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Archive for the ‘general silliness’ Category

This weekend we had a belated 90th birthday celebration for my mother.  One of my cousins from Delaware and his wife made the trek, so we had a mini-reunion.  The obligatory “x # generations” picture was taken, in this case four.  My mother, myself, my son and his two children.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe opportunity presented itself for some play…  I really don’t think the following pictures require much explanation.   The audience was my cousin and his wife, my brother was the photographer.

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The following is probably my favorite shot…

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Weather phenomenon

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We had a pretty interesting Saturday and Sunday here at the Havens.  We were in the middle of the “winter weather advisory” that was in effect all over the MidWest region.  It was a nasty couple of days…  I really don’t like freezing rain very much!

We chose not to drive much of anywhere.   Even though we only got about a quarter of an inch of ice accumulation here, it was an equal opportunity coverage.   It wasn’t just that it was a freezing drizzle, it also incorporated some freezing mist as well, which meant that even under the carport the truck got a little dusting of ice.  Walking out onto the back porch was treacherous because of that little glaze.

But this morning we got a reward.  The sun came out!  It is all supposed to melt by this afternoon as the temperature rises.

This morning there was a short lived period of ice crystals falling out of the sky, and the sun was in just the right spot to make an ice crystal rainbow.   Sorry that the background of this is so urban and cluttered, but I had no real choice about where to point the camera in order to capture the faint glow of color as the breeze swirled the floating ice crystals around in the sun’s rays.

A sun dog came down from the heavens and explored our street.

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A good subtitle for this post could be NIMBY:  spotted knapweed (Centaurea stoebe).  I have written a previous NIMBY post on the showy evening primrose.   At least the primrose is actually a native here.   Spotted knapweed is a plant that was introduced to the North American continent sometime in the late 1800s.  The surmise that it came in on ballast or by contaminating some seed.

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That is a photo of a spotted knapweed plant in late spring.   Below is a shot of it in the original location on the property.

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It is that bushy thing to the left of my whiskey barrel.   Here is a decent close up of what the flowers look like.

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I came across knapweed while I was on a road trip.   Specifically, I was driving to Georgia in order to visit my son and daughter in law so that I could be there when my grandson was delivered.   I am always on the lookout for interesting plants, and on one of my rest stops I noticed a flowering plant that seemed to be very happy living by the pasture fence with no water and no cultivation.   It certainly looked like some sort of aster (which it is), and I decided to see if I could find some viable seeds on it.   I collected a few and put them in my purse for future reference.

After the child was born, I returned home and stashed the seeds in my “for future reference” file.   The following spring, I planted a few in a pot and stuck it by the whiskey barrels where I could keep an eye on it.   I was rather pleased when it came up, and over the course of the season it bloomed nicely.  I noticed that my pollinators approved of it, and I was very happy that it was the sort of plant that started blooming in early summer and kept at it until late fall.

Take a close look at the photo above.   Do you see the little seedlings growing in the gravel near the mother plant?   That should have been my first clue that perhaps I did not want to loose this on the world at large.   There were literally hundreds of seedlings around the mother plant.

At that point, I did a desultory identification of my mystery plant.  I thought it was a bushy aster, most likely.

Fast forward a couple of years.   Jim and I have spent over $2000 having the east line cleared in preparation for the new prairie.   We swallowed our distaste and treated the whole area with weed killer, because when you are establishing a prairie the best way to get rid of the competitor plants is to spray with glyphosphate.   I truly hate that substance, but it was a one time treatment and the result was a substrate where my baby prairie plants would not have to compete with weed species.

Then I seeded.   And I transplanted babies in from my Petite Prairie and from the prairie plant nursery by the sauna.   And I planted shrubs.   And the nascent prairie looked like this:

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It really seemed awfully bare to me, and so I thought I would plant something to give me some color while I waited for the two year maturation process of the seed mix.  Guess what I chose?

You are absolutely right.   I chose my aster.  After all, I had several viable seedlings near the original place.   It no longer needed a pot there, it was just growing there next to the pergola.

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There are a few plants of the aster visible against the fence.   The following year, noticed that it had reseeded itself.

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Yes, that is a seedling just in front of the hazelnut shrub.   So far, so good.

We watched the little prairie start to grow and thrive, rejoicing.

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It really started to look lovely, at all seasons.   Just like I had planned.   But do you notice that big clump of grey shrubby stuff back in the left hand corner of the picture?

