Saturday, February 28, 2009

Walking After Midnight

Sorry I have been delayed on posting anything lately but there has been a lot of walking and thinking and mulling over just lately. Things have gone fine with The Man From 12 Years but more on that in just a minute.
I have been somewhat reluctant about blogging this week. I'm not sure why. I don't know if I'm aggravated or pissed with things or what. I've noticed in the past couple of months that my hits have gone up substantially but my comments have gone down and that I have lost a couple of long time readers (that I thought were pretty good friends) for some reason. Now, I'm not really whining about the comments, if you've don't comment much or at all, that's fine. I suspect that posts about some personal things has put some people off, and I know that is a tricky subject because you can't always explain everything fully, so I have tried posting about a variety of topics (even ones of your choosing) but there is still a lack of feedback. And maybe I'm just being boring on everything, I don't know. My thoughts are not really coming well to me right now; I've got a lot of other stuff on my mind but when I can organize some and get a coherent line of thought going I will explain things better.
As I said earlier, things have gone fine with The Man From 12 Years. It has been wonderful to see him again after so long. We have talked and talked about so much (one reason for lack of time lately) and this is what I meant when I said that I had been 'busy' in the comments from the last post. That's another thing, I think some people may have gotten the wrong idea about some things from my comments. But that's my fault for not wording it better. Anyway, I don't know if there would ever be anything more between us, even though we have had a great time just buddying around. He is still having a very difficult time and somehow got it in his head that if he could find me it would help him. So, I have been trying and that is a very tricky undertaking also, but there is no way I can turn away from such a heart as his. I thought so much of him when we worked together because he helped me out so often back then and have thought of him many, many times over the years.
So, that's that and I will get back to posting and replying to comments and emails soon. Please forgive me for taking so long on those things.

*Patsy Cline

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Just a short update for any of ya'll that might possibly be interested in this. The Man From 12 Years and I were not able to go out to dinner this past weekend because he did have to go to Memphis. However, we have talked several times since then and he asked if it would be okay if he came to visit tomorrow after work, for a short while. He seems very anxious to see me and I have to admit, after 12 years, I am just dying to see him again. We agreed that if everything went well and I do not think that he has become 'an old goat', as he puts it, we would actually go out this coming weekend.
He has revealed quite a lot in the last couple of conversations and well, this is looking very, very interesting. It still is just astounding to me that this man has gone to the lengths he did to find me. Turns out it was not that he just happened to run into my former boss etc. and all that. So, we shall see what happens tomorrow.

*Carly Simon/ 'course, ya'll knew that

Saturday, February 21, 2009


I'm skipping over a couple of other questions, just for now, because I had these photos and I need to get some others together for the art posts I want to do. So, Molly asked, what crops do I put in year around and Tammy inquired how the root juice experiment was going, so this is to answer both of those.
Our growing season is pretty long, generally April thru late October, but during the coldest part of our winter I don't actually have a lot growing. I don't have any cold frames or a greenhouse yet (I know, shame on me!) so I am at the mercy of the weather for most things. I think I planted the cabbage a little late this past fall and it has not done really well. I managed to get 2 heads and 3 harvests of Brussel sprouts from the plants but they seem pretty bitten at this point. So, when I passed by the local hardware store and saw they had their first shipment of plants in last Thursday I had to stop. I bought another batch of cabbage starts and am going to see if spring does any better for that crop here. I should be able to go ahead and plant these now. The variety is supposedly very cold hardy. I also bought some leeks, which I have never tried before and so am anxious to see how that does.
Our last average frost date is somewhere around April 15 so, I will be setting out my potatoes (gonna try Caribe) around the first of April and onion bulbs the first of March. I would also like to try hulless oats as a cover crop. These are planted in the early spring or late fall and can be harvested and processed to eat and the stalks incorporated into the soil for enrichment.
After our frost date you can go for it, as far as growing just about anything. It warms up so fast, spring lasts about 2 weeks it seems, that I just direct sow most things. Peas, corn, okra, green beans, watermelon, cantaloupe and squash. Except for tomatoes, which I try to get started early. Of course, I usually get two lettuce and spinach crops a year, one in spring and another in the fall. I have also built a raised bed for my strawberry plants which I will transplant as soon as it gets a little warmer.
I don't feel that I have a lot to offer in the gardening information because I just haven't had much time to devote to that these few years that I have been in this location. But it's getting better and each year I add a little to the garden. And learn to extend my season just a little more. Previous to living here, I had virtually no experience growing anything during the fall or winter months.
Oh, in the photo above you see the lavender plants I started and the cabbage and leeks. Allen bought two grape plants for each of us. We'll see who's does better! He got us each a white seedless and a purple seedless. I know very little about growing either but am going to try hard to get these to live. Right now I'm trying to find a suitable location for them. I am also going to order two apple trees this spring (already have one established) so to add to that variety. I love apples; baked, raw, dried, you name it.

