Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Countdown Ticks On, the Work Less So

So the week has had its difficulties. The inspector from Austin Energy did not come out today to inspect our solar, even though he was scheduled. He seems to be in a pissing contest with the solar company and right now he wants a load assessment for our electrical system before he will approve the solar. So let me get this straight, I says, you want to know what appliances I have and what they draw in order to approve our solar? You don't have the right to tell me what devices I can or cannot have. You can tell me what kind of wire I have to have for what devices, you can tell me the total amperage I can draw at a time, but you absolutely, positively, cannot tell me what toys I may or may not have. This is NOT something you should even be considering during an inspection! He tries to tell me he's asking the solar company for all of this information for my own good... That didn't go very far with me. Then he says they wouldn't be so strict if I wasn't in the rebate program, i.e., asking for a rebate on our solar install... REALLY?!?!? I let that one go. He was pedantic enough in his defense of his requests to the solar company that I didn't have the heart to eviscerate him for the rebate statement.

Tomorrow, if I don't hear good things from the solar company regarding my inspection schedule, I am calling the chief inspector for Austin Energy and asking him to explain to me why they think they need to know all about my kilns, sous vide units, vibrator rechargers, etc. My loins are girded.

The pump on our RO system went out yesterday morning so we are not making any fresh water. What we have is what we have. Unfortunately the water from our well is so bad we can't drink it without RO processing (salt, sulphur, fluoride, among other nasties--not bacterial contaminants). Last night through this morning we weren't even able to pump the treated water that we had in the tank to the house. We had a trickle because the booster pump was not working. I looked at everything this morning, and it turned out the electrician yesterday knocked loose the breaker for the pump. Of course I didn't find the breaker--that was done by our sweet neighbor Dan who reseated the breaker and baths were saved for everyone. At that point we had 900 gallons of water to get us through till tomorrow night when the new pump is (hopefully) installed. Little did I know that Jessie had left her sink faucet wide open this morning so when the water came back on it gushed out. Two hours later I went in the house and heard what sounded like water running somewhere. By that time we were down to 450 gallons. Drink wine, save water. Ah.

I continue the countdown till the annual migration and I have serious concerns about the contractors finishing the landscaping projects--forget about the bathroom remodel, it's going to have to wait till fall. But I supposedly have truckloads of three different materials ordered for tomorrow morning, I have extra workers scheduled, and the plan will go forth. I have ceramics till 12:30, we'll see what it looks like when I get home.

So like I said: Drink wine. It saves water and, coincidentally, blood pressure and sanity!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I Love You, Tomorrow

It was a day of frustrations, and a day of accomplishments. Sadly, more frustrations than accomplishments. On the plus side, I did get the glass for four lg kites, five med kites, 60 people, and 30 sm kites sent to Todd today--65 lbs total. I also finished the first post in the new bees blog. On the minus side, I didn't get any administrative/financial work done, nor did I get the letter written that I need to send out to my gallery clients apprising them of the studio closure for all of June, half of July, and half of August. Little Orphan Annie needs to come sing "Tomorrow" for me.

Tomorrow morning: the solar inspection. FINALLY! Now let's hope we pass.  And that's enough writing for me today. If you want to know more about the beeez, check out The Bees At Stone's Throw.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Another Week, Another Adventure

This week it really feels like everything is coming together--which is good because it's almost summer with the annual pilgrimage to Montana coming up, and I want everything done before we go.  It was another big day in the garden with the paths beginning to be laid and two more nucs of bees being hived. But I'm not going to say anything about the bees here anymore. Nope. The bees now have their own blog, The Bees At Stone's Throw. I'm not putting the url up yet as I am still working on the first post. It's long and detailed and will be done tomorrow. This will be where the hard-core bee people can go for a fix on hive activity (I want a bee cam). Glass Incarnate needs to get back to a more rounded blog that, if it's skewed at all, is skewed towards glass.

Speaking of glass I did another full kiln load today, and in spite of the warm temps outside, with the people door and one of the big roll-up doors open it was not too hot in the studio thanks to the breeze. Before I go to bed I need to schedule the UPS pick-up for tomorrow so I can get all the glass to Todd for him to work his wore magic. I am still waiting on Bill for metal stands for a couple of other orders, but those should come soon.

As I mentioned before, we are off to Montana soon. While we will be back mid-summer for a week or two, I still need to send out an email to all of our clients giving them the ship dates and order deadlines for summer so everyone can get work if they want it. Between the letter and a few other tasks I have scheduled, it looks like tomorrow is going to be a predominantly computer day. That's okay. After two days in a row on my feet in a bee suit (bee suits are toasty!), I'm ready for a day tapping my fingers (and packing and shipping glass).

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Today, Beeeeez!

Baby bee emerging chewing its way out of the cell.
Today was all about the road trip down to B Weaver Apiary and BeeGoods Mercantile in Navasota where Zaga and I took a two-hour class on bee husbandry (a funny term since all the workers and the queen are female as are Zaga and I, and our mates have no intention of coming anywhere near the bees!) and then we shopped. I ended up getting another hive as they had a cool one that is a hybrid between a Langstroth and a Top Bar, and Zaga got a Langstroth because it was pretty--green components and yellow components. I picked up the two nucs I had already paid for and then ended up getting another nuc and a package! We drove home with the hives, suits, tools and bees all int eh car, and only the bees flew around... The nucs were all supposed to be sealed, but there was a leak somewhere as between 50-100 bees escaped and were flying around the car during the 2+ hour drive home. I pretty much let them be till them came to the front of the car, but if they did, then I had to open a window on them and free them to the bee afterlife.

Examining a frame with NO GLOVES!
During our class Zaga and I were in full bee suits, socks, shoes, hats, veils, gloves... and our instructor was in a hat and veil. About 30 minutes into the class I got tired of feeling hampered and fat-fingered because of the gloves and I took them off. It was WONDERFUL, and I never felt threatened by the bees. Our instructor got stung a couple of times, but that was because she accidentally got them between her hands and the hive frames. Squeeze a bee and it will sting--motto of the day. She was very casual about it and just brushed the stinger out. It's important to remove the stinger right away as it is usually still attached to the venom sac which keeps pumping the toxin into you after the bee is already gone. When I do get stung for the first time, I hope to remain calm enough to remember that fact and act accordingly.