That is the “aster”.   And the following spring, this was what I saw everywhere where I had planted a mother plant.

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Do you see all that green?   Almost universally, that is the “aster” I had planted in my new prairie.  At that point, I realized that I needed to exercise some control over this phenomenon.   Unfortunately, when I was looking at that and thinking “I really need to weed this back.  My prairie plants are doing well I and I am not sure I need so much of this” I was suffering extreme pain in my right hip.  So extreme that I could not bend down, or kneel, or sit on the ground for any length of time.

Shortly after the above picture was taken, I had my right hip joint totally replaced.   And all summer long, I watched those patches of green grow, and bloom and make seeds, and I could do nothing to stop it.  When my hip finally healed enough that I could get in there, the damage was done.  And while I was waiting for the surgery to heal, I did an extensive search and learned that I had planted spotted knapweed, an invasive exotic.  If you search it, you will find extensive warnings against this plant.  It crowds out forage grasses, it…  is an abomination.

Everywhere where you see those green plants, there are thousands of seedlings.   I have been struggling for months to get them out of there.   I dealt with a forest of this plant, the flowering stalks were as tall as I was.   It seems like every flower gets pollinated and makes 50 seeds or so, and every seed that hits the ground sprouts and grows.

The grow into the middle of clumps of grass.  They suffocate other plants nearby just by the very fact that there are so many of them.  The little seedlings look a lot like members of the echinacea and rudbeckia families.  When you are pulling the mature plants, if you don’t get at least 90% of the root stock, the plant will come up again.

I could go on, but I won’t.   The sad lesson I learned here is to NEVER plant something that you are not absolutely sure you have identified correctly.

I am sorry to say that the problem is so severe that I am seriously contemplating doing another glyphosphate treatment and starting over.   I am not that far along yet in the decision making process.  It depends on how I do next spring when I start addressing the carpet of knapweed seedlings that covers five 100 sq. ft. patches (guess how many mother plants I put in three years ago?) of my prairie.

Wish me luck.

 

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The picture above is a shot of the newest addition to The Havens garden installations.  It was taken early this spring.  Here are a couple of more close in shots taken later in the season.

In all of these shots there is a fairly bushy shrub sort of in the background.  That shrub no longer exists.  We saved it to help preserve the flyway when we were developing the garden.  But it is an invasive exotic, notably bush honeysuckle, and once the native shrubs I planted got bigger and the fence on the property line was built, we eradicated it.  Now I am trying to eradicate it elsewhere on the property.  I would say I am about 50% complete with that chore.

I have talked about the east property line before on this blog.   You can find that post here.  I suppose I should have updated that story, but I just never got around to it.  The denouement was that the nasty neighbor up and sold the property to the Dollar General corporation.   While that sale was imminent, the property line in question was surveyed and, ironically enough, the actual property line was about ten feet closer to West Elm Street than the fence line that was causing our lovely neighbor such angst in the previous post.   Ha ha.  The joke was on him.  During all that legal bull shit, it turned out that HE had been encroaching on our property for over 20 years by parking his trailers on it.

I have to admit that I have always had a love/hate relationship with that property line.  It was really just a twenty foot wide strip of trees and brush.  I loved it because it made a very good visual barrier between our place and the street, and it was a wonderful haven for all sorts of birds and other wild life.  I hated it because it was so very untidy, it collected trash, and the trumpet creeper vine that lived there was trying to take over the orchard and vineyard.  Consequently, I rarely took any pictures of it, but you can see it in the background of this picture, doing its wild and wooly thing.

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Once we learned that the sale had gone through, we hired a brush clearing service and had the whole area cleared.  They chipped up all those shrubs and trees, and piled them in great big piles.

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To the right is the lot where Dollar General was going to build.  To the left, behind the piles, you can see the trumpet creeper vine, which we chose to leave behind for a season so the birds would have some place to hang out while the new garden got established.

Eventually, Dollar General finished constructing their building, and put in an absolutely gorgeous privacy fence.  After spending a couple of afternoons trying to spread out the piles of mulch, we hired a guy with a mini excavator to do it for us.  He did in a couple of hours what would have taken us days of hard labor to accomplish.

