Sunday, April 28, 2013

That Was Then...

I occasionally like to look over some of my blog stats out of curiosity for what some of the more popular posts are and I often find someone perusing some very old posts, seeing as how I've been blogging for over 7 years.  ( it doesn't seem that long!)  I like to look back at these old posts because I often see comments left by people who only came by a couple of times and I had forgotten about or who used to comment and now never do or just to see how far things have come here at my place.  That helps greatly when I'm feeling like I haven't accomplished much or feel overwhelmed.  When I brought up this particular old post, that last idea was really emphasized to me.  I mean, Wow!  It seems crazy that it is that easy to forget how things used to be.

I know the 2 photos are from 2 kinda different viewpoints but you get the idea.  One thing that really amazes me is how much the trees have grown in those 7 years.  It's hard to even see some of them in the first photo!  And there are many that are not there anymore.  I have culled out a number of them for one reason or another.  Mostly because they were really damaged in one way or another or truly in the way of needing to build.  Of course, I'm happy with the way things are; just wish they were a little further a long...

But, that is the way of life.  Things keep changing.  People move on.  We ourselves, are the ones that move on sometimes.  I awoke last night in a thunderstorm and in that craziness that is half-consciousness, my thoughts went directly to wondering if all this effort I've put into this house has been worth it.  I don't know if I can ever answer that question really.  Yes, I could have done a lot of other things with my time.  Many, many people have told me I should have. Most all of them would have required me to stay in debt and servitude to an employer, in order to have somewhere to live.  I could actually be further along on this house.  But I would not have been able to travel as much and see so many things in the last few years, which I have enjoyed more than I can express.  I could have built something extremely plain and put all this effort into a real art career.  Maybe I should have.  But then again....I enjoy the act of creating in and of itself.  It doesn't really matter to me what it is.  Sure, I'd like to be a well-known artist and I might one day.  Or maybe I'll only ever be a person that gave a few people some ideas about how they could build something similar.  Something unique, something they didn't have to borrow money for...something they did with their own hands.

And speaking of changing:  My decision to publish the "About Us" page and it's contents apparently cost me a number of readers for some reason even though I thought it would be an improvement for the blog.  For the life of me I can't figure what is offensive about it except that stating my environmental and social opinions there and in other posts may have put some people off.  Well, that or I'm just boring as hell these days.  I hate it but I will continue to write about what I feel is important and why I live the way I do, as I always have.  I guess I'll be writing for the crickets but that's okay because it's a journal and a history for me if nothing else.  Thank you to those few that continue to hang around.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Littlest Things

So often times it truly is the littlest things.  Supermarkets can keep those piles of boxed, tasteless replicated strawberries.  I'll patiently wait on these jewels to ripen.  Looks like it's going to be a bumper crop this year.  If I can keep the birds off anyway.

Did you know that homegrown asparagus has a decidedly divine flavor?  It's very tempting to just eat these straight out of the bed.  Their bed that is, not mine....although that might be interesting too.

Little orbs of potential juicy goodness.  I should have a 3rd bush producing this year so this brings me very close to blueberry self-sufficiency.  We don't eat too many just straight but I do like to cook with them so that's why just 3 bushes can do for us.

I finally got my little Americaunas.  You can just see the little puffy cheeks on the one standing in the back.  Those little puffs will eventually become the "muff" or beard-like feathers so characteristic of this breed.  I've wanted some for a long time but only plan on keeping 2 or 3.  I'll sell the others to recoup the cost of getting and raising these.
Little baby things abound everywhere right now and Spring seems to be reveling in it's own warmth and glory.  Wonderful warm days and cool nights just seem to stretch on and on.  We've even had to run a fire the past 2 nights which is quite unusual for late April.  Normally by now Spring would have been trampled underfoot by our relentless Summer heat and humidity barging in like some obnoxiously early guest flopping down at the unadorned table and helping itself to any cool beverages within arms' reach.  But not this Spring.  Maybe this year we'll actually get all the garden planted and the landscape groomed and prepared before the fire descends, at which time we can retire to the veranda and fan ourselves while munching cool, sweet strawberries.  A girl can dream anyway.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Baby Got Back

