Saturday, 30 June 2012

Silly Cat Shot

So I pinned an afghan together on my coffee table to use for pinning out my knitting. So the cat thought this was a great place to sleep (but not ON TOP of the table, oh, no!!)

Progress on the downstairs

Since we put in the geothermal system they ripped out our ceilings in order to install duct work and so things have been a mess. So today I've been working on getting ceilings re-installed. Things are in boxes and everything is a huge mess. Here is what I am contending with.

Tiles are stacked up everywhere and my first day,as I started to sort tiles and staple them back on the sub-flooring I didn't get very far.

Here's todays' progress:

It is starting to look like a ceiling, but I've got a long way to go.

The Eggs Have Hatched

Instead of above the window, this year the phoebes decided to build their nest in our garage way up near the roof.
They have been flying in and out and messing on the cars and really worrying the cat and the dogs (or more likely the cat and dogs have been worrying them). Anyway, the babies have come (there are at least two.)

It's hard to tell that this is a young phoebe!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

A few Aliens, Some Theory and Lots of Practice - Garden Report for June

We've had a water-logged June after a winter with very little precipitation, (which for me, non-Northerner that I am, has been fantastic!) This has meant not having to be worried about loads of snow and cold and not having to water the garden - it's a win/win proposition! In fact, I'm experiencing a fair amount of gardening self-satisfaction (all right, hubris) despite the fact that I have little to no right to claim credit for how well things are going this year. Amazingly, this weekend I finally got the last of my three new trees planted. It's a long story complete with sobbing violins, but suffice it to to say that no good deed goes unpunished and having been given a gift by my colleagues, I suddenly discovered I had no good place to plant the trees that I had so eagerly acquired. The cherry had found a place in the center of the yard in May, but the other two trees wept languidly in their pots for weeks.

We had a nice er.. squirrel house on a pole and discovered that the trees around it were not intentionally planted by the previous owners, but instead comprised the dreaded European buckthorn along with other invasive non-native plants - so out they went and the cherry had a nice new home. Spousal unit D. thought I was crazy when I insisted we could not just drag the herbacious monstrosity out into the brush to languish and die. Anyone who has seen any of Ridley Scott's movies knows that alien beings proliferate like bread mold - planting their seed in any and every available host. So we sat and spent a good hour stripping the berries off the buckthorn and sending them to our version of the decontamination chamber. (Even so, there will be no sex until I'm absolutely sure that neither of us is growing secret thorns or has black wormy things creeping around in our eyes. (Thank you Prometheus for several sleepless nights!)

Planting the next two trees turned out to be quite a herculean event. There was this area where a tree had died a few years ago and I thought if we just knocked down the rotted stump, we could replace it with at least one of the new trees. (What is it the Germans are always saying about practice versus theory? "Der Unterschied zwischen Theorie und der Praxis ist in der Praxis noch größer als in der Theorie."  The difference between theory and practice is greater in practice than in theory.) In essence the tree was still solid and it wasn't going anywhere without plastic explosives and a detonator.

So we worked around the problem ... literally. By cutting down some of the nearby trash trees, we were able to plant the two new trees on either side of the old stump and thus give them sufficient distance from each other and also lots of future mulch to feed their roots as the old roots deteriorate. I hope this works ... (now what was that quote about theory and practice again?)

So here is the weeping Spruce in its new home.

Here it is from a better angle.  You can see the larch on the left and the spruce on the right. Of course the symbolism of my new trees is not wasted on me. Both the cherry and the larch, because they are deciduous stand for death and rebirth. The larch is a symbol of protection and boldness and the spruce relates to dreams and intuition and is a protective female spirit in Celtic mythology. In Siberia (and I do consider this place we live in now Siberia!) it is believed that man and woman were created from a larch and a fir, so it is somehow appropriate for our home that our Spruce and our Larch ended up as partners in the same space.

So it had been accomplished - the trees had their new homes and I was done. or was I? About that time my gardening hubris kicked in again and I knew I wasn't finished yet. There was a big gaping black spot in front of the stump where the spruce was originally going to be planted.