Zaga happy with the bee frame
When we got home, I emptied the package into one of my Langstroth hives and went to install the older nuc (the one that was prepared for me a few days ago) in the other one--only to discover I didn't have a deep brood box, I had two shallow boxes so the feeder and the frames of bees in the nuc wouldn't fit into either of them. Luckily, we had Zaga's new hive handy (I haven't unloaded the hybrid from the minivan yet) and it had a deep brood box on it so I went ahead and set it up. Tomorrow morning I'll set up the remaining two nucs in the Flow and hybrid hives. I have one more Top Bar nuc  and hive I ordered from someone locally (John Swann of Wicked Bee Apiary) coming mid-May, and Zaga has a nuc coming soon, so we'll be sitting on (obviously not literally!) six hives by the start of summer. Wheee! Honey and wax galore.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Today Butterflies Tomorrow Bees

Monarch caterpillar on the purple milkweed vine
If you build it they will come! Walking through the new garden with the spouse tonight (it's our path to the mailbox) and saw two (two!) monarch caterpillars decimating my milkweed! It's too bad I just planted it because I think a lot of the plants won't make it through the monarch larval stage as they haven't built up enough leaf reserves. In other garden news, the bee hives are all set up on stands which are on new concrete pads, the concrete footing around the pond was poured and the frames cleaned up today, and it rained all last night so I didn't have to water today (yay!).

I've still got it! Kite for On The Main
While I worked in the studio this afternoon, Dave worked in the apartment. The bookcases have now all been set up and filled with books. I made a list of the last few things we need so that Tuesday evening--barring all the photos, and registering, and setting up on-line with Home Away and/or Air B&B--the apartment will be ready to rent out. Friends and family, you always have first dibs (to stay, not to rent) except for during SXSW. :-)

In the studio I fired three full kiln loads and did a little unpacking/organizing, but I swear it's going to take more effort than I have in me to get it all unpacked and set up. At one box/container a day it would take well over a month. Then there's the textile studio and the wet studio (which also serves as the work area for jewelry, soap, torch-worked glass, and paper. I need fewer hobbies.

I have a studio cat--Kaiju rules supreme
Tomorrow morning Zaga and I are heading down to Navasota to take a two-hour beekeeping lesson and to pick up three hives worth of bees--two nucs and a package. Nucs, short for nuclear hives, have a queen, workers, and frames already started with brood, nectar (proto-honey) and bee bread (pollen for protein). All you do with them is take the wooden frames out of the cardboard box you bring them home in and install the frames in your existing hive. A package is just three pounds of bees scooped into a box with a new (to them) queen in a little matchbox looking contraption hanging it it with them. Eventually the workers will chew through the candy end on the so named queen cage, releasing her into the hive. She is initially put in the queen cage to keep the other bees from killing her. She needs a couple of days with her pheromones pervading the hive before the workers will accept her. To install the package of bees in your hive you take out the queen cage, open your hive, and shake the 10,000 bees  in the box into your hive. Doesn't that just sound fun? I think everyone should pick up a box with 10,000 bees in it and shake them out! Maybe I'll ask Zaga to video the procedure for tomorrow's post.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Living Off the Land

Let's actually do a post before 10:30 at night to see if I can stay awake for it...

Update on the garden: The concrete footing for the pond and for the first three beehives was poured today. Stripping of the bark off all the juniper cedar limbs that will be used for the garden furniture and structures continues apace with the stripped bark being used as a large-format ground cover in the cacti and on the back sides of the beds, and the outlining branches for the paths were all laid today. In general the week felt slow, like very little was accomplished, but in reality what got done was seed work for the next stages that is going to make the next parts go quickly. That's the hope anyway.

Sunday the bees come home to roost (like chickens, but smaller), and beginning Monday--except for the stream in the backyard, work is going to go from top to bottom of the property from now forward. We got a little off course by having live projects all over the yard. In some ways it made sense--work by task rather than by area so that, e.g., all of the weeding that needed to be done was done at once--front and back. But now we are moving into quantities of materials that make having all of them delivered at once for the entire yard impractical so we are going to go from man-to-man defense to playing the zone, as Dave used to say to describe alternative parenting strategies.

In the new garden--the top of the world--the pond walls will be set Monday, poly-vinyl will go down on the path areas, the irrigation pipe will be put down on top of it running to each of the new beds, and then the decomposed granite will be laid on all the paths. Those steps right there are going to make everything feel so much more done! Then it's just getting the rest of the pond and bog pond put together and beginning on the furniture. The furniture for that area is going to take some time as it's going to be made from the reclaimed limbs of juniper cedar and so will be a little more free-form and artistic and a little less quick. There are a couple of benches, a swing stand, trellis arches, obelisks for vines, and other cool wooden art pieces that will be designed as we go.

As they're finishing in the top of the world, the dirt for the front beds will be delivered and all the existing front beds needing it will be topped off, then covered with weed cloth, and mulched. Then we're getting several loads of river rock delivered. The existing river rock areas will be raked clear, weed cloth laid, the rock raked back over the top, and the new rock added to freshen and fill it up. The rain garden in the front is being held for later, and we're not even going around to the garage side of the front yard (where the deck in front of the sunroom is going to be replaced) for now.

A planter inspiration for the herb garden
After the front is done, we'll run decomposed granite down the north side of the house, and another boatload of topsoil will be delivered  for the backyard beds. Wash, rinse, repeat on filling the beds with new dirt, weed cloth, and mulch. Put mulch in the area under the live oaks, add some new yellow jasmine to the white jasmine growing up the deck, and the basic gardening is done back there. I will add a few more shrubs, plants and trees, but most of the hernage is done. Fun, creative touches to the back include tumbling recycled glass in a cement mixer to make into mulch for a couple of bed/walkways,  and building vertical, staggered-height boxes on the stone patio for herb garden.

