Sunday, March 29, 2015

The First Days Of Spring

No kind of deep, existential post today.... just a little look around of what's going on in the past week.  We had a bit of a cold snap for the past 2 nights but things should warm back up tomorrow.  And hopefully, STAY warm!  I was pleased to see that the cold did not harm the blooms on this forsythia.  I've noticed that a lot of people don't like forsythias because they say, they're just big, green shrubs after the blooms fade.  But I like them.  I think the blast of sunny yellow lasts long enough and is worth just green the rest of the summer.
Whenever I have some free time I've been trying to get the yard and garden cleaned up and ready for the growing season.  We've got a lot of brush to burn, and have burned a good bit already, from when the tree trimmers came through for the power lines.  I'm fine with that though because the alternative is that they spray those horrible chemicals and I'm not having that on my land.

I like forsythias so much that I fairly regularly take cuttings off my big one and root them, like the one above.  These and blueberries are really easy to do.  With several acres in what could be considered yard, I can't afford to buy shrubbery and flowers for everything so it helps greatly to just propagate what you have.  For many shrubs I just prune off a nice strong branch, shave the bark off maybe 1/2"-1" on the end to root and just stick it in the ground.  Now, I do take them to a spot I have reserved in the garden because the garden soil is much better than what's in the yard.  Sometimes I might dip the end in rooting compound...or not.  Once I know they are established, usually about a year, I simply transplant them out into the yard.

I love to see the little fidleheads of the ferns coming up.  To me, this is the first true sign of spring.  Around these parts anyway.  These don't come up until it is shor 'nuff spring.

I finally got around to doing what I should have done long ago and that is add a third row to my asparagus bed.  I only put in 2 rows when we first made this bed because I was afraid of over-crowding but I came to the conclusion that was probably not going to happen.  Besides, if they do seem to get crowded in the years to come I can always thin them to share with friends.  As we always used to say in construction....better to have too much than not enough.  (and that goes for about anything, lol!).
This year I am determined to finally finish the entrance to the garden and the fruit beds that line the perimeter.  I got a pretty good start on that this weekend.  Hopefully I can keep my momentum up.

I got a couple of new bird feeders, including this one specifically for the goldfinches and I have been amazed at how many are now coming around.  In the past, I had seen 2 or 3 at most but now we are getting 8-10 or more.  I just love them and the bright yellows.  Or even the dull yellows.  They are feisty little birds too!  They fight over that thistle seed and will get up in each other's face, screaming as loud as they can.

So, that's about it for garden progress.  Hopefully I'll have a lot more pretty soon.  Anybody already got theirs planted?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Going Up The Country

 I have honestly been trying to get back here to make a post way before now but life kept getting in the way.  Well, that and the posts that I wanted to make were going to require a bit of effort (meaning thought and planning) and I just haven't felt like going to that much trouble.  Ha!  Been having a few headaches this week and the ol' noggin just wasn't much on deep reflection.  Anyway, my Mom has been under the weather for several weeks now also and I went up to spend the day with her this week and then I have been trying to get caught back up on my pottery after being out of clay for so long.  And no, I have not gotten any garden started yet either.
  I did, as you can see, and we had a very nice hike on a beautiful day.

The hiking trail we chose was pretty moderate and easy until right at the end as you start to descend to the falls.  But if you can make it down it was just gorgeous there.  This is Peavine Falls and they are about 30-40 feet maybe.  Not huge but certainly pretty.

This is one view of the trail going down.  Only for the very ambulatory.  I was very glad we had brought walking sticks.  They came in very handy to brace yourself.  The trails are very well marked and maintained though.

Another view of the falls.  I was mesmerized by the clarity of the water.  We rested for a while and had a little snack while we were there.  After a while some other folks came down with one of the guys smelling like he had bathed in cologne so we had to leave before I started throwing up.  (I could smell him before he even crossed the creek) Why do people do that to themselves?  Can they not understand that they stink to high heaven?  It is not attractive in any way.

Oak Mountain is a wonderful park with tons of activities for everyone.  I believe they have over 50 miles of hiking trails in addition to many miles of bike and horseback trails.  Also, a nice 18-hole golf course, several lakes and many camping areas.

For the most part everything was very clean also.  This one tree did catch my eye though.  It had been so repeatedly carved with people's names and initials that the bark had taken on a very abstract quality.  Almost like some ancient hieroglyph pattern.

I think this is red buckeye but I may be very wrong.  It grew here quite prolifically. 

This is the entrance to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center inside the park.  Mainly they rehab birds.  I once brought an injured cormorant here many years ago.  I don't believe I ever told ya'll that story.  I'll have to see if I can find the photos and tell you about it.  Kinda interesting and quirky tale.