It was time to forage!  From neighboring beds I gathered together a selection of flowering perennials and went to work: Yellow daylilies from the back garden. The blue bells in the red and white garden (What were they doing there anyway? - I had only planted red or white plants in that garden! You remember -  I've ranted about this before - No Orange Flowers, EVAH!!) Some white campanulas and sun drops from the Tier garden and then I set to work. Adding a few left over annuals from my endless plant-buying sprees - some marigolds and some pansies gave me the beginnings of a nice purple and yellow (and white) garden. Unfortunately it won't look good until next year or maybe a few years down the line, but I'm excited about the idea. Theoretically it is going to be boffo! (Yeah, yeah, theory and practice, I get it!)

So on another note (or maybe it's still all about MY hubris) I've been counting the day lilies with buds and calculating percentages. The first regular season day lily actually bloomed about three days ago.

A week ago there were about 37 day lilies (38.9%) with buds and 58 without. Today when I checked there were 77 (81.9%) with and 17 without. (Can you spot an obsession when you see one?) Still that is quite a turn around in the period of a week. (And yes, I am aware that there 95 in the first count and 94 in the second - sometimes I'm not sure where one clump ends and the next begins.)  I do have more than 90 different kinds of day lily now and seem to still be collecting. (I still have a bit of space along the driveway, so I don't see this obsession ending any time soon. Sometimes it jumps from one object to another. I used to collect Iris compulsively too, but an invasion of good old Macronoctua onusta... 

Whoops, sorry, wrong alien!

...So an invasion of Macronoctua onusta (i.e the iris borer - Cross yourself three times and spit when you hear that name!) took out a huge portion of my collection (including some irises that had cost me a good portion of a month's salary - so that was the end of that and I decided to obsess over the humble daylily instead.))

(Thank you, Tie guy II for the photo

Speaking of garden self-satisfaction, I bought this plant a few years ago and it never ceases to give me huge jollies every time it blooms. Isn't that the most unearthly-looking flower you have ever seen?

How could one help but smile seeing that in the garden?

Unless of course you wake up with it next to you on your pillow and your name is Matthew (or Miles) Bennell. They're here!

Speaking of alien invaders, I caught a picture of one out in the yard the day we were planting trees. Do you see him?

No, that isn't a lumpy parasite  on that pine tree, it's, it's....

... The man with the Iron saw.

Now then, here's a better angle. Once he started cutting things down to make space for the new trees, he didn't seem to be able to stop. When I looked up I suddenly discovered our thicket had become a clearing!

So in theory the brunt of the garden work is over for the season and now we can sit back and enjoy the flowers of our labors. Of course there are little things left to be done here and there.  I need to buy some mulch for that new bed. I have this idea that putting a little bark down will transform my bedraggled little garden into an attractive garden oasis. Another thing those Germans say about Theory and Practice is:  "Die Theorie träumt, die Praxis belehrt." - Theory dreams and practice instructs. I guess I'm still in the dreaming stage.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Luggage in Lugnasa?

My sister travels a great deal and is called the Dry-Cleaning Aunt by my other sister. This helps everyone keep the two of them apart since I tend to refer to both of htem as "my sister". "The Other Sister" (the one that is not the Dry-Cleaning Aunt) has so many names that we can't remember them all, but the moniker "Dry-Cleaning Aunt" certainly doesn't do my first sister justice. In truth, DCA does have  a lot of high maintenance clothing, but she works in the corporate world and has to be that way. She is fabulously professional, fabulously successful and of course fabulously chic ...and she buys her clothes at one of a kind places or sometimes just at Chic-oes.

I'm not kidding. If you google her, you find her in pictures with lots of famous people, Janet Reno, Mia Farrow, the Oceanographer Dr Sylvia Earle. She's always presenting people with plaques and money and therefore of course she is also fabulously popular.

Anyway, she must have done something dastardly in a previous life;  pulled the wings off of botflies, sabotaged world war one flying aces or destroyed the Hindenburg, because she has terrible airline karma. I'm not talking occasionally late on a flight or getting bumped from a flight. I'm talking seriously bad karma.  They lose her checked luggage EVERY SINGLE TIME she flies. I fly from time to time and I have had a bag not show up, once or maybe twice in the last 20 years of flying, so I know how annoying this is, but we aren't talking about a simple increased frequency of baggage loss here, they literally lose her bags EVERY SINGLE TIME she flies. She's used to this happening and hardly even thinks about it anymore.

