Sunday, July 31, 2011

a bit of excitement - unwanted!

Yesterday my neighbor, Patty, phoned me in a panic asking me to come over at once.  She had gotten into a nest of bees/wasps and got stung in several places.  When I got to her house, she was inside, battling two wasps that had come in with her.  I killed one and chased the other outside.  Patty had some welts where she was stung and was in some pain, but did not have an allergic reaction, thank goodness.  She had been trimming a bush in her front yard, when the bees flew out by the hundreds.  Very scary and unpleasant for her.  I saw the swarm buzzing around the bush and around a plastic bag containing trimmings from the bush.  We think the bees must have had a nest in the ground under the bush.  The bees were very small, so I think they were sweat bees, except that they usually don't sting.  Patty was ok later, but not sure what to do about the 'nest' that she had disturbed.  I think she will buy some wasp spray (the kind you can use at a distance) and try to kill the bees.  She certainly can't go back to working in her flower bed while the bees are in occupation.  Now, I have to worry about what I might have among my flowers!  Makes gardening much less pleasurable, if one has to worry about bees.

Nothing exciting has been happening in MY life, recently.  Not that I'm complaining.  Excitement isn't as much fun as it used to be.  Today I am suffering from a sore back.  Evidently I pulled a muscle while vacuuming yesterday.  I don't know exactly what happened, but my back started hurting shortly after I finished the cleaning.  The same thing happened the last time I used the vacuum.  However, this time is much worse.  I can barely get up from a chair.  So much for attending church this AM or going anywhere in the car.  Hopefully, it will be much better by tomorrow.  I'm too busy to be stuck at home for more than one day!  I'm considering not using the vacuum again, but I need it to do the rugs.  I"m really not much for house cleaning, anyway, but once in a while I have to get the dust up.  Oh well, the house is clean for now.  I'll just have to be very careful next time I clean.

It's only 8:30 AM and I'm already bored with being 'trapped' at home.  Don't know how I'll manage to get through the day just sitting or standing around.  It's going to be hot today, so I wouldn't be working outside, but I could have gone out and done something!  It's funny how being at home for a day is fine when you can go out, but chose not to.  It's being stuck at home that sucks!  At least I have my computer to connect me to the world.  How did we ever live without the Internet?


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A good trip

I spent most of last week in western NY.  The town I grew up in, Bath New York, is located in the Finger Lake region.  It's wine country, with rolling hills covered with vineyards and deep valleys, often containing a lake.  Keuka is the closest lake to Bath - it's only a few miles away.  The town at the southern end of the Lake, Hammondsport, has some nice shops, including a great fabric store and several antique shops.  My brother and sister-in-law, Tom and Peggy, live in Bath.  I drive up through central Pennsylvania every summer to visit them and get together with some of my high school friends.

It's about a 6 hour drive from Laurel to Bath, but I stop at at least one antique store along the way, so it takes me a bit longer.  The drive is beautiful, up and down hills, with small towns and farm fields along the wayside.  Harrisburg, PA is the only large city along the route.  I've been making this trip for over 40 years, and I still enjoy the scenery.  It's even better in the fall when the trees show off their red and gold colors.  Fall is also the time of year when the Concord grapes are picked.  Concords aren't used to make wine, but they are wonderful for eating.  If I'm up in NY in the fall, I always bring some home with me. 

I had a good visit with Tom and Peggy, as usual.  Tom plays clarinet and he, like me on flute, is trying to regain his skill on the instrument.  Peggy is a former music teacher and still plays piano very well.  She was kind enough to play accompaniments for us, as we struggled through some classical music.  Neither Tom nor I can keep our high notes in tune, so some of the notes were an assault on the ear, but Peggy was kind enough not to fuss about it.  Maybe Tom and I will practice more now and be much better the next time we get together.

