Entries to Win Afghan

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Monday, July 31, 2023

One Small Success

All (almost all) my current efforts are focused on having a semi-clean and useable space for later this week when both Loretta (SIL) and Bernie (thru hiker Sea Otter) will be here.

I worked on several pieces of that goal, and one of them is complete. Well, ok, two. But it's probably not worth counting that I got the bedding clean and the 2nd bed made up. Nevertheless, it did take time.

As part of the aftermath of the January basement flood one of the bookcases had a problem. They are only pressboard, and one of the "feet" did get wet enough to begin to disintegrate. All it needed was a piece of wood sistered up to the inside. You can't even see that this has been done, but without it, the case wasn't really solid. So I got that taken care of today so the bookcase is no longer on its side in the middle of the floor.
empty bookcase

Since we got rid of a lot more stuff after the flood, this case is now going to become the home for, hopefully, the rest of our history books. One of the other similar cases is full of them, but there are more in the other building. It will be nice to have them all in one general location.

The toilet project is on hold until tomorrow, but I'll need to tackle it for sure in the morning.

I also worked on another part of the downstairs cleanup, did accounts from the weekend and errands, and spent way too much time with tech support for a software issue.

See, all you people who think I'm amazing... my life is full of all these same kinds of annoying projects as yours.

See What Happened with the Basement

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Ain't It Fun?

No. the answer is NO.

Today was one of those organizational puzzles. I needed ice cream and bread before I could have lunch. But I needed to go to Lowe's on the same trip as the grocery store. But I needed to take the downstairs toilet apart before I went to Lowe's to make sure I got the right size innards. And I needed to do a load of laundry, but not until the toilet is done because there are sure to be wet icky rags and towels. Did I want to do any of that?

No. the answer is NO.
bathroom with plumbing in process

Could I get the part I needed?

No. the answer is NO.

It turns out that the way the float valve attaches on this toilet is no longer the standard, and the part has been discontinued. I thought it was worth trying to jerry-rig a fix, but that isn't going to work. So now I have to go back to Lowe's and get the complete kit with the overflow pipe, take the tank off the toilet, yada, yada.

Meanwhile, I thought I'd fix the slow sink. It was also on the list. Took off the trap and cleaned it. Usually, I can just loosen the drain plug and pull it up far enough to clean out. The clog must be below that assembly. But I couldn't get that nut to loosen. I cleaned what I could, put it back together and am treating it with drain cleaner.

Did I do the laundry?

No. the answer is NO.

I will have to do that tomorrow whether the plumbing mess is ready or not.

Loretta comes on Tuesday, and I'll be hosting thru-hiker Bernie later in the week.

Yikes! I need to figure out even where 3 people can sit at one time. Sigh.

See The Only Plumbing Job that Ever Went Well

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Around Grand Ledge

I'm tired. It was a good sales day, but not stellar. Since it was such a big event, I thought I might do better. Lots and lots of people wanted to talk, but that did not always translate to sales. I don't mind talking to people (when I know that's what I'm there for), but I wish it would have converted to more sales.

Anyway, after we unloaded our cars (not very near our booths and had to drag our carts across wet, thick grass), the parking was a half-mile away! So at the end of the day, when I was walking that half mile again to get the car, I walked through the park along the Grand River.
Grand River

The park has a couple of fun things for kids other than the usual playground equipment. This one is for making music. The flowers are bells. The pipes make different tones when you bang on them, and the other two are instruments with steel strings.
musical playground

Naturally, on a hot day, the splash pad was hugely attractive.
splash pad

I'm sure this mural has all kinds of references to Grand Ledge history, but I don't know what they are, and I'm too tired to care tonight.

There is a really nice hiking trail, just down the street from where I was, but I was also to tired to go do that.

I bought a piece of gas station pizza and a fountain drink with lots of ice, and drove home. Since I can hardly keep my eyes open, I think I'll be passing out soon.

See Grand River in Lansing

Friday, July 28, 2023

An Evening with Chuck and Sylvia

Selfies are horrible; we all know this. We took one anyway. I just looked it up and it was almost two years since I last visited Chuck and Sylvia who started out as blogging friends but have turned into real, solid, life-long friends.

Sylvia is like the Energizer Bunny. She is contantly working on things. I won't tell you her age, but she's older than I am, and she keeps a full-size vegetable garden and several flower beds. The evening light made the coneflowers look especially nice.

