Ice on the Water Dish, Frost on the Cat Shelter

Yep, it had to happen…just not quite so early.  Well it IS Northern Ohio, and anything the weather people come up with is no surprise.   But golly, it’s only October 19…which is my grand-daughter Gina’s 19th birthday.

But we always have a frost (not to say freeze) in late October…just enough to smite the foliage with frost in order to bring out the glorious colors of Autumn.  That is to say “Fall,” but Autumn has a nicer ring to it.  The reds promise to brilliant this year, in both meanins of “brilliant”– brilliant as in bright, and brilliant as in excellent-remarkable-out-standing, as they say in England.

Stepping out onto the back deck, where I have set up the cat shelter for the winter, I tied back the edges of the door-flap, and put out cat food and … checked out the water pan, which had a thin layer of ice.  Yes, it was very thin, and one of the cats had poked a paw through it to have a drink.   Since I was wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, I quickly noticed that the temperature had dipped very low–not that slight-below-40 is really THAT cold, comparatively, but it did occur to me that my denim shirt needed to come out of the dryer.

Since I am old, I can wear whatever I want.  So it’s shorts all winter, on occasion, mostly when all my jeans are in the wash.  My kids long since stopped saying “you aren’t going to wear THAT!” … except for being forbidden to wear my huge denim jumper dress out into public.

Back to the cat shelter, and the ice…

My outside cats really do appreciate the provisions I make for them, and to prove it–one of them left me a mouse.  The poor little dead critter had been stopped in mid-leap, and laid to rest right outside the door, and near the food dish.   I take that as notice that they DO appreciate me, and left one of their occasional tokens.  I pushed the dead mouse off of the edge of the deck with a pole…not that I don’t appreciate it, I just don’t want it hanging around.

There was a pile of cats between the tub-shelters, laying on top of a boxy thing covered with a really nice 35-year old blanket that finally made it out of the linen closet and into the beyond.  The tubs all have straw in them, placed their lovingly by the APL lady last ear.  They have an entrance which is a tube (like a large oatmeal container) taped through the front of the tub, secured by duct tape.  Those entrances are fine for the smaller cats, but the Fat Cats (not really so fat, just big) decline squeezing through that tube.  One of the tubs is a big thing that was designed to hold Christmas tree decorations, and has a capacity for more than one cat…although Peggy prefers to keep it to herself, unless it is super cold.

long shot (click to enlarge)
high tech flap opener
high tech flap opener
Red Maple, early color
Peggy, and Mawkin at lunch
Mary, inspecting house plants enroute to inside.
maze with chimenera, wide shot of back garden

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

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.

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.

The Deer in the Tree Garden.

More than likely no one really cares a mite, but I really need to write a note about the photo I have in my header of my blog Sometimes.  First, I admit that it was chosen because it was needed to have a sort of neutral photo for a new theme I was trying out.  (Or an old theme that was back in favor.)  I previously had a picture of some beautiful red Hibiscus flowers, but even I was getting tired of them..

This photo is cloudy for two reasons: it is shot through the less-than-pristine glass patio door; and in the rain.  The reason I grabbed my camera and hustled up some shots is…well, because it is a deer.  I love deer, and see them fairly often, but they are elusive…especially when in photo range.  This photo turned out fairly well in that it also features my tree garden, which I have discussed previously.

Deer always manage to sneak up and stand in the yard in some picturesque pose.  My deer photos usually leave something to be desired, such as lining up the deer so that there is a wind-chime-bug coverning the deer’s head.  Or it’s the rear end of the deer…not that white-tailed deer rear ends are not cute in and of themselves.

So when I peeked out the window and saw the deer standing by the full-blooming Rose-of-Sharon, with a “ok, let’s take the picture, lady…” attitude, I got it.

The point of this post is that in keeping with the “spruce-up-your-blog” campaign over at WordPress, I admit that mine needs a lot of work.

Speaking of sprucing-up, I hope that I’ve settled on a theme for awhile.  I am using… uh, let’s see… Bold Life theme… one which I flit back and forth to because I like the colors, the lay-out, and it just seems comfortable.     As I have said before, in the past two months I have changed fifteen times, many of them back and forth to Bold Life.  The problem I have with switching themes is that it left me having to drag-and-drop my widgets every time.  Yes, I know there is a simple way to do that, but I didn’t know it until just a couple of days ago.

