||Thursday, 16 May 2013 1:23am
May Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
5 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
It's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
again, and the garden has peaked. The wildflower meadow in the side yard that I showed off last month is completely gone now, and I've been digging out the Bermuda grass underneath it. Some plants are still at their peak, and a very small number haven't reached their peak yet, but the majority of them have passed their peak. No matter; I have photos from all throughout the past month, and nearly all the plants have looked great at some point in the past month.
I'll start with some plants that are winding down. The little garden I installed alongside the patio last summer no longer looks as good as it did when I took this picture. The native annual mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata
) is not entirely dead yet, but there's a lot less of it now than there was in this picture.( Much more!Collapse ) Mood: accomplished
||Tuesday, 16 April 2013 8:21am
April Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
5 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
It's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
again, and I'm trying hard to keep up with it all. Skipping too many months of Bloom Day posts in a row has caused me to have more trouble remembering plant names than I ever used to. Now that the initial overwhelming period after buying a new house has somewhat subsided, I need to try to stay in practice better.
One of my first gardening activities when we moved in last summer was to dig out the Bermuda grass lawn in the side yard to create a food garden. However, I was only able to finish digging out about two thirds of the area before the weather turned too wintery to facilitate killing Bermuda grass. Upon realizing that I would have to postpone the rest of the digging until next summer, I decided, more or less on the spur of the moment, to toss some native wildflower seeds into the undug area. Not having planned this ahead of time, I'd already used up my seeds of most of the native wildflower species, so I only had seeds of two species left: birds' eye gilyflower (Gilia tricolor
) and Douglas' meadowfoam (Limnanthes douglasii
). I tossed them both in the undug area, and for good measure, I also tossed some in the pathway down the middle of the dug area. Having always believed that native wildflower beds needed to be weeded to grow well, I did not anticipate nearly such dramatic results as I got.
The undug area is in the foreground below. The tall plant with pink flowers is a native mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata
) that somehow got mixed in. The food is planted in the back two thirds, but there's a stripe of meadowfoam down the middle where the path is. Silhouetted against the air conditioner is a lettuce plant that has bolted. ( More!Collapse )
||Wednesday, 27 March 2013 1:22am
Prop 8 Arguments, Summarized
11 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
The actual transcript is here
. Below is my summary.Cooper Argues for the Sponsors of Prop 8COOPER:
My clients have standing to bring this case.GINSBURG, KAGAN, ROBERTS, and SOTOMAYOR:
We don't think so.SCALIA and KENNEDY:
We do think so! They do have standing!BREYER:
I'm not sure. We need to think some more about standing.COOPER:
Anyway, marriage can't be allowed between same-sex couples because, well, it hasn't been in the past. Not ever at all anywhere, because I am hopelessly ignorant of history. Also, babies! Same-sex couples don't have them the right way.GINSBURG:
Sexual orientation discrimination is a form of sex discrimination, so it should be subject to heightened scrutiny.KENNEDY:
I'm afraid Ginsburg might be right. But that makes me uncomfortable, so I'm trying really hard to find a way to avoid that conclusion. I just haven't found a way quite yet.SOTOMAYOR:
Ginsburg is right.KAGAN:
Well, Prop 8 doesn't even pass rational basis scrutiny.KENNEDY:
Kagan may have a point. Hmm. I'll make a point of not seeming fully decided here, because I don't want to ruin the suspense. I like how everyone is paying so much attention to me!SCALIA:
Cooper is incompetent, so I'll take over and argue his case for him. Obviously, gay people should not be allowed to get married, because they should not be allowed to raise children.KENNEDY:
But the 40,000 children being raised by same-sex couples in California want their parents to be allowed to get married. Think of the children! Oops, did I tip my hand? Pretend you didn't hear that. Carry on.BREYER, KAGAN, and GINSBURG:
People don't have to be capable of having children together to be allowed to get married.SCALIA:
Oh, shut up. I'm not listening to you people. See my fingers in my ears? La la la la la la la.COOPER:
In conclusion, marriage licenses exist for the purpose of preventing old married heterosexual men from impregnating younger women who are not their wives. I will of course completely ignore both the obvious question of what on earth is wrong with also preventing old same-sex-married bisexual men from impregnating younger women who are not their husbands and also the fact that my own marriage license didn't prevent me from cheating on my own wife.Olson Argues for Same-Sex CouplesOLSON:
The sponsors of Prop 8 do not have standing to bring this case.KENNEDY, ALITO, and SCALIA:
They do too have standing!ROBERTS:
No, they don't have standing. Maybe we can give standing to somebody else and they can appeal, so we'll be able to drag this case out for even more years.SOTOMAYOR and BREYER:
Yes, it seems like somebody ought to have standing, but maybe not these particular people.OLSON:
Anyway, marriage is important to people. Preventing couples from getting married makes them feel very, very sad, and it's not fair to do mean things like that to people just because the people they want to marry are of the same sex as them. There isn't any good reason to be mean to them like that.ROBERTS:
But that's what we've always done in the past, so obviously that makes it perfectly okay.SCALIA:
I completely agree. Since I don't see gay people mentioned in the Bill of Rights, there can't possibly be any right to same-sex marriage. I mean, if there were such a right, when could it possibly have started existing?OLSON:
It started existing when we as a society decided to just assume that surely scientists are going to discover a gay gene any moment now and so we assume that gay people can't control themselves.ALL NINE JUSTICES:
Let's just silently fail to take any notice of how Olson just threw his clients under the bus by implying that the moment that either a gay gene is proven not to exist or a gene therapy is developed to eliminate the gay gene (one or the other of which will surely happen eventually), it's okay to rescind the right to same-sex marriage and tell all the same-sex couples that they should just break up with each other and convert to heterosexuality if they want any rights.KENNEDY:
Making a broad ruling that would affect states other than California seems way too scary for me, but the Ninth Circuit's excuse for not doing that was stupid. Could you please give me an actual decent-sounding excuse that will allow me to avoid letting most same-sex couples in the country actually get married yet?ALITO:
But gay people in California aren't fundamentally different from gay people in other states, are they?ROBERTS:
No same-sex couples anywhere can be allowed to get married because that just doesn't count as marriage. It just doesn't.SOTOMAYOR:
If we allow same-sex marriage, do we have to allow polygamy?OLSON:
Of course not, because having one spouse is a different thing than having more than one spouse. Having more than one spouse is a lot more complicated.SOTOMAYOR:
Well, I agree with Kennedy that making a broad ruling that would affect states other than California seems way too scary. Could you please hurry up and give us a decent-sounding excuse that will allow us to avoid providing justice to any same-sex couples outside of California?KENNEDY:
The problem is that we have no idea what would happen if we allowed same-sex couples to get married, because even though we've been doing that already in Massachusetts for almost a decade and in other countries for longer, I'm sure no one has actually collected any data whatsoever about the results. Oh, this is so terrifying! I don't want to have to make this decision right now! Why in the world did we agree to decide this case at all?Verrilli Argues for the Department of JusticeVERRILLI:
We really don't want to take any position about standing, but I guess if we have to, we tend to think that the sponsors of Prop 8 don't have standing.ALITO:
