Monday, May 27, 2013

White Crosses

In case someone is wondering, the last Monday of May is Memorial Day in the United States.  A day we honor our soldiers who have died in battle, lest we forget the origins of our freedoms.

White Crosses
My knees sink deep in sodden turf
beside a white-washed cross,
as I wonder, all amazed
at your sacrifice and loss
Not just for me, young soldier, did you die,
but for a nation, to be whole and free -
Indeed, for all the world to see,
what freedom can do and be.
My heart’s in sorrow wrung
to gaze upon the crosses white
standing tall-both near and far
aglow with warmth and light
Strangers, we, you soldiers brave
I know not you-you know not me,
But in my mind, a boyish grin I see
and her, a shy and girlish gleam
To the “HEART” of each, no strangers, we
Brave and strong, their hearts did beat
within, this land of patriot dream
in pride, in love of home and family
But alas, to save this land, this sacred land
that we, in gratitude, may have,
you gave your life-eternal gift,
-- and now your cross here stands
Each cross a life, cut short at prime
your gift to keep us free
To follow dreams
we couldn’t have dreamed,
save for you, your lives,
now, a mist in time’s eternity
No words can ever “thank you” say
So we’ll do our best to honor you--
Through lives lived well in freedom’s land
Your loss-our gain, the honor yours, forever claimed
You’ve passed the torch on down to us
along with freedom’s, joyous cry
The torch, we’ll carry, you can trust
We’ll carry it, even if called to die
To the young ---to the old,
to each and all, a bell now tolls
that Freedom rings--it’s loud and clear
Listen--- and you will hear
Freedom rings, white crosses gleam
Oh say, can you see,
the waving flag unfurled
The sacred red,
the white, the blue
Old Glory, forever, reign supreme!
A tribute to our soldiers in response to visiting Arlington Cemetery.
Overwhelming emotion overtook me at seeing the price paid for our/my liberty
and freedom and I had to speak to the many who there lay.
God bless the many souls who gave their all.  God Bless America!
February, 2003 by Carolyn White

Friday, May 24, 2013

Strange Fruition

I was reading a new gardening blog (thanks Jane!) the other day and the writer was talking about how that gardening was often just a crap shoot.  And this from a professional gardener!  I had to agree in a lot of ways.  We have worked really hard to amend the soil here naturally, use no chemicals, keep everything neat and weeded (mostly) and then we have a spring like this one that is SO unusually cool.  The figs are a bust, best I can tell.  None of those this year.  We are however, loaded up with strawberries for the first time ever.  I can handle that. .  If you remember, last year I switched all the plants to varieties bred for the south and I think that has made all the difference.  These are Eversweet and Chandler.
So far I've put up 8 half pints of jam and we have been enjoying fresh ones as snacks every day or on salads.  Yummy with some feta and a nice vinaigrette.  I believe I'll make a strawberry shortcake next maybe.

It has finally warmed up enough that the garden has started growing.  And yes, I need to do some weeding and mulching!!  I know!!  That job in Birmingham has kept me working long hours there but that is almost over.  Some of the crops I direct seeded have started to some up but much of it has not.  I may have to resow everything.

I have rhubarbs scattered all over the place in hopes one or two locations hit the magic spot.  This one is doing very well since I got the ants out.  Except for that big yellow leaf; don't look at that.  Behind the rhubarb is a mess of lettuce and kale.  Carrots in the foreground.  I can't get carrots to do worth a crap anywhere but the coldframe.  I guess they like the soil there better than anywhere else.

The broccoli has really shot up this past week.  Hopefully we'll get a good harvest before the heat gets it, and I think we will judging by the way things are currently going.  I really thought we were going to make it all the way to June without turning on the air conditioning and we almost did.  That's mind-boggling!  I have never seen it stay cool this long into the year.  We did end up running it a couple of days this past week however.  Now, it's turned cool again!

The raspberries are loaded this year too!!  Yay!!  Can't wait for these!