A patch of sunlight made the marigolds glow.
marigolds in sun

The zucchini is just temporarily resting before it delivers a few more green bombs. Just kidding... I really like zucchini.
zucchini plant

The cherry tomato bush is covered! But you might have to look closely to see them in this small picture. She had already picked the ones that needed harvesting today.
grape tomato plant

So, Sylvia says this is just a tray of fresh food waiting to be put away. I say it's a work of art. And I can verify that those cherry tomatoes taste better than candy!
tray with fruit and vegetables

Chuck's big news is that he's had an operation that has stopped his essential tremors which were getting very bad. This is huge! We shared a nice dinner- well, they shared, I just ate it! And then we had some time to visit after we ate and did the garden tour.

In the morning, I head for Grand Ledge and the Island Art Fair vendor event.

See Last Visit with Chuck & Sylvia, August 2021

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Best Books Read in the First Half of 2023

  In a serious knee-jerk reaction from not being able to read as much as usual in 2022, by the end of June of this year, I'd already read 105 books. So as not to make choosing the best a complete impossibility, I'm choosing the best from the first half of the year now, and then I'll do another "best" post when the year is complete.
stack of books

Here are the ten I have selected as the best reads of the first half of 2023, in alphabetical order.

Brief Review
Adnan's StoryRabia Chaudrytrue crime
This is a really scary account of how a young man was profiled for being Muslim and sent to prison for about two decades for the murder of his ex-girlfriend with no actual evidence at all. He was finally exonerated, although the crime has never been solved. He was a teenager when he was convicted. I would never say that all law-enforcement behaves this badly, but this was a bit of a wake-up call about how when decisions are made based on assumptions, things go from bad to worse.
In the Kingdom of IceHampton Sideshistory/adventure
I had never heard of the U.S.S. Jeannette before reading this book. Now, I don't think I'll ever forget it. The Jeannette sailed for the North Pole in 1879, hoping to prove the then-popular scientific theory that there was a ring of ice around the "Polar Sea," which was warmer and open. It is hard for me to get my mind around the fact that only three years before my grandmother was born serious scientists believed this. This book has a lot of bad reviews on Amazon, but what those readers don't like was part of what I really liked about the book. There is tons of extraneous material about the times, the quirky man who sponsored the expedition, the captain's wife, and more. I appreciated gaining a better understanding of how the adventure fit into the culture of the era. You know I have a hard time picking a "favorite" anything, but this may be the most memorable book from these six months.
In the Sanctuary of OutcastsNeil Whitetrue crime
Although listed in the true crime book lists, this book defies being categorized. A man is sentenced to federal prison for a white-collar crime, basically kiting checks, big checks. As it turns out, the government is trying to consolidate some of their facilities, and some white-collar criminals are sent to the last operating leper colony in the U.S. for the term of their sentence. White learns a whole lot about the nature of people, the artificial categories we create for them, and the value of being a person of integrity who cares about his fellow humans.
Island of the Blue DolphinsScott O'Dellchildren's
I've already extensively reviewed this book because it was the Newbery medal winner in 1961. This is basically a fictionalized story of a real woman who was the last of her people to survive alone on an island in the Pacific. She lived there for 18 years before being brought to California in 1853. Her story in her words was never recorded because she died very soon after being "rescued," of dysentery, caught from the white people. You can see my much longer review at Island of the Blue Dolphins
The League of Frightened MenRex StoutMystery
One of the things I've done this year is to reread (maybe the 5th time) all of the Nero Wolfe books. There is hardly a bad one in the lot, but I do think I have a couple of favorites. Two of them are making this list. There is something so clever and creepy about this story that it captivates me every time. The "league" is a group of grown men who were all in the same fraternity in college. One of the hazing rituals (this story was written in 1935) was for a young man to cling to the side of the building and tiptoe along a ledge to get to the next window- we've all seen this done on TV. But in the story, the young man, Paul, falls and is crippled for life. The rest of the boys form their league to care for and help this man. Then one of them dies, and each one in the league receives an enigmatic poem suggesting that Paul was responsible for the death and that he scorns their pity. Then two more die and two more poems are received. The league employs Nero Wolfe to investigate.
The Lighthouse RoadPeter Geyeregional fiction
There are three books (this is the first) in this series which trace a family from its roots in Norway, to a logging camp in northern Minnesota, to modern times. The Lighthouse Road is only lightly diguised from being the Gunflint Trail, and the village of Gunflint is obviously Grand Marais, Minnesota. The books hop around from generation to generation in the chapters, but once you get used to that, it's ok. In fact, that technique helps build one of the author's points-- that we are shaped in many ways by our heritage whether we understand it or not. I'm not Norwegian, but I do accept that I am certainly a product of the ways my parents and grandparents were raised. I found that it resonated with me.
Too Many CooksRex Stoutmystery
Here's another Nero Wolfe story, another of the early ones, from 1938. Wolfe has traveled to a chef's competition (one of the very few reasons he ever leaves his house), and of course someone is poisoned. Wolfe must convince the black staff persons to tell what they know about what happened. His speech to them is eloquent and very timely for being written almost 90 years ago. They have clammed up, not because one of them is actually guilty, but simply because the crime was "white man's business" and they disclaimed any responsibility for helping to solve it. Interestingly enough, the young man who finally "talks" comes to Wolfe many years later in A Right to Die, where the man's now-grown son does not share his father's appreciation for trust of the Caucasian Wolfe.
The Treasure of Our TongueLincoln Barnettlinguistics
I also reviewed this book at length at Bunny Trail to a Treasure. Written in 1964, the opening is outdated, but after that it is just treat after treat about how so many words in the English Language came to be and are related.
Wicked Takes the Witness StandMardi Linktrue crime
This is another Michigan true crime book by the author of Isadore's Secret and When Evil Came to Good Hart. I know Mardi, so that makes it extra fun, if you can call true crime, fun. Anyway, this is an account of a 1986 murder in Gaylord. The crime is still unsolved, although it seems likely it was an accidental death from a drug overdose. The key witness is a mentally unstable woman who is coached and pampered by the prosecution to weave a story that put six people in prison for years until they were finally vindicated. Another scary story of good intentions to catch a murderer gone wrong.
World of the CeltsSimon Jameshistory
This is a straight-up history book which attempts to trace who the Celts actually were and where they came from. It has LOTS of color pictures of artifacts. I had read it before, quite a few years ago, but there is so much valuable material, I decided to read it again.

