Wednesday, April 30, 2008

How Do You Mend A Broken Heart?

A few days ago Florida Cracker made a post about a heart-shaped Alabama rock over at Pure Florida. I was not going to post about mine but after I saw his I thought, "what the heck". We were rolling around in a ditch (footing) at work trying to set some wall forms when I looked down at my knee and saw this rock. FC's rock appears much bigger and nicer and does have a slight crack through it. But mine is broken, with a piece missing. 'Course, that is sort of what gives it that heart shape. No more comment other than to say it's funny how you find or see things at certain times in your life.
And yes, that is my dirty, rough ol' paw in the photo. Concrete work messes your hands up something terrible even when you wear gloves.

* The Bee Gees

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Flower Grown Wild

This past week I have been walking about my land a lot, seeing what new and different now that things are really starting to grow and I have been amazed at how many new (to me) species of plants I am finding. These were definitely not here before and I suspect that some things are coming out now since I have cleared a lot of areas that were previously choked by so much underbrush. This is cross vine and I was particularly happy to see this. In fact, I have found several bunches of it in different areas. It is a very hardy vine and I'm sure it goes by other names, that is just the one I know. It has a very attractive and fairly large flower that is really not done justice by these pics. The colors are very bright and flashy in real life. According to herbalists, cross vine is a wonderful tonic for general health and stamina, similar to ginseng. You make a tea from the leaves, I don't believe you use the flower.
It's very attractive anyway and I would imagine that the hummers would like it also. I would like to try to root some and plant near the house, perhaps on a trellis. It flowers very profusely with enough sun.
I have not been doing much work on the house itself lately. I have had a couple of projects for other people that I have needed to complete and have been working on planting various things to try and make things look a little better around here. I guess it just looked so barren around the house that it was beginning to get to me. I needed some garden therapy I guess. Also, I have been saving my paychecks in order to buy the siding which I hope to start next week. I am very anxious to get that done. I think it is really going to help my feelings to have the siding on and getting it painted and trimmed up will be something relatively easy for me to do when I come home from work in the afternoons.
Oh, I forgot to mention earlier, the sun has now vanished from the inside of the house. Actually, it was back at the first of April that the last sliver of sun departed. So, the house is staying fairly cool these days even with some days in the low 80's. If it is a bright sunny day (80-82 degrees) the house is usually at about 76 degrees when I get home. I do have 3 narrow west facing windows that I need to shade and I think it would drop the inside temp some. Hardcore passive solar design says NO west facing windows but I couldn't help it. Besides, they help warm in the winter. I am going to open the clerestory windows this week and see if that makes any cooling difference now that I have ceiling fans. The guys at work have said that they are already running their air-conditioners at home so I feel good about my house.

*Bryan Adams

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Let It Grow

My grass is coming up! I'm so excited! Maybe now this area will not look so bad if I can get some greenery on it. I put out a bunch of wildflower seed also so I hope that has taken as well. I really don't want to mow as this just wastes energy (mine mostly!) and time. Also, due to lack of grass or anything, I was having a lot of trouble with the rain washing sand and dirt down onto the driveway in this area. I put these logs along the drive and secured them as a temporary retaining wall. This is the same tree that fell on my house last summer! Anyway, when it becomes rotty or I get more time, whichever comes first, I will remove the logs and probably build a stone retaining wall in their place but for now it is a quick and easy way to stop that run off. The dirt will compact behind the logs and hold it's shape long enough for when I roll the logs away and allow me to get something else up. I back filled behind the logs with some good dirt and compost and have been trying to plant a nice grouping of native and low maintenance shrubs and flowers. Most of them I have collected from the area or been given so they are acclimated for this climate. I have some day lilies and daffodils from a friend. I think I mentioned once before here that if you live in the South and have any amount of soil you are required to plant day lilies. I have some narcissus from Mama's house. There are large clumps of them growing in her pasture that no one can figure out where they came from. I bought a few coreopsis and a crab apple tree. I am also mixing some local, medicinal plants in with the flowers such as mountain mint and mullein. They grow abundantly here and are attractive plants. As with everything else, I try to use plants that are used to this soil (don't require pampering) that you can generally get for free (salvaging) and can serve another purpose such as food or medicine (self sufficiency). Oh, I forgot, I am lining that side of the drive with lavender. That's what those 3 bushy things are to the left end of the logs. OK, I know that is not native but it takes to this sandy soil VERY well.
I have also had some dirt work done recently on the driveway and parking areas. Allen had to get a backhoe with operator out to his job recently so we had him come to the house for a couple of hours to help make his hours for the day. It has made the drive much better. I'll try to post this soon.
I'm still trying to decide on siding and trim and have a request in at work to take the second week of May off. Hopefully the weather will cooperate.