 I have been really happy with how large some of these strawberries are but they still have good flavor.  I really, really don't see how people stomach those fake things in the grocery stores.  Gag!!  It much be they have never tasted a real strawberry.

Blueberries loaded too!

After enjoying the asparagus for about 2 weeks I let it go to seed to gain strength for next year.  *sigh*.

The little Easter Eggers are growing like crazy too!!  They are so funny.  All 6 are still doing well.

They are housed in the Goober Chicken Memorial Run where they have their own little apartment with roost and outside run.  They really love the grass and outside coop.  It's big enough they can practice their flying.

The big chickens are doing well too. 

Anybody know this variety of iris?  I moved a few of these from down by the creek to an area closer to the house and in more sunlight.  It is still an area that stays semi-wet, as it has a wet weather creek running through it.  The area is kinda boggy and unattractive and I would like to fill it all in with iris and some of the native grasses so that it doesn't require any mowing or maintenance.

These are already established in the area and I think the purple blended with the yellow would be quite striking.  I have seen these referred to as Louisiana iris or yellow flag??  Two names for the same plant or two different plants??   So, that's the news for today.
How goes the weather where you are? 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Lights Please

We actually completed another item on the house recently and I am very excited about it!!  Now, I know already that the BFA (big, fancy architect) is going to hate the fact I defiled his steel beam by hanging pendent lights from it but the basic fact is, I could not see worth a crap on that side of the kitchen with no overhead lighting.  In the winter, when the sun comes in, it's no big deal, except at night.  But in the summer when there is no direct sunlight, I was having trouble.  Yes, my eyes are not what they used to be and I need a little more light.  So, we picked out a nice light fixture with very unobtrusive wiring and Allen did the rest.  The wiring runs along the upper side of the bottom flange of the beam, so it is completely concealed.

I know you can't tell crap from the first photo about what the globes look like, so here is a close up.  Personally, I think it looks really cool.  I had thought about repurposing wine bottles again to make the globes but just wanted something a little nicer and these were not that expensive.  The entire fixture was about $45 maybe.

This is just a view from the other direction and from here the wires the globes hang from basically disappear  because of the dark wall behind them.  Anyway, they add a wonderful light and clarity to the kitchen area. 

Which is better to highlight the glass and slate tile I picked out for the backsplashes and stuff!!  Yay!!  The small sheet tile will be the backsplash area along all the counter tops and behind the stove, up about 2 feet.  The large slate tiles will be from the range hood and up and completely cover the other side of that wall, around the gas fireplace.  Well, with a bit of mosaic thrown in.  I am very anxious to get started on this part but there are a number of things that must come first, such as pouring the actual countertops!

Just a little close-up of the glass and slate.  I really like these and the tan/ brown/ goldish colors will blend well with my kitchen cabinets. 
Now, you all know I always advice people to go to a specialty supplier when buying stuff like this and not assume Lowe's or some other big box place is going to be cheaper.  However, in this case Lowe's was actually the best deal by a long shot.  Still, it doesn't hurt to check the supply houses first.  I had seen these tiles at Lowe's a while back but went to look at a tile supplier in Birmingham just to see.  In fact, they were the same supplier I bought my shower tile from and, at the time, they beat Lowe's price quite well and had a better selection.  Well, sometimes things change I guess.  I really couldn't find anything at the supplier that I liked better than these and they wanted 3 times what Lowe's was asking per square foot.  Literally, 3 times.  Plus, I had a gift card from a while back that was a safety award from my construction days and that got me another $50 off, so....

Unfortunately, I am still working in Birmingham and then have to get back to my pottery for a big special order and some other stuff, so it may be a while before I actually get to start installing this stuff.  Well, and get over a terrible head cold that has left me not feeling like doing anything.  Hopefully it won't be much longer and I can really start getting this kitchen finished.  I think it's gonna look fabulous!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Back In The Mud

I finally got the hearth poured under my gas fireplace so I thought I'd show ya'll a quick post on how I did the forms.  It's fairly simple really.  The top of the 2x4's are the permanent framing that will hold up the slab.  That strip of darker plywood on the outside is the edge form that will drop down from under the concrete once it has cured.  The whitish looking board is the side of the edge form that will drop off later also.