They also have this Treetop Nature Trail where you can view some of the permanent residents of the Rehab Center.  Oak Mountain makes every effort to release all it's patients back into the wild but some are just too damaged and would not live without help.  So they live here to educate the public.

 They had owls, hawks and buzzards, although they called them vultures. lol!

This beautiful Red-Tailed Hawk had built herself a fine nest and even stood up to show us her one egg!  Unfortunately, we later found out that her egg is not fertile, so she's gonna be a bit disappointed.

These photos are a bit out of order but I don't feel like moving them.  Blah!

One view on our way to the parking area for our hike.  You are looking back towards Birmingham. 

By a nice turn of luck we also got to meet this little Mississippi kite.  Oak Mountain is his forever home too because some humans messed his hips up.  They tried to raise him from a baby but did not provide a proper roost, so his hips joints did not grow right and he can't feed himself correctly.  Apparently they feed while in flight a lot of times and he can't get his foot up to his mouth.

He was such a sweet little guy though and got several grub treats for letting us take photos of him.

Oak Mountain has tons of water activities with 3 lakes to choose from.  You can rent various types of boats, canoes etc. or just enjoy the water from the beach.

I always laugh when I hear people say there is no money in Alabama.  These houses overlooking the lake were several million $$ easily, and they are not uncommon.  I also laughed when I thought how that the people in the most distant house were probably so mad they could bite nails when these others built that big monstrosity right in front of them!  Ha ha!!  So much for the view!

It had been many years since I had been to Oak Mountain, so we had a great time.  Although, I admit, I'm a bit sore from that climbing hike!  If you've never been here I highly recommend it and if you are ever passing through Alabama it's a great place to stop!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

In The City

The weather decided to be kind to us these past 3 days to make up for all the crap of the past 2 weeks, I guess.  So, I decided that a day out on the town was in order and there were a number of errands I needed to run that could only be done in the "big city".
I started my journey by stopping off at my favorite sushi place to get fueled up for the day.  This is a seafood roll and very, very yummy.  I made a couple other stops in the general area and then headed to downtown Birmingham.

Birmingham is actually a very nice little town.  Lots and lots of great restaurants, a new baseball stadium, parks and other attractions.  My stop here was the downtown recycling center to drop off some old computer parts, batteries, plastic and shoes.  They recycle practically anything there and are very nice and helpful.  The center is also right off the interstate and in between two of the places I sell my pottery so it's pretty convenient for me when I come into town.
I stopped off next at a really cool coffee house that sells my mugs and was pleased to see they owed me a check!

From there I went to the larger store (pictures above) that sells the majority of my pottery and dropped off a few new pieces.  This store is actually in a suburb of Birmingham and it's a very nice, kinda upscale area.  My pottery is on some shelves underneath the "Alabama Made Pottery" sign but you can't see it very well in this shot.  If I can build my inventory up quite a bit the owner wants to put me back out on one of the center table displays.
I did a little window shopping in the area at some other stores and just generally enjoyed being outside.  Then I headed over to the real pricey side of town to pick up a few things at Whole Foods.  (I only buy anything if it is on sale!) Coming out of there I realized I locked my keys in my truck!  Dang it!  Luckily, I learned years ago to keep a magnetic key holder with an extra stuck to the underside of the chassis, so I was back in my truck in a couple of minutes.
Things went better after that and I went on back in the direction of home but stopped at several places on the way.  I got a new tank top and socks for the gym and perused the big book store for quite a while.
So, overall it was a real nice day.  I probably should have been working in the garden but I needed a day out something fierce.  I'll explain more about that in a later post.

One other thing I wanted to post was a question that a longtime reader had and hoped that another one of you might have an idea of how to solve his dilemma.  Here is the comment he left for me:

I am hoping to tap into your knowledge (or the brains of all the people reading your blog), to see if I can find a humane cat deterrent for our yard. 
This winter in Toronto has been very harsh, and we have had many feral (and local outdoor cats) getting into our very well fenced yard. We have lost chickens and seen many several wild birds that visit our feeders fall prey to cats.
Yesterday our beautiful mixed lab rescue dog Midnight, killed a local cat in our yard.
I had the unfortunate task of calling up the person (many blocks away I might add) that their cat, wearing a nameplate "Zach de Cat" with phone number (no bell on his neck) was gone. As we have had many coyotes in the area this frigid winter, I admit I did not reveal that I was pretty sure I well knew who was responsible for "de Cat"s demise. I wish no bad things on any animals, but cannot understand why people let their house cats roam freely. Sorry for the long comment, but I want to do what's best, and don't care to make Midnight's 2nd life one of a full time enforcer.