The electrician is coming Monday to rewire the stream with 220, and to put switches for the pumps in the rain barrels up by where I turn on the hose, and revamping the existing hard-wired lighting. With the new wiring for the rain barrel pumps, I can easily switch from purified well water going through the hoses to water from the rain barrels when I'm watering in the backyard. Replacing the irrigation system is up in the air, and I haven't given up on finding a way to distill and use the waste water from our reverse osmosis system on the well. Jay has been working on designing a distiller cannibalized from a solar hot water heater that looks like it will process about 4-6 gallons of usable water an hour from any water source without breaking the bank...

...And with one thing and another (dinner and Serenity for two) it's now 10:00. If I really want to finish before 10:30, I should stop now. More garden news (and an update on the solar system approval) as it happens.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Clay Is Also Dirt...

So the secret to minimizing the itch and the hard white bump from fire ant bites is a buff puff and isopropyl alcohol. After I got nailed yesterday I dosed the bites in alcohol and scrubbed at them with an abrasive pad (for skin). Using the pad worked better than just dabbing at the stings with the alcohol--which makes sense. Fire ants aren't causing all the damage to your skin and reaction to the venom by biting you. They only bite you to get a good grip on you so they can swing their abdomens up under themselves to start stinging you. You can tell this is what's happening by looking at them--it looks like they're curled up on your body when they are attacking you. Anyway, other people swear by vinegar, but I am sold on alcohol, salt and a buff puff (or a Scotch Brite green scrubby pad from the kitchen in a pinch).

Thursday is my favorite day of the week because it begins with pottery class. Actually today began with me yelling at the solar company (again) about getting an inspector out here from Austin Energy to give us the rubber stamp of approval so we can Go Live. Pottery was definitely better than solar. I glazed my first wonky piece for the kiln, I under glazed a textured vase, and then glazed it, I trimmed a bowl, and I threw another little bowl. I was a ceramics machine! Today was the glaze demo in class, and my first day glazing in a couple of years. I had forgotten all the chemistry and science that goes into it. The glazes I put on my pieces today don't look anything like they will after firing. Part of that's because one piece not only has two glazes which will chemically react with each other, but it will also be fired in a soda firing. Explanation of that technique here. I dipped the other piece in a mint celadon glaze after underglazing it, and sadly forgot to take a picture of it. But the celadon glaze is iron rust brown before firing.

Now I'm off to sleep to ready myself for a piano lesson first thing tomorrow morning, followed by craft morning with Becky. Then the decomposed granite paths are going into the new garden tomorrow, and the concrete footer is being poured for the pond (they placed the forms today). Though that project really feels like it's been hanging forever, all I have to do ton console myself about its duration is to think of the solar project. We haven't sued yet...

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Worst Day Ever?

Today had the potential of being the worst day ever on the new house. Somehow I lucked out, and the badness was limited to about 15 minutes. So we have been working all over the yard, and this is Texas. Texas is famous for, among other things, a high number of nasty, stinging, biting, poisonous things that would as soon kill you as look at you. Today I ran afoul of one of them: The dreaded Fire Ant, Solenopsis invicta. There are currently lots of bare areas in the yard including the native grass/wildflower meadow which has a few things coming up (mostly weeds I think), but has mostly big, empty, dirt patches.

As we were reviewing one of the grasses coming up in great force in the yard (yellow nutsedge), I noticed four flat areas of hive activity. Jay thought they were termites getting ready to swarm. A few minutes later I stepped in one while trying to save our cow skull, Scully, from being overrun with them. I didn't notice right away--not till they were swarming up my ankles! Then I started swatting at them and trying to brush them off (while jumping up and down and squealing and telling Bobby to squirt them with the hose) and they were on my hands and arms. I finally got my shoes off and my feet rinsed clean of them, brushed most of them off my legs (they got up past my knees under my skirt) and brushed/squished the rest from my hands and feet. It still wasn't enough so I went in to the house and immediately pulled all of my clothes off in the hall... and then saw the worker out the side window studiously Not Looking At Me. We were both pretending No one  saw nothing...

After I was naked and the bites were starting to come alive, I went into the bathroom and tried to think what I read to do the last time I got a lot of bites. I remembered vinegar and alcohol, and I found the alcohol first. What luck! I scrubbed at my legs, feet, and arms with a defoliating pad soaked in alcohol, and when some extra alcohol splashed out, I mixed it with salt from a bath bar made of solid salt and rubbed it all over my legs, feet and arms. Now tonight I don't have any itches, and though I bites on top of bites, my skin feels fine. We'll see wait it looks like tomorrow. As of now (several hours later) none of the bites bother me in the slightest.

Now it's time to turn into a pumpkin (as the spouse snoring gently beside me on the couch would say) and give in to the tremendous predisposition of my eyelids to close and stay closed. Like my gently snoring spouse on the couch next to me. It was a long day for everyone.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Sick Day

This afternoon I gave myself permission to take a sick day. Of course by that time it wasn't a whole day, but I spent much of the afternoon just lying on the bed. With cats. Cats apparently have to pretend you have a lap even when you don't. And they are very persnickety over who gets this prime real estate. Pavlova was first to pounce on the opportunity to snuggle with mom this afternoon, and when Kaiju showed up he was quite disgruntled to find her already in what he considers his spot. But (for once) they settled in amicably and we all sort of dozed. I blame the ham. Or the caffeine in the coffee and tea I drank. Whatever it was, I had a headache, upset stomach, vertigo, and a racing heart. It was good just to chill for a bit. Unfortunately it meant that I didn't get my glass work done, but I just wasn't up to it. Tomorrow.

This week in the garden has been slow. The general contractor who runs the crew didn't come yesterday as he had a family thing, and he didn't come today as he was sick. The concrete guys were in a car accident yesterday and spent today trying to get their truck out of impound so they didn't show up (either day) either. One of the part-time workers quit last week because he was told (not by me) that he couldn't wear shorts--against the GC's policy--on the job. Any kind of long-term contracting is very much a game of hurry up and wait. But I rescheduled my bee pick-up from tomorrow to Sunday (yes sir, yes sir, three hives full!) so I have a bit of breathing room, and I confabbed with the three main workers today and gave them a list of things they can start on in the morning while we wait to see if the GC and the concrete guys show up.

