Thursday, May 28, 2020

Good, Bad, and Ugly

I mentioned earlier that evidently my washer had a clog in the drainline as it flooded the garage floor the other day.  Well, could have been worse.  Could have been a utility room in the house.  So the plumber came out yesterday and snaked out the line.  Water seemed to be draining fine.  Cool.  He left.  I washed a load of clothes and . . . . . the water poured out of the washer drain and onto the floor.  Again.  Called the plumber.  Today he’s out there working on it.  He resnaked the line, checked to make sure it was running, started the washer to fill and drain then tapped on the door.  I walked out and – honest to god – water started pouring out of the half bathroom next to the washer.  From the toilet tank.  Really??  So he snaked it again, poured in some sort of dissolve any kind of clot stuff, and reran the washer.  This time, it backed up out of the toilet bowl.  Then he had to figure out how the previous owner put in the little bathroom and where he hooked everything up and why the water keeps coming out of unacceptable places.  This is not easy or fun.  Bad. 

But he did figure out what and where the problem was and fixed it.  Good.

Monday I had a major fright.  I walked down my darkened hallway and beheld a terrible sight.  A woman gazing at me – an old woman with longish scraggly hair that was dragged back from her face.  Ugly

Yes, it was me in the mirror.  I never let my hair get much past my ears – it doesn’t do well at all. 

The young woman that cuts my hair had reopened with rules 1. Appointments only; 2. Only one person at a time (no families crowding in all together); 3. The door was locked so a phone call to advise her the client is there; 4. She wears a mask and gloves and the client wears a mask also.  She is very cognizant of the virus and the necessity to keep things clean and safe.  Good

So, I made an appointment for a much needed haircut and style.  And, while there, a little pop of color -

I think I’ve been alone for toooooooo long!  I really do like it though!  Purple is a nice color. Very Cool!

Wednesday I went back to yoga – first time in three months.  I don’t worry about people contact there.  The class is held in a huge metal building with garage type doors on every side, all open to let in the air/breeze.  Plus, there are usually only 5 or 6 people so plenty of room to social distance.  It was nice to get back.  Good

no, not me - my instructor
not in this lifetime will I be able to do that!

About five minutes after classes started, I heard screaming.  A quick check of the rest of the room showed nothing other than concentration on the different positions.  Okay, just my muscles screaming at the pain of having to assume downward facing dog, the cobras, warrior 2, tree, sun salutations, etc.  Bad

I didn’t actually scream or groan or cry or collapse in a heap.  Yay me!  And again - Good

Since my cats are house bound, I don’t use flea meds on them on a monthly basis.  About 2 or 3 times during the spring/summer.  I know, why?  They don’t go outside BUT they find snakes, grubs, skinks and lizards in the garage so I’m sure fleas can find the way in also.  My vet has a new “drive through window” arrangement.  I called in the order, got there and drove around to the side of the building.  Called – “I’m here” and someone came out gloved and masked and handed me my order.  Easy peasy.  And Good!

Here’s an interesting little-known fact.  Today, May 28, is
Slugs Return From Capistrano Day.
(Or the equivalent location where you are)

Ok, this one gets Bad and Ugly.

The “Swallows Return to Capistrano” day is March 19.  Actually, many migratory songbirds return to the same local area, and often to the exact same territory, each spring, even after traveling thousands of miles to and from their wintering grounds.  But the slugs shudder.  Those swarm of birds are hungry after their long flight.  So the slugs all leave, heading back to the gardens and flowerbeds they abandoned last fall.  Being slugs, it takes them awhile to make the trek back.  This is not necessarily a good thing.  BUT! Here are a few ideas for keeping them away from your prized flowers and vegetables:

Coffee grounds.  Use caffeinated coffee; apparently slugs prefer to avoid caffeine.
Crushed egg shells.  I guess the egg shells are scratchy on the soft little sluggy bodies.
Strips of copper as a barrier. It gives the slugs a shock when they cross it.
Red clover. Apparently given a choice, slugs will choose this plant over other nearby plants.
Beer traps.  Bury a shallow container so its edge it even with the soil.  Fill with beer.  Replace the beer every few days.