I actually didn't buy many antiques on this trip.  One of my favorite stores has closed, which was a disappointment, but I found a new one to substitute.  Truthfully, I have a small house, crowded with antiquities already.  I can hardly fit anything else in.  So I am trying to limit my buying to small items and not too many of them.  I found one great item - an old postage scale.  It is painted red, so of course I had to have it to display in the kitchen/dining room.  I also brought back with me my old bicycle.  Peggy has been using it for many years, but she has recently given up riding it.  It's rusty and doesn't shift properly, but I have no intention of riding it.  It will go somewhere in the back yard as a piece of 'art'.  After all, 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder'.  I would love to leave it in the front yard, where it is parked just now, but the Homeowners' Assoc. would not let me do that.  I'm thinking of hanging some potted plants on the bike, but may not do that until next year.  I also bought an old print of a winter scene.  Don't know where I will hang it, come winter, but I'll find a place for it.  I love the old colored prints.

Here are photos of the red postage scale and the print, but not of the bike. When I figure out where it best fits into the landscape, I'll photograph it in place.

FYI:  I was hoping for cooler weather up in NY State, but one day the temps hit 100 degrees on the screened porch!  Needless-to-say, we stayed inside mostly.  No hikes or outdoor activities on this visit!  Peggy and I did some browsing in Hammondsport, but didn't spend much time outside, between stores!  Most stores, but not all, were air-conditioned.  Folks up there didn't used to have air-conditioning in their homes or stores, but many of them now do.  (Even my brother and sister-in-law.)  Blame global warming!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Not much to say

I'm trying to post once a week, or so. However, lately it seems as if my life has not been very interesting. I mean, it's interesting to me, but 'nothing to write home about.' I wonder who originated that phrase. Maybe a military guy in some faraway place? I probably could Google it and find out the answer. Well, I did that and found out that it became popular during WWI, but originated earlier.

This AM was lovely and cool, but it's fast heating up. I read the newspaper outside and watched the finches devour the sunflower chips in my new squirrel proof feeder. It does seem to be squirrel and large-bird proof, which is good. However, the house finches who are larger and somewhat aggressive are there more than the goldfinches. I still see some goldfinches, but those house finches are big eaters and they are going through the entire feeder in just 2 days. I'm not sure I can afford to keep feeding them!

I just took a couple of pictures of my backyard and of a hibiscus blooming out front. Some photos are posted on Facebook, but I'll post them here as well - just to take up space! I am supposed to be cleaning my floors today. They do need it. Maybe after lunch? I slept in today - until 7:30 - so am behind on today's chores. Luckily, nobody else is around to fuss about housework not done. It's just me and my conscience.

Got my hair cut this week - VERY SHORT! I think it's what is called a pixie cut. Perhaps not as attractive as my usual cut, but it doesn't need gel or a hair dryer after shampooing. I HATE using the dryer in the summer. I'll let it grow out a bit this fall. Sorry, no photo of the haircut. (Maybe just as well!)

This gorgeous dark red flower is on a hibiscus bush growing out front. It's stuck in a very full flower bed, so isn't as large as it could be, but the blooms are spectacular.  The hibiscus dies down each winter (actually I cut it down in the fall) and comes back in the spring. 
The red blooms are on the crape myrtle in the corner.  It's not yet in full bloom.  There are some tall plants with pink/purple flowers - cleome.  They self-seed - EVERYWHERE!  I pulled up hundreds of little plants this spring, but left enough for some color this summer.  This year, I need to get rid of most of them BEFORE they release their seeds.  Otherwise, I'll be pulling up little plants again next spring.  As you can see, the backyard flowers are mostly pink and purple.   I enjoy looking down on them from my deck. 