I can hardly wait to hear what you're going to say about standing in the DOMA case tomorrow. This one today is so much less interesting.VERRILLI:
Anyway, my main point is that it's wrong to prevent same-sex couples from getting married, so we should only prevent them from getting married in states where the homophobes are really insistent about it.GINSBURG:
That doesn't make any sense. Either same-sex couples have a right to get married or they don't.VERRILLI:
Well, yes, but it's just easier for us if we only focus on the states where they have civil unions or domestic partnerships. The same-sex couples in other states can file their own separate lawsuit. That way, a lot more different lawyers will get the chance to make money while we're delaying people's weddings for years and years.BREYER:
I'm a good person who cares about making same-sex couples' lives better. However, because I'm completely out of touch with the way people under the age of 70 think about these issues, I think that taking away civil unions as an option would cause most states to just never give same-sex couples any rights at all. So I think it would be better to let same-sex couples have civil unions. And of course, like Kennedy and Sotomayor, I certainly wouldn't dare to actually do my job and tell all the states that they're required to let same-sex couples marry.ALITO:
This is all just much too soon! We really need to wait at least two millennia after same-sex marriage has been legalized before we can possibly justify legalizing it.SCALIA and ROBERTS:
Yes, exactly! We totally agree with Alito.SOTOMAYOR:
I'm so confused. I just need to figure out what makes same-sex couples outside of California not deserve to get married, because obviously we can't go letting them all
get married. That would just be way more weddings than we could possibly expect the American people to accept.Cooper's RebuttalKENNEDY and SOTOMAYOR:
Tell us again why we should have to bother deciding this case right now at all.COOPER:
Because everyone but you wants it to be decided.SOTOMAYOR:
We avoided bothering to end racial segregation for 56 years, so I don't see any reason why we can't postpone same-sex marriage for 56 years also. It's only fair to discrimate equally against gay people and people of color, right?SCALIA:
Didn't we already agree to make a decision in this case? That's why the lawyers are here making arguments, isn't it?COOPER:
Even Verrilli basically agreed that it would be wrong to let same-sex couples in red states get married.GINSBURG:
No, he didn't.COOPER:
Well, let's pretend that he did. The point is that same-sex marriage is just very wrong. And even if it isn't wrong, it's very important to continue encouraging millions of people to vote to call off the weddings of their own children, grandchildren, co-workers, supervisors, next-door neighbors, and so on, because turning people against each other in intense and seriously life-damaging ways is what makes America great.
In conclusion, having the right to same-sex marriage decided by nine heterosexuals who are mostly from generations more or less oblivious to the existence of gay people is really not an ideal situation at all. Ginsburg and Kagan are only people who didn't infuriate me. Kennedy, Sotomayor, and Breyer want to do the right thing but are terrible cowards. Ginsburg and Kagan may very well be equally terrible cowards; they just didn't clarify whether they are or not. Scalia hates gay people, and Roberts and Alito do too, although perhaps with slightly less venom than Scalia (only because I'm not sure anyone
else can hate gay people with as much venom as Scalia does, with the possible exception of Fred Phelps). The ever-silent Thomas is presumably in the Scalia-Roberts-Alito camp. That gives us four vicious gay-haters and three to five terrible cowards who know what the right ruling would be but can't bring themselves to actually make it.
This court case is still very extremely likely to restore same-sex marriage in California. However, the Supreme Court looks unlikely to bring same-sex marriage to any state other than California anytime soon. Mood: aggravated
||Sunday, 24 March 2013 11:52pm
Iraq War Postmortem
5 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
I was reading "That Piece Killed by the 'Post'"
just now and was struck by an anonymous comment listing three reasons that the invasion of Iraq happened:
- the uber-patriotic/paranoid American reaction to 9/11 - which included almost all the media.
- the utterly cynical exploitation of that national mood by the Iraq warmongers and Bush Administration, which effectively intimidated most of the media from challenging their bogus WMD etc. narrative.
- the outright complicity in hyping the war by some members of the media seeking insider status and furthering their personal ambitions.
Much as I dislike points #2 and #3, I at least feel able to understand
them - that is, I recognize the motivations involved, although I condemn those motivations. But even now, ten years later, I still don't feel like I even understand
point #1. And if we - the people who are not inclined to support mass murder - are to have any hope at all of preventing the same sort of thing from happening again in the future, surely it behooves us to try to understand the motivations of the ordinary Americans' "national mood" of being "uber-patriotic/paranoid" in response to the events of September 11, 2001.
I remember my own reaction when I turned on my television - the first time in months that I'd turned it on at all - on September 11, 2001, and watched the news. First I watched the reports about planes crashing into buildings, and of course that was very scary. It was obviously unprecedented in my lifetime, and there was so little information yet, on the actual day that it happened, that it was impossible not to wonder what might be attacked next, and when, and just how much worse this might all continue to become. And then I remember the news suddenly switching to live video of a large fire in Kabul, Afghanistan, as seen from the air. The TV reporters speculated - incorrectly, as it turned out later - that the U.S. government might already have launched a counterstrike against Afghanistan, and that the fire we were watching live video of might be the result of a bomb that the U.S. government had already dropped on Kabul in retribution for the attacks on the United States.
And I remember being horrified
by this. Both by the possibility that the reporters' speculation was accurate, and by the approving tones in which the reporters voiced this speculation. It was already clear, on the day of September 11 itself, that the TV reporters were eager to believe that this fire burning in Kabul was in fact caused by a bomb that had already been dropped by the U.S. government. But if that had actually been a bomb dropped, it was clear that civilians would be suffering for something they took no part in doing. And when actual bombs really were dropped a few weeks later, civilians did indeed suffer and did indeed die in retribution for something they took no part in doing.
What I don't understand is how anyone in the world could possibly fail to be horrified by that. As it turned out, a majority of United States citizens failed to be horrified by that. But why? How was that possible? What on earth were they all thinking?
Most of you reading this did not fail to be horrified by that. I know this because a large portion of you reading this are the same people I was reading on LiveJournal back then, on the day of September 11, 2001. Only a tiny fraction of a percentage of the people I knew online supported invading Afghanistan, let alone Iraq. Those few who did support it were people I didn't know very well. As a result, seeing them support war did not give me any insights into how anyone could support war. I was baffled by their reactions, and I've remained baffled by their reactions ever since. The most I've been able to gather is that for some people, having their government slaughter innocent people in other countries makes them feel safer. But why?
For me and for everyone I knew well - for almost everyone I knew at all - having our government slaughter innocent people in other countries made us feel less
safe. So how could it make so many other people feel more
safe? What caused the difference?
I really don't understand. I have to suppose, since virtually everyone on both sides of this issue seemed to have such an immediate, almost instinctual, gut reaction - that we all instantly felt that having our government bomb other countries would make us feel either less
safe or more
safe - that the courses of our lives had already sorted us, long before September 11, into one category or the other, setting us up as people who would react in one way or the other way to an event that we never anticipated would actually happen at all.