Now it's after 9:00, which is a perfectly reasonable time to go to sleep. Hope I actually CAN sleep tonight--last night was rough as I think my upset stomach started about 1:00 am. At least I got some good Words With Friends time in.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Giving Up For the Night

Another day, another plant in the ground--or, in the case of today, two and a half flower beds worth of plants in the ground.  All I have left to place are the shrubs, trees, and vines--and none of them are going in the new raised beds. The result? I don't have enough plants to fill the beds. In part this is because I haven't worked the seeds into the planting, and at this point I don't know if I'm going to. Maybe I'll plant them all in back or on the side. If I don't plant them this year, I'll need more potted plants.

Right here is where I would normally natter on about all the plants that were put in, or some other aspect of the day. But I am just too pooped. We are newly home from the Dr. Who season premiere which we saw on the big screen (I love Fathom Events!) and I had a VERY long day with the solar install company, the City of Austin electricity workers, my regular landscape installers, and life. So I'm going to save a longer, better post for another night. Now I am going to close my twitching eyelids, and dive deep into them. Goodnight all.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Stinky Easter

It's Easter Sunday, and I managed not to gorge myself on chocolate or jelly beans! It's a new record. Unless it rains tomorrow, the rest of the plants will go in. Really. The landscape cloth went down (note to self: decide to put down weed barrier BEFORE putting down the mulch) at the end of last week, and now there's nothing holding me back from putting the plants in place for the last four raised beds. As my final check for which plants go in which beds (after soil moisture, light requirements and height), I turn to my bloom chart. This is only a snapshot of the spreadsheet, the rest of the info already mentioned is also in it, but the visual aspect of this part as I move the rows around representing where plants are placed in each bed is incredibly helpful in ensuring I don't have the dreaded flower gaps.

On a subject that is not gardening, I learned some very interesting things today about tonic water! I knew that you aren't supposed to drink lots of it because of the concerns about the quinine in it. But what I didn't know is that doctors used to prescribe quinine for leg cramps--which frequently wake me in in the middle of the night--and it can also deter mosquitos. I don't know if it also makes you smell funny to people, I guess I'll find out. Anyway, three eight-ounce glasses a day is okay (without the gin ;-), and I find I really like the flavor with lime.

And on the subject of smelling... Not-so-funny moment of the day: Jessie was hunting for Easter eggs this morning and there were three hidden in our bathroom. While she was looking there, she had her sweatshirt pulled up, covering her nose. I asked her why and she said because of the cat box. She went on to say it even smelled into our bedroom. OMG! I have become the old cat woman!! I couldn't smell a thing! I have noticed a strong odor in other people's houses if they had a lot of cats or around their cat boxes, and though it was unpleasant, I always figured they knew about it. Maybe not. Now I'm really bugged: How do I find out if my house (or parts of it) smell unpleasant if Jessie is not here? And what the heck happened to my sense of smell?!?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Streaming Easter

Good heavens it's already almost 11:30 pm! Time flies when you're dying eggs. Good thing the Easter bunny no longer has to hide the eggs before the crack of dawn anymore. There's no way our teenager will get up before 10:00 so the bunny can sleep in a bit. Tonight we had Dan and Zaga over for dinner--lobster ceviche with mango and avocado, rotisserie duck with the Charlie Trotter Moroccan BBQ sauce, and orzo with mint and mango. Zaga brought a fantastic lemon tart to finish up and we all waddled away from the table. Zaga is my partner in bees, and tonight she proposed getting some chickens together so it looks like we're going to have girls again! As with the bees, she will take care of them in the summer while we are in Montana, and the coop and run will cross over a bit of both of our backyards. Who knows, goats next?

Today Jay also came over and got the stream going, and after watching it for awhile we determined that the original owners of the house probably had a system that ran at least 100 gallons of water a minute down the stream. We were pushing 30-35 today, and the stream never really filled up and flowed. It trickled. So next week, a new catch basin to hold the extra water that will be in the system when it's fully powered so we can turn it off and it won't overflow at the bottom, a bigger pump, bigger pipe through which to push the water up the hill, and a bigger gravity drain from the bottom pool into the pump housing basin. We've also got some mortar leaks to seal--might even pressure wash and seal the entire thing and then it will run as good as new. Jig walked out and inspected the next to the bottom pool, and I got this picture of him just as he turned around which makes it look like he's only half a dog. But the stream looks nice!

Final big news for the day is that I not only got another couple of glass orders, but I also had a really cool idea for some cast sculpture that will require several different techniques to get all the pieces the way I want them. I don't think I will ever do this work commercially because I can't see being able to get the price I would need for the pieces, but it will be fun work, and I have a garden where I can put it. Pics when it's all done--don't want to tip my hand till I've worked out all the details.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Sensory Experiences

Lyre-leaf sage in one of the new beds
It was my very great pleasure today to meet a friend of a friend, Chris Maher, who is in town teaching a couple of cooking classes. He stopped by today and we must have talked for almost four hours. It is so rare to meet someone you can talk to and listen to for hours and still have so much you want to share. Chris is a chef and an actor and is both very successful and very fulfilled by each career. I love interacting with people who are able to follow their passions! We hope to have him teach a dinner here at our house next Saturday. It's very short notice, but I think we can pull a few people together. And I hope this will be the first of many dinner party classes he teaches here.

While Chris and I were talking, the guys were working outside and by tomorrow morning (yes, Jay is coming back on Saturday just to finish this) we are going to have a working stream! It turns out that the pipe carrying the water from the pump at the bottom to the waterfall at the top was broken in two places and filled with acorns and other debris--it's a wonder Don was able to get any water out of it at all to show it to us running when we were originally looking at the house. Jay's crew dug up the entire pipe and replaced it, then Jay replaced the pump and rewired it, and tomorrow he will put the last touches on the electrical and we'll have a stream!! The stream, as completely unnecessary to the running of the house as it is, is one of the most important features of this place for me. When I updated Dave on the status of the work out there I was very surprised at how happy he was that the stream will be functional for the first time since we've owned the house (over a year and a half now!). I knew it was important to me, but I thought he didn't really care about it.