Here you may be able to see a little better.  The bottom edge form is basically 2 pieces of 3/4" plywood screwed together at a right angle and then screwed to the framing.  I wedged it in places to get the flat part level.  After that was on I screwed the edge form on.  All of these pieces were ripped to the correct widths so I could use the edges as grade.  Am I explaining this right?  Everything that was to come off later was also oiled so it would release easily.

I found a new mix for doing the slabs and counter tops and I am very pleased with it.  It is one part Portland cement, 2 parts aggregate (89-10 in this case) and 3 parts sand.  That seemed like a lot of sand to me but it works fine and finishes wonderfully.
I bent a #3 piece of rebar to go round the outer edge and then filled in the inside with some wire mesh and chicken wire.  Whatever ya got just make sure to pull it up in the mix and not let it get trapped on the bottom.

I also used a clear silicone caulk to seal all the cracks because a fair amount of water is going to weep out of a slab.  As you screed and trowel it down, some slurry will come over the edge so I put some old crappy towels down to catch my mess.  Of course, it helps that I don't have finish floors down now to protect.  I put a fan on this from both sides to kinda help the water evaporate.  A pool will form on the top after you float the slab down flat and you don't want to start working it until that disappears or you'll just work the water back down into the concrete.  As the water evaporates you can see the surface start to tighten up and then you can start with a slick trowel.  One or two passes and then let it rest to tighten up a little more.  And repeat until you get the surface you want.  Well, it's harder than that but I can only explain to a point; it's something that you just have to see and try.
I have wrecked the edge form off at this point and am going to smooth the corners and seal it before too long.  Hopefully.  Then I can start running the slate tile!!!  Yay!!
Allen and I also finished installing the pendant light in the kitchen and they look fantastic!!  I'll show that soon.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Live In The Country

Well, we got bitty chicks and flowers and such just bustin' out all over around here!  It took the bitties about 2 days to get over their fear of the great unknown, once we started opening their hatch door, and venture outside but now they love it.  Of course.  They are so cute.  Sorry for the blurry picture but getting those things to stand still is near impossible.

I was careful not to kill the ants this year so the peonies are in their full glory.  I may have to add another color; these are really a wonderful flower.  The irises have added a bunch more blooms this year too.  May be time to divide these things.

I'm still building on the rock wall for this flower bed but am within about 6 feet of finishing it.  I laid the rock in front of the badly deteriorating logs that did hold it up, so that gave me about another foot of space to fill in.  I'm still working on that too and moving low growing plants to the front of the bed.  I think it's coming together real nice.

The garden is finally coming together too.  I have to plant a couple of watermelon today and then I believe it will all be finished.  Well, it will if all the seeds come up!  We are still continuing this very cool spring and so our nighttime temps have yet to reach above 60 F.  I was talking to Daddy Rabbit last night and he said peas, corn, okra and such won't germinate until that happens.  So, hopefully things will warm up a little more and soon.  I also planted some popcorn and really am eager to see how that does.  The tomato plants are just kinda sitting there also.  They need some heat too and I need to get all that stuff mulched.  I've got my path liners down but that was as far as I got yesterday.  On the other hand, all the cool weather stuff I still have planted is doing real well.  Lettuce, cabbage etc. and that crazy rhubarb are all growing well with no signs of bolting.
It appears that this will be a crap year for the figs however; hardly a bud on them anywhere.  But the other fruits are looking good.  In fact, this year may be the first really good strawberry year I've had.  Looks like all that chicken poo is finally paying off.