Today I came across this

Gnarly Old Tree right? 

Mustang grape vine!

 I rather expected to see Tarzan swinging by ...

The first picture – it’s the trunk of the vine.

Mustang grapes are a wild grape in Central Texas. When they are ripe they are a solid black and can be found along fences, draped over trees, and generally covering any plant or other nonmoving object.  You cannot eat raw mustang grapes as they are extremely acidic and can burn your stomach. But when cooked with added sugar, they make a wonderful jelly.  This one hits the trifecta – Good, Bad, and Ugly.

Well – that’s all I know right now.

28 May 2020

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Another Fine, Boring Day

And, actually, I don’t know too much.  It rained last night.  I awoke in the early dark hours to a little thunder and lightning.  (And went right back to sleep – rain falling is a soothing sound I think.)  This morning I checked the rain gauge – 3 inches.  Wow.  Nice to have except for the mosquitoes that are chasing me through the yard.

While looking over emails this morning, I found a few amusing things -

I wanted zombies and anarchy.  Instead we got working from home and toilet paper shortages.   Worst. Apocalypse. Ever.

My Austin friend sent me a Toilet Paper fact email not too long after the isolation situation was a thing. 

Packaged toilet paper wasn't sold in the United States until 1857. However, it wasn't until 1935 that a manufacturer was able to promise Splinter-Free Toilet Paper.  (Really – splinter free?  Splinters???)
Americans use an average of 8.6 sheets of toilet paper per trip to the bathroom.  (Probably less these days.)
In ancient times something called a communal gompf stick, a piece of sponge tied to the end of a stick, was used.  Wealthy Romans used wool soaked in rose water and French royalty used lace.  (Communal?  Lace?  Ick!)
There was a toilet paper museum in Wisconsin, The Madison Museum of Bathroom Tissue, but it closed in 2000.  It once had over 3,000 rolls of TP from places all over the world, including The Guggenheim, Ellis Island, and Graceland.  (Alrightee then)
In 1996, Congress passed a Toilet Paper Tax of 6 cents per roll, which is still in effect today. An effort to triple the tax was defeated in the House.  (Remember that when you vote next time! – Repeal the Toilet Paper Tax!)
The most expensive toilet paper in the world is from Portugal, a brand called Renova.  Renova is three-ply, perfumed, costs $3 per roll and comes in several colors including black, red, blue and green.  (Pass)
When asked what necessity they would bring to a desert island, 49% of people said toilet paper before food.  (Must be the same people that bought baskets of toilet paper when isolation first happened.)

People keep asking: "Is coronavirus REALLY all that serious?"  Listen, the churches and casinos are closed.  When heaven and hell agree on the same thing it's probably pretty serious.

The spread of Covid-19 is based on two things:
1. How dense the population is.
2. How dense the population is.

Too true.

It’s Memorial Day Weekend here.  I always feel reluctant to say HAPPY Memorial Day, considering it is the day we honor all the men and women who died serving in the US Armed Forces.  Memorial Day (originally called Decoration Day as people went and decorated the graves of the fallen) originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War.  But during World War I when the United States found itself involved another major conflict, it evolved.  Today it includes American military personnel who died in all wars and conflicts, including World War I, World War II, The Vietnam War, The Korean War and the wars in the Middle East, Africa, Bosnia, and anywhere else our military is sent at the behest of the president.  In 1971, Lyndon Johnson designated the last Monday in May as Memorial Day, a federal holiday.  So, instead, I’ll say – A Thought Evoking Memorial Day to you.  Remember and think positive thoughts about those fallen during military conflict and positive thoughts in the hopes that someday the world will get smart enough to stop and think before doing rash stupid things.

Today is laundry day.  My washer and dryer are out in my garage.  Not a totally bad thing since I just walked out to find water all over the garage floor.  And, it doesn’t seem to be coming from the washer.  Instead, it seems to be coming from the ½ bath next to it.  The bath that has the water shut off – completely.  Apparently, the guy that installed that bathroom tied the sink drain to the washer drain and now, it’s overflowing.  Argh.  A blockage in the sewer line is my guess.  So, next weeks big deal will be the plumber.  And, no more laundry today.

