Entries to Win Afghan

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Friday, February 28, 2014

Tree of Heaven Seed Pods

Saw another large Ailanthus tree this week. It took me a minute to figure out what seed pods I was seeing. I still can't get used to really large specimens of this tree. I also can't believe people planted this tree on purpose as an ornamental. But it does grow fast! Here's what I saw looking up.

ailanthus seeds

I don't recognize the mature bark yet, either, so I thought for a minute I was seeing an ash. Then I saw a cluster of the seed pods on the ground. That was helpful!

ailanthus seeds

The twisted pods with a single seed in the middle of each is the giveaway. The dots are remnants of the flower. Ailanthus (also known as Tree of Heaven translated from the Indonesian word ailanto) has separate male and female trees, which is known as dioecious. So this is a female tree.

ailanthus seeds

Once you get this image in your head, you'll always recognize the seeds. Only one species, Ailanthus altissima, grows in temperate climates. It's relatively short-lived, but can grow two feet a year, so a 50-foot tree is mature.

Because it's become such a weed tree it's also been nicknamed Tree of Hell. In the 1800s it was used as an ornamental and for urban plantings, but it suckers like crazy and smells terrible. It's almost impossible to eradicate if you have one in your yard. When you mow it, ten more will sprout.

See Biggest Ailanthus I've Ever Seen
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Emerald Ash Borer Galleries

I suspect pretty much everyone has heard about the devastation the emerald ash borer is bringing about. Here's one example of a tree that has come to a sad end.

ash killed by emerald ash borer

It's amazing how a little beetle can eat all the critical tissue just under the bark. See how it's completely separated.

emerald ash borer galleries

Here's a closer look at the galleries left by the borer. It's interesting how they are not symmetrical at all, the way the elm bark beetle galleries are.

emerald ash borer galleries

See Bark Beetle Galleries
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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Flamingo- A Demure Afternoon Stroll

I had a more serious topic planned, but frankly, I need a little laugh. The wind is HOWLING down the driveway. I'm sure it will be drifted shut yet again. They are already cancelling schools for tomorrow and telling people to leave water dripping.

Before I started this silly flamingo project I had the very mistaken notion that all plastic flamingos were pretty much made from the same mold. That has turned out to be wildly incorrect. Even among plastic ones, I don't think I've found two alike unless they were in the same lawn- probably purchased as a set. Who knew?

I think this lovely lady (and she certainly appears to be a demure lady) is taking her afternoon constitutional through the neighborhood.

lawn flamingo

See Flamingos
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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Common Cuties

Actually out and about doing work assignments today. Glad I didn't have too many. (Tomorrow is a different story).

It was nice to see some living creatures, even if they weren't the most spectacular. In fact, both of these animals are pretty much pests. First we have some English or House Sparrows discussing the possibility of some blue sky.

English sparrows

These are alien birds in the US, and because of being introduced pretty much everywhere, are the most widely distributed wild bird in the world.

This fox squirrel didn't want to discuss anything, but he was sure someone had left a sack with some corn in it just for him.

fox squirrel

Fox squirrels are larger than gray squirrels, and are generally bullies. Ann Arbor is overrun with them. I don't see as many of them here, so I hope the populations are more in balance because I love our little grays and the black morphs.

But, as I said, today I was just happy to see some critters moving about.

See Is There a Nut in There?
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Monday, February 24, 2014

Maggie Says- Buy More ISBNs

This is too cute. I used the last of my original block of ISBNs (International Standard Book Numbers) that I bought when I first began publishing my books, so I'll need to order more. The price has gone up substantially. Sigh.

But I had to chuckle at the sales page. In the US, you buy them through Bowker. Maybe they are suggesting some similarity of Bowker to Bow-wow, or Bowser, or... Anyway, here's the important part of the page.

ad with dogs

Look who's on the right side! It's Miss Maggie. (with John's Mia next to her, and then Buffy, and then Cleo, and then some little dogs I don't know). Actually, it's pretty funny. Most Vizslas would not be larger than most German Shepherds, and I don't think most cocker spaniels would be larger than most basset hounds, but oh well.

I wish this cold would let go. I feel fine until I try to actually DO something.

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Trail(er) Dreamin'

The wind is still wuthering and shrieking and FILLING IN THE DRIVEWAY I JUST OPENED, but I'm not going to think about that right now.

There' a Marty Robbins cowboy song I like called "Trail Dreamin'." It's about riding a horse, but of course I always think about hiking, but today, I'm thinking about my little trailer. Right now, it's still huddled in the snow.

And yet, "Visions glow as I go trail dreamin'. I see a home on a blue mountain dome..."

travel trailer

Today, I published Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp (Get yours at Smashwords or Amazon.) This is not only personally gratifying, but I hope it gets me one step closer to my goal of more independence. Maybe this is TMI, but at $2.99 each, I'll get about $2 for every full-price sale. Not a fortune, but there are already some dedicated Anastasia Raven fans who will be sure to buy it. And books in series are popular, if well-enough written. The other three have done well enough that I'm definitely encouraged to keep it up.

