Archive for January, 2008

Just sitting here in a rather blue mood listening to Patsy Cline sing her heart out.   No one could croon a sad tune better than she could.   

 For if still loving you means I’m weak, then I’m weak,

For I still fall apart when we speak or we mee,t

If the life that we knew won’t bother you, 

Darling you’re stronger than me.


If you’ve got leaving on your mind,

tell me now, get it over,

hurt me now, get it over,

If you’ve got leaving on your mind.

If there’s a new love in your heart,

tell me now, get it over,

hurt me now, get it over,

If there’s a new love in your heart.

Don’t leave me in a world

filled with dreams that might have been,

Hurt me now get it over,

I may hurt to love again.

If there’s a new love in your heart,

tell me now get it over,

hurt me now, get it over,

If there’sa new love in your heart.

Honestly.   If you just read those words without the amazing tune going on in your head at the same, they are really pretty trite.   It is the inflection of her voice as she sings, the turn of the phrase, the emotion laden portamento.   You know that she feels those things.

It is not hard to think about strong emotions right now.   We watched our son detach from us, change from wonderful, loving man to focused professional.   He walked around the house with his pack on his back, scanning the shelves, floor, chairs, gathering all his things.   A squared-away soldier appeared like magic.

We had a wonderful steak dinner with twice baked potatoes loaded with garlic, steamed broccoli and a fresh green salad.   We opened a bottle of wine one of our dear friends sent us as a Christmas gift.   What an amazing wine that was!   A wonderful Pinot noir by a vineyard calling itself Fogdog.    Cool label too.  

Don’t laugh, but I have been known to walk into a store and pick the wine I’m going to drink solely on the basis of the totally cool artwork on the label.   Well, after I have narrowed down the price.   So far I have not been compelled to buy a $100 bottle of wine solely because the label caught my eye.  

There are way too many things on my “to acquire” and “to do” list to be swayed totally by a pretty picture.

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O.B.E. — a definition

If you do a search for a definition of the acronym “O.B.E.”, you get lots of definitions:   Order of the British Empire, Office of Business Economics, On-board Equipment, Out of Body Experience, Overcome (or Overtaken) By Events,  Open Book Estimate, Online Booking Engine, Over Bloody Eighty (I sort of like that one) and several others.   

We hear that acronym around here on a regular basis, used in the sense of “Overcome By Events.”  The Free Dictionary defines this term as follows:  “‘Overcome By Events’ is a term of military origin used when the initial solution to a problem is rendered useless by unexpected events, raising a need for a different solution.”

I’m not sure that the definition really covers the complete ramifications and emphasis of this term and its usage.   The proper way of defining it came up in conversation this afternoon as we were sitting around the living room talking to Jesse.   

I used the example of needing to do some paint work on board ship.    You planned to paint the superstructure tomorrow, but the ship happens to be running through a hurricane.    The painting project is O.B.E.

Jim chimed in at that point.   “Well, you could refine the term a little better.   There is no point in painting the superstructure if the ship is sinking.”

To which I added, “Yeah, at that point you might want to be fixing that leak.”

We had a good laugh.   Sort of covers why I haven’t been posting lately, it has pretty much been OBE.  

First of all, Jesse was here on leave and it was necessary to spend time with him.    We have truly had a very wonderful visit.   He is due to head back to Iraq starting Monday.   You understand that going back to the war doesn’t just happen in a couple of hours.    Anyway, we are in the throes of doing last minute laundry.    The little fiancee is coming over to see us this evening.

Oh, did you notice how I slipped that in?   Yes, things have progressed.    There is a year of separation to get through, however.     Lots of money needs to be saved in order to effect the necessary move to bring the new family together following the postulated future event.   So we shall see.   We are wishing them well, however.

It has been very cold around here, and this corner where the computer is is frigid.  I have not really wanted to sit here and freeze my buns off so I can post.

Then there is the upcoming long vacation Jim and I are taking.   It became evident that I did not have a sufficient wardrobe for this event, so I have been remedying that situation

Well, we have a guest visiting now, so this blog entry is OBE.  Maybe I’ll finish it tomorrow.