The last photo shows the two painted 'poles' that are remainders of the evergreen tree I had out there.  It died one winter, and I cut most of the branches off.  Couldn't get my saw through these two , so I just painted them as a decoration.  There are more purple cleome in this photo as well as some yellow lilies.  I think the blue flowers at the bottom are balloon flower aka Chinese bell-flower.  Never mind the Latin name.  They are flopping all over the place because I didn't get the supports around them early enough.  And all the green leaves below the lilies and around the tree stumps are - you guessed it - more cleome!  I guess I need to pull up a few more.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

this and that

Today I had to get two new tires for my car.  That kind of 'shopping' isn't the fun kind, but it had to be done.  I'm hard on tires.  I keep running over the edges of curbs when I go around corners.  I've owned this car for 10 years and you would think that I would know where the wheels are in relation to curbs.  Unfortunately, I don't and I guess I never will.   Anyway, the new tires are on and the realignment is done and my bank account is significantly lower than it was this AM!

We are into another spell of extremely HOT weather.  Actually, I"m not sure this is a new spell or just a continuation of the one we've been suffering from for over a month.  We did get some rain a few days ago and had one cool morning from that.  Mostly, it's just too hot to be comfortable outside at any hour, day or night.  Most of my potted plants are happy with the weather, as long as I water then every day. The ones planted in the ground seem to be doing fine without additional watering.  The butterfly bushes are blooming - one purple and one dark pink - and the pink crape myrtle is starting to bloom as well.  I'll try to take a photo tomorrow; it's too dark to take one tonight.  The grass is green due to last night's rain.  Hopefully, it won't grow enough to need mowing this week!  As you might be able to tell, I'm not enthusiastic about grass.  I have to have some out front (homeowners' assoc. rules), but I refuse to fertilize it or use weed killer on it.  My excuse for that is that those products are harmful to the Chesapeake Bay, which they are.  Our water all ends up in the Bay.  However, the truth is that I would neglect my grass anyway.  I like plants, but if I could, I would have ground cover and flower beds and stone paths with no grass at all.  So my 'lawn' consists of a good deal of clover,some crabgrass, a few dandelions (I do dig them up each year), miscellaneous other weeds and at least three kinds of grass, most of which are currently brown from lack of rain.  The lawn greens up every time we have a  rain and then goes dormant again until more rain or cooler weather. 

Lately,I've been having a battle with the squirrels.  They have eaten holes in two bird feeders in recent weeks.  The feeders are the ones that contained thistle seed for the goldfinches.  The squirrels don't actually like the thistle seed, but they cannot seem to resist enlarging the slits in the feeders just to see what is in them.  I finally bought a feeder with an outer metal mesh.  It also has a weight triggering aspect that closes up the feeder when a squirrel (or a large bird) puts his weight on it.  It holds shelled sunflower seeds, which the goldfinches like.  So far it seems to be working.  I haven't seen a squirrel on it, so I don't know for sure.  Squirrels sure are cute, but they are a real nuisance.  They also bury food in the pots on the deck and then uproot the plants digging the food back up.  I have put small 'river rocks' on the surface of the pots, hoping that will keep the squirrels from digging.  I think it's working and the rocks do look nice.

I'm trying to get rid of some of the MANY books I own. I printed off my book list recently.  It contains both the books I own and the ones I have read from the library or read and discarded.  (so that I won't buy the same books again).  It contains 5400 listings!  Even if half of those are discards, that means I own about 2700 books!  That's really scary.  Luckily most of them are paperbacks.  Otherwise, there would be no space in my house for furniture!  I do not have piles of books on the floor or on tables, but I do have a lot of book cases.  I can actually remember a time when I didn't buy books.  I just used the library a lot.  This was about 20 years ago.  I blame my daughter for getting me started buying books.  She bought books - really just a few - and somehow that got me going.  Of course, she culls her bookshelves every so often and limits herself to just as many as she can fit on a few bookcases.  I am much more addicted to buying than she ever was!  When I run out of room, I just buy more bookcases!!  Now, having no space for more bookcases, I am trying to get my book buying habit under control.  It would be easier if Borders didn't send me a coupon every week!  I am actually donating more books to charity than I am buying, but I have a LONG way to go.  At least I am getting rid of more than I am buying!  Since the beginning of June, I have donated 45 books and only bought about 10 new ones.  For me that's really a good record.