In other news: I finished pulling the autumn olive in the main part of the yard, and got the first mowing done on that section. It was too hot and humid to do much outside. Not that it's exactly cool in the house, but the fans help. Made some progress on many projects, all too slowly, but that's no reason to give up! The stack of books is what I've read in the last two weeks.

See Best Books Read in 2022

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Cathie's Garden

I needed to run out to Cathie's house on another errand, but a side perk of that is that I knew she has a very nice garden. This was the first time we'd actually met, although we've been conversing via Facebook. She took one of my least attractive house plants before I went hiking. It's still really leggy, but it's very happy.

She has a whole patch of red Crocosmia. I tried to grow this once with no succes. It looks best in a mass planting like this one.

She also has a few stands of hollyhocks. I prefer these, the old-fashioned single ones. For a while the double ones were hugely popular, but I'm glad to see more of this kind now.
pink hollyhock

The deck planters are phenomenal! They are mostly Coleus and Bidens 'Stellar Blanco.' (white star). I thought at first they were Bacopa, but the leaves aren't right. You don't want to run into the wild Bidens species in the fall. They are the classic "stick-tights" with the two prongs like devil's-horns! I think the other flowers are a petunia.

I loved the hot color palette of her front bed. And what I really like is the little solar fountain she has in the birdbath. She says the birds love the splashing. You can barely see it squirting in the picture, but it sent water almost 2 feet in the air. I think my bath is too small for this, but it's definitely cool!
flower garden with solar fountain

She must spend every minute gardening. She also has a pristine vegetable garden, all fenced about 10 feet tall. This is only maybe a quarter of it.
vegetable garden

Now for my favorites. She is actually growing a lemon tree. I had no idea you could get away with that here. These are the flowers. Behind these, there were very (very) tiny lemons forming on the faded blossoms. Actually you can see one just to the right and below the center.
lemon flowers

This plant was new to me, or at least I never noticed it enough to learn the name. It's a Petunia relative, Calibrachoa from central South America. The red and yellow together is stunning! This planting can also be seen in the picture with the birdbath.
red and yellow calibrachoa

Last night, my brain was just racing with ideas for my current project. I decided it was stupid to lie still and try to remember everything I was thinking of, so I got up and turned the comupter back on. Worked until 5 am. Slept until 10:30. That was fine, since we were having a thunderstorm anyway!

I also got a calendar widget installed on my desktop. That was WAY more difficult than it should have been. The Google one is apparently no longer available. I finally found one I like, although I haven't managed to customize the categories yet. I can only take so much frustration in one day.

See Margaret's Garden

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Fruit Country

I've been looking hard for the picture I wanted to show you, but either I've lost my mind (and only thought I took it), or it's disappeared. I've looked through 3 years of photos (from home- not the hike), twice, and I can't find it.