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Our Downstairs Neighbors

Back in August, as you may recall, we had to have some plumbing work done which entailed the plumbers getting under our house.    Those boys did not put things back they way they found them, and I did not notice that they had left the cover off our crawl space access for well over a week.    Then when I did notice, I wasn’t all that attentive to how I replaced it.

 A couple of days after it did get put back in place, Jim and I were awakened by a series of rather loud bangs in the early hours of the morning.   Of course, we jumped out of bed and tried to figure out what had fallen over, or who was banging on our house.    We did not figure it out that night, or the next night either.   

Finally, we were sitting at the breakfast table, our brains more fully engaged following the adminstration of appropriate levels of caffeine, and it suddenly dawned on me what was making the banging noises in the dead of night.   While the crawl space cover was lying on the ground, a nice striped skunk had probably noticed the convenient cave under the house and moved in.   Then, when it got blocked in, it found a way to shove the crawl space cover aside enough to make an exit.   Since we use a rock that weighs around 30 pounds to hold it in place, the whole thing made a nice bang as the cover fell back into place after the skunk emerged.

Skunks are a lot stronger than they look, because in spite of making a bed of rocks under the crawl space opening, carefully putting the cover flush against the house and securely holding it there with the large rock, the skunk was still able to go in and out from under the house at will.   Apparently the safe, dry, dark, quiet sleeping space was attractive enough to make it really want to live there.

After we had been awakened by the banging in place of the crawl space cover several times, Jim and I held a high level discussion.   Actually, it was more on the lines of me  musing about what could be so bad about having a skunk living under the house.   (Call me weird, but I sort of like skunks.   Other than the smell issue, they are very pretty animals and occupy an important ecological niche.)   Jim opined that he did not want a local dog to go chasing it under there and then getting sprayed.   So we compromised, and arranged the crawl space cover so that a skunk could squeeze under it easily but a dog could not.   This would eliminate the 2 a.m. crashes that were waking us up.

And that was how it has been since around a quarter to September.   No problems, no crashes.   When we would go out and look, it was obvious that the skunk was coming and going.    Every once in a while, you get a faint whiff of skunk back in the bathroom off the utility room.   This is in the farthest back reaches of the crawl space, where there is space but no “crawl,” if you know what I mean.  The skunk sleeps there, back in the deepest and narrowest niche of its “cave.”

Around the yard, you see the neat little holes where the skunk has excavated a grub or two.   (I’d rather have skunks digging up grubs for me than armadillos any day.)   I like to think that they are helping control the mole population too.  Ruby is a smart dog and doesn’t mess with them.

Well, a couple of days ago, the faint whiff of skunk escalated.    When you walked into the kitchen, it became more than just barely noticeable.   In fact, you might even say it was bothersome.   It seemed to be rising almost visibly up out of the Jenn-Aire stove’s vent, wafting not-so-gently through the kitchen into the dining room and thence down the hall.  

We wrapped the grease trap filter in aluminum foil, and the trap cover with plastic wrap, burned some incense to sort of eliminate the distinct odor of skunk, and went to bed.   As we were going to sleep, we pondered as to what to do about this situation, if anything.

In the morning, the odor had gone away.

We did a little research about the habits of skunks.   I knew they were omnivores, eating grubs, insects, small mammals and other stuff, including carrion.    I knew they were nocturnal.   Their main predators are great horned owls and cars.  I thought they were mostly solitary, but when we went to the Missouri Department of Conservation’s website, we found out that while the males are pretty solitary, during the winter the females will often form colonies.   They have their babies around April, so if we decide we need to evict them we wouldn’t be killing  a bunch of skunk babies. 

As we sat at the breakfast table, enjoying the fact that the house was not still inundated with “skunk”, we pondered what could have happened.    The first thing that occurred to us was that our original skunk must have told her girl friends all about the wonderful, large “subsidized housing” arrangement she had discovered and invited them all to share her digs.  It has been quite cold, so they are probably sleeping in their estivation phase.   

