What’s New at My Place, in photos

Cat shelter under construction
Cat shelter under construction.
The sun is setting, but partially obscured by clouds.
Oak leaves
The setting sun, cloudy sky. Horse barns in foreground.
One of few red Hibiscus this year, this is the last one…a bit battered but beautiful.
a rock, I think its quartz
Peggy in the maze garden.
Mawkin, posing.
This pruning tool was the subject of a massive search after it became lost under a pile of debris. We found it on the fourth search and did an appropriate Happy Dance.
white Hibiscus on its last hurrah
wooly bear
This wooly bear checking out some wood. He is all white, supposed to mean a mild winter–I think.

Photographing the Invisible–Year of the Spider, Part Two


This is how the web looked during the end of the construction phase.

Obviously she wants to ward off visitors until she is ready.

DSCN3050_thumb.jpg     DSCN3049.jpg

DSCN3048_thumb.jpg                                                                      Almost ready to welcome visitors.

[ All photos and other content in my blog, Sometimes are original to me, Gradmama2011 …and remain my property under copyright laws.]

The Year of the Spider

[These photos are of spiders at work in my tree garden.   As far as I know, the spiders in the first and third photo are NOT the same.     For all my spider enthusiast Readers out there–I have more spiders and webs to show you in another post.      All photos and other content in my blog, Sometimes are original to me, Gradmama2011 …and remain my property under copyright laws.]

web with spider
web in the Boxwood (tree garden)                                     ©Sometimes,2015
this piece of fluff should work...
this piece of fluff should work…
different spider, front yard
different spider, front yard
side of web in forest garden
side of web in forest garden

Practice with Pictures

I have a lot of trouble with pictures.  Probably because I have not taken the time to search into the instructions; I just sort of wing-it, then when I have had enough blundering through I check the How-To and discover some little detail for the first time.

Here I am going to insert a photo.

three maple trees
three maple trees

I did!   This is my side yard, the nearest tree is a Maple that is gorgeous red in Fall.  The middle-size is a Maple that grew up through a Yucca plant and allowed to remain; the smallest one is also a volunteer that originated in the midst of a Holly bush that had seen better days, and has been pruned to encourage it to become a big tree.

Rose of Sharon blossom.
Rose of Sharon blossom

I think I’ll try a Gallery.

DIY or DIE — Piece of Cake

DO IT YOURSELF. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Those words conjure up visions of a hunky guy and skinny little woman wearing toolbelts over their bluejeans and tee-shirts. They rush on screen, into a perfectly good-looking kitchen, wielding their sledge-hammers and wrecking-bars with determination and glee. Sound like fun? Maybe, if ya like destruction and ruination, but to an old salvage-minded scavenger, those cabinets and sheets of plywood are screaming out for rehabilitation.

But hey–if those ordinary TV actors can build great kitchen islands, put in new countertops, and hang new drywall, then anyone can do a simple job like install a new floor…even me.

Last year I found four boxes of laminate flooring, plus good underlay padding, at an auction for just $25, I snapped it up without a second thought. It would be simple to find someone to install it in the hallway. Well, as it turned out…not really. There was no show-of-hands offer when I brought up the idea. No cries of “Me! Pick me!” So it was decided that we, my son and I, would install the floor.

So began the GREAT FLOORING CAPER.   (The images below may help to show what I am talking about.)

It was clearly not possible to match the original supply of flooring, which had been used for a new house twenty or thirty years before. So we had two different types of laminate planks, half a dark cherry-wood; the new a variegated blend of wood-grains. Rather than alternate colors, it was decided that the main hall leading from the foyer would be in the cherry-wood, running vertically from the foyer; the back hall in a horizontal position, in the new material.

In the main hall the laying of the staggered planks went well, except for two problems:

1. a mid-job change in which we abandoned the original plan to continue the cherry flooring all the way to the back wall…AFTER cutting many of the planks in half in order to obtain a straight edge. The goal had been to have the back hall flooring uninterrupted. In other words, thinking of the hall as a large, fat “T,” the stem of the T one color, the cross-hall North/South wings the other color. This would have worked fine, except for my inability to Measure and cut a straight line. The original plan would have resulted in uneven cut lines, with ugly gaps. So it was back to the drawing board–this time trying to match up fitted snap-fit edges of the planks with cut edges.

2. Most of the issues we faced in matching edges and ends were due to the cut edges. I take the blame, and admit that when I set out to cut that first plank in half…I knew NOTHING about power saws, except that they are largely loud, noisy, and scary. But, without fussing over those details, I know, well…more than I did then. I watched some UTube videos, bought some clamps…and a new mitre saw (which is great, except that it has a six-inch capacity which does not work well with eight-inch wide boards. And besides…that thing is scary!)  The salesperson told us that the saw was just what we needed, and there was even a sign touting “laminate floor cutting and laying” as one of the uses for the saw.  To my limited knowledge, much of the stock of such flooring planks is eight-inches in width.)

We rushed right home and installed the saw on the workbench, which involved drilling and screw-driving, so we were more or less committed to keeping the saw.  It was relatively inexpensive, about a hundred bucks, so although it was less than perfect for the exact job we bought it for we knew it would be great for cutting narrower pieces of wood.

There are six doorways that needed special attention, which complicated the finishing procedures, including sills, framing, moldings, and edge-transition issues.

Actually, the whole project went pretty well…especially the last time we re-did the entire floor.

So what did I learn from my DIY project? A lot. I can operate a circular saw now, and a miter saw…and a hacksaw. I am learning to attach clamps to a workbench. I need better rulers…a four-foot steel ruler is of limited general use. Another thing, I sure wish I would have paid better attention in Math class.

Poison Ivy and why I don’t like it….