One last thing.  I have a grandfather clock.  It’s an old one – about 1750.  And, it’s sensitive about where it stands and when it runs.  When I was gone this past Christmas, it ran down and stopped – okay – expected.  But, since then it has not worked for longer than a few minutes.  Yes, I checked the mechanism – no obvious problem.  Yes, I checked the level – perfectly level horizontally/vertically.  Yes, I spoke politely to it – it’s old.  Finally, I moved it – just a bit to one side and . . . . it started right up!  And, seems to be working fine now.

Good things / bad things.  I guess it all comes out even.

24 May 2020

Thursday, May 21, 2020

What is Today? Tuesday? Wednesday?

Okay – it’s Thursday.  I knew that just checking to make sure everyone else knows too.  However, these days I find I have a little trouble keeping up with the name of the day since, for me, they mostly are all the same.

May has really just zipped past.  Odd, since March and April seemed to crawl.  Guess I’m getting used to isolation (ugh). 

Summer is here in my part of Texas.  Temperatures in the 90’s with 80% humidity and the nights only cooling down to the 70’s.  Ugh.  Still, could be worse - this could be March with the same temperatures. 

I finally started a new project.  It has been on the list of “Things I Need to Do before I Die” for --- hummmmm --- 20-ish years.  Long years back, I decided to paint (young – I was really young) a lovely antique highboy dresser I got from my grandmother.  My two daughters were very little people and I planned to put it in their room which was painted blue and green.  So, I painted the dresser blue with green drawers.  And, after they were older and not in need of the dresser, I decided to strip the paint off and return it to its previous state. 

Okay, here's the thing -  I really don’t like to strip furniture.  It’s a mega-ton of work.  It’s messy.  It’s time consuming.  You have to have a good place to do it where cats and/or dogs won’t wander through all the gunky stuff.  You have to sand everything down.  Then, restain.  So, I got lazy.  I decided to try one of those shabby chic kits and painted it again.  Turned out AWFUL!  And, since that time, I have promised myself every year to strip it back to the wood. 

When the whole self-isolation thing became real, I decided to get the thing done.  Another reason I don’t enjoy stripping furniture is that you can’t trust what it says on the bottle.  The one I bought said, right on the container, in big letters – STRIPS 5 LAYERS OF PAINT AWAY IN 10 MINUTES! 

No.  Not in 10 minutes or 3 hours.  Ugh!  Not with serious application of strength and paint scraper.  Ugh!

Bought something else.  Painted it on, waited an hour and it worked pretty well.  The instructions said it would work overnight too, so, I painted on the stripper, covered it with plastic . . . and . . . . . off came the paint this morning, easy-peasy. 

Still have the main part of the dresser to do but I’m thinking it’ll be done by next week.  I’ll put up a picture of the ‘after’ later.

A good friend of mine (she lives in Austin) sent me a 'funny' the other day.  Seems the staff/owners of a local restaurant there have a sense of humor about the current state of the virus isolation -

Ok, that’s all I got.

21 May 2020

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Same / Different

Last week has been the same and different at once.  I really thought summer would be moving in with it’s hot humid days but . . . . no.  We had another little tiny cool front blow in.  Lasted only a couple of hours but they were very nice hours in the mid-60°.  Now, we are in the 90°’s and I’m pretty sure we’re going to be staying there.

Many businesses here and throughout the state have opened (and as of yesterday, many more) but they are limiting the numbers of people allowed in at any given time.  I’m still pretty much at home with limited trips, mask wearing, and much handwashing.  I’m pretty sure I did something last Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday but whatever it was, it certainly wasn’t exciting.

Thursday, my sister and I drove over to San Antonio for a day trip.  We went to look at manufactured homes at a specific place.  Going over we drove on county roads and state highways.  Very scenic.  We went through a number of small towns, like

Cuero, TX.  According to the internet the population as of 2010 is 6800 but based on the size of the town we drove through – I’d say it has tripled in size.  And, it has some really cool buildings and homes!