Friday, July 8, 2011


 Here are a few of the projects I've been working on this summer.  I made the mask at one of my ceramics classes.  Unfortunately, it did something weird in the firing and pieces of the red glaze flaked off and the rest didn't turn very bright red.  Anyway, I pulled off the loose pieces of glaze and painted it bright red with acrylics, then sprayed sealer on it.  It'll hang inside, so it doesn't need to be waterproof, but I wanted it shiny.  If you look closely, you can see that he has some sort of skin disease.  Maybe that's why he is scowling!  LOL

The lighthouse bird houses are some I bought unfinished at a craft store.  I don't know where I will put them.  I'm considering using the tree out front, but it's on common property, not my yard.  Not that the bird houses would hurt the tree, but the home owners' assoc. might be upset.  I really don't have any more room for birdhouses on my deck or hanging from the soffit out back.  (How is that word spelled?  I know what it is, but not how it's spelled!)

 Our weather has been incredibly HOT for several weeks now.  About once a week, it's cool enough in the evening for sitting outside.  The rest of the time, I try to stay in the house.  I do have to be outside briefly every evening to water my plants.  Thunderstorms are predicted every day, but we don't get any rain.   At this rate, it's gonna be a hot, dry summer.

I have to get two new tires on my van next week.  It's going to be very expensive.  I keep telling myself that it's cheaper to keep this car going than to buy a new one, but if I continue to spend hundreds every month, I might as well be spending it on a new car.  I'm trying to get one more year out of this one.  It's 10 years old, but only has a bit over 100,000 miles on it.  I keep wondering what will go next.  My mechanic says it's in good shape for its age.  Of course, he's making money on servicing it, so his opinion isn't exactly unbiased. 

The fire truck is another unfinished birdhouse from Michael's.  I wish my grandson could have painted it, but it wasn't worth hauling it to England just for that.  Anyway, Alex would probably have wanted to keep it, and I rather imagine his mother thinks he has enough junk like that.  So it stays here, if I can just find a place to put it!  I have far more junk that all the grandchildren put together!

Monday, July 4, 2011

photos from out front

 I haven't much to say today, but here are some pictures.  It's going to be hot all this week with thunderstorms predicted.  We had the thunder last night, along with some fireworks, but very little rain.  I'll have to water later today, as usual.  If we continue to have dry summers, I'll have to think about planting some cactus!

This was an unusually lovely sunset.  The sun sets behind trees in the back yard, but this time we got a reflection off clouds visible from the front yard.   I love sky pictures  and especially if there is a pink sky.

These flowers are some that I had forgotten I purchased last year.  They came up and I had no idea if they were flowers or weeds!  Luckily I let them grow and got these beautiful blooms.  There is a name tag tucked somewhere near the base of the plant, but it's hard to find with all the other stuff growing nearby.  Yes, I know that my front flower bed looks like an English garden that has run wild!

 These are the phlox that the rabbit has not nibbled on.  I had some in a lavender color, but that pesky wabbit ate them!  I hate having my flowers destroyed, although the rabbit is very cute.  More to the point, he/she is much less destructive than the neighborhood ground hog.  My neighbor, Patty feeds the squirrels on the ground (corn) and yesterday evening, we saw the ground hog eating the corn, back behind the fence.  I hope he stays out there!
Luckily, the rabbit doesn't like cone flowers.  I think the ground hog doesn't like them either.  They are a wonderful perennial.  They come up every year, don't seem to care where they grow (pots or flower bed) and are not eaten by the critters.  Definitely, my kind of flower.  They also spread profusely, which is becoming a problem.  My space is limited and already full of plants.  If only I could tear up the front yard's grass and just have flower beds!