OK, so the lavender cuttings seem to be doing well. I let them soak in the willow water for about 5-6 days and then planted them in a small pot with regular potting soil. They stay outside unless it is going to get below freezing at night and then I will bring them in and put them out again in the morning. So far, so good. They seem healthy and vibrant. I gave them just a little fertilizer in their water today. I'm tempted to kinda dig one up to see if there are any noticeable roots forming but have contained myself so far from doing that. I'm very excited that this seems to be working because I'm gonna have scads of lavender plants if these transplant well!

So, next post I will try to make on some of my art and related questions. Thanks for all your questions.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

How Long Has This Been Going On

This is a little side track to another subject I thought I'd write a little about. I'll get back to the questions posts next, I promise. Just so happens that Allen has been going through some of his old pictures lately and found some of me he thought I would get a kick out of, so he scanned them and sent them to me. This was the first construction job I worked on 15 years ago. It was a monstrous, one bedroom house for a very eccentric, rich man in Birmingham. Allen was the superintendent. Anyway, it was a very interesting job and I met a lot of great guys that really helped and encouraged me back then. Several of them have, unfortunately, passed away now but they taught me a lot. Looking at this photo I am aghast at the blatant OSHA violations in this one scene. We would be slapped very hard for such now days.
This track hoe is one of the most fun machines you can operate.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Workin' On It

This post is the first of several to answer all the great questions ya'll posed last week. I promise to get to them all but ya'll bear with me. So, the question was:
what do you have for a food pantry? Do you have cold storage, root cellar?? Are you a prepper?This photo shows what will soon be my pantry. Due to the fact that I'm still building on the house, I do not, at the moment, have all these items mentioned but do plan on all those things. So, I'll just have to show what I have and discuss my plans. My pantry is an 8'x8' room right off the kitchen. There will be a cased opening leading into it (no door) and it has one small window. I am trying to finish the side to the left so that I can at least set the base cabinets on that side and pour the concrete counter top. Above the base cabinet I plan on having open, wood shelving that extends up to the ceiling. The shelving will probably be five-quarter pine or cypress, 12" deep, with a natural wax finish. Both base cabinet and shelves will be wall to wall. That side will be used for storage of food and other items that I do not want to receive direct sunlight. On the other side of the room I plan on having a chest freezer and it also has a small broom closet behind the electrical panel. The kitchen and pantry will both receive cork flooring.

At the moment I do not have cold storage or a root cellar but would like that. I plan on installing a sand-set brick floor in my pump house (which is partially earth sheltered) and with the addition of shelving, can use it for some cold storage. The pump house stays about 35-45 degrees F. in the winter and I think it would be okay for storing canned food.

As far as the root cellar, that's a little trickier. On the front of the house, which is the north side, I plan on pouring 4' high concrete walls to form planter boxes. This will cover the concrete block that shows now also and help the house appear to 'sit' lower to the ground. Of course, once finished, the planter boxes could possibly be used to grow some food or herbs and medicinal plants without fear that the deer would chow on them. I would like to form a vault of sorts within those planters that would serve as a root cellar. The roof of the vault would also be concrete and it would be covered by the earth and plantings above. Also, since they are on the north side, it always stays cool there. A small, insulated access door would allow you to get to the food from either the outside or inside of the basement. I hope my description is clear and I explained all that well enough. This is one frustrating part of the house because I know what I want to build but it is just taking so long. I'm plugging along though and getting some stuff done. I'm hoping warmer weather will give me a boost of energy too!

As far a s being a prepper, not in the way most people define that I guess. Due to just the lifestyle I like to lead (rural living) and what I do for a living, I do have or employ many of the tools and supplies that preppers do but that's just circumstance more than a conscientious effort for prepping or belief that a great disaster is imminent. Now, don't get me wrong, everyone should keep a decent tool supply, certain supplies for emergencies etc. and I certainly believe that a disaster, whether natural or man made, is possible these days. I am short of the food supply just due to the fact I have not finished constructing my storage areas. I do have some dry goods stored and a good selection of heirloom seeds for growing more food. I have several fruit trees planted already and am adding to that selection and hope to acquire chickens this year. So, I hope that answers that question somewhat.