Then, we went through Nixon which has a total area of 1.6 square miles and a population of 2300.  I’d say it’s gotten smaller.  And - Smiley, TX, which is really small with a population of 500-odd.  I'm always amazed by the numbers (and names) of small towns.

That night it rained – a lot.  Big thunder boomers shook the windows and lots of lightening.  Rain started late in the evening and continued off and on through Friday early morning.  That’s good, we needed the rain.

Saturday, I took a walk around the neighborhood.  Quiet as usual.  I did notice . . .

The sago palms are starting to bloom.  As a point of interest, these are actually not palms at all.  They are cycads which is one of the oldest groups of plants and dates back to the Jurassic period.  (A cycad is a seed plant and typically has a stout woody trunk with a crown of large, stiff evergreen leaves.)

Sago palms are easy to care for needing only bright light and dry conditions.  Mine sat in water for 3 days during the GREAT FLOOD OF 2017 and are just now recuperating.  (I'll try to put up a picture of them when I dig them up for a container.)

They are likely to freeze in climates that have real winter but they do very well as a container plant.  Another interesting thing – these plants are dioecious – meaning each is either male or female.

 Any question on the sex of this one?

The first, very large sago pictured above is female and here is her brood.

One other thing – sago palms are toxic to humans, dogs and cats if eaten, including the seeds and sharp leaves.  I have to wear long sleeves when I do anything with mine or it breaks me out in hives.  And, finally I this fact found amusing – the male plants are considered allergenic, but the female plants case no allergies. 

Well, I think that’s all I know right now.  Tomorrow I have to go in, fasting, for lab work.  Ugh.  I hope they have all the correct paperwork ready.  I’m not necessarily a nice person when I don’t eat.

19 May 2020

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

More Days and Days

I have found that I am still not comfortable going out these days.  I think I need to see what the COVID numbers look like in June before I’m ready to be an integral part of the world again.  That’s alright.

My yoga instructor reinstated classes.  Shouldn’t be a problem as the classes are held in a large metal building with three sides open to the outside.  And, usually there are only 6-12 attendees per class.  Plenty of room for social distancing.  No, not yet.  Maybe in June.

Then, my hair stylist called.  She was opening; did I want to come in for a haircut.  She has all sorts of precautions in place.  I really would like to get my hair cut/styled so I don’t look like a harridan any longer.  But, I think I’m just not ready.  June – June is the magic month (I hope). 

Our mayor has strongly encouraged Wharton residents to wear a mask when in public.  I didn’t wear a mask in the early days opting to observe the social distancing.  The problem is – too many people don’t seem to understand what social distancing means.  So, now I wear a mask when out in public. 

And that’s about all my virus news.

I finally got my car back last Friday!  A whole 5 days gone.  And, so far, I think they fixed the problem.  Saturday I went to the grocery store.  Perhaps not an exciting adventure for others but you have to take your excitement as it comes along these days.  No problem!  However, I have to admit, I still walk out every couple hours and start the car – just to make sure it will start.  Yep, still starting. 

Outside it’s starting to get very, very warm.  I’d say hot but I know better.  Hot is still to come.  One of the things I got at the store was 3 large bags of potting soil.  I will be moving in the foreseeable future and there are plants I want to take with me.  So, I must either dig them up now or wait until November when it cools down.  Yesterday I dug up several amaryllis bulbs, some narcissus bulbs, and some of the Parrot Lily.  Also – three different ferns and the hidden ginger.

 Parrot Lily

AND  . . .  I repotted four plumerias, the soapwort, and a couple other things.  This involves pick up (or dig up) the existing plant, carry it to my work station, sit down, pot up plant, stand up, pick up now heavier container, carry it to a place in the yard.  This counts as exercise – right?  Good god I hope so.

My Lipstick Bromeliad is blooming.  The beauty of the plant is actually not in the bloom, but the plant itself. 

I happened to look out my window to see this little guy trundling around the yard.  Ugh – now I know what’s digging holes under the fence and in the yard.  I just shooed it away and watched as it trotted off down the neighborhood.  If armadillos just didn’t dig everything up, I’d be happy for it to hang around as they eat grubs, insects, ants, and termites.

