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Archive for October, 2009

It’s been an interesting few days at The Havens.   My moods have varied  from sunnily cheerful to deeply depressed followed by competently healing.  I’m not sure what effect the varied weather we’ve been enjoying has had, but it has been positively multiple in it’s personalities.   We’ve had wind, rain (5 inches), thunder, floods, sun, frost, and mist — and that was just in the last two hours.

I’m kidding.   It has taken five days to accomplish all that.

I have contemplated various subjects, including why my government cannot just bite the bullet and provide for every American exactly what I receive: Tricare Prime for life, how good the white burgundy Jim made from a kit he bought from The Home Brewery is, how the foliage out in the field I usually walk Ruby around has changed in the last four days, what sort of pictures I have of my beautiful hostas that could be grist for a post on Variegated Foliage, when I am going to have time and energy to write a real letter to my old friend K., automobile proof of insurance cards, why Smokey doesn’t like this flavor of cat food today when he did three days ago, when will it be dry enough after our 5 inches of rain in 5 days to pull weeds, why this or that person’s shoulder/hip/neck/lower back/knee keeps hurting, punctuation, gratitude, and I don’t know what all else.

Was that a run on sentence?

While I was folding my linens today, I found a “pair” of white athletic socks.  As I attempted to put them away I realized that my sock basket was way too variegated.  Who would have thought there were so many variations on the theme “Plain White Ankle Socks”.    I mean, even when they are all 100% cotton, there are variations in the size of thread and stitches, and in the pattern of ribbing.    Additionally, across the to there can be red stitches, green stitches, white stitches, no stitches; the socks can have grey toe and heel insets, or some other color, or, etc.   Being slightly obsessive compulsive, I have  a need for all those different variations of sock to be mated correctly.   So I spent some time involved in that, time that I occupied the rest of my brain with in contemplating some of the above subjects.

However, my real purpose here today is to participate in the post on Variegated Foliage being hosted over on Gardening Gone Wild’s blog.  I have been tossing around ideas on how to address this creatively for several days now.   While I was thinking, I sort of lurked about the other posts on the topic.

I was beguiled by a section of the Blogosphere that harbors professional plant people.  The burden of one of the posts I came across was how to have a professional relationship with your clients, agreements, prequalifying them, etc.   This subject goes beyond fiction straight  to fantasy in my Real Life terms.   Until the economy improves, I can’t afford to spend $50 on shrubs for my new stroll garden installation, much less rent backhoes or hire crews to operate them.

Take a few moments to stroll around my archives and see if you don’t understand why that post made me break out laughing.   I should be sending this guy my resume so he can hire me as a laborer.   I’m a champion weeder, I can tell you, and I love to move rocks around.  I built this garden, with some help from Jim:

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There was no back hoe involved, either.   Anyway, you may think that I am off subject but this rock work and path was built to showcase the part of my property that I call the Hosta Dell.  You can just see the edge of it off in the upper right corner of the above photo.  If I had to pick my favorite exemplar of variegated foliage, it would be this genus.   Here is a well matured planting of them in the oldest part of this garden.  It’s what you see if you walk to the very end of the thyme walk and turn to your right.

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This brings me to another part of my gardening blogging career that I have to admit I am sensitive and slightly defensive about.   I know it is important for plants you are posting pictures of to be identified, just in case a viewer wants to acquire the beauty for their own.   Well, nobody discussed this matter with the blue jays.  Also, I had no idea I was going to want to do a garden blog and be taken seriously when I first started working on this garden.   At that time, the internet was in its infancy and the concept of blogging hadn’t even been invented.

I was lucky if I had the energy to finish planting the babies I had acquired through various means after I had finished creating their stone frames.   Plant tags?   Plot plans?   It seemed a ridiculous waste of energy to make a plat of the garden bed I was working on when I knew that in a few months I was probably going to wind up moving everything around again.  That area of the yard kept evolving and changing, things kept having to be moved.  Someday, if I ever get my day lily bed weeded, I may make a post on the evolution of the Hosta Dell.   It is one of the first gardens I planted when we moved in here.   I believe the initial plantings were Passalong Spireas from my mother, followed shortly by a few Hostas I bought from Hornbaker gardens, in one of my most egregious forays into Traveling with Plants.