Now, I gave the suggestion of the Haveahart trap and garden hose technique that Florida Cracker uses but couldn't really come up with any other ideas at the time.  Anybody else have any ideas??  We also keep a lower pressure BB rifle and pistol handy for strays of all kinds.  A pop or two on dat ass will usually discourage any dog or cat from coming back.  Of course, you have to be present and actually see the varmit for this to work.  They do make very high pressure BB guns such as the .22 types but we avoid using that on anything but the most aggressive and large dogs, as you can actually kill a small animal with one.
So, anybody else have anything??

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Silent Sunday (Almost)

The ol' rhubarb actually came back this year!  Well, one root did anyway.  I'm pretty sure I had two in this pot but even this one coming back for the 3rd year is pretty good.

Spring appears to finally be here!!!!  Not a moment too soon either.  In my opinion.

The daffodils are in fine form this year.  They seem a bit more prolific this time around.

Hopefully, we'll actually get some plums this year.

At the end of last summer I actually found one, lone, dried up (but quite large) plum that had stayed on and matured, but that I had somehow missed when I checked for fruit.

So pretty!!!  Makes me happy!!

Perhaps some of the bulbs have multiplied too.

I wanted Zuzu to pose in front of the flowers but had to trick her into thinking there was some great treat there to get her to stay in one spot.  She quickly discovered I was pulling a fast one on her and promptly ran off.

This is a wild spice bush that is native to this area.  It has gotten fairly large since I have cleared out some of the area around it.  It's covered in these teeny yellow blossoms and does have a somewhat pleasant odor.  It's more medicinal smelling than spicy though.  Some people dry clipping of it for potpourri.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Like The Weather

 I made it to the gym this morning for the second time this week, so I'm feeling pretty good about that!  Even had a pretty good workout.  Anyhoo..this song came up on my playlist while I was working out and I thought, well, this is just perfect for this week!  Although I must say, she is acting way too happy for the lyrics...but there are chickens in the video!!!  Real chickens!!  So, we'll excuse any other artistic flaws.. lol! .

The color of the sky as far as I can see is gull gray
I lift my head from the pillow and then fall again
I get a shiver in my bones just thinking about the weather
A quiver in my lip as if I might cry
And by the force of will my lungs are filled and so I breathe
Lately it seems this big bed is where I never leave
I get a shiver in my bones just thinking about the weather
A quiver in my voice as I cry
"What a cold and rainy day
Where on earth is the sun hid away?"
I hear the sound of a noon bell chime, well I'm far behind
you put in 'bout half a day while here I lie
With a shiver in my bones just thinking about the weather
A quiver in my lip as if I may cry
What a cold and rainy day
Where on earth is the sun hid away?
Do I need someone here to scold me?
Or do I need someone who'll grab and pull me out of?
Four poster, dull torpor pulling downward
For it's such a long time since my better days
I say my prayers nightly, this will pass away
The color of the sky is gray as I can see through the blinds
Lift my head from the pillow and then I fall again
I get a shiver in my bones just thinking about the weather
A quiver in my lip as if I may cry
A cold and rainy day
Where on earth is the sun hid away?
A cold and rainy day
I shiver, quiver, and try to wake

Monday, March 09, 2015

Favorite Kind Of Pain

So, things have eased up here quite a bit.  Heck, we even had 2 whole days of gorgeous spring weather, as you can see from the photos, and that always helps just about anyone's outlook.  Of course, now it's raining and gloomy as all hell and plans to be for the next 6 days....but I made it through, what I hope was the last bad cold spell, so things are looking up.  Oh! and thank you to those few who emailed or commented here.  I truly appreciate it.  I learned the hard way a long time ago after my brother's suicide and my own bad times that most people will abandon you when things get rough.  Even those you think really love you, so I have a special gratitude for any that leave a kind word or two.  It's not that people don't care (mostly) but that they just don't know what to do or say.  I understand that.  And to those that think maybe I should just suck it up and not talk about it....well, those can kiss my ass.  There are so many people out there now that suffer with chronic pain and/ or depression, even in infrequent bouts, that I'll write about whatever helps me or helps somebody else not feel alone.  Anybody thinks I ought to find some spiritual, intellectual gift in pain and suffering and write about that can also kiss my ass.  Pain sucks.  Chronic pain really sucks.  Go get your own damn blog if you don't like what I have to say.  Now I do have some spiritual beliefs but sometimes there is no "answer", there is no uplifting message to be learned through writhing in pain all night long.  When it hurts like that bad things come out of your mouth sometimes.  Months and months of that kind of pain makes LOTS of bad things come out of your mouth.