So anyway, that is what I wanted to say about the deer header.  It remind me of a sort of water-color or blurry painting (not being a visual artist I wouldn’t know an impressionist painting from a cubic style, if there even IS such a thing.)   OK, so the stylized photo of the deer, the droopy wildflowers, and the soggy hanging Million-Bells plant, is more the result of poor photography skills.

Another thing, while the subject is up on screen…I am working on developing a writing work ethic in which I write every day.  No excuses.  The hazard here is that once the material starts flowing out of the brain, through the keyboard, onto the computer screen…well, let’s just say I get carried away easily.

Wouldn’t it be some kind of poetic justice if I were to LIMIT my writing time each day?

An unlikely visit from a Hummingbird.

My story about the Butterfly on my deck originally included a Hummingbird.  The tale is true, but I decided not to stretch my credibility by putting two improbable creatures in the same post, but they were in fact on my deck under a canopy at the same time.

There are a pair of the little birds that work the red Bee Balm, and the huge Hibiscus flowers, a brilliant scarlet.  We have had hummingbirds in the gardens for years, so although they never outwear their welcome and run short of charm, they are not really a novelty.   The birds prefer red, going after Million Bells hanging plants which they like so much they actually come around the plant to work the flowers hanging underneath the roof.  They are not shy about being inside the canopy.

Photo by Karen Chandler, Visioning

So, while I was trying to get the photos of the black and blue Butterfly with my battery-less camera a hummingbird came around the Million Bells and encountered me–standing less than arms length from his hovering pattern as he treaded air for maybe ten seconds before it flew up and away.   Maybe it saw its reflection in my glasses.

This is the first time a bird and I have been in such close proximity, although we do watch them frequently through the glass door.  Too bad the camera was following Murphy’s Law — if anything can go wrong, it will — and I admit it is the operator and not the camera that are to blame.

©Patricia Dreger, Sometime, 2011

[Thanks to photographer and blogger Karen Chandler, of Visioning, photography and digital scrapbooking, for permission to use her photo of the hummingbird.]

Butterflies and Cameras

 At first I thought it was artificial, a butterfly made of painted wood, with wire legs and antennae.  One of the kids had put it there to fool me, or as a surprise.   I stared at it closely, and one of its legs twitched almost imperceptibly.  Its black body was covered with white polka-dots, close together in horizontal rows.  It appeared almost surreal, its delicate wings black and a cobalt blue, with yellow and white dots.

My cellular phone was in my pocket, and I took three photos before the phone’s camera froze up.   It would not shut down, save, change functions… the light would not go off.

[Here’s where the plot thickens, in maddening illustration of Murphy’s Law of Cameras.]

My trusty Nikon had died, and I had been using my son’s camera.  It works well enough, as long as the packaging tape holding the battery case stays tightly in place.  But there was a problem, I had neglected to replace the batteries…I guess hoping for a break giving  another burst of power .   The power light flickered a couple of times then quit.  OH NO!  Prying off the tape was more difficult than it sounds, but there were four AA batteries in the refrigerator.      They would not work…apparently old batteries that should have been thrown away.

I kept glancing out the window, checking to make sure the butterfly was still there.   I tried to call my camera savvy daughter, who was not answering her phone.  Verizon had a “longer than normal wait” for service.   A small radio in my room had no batteries.  Finally another look into the refrigerator bag miraculously provided four brand new AAs, which worked fine.  The tape worked as it was supposed to and the battery case was in place.   The red light came on.

During my frantic search the butterfly continued to sit in place without moving, for a full twenty minutes.   Once it spread its wings fully and walked up the post a few inches, stretching its legs.  But when I went back outside, the camera ready–the butterfly was no longer there– apparently tired of waiting for me to get my act together.

Well…the photo that I did get turned out, proving that my butterfly was real.   I’m honored to have communicated with the butterfly.   Now if my camera skills, or rather my battery replacing skills improve–maybe I’ll be ready the next time nature leaves me a beautiful gift.

©Patricia Dreger, Sometime, 2011