Add to the fact that I was wont to underestimate just exactly what the description “24 in. h 4 ft. w” truly looks like outdoors.   I know, I know, they warn you about this in the gardening books, and I really thought that I had figured my spacing correctly.   Tsk.   Another fantasy.  When the specimin so labeled is about one year old, 6 inches wide and 8 inches tall at the time you are planting it, it is far too easy to misjudge.   Things look so bare and naked when you plant them the correct distance apart when they are small and affordable.   The “Blue angel” hosta in the back of this picture was just such a baby when I planted it.   It took it four years to get this big.

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The little beauty in the front, Remember me, had to be rescued from under the skirts of the “Angel” this spring.   About three months later I discovered there was another waif hiding under there too, a Turk’s cap lily that I will be moving just as soon as it stops raining long enough I can find the bulb in the muck out there.  The other two I have moved at least three times each as the Hosta Dell evolved, and their tags and names are lost in the mists of time.   Sorry.

So, in artistic terms, the following pictures of un-named friends epitomize why Hostas are the prime examples of why variegated foliage is so wonderful.

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fall color 090

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Add to all this variation the fact that the hummingbirds really like the blossoms of the hosta tribe, not to mention there are enough different cultivars available that you can choose to have flowers all summer.  My advice to you is, if you love these pictures, run along to your favorite garden center and start acquiring your own collection.  There are hundreds of cultivars to choose from.

One of my favorites sources is Hornbaker Gardens, where my eyes were opened to the incredible variety of hostas available.   (They ship too. . .)

Don’t get me started on the Heucheras, which are almost as incredible.  The astute observer of the introductory photo of the Hosta Dell may have noticed that I have quite of few of those beauties dancing attendance on the hostas there.  This one is “Mardi gras”.

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Well, if you’ll all excuse me, I have run on quite long enough.  It is time to take down the laundry that is drying out on the line.   It’s a lovely sunny day, and all those hostas you saw featured above are wilted dead things now.   I need to go clean them up and get them mulched for the winter.    So, if you haven’t had enough of delectable variegated foliage, wander on over to Gardening Gone Wild and follow the links in the comments to more lusciousness.

Y’all take care, now, and come on back soon.

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It is T-Shirt friday once again, the last Friday of the month, a tradition begun by Nursemyra.

Today I am modeling a t-shirt that I have had for 25 years.   It was a premium offered by our local Public Television station in San Francisco:  “Give us x amount of dollars to support this PBS station, and we will send you this t-shirt.”  The pledge break was during the airing of a Monty Python’s Flying Circus marathon, so naturally the t-shirt offered was a Python t-shirt.

How did such a garment survive for so many years, you may ask?   The quick answer is that when I got it it was barely the right size, and it didn’t take me long to become to fat to wear it at all.   Also, at the time I was not that into tie-dye.  It survived in the back of my dresser drawers because it was way too cool to throw away.

How appropriate to feature it on t-shirt Friday at a time when the powers that be on the TV have decided to honor the Pythons and show a marathon not only of all the television series but also the movies.   I’m still waiting for them to bring back Fawlty Towers.

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Check out the other participants in “T-shirt Friday” at Nursemyra’s blog.

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Rain, rain

Yesterday it was a very fine day:  cool, breezy and partly cloudy.   It was the first day without rain in over two weeks, so I took the opportunity to go out and spend some quality time in the day lily bed.

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This is a representative view of what is going on in that bed.   The area featured is the spot where I had to remove the Rosa eglanteria, which had become infected with the rose rosette disease.   As you can see, there was no lack of things to fill in the bare spot — poke weed, grass, catnip, henbit, violets, and sundry other weeds have had a heyday there.   This is actually a spot which will require what Carol at May Dreams Garden refers to as “Advanced Weeding.”   The reason that it will require advanced weeding techniques is that amongst all the other plants growing, there is a plant variety (Hesperis matronalis) called Dame’s Rocket in that location.   I like the spring display this plant provides, and so I wish to save those volunteers.   I need to figure out what else I am going to establish there as well.

Anyway, yesterday I managed to get about half the area that needs to be cleaned out done.  It wasn’t all that easy to accomplish, since the ground was really too wet for proper weeding, but I persisted.   Today, it is showery and extremely wet, so I am waiting to tackle the rest of the job.   It is supposed to dry up around here in the next few days, so hopefully my task will be a little easier.   Then I can tackle the mess out by the root cellar.