I have to admit though, I did find it somewhat fascinating to eventually see what was going on.  You see, last Tuesday and Wednesday was the start of a brief warm spell with Wednesday ending up quite warm; near 70F.  I felt pretty good considering.  I was still getting over the crud but had made good progress.  Then our southern weather kicked in.  Thursday morning started out fairly warm but the temps started falling quickly and by that evening it was COLD.  Low 20s I think.  As soon as the temps started falling I started hurting in my legs and hips.  Like I said, it was almost fascinating....I could literally feel the temperature falling and at the same time could feel the pain rising up my legs and expanding in every direction in my hips.  The aching, through the bone kinda hurt where you can't sit or lay still.  And of course, I could feel my mood slowly draining away just like the warm weather.  I have often felt the weather affect me and have written about it.  Low pressure systems often bring headaches etc.  But this was soooo fast and so...tangible.  Of course, at the time I didn't really make the connection, but I did understand that, even for me, it was a very abrupt change in attitude.  The next morning a lady in a KFS support group I belong to posted an article about the connection between chronic pain and depression.  It was very interesting and I did some more reading on it.

Now, many folks would probably scoff about something like that...(mostly people that don't have to deal with pain) and there have been numerous studies done on the subject.  THIS is one I found particularly interesting.  In lots of cases depression seems to cause the pain but there are also as many cases where it's the other way around and many where it all eventually becomes so intertwined they are not sure which is causing the other.  I'll readily admit I have always had an issue with occasional low moods or melancholy.  I would not call it depression back then.  But then, I have also had some issues with pain even when I was a teenager. They just said it was "growing pains" you know.  I did pretty good in my late teens and early 20s but then my brother offed himself so things kinda went to hell for a while.  I seemed to regain my footing through most of my 30s, although I did have an occasional rough spot, and then things kinda started crapping out again as I hit my 40s and they found enough degradation of some bones and joints to have started showing up in X-rays and such.   As one doctor recently told me, it's at least very easy to see now where my pain is coming from!  No question about that, he said.  Well, that's nice I guess.

Through it all lately though, I have just learned to ride it out.  Just like the weather changes, my mood will too!  Laugh about it while you're up and just try to seclude myself when it's down.  I find that reading about the subject helps too.  Being informed about what is happening to you does a lot to calm a mood and get rid of that, "this is the end of the world" kinda thinking.  That, and eating chocolate...

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Long Way To Happy

 Yes, the seal has been broken....

I've avoided writing because, basically, I knew it was just going to be a lot of complaining on my part and nobody particularly wants to hear that.  So, it's still just going to be a lot of complaining on my part but I decided well, what the heck.  I'd let you few people know what's going on anyway.  Some of you may be mostly stuck inside, maybe looking to hear a little something from somebody familiar.  

 I am mostly over my sickness but the congestion is still hanging around making me feel terribly sluggish.  It's cold and rainy and dark.  We have had a couple of warm, sort of sunny days and any time the gloom breaks we try to spend some time outside.  Even if it's nothing more than walking around the yard picking up sticks and things that the wind and rain knock down.  I fantasize about selling this place and moving to where it's warm and sunny; a southern beach...somewhere out west.  I laugh about how the chickens would have to get used to such a change.  You know I could not go without my girls.  If it's not raining I go out and sit with them for a little while, one or two of them in my lap huddled against the cold, and we commiserate over our circumstances.  They warm their little feet on my legs and try to cheer me with their chatter.  Occasionally they peer up into my face to make sure I'm paying attention.

I finally bit the bullet and got all the info together for our taxes.  That was pretty disheartening.  Every penny I made last year went to pay for either health insurance premiums or, in equal sums, what the insurance did not cover.  They substantially raised my premium again this year and that makes it even less likely I can actually afford to use it, so I won't.  I've got to concentrate on making a better living anyway.  To that end, the clay I ordered about 6 weeks ago finally made it to Atlanta and  I will make a trip over there as soon as this icy weather lets up.  I've about resigned myself to the fact I'll probably have to start doing art/craft shows again to be able to significantly increase my income.  I do enjoy doing the shows and it gives me a reason to get out but it's just a matter of regaining that momentum.  That, and I will have to totally redo my booth set-up.  New tent, new shelves, the whole nine yards.  Then of course, you have to actually produce your product!  

I have to start getting out though, in some way.  I have difficultly existing when I do not feel useful...and I have not felt anyway near that in a very long time.  Other people don't seem to have this issue and it confuses me.  I often get strange looks when I say I feel like I'm wasting my life.  Don't other people feel like they should somehow make a difference?  Yes, I have signed up for several volunteer organizations but they never called back.  Illness or pain has kept me from traveling much anyway but it's time to just get over it and start working again.  I'm almost feeling well enough to go back to the gym and that should help also. So, there it is.  The crappy crap of all this existential crap.   It occurred to me today...... that nothing I've seen so far in this life is worth the amount of heartache and pain we must endure while we are here.  That's a horrible thought.