 So, to continue along the line of posts that leave you at a loss for words, I give you now a giant, cast iron Butt.  Oh, the possibilities for titles of this post were just mind boggling.  Now, many of you know that all of my post titles are also song titles, so I started to go with the old hip-hop mantra, "Take Yo Big Azz Outside"; I mean, how apropos!  But, I was afraid that might be a bit too much and went with the more sublime Sir Mix-a-lot classic, "Baby Got Back" and back he does have! I mean, look at that tush!  He could crack pecans with those buns. 
Now, just in case you are not sure what you are looking at, this is the back side of Birmingham's most famous resident, Vulcan.  And no, this butt is not an editorial comment from me to you!  I've been meaning to post about this little adventure I had back in February but, just had not gotten around to it until now.  The website highlighted above gives you a very extensive history of Vulcan and all about the surrounding park, which I am proud to say, my former company completely renovated in 2002-03 and in which Vulcan was restored.  I didn't get to work on that job, as I was involved in another restoration, and had never visited the park so I took a day to go see Sweet Cheeks.  Seriously though, it is a very cool site and the accompanying museum is nice.

Vulcan was cast in 1904 (I believe) as Birmingham's entry into the St.Louis World Fair to highlight the city's rich steel and iron industry.  He was designed and built by Italian sculptor Giuseppe Moretti in 6 months! and is the largest cast iron statue in the whole world.  They have an extensive exhibit inside the museum that shows just how Vulcan was built and it is very interesting.
The concrete structure (which my company built), that sits beside Vulcan's pedestal, is an elevator that takes you up to an observation platform.  Or you can actually climb the old original stairs inside the pedestal.  It was fairly cold and windy that day so we didn't stay up there long.  It's a wonderful park in warm weather though.  Vulcan sits atop Red Mountain so that adds considerably to his height, and the cold.

 This in the view from the observation platform of downtown Birmingham.  If you enlarge the photo you may be able to see much of the UAB complex, one of the leading medical institutes of the country.  Yes, I'm proud of Alabama.  We have lots of good things here, big butts and all.

 The view looking down, obviously.  I thought the map was cool.  If you don't like heights this may be a bit of a challenge.  The platform that you stand on here is actually a stainless steel grate, so you can see straight down beneath your feet.  I am quite used to heights from working construction for so many years but I must say, it did make me just a tad uneasy.!

 I thought this was a pretty cool Louise Nevelson inspired sculpture.  The guys told me that they uncovered a number of mining artifacts during the construction and many of these went into this and other exhibits in the museum.  See, Vulcan actually sits above a large iron ore mine and many of the old tunnels and shafts are still there.

 We had fun and if you are ever in the Magic City I would suggest a visit to Mr. Vulcan.  He'll be glad to see you.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Earth Day!!

In case you are having trouble reading the text it says:  “It’s pretty amazing that our society has reached a point where the effort necessary to extract oil from the ground, ship it to a refinery, turn it into plastic, shape it appropriately, truck it to a store, buy it, and bring it home is considered to be less effort than what it takes to just wash the spoon when you’re done with it.”

This says it all much better than I can.  Seriously.  Just wash the freakin' plate and fork.  I am unfortunately, often confounded by the number of people every day that croon about their love of disposables even knowing and understanding that it is crap for the environment, but who consider their "convenience" ultimately more important.  Wow.  Amazingly enough, these are often the same people who have multiple children or grandchildren, whom they claim to love unconditionally, yet are perfectly willing to let them grow up in a nasty, dying world made that way by our waste.
And yes, I used to pour hundreds of yards of concrete or weld for 10 hours a day and when I got home and had supper I washed the freakin' dishes!  Having a rough day is not an excuse.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Early Sunday Stroll

So we start our early morning walk off by going down to the creek to see what's new and if we can catch a glimpse of the big heron that comes for breakfast there.  Don't see him this morning though, darn it.

Most of the more interesting plants are back up by the house though and down in the lower valley, so we head back that way.  Feel free to pipe up if you know what these plants are.  I haven't a clue about most of them.  This is a new one that I have only noticed this year.  Each year more and more new (to me) and cool plants seem to pop up as we open up a little more woods here and there, or just cut out the underbrush a little.