I had to get gas today.  I’m not even sure when I last had to fill up the tank so I was surprised by the price per gallon.

I’m not even sure when I last pad $1.50 per gallon for gasoline.  Maybe in 2008 or 09??

And, who knew??, today is Frog Jumping Day.

The day has to do with Mark Twain's first short story about a pet frog named Dan'l Webster from 1865: “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog”.

So, get up and jump like a frog!

13 May 2020

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

It’s May – the lovely month of May

Actually, here, May means summer has arrived.  And that’s fine.  At least summer didn’t arrive in March.  The days are in the mid to upper 80’s though the nights are still pretty cool (by that I mean it’s not 75° at 2am).  And, the humidity has settled in as have the mosquitoes, oh joy. 

Local businesses opened up this past week-end.  I didn’t venture out.  I had planned to do a couple things on Saturday though.  Help my sister with the yard work and start stripping a dresser.  So, I loaded up the car with all the things necessary for both jobs including loppers, clippers, leather gloves, stripping stuff and all the drawers (though not the main cabinet).  (My friend told me I could use one of her empty buildings downtown as a workshop.  A much better option than the garage where in dwell the Demon Duo.)  Got in the car, turned the key and . . . . . nothing.  Click, click, click sez the engine.  Aargh!  Dead battery – again.  I called the mechanic shop to make arrangements to get the damn car to them.  Called my sister – not coming – no car . . . again. 

The battery problem with the car has been ongoing for several months and has included replacing the battery, getting a new alternator, getting new battery hook-up cables, replacing the bolt assembly (has to do with belts and battery) and having someone jump start it 4 or 5 times.  Now the thought is that there is a problem with the electrical system and it is shorting out the battery.  Ugh.  Cars are one of the Great Mysteries of the Universe as far as I am concerned.  I feel very uneasy when it is not working since my knowledge is limited.  It went into the shop early Monday morning and, now, Tuesday afternoon, it’s still there.  I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.

All this means – I’m truly stuck at home.  And  . . . . . . I am really bored now.  It’s like when your computer goes out.  Everything you think to do requires the computer, well everything I think of to do

Make chicken stew – oops no carrots, peas, potatoes;
Make face masks – oops no bias tape/elastic, limited fabric;
Pot up things in the yard I want to take away with me – oops
no potting soil.

 involves a quick trip to the store for something vital.  Argh!

Okay – that’s all my whining.

I have a new ongoing cross stitch/embroidery project – quilt blocks. 

All together there will be about 20 different squares so it’s going to be large-ish.  Some of the squares I have patterns for and a couple I’ll have to make the pattern as the blocks are from quilts I have.

The yard is looking nice.  Herbs are growing.  And I have tomatoes!

Yay me!  Hey! it’s a big deal – I can grow beautiful huge tomato plants – they just don’t produce fruit for me. 

The shell ginger is blooming. 

So I thought to put in a short bit on growing ginger,

Plant shell ginger in a sheltered bed with full sun exposure in coastal areas and under partial shade in warm, dry inland areas. Amend the bed with a 6-inch-thick layer of compost to a depth of 15 inches to help regulate the moisture retention and nutrient content of the soil.

Spread a 3-inch-thick layer of mulch in a 10-inch radius around the base of the plant to help keep the soil surrounding the roots cool and moist. Remove the mulch in spring and replace it with a fresh layer to keep fungi from colonizing the roots.

except, I never do any of that.

The Althea (Rose of Sharon) is blooming. 

Here it pretty much grows like a weed and requires little or no hands-on care.  In the northlands – it will freeze.  In past days, it was used in cosmetic treatments as the roots and stem secrete a mucilage which is good to soften skin.  As a member of the hibiscus family, you can eat the young leaves and flowers.  It was also used in a honey-sweetened syrup for treatment of sore throat. 

And, my Blood Lily bloomed!  Last year I missed the bloom as it happened while I was out of town.

And, by the way, Happy Cinco de Mayo!

And, that’s all I know except there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING GOOD ON TELEVISION!

5 May 2020