Oh, btw, this is the enlarged 'cartoon' of the finished design for my bathroom window. I have actually started the window! but haven't gotten real far. I have discovered I need to order glass pretty soon also. I'll try to show what I have of the window soon.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

It Won't Be Long

I discovered these this morning while Lika and I were out for a walk down the drive. I have planted a good number of bulbs of various types all along the road to the house just to add a little color and interest to the landscape. Deer tend to avoid (but not always) these type plants also, so they are about the only kind I can add without just wasting my money.
The native hydrangeas were just beautiful this past summer and they naturally dry themselves to last all winter. Of course, I should have pruned many of these by now in order to have a good crop this year but have just not had a lot of time for such. It was a very cloudy, drizzly, misty morning but just enough sunlight to illuminate their delicacy. If you concentrated just on looking at the flower head, it seemed as though you were viewing a sepia print. I tried to capture that here by cropping closely but it doesn't work as well.
Thanks to all for your suggestions for future post and I promise to get busy on that immediately. I will try to answer the question about my pantry etc. in the next post and then just kinda go down the line. If you haven't left a comment for what you would like to see a post about, please do so. Or if you have another suggestion just keep 'em coming.
*The Beatles

Friday, February 13, 2009

And Now For Something A Little Different

So, I'm having trouble coming up with ideas for things to post about. Therefore, it is time for you all, as loyal readers, to throw me a bone here. Gimme some ideas.

Anybody want me to post about a particular aspect of the house? I still have not finished categorizing everything on that.

Anybody want to see a post about a particular aspect of my real work?

Anybody want to see a specific home project demonstrated? Carpentry? Masonry?

Anybody want to ask me a question on pretty much any subject? And hey, I've been a construction worker for 15 years; there's not a lot I haven't been asked already.

I don't know; gardening? conserving? rural living? home life? my art?

I promise I won't be offended by anything (or if nobody asks anything!) I just feel like I've been boring lately. Or being a drongo!! Not much to offer. So???

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Atomic Dog

The title of this post doesn't really mean anything, I just like it. And I like reggae. 'Course, I like about any type music but you probably figured that. We have been having just wonderful weather lately so Lika and I went for a walk down the creek the other day. He loves, loves, loves to go to the creek. Doesn't he look so sporty?!
Lika is a pretty good ol' dog. Doesn't get into much and rarely barks. He does get into these wild playing sessions on the deck in the evenings that sound like he is tearing the place down but he doesn't actually mess anything up. Sometimes I think he believes if he makes enough noise I will come out and play with him. And I do when I can. Since the weather has been so warm he brings his day bed up onto the deck and camps out by the door. He has a big, plush bed in my studio but also has a smaller 'tote' bed that he carries around to nap on. It's really funny.
Just wanted to send a note to my Aussie readers: Hope ya'll are all safe from the fires and flooding there. I know Molly is OK but not sure where the others live. I'm ashamed to say I don't know all the geography of Aussie. My heart goes out to ya'll and your countrymen though. I hope things are under control soon. I would also encourage us "Yanks", if you are able, to make a small donation to the Australian Red Cross.
Well, tomorrow is Friday and let me tell you I am glad! This week wasn't too bad but this warm weather has got me wanting some time off something fierce. Oh, to be working in the garden and on the house! Or just lounging on the deck a little. Even Grendal has been braving the threat of Lika trying to lick her face to go out and sun on the deck. They still don't know what to do with each other.
I'll try to have something about the house this weekend!
*George Clinton

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

You Want This

Anybody use these things? I've been collecting them for God only knows how long, for some reason I'm not sure of and need to get rid of them. First person that emails me their address gets 'em!

