many people can read now because of her tutoring?  Numerous pupils of hers went on to get their GEDs as well.

 

I have been avoiding Crystal Bridges for a long time.  I heard about it a long time ago, probably around the time it was being built by the Walmart heiress who did it.  For some reason, the fact that all that money came off the backs of people who labored for that empire in not very good conditions bothered me.

But a lot of my friends have gone down there and loved it.  I guess that sort of thing doesn’t bother them enough to keep from availing themselves of the experience.  After all, you only have to pay for the special exhibits.  The rest of the collection is free.

I have to admit the museum itself is a work of art.  Seldom have I seen a more beautiful building, and it really set off the site it was built upon.  The surrounding grounds with all their sculpture were beautiful to view from within.  I know there are several miles of trail but it was so raw a day we did not walk on them.  Next time.

Crystal Bridges has a pretty decent collection too, although I was sort of surprised that it did not include a single Peter Max, who truly is a pretty well known American Artist and certainly is worthy of having his work represented.   Nor were there any Russells on display.  At least not at the moment.

They do have four different Georgia O’Keeffe works on display, which made me happy.  There is a large Jimson Weed painting, just gorgeous.  It was not lit very well, so it was difficult to appreciate the glory of her brush work.   They also had a couple of smaller studies, one a still life with leaf and feather and the other one of the hills near Ghost Ranch.  The surprise for me was a large bronze sculpture by her.  I thought I knew about Ms. O’Keeffe, and either I did not know or had forgotten that she had done some bronzes.     The one on display was very beautiful but I would have liked to have seen it put farther out in the middle of the floor rather than stuck in a corner where you could not walk around it and observe the flow of light along it.

One thing about Crystal Bridges that bugged both Jim and myself was the very poor lighting of the collection.  I am not sure what the curator and the hangers were thinking, but there were several walls that had far too many works on them set way too close together.   Each one had bright lights on them, and if you tried to get close enough to see brush work the glare was so severe you could not see anything, not even colors and shapes.   If you stood back far enough to get away from the glare, the works’ proximity to each other made it hard to focus on them individually.

There were some very amazing large works that occupied full wall panels that were very fun to look at up close.  Then when you went outside and looked at them from the lawn, they were a completely different story.   Very complex.

I am afraid that there was a period of time during our visit I really wished I had never studied music, because for some reason the museum had a young man playing the cello near one of the galleries.   It was interesting to see the audience lapping up his very Chopinesque murder of the Bach Cello Suite in C.  It was pretty excruciating to listen to his out of tune, rubato rendition of a work that I studied assiduously for an entire semester while I was at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.  I sort of missed a whole section of the museum because I felt compelled to get out of that wing before I was driven to madness.

We LOVED the special exhibit that was in residence,  “The Soul of a Nation”, a comprehensive focus on the art of Black Americans during the Civil Rights era.   If that collection comes to a city near you, I highly recommend a visit.   It was educational, illuminating, thought provoking, and filled with some really wonderful art by artists that I was largely unaware of.

It is no secret that I love beautiful things; it might even be an addiction.  Although we went into the Museum Shop fully expecting to leave empty handed, that was not to be.   There was a vase there that called out to come home with us.   So we ransomed it and freed it from its captivity on the shelf.   It truly is a wonderful work of art from Cohasset Gifts and Garden.

DSCF6637

I accepted the reflection of the dining room lights in this photo because the illumination from above really brings out the sculptural aspect of the molten glass having been draped over the root it rests on.

This following shot was serendipitous in the extreme.   I had opened the dining room curtains and noticed how the scene out side reflected in the glass of the vase.

DSCF6639

Well, I hope that everyone has a fantastic week.  It is supposed to warm up around here, and I am very much ready for it.

We are waiting with bated breath to learn whether or not the freezing and just below freezing temperatures will have been enough to kill the wisteria buds.

Tulips!

Even though the weather has been totally schizophrenic, the species tulips are out in full force.

I planted some in my newest Day Lily garden, which started out life as the Rose Garden portion of my stroll garden.  Over the years all the roses planted there succumbed to the rose rosette disease that is indigenous to our area.  Thanks to the plantings of multiflora roses done in the 30s and 40s, we not only have a vector for the mite that carries the virus but a state-wide infestation of an invasive exotic.

At any rate, a couple of years ago when the last rose kicked the bucket, I repurposed the area as a day lily garden.  I needed a new space for them since the original day lily garden is not very happy any more due to the fact that the shrubbery of the stroll garden has gotten so tall it shades the day lilies to the north of it, and the ground ivy and vinca are busy trying to strangle them at the same time.

There are days when I wonder why in the world I think I have enough energy to maintain all the gardens I do have.  Especially when I am suffering the results of the face plant I did a few days ago.   My artificial hip does not think that was a good activity to engage in.   But at least I did not plant my face in the rock borders of the path I fell into.