In other news, we managed to successfully exclude the skunk from her chosen winter quarters under the house.    We found her, half an hour after dawn, still busily trying to regain access.   Once she realized we were up and about, she bustled off across the place towards the barn.   Later examination of the barn determined that she was only using it as a safe passage (she went in the front door and out the back, apparently).  I wouldn’t mind if she decided to winter over in the back section of the barn, but apparently it is a little more public than she really likes.

We were elucidated as to why she was so persistent about trying to get back in the next evening, when Jim heard something trying to get out from under the house.   Apparently she was not occupying the quarters by herself, and when he blocked her out he blocked her companion in.   So he reopened the hole for a couple of hours.   Not wishing to have something starve to death under the house, he provided food and water source before he closed the hole up again.  Tonight he will re-open the hole and see if anything has been eating the food.   If so, he will leave it open for a few hours, if not we are going to assume that the area of the house has been successfully cleared and close it up again.

I’ll just post a view of the cold frames as they were yesterday.

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As you can see, the winter salad garden is doing quite well.   We had a fabulous salad out of there for dinner last night.

My “Salome”, the maple out by the pond is still beautiful.

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She is starting to drop her “veils” now.

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An encore performance for the magical forsythia — blooming and painted red at the same time.

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And finally, the re-blooming irises out in front are still going strong.  They don’t seem to care there was a hard freeze, the wind and rain have not battered them to tatters.  I took this yesterday, as they were disporting themselves in the afternoon sun.

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And a macro view.  I love the way iris glisten in the light.

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It’s one of those grey misty/rainy fall days around here.   I’m in a rather jaundiced mood, colored mostly by the fact that I had to go shopping for clothes today, and I really don’t like shopping, especially not for clothing.   I suppose that that might make certain members of society question whether I am actually a woman.

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Where I walk Ruby

I also know that the reason I need new clothes ought to make me happy.   I have now dropped my weight to 164 (I finally got off the plateau I was on in September), and the vast majority of the time I look like a kid wearing her mother’s clothes.   If I had unlimited funds and resources, which I do not, I could afford to jettison all the stuff that is too big and just go out and purchase things that are right.   So I made a compromise today, and purchased one pair of slacks that was almost the kind of fabric I like in almost the style I am most comfortable in and almost had decent pockets and was almost the right size..

My search for slacks was frustrating.  This is what I want.   I want slacks with a stretchy waist that I can pull on.  I like straight legs that go all the way to my feet (I think capris are stupid looking and hit at a very unflattering spot on the leg).  I want them to be  made of 100% cotton knit, and it is important to me that they have pockets.   I like BLACK.  It goes with everything.

There is such a thing as too much information.  Personally, I am not interested in wearing clothing  that allows the casual passer by to count my pubic hair.  Therefore I wish my pants to be designed in such a way as to not cling to every inch of my body.

There is a problem with size.   At this point in my weight loss pursuit, I am not really a “large” woman any longer.   Extra large was what I used to wear, but that size is definitely Way Too Big.   Large is loose, but medium is too tight.   I’m in the “tween” stage, and it irks me no end to be forced to buy something that will be on the definitely WTB list within the course of a couple of months, assuming that I continue to progress towards my goal (only 14 pounds to go).   So I compromised and bought something that was size large, was 98% cotton with 2% spandex but was not designed to be skin tight, and that had “pockets.”

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Dogwood leaves

Notice I have put the word pockets into quotation marks.  It has been a very long time since I found slacks for women that have what I consider to be real pockets.  If they have what is purported to be pockets at all, they are not deep enough to be useful. If you go over into the men’s section and thrust your hands into the pockets of pants there, your hand will probably be completely enclosed up to your wrists.   If you try to do the same with a women’s pair of pants, you will find that you are lucky if the pockets are deep enough to enclose your hands up to the ends of your fingers.  I realize that women are “supposed” to be carrying purses, but there are plenty of activities that I (and presumably other women) engage in that are not enhanced by carrying a purse.