Well, I've been musing over this man that called me last weekend and I have to say I'm perplexed. How bizarre (I know that has become a theme with me) that this guy would call after 12 or 13 years. I mean, I remember him well and we were friendly but I just never got the impression back then that he even paid me much mind. And now that his wife has passed away he wants to come see me? OK, I'm not stupid, I know what that sounds like that's all about but I hate to say, I'm suspicious. If he is anything like what I remember, he shouldn't have any trouble finding a woman. What's he want with me? I think he is actually looking for someone else. Trying to get in touch with somebody else we worked with back then or something. It's also funny that he just happen to be working on a job for one of the very few superintendents that has my phone number and knows how to get in touch with me. Ugh! I think I'm going to become a hermit (hermitess?) and get, like 50 cats to occupy my time. So, even though I tried to be very friendly on the phone and sound honestly like I would like to see him, I don't think he will call back. I probably said something really stupid or sounded like an idiot to him. I perfected that technique with the Switchman. I really think I have been a rough ol' construction worker too long and am not fit for polite society anymore.

*Janet Jackson

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Hello Again

Allen found this old picture of Grendal and a terrifying snake in some of his old papers so he scanned it and emailed it to me, thus the kinda crappy quality. I thought it was funny though. This was taken several years ago.
Well, I've been working on the house some, specifically the window for the bathroom, but don't have much to show for it. I should say I have been working on the full size pattern for the window. I'm almost done with it, I believe, so should be able to actually start the glass today. I just need to pick some general idea of colors and make sure the proportions of the window look OK. Sure enough, last week the BFA was browsing the blog and spied my design. He hated it, of course, and promptly sent me his design that he had been sitting on for months now. His is quiet complicated though and does not lend itself to clear glass and light colors, in my opinion. It would be very nice in bold, rich colors but I'm trying to avoid that in order to take full advantage of the sunlight. So, I'm going to go with my design. I think it will look nice. It's very difficult to make an ugly stained glass window. Now, I have seen it done once or twice, but for the most part colored glass is just magical somehow.

I took my truck to a detailer yesterday also and had it cleaned inside and out. Man, it looks so much better! Anyway, another buddy of mine had dropped by to chat and tell me about the sorry state of our work right now, (we lost at least 2 big jobs just this week) and he said he would take me to pick up my truck. This buddy worked with me over at the RR (and knows that whole story) and as we were walking out of the place, he picked up a price list and started laughing. What's so funny? He showed me the paper and pointed to the address of the business. Such and such Railroad Street. I had not noticed that before. And btw, my company has recently given that RR prices for some additional work at that same location. Apparently, they want to put in another, larger sand silo and extend a concrete slab and so on. So, we may go back over there to work before long.

Well, hopefully I will have real window pictures to show you soon. Hope everyone is having a good weekend. The weather here is absolutely beautiful.

*The Cars

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Warm This Winter

If you look closely on the left side of the stove there, you will see some pipe rising up and going off to the left. This is a contraption I have rigged up to transfer some of the hot air blown out from the double walls of the stove, up to the bathroom. It works pretty good. There are three vents on the front of the stove that force the hot air out and into the room. I simply covered one of the side vents with a standard 4" boot, attached a 90 and a 4' section of pipe to get it up to the ceiling, another 90 etc and over to the vent in the bathroom floor. I had already cut this vent in the floor, in anticipation of the day I have some type of HVAC system, because it is a slate floor and didn't want to cut through that later. If the pipe could be straighter it would undoubtedly work better but as it is it keeps the bath anywhere from 69-72 degrees on a fairly cold day or night. It might do a little better if I insulate that pipe; not sure.
My intentions are to run another one of these off the vent on the other side, to go to the bedroom. The air blows pretty forcefully and warm air goes up anyway so it does help to get that warmth up there. I have discovered that, since I'm not here during the day to keep a fire going all the time, that the heater does not help a tremendous amount in keeping the rest of the house warmer. On the weekends when I'm here and can keep a continuous fire, you notice a big difference. The floor in the bedroom is very warm and the rest of the area of the house is more comfortable but during the week it just doesn't do much. I get a very hot fire going when I get home and it warms the basement quickly but the mass of the floors require a continuous heat. Still, it does help some and when I put in this other vent it will help the bedroom for immediate heat, I believe.
I bought a cheap bathroom exhaust fan and Allen installed the box in line with the duct work in an attempt to move more air up the pipe and into the house but it actually cooled the air too much to work any better. Plus, it was loud and required power. This method doesn't require additional electricity.
So, it has been pretty cold for here this past week and I've been burning a good bit of wood. We had a very light day at work on Wednesday, I think, so I came home and split the wood you see in my holder. We only poured a piddling 4 yards of concrete, and it was a footing, so I needed some exercise when I got home. I enjoy splitting wood actually. It is kind of soothing. If you have nice seasoned wood that is! I have read several other blogs of women that homestead and they express interest or a desire to be able to split wood but one said she was too weak. Now, I understand many women might have health conditions that make this type work impossible. And some women are built so petite that it would be very hard for them. But, for an average built, decently healthy woman, it is just a matter of conditioning. I swing a 8 lb. sledgehammer at work but it is just something I've gotten used to and that's the key to the whole thing. Just start out a little at a time but you have to do it everyday to build your muscles up. Most might not want to go to the extent I have but women need to build their muscles up in order to be more efficient. What if your husband gets bad sick and can't do some of that work? And I've read about that very thing happening on one woman's blog. Women need to become more self reliant about such things. The way things are going these days, manual labor or just doing more things by hand, is something many women might find themselves at the mercy of. Splitting wood is not something that requires massive brute force to a large extent. It is mostly technique. And a matter of a sharp axe and good maul or wedges. Of course, you have to be able to move the sections of wood around in order to get them into position but even this can be accomplished with a pry bar. So, ladies, build those muscles up! It will make you feel better in many ways.