But I digress.

It turns out that if you plant species tulips you have planted something that is a survivor and a colonizer.   If you think about the fact that most of these little beauties are natives of the mountains of Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan, it makes perfect sense.   Even so, it was news to me that a couple of tiny bulbs could manifest as empire builders.   They are indeed.

DSCF6629Check out the orange tulips, and ntoice how they have spread through the garden.  The yellow ones in the right corner have completely filled in the area around the perovskia (Russian sage).   Fortunately, they appear to be willing to peacefully coexist with it, unlike some other colonizers I could name.   (e.g. Missouri primrose, spotted knapweed).

Here is a close up of the corner where the tulips are happiest.

DSCF6630Yes, yes.   I see the chickweed in the lower corner.

Two days ago it was 80 degrees here, yesterday the temperature dropped precipitously all day and this morning it is just below freezing.   I have a cover over my peonies, which are now about a foot tall, and am hoping and praying that they will survive tonight.   The wisteria is way too large to cover, it has big swollen buds and I hope it also makes it through the freeze promised for tonight.

The tulips won’t care at all.

Readers of this blog will know that OBE stands for Overcome By Events.   It is a term used when what you planned to do did not happen because the Great Bird of the Galaxy decided to change your plans.

Just two days ago, Jim was looking at his List of Planned Jobs for the next few weeks.  It contain such varied items as “Mend chair,” “Fix shed door” (an entry occasioned by the gnawing through the door achieved by a squirrel who wanted to move up in the world), and “Mow” (a constant entry on the list, actually).  I am not sure why mowing gets put on the list as it is a perpetual event around here.   You can do it, cross it off, and put it right back on, all summer long.

That was the primary job on his agenda for this week.  The grass has gotten happy what with all the precipitation and the slow warming trend.

One of the items on the list was “hive body”, which was a shorthand reference to cleaning out a hive body and preparing it with new frames and wax foundation.   We are anticipating that our bees might want to swarm this year, and it is always better if you are ready for the event when it happens.

At any rate, Jim was contemplating his list (which I am not allowed to add things to) and looked at me and said, “I don’t think I need to worry about preparing the hive body for a few weeks.  It has been so cold I don’t think the bees are going to swarm any time soon.”  I did not disagree with him.

Yesterday I was taking Ruby for her morning excursion about the yard.  I went back behind the vegetable garden to see how the hazelnuts were faring and whether any birds were making nests in the sumac grove,  and I observed that the service berry bush looked sort of odd.   Closer inspection revealed this:

DSCF6622

Yes indeed, that is a swarm of bees.   Not our bees, who are still very much at home in their cozy hive, but a group from one of the wild hives that exist “out there” in the woods.  It does seem odd that the wild bees tend to bring their swarms to our property.  Or I guess it would seem odd if we didn’t assiduously avoid sprays and other poisons and encourage all kinds of pollen producing plants.

I cut the dog walking short and hustled into the house, interrupting the morning coffee ritual by saying to my mate, “Guess what we have?”

He had no earthly idea, so I illuminated him.  “We have a swarm of bees!”

“Oh?,” he replied.  “Where is it?”

“Out behind the vegetable garden on the service berry bush.”

He put some shoes on and we went out and investigated the situation.   Well, OF COURSE there was no hive body ready, since we just agreed the day before that we didn’t need to rush to spend the time, energy and money on that just yet.

Ha ha.

Off he went to the farm supply store to acquire a hive body, frames, foundation and a hive floor.   At least we had a hive lid on hand.   And an extra super, which was fully equipped with frames.

I retired to the massage room to give a massage, and he put the super frames into the new hive body, and then introduced the swarm to their new digs.  While they sort of settled in, he went into the shop and installed the foundation in the new frames.   Right about the time I finished up with my client, he was ready to install the large frames in the hive body.

This is a shot of the process of one of the super frames being divested of the bees clinging to it after the large frame was slipped into the hive body.

DSCF6627The bees were pretty excited about the process, but since they were in swarm mode they were very mellow and I was able to get up fairly close to the operation.

After the proper frames were put into the hive body, Jim put the super frames back into the super and put that on top of the hive body to give the new hive plenty of space.

Now, here is a little tidbit that amazed me rather a lot.   Those bees had only been in the new hive for less than an hour when we took the lid off.  The following picture is of the underside of the hive lid.

DSCF6624They had already created that much beeswax, in less than an hour.   I am not sure why they decided to put it on the hive lid…

At any rate, when you hear the phrase “Busy as a bee” you can think about that clump of beeswax and how much work went into forming it.

Today the new hive seems to be quite happy and adjusted.  They have already found the pond and are busy bringing nectar and pollen back to their new digs.

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