I'm oversimplifying the duality of the two positions. I think that for those who felt that war would make them safer, their primary motivation in wanting war was exactly that, to feel safer. But I think that for those of us who opposed war, our primary motivation in opposing it was not that it made us feel less safe - although I do think it made us feel less safe. I just don't think the war, or the prospect of war, had as big an impact on how safe we felt as it had on how safe the pro-war people felt. I think we felt that war would make us somewhat less safe, but I think we also felt that war's impact on our own safety was of extremely minimal importance compared to war's impact on the safety of innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq.
And I think, too, that there seemed to be a correlation between being queer and being antiwar. It definitely wasn't a 100% correlation, but it was a general trend, I think.
But let's get back to the major question: What caused some people to feel that war would make them safer?
Did it have to do with how much we trusted our government? Or with how much we empathized with people who live in other countries? Or with how much experience we had being frightened of things other than terrorist attacks? Did it have to do with how much we were in the habit of letting our televisions tell us what opinions to hold? Or with how much experience we had being on the losing sides in interpersonal battles? Or with how much experience we had being "collateral damage" in interpersonal battles that we never wanted to be party to at all?
Don't tell me "all of the above." I want to sort out which factors matter most.
What can we do, here and now, to coax people toward a mindset that will make them less likely, the next time some unexpected international event frightens them terribly, to feel that bombing innocent people in other countries will somehow make them safer? Mood: contemplative
||Saturday, 16 March 2013 12:46am
March Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
6 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
It's been many months since I last participated in Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
. I haven't participated regularly since we bought our house, although I did make a token effort to participate in August and October. I took a few pictures in November and thought about participating, but then I got so busy refinishing kitchen cabinets that I didn't have any time for it. In December there was practically nothing blooming. In January there still wasn't much blooming, but I really meant to participate anyway - to start the new year properly. But I got busy with house things again and completely forgot. In February some things started blooming, and I intended more than ever to make sure to participate - but then we went camping during Bloom Day, and when we got back I had camping photographs to post, and by the time that was all over with, it seemed much too late to bother.
So now it's March, and spring is definitely ramping up. This means not only that more plants are blooming, but also that more of the plants blooming are mine
- plants that I planted, that is, rather than plants that came with the house. And plants that I planted are always the most important.
This is my first time participating in Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day since I got my new camera in December. I had a very hard time figuring out how to take extreme closeups of flowers with my new camera. Unlike my old camera, my new camera doesn't have a macro button. It does have a macro function - there's a macro icon that shows up on the viewscreen - but the extremely short manual that came with the camera did not mention that at all, so it took me a lot of experiementation to discover that there was a macro icon at all, and then it took me a whole lot more experimentation to figure out how to make the macro icon show up when I wanted it to. And then there was this terribly annoying problem that whenever I did succeed in getting the camera to focus properly on something closeup, the camera would display the word "Processing" for several seconds and then reveal that the colors in the photo were unnaturally hypersaturated and unrealistic-looking. This, it turned out, was because my camera was set to apply "artistic effects" to macro images but not to other images. So it took me even more experimentation to figure out how to turn off the "artistic effects."
This picture is one that I took during my period of experimentation, when the "artistic effects" were still on. I later edited the picture on my computer to tone down the "artistic effects" because I didn't think neon colors were really appropriate, artistically speaking. However, some faint traces of the "artistic effects" remain, making the plant pot look a little more glazed than it actually is, and making my gardening clogs look slightly glazed as well. I kind of like the result. The plant in the pot is "baby black eyes" (Nemophila
'Penny Black'), a garden cultivar that looks like a hybrid between two California natives, baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii
) and five spot (Nemophila maculata
). I'm not sure what the cultivar's actual parentage is, however, and I must say that in my garden, it grows much more like baby blue eyes than like five spot - which is to say that it grows very well! Five spot isn't well adapted to the Central Valley, so I usually only get a few flowers from it. Baby blue eyes thrives here, and baby black eyes is also thriving. It has many more flowers on it now than it had when I took this picture.( Many more flowers!Collapse ) Mood: busy
||Wednesday, 13 March 2013 11:01pm
5 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Back when I used to buy desktop computers, I never had any need to buy new ones very often. My desktop computers always lasted at least five years, sometimes seven or eight. Certainly they got a little dated by their final years, but they were still fundamentally usable - they reliably performed all operations that I asked them to, and they did so at a speed that seemed reasonable to me. Since I've never been into computer games of the sort that one needs extra-fancy computer games to play, I didn't feel any need to have the latest technology; I was happy to have seriously aging technology as long as it could still do all the same stuff that it had originally done when I first bought it.
Ever since I switched to laptop computers, I've had far worse luck. My first laptop lasted just about exactly one year. It was a Dell Inspiron. Never having owned a laptop before, I probably failed to properly appreciate the fact that it never generated any noticeable amount of heat - a major asset for a laptop, I now realize. However, pretty much every other aspect of it rapidly degraded. First it started doing everything agonizingly slowly, and no amount of effort I made trying to find malware or just clean up unnecessary files, registry entries, etc., ever seemed to help. Then its ability to connect to the Internet started becoming seriously unreliable - I kept having to reboot, sometimes many times in rapid succession, before it would re-acquire its ability to detect the wireless network. And then the monitor lightbulb burnt out! All within just one year.
Determined not to repeat that experience, I decided not to buy a Dell the next time around. Instead, I bought an HP Pavilion. Well, that also lasted just about exactly one year! This time the software lasted just fine. However, from the very beginning, the thing consistently became burning hot whenever I used it for even one hour at a time. Since I'm the sort of person who is frequently known to remain on the computer for more like sixteen hours at a time, this was a very major problem. I took to putting a pillow on my lap and putting the laptop on top of the pillow to avoid burning myself. However, the laptop would abruptly shut itself off from time to time, displaying a message that it had done so because its internal temperature had reached unacceptable levels. Also, even when it didn't shut itself off, its fan was always deafeningly loud, to the point that it sounded like the computer was about to explode. No amount of cleaning it with compressed air ever seemed to help any. At one point the keyboard started sticking, so I bought a new keyboard and disassembled much of the computer in the process of installing the new computer. Cleaning it during the disassembly process also had no apparent effect on the fan problem. Then the whole outside casing of the computer started breaking apart, probably because of the excessive heat. The little plastic bits over the air vents broke off first, and at first I was happy, because that enlarged the air vents enough that the heat actually decreased a little. But then more and more plastic bits kept cracking and breaking off, proceeding gradually farther and farther from the air vents, until screws started falling out all over the place and one of the hinges disintegrated so much that only an electrical cord was left to loosely connect the monitor to the keyboard.