Thursday, February 05, 2009


A railroad switchman working the yard one winter day went inside the train house to warm a bit while work was slow. The boss spied him inside and asked gruffly what was he doing in there, when the work was outside? The switchman replied that his feet had gotten very cold and he thought he would try to warm them while there wasn't much going on.
"Tomorrow you need to wear two pairs of socks if your feet are so prone to get cold" the boss said, unsympathetically.
"Well," the switchman replied dryly, "if two pairs of socks are warmer than three, I'll take one off."
Well, I thought it was funny....

The real Switchman told me that one last winter. Of course, he told it as a true story but I suspect it is just one of the old standards that exists in many of the trades.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Cold Shoulder

The guys are so silly sometimes. They hate to have their picture taken and so none of them would look at me. We absolutely froze our asses off today. I thought I was going to die. I know, ya'll that live where it really gets cold are laughing at me but it was awful! It was about 16 degrees when we started this morning and might have gotten above freezing, I'm not sure. I don't know how construction workers up north do it. I mean, how can you work out in worse cold? There no way I could do it. It was actually warmer in the freezer we just built than it was outside. That's nuts! We had so much clothing on we were having trouble bending over. I bought some of those Hothands thingies for your feet. You know, those little packets that heat up when exposed to air. I stuck a pair in each boot and one down my bra. Hey, I'll do whatever it takes to keep warm. Tomorrow promises to be about as cold. I'll be very happy to see the weekend. Everybody stay warm and pray for spring!!

*Adele/ if you have not checked this girl out you need to. An incredible voice.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Let's Get It Started

It's time for a little experiment at ER! I've read about this before but never tried it until now. Basically, you make your own rooting hormone for starting new plants instead of buying the stuff from the stores. I was thinking today that I just don't write very much about the organic or natural practices that I do and I need to improve on that. Unfortunately, I'm not as good with it as a lot of people but I do try to come up with alternative or natural solutions when I can. Also, I believe if you can make a product that is just as good or better than what you can buy, then it just makes good sense to do this. Plus, if this works, it is extremely easy to do.
I took a small handful of willow twigs, about 4 to 5 inches long and just placed them in a mason jar with enough water to just cover them. I let this soak for a few days. Many of you probably know that willow trees root very easily. You can practically just throw one out on the ground and it will root. The willow is extremely high in a natural hormone that helps with this. By soaking in water you extract this hormone and can use it with other plants. As you can see from this photo, the twigs were already starting to sprout from this little time in the water.

I want to propagate what few lavender plants I have so they are going to be my guinea pigs. Lavender plants are expensive here and I only have about a 50% success rate in transplanting them so if I could save that money it would be fabulous. Now, a friend told me when you take a cutting from lavender, you actually just tear a small shoot off one of the larger branches, making sure it leaves this little tag on the end. I don't know why this helps but I did it anyway.

Then, you just soak the cuttings, or tearings in this case, in the willow water for a few days. Oh, discard the willow twigs. After 3 or 4 days, transfer the cuttings into a small pot with soil and keep slightly moist. From then on you just treat them as you would any seedling. So, I will show the progression of this and whether it works for me or not. I really hope it does work as I would like to line my drive by the garden with beautiful lavender plants. They seem to really like the soil and weather here once you get them established.

*Black-Eyed Peas