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Archive for March, 2010

Photohunt: Three

It is time for another photohunt.   This time the theme is “Three”.   Can’t think of a better thing than the center of an iris bloom, all three symmetry.

It’s a particularly felicitous photo since today also happens to mark the Vernal Equinox, which is scheduled to occur at 11:32 CST.

So I bid you adieu for a while, and enjoy the spring now that it officially is.

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Today I am joining Nursemyra in Corset Friday, in honor of the fact that tomorrow is the first day of spring and also the first day of my vacation in the tropics, I am posting a photograph that was acquired by one of my journalism major buddies in college.

See, it was the first day of spring in Fairbanks, Alaska (circa 1972), and someone had the brilliant idea that it would be cool to show a photograph of a bathing beauty on the front page of the student newspaper.   Achieving this aim was difficult, however.   The young men were running around the dormitory trying to find a girl who not only owned a two piece bathing suit (they really wanted a skimpy bikini, but there were none available) AND (and this was the truly difficult part) was crazy enough to go out and lie in the snow to pose for the shot. It was a balmy 20° F (-6.6° C) that day.  And yes, that is a snow bank I am lying in.   After a certain amount of negotiation, they decided I could have a towel between me and the snow.

The limitations of my scanner do not allow you to see the goose bumps.  The photograph was folded so I could put it in an envelope and mail it to my mother.   I’m not sure exactly what her thoughts were, but they were probably somewhere along the line of “That girl has a scholarship and a straight A average, but apparently this is no indication of intelligence or common sense.”

Happy spring everybody!   See you in a couple of weeks when I get back from warmer places.

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Warning!  This post contains shameless braggadocio.

Not half an hour ago, I picked this bouquet from the gardens of The Havens:  I found these beauties out by the pond, by the barn, in the entry garden, the day lily/rose bed, and in the herb garden.

See what a little sun will do?

Now, y’all come back now, hear?

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Sunny day

FINALLY!  A sunny day in the beautiful Ozarks, the kind of weather that makes you expect to see your peas sprouting.   We have had a week of cloudy and cool, brought to us courtesy of a persistent low pressure area to our southeast, and that weather pattern finally moved along to reveal the resurgence of spring.

The culinary herb garden is smiling.

Out in front a manifestation of bluets (Houstonia caerulea) in the lawn, something people who use Weed-n-Feed and other such concoctions never see.

That whole section of the lawn is a wash of pale blue, which does not translate well to the screen I’m afraid.   But here’s a close-up of these charming “weeds”.

The pollinators like them too.

Out in the stroll garden the species tulips I planted 18 months ago are promising bloom.   At least, the ones the squirrels didn’t eat are.

Here’s a charming group of crocuses I found in the Hosta Dell.   I know that nobody can get too much of the power of crocuses, so I’ll risk putting these smiling faces up.   They won’t last much longer, actually.

Not to worry, though.   Daffodil season has officially begun.

I’m afraid I’m going to miss quite a few of the early daffodils, since  I am scheduled to depart on my vacation trip Saturday morning.   I’m off to Asheville to catch a wedding, then on to Costa Rica for a little R & R with my friend Jeri.   I can hardly wait.

I’m actually looking forward to the trip now.   A few days ago my sciatic and femoral nerves were giving me absolutely miserable fits, and I was dreading sitting in a plane for hours and hours.   However, we seem to identified the source of the real problem, which would be the spasm in the inner thigh that started back in January when I about killed myself in the snow two days in a row.   How long a spasm can sit, lurk, and bide its time, waiting to take you unawares, and then punishing you for your neglect!   Of course I know this from my work, but I neglected to apply my knowledge and get the spasmic system properly intervened with until just recently.   The problem was exacerbated by a certain amount of denial, I suppose.   I’m not used to having my body out of whack, and trying to believe that it truly is out of whack is difficult when it happens.