This batch is new also.  They are about twice the size of fleabane and have the faintest blue tint.

Our native blueberries, or more likely, huckleberries.  I have often found bushes up the side of the mountain just loaded with green berries but by the time they ripen they all seem to disappear.

Some of the scads and scads of native Christmas ferns that blanket my land.  I honestly think I could make some serious side money selling these things by just potting them up.  But I hate to do that.  They seem so happy here.

Some native coral bells (behind the evergreen groundcover) that I did transplant here by the stone retaining wall.  They are one that has really enjoyed me clearing a little and the deer don't eat these but will eat the crap out of bought ones.

False Solomon's Seal??  Real Solomon's Seal??? 

The giant Trilliums that are native to this region.  They are trying to give the ferns a run for their money.

May Apples in bloom with a native Callie Apple.  I mean, Callie Cat.  She's there for scale you know.

Our native pink rhododendron, although most people just called them wild azaleas.  They also come in white.

The elusive rock climbing dog.

Little ferns on rocks.  I have lots of little ferns of all descriptions that grow on the rocks.

Not a clue on this one either.  They started popping up last year and seem to be multiplying.  I like them.

One more pass by the creek before heading home!!

Friday, April 19, 2013

How Dirty Girls Get Clean

Well, now that spring has really sprung, you all know what that means!!!  Time to CLEAN!!  Yay!!!  So, too further cement in your mind the idea that I'm bonkers, I'll admit that I love spring cleaning.  I love any excuse to clean and throw away (or repurpose, recycle etc) excess junk.  I just have to make sure that in my cleaning furor I don't throw away stuff I really need, bleach the dog or recycle all my underwear.  I've already been cleaning and reorganizing for a few weeks now and have a few big chores left so I thought I'd do a spring (green) cleaning post and give ya'll a few of my recipes and ideas for sprucing up the house for warm weather.  I think most of ya'll know I make most all of my cleaning supplies because it's cheap but mostly because it's better for our earth and I don't like washing nasty chemicals down the drain.  Plus, homemade cleaners work great.  Or at least I have found these to.  First, is the cleaner you see in the photo above.  Basically, I keep a half gallon glass jar and as I use lemons, limes, oranges or any citrus fruit like that, I toss the rinds in the jar and then fill it with plain, white vinegar.  I let this sit for about 2 weeks in the pantry and then I use to to fill my spray bottles in the bath and kitchen.  As you have new peelings just refresh the ones in the jar and add more vinegar as you fill your spray bottles.  That way you always have some ready.  If it sits for more than 2 weeks it's okay.  To clean sinks, tubs and such I dampen the surface with warm water, sprinkle some borax around the sink or whatever, spray everything good with the vinegar, scrub and rinse.  For toilets I pour about a cup of the vinegar in the bowl and then spray the seat etc.  Dump some borax in the bowl and scrub.  I let this sit for a while and then flush.  Meanwhile, wipe the toilet clean with a damp cloth where you sprayed the vinegar.  It cleans great and has a nice citrusy smell.
For tile showers I have a separate recipe but you could use this lemon vinegar in place of the plain.

Grout Cleaner:
7 cups of water
1/2 cup baking soda
1/3 cup ammonia
1/4 cup vinegar

Mix well and using a brush or sponge scrub over shower walls, let sit for a few minutes and rinse/ scrub off.  I actually have to about double this recipe for my shower but this stuff really works and the clean lasts for quite some time.  Of course, since it uses ammonia, please run your bath exhaust fan or open a window while you are doing this.  If you don't like using ammonia just leave it out.  You can also use a few drops of essential oil if you like for a nice smell.

And of course, cleaning windows are always part of the spring ritual so I thought I'd give ya'll that recipe too.  I think this recipe works great but you can adjust it a little too and I've found that you don't have to be real exact with the measurements.  I also use this to clean my stainless appliances as it doesn't streak but removes greasy fingerprints.