 Poison Ivy.    <shudder>

[Disclaimer: I am not a botanist, but I do know poison ivy when I see it, and the Virginia Creeper vine is prominent in this area, and is often mistaken for poison ivy or other poison plant. The Virginia Creeper leaves appear to me to have notched edges, and the leaves are much larger than Poison Ivy leaves. Also, the color of the leaves can be deceiving on both plants, and both have berries and similar vines.]

Anyone who is not personally familiar with the ominous plant–which is not only quite innocent looking, it is actually pretty in its natural state, growing up a tree or in a patch, poison ivy hides (dare I say lurks) within innocent patches of grass or miscellaneous weeds…or flowers.

[Note the photo featuring the gorgeous aged log, with the single Poison Ivy sprig proudly displaying itself, the shiny bright green Myrtle, and the herb Oregano (which is another story.) The poison ivy is pretty much under control back in the tree garden, where this photo was taken.]

Poison ivy is often the butt of jokes, told gleefully by people who have never been afflicted with the full-blown rash.  Well, it is not funny!     For the uninitiated: poison ivy is a source of irritation ranging from a single tiny postule… or blister…to a full-blown patch of itching, red, swollen, infected-looking skin.

The first time I experienced this diabolical affliction was in Oklahoma, in about 1958.  Within a few hours of contact with the toxin I had Poison Ivy spread on both arms, the inside of my thighs, and the rash was shiny and evil-looking, and the itching was almost uncontrollable.  I had to be physically restrained from scratching the rash.    No amount of Calamine Lotion, or alcohol (rubbing or otherwise)  helped.

For about twenty years after that I managed to avoid poison ivy.  But then when I moved to my present location in the 1970s I got it numerous times over the next few decades.

It does seem that my body has developed some degree of immunity to poison ivy, but I still get it.     I can feel it when it begins, when the first little bump develops.    There is pain associated with a poison ivy episode, and a general vague sick feeling.  I have told the doctor that it reminds me of hemorrhoid pain, but he just laughs at me.  HE has never had poison ivy.

Which reminds me I did have a hilarious exchange with my chiropractor a couple of years ago.  I had poison ivy on my face and neck, and he was reluctant to touch the area.   I told him it wasn’t  contagious, and cautioned about my theories of scrubbing the skin well with a strong soap if and when he actually was in touch with poison ivy (pun intended.)   When I was waiting to pay at the desk, the chiropractor came out of the back and entered the general restroom, where supplies were also kept, and “strong soap” was available.   He looked at me and said “I’m going to wash my hands real good, like you said.”  We both laughed about the patient (me) advising the doctor (him) to wash up well.  .

THEY, the poison ivy experts (–that is people who have actually had it personally) have compiled lists of FACTS about it.  This is not theoretical information, but actual suffer-and-scratch poison ivy veterans.

  • poison ivy can NOT be caught from someone else second-hand
  • poison ivy CAN be spread by birds, the wind, smoke from burning brush, direct contact such as pulling out with one’s hands, brushing by the plant and grazing a hand or leg, from petting the DOG who has been out running through the fields, it knows no season, that is– it doesn’t have to be green, or even a leaf…it can be a dry vine in the dead of winter.
  • the poison ivy rash infection persists for 10 DAYS (ok, they often hedge on this point, but take it from me it lasts for 10 days…and when it is gone it is just gone, except for a slight scar-like “echo” at the original site.

Then there is the “go to the doctor and get a shot” advice crowd.   This is effective when the victim (er, patient) is pretty much covered with the rash.   We took my oldest son for the shot treatment one time when he came in the house and said “Mom!  I have it everywhere!”  Taking his word for it, he did get the injection.   The serum  was effective.  We also have some prescription ointment that helps with the itching and pain.

The single, most effective, and absolutely best way to avoid the outbreak of the poison ivy rash is prevention–soap and water.     There are special soaps that are intended specifically as “poison ivy soap,” but I have found that ANY strong soap  is effective in washing off the poison that causes the outbreak in the first place.   Obviously reaching a place to wash up is not always an option, but I think the purpose is simply to remove the toxic substance and prevent infection.

Another thing that I have found is that wearing long-sleeved shirts and jeans or other long pants is always a good idea when hiking or working around an area where poison ivy exists, or is likely to exist.

Right now, even as we speak, I have poison ivy infection on the tops of both hands, near my wrists.   The patchy area is red, and slightly swollen, and itches like mad.  Fortunately it is a small, contained area.   A huge bottle of Hydrogen Peroxide is always handy,  and serves to soothe and disinfect areas of open rash.  (Some say bleach works, too.)

Huh…I hear the thoughts “why the heck didn’t she apply her accumulated knowledge and avoid the exposure?”   In my defense, it was just a “stray” leaf or two hiding among some grass in my Hibiscus that caused my current rash on my hands.  I knew it was there, and fully intended to go into the house immediately and wash it off.    (You know what they say about good intentions! 🙂

My Maze and Tree Garden

DSC02660 Here is a wide-angle shot of my backyard. This is very early summer, 2015. For perspective, the width of the area shown  is about 80-feet. That is my yard-boy (er, Son) with the wheelbarrow. The maze with the succulents in the center, the Chimenera with its Mexican Emblem, in one corner….the old bench. The wooded-area across the far edge of the photo is my Tree Garden. All of the trees and plants in this garden (and elsewhere in the yard, are either volunteers, or shrubs/trees that I planted personally about ten years ago. It is a labor of love, much more work than I am now able to do. I still prune trees to make paths through the garden. Until recently, the only members of the family that understood where and why the Tree Garden was there at all, were the youngest children. I have more to say about my garden, and many photos…and will soon post about it. I chose this photo to use here in response to my PHOTO101 prompt for today…”HOME”… suggested showing in a wide-angle or panorama shot. As is the case with many of my photos, this was taken from my back deck.