For example, I walk my dog on a daily basis.   I don’t want to carry my purse four miles through the woods; I put my car keys in my pocket.   If  pockets are not deep enough, you can easily lose things from them.    I had an unhappy experience a few months ago when I was scouting the possibilities of flat rock acquisition on a roadside verge.   I locked my car, put my keys in my pocket, and explored the road cut that had caught my attention.   During the course of clambering around, I slipped and fell.   Unhurt, I thought nothing of my mishap until I returned to my car and discovered that I no longer had my keys in my pocket.   Fortunately, I was able to remember my fall, identify where it occurred and very fortunately was able to discover my car keys where they were ensconced under nestled in a clump of grass under a bunch of underbrush .  They wouldn’t have fallen out of my pocket at all if it had been deep enough.

Now, I realize that if I want to, I can go over to the Decent Exposures web site and order myself a pair of slacks made of 100% cotton knit that are the right size and length.   But those people want $38 for one pair of slacks, and if you want pockets they add $10 to the price.   You know what?   I don’t make so much money at the present time that I can justify spending $50 for one garment that I am perfectly capable of ruining the second time (who am I kidding?) or the first time I have it on.   (Believe me, my clothing takes a beating, and if you don’t believe me check out this post.)

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Oak leaves

I guess when I finally reach my goal weight, I’ll have to really gird my loins and splurge on some new pants.   For now, I’ll make do with almost right and sloppy big old stuff I’m too parsimonius to throw away.  Maybe by the time I’m at that point the economy will recovered enough that more people want massages, or perhaps we will have won the lottery.

I don’t want couture, I want comfort.  Why is that so hard?

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She’s Ba-a-ack!

Some of you may recall a series of posts I did last winter about our down stairs neighbors, Mephitis mephitis, the common striped skunk.  If you are interested, the post is here , and it also includes links to the other posts.

Well, the saga continues.   The mama skunk did indeed have babies, and she did not force us out of our home with egregious odors for the rest of the baby raising season.   Eventually, she moved out, along with her litter.   At that time, we sealed up the crawl space opening properly, and thought that we were done with the problem.

Well, apparently her successful wintering over and propagation efforts under our house were not forgotten during the summer.   On the north and east sides of our house the contractors who built it installed ventilation holes that were equipped with screens so that wildlife could not gain access to the place through them.  Unbeknownst to us, the frame of the cover on the east side had rotted out.   We did not notice this fact until I got busy around August and removed all the mugwort I had growing in the garden bed there.   (I was tired of being mugged by the mugwort everytime I tried to go through that gate.)

Post-mugwort-removal I noticed the vent had become broken, and it certainly appeared that someone was using it as a home.   I pointed this out to Jim, and he replied something on the order of “Oh yes, I’m going to need to do something about that.”

We have not been devoid of things to do around here, and doing something about the vent cover was not high on our list of priorities.   Apparently it should have been.  By the time we determined that the downstairs neighbor was once again a skunk, she was well settled in.

Bear in mind that a skunk usually does not leave her den before about midnight or so, when things quiet down, and will return perhaps an hour or so before dawn, or even earlier if hunting has been good.    Jim spent a certain amount of time and ingenuity arranging some way to block that hole so the skunk could not return home after foraging.  He wanted to do something that was effective and yet fairly easy to install since he was going to be doing it at around 3 a.m.  He also, for some reason, had not decided to simply make a new vent cover and put it in place permanently while she was out.

A rather elaborate plan involving half inch hardware cloth, rocks, and  4″x4″ fence posts was what he came up with, and one day last week he went out in the wee hours of the morning after Ms. Skunk had left in search of groceries and put  the block in place.

The following morning I found this:

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I was laughing rather merrily when I re-entered our abode, and asked in between chuckles, “Did you see that out there?”

“Yes,” was the rather disgruntled reply.   “It’s not that funny.”

This is the state of affairs at the moment.   Ms. Skunk still has free access, the pile of excavated dirt is still there, and we are contemplating the problem once again.   Meanwhile, I imagine Ms Skunk huffing through her new tunnel every evening and every morning, accompanying her squeeze with mutterings on the order of “Stupid people, don’t they know this is my front door?”  and the like.

Maybe I shouldn’t have put that pan of grubs I found during moving the compost pile out for her.

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Hurricane  “Rick”, which was circulating around the eastern Pacific near Mexico has powered a weather system that finally arrived in the Ozarks during the early hours of the morning.   So it has been raining steadily all morning.   Good thing Jim managed to get all the lawn mowing finished yesterday.