We had a little scare yesterday when I went to drive Jesse’s car to exercise the tires and engines.   Apparently the last time I drove it we didn’t go far enough, or run long enough to counteract the draining of the battery that went on during the long cold spell.   So it declined to start.   Fortunately, when we took the truck over there and jumped it, it started right up, and tonight we are allowing it to reside in our carport while we attach a battery charger to it.   I guess that means that I’ll have to wash it before I turn it back over to its rightful owner, since we have certain sparrows who believe the carport is theirs.  Good thing he waxed it before he went off to Iraq, huh?

However, it was quite the learning curve to have this happen.   I’m here to tell you that the Good Ol’ Days have up and went.   You would not believe the sort of rituals and preparations you are instructed to take just to remove the battery from this vehicle.  In fact, if you need to replace the battery in this cute little red muscle car, you are encouraged strongly to take it to the dealer.  You can imagine how thrilled we were with the idea of transporting the little darling via tow truck to the nearest dealer, which is located in Springfield (approximately 50 miles from here), which is why we moved the vehicle here to charge the battery.   The days of yanking an old battery out and plopping a new one in place have gone with the carburetor.

I can remember when I lived in Fairbanks Alaska with my first husband that we routinely pulled the battery out of the Saab and brought it in the house for the night, because if it sat outside in the car at -40° overnight it wouldn’t have enough power to turn the lights on, much less the engine over.   We did not have the luxury of a garage, mind you, nor electricity for that matter, so there was no such thing as a battery blanket for our trusty little car.  We even had quick release battery cables, which of course would make it a lot easier for an evil-minded person to rip you off of your battery, should they be so inclined.

In fact, all this hoorah that is going on about the sudden acceleration experienced by certain Toyota owners (present company excepted) brought me a flash of deja vu.   See, in addition to an electric circulating heater, which we plugged in at work, we also had a propane circulating heater which we used in the mornings before we tried to start the car at home.   Of course you know that if you burn propane you get heat, carbon dioxide, and water vapor.    Water vapor at those frigid temperatures has a tendency to condense as frost on the closest cold surface, which would describe the engine of the car and specifically the accelerator cable.    More than once on my way to work I would experience sudden unexpected acceleration as the frost on the cable would make the accelerator stick.   I’m here to tell you that going 80 or 90 miles per hour on a San Diego freeway is NOTHING compared to going 55 mph on a completely ice encrusted and curvy road.   I developed the knack of coming to a complete stop in the middle of the road, jumping out of the car, popping the hood and strumming the accelerator cable briskly to break the frost loose before the engine wound out to a million rpm down pretty well.    We started making sure the hood was wide open when we were warming the engine up in the morning, doncha know!

At least I don’t have to worry about that kind of thing now that I live in the Ozarks!   And especially now that it is spring.

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Traveling with kittens

I remember it almost as if it was yesterday, so clear is the imagery of that day eighteen years ago when Smokey and Bonnie came into our lives.

We had purchased a home to live in when Jim was stationed in Bremerton, Washington.   We figured it would be a good investment to put money into equity rather than rent while we were there.   That decision turned out to be a good one, as it turned out.   But as landlords we had certain responsibilities to our tenants, and one of those was a roof that did not leak.  Before that started happening, we hired a guy to put a new roof on the place.

We had more than one mission on our trip to the West Coast from our new location in Missouri.   When we moved out there, we had decided that it would be easier to drive the passenger car as a team, and left our pickup truck parked at our in-laws’ place.   We planned to retrieve the truck the following spring.   So in addition to checking on the conditions of our home in Bremerton and paying the roofer for the job, we also planned a leisurely and relaxing drive back to Missouri in the truck, making a stop to visit Jim’s brother at his home in Wyoming.

With only a few mishaps, we drove to Washington, looked at our house, approved the roofing job, and went over to the roofer’s house to pay the bill.   He went upstairs to get his receipt book while we waited down in his wife’s workroom.   She was a dog groomer, and over in the corner there were a few cages where her clients could await their owners after they were all clean and brushed.   One of these large cages was occupied by a pair of rather darling kittens, who noticed they had company and became truly desperate to exit their boring environment and bond with us.   They told us all about it while the roofer was away on his mission.  When he returned with our receipt, we asked him about the babies.