So now I'm back to a Dell. Disillusioned with laptops marketed to home users, I resolved this time to buy a model that's marketed to business users. I bought a Dell Latitude E6430. Like my old Dell Inspiron, it seems fairly well designed, in terms of its external casing. It generates very little heat, and the fan is absolutely, completely silent. It arrived with an immediate software problem, though: whenever I closed the lid for a while and then reopened it, I would get an unresponsive black screen. I had to completely reboot it to get it to work again after each time the lid had been closed. This is an awfully essential function for a laptop to fail at, so I really think they ought to check for such things before shipping laptops to anyone. However, after spending several hours in the tech support section of the Dell website and an additional hour on the phone with a Dell tech support person, I eventually got the problem fixed. I hope it will now remain fully serviceable for multiple years.
Susan has a MacIntosh laptop that has lasted five years. This might be a good argument for paying the extra money for a Mac. On the other hand, Susan spends far less than a fifth as much time using her laptop as I spend using mine, so it makes sense that hers would last longer. Also, hers has taken to doing everything extremely slowly lately, and none of my efforts have succeeded in fixing that, so I suspect that it's pretty much reached the end of its life.
Anyway, there is still one extremely unexpected and bizarre problem with my new laptop. You see, toward the very end of my time using the HP Pavilion, I had a sudden breakthrough with the FreeCell solitaire game that comes with Windows. After never having much exceeded 20 wins in a row at FreeCell in all my life, all of a sudden I discovered that if I just put my mind to it and used the "Undo" button often enough, I could win every single game of FreeCell ever. I mean, I always knew that this was possible in theory
, but I had never known myself to have any such ability in practice
before. Suddenly I was unbeatable! I won 125 FreeCell games in a row - and still counting, on my old computer. But on my new computer, I'm right back to my previous ordinary human fallibility. I'm losing an average of one in every ten games I play! Susan says the only reason I became infallible on my old computer was that my old computer was broken. I don't understand how the destruction of the outer casing of the computer could possibly cause FreeCell to become unloseable, but Susan thinks I should publish this as my discovery of a FreeCell cheat code. So here you go: Want to win every single game of FreeCell you ever play from now on? Then take a hammer and smash the outer casing of your computer to bits. Susan thinks it'll work. (Don't sue either one of us if it doesn't, though. We have a mortgage to pay!) Mood: perplexed
|Tuesday, 26 February 2013|
||Tuesday, 26 February 2013 10:59pm
2 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Way back in May 2005, when I bought my first digital camera, one of the things I wanted to take pictures of was tule fog
. Growing up in Sacramento and now living in Marysville, I have never lived apart from tule fog. Driving from Sacramento to Marysville to see Susan when we were dating, I drove through sixty miles of tule fog each week. Tule fog is a very thick blanket of fog that covers the entire California Central Valley for much of the winter. From December through February, hardly a night passes without tule fog rolling in after the sun sets, although some days it burns off quickly enough at sunrise that you may never notice it if you don't have a reason to go outside in the middle of the night. In January, it often lingers till nearly noon, thickly enough that you can hardly see across the street. In January, even when it does burn off at ground level, it tends to linger up above, obscuring the sun in an undifferentiated gray. People with seasonal affective disorder hate it. But I don't have seasonal affective disorder, so I've always rather loved the fog. Though I don't so much love driving through it - but I'm sufficiently used to it by now that it's not that bad.
Anyway, I was disappointed to find that my first digital camera wasn't capable of rendering fog accurately. My pictures of fog all came out showing individual water drops in the air, which made them look not so much like fog as like . . . well, you tell me. Here's one of the pictures I took long ago with my old digital camera.
An unexpected benefit of my new digital camera is that it can take pictures of fog. So one morning earlier this month, I took pictures of fog. Look! Fog! Fog as it actually looks in real life! My new digital camera has allowed me to capture fog at long last!( More pictures of fog!Collapse ) Mood: accomplished
||Tuesday, 26 February 2013 12:59am
Camping! Blue Oak Campground and Bear Creek Campground
4 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
A week ago, Susan and I went camping. We used to go camping several times a year, but for the past several years we hadn't felt safe leaving town for more than a few hours because the duplex we were renting was becoming surrounded by unsavory characters who we feared would burglarize it if they saw that we were away for any significant length of time. Now that we own a house of our own where we can feel safe again, we're finally free to go camping again. (Meanwhile, there are now apparently about 20 people living in the 800 square feet of what used to be our half of the duplex - or maybe only 19 now, because the local newspaper reported that one of them was arrested for burglary in December and went to state prison.)
Anyway, we were eager to camp again, and a three-day weekend seemed like the perfect time to do it. It seems a little weird to spend our life savings (more or less) on a fancy house and then go sleep in a tent instead, but, well, we've never claimed not to be weird. This being February, however, we tried our best to pick a campground at a relatively low elevation and somewhat near the ocean so we wouldn't freeze to death. The ocean is quite a long drive from here, though, and we also wanted to be able to start driving immediately after we got off work on Friday and arrive at the campground before dark. And dark arrives early in February, so we figured we only had time to arrive at the eastern edge of the coastal mountain range, not really very near the actual coast at all. Specifically, we decided to camp at Indian Valley Reservoir
. This was a drive of about an hour and 45 minutes, as opposed to the three hours and 20 minutes it would take us to arrive at the ocean.
We hoped to camp at Wintun Campground, because it is a single-site campground very isolated from other people, so we could let the dogs off leash all weekend and not worry about them bothering anyone nor about anyone bothering us. However, we recognized that it might already be occupied by the time we arrived, so we made a backup plan: Blue Oak Campground. Both campgrounds are at Indian Valley Reservoir, and they're only seven miles apart - although that's seven miles of twisting dirt roads, so it's a half-hour drive from one campground to the other. The sun was already setting as we neared Wintun Campground, and since we were driving west, each time we rounded a bend in the dirt road, the sun would blind us so badly that Susan kept having to bring her truck to a complete stop until she could figure out where the road was and where the cliff at the edge of the road was. Luckily, there were no other vehicles around, so we had all the time we needed to figure out where the road was. We did get a little lost. Our directions said that Wintun Campground was half a mile down Wintun Access Road, so we drove half a mile down an unmarked road that seemed to be in the right location and then, not finding a campground, decided that the unmarked road must not be Wintun Access Road. We turned back and drove several more miles but couldn't find any other road that could plausibly be Wintun Access Road. So we went back to the unmarked road and drove a little farther down it this time - and there was Wintun Campground! It looked beautiful. Unfortunately, there was already a truck parked and a tent pitched. Reluctantly, we turned around and made our way to Blue Oak Campground instead. The last few rays of sun vanished at just about the moment we arrived there.