Glass/ Surface Cleaner:
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 cup isopropyl alcohol

There are tons of variations and recipes all over the place though.  Just Google and you can find all kinds of stuff.
Generally, for my spring cleaning, I do all the windows and dust/ clean the trim for each all around.  I wash all my interior rugs. (I do this periodically anyway but, you know).  Clean and sort all the pantry shelves.  Clean the refrigerator.  Clean/ dust cabinet shelves and all bookcases.  Clean all vents and filters.  Clean behind/ under all furniture and probably some more stuff I'm forgetting.
We are also trying to purge a good bit this spring because we have another town yard sale coming up in May.  Even though I try not to make any frivolous purchases throughout the year, and don't really, I still manage to some up with stuff I don't need.  Now, some of it this year is stuff I found I had stored at my Mom's from way back that I had forgotten about.  It's mostly stuff from my first marriage so it has absolutely no value to me and can make me a few bucks for something I do want!  I've always read how some people get like a "shopper's high" from buying stuff and use shopping, and buying, to alleviate stress and unhappiness but I think I have just the opposite situation.  I really love to find stuff I don't need anymore and am able to sell it!!  To get rid of all that stuff and pocket some money just gives me the biggest rush!!  Woowee Babyyy!!  Of course, I also love those uber contemporary houses with like 2 pieces of furniture and a bonsai on the counter; you know, nothing else.  I love Spartan aesthetics.

EDIT:  Some people do not consider alcohol and ammonia to be "green" choices for cleaning based solely on the fact that they can be irritating to breathe, to some people's skin etc. My choice for using them comes from the fact that they are naturally produced (our own bodies produce ammonia), biodegrade easily and naturally and I use them ONLY in very small quantities.  However, read up for yourself and make your own decisions.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Back To Building

Yes, i know it's what many of you have been waiting on!!  I am back to building on the house!  It's not anything major but it is a step towards completing the living room and kitchen.  Now, what it is, is that I framed the little hearth that goes under the gas fireplace in the living room.  This will be sheathed in Durock and then tiled around the outside.  The top will be a 2 inch concrete slab, like the bath and kitchen counter tops will be.  Basically all I need to do now is put up my little edge form for the slab and pour that.  Then I can start the tile at the bottom and go up.  The tile will go all the way up the wall that the heater is installed on.  And yes, it will have some decorative parts, not just straight tile.
And just in case you see all that scribbling on the wall there, I did swap my mind on some stuff and had to lay it all out again.  I was going to make the hearth end close to the edge of the heater but Allen suggested that I extend it as far as I could so I could put a large vase or some such on either side of the heater.  I thought that would look pretty so I moved everything out.  I have to mark everything out sometimes on stuff like this because you have to account for so many layers of material; the framing, the Durock, the tile etc.  I think this is going to look pretty good when it's done, which will hopefully be soon.  BTW, that is 3/4 inch plywood on top and does have a few struts under it to support the weight of the slab.

Just more gratuitous pottery photos.  I though these leaf trays came out pretty.  I'm getting caught up in my stores, sorta.   The 4 outlets I have now do pretty good and it takes me a pretty regular schedule to keep them supplied.  If I were to take on any more stores I'd never have time to work on my house.  Hopefully my enthusiasm will hold out and I can get a lot done in these next few months.

I've had a terrible gardening bug since it has warmed up and usually take Sundays to just work on that.  And maybe some evenings after we finish with supper! ha!  I can't help it.  While I have the energy I figure I better take advantage of that.  We got some rain in the middle of the day but I still managed to backfill part of a stone wall I'm working on, plant a few flowers and then transplant about half a dozen wild hydrangeas down along the driveway.  Oh, and Chigger and I went hiking along the mountain in hopes of finding a dropped deer antler but no luck there.  I did see some beautiful wild azaleas that are blooming though.
Well, I'll be back soon hopefully with some more goings on.  Hope everybody had a nice weekend!!!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday Flowers

"The splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of it's scent nor the daisy of it's simple charm.  If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose it's loveliness."