  (link to cartoon here)

If she were anarchically inclined she could easily take out an entire airliner by packing the device in her checked Briggs and Rileys and feel completely secure that somewhere along the line her bags would go elsewhere while she landed safely on Easter Island. (And no she doesn't have Henk luggage, you don't spend $20,000 on a suitcase if you know it is going to get lost.)

When she can avoid it, she doesn't check luggage, she just packs everything important in a carry on. Still when she is off to the antarctic to see weddell seals and orca whales, she kind of needs to pack big heavy coats and boots and her harpoon doesn't fit in her carryon. (Okay, I admit, she doesn't have a harpoon - or at least if she does, she doesn't take it with her when she flies.)

When the airlines lose her baggage on the way home she feels it isn't SO bad, because most of the times her stuff eventually finds its way home, (but not always. She knows how to file insurance for missing suitcases in her sleep and has been known to do so when traveling across multiple travel zones.) When things go awry on the way TO her destination, however, that can be bothersome. She knows what it is like to spend two weeks on a birding exhibition in the Amazon with only her camera and the clothes on her back.

(Think: sticky, sweaty, yucky!) I can't tell you the number of gift souvenirs the airline has gotten to keep instead of me. (Okay, so maybe that is my karma!)

Anyway, I just got a call from Sister of the Many Names and Dry-Cleaning Aunt is back from two weeks in Northern Ireland.  Something tells me that I'm in for another really great story!

PS -  She's back and guess what? She must have balanced her Karma. She arrived on time, luggage in tact and had a wonderful time. Now isn't that the way things should be? (And even without losing something, she has been telling some fantastic stories!!)

Saturday, 16 June 2012


I bought some additional size 0 knitting needles so I was able to lay out my "shawl". It is only 27" in diameter at present and I couldn't fully pin it out, but here is what it is looking like at present.

I think I am learning a lot from making this shawl, but it is not turning out as well as I had hoped. I think next time I will put more mesh between motifs (and maybe stagger them rather than letting them be so even across the rows of the shawl.)

Writer's Workshop: Logos Project 2012

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a writing workshop called Project Logos 2012. The idea was to help  writers to learn to reduce jargon and write in a more understandable and mellifluous style.


We met in a delightful setting at Saint John's University at their guest house, where we were treated royally. We had the opportunity to meet individually with tutors  in an outdoor setting...

 as well as met together as a group to discuss each others'  writings using a kind of Iowa Writer's Workshop style.

Our group meetings were gentle, but extremely helpful.

As you can tell we took our tasks very seriously.

We were quite fortunate to have a tutor from the Loft in Minneapolis.

We had skype sessions with noted writers in our fields and also sessions discussing good writing in general.

Of course we also had the opportunity to work on our pieces individually.

St John's Guest House was full of light, because of it's contemporary architecture and peaceful wooded setting.

We also took some time to go out and look at the campus including an old Parrish cemetery.

In our last meeting together we made plans for continuing with our good work and said our goodbyes.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Geothermal Field

The garden is looking good. The last iris opened today and the first lily seems to be opening . (No pics yet, but here are some iris from last week.


The geothermal field has filled in nicely.  Of course I tried seeding it with wild flowers, but all that you can see is the same old stuff that was already there.

Well, way down at one end a couple of those seeds actually came up.

 (I don't know why they didn't come up elsewhere, but it was a cheap thrill to see that at least a few came up in that one little corner.)

Saturday, 2 June 2012

The Vet

The vet was amazed. He has never seen a dog so happy to see him. Our bulldog Aimeé was so excited that she literally wore both my husband and myself out in trying to control her while she was having her exam. She was even happy to get her inoculations. Our other animals came too. Needless to say they were not as thrilled.

When we got home everyone had the same idea!


The Peonies have  begun to bloom. Unfortunately many of them got struck in our recent hail storm. Still the ones remaining are dazzling.

Does anyone know what this shrub is? I'm trying to decide whether to cut it down or not.