Only one of the six campsites at Blue Oak Campground was taken before we arrived. It was taken by two hunters, men about fifty years old or so. They had put up separate tents for each of them, as straight men tend to feel the need to do when they camp together. They had a boat with them, and a dog. Their dog was off leash but obedient enough to stay in its own campsite. Our dogs are not so obedient, so chose a campsite at the far opposite end of the campground from theirs and then tied our dogs' leashes to a tree while we put up our tent and started our campfire. We've had trouble in the past with Boston breaking out of our tent during the night - she persistently bangs her head against the zipper until the zipper splits open - so I had brought along a canvas dog crate as a sort of separate tent just for the dogs. However, Susan insisted that Boston wouldn't be able to break out of the tent we were using on this camping trip. We have two tents, and Susan said that Boston was only able to break out of the large red one, not the little green one we had brought for this trip. I wasn't one bit convinced. But then the two hunters started shooting. From right in their campsite. When it was pitch dark outside! I have no idea what they were shooting at, but whatever it was, I also have no idea how they could possibly see
it to shoot at it. Anyway, the shooting scared Susan to the point that whatever small chance I might otherwise have had of persuading her to let the dogs sleep in their own separate tent was clearly gone, and the dogs slept with us.
Blue Oak Campground is owned by the Bureau of Land Management, and it's illegal to shoot within one mile of any campground on BLM land. However, at free campgrounds like this one, there's pretty much never anyone present with the authority to enforce such laws. We were not happy about the illegal shooting, but since the hunters' guns weren't especially loud and they were at the opposite end of the campground from us, we just resigned ourselves to putting up with it. They did stop shooting by 8:00 p.m., which was before we went to bed, so they didn't disrupt our sleep. And Susan was right - Boston didn't break out of the little green tent.( But the unexpected turns of this camping trip had hardly even begun.Collapse ) Mood: satisfied
|Wednesday, 15 August 2012|
||Wednesday, 15 August 2012 12:07am
Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day in a Brand-New Garden
6 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
It's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
again, and the garden I had a month ago is no more. And I do mean is no more,
not just is no longer mine.
On August 9 - four days before we were scheduled to officially move out, since we had paid rent through August 13 - our landlady made her son mow the front garden flat to the ground. She didn't give us any advance warning that she was going to do this, but luckily I happened to have already finished digging up one of every plant species that I wanted to keep before she killed all the others.
I'm not sure whether she's done the same thing to the back yard yet, but when Susan did the final walkthrough with her (without me present), the landlady avoided using my name (since she chooses to refer to me only as Susan's "roommate") but demanded of Susan, "When is she
going to get all that crap
out of the back yard? There was lawn there when you moved in, so there should be lawn there when you move out" - even though (1) there wasn't lawn when Susan moved in, just weedy thistles and occasional straggly patches of Bermuda grass in a predominantly brown, dead yard, and (2) the landlady specifically gave us permission to plant a garden.
Anyway, it's all gone now, or probably soon will be. But there was one exciting final bloom in the back yard before we left: Sacramento rose mallow (Hibiscus lasiocarpus
), an endangered species with flowers four to five inches in diameter.( Pictures!Collapse ) Mood: busy
||Friday, 15 June 2012 9:21pm
Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day: Almost Goodbye Edition
15 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
This may or may not be the very last Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
post I will make about my current garden. We probably won't have moved out a month from now, but if all goes well, we'll officially be homeowners within a day or two of then, and I hope that our house will be all full of boxes in preparation for moving. The garden will probably still be intact, but we'll see how much time I have to take pictures of it.
Here is a picture that the house inspector took of what, with any luck, will soon be our house. The inspections are done, and the (excruciatingly stressful) mortgage papers are signed, but we still have to get the appraisal, repair estimates, and repairs done.
The weird metal things in the lawn are in the lawns of most of the corner lots in the neighborhood, apparently intended to prevent cars from driving over the lawn. This house is not
on a corner lot and is the only non-corner house that has these. However, this house is directly at the end of a street, so I guess the idea was that cars going down that street might just keep driving straight into the house without these metal things to stop them? Anyway, we don't think that's likely to happen, so we plan to remove the weird metal things. They are probably set in concrete, though, so removing them will require digging up quite a bit of lawn, so we'll probably wait a few years until I'm ready to convert the dug-up lawn to a garden bed. In the meantime, I'm not sure how we'll come to terms with them. Turn them into stick-figure animals by adding heads and tails? I'm not sure how the new neighbors would like that, though.
The house is considerably more suburban, both in architectural style and in actual location, than most of the houses we looked at. Its exterior appearance doesn't thrill me as much as that of some other houses we looked at. However, both its interior and its location are far better than anything else we looked at, and its exterior is certainly not bad-looking. I think it has a very "solid" look to it, and the house inspector tells us that it is indeed extremely solidly built, with very high quality wood throughout.
Although the new house is only nine blocks from the horrible place we currently live in, it's unlikely to have any remotely comparable flood problems. In fact, even the houses a few doors away from ours don't seem to have remotely comparable flood problems. We're not sure what the issue is with our particular place. The landlady told us the flood problems are caused by the fact that several neighbors have paved over most of their yards with patios and pool decks, so the water from their yards runs off into ours. However, the landlady told the former tenants in the other half of our duplex that the flood problems are caused by the fact that this duplex was built on top of a cement pad that extends under the entire yard, about ten feet below the soil level. She did not explain why it would have been built on such a thing or why there would have been a cement pad here in the first place. We're not sure whether to believe that story or not, but certainly the drainage does not seem to be as bad in most of town as it is here. In fact, even our current front yard is drastically better drained than the back yard. I think the new house will probably have both a front and a back yard that are pretty much like the current front yard, in terms of drainage. I will probably never again have a yard as thoroughly wetland-like as this one.( Many more garden pictures!Collapse ) Mood: anxious, not able to relax until the house is officially ours
||Tuesday, 15 May 2012 8:36pm
May Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
4 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Happy May Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
! Spring is definitely winding down now, but you probably won't be able to tell that from these pictures, since I took most of them two weeks ago, when the garden was still more or less at its peak. As I said last month, this was definitely a banner year for the blue flax. It was a slow year for a lot of native annuals - baby blue eyes, Chinese pagodas, tidy tips, maybe even the two gilia species, a bit. But the blue flax put on a good enough show to make up for the relative absence of the others.( 55 more pictures!Collapse ) Mood: busy
||Monday, 30 April 2012 10:53pm
Why Dogs and Backyard Swamps Don't Go Well Together
3 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
I've decided to try a new dog-parenting technique: publicly humiliating our misbehaving dog in front of all her admiring public. That's right: you, the people who've previously commented on what a cute and adorable dog she is, shall now see the disaster she inflicted on our home today.
We have, as you've no doubt seen in previous posts of mine, a swamp in our back yard. It's not just ordinary rain puddles the water remains standing on the surface for weeks or even months on end, to the point that it develops a thick layer of green pond scum. It also reeks
, in the way that only water left standing for weeks or months can reek. Particularly water with vast amounts of organic matter (dog poop, drowned plants, partially composted kitchen scraps, and so on) decaying in it. The entire yard reeks. I'm sure all the neighbors directly adjacent to us can smell it. I'd feel a need to apologize profusely to them, if not for the fact that in this neighborhood, the smell of a reeking yard is by far the least of anyone's problems.