We are not used to having to do all this mowing.   Usually, things get dry and hot in July and the grass pretty much quits growing until late September, when things will cool off and get damp enough that the cool season grasses put on a bit of growth.   But this year, we got rain all through the summer, which was a blessing for the shrubs, trees, and perennial gardens, but not so much of one for the lawn mowing person.  The chore has remained a steady entry on the “to do” list all summer.   Now, with this lovely rain falling and still no truly cold temperatures, it looks like we may be mowing the lawn clear into November.

This is not really a bad thing, because as the leaf drop happens we will be picking up grass clippings that contain NO SEEDS mixed thoroughly with beaten up leaves, which makes for truly wonderful compost.   I can use all the compost I can make around this place.

I had it in mind to participate in the “Autumn  Color Project” which I discovered mention of in a marvellous post by Nan Ondra over at  Gardening Gone Wild. The colors around here are just coming into their prime, and now it is raining on all that glory.  Brilliantly colored leaves are being dashed to the ground by the combination of stiff breezes and heavy downpours, and then cemented into twisted masses by the drizzle in between showers.

Aside from the light conditions being iffy, what with the heavy clouds and gusty winds tossing things about, it was also raining steadily, and I knew that if I went outside to try to capture some of the wild beauty out there, I would be risking my rather expensive digital camera’s health.   This is not a water resistant model, I’m afraid.

Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer.   The rain garden had water in it, the view out my kitchen window was enticing.

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I stood there, looking at the fiery bunch of Little Bluestem grass in the corner of the Petite Prairie.   Why do they call it Blue stem, anyway, was that botanist color blind or am I missing something?    Anyway, I was quite beguiled by the view, and it didn’t seem to be raining that hard, so I dragged Ruby out from in front of the stove where she was toasting her bones, and we went out for a walkabout.

The first place I went was out by the pond, where I have a pair of Japanese maples that our friend in Wisconsin gave me at least a decade ago.   They were planted out there before I realized that the pond was really a wild garden, which was after it became inundated with mint, mulberries, grapes, and all the other things the little birdies plant for me every year.

The one in the front of the following photo was a Waterfall maple, which was grafted onto a hardy root stock of some unspecified Acer palmatum.   The Waterfall fell during the ice storm, and what has arisen from the root stock is quite pleasing, especially when paired with the other maple that sits at the edge of the pond.  In between them is the pond edge, which hosts a thick mat of yellow flags, cat tails, and reeds of various sorts.

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I walked around in front of the pond and was absolutely beguiled by the scarlet maple, she danced in the rainy wind, and I thought of Salome and her dance of the seven veils.

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Get up close and personal with the base of this tree, and she reveals her dress to be an amazing neon color, especially when her garments are drenched in rain.

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After I had soaked in that color for long enough, I ventured around behind the pond into the wild bird garden.   There I discovered a wild currant bush, all subtle pastels against the gnarled vines of the raccoon grape.

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The bittersweet vine and the blackberries had  painted themselves up for the harvest celebration, but my favorite sight was the forsythia.   She has outdone herself today, and after I saw this I checked the other bushes on the place and discovered that the whole clan has donned an extremely festive outfit:

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I just love the fact that these ladies have had such a good summer water and nutrient wise that they decided they could add a fall bloom to their usual spring bloom and provide me with this absolutely stunning color combination.

But they aren’t the only players at that game.   In the stroll garden, the American cranberry has her own version of scarlet, yellow and green.

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Another group joining that palette is the group of volunteer (weeds, actually) maple sprouts that are inhabiting the hole that was supposed to be the foundation of my greenhouse in the unspecified future.

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Now this is why I really love balloon flowers (Platycodon).   Not only do they provide me with their beguiling blue mandalas almost all summer, but in the fall they choose a really flashy color to paint themselves.

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I proceeded over to the Rain Garden, remembering that it had had a little puddle of water accumulated in it when I first looked out at it from the back bedroom before I got sucked outside by the view from the kitchen.    Well, the water had already drained, but there was something really wonderful to try to capture anyway.   This sort of counts as Fall Color, due to the rock rose that is blooming in the lower left corner.   The foliage to the right is the fall growth of some grape hyacinth bulbs I tucked in there.  But really this is a bragging photo of some wonderful fossils we have found in the area over the years.   How many spiral snail shell fossils can you find in this picture?  There are actually three.