Also, today, I was offered some free-lance editing. If this works out, it could be a real breakthrough. It's for sure I can't travel much with two part-time jobs tied to this local area. And it's also for sure I can't travel without an income. More mobile, writing income is incredibly awesome!

"There'a a rainbow trail that's lined with stars, That leads to a gate with moonbeam bars..."

Can you see me here? ...in my little portable office, writing about all kinds of things, and hiking, and...

travel trailer
(with or without the guy on the roof)

See Interior Tour
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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Blue Skies

It was cold today, but sunny. Feeling much better. I did very little that required any physical effort. Worked on editing Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp and made good progress.

Even though I didn't go outside except to take a couple of pictures, the blue skies and sunshine were a definite mood brightener. Thanks for all the well wishes. It was only a cold, but not a fun one.

blue sky in winter

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Nitey, Nite

I'm putting my cold to bed for the night. Called in sick for work. Did some editing today and chilled out (between coughing, sneezing, and dripping).

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Making the Most of the Sun

Today's good news is that the sore throat I've had for a week has let loose its grip, but it turned into a head cold. They sent me home from work early, and I'm going to bed really soon.

Yesterday's sunshine and sunset cheered me enough for two days, so here's a shot from last night as I was driving home.

photo label

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Today's Wildlife Show

Today, while I was waiting for someone to show up for an appointment, I had a nice little wildlife show. Here's the stage.

deer in snow

Densely packed cottages around a lake. Please note the pile of logs strategically placed to obstruct my best view. But it will give you an idea of how close to the house this action is. A doe shows up, looking for something to eat. Is she already licking her chops in anticipation?

deer in snow

Need I mention that the snow is deep?

deer in snow

So she's rooting around, trying to find something tasty that might be hidden, when a man comes out on the deck of the cottage. Does she bolt? Not on your life. He has carrots. One by one, he throws them over the railing. She grabs one. Then, from the deeper woods, an interloper shows up.

deer in snow

There was some pushing and shoving and snorting. A lot like a school yard brawl. Almost all behind the log pile. Of course.

deer in snow

So, one deer got three carrots, and this deer got one. Can you tell which is which? I can't. But I'm pretty sure the daily appearance of carrots is expected.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014


We are supposed to get freezing rain later this week, so I might not feel so friendly toward ice then, but I found these today and thought they were pretty.

ice on shrub

This was on the same bush, but from a different angle. It looks like I did something fancy with the camera settings, but I didn't. I have no idea why it came out pink.

ice on shrub
At another house, I found this interesting "sculpture."

ice on shrub

This part looks pretty normal.

ice on shrub

This part doesn't! Can you see how it happened? No the picture is not rotated.

ice on shrub

See Hersey River
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Monday, February 17, 2014

Cousin Helen

If Chuck were still hosting his Family Friday, this would be a perfect fit. I got an email from my cousin Jean that family is gathered in New England, because her Aunt Helen's "time to transition" is approaching. Helen is 101. This is the last living second cousin of my mother. (Jean is my third cousin.)

Helen was always very nice to me, even after I married and moved away. I never saw her from about 1962 till 2006, but she always sent lovely Christmas cards and a small, appropriate gift. I mention appropriate, because some distant relatives become jokes for their poor taste in gifts. Helen always seemed to get it right- a box of assorted fancy mustard, jelly, fruit. It wasn't always food, but I don't want to make up stuff I don't remember. I just remember that she never sent a "loser."

I visited her in 2006, and would love to show you a picture from that trip, but I can't find them (grrr- not digital?).

Anyway, Jean sent me a picture taken just last fall, with Jean's mother. Helen is on the left.

Helen and Nan

I never can figure out how these people get old. Here is how I remember Helen. She's on the right, and I'm the munchkin.

Helen Mabel Mary Winifred

The woman holding me is Mary, great-aunt to Jean, and cousin of my grandmother. Next to her is her sister Mabel, Jean's grandmother, also cousin to my grandmother. In the front is Winifred, wife of a deceased sibling, Percy. Helen is Mabel's daughter, and her brother was George, Jean's father. Another sister, Grace died a few years ago. It's all very confusing when written out that way.

Mabel, Mary and Percy are siblings. My grandmother is their cousin. Helen, George and Grace are Mabel's children. Jean is George's daughter.

I actually remember pieces of this trip. The house was on Long Island. Jean remembers the house better than I do. She was there more often, but my family never went again after this time. I have no idea why. Jean says the house is gone now, too.

Very soon, I will be the only person in this picture who is still alive. How did that happen?

See Jean Hall and Joan Hall
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