Now I sit and listen to the frogs--I think that's what's making that weird noise--and the water in the little ponds on the back deck, and I am ready to dip into my eyelids again. At  least tonight I didn't fall asleep three times in the midst of writing this post like I did last night. And tomorrow is Saturday! No alarm going off!!!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A Day of Diverse Interests

The lights at Chez Zee
The morning began, as Thursdays currently do, with a pottery class at The Art School At the Contemporary Austin. No peacocks today. I was deprived. Then I was a mother caring for a sick child (for me today that meant a trip to McDonald's--I know there are those of you who scorn me for this, don't be such haters). And then we got back to the garden. I cannot write that phrase without hearing Crosby, Stills Nash in my head belting out the line from the song Woodstock. The new garden will be forever linked in my mind with that song. And finally I met a few friends for dinner, and I ate way too much, but it was great fun and I got to talk about bees and gardening so I'm happy.

The weather has been so wet this month that every day the contractors either hesitate to come for fear of getting rained out, or they can come, but they can't do the project we had scheduled because the ground is too wet. It's a good thing I'm a patient person. Tomorrow, thank the catholics, is Good Friday and a school holiday for Jessie. I will not be setting my alarm so I can wake her up. I will not be setting an alarm at all. I'm so excited.

Have you ever noticed how when you get really tired and you're sitting on the computer, your body tenses up--especially through the neck and shoulders (or maybe that's just a function of working on the laptop), and you have to pause frequently to intentionally let everything relax? No? Well, you're lucky. I am, as has been my wont for how many days now, totally exhausted. I would like to wax poetic about the copper and steel plant marking stakes I started putting into the garden today, or the milkweed garden I laid out, or the vast number of different plants that went into the front (white) garden, but I'm just too tired. Tomorrow I will get over the litany of I'm too tireds and write a substantial post--with pictures even! Tonight, I'm off to bed and the inside of my eyelids.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Must. Sleep.

Another long day, another post. Eleven years ago when I started this blog I would begin with my beverage and background music. Tonight the beverage was a Negroni made for me by my child whom we are training to be a bartender so she can get a good job while she's in college (good tips and you're separated from the clientele by the bar). Music is While My Guitar Gently Weeps, covered by Regina Spektor, from Kubo and the Two Strings.

Today was an amazing day wherein I consummately wore a great many of my hats. There was gardening. There was apartment furnishing in preparation for renting it out. There were secret Pal Easter baskets prepared and delivered to McCallum teachers (eight of them). And biggest deal, a friend of a friend who is an award winning chef (James beard and all) contacted me today about getting together as he will be in town teaching Friday. At the end of the conversation I decided it would be a good idea to host a culinary class at our house with him later this spring. I am very excited to be unveiling Stone's Throw  at last. It's not done--it won't be done for a while as I have lots of artistic projects to complete from kitchen backsplash and leaded glass cabinet doors to a tiled entryway to inlaid wood projects (dining room table, bed headboard, and desk--just to name a few). And then there's the master bathroom... All I can say is carpet, and that should be enough.

Tomorrow begins with pottery--and I miss Becky yet again (and I should reply to her texts!). I'm going to go in early again and see how many pieces I can throw before class starts. the other week I did four and mashed all of them but the last one into balls of clay to reuse later. Pottery is all about the journey. The last thing I need is a bunch of substandard pieces. Wonky is okay--great even. But the piece has to have character to keep. I'm over keeping everything I make. the teacher had an interesting take on it. She asked us if we would record every piano practice and keep it if we were learning piano. Hell the hell no! I am learning piano and some of the things I play are downright hard on the ears. In spite of my conservatism, I have kept four pieces so far--two from last week. I'm into bowls right now and I'm looking forward to making one or more tomorrow.

Lastly on the creative front, I bought flowers today for some ikebana practice. My sensei will be very pleased that I am getting back to weekly lessons. And now I'm ready to crash. Just like clockwork every night, I hit a wall and am incapable of doing anything other than sleep. Wall, meet face. Okay, we've introduced ourselves, time for bed.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Threesome!

This is not another gardening post. This post is all about two fine gentlemen from my alma mater (the University of Montana) who discovered something that upsets what we learned in high school biology. Remember learning about lichens? No? Well lichens, we have been told, are an organism made up of an algae and a fungus living symbiotically. But now two researchers from the UofM have discovered that some, if not all, lichens are a threesome! They are composed of TWO funghi and an algae. Can you believe it? The University of Montana is doing cutting edge biology right there in Missoula Montana.

Another thing they are doing is offering Master Beekeeping certification both for and not for credit. And it's all online too. This is truly the age of miracles and wonder. Now there is a Master Beekeeper program offered through the Ag Extension at Texas A & M. And it looks like a fine program. But I just can't see having to have had bees for a full year before being able to get the apprentice level in the program and then having to wait another full year before doing the journeyman level work, and then spending two more years on the master's. The U of M course can be completed by doing the work--not waiting for time to pass. And I'm too old to sit around waiting for time to pass. While Texas' course looks really great in terms of knowledge learned, it also looks like overkill. Really, PhD programs are four years, Master's programs are one to two.

And now back to the garden! There isn't much to say--we had a rain day today so no workers. But I did get the first two bed drawings done with a layout of all the plants planted so far. Tomorrow, barring rain, will see the completion of the current planting. Whee! The fourth beehive arrived today and I will put it together tomorrow as well as pulling out the first two (one Langstroth, one Flow) and assembling the Flow. My remaining hive is a TopBar and it's coming from Wicked Apiary along with a Nuc of bees. Zaga is getting her hive and Nuc the same day, and then there will be five.

Now there are eyelids and I want to fall into mine.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Am I Too Old?

Spreading seed in the rain
The forecast called for rain today, but that didn't stop the guys from coming to work the landscaping. They finished spreading all the dirt in the front wildflower and grass meadow, and then we all started spreading the grass and wildflower seeds by hand. Of course it began to pour before we started so we were all out there getting soaked. The worst part of it was that our footware grabbed the mud (with the seed on top if we had spread in that spot already) and glommed it onto the bottom. I finally gave up and went barefoot. We got all the seed down and then the guys left. And then it stopped raining for the day, and by this afternoon we even had steamy sun.