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As I was trying to get the light and the view right on the above picture, my attention was grabbed by the sedums in the Rock Garden.   I really have a stunning collection, thanks to several of my friends.   Not only did they bloom in “more than oriental splendor” (apologies to Kipling for ripping this phrase off from the Just So Stories) during the spring, but I have varieties that bloom early in the fall and then more that are blooming right up until they get killed by the hard freezes of early winter.

Right now, today, this is what is happening in the sedum collection.   In the upper left of this picture is Sedum “Autumn joy,”  which bloomed last month and has already gone to seed.   Across the bottom of the photo are Sedum sieboldii “October Daphne”, Sedum “Autumn fire”, and Sedum xenox (PPAF).

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Thank you Linda.  And Marlene.  And Jocelyn.

I headed back to the warm inside, as it was beginning to rain more heavily again.   As I came around the corner, I saw a view that has been begging to be photographed for several days.   The hostas along the back of the house have turned themselves into a wonderful yellow mass.   I have not gotten around to photographing them yet because, . . . well,  . . . here.   Have a look.

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Yeah, those are the slip forms from the the wall construction project.   Behind them are buckets of small rocks that I refuse to cart back out to the rock pile because we are just going to use them in the rather near future when we begin working on the second phase of the slip form construction project, which is the wood fired oven/barbecue station installation planned for between the strawberry beds and the pergola.  That is also why the forms are still there, not to mention the fact that the cement mixer is still in evidence in the woodshed (if you know where to look you can spot it in that picture).

I suppose I could have moved those forms yesterday, but yesterday I spent all day in Springfield attending a seminar on Deep Tissue Massage Techniques in order to complete my continuing education requirement for my license to practice massage.   And today when I stopped to take that shot, I was not really interested in moving the stuff because it was pouring down rain by that time.   By tomorrow much of the explosion of yellow hosta will have been pounded into the ground and will no longer look so photogenic.  So it was “Now or never” if I wanted to include that shot in the project files.

Then, when I got through downloading the images stored on the camera, I discovered the trial balloon shots of the freezer I made for “Abundant Harvest.” Actually, they didn’t turn out that bad.

The jelly roll pan is full of frozen blanched chard stems, in front of it is the five pounds of black beans.   Just to the left of the black beans you can see a bit of red.   That’s the top of the pile of pints of roasted tomatoes.   Above the tray the bins hold frozen peaches and bags of frozen berries (blue berries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries).   The basket hanging there has all sorts of herbs and spices and dried peppers in it.   What you can’t see, which is under the tray of chard, are the bins that contain the gallon bags of vegetables we harvested this summer:  green beans, peas, chard greens, brocolli, roasted zucchini, roasted egg plant, carrots, onions, asparagus and probably some other stuff that slips my mind at present.

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Well, I’m going to have a massage client arriving in the very near future, so I’d best wrap this up.

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Heartwarming story

I totally have to share this story with you.   My brother sent this to me this morning, and I just HAD to share it with you all.

Subject: 5 year old’s first job

Here’s a truly heartwarming story about the bond formed between a little
5-year-old girl and some construction workers that will make you believe
that we all can make a difference when we give a child the gift of our
time.

A young family moved into a house, next to a vacant lot. One day, a
Construction crew turned up to start building a house on the empty lot.

The young family’s 5-year-old daughter naturally took an interest in all
the activity going on next door and spent much of each day observing the workers.

Eventually the construction crew, all of them “gems-in-the-rough,” more or less, adopted her as a kind of project mascot.  They chatted with her, let her sit with them while they had coffee and lunch breaks, and gave her little jobs to do here and there to make her feel important.

At the end of the first week, they even presented her with a pay envelope
containing ten dollars. The little girl took this home to her mother who
suggested that she take her ten dollars “pay” she’d received to the bank
the next day to start a savings account.

When the girl and her mom got to the bank, the teller was equally impressed and asked the little girl how she had come by her very own pay check at such a young age. The little girl proudly replied, “I worked last week with a real construction crew building the new house next door to us.”

“Oh my goodness gracious,” said the teller, “and will you be working on the house again this week, too?”

The little girl replied, “I will, if those assholes at Home Depot ever deliver the fuckin’ sheet rock…”

Kind of brings a tear to the eye – doesn’t it?

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