Anyway, Boston sometimes goes wading in the swamp. This is actually less of a problem in the middle of winter, when the water level is at its highest, because at least it's liquid enough not to stick to her too much. But in the spring, when the water level recedes, the swamp turns into extremely thick muck. Extremely thick muck that Boston sinks into right up to her neck. Which, unfortunately, she loves
Usually her dive into the muck is precipitated by her effort to dig out a rock or a toy to play with. For this reason, her dive into the muck usually occurs while one or both of us are out in the yard with her, so we see that she's filthy, and we wash her off before she tracks the mud indoors. Today while I was at work in my office with the door closed, Susan saw Boston covered in muck and washed her off. Then Susan went out in the front yard and left Boston indoors. This was where things went badly wrong.
Our pet door is open to the dogs at all times, because Ganymede broke the barrier that we used to be able to insert into the pet door to block the dogs on one side or the other. So when Susan went in the front yard, Boston went through the pet door into the back yard. And then she went back into the muck. And then she came back in the house and tracked mucky footprints all over the house
. And did I mention that these footprints reek?
Here is where she came in through the pet door.( six more disaster photographsCollapse ) Mood: aghast
||Thursday, 15 March 2012 12:35am
March Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
14 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
I finally have enough flowers in the yard again for it to be worth writing a Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
post. The back yard is currently mostly underwater, but the flowers in the back yard are mostly on the shrubs, so they're still visible above the water line. Here is the golden currant (Ribes aureum
) in full glory. It bloomed earlier than usual this year - it's been going strong for nearly a full month now - so I think it's going to begin winding down very soon.( More pretty flowers!Collapse ) Mood: busy
||Sunday, 15 January 2012 8:39pm
Walking Around the Neighborhood
5 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
I tried to prepare a Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day Post, but the only flowers in the yard right now are the scarlet mallow that blooms year-round, a few golden currant flowers that are too tiny for my camera to focus on properly, a giant gumplant bud that's too tiny at the moment for my camera to focus on properly, and some ribbed fringepod buds that are so microscopic that even though my camera miraculously did
focus on them properly, they still just look like tiny white dots that don't seem worth showing off. So in lieu of boring you to death with pictures of our yard, I'm going to show you some pictures from my recent walks around the neighborhood instead. I took Boston for a walk to the Yuba River on New Year's Day, and I took her for a walk in the other direction last weekend. Susan and Ganymede stayed home both times, because Susan's foot hasn't fully healed from when she broke it last spring, and I'm not comfortable trying to handle more than one dog at a time.
Now I will show you pictures from both walks.( Pictures!Collapse ) Mood: okay
||Saturday, 7 January 2012 5:55pm
Apparently I Can See
3 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Today I went to get my eyes checked for the first time in, oh, about fifteen years? I first got glasses when I was 17 and woke up one day to find that I could no longer read the words on the calendar hanging on the wall opposite my bed, which I was certain I had been able to read the week before. My mother took me to an optometrist who told me that actually my eyes were still good enough that I probably didn't really need
glasses, but that since I had noticed the change in my vision, he would go ahead and give me glasses anyway. I picked out wireframes with giant round lenses that were brass on the sides but had a purple facing around the lenses with black dots on it.
In the car in the way home, I got excited about being able to see individual blades of grass in the lawn. But within a week or so of getting glasses, I settled into a pattern of wearing my glasses only when I left the house, never when I was at home. The frames were a little heavy, no doubt partly because I'd picked ones with such large lenses, and my ears got tired of holding them up if I wore them every waking moment. Besides, my nearsightedness was mild enough that there was never really any need for me to wear them at home. I needed my glasses to drive, to see street signs, and even to see what teachers wrote on the board in front of the classroom or what the signs in the hallways said when I walked around school. It was even kind of useful to have glasses when conversing with people at school, because the glasses helped me to see subtler details of people's facial expressions. But at home, when I already knew what all the printed materials said and I already knew how to read my family members' facial expressions even when I was standing some distance away from them, it just wasn't important. There was no good reason not to just stand up and walk over to the calendar on my bedroom wall when I wanted to read what was written on it.
A few years later, when I was in college and probably about 20 or 21 years old, pretty much the exact same thing happened again. I lived with my parents throughout college, so I woke up one day in exactly the same bed and found that a slightly different calendar hanging in probably exactly the same place on the same wall opposite my bed was again too difficult to read. My mother took me in again, and again the optometrist said that my eyes hadn't really changed enough for me to really need
a new prescription, but that since I had noticed the change, he would go ahead and give me a new prescription. We went to LensCrafters or some similar such thing and looked at some frames, but large lenses were already going out of style by then, and I hated all the frames with smaller lenses. My mother tried to persuade me that I should really get a second pair of frames so that I would have a backup pair in case one broke, but I refused to accept any of the frames they were selling and just had the new lenses put into my original frames.
Well, now I'm 35, and I hadn't been back to an eye doctor since. I still have just the single original frames, on which the purple facing with black dots has now worn away so thoroughly that Susan had no idea the frames had ever been anything other than plain brass. I know I should have gone back long, long ago. It's just that things kept coming up. I had a job with health insurance from ages 22 to 27, but my vision never seemed to get any worse, and I figured that since I had always noticed even very slight changes in my vision before, the fact that I hadn't noticed any changes in my vision since age 20 was a pretty good sign that the need to get my eyes checked was not yet urgent. I always planned to get around to it eventually, but I always figured it wouldn't hurt to wait one more year.
And then, six days after I turned 28, I got laid off. Six months later I found a new job, but the new job didn't include health insurance. I was nearly 31 by the time I got health insurance again. By then I certainly intended to get my eyes checked. But I also needed to get a lot of other health-related appointments taken care of, because I hadn't been to a doctor of any kind in nearly three years. And because I still hadn't noticed my vision getting even the tiniest bit worse in all those years, seeing an eye doctor was still one of the lower priorities among the various medical appointments I needed to make.
At age 32, I got laid off again. And I still hadn't gotten around to getting my eyes checked.
Well, that layoff happened in the midst of the Great Recession of Late 2008/Early 2009, so it took me until age 34 to find a steady job again at all, and it took me until age 35 to get health insurance again. I got the health insurance on the last day of last August. I spent September adapting to new job duties, October working a gradually greater and greater number of hours, and November and December working 60 or more hours per week. Now it's January, and I finally found time to make an appointment with an optometrist.
It seems that the entire concept of getting one's eyes checked has changed rather dramatically in fifteen years. Fifteen years ago, getting my eyes checked consisted of reading the letters on an eye chart and then reading them again while various different lenses were placed in front of each of my eyes. This time it was considerably more traumatic. They started out by telling me, "Sit down in front of these three machines. Don't worry, they won't hurt - they just surprise you." Huh? What will surprise me? It was an ominous warning, and I had absolutely no idea what these bizarre machines might do to "surprise" me. After about fifteen minutes of taking my family history (yes, I have many, many, many close relatives who have gone blind from pretty much every possible eye disease including glaucoma, macular degeneration, and cataracts) and five minutes of fiddling around telling me to look at various lights inside one of the machines that was apparently going to "surprise" me at any moment, the woman operating the machines got around to mentioning that the "surprise" was going to consist of a puff of air being blown into my eye. This sounded quite off-putting, but I guess it was good that she eventually got around to mentioning it before actually subjecting me to it. When she did subject me to it, I clutched my eye in shock because it was even more unpleasant than I had imagined. I also apparently jumped back so quickly that it didn't actually work.