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Bear in mind that the fence is 300 feet long.  My new prairie sort of undulates along the fence, ranging from 15 to 30 feet wide.  If you look carefully at the shot above, you will see the aforementioned bush honeysuckle back there, just coming into leaf.  Behind it is a sprawling mulberry tree.  That tree is roughly 50 feet south of our north property line.  A long time ago, I planted a row of forsythia bushes between the mulberry and the north line.  That row of forsythias is now about 15 feet wide and much taller than I am.

When we had the  new prairie cleared, we left that line of bushes alone, as well as the plum thicket that is back in that corner.   In the process of developing the new garden, I have pretty much abandoned all hope of taming that section.  In addition to the plums and forsythias, there is honeysuckle, winterberry, currants, a honey locust, and a few other indeterminate trees back there.   The old fence is tangled in amongst them (which is partly why it did not get cleared), garnished with black berries and poison ivy.

We mow under the plum thicket, but I pretty much leave the rest of that area alone.  The brown thrasher and several other birds think that is a very wise decision.  This summer the thrasher raised two clutches of babies back there.

It has taken me two years and several hundred dollars to get the prairie garden started.   We initially seeded it with a mesic prairie mixture of grasses and forbs.  I have also collected hundreds of seeds from the Petite Prairie and sown them.  I have acquired shrubs that you find in native prairies and planted them.   I have also purchased plants from the native plant sales, and planted them.  It is coming along pretty well.

But there is a fly in my ointment, unfortunately.  I shall elaborate on that fly in the next post.   But the following picture might give you a clue as to the nature of my dilemma.

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This is my latest art journal page, completed this evening.

There has been some interest expressed in seeing my process, so I actually took some pictures as I created this one.  The first thing I did was cut up some left over pieces of card stock and put them onto the page using soft gel medium.

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Once the gel medium was dry, I covered the whole page with white gesso.  It looked so barren I got out my PearlX copper pigment and scattered it on the wet gesso.  Then I smooshed it around with the brush I had been using to apply the gesso.

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I let that dry, then put more texture on using modeling paste through a stencil.

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Once that was dry, I had a conversation with a client who wanted to know how I glued all those little pieces on.   I wound up demonstrating glass bead gel and fiber paste by smearing them around on the piece.  Once all that was dry, I used some paints to color the textures.  After that, I sprayed a stencil and printed it  on the page.   Once all that was dry, I covered the whole thing with clear gesso so my sprays wouldn’t move.

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Then I had to do a couple of massages.  When I was done with that, all the gesso was dry. So I got out my DalerRowney pearlescent acrylic inks and did drippage.   I experimented with some alcohol ink drops too, but didn’t really like where they were going so I wiped most of that off.   A little bit of that color remained behind, though (the blue splotches in the middle).DSCF6516

I finished off with some stamping, using stamp pad ink as well as some acrylic paint on a stamp.  Final touches were the addition of butterfly embellishments I made in November, and a simple border.

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We spent a few days down near Corpus Christi, Texas, visiting the Padre Island National Seashore.  It is a truly magical place, a 60 mile long beach you can drive on at low tide when the sand is packed.  This is the view looking south at about mile 15.

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It is a fantastic place to walk next to the water and pick shells up.  Unlike many of our national parks, at Padre Island you are allowed to collect shells, no more than five gallons a day.  They must not have anything living in them, including hermit crabs.

It is also an amazing place to watch birds.   While we were down there I saw a golden eagle sail over the dunes one morning.   There were many northern harriers, red tailed hawks, and peregrine falcons hanging around.  This area is one of the places they winter over.   North of the Island is the place where the whooping cranes winter over.  Many sandhill cranes are also in the area.

The week we were there it got so cold that there were a two mornings when all the shore birds had departed for warmer weather.   There were not even any sea gulls, which seemed eerie.

We did see some pelicans, however.   Mostly they were not interested in flying.  The fish had all gone very deep and it wasn’t worth the effort to try to fish.

There were also quite a few grey herons that stuck around.   One day it was quite windy, and I caught a shot of this gentleman with his feathers ruffled.

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A couple of days later, the wind had died down but it was still very cold.   One of his brethren was posed heroically against the skyline.

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My favorite thing to do was wake up just at dawn and watch the sunrise.  Then take off for a couple of miles on the beach before breakfast.   This was possible because low tide was happening right around dawn during the period we were there.   At high tide, there is no beach to walk on.

There were some grand sunrises.

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That day, when I turned around the gibbous moon was smiling at me.

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The next day we had another fine sunrise.

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That day, the sun was kissing the waves beautifully.