*Eric Clapton

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Blueberry Hill

Well, I can't say that I found my thrill really but I was excited later to find out this is a wild blueberry bush. See, I had gone out for an explore one day after work and proceeded to climb up to the top of this rock bluff that runs across my drive. I was searching for wild azaleas, which I found plenty of, but also found this shrub. I had no idea what it was but it was covered in these little blossoms. I know the photo is crappy because the camera focused on the leaves behind my hand but I think you can pretty much tell what it looks like. I was going to post the photo and see if anyone could tell me what it was. I also found some really pretty little, red flowers growing up amongst the rocks that I was going to put up. When I got back to the house and got on the 'puter, I went to Rurality and lo and behold, there were my little, red flowers! Karen beat me to it except she already knew what they were! Dang it! Every time I think I have found something she posts about it first.....of course, she always knows what it is, so I do learn what I was wanting to know to begin with. LOL! Anyway, back to my story. Today I decided to check out this local nursery and see if they had any unusual plants for my place or at least something different than the same ol' stuff that Lowe's or Wal-Mart carries. Well, they did, some wonderful shrubs and they had this bush that looked just like what I had found on my rock bluff. The lady said they were blueberry bushes so I was real happy to know I have quite a few growing on 2 different hillsides. I don't actually like blueberries all that much but I do like to make muffins and I figure I can bake some things for the guys with them.
This is one of the wild azaleas that I went looking initially. They are very pretty and are usually pink although I have seen a few white ones. Unfortunately, most of them grow way up on the rocky hillsides, with the blueberry bushes, where you cannot see them easily. This one just happens to be right at the top of a curve in the drive. They get pretty large also, for an azalea.
This is part of my driveway with the rock ridge. I guess it has been awhile since I have shown much of my land so recent readers have probably never seen this. I am very blessed to have some beautiful land. There is a nice creek on the other side of the drive. You may just be able to make out that azalea bush right above where it looks as though the drive ends. The road makes a sharp turn back to the right there and you can then see the house.
This is some of the rock formation at the top of that ridge. The rocks are very large. I think it is very pretty. I always wanted land that had big stones and such and a creek on it.
This is one of the many, many dogwoods that are still blooming around here. They last for several weeks and look so nice scattered throughout the woods.
Working this land and building my house has been very hard at times but I am so grateful to be able to live here and in this manner. I told my mother that even if my house never got any more completed (other than lack of siding) I would be so happy and think I had the best place in the world. I was listening to a song today (you can tell music is important to me) and the guy singing was saying that the secret to life was to be thankful and I think that is true.

I used to think I didn't have a lot
Now I realize just how much I've got
Now every day I'm gonna take the time and stop
and be thankful, thankful.

*Fats Domino
The other song referred to is "Thankful" by Jonny Lang.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Garden Party

These are some of the seedlings from the seeds that karl sent from Pile of O'Maleys! I think I did something wrong with the first batch of seeds because the little seedlings promptly croaked. So, I tried again and had better results. These are Cherokee Purple and the Pantero Romanesco tomatoes. I have never been good at starting plants from seed unless I just sow the seed directly in the garden. That I can do. But starting seedlings ahead of time and having to keep them inside and harden them off etc. just gets to me. I guess I get distracted or bored with them and neglect to water and such. I prefer to buy the plants already started and just set them out. Partly this is just because I have so much stuff going on it is less trouble for me. However, it is getting more and more that I cannot find the plants I want because I have turned more towards growing heirloom varieties and most gardening centers carry hybrids.
Anyway, I also have some pepper plants started and several paprika plants. I am very excited about that. Apparently you can eat the paprika peppers just like others types but if you want it for the seasoning, you let the peppers turn red on the plant and then pick and dry them and then grind for cooking with. This is many more tomato plants than I need but I am going to share some with a buddy at work.
I have several things going on at the house that I hope to post about soon. I am trying to get started on the siding but need to do just a little more research on some stuff before I buy the trim. When I finally purchase the stuff I may see about taking a week off from work so that I can really get a good portion of it done. Allen wants me to do the trim his way but I am not sure about that. I think I may want to do it another way. That's why the song says, "ya can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself".