After she had subjected me to the unpleasant puff of air a second time in that eye and once in the other eye, we moved on to a much less unpleasant machine in which I got to look at a picture of a barn while she made it go in and out of focus. The only disconcerting thing about this one was the fact that I supposed this must be the new way of fitting me for new lenses and expected her to ask me to tell her when the barn came into perfect focus. When she put the barn way out of focus and stopped there, leaving it way out of focus, I feared that there had been some sort of terrible mistake and she was going to give me a prescription for new glasses that would make everything look horribly out of focus all the time like the way the picture of the barn had ended up.
She then described the third machine in a way that made it sound similarly untraumatic. "Look at the green light," she said. "When I push this, the green light will change to a big purple light. It's just going to turn purple, that's all. Well, and then it turns blue and red and yellow. But first it'll just be all purple." That sounded actually rather pleasant. I like purple! I'll be happy to look at a purple light. She neglected to mention that actually the "big purple light" was a blindingly bright purple flash, and that the light itself did not actually turn blue and red and yellow at all; instead, the afterimage burned into my retina turned blue and red and yellow while I sat with my eyelids fully closed, wondering whether I would ever be able to see again. And then we repeated the whole process on the other eye, while I wondered why in the world I was allowing a lunatic to blind me in both eyes.
After that I went out to sit in the waiting room for a few minutes, where the woman who had just finished blinding me emerged from a doorway just in time to overhear me explaining to Susan that yes, I did vaguely remember hearing her complain about how unpleasant it was to get her eyes checked, but that I'd always just assumed that the unpleasant tests she talked about were only for . . . well, for "people who are older than I am." The woman who had just subjected me to the unpleasant tests laughed heartily at that.
Then I got called back for the more familiar form of eye exam, in which I got to read a bunch of different-sized letters on a screen while looking through a bunch of different lenses. A different woman did this part of the exam. As the process continued, she seemed kind of surprised by the results. At one point she made the letters almost microscopically tiny, so I couldn't really be sure what any of them were, but I tried my best to guess at them. "Wow!" she exclaimed. Apparently I got at least most of them right. Shortly after that, seeming more confused than ever by the results, she put aside the machines entirely and simply fished an old laminated piece of paper out of her desk and placed it in my hand, which was on my lap. The paper had paragraphs of text, complete sentences and all, with the fonts gradually increasing in size from the top to the bottom of the page. "Can you read the small print on that?" she asked. "Yes," I said. I did not have my glasses on, but even the smallest print size on this piece of paper was perfectly easy to read. I've never needed my glasses for reading. In fact, by this point she had already asked me whether I wore my glasses all the time, and I had explained that I only wear my glasses when I leave the house, never when I'm at home, and I had also specified that I never wear my glasses when reading, so I was confused about why she was even asking me whether I could read a page of small print without my glasses. Of course I could; it was much easier to read than some of the small print she had asked me to guess at through the various lenses.
"Have you noticed any eye strain when you try to read or look at things up close with your glasses on?" she asked.
"Yes," I said, "that's why I don't wear my glasses when I read. That's why I never wear my glasses at all when I'm home."
"Well, I can see why you're feeling eye strain," she said. "Your prescription is about twice as strong as what you need. If you keep trying to read with these glasses, you'll probably need bifocals earlier than you should. Usually most people don't need bifocals until they're 40, and I think that if we get you some glasses that aren't so strong, we can put that off a while longer."
Back when I worked in an office, I did actually experience some rather uncomfortable eye strain from sitting at a computer all day with my glasses on. During the last year or so before I got laid off, I occasionally even took my glasses off for a few minutes in my cubicle and noticed that it was much more comfortable for me to focus on the screen without my glasses. But I was never comfortable leaving my glasses off for very long in the office, because everyone was used to seeing me with them on, and I was clearly too young to need bifocals, so I wasn't sure how I'd be able to answer any awkward questions about why I had taken my glasses off. But ever since I got laid off in January 2009, I've worked at home all the time, so I've never worn my glasses during working hours. I haven't ever attempted to read a book or a computer screen with my glasses on during the three years since then. In fact, since I only ever leave the house for maybe about three or four hours per week these days, to go grocery shopping and such, I've only been wearing my glasses for about three or four hours per week. Prior to being laid off, I wore my glasses for about forty hours per week, because I left my apartment for about forty hours per week. (Within a week or two of when I started to date Susan, I made it a policy that I also never wore my glasses when I was in her home - because that was home-like too, and there was only one person there to explain my odd glasses policy to, and the eye strain was too annoying for me to want to just keep wearing them for long.)
So anyway, it seems that I can see! Twice as well as I thought I could, even! And my vision was never really that bad in the first place, even when it was twice as bad as it is now. Soon I will have new, weaker lenses and even new frames, although I still resent the fact that none of the frames now available have as large of lenses as my original frames. Mood: pleased
||Monday, 26 December 2011 10:47am
Christmas LootSpeak Your Mind
For Christmas I received the following books:
- A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (from my brother)
- The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass (from my parents)
- Complete Pebble Mosaic Handbook by Maggie Howarth (from my parents)
- Firescaping: Creating Fire-Resistant Landscapes, Gardens, and Properties in California's Diverse Environments by Douglas Kent (from my parents)
- Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses by Robin Wall Kimmerer (from my parents)
- Concrete Garden Projects: Easy & Inexpensive Containers, Furniture, Water Features & More by Malin Nilsson and Camilla Arvidsson (from my parents)
- I, Pierre Seel, Deported Homosexual by Pierre Seel (from my parents)
- An American Obsession: Science, Medicine, and Homosexuality in Modern Society by Jennifer Terry (from my parents)
I also received the following:
- a new winter coat (from Susan)
- socks (from Susan)
- a trowel (from Susan)
- gardening gloves (from Susan)
- a magnifying glass (from Susan)
- an ice cream scoop (from Susan)
- a laser printer (for both of us from Santa Claus)
- a potlifter (from Susan's sister Wendy)
- a Gorillapod tripod (from my parents)
- a collapsible canvas dog crate (from my parents)
- liquid frisket for watercolor painting (from my parents)
- Collapse into Now by R.E.M. (from my parents)
- seeds of yellow lupine (Lupinus densiflorus) and tidy-tips (Layia platyglossa) (from my parents)
- a Christmas tree ornament with Susan's and my names on it (for both of us from Susan's sister Wendy)
- a Christmas tree ornament in the shape of a Zuni bear fetish (for both of us from my Aunt Kitty)
- many boxes of chocolates (for both of us from my Aunt Kitty, Susan's Aunt Laurie and Uncle John, and our former neighbor Jessica, and for me from Susan)
It was a good Christmas. I hope yours was too! Mood: loved
|Wednesday, 14 December 2011|
||Wednesday, 14 December 2011 11:19pm
December Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
1 Mind Spoken | Speak Your Mind
It's Bloom Day
again! The challenge of finding plants that are blooming right now is not nearly as difficult as the challenge of finding a few minutes to write about them when I'm still working 60-hour weeks. But here goes.