~ Therese of Lisieux

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Rites Of Spring

Well, I keep telling ya'll I'm gonna change up this blog or add some stuff or blah, blah, blah and I haven't done crap!  I will one day.  There's just so much to distract me right now with this wonderfully warm weather and sunny days.  I'm soaking it up like an old, dried up sponge that got kicked under the sink and laid there for a year or so before somebody found it.  And then you throw it in some water and it poofs up!!! like a petrified blowfish!  That's me alright!  Poofed up and prickly. LOL!

And I took a good bit of this past Sunday to work on the flower bed (it's getting close) placing more stone, filling in with topsoil and moving a few plants around.  Anytime the shovel comes out ZuZu is right there beside me.  She knows what that means!  Lots of bugs and worms and she doesn't have to do the digging!  She inspects everything before I can fill any hole or place any root ball and talking up a storm the whole time.  I wonder what she says; whether she's complaining or expressing her pleasure as she must think I do this just for her.  She gets so enthusiastic I'm often afraid I'm going to chop off a toe or two (hers) when she jumps in a hole unexpectedly.  But we've been safe so far!

This is just more gratuitous blooming photos.  See how I layered the 2 blooming plants to get like, bloom overload.  The reddish blooms in the foreground are a decorative crabapple I think.  The past 2 springs have turned ugly with late frosts and got this tree before it could bloom properly but this year it made up for all that.  Just loaded with big, full blooms.  Maybe it will eventually get over 7 feet and actually be a noticeable part of the landscape.

And lookeeee!!!   the asparagus are just starting to poke their little heads up!!  I don't think I've ever been so enthused over a plant.  Hhmm, maybe I need some more excitement in my life.  Oh well.  For some reason I thought the asparagus would sprout sometimes in early March or so but after reading a little I determined that April and actually May is normal.  I also read that you should pull the heavy winter mulch off the asparagus at the first sign of warm weather.  Does anybody else do this?  I pulled about half the layer of mulch off and as I did this I discovered the few shoots coming up.
I also read that most fruit should be mulched with pine straw, so I've been working on that.  I knew it was good for strawberries and blueberries, so they got a new top coating, and also went around the border of the garden mulching the grapes, raspberries and figs with it too.  Do any of you use pine straw on your fruit or something else?

Sooo, lots of stuff going on around here and I'll have more to show before too long.  I promise I am working on some stuff in the house too, so maybe a post about that soon.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013


Ahhhaaaahaaaaahaaaa!!  Feast your eyes, all of you still snow-bound and frozen, upon the glorious, golden warmth of the blessed South!!!!  This is one reason why we say, "American by birth, Southern by the grace of God!"  Yes!! We have Spring!!!
Well, okay, we are still having to run a fire at night but the daytime has been quite wonderful this week with highs in the 60's.  If I were not so freakin' far behind on my pottery I would spend every moment out in the garden.  As it is I am going to have to take some time, probably this weekend, to plant some more stuff in the garden, but more about that later.

I'm just bursting at the seams for all kinds of projects around here and the other day I thought, well, I'll just move this one rock down to where I want to build that new retaining wall.  (To replace those old rotten logs holding up the driveway flower bed) Aaannd, then 3 hours later I had built about 1/3 of it.  So, I've been taking a half an hour here and there to work on it when the weather is nice.  Stacking rocks is a form of meditation for me I believe.  I can't seem to get a very good photo of what I've built so far but if you enlarge it maybe it will look better.  Now I need to move a number of plants around and fill in some holes but I think it will look really good when I'm done.

I've also been working on the fruit border beds in the garden; remulching, training vines on trellises, and all that.   Moving a few things around or dividing things.  I added a pot of thyme to the bottom corner of this bed.  I have a few herbs planted amongst the fruit bushes.  I think they grow and work together well.  You can see my blueberries are loaded with blossoms again this year.

Lots of grass has been springing up also so the chooks have plenty to graze on and scratch through for bugs and all.  We leave this run open all day and one or two might go in it during the day but generally speaking,  they all wait until late afternoon to go in as a group and graze.  I have no idea why, but they have a very set routine apparently.  Chickens are so funny.

Well, I have a number of things going on around here so I'll be back soon (hopefully) with some more projects to show, maybe even some stuff going on within the house!