“Oh, my wife found them abandoned in the woods a couple of days ago when she was out running,” he explained.   “You want them?   We’ve been trying to find someone to take them and we’re probably going to take them to the humane society soon.”

We declined his offer, even though they were terribly cute.   The idea of traveling across country with a pair of kittens did not seem either smart or convenient, and we went off to find some Dungeness crab, sourdough bread, good cheese and wine for our dinner, forgetting all about the kitties.

It is surprising what an evening of frivolity in a motel room will do to your attitudes.   Somewhere in the middle of the bottle of wine we were consuming, the barriers to a journey with tiny kittehs seemed to evaporate.    In fact, we managed to convince ourselves that it would be easy and that Cio Cio (my calico Manx) would like having some young companions.  We called the guy and asked him if they still had the kittens confined in the doggy jail, and he told us he did.   We arranged to pick them up in the morning, being in no condition to drive at the moment, and that is exactly what we did.

Of course there was no question of forcing those tiny babies to the ride in the back of the pickup even though it did have a shell on it.   Our compassion for their potential fear and trauma was too great.   They rode in front with us.    It only took me about fifteen minutes to manufacture a kitten toy by the simple expedient of removing the shoe laces from a pair of sneakers I had with me and tying a complicated knot in the end of them.   This toy was the Best Thing that the two young cats had ever had happen to them, judging from their reaction.    The long miles across country were beguiled by the constant playing of the two babes:  up and over and across the back of the bench seat of the truck, under the seat, popping out to grab the toy, wrassling with each other and any human hand that made itself available.  The only place they were not allowed was under the driver’s feet, and they learned that lesson soon enough.  It was all just Fun, Fun, Fun as far as they were concerned.

After we had been on the road a few hours, I thought they might need a rest stop, and so we pulled over along side the highway, deep in the Cascade Mountains, and I proceeded to take the babies out towards the woods where I thought they might wish to avail themselves of the facilities.   BAD IDEA.   The crying, the fear, the absolutely hysterical reaction to being carried out into the woods made me turn right around and get back into the truck.   Apparently, they had not forgotten what it was like to be abandoned in the woods.  They were happy to wait for a Real Cat Box in a Real Room.

One of the subjects of conversation along the way was what these animals should be named.   The girl was easy.   She was a very charming tortoise shell, short hair, and as pretty as the day is long.   I decided she would be called Bonnie.   The other one was tougher.   We tossed around a lot of names, one of our favorites was “Frank”  (after Frank Sinatra), which was inspired by his beautiful blue eyes.  However, the young cat did not have a very good singing voice, and after a while we decided to name him for the markings that smudged his nose and feet and back, which made him look for all the world like he had been investigating ashes and smoke.   Forever after, this cat was named Smokey.

Ah, the fun we had sneaking the kittens into hotel rooms.  They were very small and were easy to hide under our coats.  Having them with us in the rooms ensured that we would not ever miss dawn on the road, since their habit once ensconced in a room was to use the cat box, eat a hearty meal, and then crash like dead things for six or seven hours.   Invariably, around four or five o’clock in the morning, they would rise from the dead and become flying things.   You might be surprised to know just how many items there are in a sterile hotel room that a kitten can find to play with, not the least of which is the other kitten.   After being the landing strip for a pair of flying kittens alternating with being used as the deceleration zone for a drag strip, the idea of sleeping in was far from our minds.   Generally we snuck them back out of the hotel before the poor desk clerk could rise from the early morning zombies, grabbed some coffee and hit the road bright and early.

When we arrived back in Missouri with our pair of new friends, Cio Cio was Not Amused.  Not only had we been gone for weeks but we brought back Those Little Brats to boot.  She did eventually get over her snit, but not before enforcing the rule that the Only Cat who got to sit on laps was Herself, no little BratCats allowed on pain of a sound thrashing.

That is how Smokey came to be our companion for the latter one third of our lives.

(I know someone is going to ask, so I will just divulge that Bonnie was also our companion until about 5 years ago, when her penchant for hunting late at night resulted in the predator becoming the prey.   She was always afraid of the ceiling fan in our bedroom, and we believe (without being able to prove it) that she always had a premonition of her death by owl.)

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