All the distance shots I have this month are actually from the end of November, because the yard looked better then. At the end of November, the red-twig dogwood (Cornus sericea
) had bright red leaves, and the the buttonbush right behind it had bright green leaves. Now they both have no leaves. In fact, the monotony of the fence line is completely uninterrupted, because there's no longer a single plant in the back yard that is more than two feet tall and still has leaves on it. December is really not a good month for gardening in small yards. In a big yard where the fences aren't so oppressively close, a gardener might be able to focus on the plants and appreciate this stage of their life cycle. In a small yard, what little is left of the plants is completely overwhelmed by FENCE FENCE FENCE everywhere you look.
But I do have close-up shots from the past day or two. And yes, there are even some flowers blooming.( Flowers blooming!Collapse ) Mood: tired
||Monday, 14 November 2011 8:54pm
November Garden Blogger's Bloom-and-Foliage Day
10 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
Shall I call it that, or shall I go for the equally appropriate alternative: Garden Blogger Rises from the Dead Day? There are more flowers blooming in the yard right now than the ones I'm going to show you. I just didn't get around to photographing the others because I've been busy working 12-hour days, 13-hour days, 14-hour days, 15-hour days . . . and 16-hour days. But now there is a pause in the endless volume of work. It will definitely be all too brief a pause, but at least it happened at the right time to allow me to celebrate Bloom Day
. Sort of. With an incomplete set of pictures of the current blooms.
Here is the California fuchsia (Epilobium canum
'Calistoga'), which has been lighting up the front sidewalk garden since early September.( More blooms and pretty foliage! New plants, too!Collapse ) Mood: stressed
||Monday, 31 October 2011 7:51pm
5 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
This is our third annual math-o-lantern. The full equation on this one is 3x
+ 1 = 13. You can't see the 3, but you can see its ghost in the light shining on the wall.
A group of kids stopped Susan in the street this afternoon, a little before the trick-or-treating started. "You're not going to make us do math again, are you?" one of them asked her. "Yes, I am," Susan replied. The other kids turned to stare at the first kid. "She doesn't actually make you do math, does she?" they demanded. Yes, she does! I grow the pumpkins and carve them; Susan makes the kids do the math. And they actually get excited about it, because they get extra candy if they do the math. Then they go running down the street screaming excitedly that they got the right answer, and other kids come running up the street screaming excitedly that they want to do the math problem too.
Susan says our oldest trick-or-treaters tonight were two who were about 60 years old and had no children with them. There were two of them, sort of together, although they didn't particularly talk to each other, and they approached the door in rapid succession but not quite simultaneously. The man approached first. He was dressed as a hobo, complete with a real grey mustache and chin stubble. "I need more than one piece of candy," he announced, "because I have more than one grandkid." Susan was too flabbergasted by his age to make him do the math problem. He took some candy and wandered off, muttering under his breath, "Yeah, the grandkids are home sick. They have fevers. They're really sick."
Then the woman approached. She had a bluish green sheet draped over one shoulder and pinned around herself like a toga, with a low-cut neckline exposing stretched and wrinkled tattoos across her chest and upper arms. She was carrying a chihuahua under one arm. Susan remained too flabbergasted by the age of these people to make her do the math problem, so the woman just helped herself to some candy and started walking away. Then she turned around and announced in an offended-sounding tone, "Hey, you didn't ask me about my costume. I'm the Statue of Liberty. Can you tell?" She had no crown or torch, just the chihuahua. Susan wondered whether the chihuahua was supposed to be the torch, but she decided not to ask.
We had fewer scary adults unable to solve the math problem this year than in previous years, so I guess basic algebra/pre-algebra is easier for most people than long division or adding fractions (which we used on our pumpkins in 2009
, respectively). Or maybe it was just that our two scariest adults this year were so
scary that Susan didn't even ask them to do the math. Mood: pleased
|Saturday, 15 October 2011|
|Sunday, 18 September 2011|
||Sunday, 18 September 2011 8:07pm
September Garden Bloggers' Wildlife Day
3 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
I'm several days late for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
, and I don't even have that many blooms. This is not to say that September is a slow month in the garden, however. On the contrary, September seems to be the very best month of the entire year for wildlife in the garden - just not such a big month for the flowers. And now I'm finally going to get around to showing you both the wildlife and the flowers.
There's no wildlife visible in this first picture, but you can see most of the flowers: pale purplish California asters (Symphyotrichum chilense
) in the lower left, the omnipresent golden rosillas (Helenium puberulum
) just above them, and the last lingering yellow evening-primroses (Oenothera elata
) and red cardinalflowers (Lobelia cardinalis
) mingling in the ditch. In the center, the clustered field sedge (Carex praegracilis
) is forming a rather delightfully lush, unmowed, lawn-like area.( Frogs! Toads! Butterflies! Birds!Collapse ) Mood: busy
||Sunday, 14 August 2011 10:56pm
August Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
8 Minds Spoken | Speak Your Mind
I'm not sure that July and August entirely deserve separate Garden Bloggers' Bloom Days
, because most of the yard looks almost identical today to the way it did a month ago, and most of the changes are for the worse. The plants continue to dry out over the long, rainless summer. The yarrow and the clustered field sedge (which are the primary groundcovers in the back yard) have both shrunken in size a bit due to lack of water, and in some areas the clustered field sedge has turned brown.
However, August is not entirely an inferior duplicate of July. I do have two rather spectacular new blooms in August - one in the back yard and one in the front. This picture shows the back yard one, cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis
), blooming in the ditch, surrounded by Hooker's evening-primroses (Oenothera hookeri
) that are on higher ground, with rosillas (Helenium puberulum
) and hairy gumplant (Grindelia hirsutula
) seedheads in the background.
As you might guess from its appearance, the cardinal flower is a big hit with hummingbirds. Although I haven't managed to get any photos of the hummingbirds so far, the quantity and quality of hummingbird sightings in our yard have both vastly increased since the cardinal flower started blooming. Once, unfortunately without my camera, I stood about four feet from the cardinal flower while a hummingbird sipped from each individual flower at its stalk, one at a time, then tried a few of the evening-primrose flowers, circled around within two feet of my head so I could easily have reached out and touched it, repeatedly landed on the oleanders about four feet above my head, and even came back for a second visit to the cardinal flower a few minutes later. Before the cardinal flower bloomed, I had only ever seen hummingbirds make a quick dash through our yard and be gone in under ten seconds.( More beautiful August flowers!Collapse ) Mood: accomplished