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I love the ocean.   Jim and I both miss living next to it.

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I have spent a lot of time on Facebook.  I would say it even became an addiction.  One of the things that enabled my addiction was my iPad.  Not only did I spend an inordinate amount of time scrolling through crap on that social media platform, I also discovered  that it was possible to spend  literally hours playing inane games.  In the process I also managed to gain 20 pounds, probably because I became so sedentary in the pursuit of these activities.

I have been flamed far too many times, and been sucked into being not very nice myself. I am tired of that game.  I have enough to deal with without people telling me how awful I am, especially when I am NOT.  I don’t have to participate, although it seems like Facebook has become ubiquitous and it is almost impossible to communicate and connect without it.   It is so damned EASY.  But I deactivated that account, and hopefully some of my friends will find me here.  If not, I suppose they weren’t really friends at all.  It isn’t like I didn’t tell them I was moving to my blog.

I am still working on the game addiction.  It helps that I have removed them all from my iPad, but of course it is quite easy to reload the ones I am most addicted to.   Or just play them on Jim’s iPad.  However, slowly but surely the need for that dopamine fix is getting dealt with.  And right now I have no games loaded, and don’t feel a real need to put them back on.  So.

So, now I will give a short update on the major events of my/our lives.

For me, the most salient one was the loss of all the cartilage in my right hip.  The resulting pain was crippling, to the point I could not even maintain my garden and could barely manage to do massage.   I had a total hip replacement on June 8 this year, and the result is miraculous.  I have scar tissue, of course, but it doesn’t bother me particularly.  The change in state was amazing.  I can garden, walk, do massage again.  Hallelujah.  It occupied my life totally for about two months, though.  The loss of massage income during that time was sobering.  We made it through, though.

Another very important event which I talked about on Facebook but not here was the discovery that Jim had a very active and invasive prostate cancer.  A complete removal of the prostate was indicated and performed in July of 2016.   Several lymph nodes were taken as well, and were found to have cancerous cells.   Following recovery from the surgery, the indicators showed that not all the cancer had been removed.  So he underwent 5 weeks of radiation this last March.   The indicators went to zero for a few months, but have now started to rise again.  We are waiting for them to be high enough that it might be possible to image the tumors and find where they are.  Until then, we just wait for the cancer to grow.

The surgery for Jim had pretty horrific side effects.   The removal of the prostate was done carelessly enough to destroy nerve function in the area.   The surgeon pointed out that he was more interested in getting all the cancer than preserving nerves, but the resulting complete lack of sexual function has changed our lives forever.   He is also incontinent while his pelvic floor becomes strong.  The radiation really set that healing back, plus he got radiation colitis for a while and had really bad diarrhea.  Fortunately that has abated, and the incontinence is slowly getting better.

Let’s pass over the treatment with Lupron, which shut down all his testosterone for about a year.   I’ll just say he discovered just exactly why I was such a bitch while I was going through menopause and having all those hot flashes.   Fortunately, both of us seem to have finished up with that activity, thank God.

No wonder I was depressed and needed dopamine from an external source.

Meanwhile, our son developed severe pain in his back, injured by wearing body armor while he was stationed in Iraq for two tours and Afghanistan for one.   He came home with PTSD too, which has improved significantly.  He did get a medical discharge from the Army because of his back.  And his feet.  I guess carrying 80 to 100 pounds of gear constantly is bad for them.

He and his wife are presently working on their educations.   She is one semester away from a masters in Library Science, and he is pursuing a Business Administration degree.  We bought a house in 2016 that is on the next street over.   They moved there and rent it from us while their town house in Georgia is being rented out.  It is very convenient to have that beautiful little family so close by.   Not only do we get to see our grandchildren on a regular basis, we exchange care with them.  For example, when we travel they look after our house and pets.  And when they want to go to a convention or have a date, we look after their house and our grandkids.

Life is pretty good despite the travails.   We have been traveling.   We went to Europe again, spent a week in Lisbon and made an Atlantic crossing to come home.  We also did a couple of short Caribbean cruises, one took us partway through the Panama Canal.  In September of 2016 we took a two week raft trip from one end of the Grand Canyon to the other.   Later on I will do a post that includes some photos from that.  It was AMAZING.

So that is it in a nutshell.   We are looking forward to the next year, hoping that all will be well.  I am thinking of retiring from massage in the next few years, much to the dismay of my clients.   We’ll see.

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