*Rick Nelson

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Working Too Hard

Hey folks! I'm back! This has been a rough week to say the least. It's my second week on the new job site and I'm back to pouring footings and piers and tying rebar and I get to do it all in several inches of mud! The last couple of months at the railroad job spoiled me bad. Easy door hardware etc. and all gravel. It takes a few weeks to get accustomed to the rough stuff again and they have been pushing us hard to get a certain amount of piers poured per day and all that. This job is also a little further away and I have to go right through downtown Birmingham, so it takes longer to drive home and I am usually pretty tired by the time I get here. Perhaps after things calm down a little I can post more. Btw, that is the same pair of boots that I was showing off here back in August. They look a little rougher now. If I get 10 months out of a pair I am doing good. And these are $130 a pair Wolverines.
I have been so filthy after work that I have taken to keeping some extra clothes in my truck because I have to stop after work one day a week to buy groceries. People look at you bad enough if you go into a public place with work boots on much less dirty work boots.
One of my good buddies that was on the railroad job got transferred over to this new site this past week so that helped my feelings a lot. He is just a couple of years older than me and we have a good time working together. However, he accidentally dropped a 16' form on me so that didn't help a lot. It skipped down my leg and made a nice pattern of bruises though. Times like these make me wonder why I do this kind of work and I really don't have a good answer. I mean, we leave work a lot with our clothes torn, mud and blood caked all over us from building things that society needs (hospitals, schools etc.) and all to have people just dog you because of your profession. A craftsperson used to be respected but now we are all regarded as the dregs of society. I had one lady (?) tell me I could not drink from a public water fountain. A lot of the hospitals we work on will allow us to buy food from the cafeteria but we often have to go outside to eat. When we can eat inside we have to sit far away from everyone else and have actually been told not to look at anyone other than our fellow workers. I have never been invited to attend one church that I have helped build.
I didn't mean for this post to be a rant or anything, I have just been tossing a lot of things over in my head lately I guess. I have tried several times to find other employment but I always seem to get pulled back to construction, which is really weird, me being a woman especially. Are we destined to take certain paths in life in order for particular events to occur or to meet certain people? Is the wisest choice in life the one that you feel most drawn to or the one that makes the most practical sense? For me they rarely are the same! At times, I think I have made the biggest mistake of my life by not having another career and at other times I think I would never be able to have the life I really want if I had left it. I know I would never have been able to build this house as I did, had I not been in this industry. And seems like whenever I need something that I cannot provide myself, one of the men I work(ed) with will just appear with whatever it is that I was looking for. Is this Someone looking out for me or just the power of our unconscious minds' desire that created enough positive energy for these events to unfold? Or, is that positive energy in our minds how the Someone works? Maybe these thoughts are way too profound for a lowly construction worker.
I do know that in the next several years I will get to where I cannot do the work anymore. Parts of me hurt now that should not and may eventually require surgery. The guys are beginning to fuss more about me doing certain things and try to run me away from the harder jobs. I know I will quit when I begin to feel that I am causing more work for them. But I'm sure that when the right time comes a new door will open for me and I will start a new adventure.

*Lyle Lovett/ My Baby Don't Tolerate album

Sunday, April 06, 2008


Can anyone tell me if this is kiss me over the garden gate? I found this plant growing down by the creek next to the road. It is a very tall, kind of bambooey looking thing and just covered in these flowers. I hope it comes back this year as I would like to transplant some of it closer to the house. If it is KMOTGG, does anyone have experience with it? I read that it can be invasive in some areas.
I am working on cleaning the basement up this weekend (did I mention that already?) so to be able to do some pottery and such. I made a lot of progress yesterday and am going to try to build some shelves today for my supplies.

*Prince/ the only song of his that I can even tolerate much less like. Also, done by Tom Jones.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall

And it did too! Some strong winds also as you can see from the top of that tree now laying on the ground. I'm glad to see that because that top had actually broken out of one of the trees some time back and had gotten hung up way out of reach. I could not figure how I was going to get it down but the storms yesterday took care of that for me, so now all I have to do it cut it up. The recent rains are helping quite a bit to get our water levels back up to normal but I think we are still in a "considerable drought". The dogwoods have really been opening up this past week too.
I love these trees and have been ecstatic to see how many are around here. There are lots of redbuds too but they don't show up in the photos as well. Hopefully, these rains are helping my grass seeds get started.
This is a discovery I made last year and have been meaning to post about it but just never quite got around to it. At first, I thought (hoped!) this was a witch hazel bush but finally found out it is a spicebush. Lindera Benzoin. It is over near the creek and has these little blooms that open around mid-March. I think it is native but have never seen one before. Of course, unless you happen upon it while it is blooming you would never pay much attention to it as it's summer foliage is somewhat unremarkable. It's leaves and branches do have a spicy smell and my book says it can be used to make teas. The female plants produce small red berries (this is apparently a male) that can also be used as a substitute for allspice.
The weather is still kind of crappy today so I think I will spend most of the weekend trying to clean up and organize the basement. I must get that area in order because it is also my studio and I need to start producing some more pottery. I also have several stained glass projects to do for myself and others that I must start soon. One of them is a window for the bathroom but I need to come up with a design first. It will be something abstract, maybe with vague references to the movement of the sun etc. Speaking of the sun, it has just about disappeared from the house at this time. I was hoping to see today how much was left but it is so overcast that no sunshine can be seen. The past week or two the temps have been in the mid to high 70's during the day and the house warms up to about 73 degrees. It is very comfortable and it holds this temp throughout most of the night, only dropping 4 or 5 degrees in the early morning hours. The heat has not been used more than just a few minutes in some time. I'm not sure if the warmth coming from the ground under the house and through the uninsulated floor has anything to do with this or not. I believe this will affect the temperature in the house some though and am glad now that I have not insulated the floor. Next winter when I have the wood burning stove in the basement it will help warm the house also through radiant heat. I believe I will install some vents in the floor also which will facilitate the cool air from the basement coming in during the summer and the warm air (from the stove) in the winter. Of course, these vents can be closed so to help regulate things also. It's sort of like the house and earth is telling me what to do next if I will listen to it. OK, I'm not weirding out on you but from just observing what happens when I build a certain thing, you can learn a lot. Everything is working it's self out, even the perceived catastrophes have shown me which direction to go next.
A favorite quote of mine from the writing's of Joseph Campbell is, " We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us."
Now, that is not to say that I don't believe in any planning of life (I think you really need to plan a house well) but we shouldn't hold on so tightly to our little life plan that we strangle any serendipitous fortune that comes out way. It seems sometimes when I quit trying so hard to do something a certain way that a much more simple and elegant way just presents itself. Some would chalk this up to good karma or luck or the will of God but, Go with the flow, dude...ya know?

*Bob Dylan

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Good Intentions

I have recently been trying to make more of an effort to tidy up the landscape around here. During construction things get so torn up and you get to where you don't really care but I have gotten tired of looking at just dirt and mud. My dream is to have a mostly naturalized landscape with native plants and grasses. Something that does not require a lot of maintenance or resources. This area was clear cut about 10 years ago and so it was very thick with undergrowth and small trees when we came down here. About all you could do with it was just bulldoze it and start over. I want to restore the forest areas; clear out the privet hedge and briers. Well, a friend was telling me how he his trying to do similar work on his land and has gone to the National Resources Conservation Services for help. I had never heard of this but basically, the federal government, if they deem you fit, pays you to restore your own land. An agent will come out and advise you , after viewing your property, on which programs you may be eligible for. Most all counties have an agent; it's something like your county extension office. Then they give you money, a written plan of what you must do and a certain amount of time in which to do it. My friend has gotten money to restore some watersheds and help restore the quail population in our area.
Part of the quail program is that you must plant a certain amount of native grasses for them. I have been needing to plant something in front of my house because the runoff is horrible and it looks terrible too so he gave me some of the seed he had leftover. It is a mixture of 3 grasses and 2 wildflowers. Indian Grass, Little Bluestem, Switchgrass, Partridge Pea, Illinois Bundleflower and Blackeyed Susan. He also gave me some Tickseed and Mexican Hat seeds. So, Allen and Oliver boxbladed the front area smooth again and we got up a lot of the rocks and sticks and then I sowed these seeds. Now, I didn't have that much so, on the friends advice, I sowed these along the edge of the woods and then just did a short fescue grass in the big open areas. I did sow the wildflower seeds in with the grass and might get some more flower seed. This is the mixture I was given. I know you can't tell much from the photo but it did have a wonderful silky feel. I did this on Sunday and Monday and it rained good today so I hope the seed takes and begins to grow.
I also built a little temporary retaining wall along the drive to stop dirt from washing onto the driveway and planted some more daylilies and daffodils and some other stuff. I will try to show that soon. I have tries to start a few things in the garden but need to do a lot of work there as the ants and grass are fighting for control within it's borders.
Well, time for bed. I have to get up earlier these days because this new job is about 20 minutes further from my house. Ack!
*Lyle Lovett and his Large Band