Did someone wake up hungry and pissy?   Was there a discussion on the order of “Quit shoving!  Who do you think you are, anyway?”   Was it a question of someone being kicked in their sleep and not liking it?   Perhaps someone had a nightmare and sprayed the dream molester in her sleep.    Maybe it was a skunk fart (Jim’s idea).

Whatever it was, I hope it doesn’t happen again any time soon.   More than likely, when the weather warms up we will do something to block the girls out permanently, before they have their progeny.    I can just imagine what the stresses of birth might engender.

Don’t worry, we have a nice warm barn they can take over.

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I haven’t really talked about the stroll garden lately.   I want to assure you all that it has not been languishing on the back burner.   

About a week ago Jim and I got really busy and laid out cardboard and mulch along the west fence to delineate the beds that will go there.   I have clematis to plant along that fence.  I am thinking it will climb there very nicely, and look positively lovely in about two years.  

I have also been working out on the east side of the sauna, where I put cardboard and mulch at the end of last summer.   I have been laying out a line of flat rocks to sink into the ground to make the border for that bed.   I got busy today and started setting the rocks into the earth and in the process discovered that I made a cardinal error when I began this job.   When I laid out the cardboard and the mulch, I should have gone along the edge of the cardboard with a shovel and cut through the rhizomes and roots of the bermuda grass that I laid the light barrier on top of.    This would have caused that mass of plant material to die out.   Instead, all those roots under the mulch multiplied and started collecting water for the grass that was out in the sun, and they got very happy indeed.  I spent no small amount of energy today getting rid of that stuff before it completely infested the new garden.

What really pushed me to get started on these two particular areas was a gift I received from Jim’s sister out in California.   She was on a ski trip a few years ago and noticed a huge group of conifer seedlings that were trying to grow in the path right outside the back door of the condo they were staying in.   She put them into a pot, and brought them home.   We have identified them as Calocedrus decurrens, the California incense cedar.   They should be hardy in this zone, planted in the right area.

We already tried shipping them from California to Missouri once, and learned two things.    One:  that you should know where you are going to plant things before they go through the trauma of being shipped; and two:  we did not really know how to package trees for shipping.   The first group did not arrive in good shape and ultimately succumbed to being played with by Ruby while they were living in pots waiting for the “right place” to live to present itself.  We studied up on the subject of shipping baby trees and identified and prepared the home for the seedlings.  This winter a pair of cedars from the group, which was getting very crowded in its pot by now, got shipped out here.   

It was just a tad too chilly to transplant them out when they got here, but today it warmed up enough so I planted both the seedlings in their waiting homes.    One is in the grouping of evergreens by the west fence.   If you look at the plan for the stroll garden, you will see two little shrubs marked “junipers” along the west line.   The first incense cedar is planted to the north of these.   In about twenty years or so it will probably get to be 45 or 50 feet tall and ben 2 or 3 feet in diameter.    By then the two junipers will have grown up to flank and blanket its feet beautifully.

Right now that area looks like this:


Now, because of the way the light is this time of year, you can’t really see what is in the shadow.   So I played with the image and in the following shot you can see one juniper and behind it the tiny little incense cedar seedling.  In the foreground is an extremely young Mugo pine.


Out on the east side of the sauna, the grouping looks like this.   In addition to the cedar seedling, please notice the excellent rocks that I have placed to accessorize this tree.   Behind it is the amazing rock my sister Judith gave me for Christmas.   In addition to being moss covered and embellished with wonderful lichens, it has a whole ledge of crystals (which are not shining in this picture, unfortunately).   In front of the seedling is one of the rocks from my rock pile.   This is a particularly wonderful rock and reminds me very much of the cliffs and valleys in Hawaii.


While I was planting the little trees, Jim and Jesse were busy out in the vegetable garden.   They are continuing the project of grass removal.   The area of attention right now is the central aisle.   Once they get the grass out of that, they will lay down landscape fabric and then fill in with sand.    Once that is done, we will lay out the rocks we bought in the auction at the landscape company.     They have one more day of work to do to remove the rest of the dirt.  The central aisle looks like this right now:


If you go stand next to the shovel that is on the left in the above picture, and look across the central aisle, this is what you see.