It was a picture of an older cherry-picking machine. You'll have to settle for these pictures I took today of a slightly newer cherry-picking machine.
cherry picking machine

This is the other side of a different machine, but the same type. I'm betting that if you don't live or visit in fruit country, you don't know how these work.
cherry picker

Well, the reason I decided to share these at this time is because Mason County Press took some drone footage of a very new machine. Even though I knew how cherries were picked this video is mind-blowing because I'd never seen it from this angle, and the new machines are actually attractive.

P.S. They are also called a cherry shaker!

I visited another beautiful garden today, so those pictures will be in your future too.

I managed to work some on most projects, but I had some running around to do, and it was humid.

See Where the North Begins and the Fine Fruit Grows

Monday, July 24, 2023

Mason County Garden Club Flower Show 2023- New to Me!

There were certainly more things that were new to me than what I'm sharing, but these are ones that really caught my eye.

I guess I knew that hydrangeas could have sort of a bi-color pattern, but I'd never seen one like this. The color of the blossoms is actually determined by the pH of the soil chemisty, not some genetic pigment coding in the plant. And it's not even that simple, they've also determined that the key factor is that acidic soil allows the plant to take up Aluminum ions and that makes the flowers blue. This is regular Hydrangea macrophylla, but look at the blue and white coloring. Very interesting! Also, the showy parts of a hydrangea are not petals but the sepals. All that to say... this one is beautiful. It took a blue ribbon.
blue hydrangea

Fairly recently, the panicled Hydrangea, Hydrangea paniculata (duh) has become popular. These have a cone-shaped tower of blossoms rather than the snowball shape. They are interesting. For some reason, all the white hydrangeas were judged together, both the snowballs and the cones. This doesn't seem to be a particular variety, and maybe what I like about it only means it's not fully opened, but it did take the blue ribbon, so there is something about it... Anyway, what I like is that the outer flowers are open, but the inner ones are just buds. It makes the whole thing look somewhat lacy. It was hard to get a good picture with the window behind it. If I faced the other direction, it was all more white hydrangeas behind it making it really difficult to see.
panicled hydrangea

This one completely stumped me. Can you believe it's an ornamental oregano? Oreganum 'Kent Beauty.' I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like it. Most of the pictures I found on line are more pink, so this one may be quite unique.
Oregonum Kent Beauty

And here's an unusual Rudbeckia. This is a variety called 'Green Eyes.' It's a variety of the "ordinary" R. hirta, Black-eyed Susan. I love the two-tone petals, and the green center too.
rudbeckia green eyes

This was another one that had me scratching my head. If you'd asked me what it was, I would have said one of the all-white varieties of Feverfew. Nope. It's a yarrow. Achillea ptarmica 'The Pearl.' And I seredipitously got a leaf in the picture. The long, narrow serrated leaf identifies the yarrow. Feverfew has a more fern-y leaf.
achillea ptarmica the pearl

Did you guess I would end with a succulent again? Only part of this is new to me. This is a really popular plant at the Philadelphia Flower Show, Euphorbia lactea 'White Ghost.' Most of the ones at that flower show are crested ones (which actually have something wrong that makes them form the "crest"). But there was both a crested and a straight tree-like Euphorbia lactea in this post.

Here's the whole plant at this show. It wasn't really that yellow, but I couldn't seem to fix the color. It's really an off-white.
Euphorbia lactea

But the thing that is new to me is that the tips of the upper branches are turning red. I think that means it's getting ready to bloom. This plant has obviously been well cared-for for quite a few years. It's awesome!
euphorbia lactea

In other news: I didn't have as much time to work on my projects today because it took all afternoon to spring Josh from the hospital and get his medications. Of all the crazy things, his usual drugstore was out. They had to transfer the prescription to another store, which took forever, and then they only had enough to get him started for the next couple of weeks. Crazy! But he's now got a phone number to call if he has trouble getting this medication in the future. That's what caused this whole episode. He was unable to get a refill, and when he stopped taking it, bad things happened. One of the clots went to a lung. Could have been quite serious. Thanks for the many prayers.

See MCGC Show 2023- Favorites

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Mason County Garden Club Flower Show 2023- Personal Favorites

There may be more entries in "my favorites" than is good to share in one day. Today I'll show you things I really liked but that were not new to me. You know I love to learn new things, so that will be for tomorrow.