So how dos this all have to do with old? Well for most of the rest of the afternoon I caught up on computer and phone tasks and didn't get back out to the garden till about 4:30. Then I spent another hour and a half moving plants around--sometimes by hand and sometimes in my little wagon--getting ready for possible planting tomorrow (if it's not pouring again). Now I'm back inside, and I'm pooped! Am I too old to be starting the garden of my dreams? I have to admit I'm a bit nervous. It's strange because this really feels like my golden years. I am a very late bloomer, and it took until my fifties for me to achieve the maturity and wisdom that most people start to evince in their, I don't know, 30's? 40's? But now I'm here, I'm happy, and better than happy, I'm content and challenged and motivated and enthused... and tired. This is the first post I've done in recent memory where I'm not falling asleep over the keyboard and that's because I got an early start--it's not even 7:00 yet. I want to be Helen Mirren or Judi Dench or Ann Stunden. Annie is the only one of the three who's not a famous actress, and she's also the only American, but I had to include her because she's got the same glowing beauty and vibrant goddess-of-a-certain-age thing going that the other two do. And they all three seem to have much more energy--in addition to their extra years--than I do! What's up with that? I guess it's a good thing that the women I most wish to emulate are all over 70 (Judy Dench is 82). I could be chasing after wanting to be Angelina Jolie, but this where that maturity thing comes in: I know better. But this tired thing has got to stop.

Moving away from the subject of gardening. And age. And fatigue. To bees! I get my first two nuclear bee hives next Wednesday! I am driving down to Navasota before the crack of dawn to pick them up and take a hands on class in hive management. I've attended lots of lectures on the theory of beekeeping, but next Wednesday is where the rubber meets the road, where the stinger meets the skin. I hope I'm going to like it as much as I think I will. Of course news of the arrival of the bees has put the fire under the guys to finish the planting, paths, irrigation, and all the other tasks in the new garden short of the pond by then. None of them are excited about being around the bees. And, you know, bees can smell fear.

Glass orders are starting to come in again and I have dropped the reins and turned Todd loose on calling our galleries to see about getting orders since we didn't see them at any winter shows. Normally I handle all the gallery contacts, but right now he wants the work more than I do so this is a good solution. And it's good for me to be able to let go of something. Clearly I can't keep up with everything so the change should benefit us both.

Feels good to have the post done before dinner. Now if I only had my 365 Project photo done for the day.


Sunday, April 09, 2017

One Project Completed, Nine More To Go

And the gardening data project is complete. My spouse laughed at me a bit as I took these pictures of the binders, but he cannot deny the satisfaction I ooze at having seen this project through. There are 550 plants going into the garden representing 185 different varieties (I was slightly off in my count the other day), and I have data sheets on every single one of them printed out and organized. The main categories are Perennials--split into dry soil and moist soil because there are too many to fit into one binder--Annuals, Cacti, Grasses, Shrubs, Trees, Vines, Milkweed, plants for a White Garden, and plants for a Rain Garden. These categories are then sorted by soil moisture, then by light requirements, then by height range. Oh damn. I forgot a category for Water Garden plants so I am going to have to redo one of the binder covers to include them once I get started on the pond.

I have already benefited from the data sheets in the planning of the beds by the front door and driveway. It is a cool shadowy area as it faces north and west, and the western side is full of trees. I thought it would be a perfect place for a garden of white-blooming plants. I love the way a white garden looks in the evening, and I have always wanted one in the front of a house. Now I get to check that item off my bucket list. Using the data sheets to construct a garden is kind of like using binders of Magic cards to construct a deck, and it's ultimately satisfying. Of course the binder with the white garden and rain garden plants is just a planning binder. I'll be adding plants for a dyer's and spinner's/weaver's garden to it next. And in my OCDness I'll also be redoing the cover. Again. I haven't done data sheets on the seeds yet, and since all the vegetables are in there I'll need to add that category--as well as fruit--to one of the binders. Or I could just make a new Edibles binder for vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Guess I'm not as done as I thought. But I am done FOR NOW.

Next week, after all the plants have gone in, it'll be time to start on the sheep fleeces for the Master Spinner class. It will be even more intense, and there will be more binders...






Saturday, April 08, 2017

Ghosts

Celestial Ghost Iris
Ghost In the Shell is an amazingly beautiful, really well-done movie. I don't care about the the furor over Scarlett Johanssen playing the lead role. Frankly she is perfect in it, and it was very believable that the evil corporation would make its robots into more generic feature types. Given that most anime characters have decidedly alien features that are neither Asian nor Caucasian, Scarlett Johanssen fits right in, big eyes, tipped up nose and all. Okay, that's enough about the outside world, now back to the garden.

Last night as I was walking around checking out all of the wildflowers that are coming up in the natural area around the new beds I came across the beautiful, delicate little white flower at right. I only found a couple of them with complete petals, the others seemed to be fading and curling up. When I got back to the house, I pulled out my Texas wildflower books and tried to figure out what they were. I had absolutely no luck. I even looked on-line and couldn't find anything with the right leaf, petal, and stamen configuration in white.

This morning I went back to the books determined to find a match, and the first thing I decided to disregard was color. Bingo! Everything but color is a perfect match for Celestials. Most references I could find list them as only blue and ours are pure white. (Though the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center database of plant images has several verified photos of white ones too...) They are also supposed to bloom early in the morning and close up by afternoon. When I went out a bit before noon today looking for them, there were none open. I saw some buds that looked like they might be opening today, but they certainly weren't open by noon. So ours are later afternoon/evening bloomers and white. (Indeed, they were just closed when we got home from the movies about 9:00). I did find finally find one reference to them that said they are night blooming and referred to them as Celestial Ghost Iris. They were still listed as blue, but at least I got closer. Maybe I should start growing them and sell them! They are clearly native as they are all along the roadside and in an area of our yard that has never been planted.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Plants Anyone?

And thus ends the Great Plant Spree of 2017. Between the Native Plant Society (who also had tents set up at the Wildflower Center and were selling their own plants there) and the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center, I added 127 plants to the collection which brings my total number so far to 566 plants covering about 185 different varieties. They will all be planted (except maybe the cacti) Monday. No, not by me. I will place, and I will water, but I am not planting. I have minions. :-) Even though I am (mostly) done adding species and varieties for this year, I do not have all the plants on my list. Nope. There are still 157 plants on the want list... Next year. Sadly, I think I'll run out of room.