You can see the sand bed of the east/west aisle waiting for rocks.   Also, you can see that we moved one of the cold frames.   The lettuce that was under it was completely infested with aphids, gnats and little flies.   We uncovered it, and the cardinals and carolina wrens think that is the best thing that has happened all week.  In a couple of days the sun shining on the cold frame will have warmed the soil underneath it up enough that I can plant some lettuces.   They will be going great guns just in time for spring.

The work is never over.   But then again, the garden never stops growing either.   I have completed this post just in time to get cleaned up and rested for the spate of massage work that comes at what amounts to the end of the work day for the rest of the world.   

I guess it is the end of my work day too, or at least of one phase of it —  the really fun phase!  Life is good.

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Moving furniture

Ever since we got the new computer desk, which is truly a wonderful thing (don’t get me wrong), I have missed my big Army surplus solid oak officer’s desk. 

 We moved it into the back bedroom about a year ago,  our library cum guest room.   It takes up a lot of floor space in there.   The room itself is pretty much unheated, and so it actually is not a very great place to do any of my crafty paper play.   We have been talking about making that room the “home theatre,” which will involve moving the stereo equipment and the love seat back there.  Of course, we will have to figure out what is going to happen to all the books that are on the wall where the television and stereo are destined to go.   I suppose we could build in shelves on that entire wall, I don’t know.

Anyway, the desk was definitely needing to move out of that room, and we were talking about putting it in storage out in my Dad’s hangar or even selling it.    You have to understand, this desk is fully equipped with a large selection of paper, glitter, glue, paint, colored pencils, crayons, knives, scissors etc etc etc.  We thought that we could store all that stuff in our four drawer filing cabinet, and then I could get it out and use the dining room table when I wanted to make cards.

When I started trying to unload the desk drawers into the file cabinet, I realized that I just couldn’t do without my desk, and that I missed it being readily available to me.   

Today we got busy and moved the desk out into the family room and put the piano back in the back bedroom.   I’m sure my piano technician will disapprove of the new arrangement, but I play with paper and use the desk far more than I use the piano.  

The corner of the family room now looks like this.


It was so great to have it available, once I got everything stowed back in it (after cleaning out the drawers for the first time in years), I immediately got a bunch of stuff out and started playing with paper.  When it was time for dinner, all I had to do was turn off my desk lamp and go over to the dining table.   I did not have to clean up all my “mess” in order to eat.  It was so convenient!

I have been trying a new way of collage using the beeswax method I came across on Kate’s place.  After giving this method of doing collage the “good old college try” (the collage try?), I have about decided that I prefer glue to beeswax.    My results using wax are nothing like as wonderful as Kate’s, and I have not figured out how to properly incorporate glitter into the medium.  

I’m afraid I have earned my title of “Glitter Queen”, and cannot seem to make a card or crafty thing without using some somewhere in the opus.   Below you see a picture of the beeswax card plus three cards I created this evening in a spurt of creativity brought on by having my desk back in a usable place.


The beeswax card is the upper right.   It has been so long since I sat down and made cards that it took a couple of tries before I remastered the glitter application.   I think the one below turned out the best.


We have been enjoying Jesse being here.   He is seeing a young woman  (I mentioned her previously).   Yesterday he brought her over here along with her son, and after they spent some time wandering around they asked me to take their picture together.  This is my favorite shot of the three of them together.


Then I played paparazzi on them, and caught a really sweet shot.  


Her son is a natural dog trainer.   He had Ruby obeying his commands to “Sit”, “Jump”, and “Fetch”.   This next shot is one from the middle of a long series.  He was telling her to “Jump”, and she had not been jumping for him, so he was getting quite stern with her.


His attention worked.  Here she is, a couple of seconds later, jumping to his command.   I think it is quite cute that he has to jump too.


Jim seems to be completely over the virus that laid him low for a couple of days.   By some miracle I managed to avoid contracting it.   So far (knock on wood).

Meanwhile, I am enjoying having my desk back.   Of course, this means I now have TWO desks.  Or one and a half, since I share this one with Jim.

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