My posting has been a little sparse lately because I've been working in Birmingham a little and will continue to through this next week.  Just a little maintenance on a restoration project I did years ago.  It's kinda nice to have a little change in routine though.
As you may have noticed I also added that crappin' word verification thing to the comments.  I know many of ya'll hate that thing, and I don't like it either, but I started having way too many nasty spams get through the filters and actually post without me knowing it.  So, I hate it, but that's the way it goes.  If anybody knows of a spam filter I can add that would stop that stuff please let me know.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Like It's Her Birthday

This is actually an old photo from last year but the flower bed is not changed a whole lot this year; perhaps a bit more full.  I suppose the same could be said of me on this anniversary of my birth.  Although I try to resist the urge, birthdays always seem to find me a bit introspective and offer the perfect chance to beat up on myself a bit for not accomplishing what I think is enough.  Why haven't I hiked the Grand Canyon yet?!  Why haven't I finished the house yet?!!  Why haven't I spent more time with my Mom?!!  Why do I seem to have fewer  friends every year?!!
And no, you don't have to tell me that I'm being ridiculous (I guess!).  I've done a lot of things and been many places that a lot of people never get to see.  Even to be able to "retire" at 45 and basically work as I please is a great accomplishment.  I think it's mainly just the fact that I don't see a lot of the people anymore that I used to get to see.  It makes you feel isolated.  Makes me wonder if I even matter.  Honestly...probably not, to more than a handful of people, but hey, that's life.  I guess if I had really wanted things much different I would have found a way to have had a big family.
So, did this turn into such a crappy, downer post??  Oh yeah, birthday.  Today has been a nice day though.  It has finally quit raining here and the sun has actually offered it's services.  The chickens are very happy about all that.  This evening Allen will take me out for some sushi and I think we are going to buy a few things to complete the kitchen, so that will all be fun!  We have also completed a couple of projects on the house and I need to put that  up for ya'll.  So, life goes on.

Thursday, May 02, 2013


I though this iris was a lovely, new color.  Reminds me of pink lemonade for some reason.  Oddly enough, I don't ever remember planting anything this color and there are only 2 in a large mass of the common purple/ blue combo.  I also have a couple of bunches of the pure white iris about 10-12 feet away.  Could they spontaneously intermix??  I have no idea how that works.

I have been working very hard on clearing a bit more land down below the garden and chicken run.  this is the area off to the right and you can kinda see where the grass stops, just to the right of the yellow iris blooms.  This area was just a huge mass of privet, poison oak and other nasty vines.  I should have cleared it long ago but just didn't get to it and it was growing up so it was crowding my 2 plum trees, plus just looking terribly unkempt.  In the newly cleared area I might plant a nice Japanese maple or another fruit tree.  Something that won't get too big.  We still have some more clean up to do in this area though.

The cursed damned fire ants were eating the crap out of my rhubarb in the garden, so I moved 2 of them up to a big pot on the deck.  (their gnawing is why these look kinda rough) This way might be better anyway as I can keep them shaded and cool much easier.  I am determined to find a way to grow this stuff.   I still have 2 others in the garden also, so we'll see.

And I finally put the finishing touches on the east end of the chicken coop.  Unfortunately, the rest of the coop looks like hell, but I'm getting there.  Yes, that horrid swatch of blue in the background will go away.  I was also proud that I finally found a place to install that black planter basket on the left.  I know I have carted that freaking thing around for 10 years or so and never really put it to good use.  Well, I think it finally found a home.

Many other changes are going on in the garden now also.  I've got about half of the crops planted and hope to get the other half in today.  I'll post more about what I'm growing this year a little later.
I also finally poured the hearth slab in the house!!  Yay!!!  I used a new formula and was very pleased with how it came out.  Well, I haven't wrecked the edge form yet so....I think I'm pleased with the formula.  Ha!  I'm sure it will come out fine.  I was able to get a very nice, tight finish on the slab but I will also buff it with those diamond pads to finish it out.  I'll post about all that also.

Well.  Lots of work to get done today!