Today my spouse was my plant Igor and carried the three boxes of plants I bought from the Native Plant Society to the car. That left 85 plants for me in the cart--and they all fit. Can I pack or can I? I forgot to get a picture of the Great Packing while I was standing in line to check out, but I wager a guess that I had more plants in a cart than anyone else there. Wusses.

The only sour spot to the day happened when I first got to the Wildflower Center, Dave and I went in separate vehicles as he took J to school and I took the cart to LBJWC. When I got there there were already cars parked along the street for a couple of blocks. I parked at the end and then pulled my cart all the way to the main parking lot--where I found four open spots in a row right at the end. I knew we'd (Dave would) be carrying plants to the car throughout the morning and I didn't want him to have to do a block at a time so I put my cart in one of the spots with a big note on it that read: "Spot Taken, Please Do Not Move Cart!" and I raced off to get my car. By the time I got back, someone had moved my cart off to the side and all the spots were taken. I didn't think plant people would do that. Dave said I shouldn't have expected anything else and I was in the wrong for trying to take the spot when I didn't have my car there. I'm just glad I couldn't be 100% sure which space it was or I might have done something mean to the car.

The rest of the day was spent lazing (and napping, literally) with the spouse, eating pizza and drinking champagne. And the weekend hasn't even begun yet!

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Tomorrow is the Plant Sale!

Tomorrow is the members day for the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center Annual Native Plants Day. I am a member. I have a list. I have a spouse who is going to Igor for me and pull my plant wagon. I am fortunate above all women.

This morning when I unloaded all the plants I brought home from Medina yesterday I found a little hitchkhiker making his trail on the inside of my back window. He now has a home in the front garden. And now I am going to bed.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Another Day, Another Plant... Or Fifty

After consuming way too much good food and spirits last night on my date out with Dave, I didn't sleep well and woke filled with dread at the prospect of an early morning (8:00 am) piano lesson and then a day on the road doing the last great nursery tour. I should've known better than to plan a tour anyway. Even though the last info I got from Medina Nursery was that they didn't really have any of the plants on my current wish list, I should've known I'd find more than enough plants there to fill the car completely (and they were my second stop--the first was Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center to get more turfgrass seed. No, it's not Bermuda, Zoysia or St. Augustine... Then I headed to Medina to pick up the plants I bought last time but couldn't fit into the minvan.

I thought that would leave me with plenty of time and space to hit a couple more nurseries recommended by Medina. The guys from there sent me a list of other good native nurseries, and the route I planned out is below. I should've known it was both WAY too ambitious, and overkill for right now. But I have it for future road trips--maybe when Debbie comes down from Dallas.

I got home just before 6:00 tonight and was too tired to unload the van before dinner. It's too dark now so I'll do it first thing in the morning before heading off to pottery class. It's hard to tell from the pic above, but the plants are packed solid from the very back to the back of the front seats (all the other seats are out) and even in the front passenger seat.

Tomorrow afternoon I have to take Baxter in to the vet again. He's doing well, but I feel badly that he has to spend all day in a rate. But when he's out, he paces, and the vet wants him completely immobile for the next two weeks minimum to really give the hip time to settle into the socket.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Baxter's Latest Issues

Put down in writing what you are going to do and how the day is going to go, and inevitably it will all go pear-shaped. I got the first round of plants set out in the first and half of the second garden beds this morning before taking Baxter to the vet for his check-up. Turns out my Appointment wasn't until Thursday, but the vet saw me anyway and we were both glad I brought the B. in as he had an open wound on the elbow joint of the front leg on the dislocated hip side. It was a cankle (hygroma) gone bad. So the vet cleaned it out, checked the hip--it was still in the socket--and sent us home with a good prognosis. When we got home, Baxter went in the house and I went back to the garden for another hour. When I was done I put Jig and Gallifrey back in the house with Baxter and headed off to a two-hour meeting. And that's when the pear-shapedness occurred.

When I got home from my meeting I opened the front door to find all three dogs waiting for me in a very agitated state. Gallifrey was clearly all worked up and anxious, and Baxter had been the object of his anxiety. While I was gone, Gallifrey chewed through Baxter sling and opened the small sore on his dislocated leg into a gaping open wound with an exposed tendon, he had taken the bandage off the front leg and licked that wound into a raw state again, and he had finished by licking a hole in the the right front hygroma which had just been a bit swollen but not all an open wound. He had also licked his ears, a swollen area in his groin area (part of the initial accident trauma that had mostly subsided until Gallifrey started licking at it) and all over his back so that Baxter was soaking wet with slobber. When I opened the door, Baxter looked dazed and wet, and he was completely out of his sling. So off to the vet we went again.

An hour and a half later and Baxter has three serious bandages on three of his legs, he's out of the sling--they couldn't put it back on because it would put pressure on the back leg wound--and I have to keep him kenneled and pretty much immobile for the next two weeks, and I have to keep Gallifrey away from him. So there is a big kennel set up in our bedroom now, and it has one of the transmitters from the invisible fence on the top so when Gallifrey goes up to it--in case he could chew the bandages through the bars--he gets a correcting zap.

Now Baxter has had his nightly meds (we're up to four different ones), and I am ready to crash into my eyelids. He also got a new stuffed squirrel today s all seems to be okay with his world.Tomorow: more plant shopping and acquisition.

Monday, April 03, 2017

I'm Not Procrastinating, I'm Planning

The two native plant bibles.
The day comes to an end and not one single plant went into the ground today. It took all damn day just to get them sorted and inventoried and to print the rest of the info cards for the grasses and shrubs I have. But tomorrow, tomorrow in between taking Baxter to the vet and meeting with the bank, planting will happen. And Jay assures me the stream will flow tomorrow too. All renovation/construction projects take more time than you think they will/should, but I think landscaping takes the longest. Even with three guys showing up at my door at 9:00 am this morning and asking what they should do and then working all day, we are still no closer on the planting. I admit it: I am the bottleneck there. I keep making lists and charts and cards and such when I should just throw it all into the ground and figure I'll move things if they don't do well or look right where I initially put them. Commencement anxiety. That's what I have.