One of the popular categories of entry is Table Settings. There were four "picnic" spreads. I'm always drawn to the bright colors.
picnic table setting

In the regular Table Settings, this one took first place, and the Table Artistry ribbon. I was listening to the lady who designed it telling a friend about how the orange napkins were almost an afterthought, and putting them in the glasses was strictly last minute, but it tied the whole thing together.
table setting with lilies

This patriotic table took second place. Both it and the picnic above were arranged by a friend of mine. This one was in the running for first place, but the plates were not pure white. They had a little green edging, and it was just enough to bump the display down.
patriotic table setting

This setting also took a blue ribbon. Maybe it was a different category. The two above are more like buffet setups, and this one is for people to sit at a table. Anyway, this one is my personal favorite display of the whole show. We each got one ticket. You may have noticed little paper bags in some of the pictures. You put your ticket in the bag for the display you like best. That gives them a people's choice winner, and they also use it as a way to count attendence. I was surprised that I chose one with more subdued colors. However, what did it for me is the perfection of color coordination. There is not one single element that clashes with the rest. The colors in everything are in perfect harmony with everything else.
table setting in green and yellow

Another one of the displays was "Bees in Your Bonnet," which was to decorate a hat with flowers. This entry took the whole thing literally, and it's too funny! It was also the only one to have an actual painted face under the hat rather than a blank mannekin or nothing. The only thing the judges noted was that the scarf somewhat overwhelmed the display.
decorated hat with a bee on the person's nose

This is another of the miniature displays. Although I get why the one I showed you yesterday won, I preferred this one. Those little rocking chairs with a planter in the seat are pretty trite. I like the assymetry of this one and the off-center holes in the holder. The name of the category was "Tiny Treasures," and I think this fits.
miniature flower arrangement

These last two favorites for today are plant entries in the horticultural room. This one is Gooseneck Loosestrife. I haven't seen it very often, and I like it a lot. Not to be confused with the wildflower Lizard Tail, but the flower is similar. It's just funky!
gooseneck loosestrife

And my last picture for today will be- no surprise it made a favorites list- a succulent planter. There is a list of all the plants. I always appreciate that! Echeveria 'Black Prince' - that's the big one. Graptopetalum- I think one of the pale rosettes. Sempervivum- front and center. Four other Echeverias- the other rosettes, one of which is the Ghost Echeveria which is the one blooming. Sedum rubrotinctum 'Aurea' - I think that's the cluster on the front left. Sedum adelphi 'Firestorm'- maybe the reddish leaves sticking up over the edge of the Black Prince. Ice plant- the trailing green stems. Aeonium arboreum 'Zwartkop'- not sure since I don't see a rosette that looks like it, but maybe it's hiding. Anyway. You know I love this. It's a professional level succulent planter- as good as many at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

I worked all day, alternating between a computer project (the priority one that has my attention), and digging up autumn olive. I really wanted to finish that today, but I just pooped out. I spent a total of 1 1/4 hours digging them up, and I still have 4 bushes to go to be able to mow the next piece of yard. Next time!

Now I'm off to visit Josh. He will probably be released tomorrow. The biggest issue was actually to get someone who could take care of his dog. "Woofie" doesn't know me, and would not let me in the house. But we got it taken care of.

See MCGC Flower Show- Best of Show

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Mason County Garden Club Flower Show 2023- Best of Show

Today, I'll show you some of the entries that got special merit awards. Not all of them, because I didn't picture them ALL, and some of the pictures aren't all that great.

First up, because it's so showy is a Dahlia, which took an Award of Merit. The variety of Dahlia is not listed. I don't know much about Dahlias, except that you have to bring them inside every winter. That mean's I'll never grow them!
red-orange dahlia

Another Award of Merit went to this Fuchsia. Again, no variety was listed. I tried to find it, but it turns out there are a lot of them with these long slender flowers. I didn't know that.
slender red fuchsia

This photo took its category in the photography contest, and it also got the Botanical Arts Photography Award. I like it a lot. The plant is Cosmos bippanatus- common garden Cosmos, but the picture is super-artsy.
award winning art photo of cosmos

This one got a Special Award in the miniature arrangement category. The whole thing is about 8 inches high. It has Blue Spruce, a Carnation, a Chrysanthemum, moss, and Smooth Brome Grass.

This arrangement took the Youth Award. It has Baby's Breath, Chrysanthemums, Carnations, and Button Chrysanthemums. I think there are Gerbera Daisies in there too.
cut flower arrangement

The Coleus arrangement got the Growers Award. The class was for non-flowering plants (they do have flowers, but they aren't flowering at the moment), and this contestent listed the varieties! 'Rodeo Drive, 'Main Street Orchard Road,' and 'Gay's Delight.' Very nice.

Tomorrow, I'll show you some of my personal favorites.

I worked on my current project, and some in the rock garden.

If you know our Josh, say a little prayer if you want. He's back in the hospital with blood clots again. I'm going in to see him in a couple of minutes. They hadn't got him in a room yet when I called last.

See MCGC Flower Show 2023