But tomorrow they will all get planted, and I'll probably get the seeds in too. I might even get the grass seed thrown and have the guys use the roller to flatten it in. Tonight, lacking anything more exciting to say, I am just going to head off to bed so I can get up at the crack of daylight to make the next round of plant lists.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Now It's My Turn To Say I Think I'll Go With Sloth

Plant cards!
Today began with the promised thunderstorms and even a tornado warning. Thanks to the seriously inclement weather, we were able to take the parents to brunch at Jack Allen's Kitchen and not have to wait. Score. I had a big day planned (i.e., I wasn't planning to nap when we got home) so I forewent the mimosas. By the time we got home the rain had cleared and it was a beautiful, sunny, if chilly, afternoon. I spent all of it indoors. Except for the part where I moved a tarantula off the corner of the front porch before Jessie saw it. Poor thing. I think it might have been dead. But I put it carefully out under a bush in a relatively dry spot.

The rest of the day we all sat around waiting to go to bed. It felt like an old folks home for all the ambition and energy we had. Jessie cleaned her room so she could (finally) show it to Gramma, and that was our combined effort for the day. We didn't even really stir ourselves for dinner. Brunch was so huge and filling we just put out some cheese, meat, fruit, dolmades, and crackers, and everyone helped themselves as they felt peckish.

The rest of the plants waiting to go into the ground.
In spite of my lack of physical activity, I did have a major accomplishment today: I made the first native plant information cards to use in planting the garden. They are 5-1/2 X 8-1/2 and are based on the data from the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center plant database, which is itself built from the US Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service plant database. In order to make the information more visually available (without having to read the card) I made a template with light requirements and size range on the top, blooming season on the right, and soil requirements on the bottom. After I printed them out, I used highlighter markers to color the appropriate selections on the template. Tomorrow I will be able to sort them first by soil (wet or dry) and by light to determine which bed they'll go in, then I can sort the plants selected for each bed by height and bloom season so the heights will be staggered and there will always be something blooming in every part of every bed.

Many packets of seeds.
I still have lots of packets of seeds and I'm not quite sure what to do about them. I guess it's still early enough to sow many of them directly into the ground, but I haven't done the info cards for them yet. I got them done for half of the 113 different plants I bought in containers--including all of the perennials. The shrubs and trees are usually only in ones or twos so I don't need to worry so much about where they are going to go--and they aren't going into beds. Maybe I'll have time to do the cards for the seeds tomorrow before the contractors come so I can plan on planting them tomorrow too.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

It Was a Quiet Day

Today was a quiet day in the grey hill country of Austin. We were expecting thunderstorms so we didn't bother to make plans, and then it never rained at all. Now the forecast calls for thunderstorms all day tomorrow. We'll see. Dave's parents are in for the weekend and all we have done so far is eat. Dave made sous vide bacon and scratch pancakes for breakfast. He made banana bread this afternoon. And he made beef tenderloin stroganoff for dinner. My accomplishments were more garden (no surprise there) oriented. The biggest one was finding a new breaker box today (we've owned the house for a year and a half now) under the deck by one if the rainwater collection tanks. It had two flipped breakers so I solved the mystery of where the stream pump breaker is, but now I have no idea what the other three breakers in the box (including the flipped one) go to. 

My in-laws walked the new garden this morning, and later my MIL said to me, when I asked her what she thought, that it's a lot of work. And that was the first moment that I really contemplated what it was going to mean to have an acre and a half of meticulously planned and landscaped gardens and neither a yard service nor a gardener... It wasn't a pretty image. Right now I am all gardening all the time, but not too long from now I will have the pond and the bog pond in, all the plants planted, furniture designed and built, paths, lighting, and irrigation all installed--and then I'll move on to the next thing. Time spent on the garden may go the way of making bread once a week, pasta every couple of weeks, spinning fifteen minutes a day, and drawing. Knitting I have managed to keep up because dishcloths are a quick and easy project--but I have not done *any* of my homework for my spinning class, nor have I done any ikebana since Christmas.

I have planned the new landscaping to be low maintenance, but low maintenance isn't no maintenance. There will be weeds. Sure, I can use a pear burner on the paths and rock area, but there is still going to be mowing, weed-eating, and just plain weeding to do. And I don't have a teenager who can be hired to do yardwork of any kind. She's too afraid she'll run into a tarantula. This is going to require some thought and planning. And maybe a regular yard service to keep up with the leaves and the mowing and the weed whacking.

Baxter and his pacifier
Other news of the day: Baxter is getting around well in his sling, and he's making me crazy. He has been doing a periodic aimless-wander-in-circles thing for several months now. Before his accident, he liked to go 'round and 'round the couch while we were sitting watching tv. This would have been okay if either we had carpet or he didn't have horribly long toenails. Unfortunately... Since the sling he spends all of his time in our bedroom--right off the main room--and has taken to pacing down the hall and back again. Tonight it's been every 15 minutes. At 3:00 am this morning it was continuos until I finally got up and shut the doors so he couldn't get out of the bedroom and into the hall on the wood floor. I have taken him outside. He doesn't need to relieve himself. I have given him his meds--two opiates and a muscle relaxant. He is feeling no pain. I fed him cooked chicken breast and beef jerky and brought him fresh water. He is neither hungry nor thirsty. And yet he will not just lie down and *stay* down. So I ordered him a squirrel. He used to do this zen thing with his stuffed squirrel (actually he started with a stuffed pacifier and then moved to a squirrel) where he would hold it between his paws, put his mouth on it, and just sit. He didn't lick. He didn't chew. He just sat there with his mouth on it.Maybe he's got an oral fixation thing going. So now two squirrels, a duck, a fox, and a host of other small dismemberable creatures are on their way from Amazon.

Baxter and his squirrel
And speaking of dismemberable... Tonight when we sat down to dinner Jessie saw Pavlova with a small (live) wren in her mouth on the other side of the kitchen. She took the bird away from her and gently put it down outside where it flew away. There were quite a few downy feathers on the stair landing indicating Pavlova had been playing for awhile, but we still have no idea how the wren got into the house. There were no open windows, we didn't leave any doors open (because we don't want the cats to go out), and yet, there was a little wren in the jaws of death. Literally.

Now I have crashed hard. Again. This is becoming a nightly pattern. I'll spell and grammar check this post tomorrow.