Thursday, November 21, 2013

An Apology, of sorts...

Yes, we have been away...

for awhile, now. Thought we were going to attend one or two of them big fancy schools back east on line for free. I reckon it is true, you get what you pay for

But we're back to blogging. I began this piece some weeks back as an apology to my follower. It's been sitting in 'Draft' so long now, it's dated. Or, at the very least, several days behind...

Starting over...again....

Looking to clean out the shed on a brisk Sunday morning.
May have found me another dog, but keep it under your hat. I haven't told Anniepie, yet.

Hello, and welcome back. This is our third or fourth post in recent days after a months' long absence. I'm not sure I want to get into where we were and what we were doing while on hiatus. Let's just leave it at reconsidering, regrouping and relaunching.

A couple of things followers--if any are hanging with us--might want to know:

  • In addition to learning to blog, I'm doing some six hours a day at PATTERSON'S, valeting and schmoozing in the service dept. Cut an old journalist a break, and let me know when you're in the market for a new (to you) vehicle, would ya? 
  • Anniepie got a pacemaker to kick start her heart. I'm not supposed to write about that for some reason or other. She's doin', "Jus' fine."
  • No, I have not abandoned returning to The Northwest, but it appears highly unlikely that will happen before 2016. Seems I've got a race for the governorship of Texas to help Wendy Davis win.
One corner done! Hope reinforcements arrive soon!!

Meanwhile, back in the shed....

Progress, of sorts, is being made. Reinforcements are here, and we've got the start of a cooking fire, burning down to coals.... Tales will be told around that fire, and some of 'em may even find their way into these files....

But I wouldn't hold my breath in anticipation.

October passed the Rolling Plains, leaving crisp mornings, teasing showers and transforming trees for November. After yet another summer burn out--our third straight--we have reconsidered our decision to throw in the towel on the fight to garden.

October infected the Back Yard Boys with the urge to merge with wilderness. Camping fever is chronic and acute. Work obligations being what they were (and remain), even a weekend two-nighter was not possible

Y'all come back, now, hear?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

9 Things You Probably Don't Know About Me

Having been assigned the number NINE by California cousin-in-law Mary, here's my list. No doubt you know the rule; If you "like", I will assign a number to you, too.

9. I still have not finished that g**d*** degree!!

8. Once cut my hair (blunt-nosed scissors) in the style of then President Ike Eisenhower after seeing him on the TV. Hey, if it's good enough for the President....!

7. My Best Man (twice), wing man and all-around brother-by-another-mother has had my six for a freaking 50 years. Clear on the right!!

6. When my birth parents split, back in '57, Mom actually opened the discussion with me by asking, "How would you like to have a horse?"

5. I'm a dog man. Period. At least, I like to think that I am. But back in the day of "Gene and Tex, and Roy and Rex, the Durango Kid" it was all about horses!

4. If you really want to get my motor running, take me to a good old Rolling Plains thunderstorm. Let 'er RIP, Tater Chip!!

3. From the time I noticed differences between boys and girls and up to the first flush of hormones kicking in, I wanted to be a girl. 

2. I was gonna be a "Hardshell" Primitive Baptist preacher. Yeah, really! I even supplied for a small church in Abilene, Texas, for nigh on to a year as "training" prior to official ordination as an elder. Imagine, this left handed wing nut liberal coming out of the depths of fundamentalist conservatism. Did ya know that the late Sam Rayburn, legendary Speaker of the House of Representatives, was one of us? My Ma'maw and Gran'dad went to Mr. Sam's funeral and sat right behind the Johnsons and the Kennedys.

1. My alter ego, David Forest, is alive and living in an unpublished desk-drawer novel for, Lo, these past 33 years. He, too, has survived to the Age of Medicare, so there is no way now that he will ever accomplish all that we set out to do when his tale began.

BONUS FACTOID: I began writing formulaic, pulp fiction in the eighth grade at Barwise Jr. High to impress a girl in Mr. Conway's art class. As it turned out, she published long before I did. Still love ya, Karen!!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Cat Who Wouldn't Come in From the Cold

Annie doesn't take kindly to "Stinky", our #2 cat, being called "Stanky", and therein hangs a cat tale.

Stinky Miller in his younger, domestic days
Stinky was a rescue cat who rode into downtown Henrietta from Fort Worth in the front fender well of an 18-wheeler cab. How the hell he managed to survive up there for a hundred miles is beyond me, but the trip twisted his feline psyche.

Look at 'im over there. Looks normal enough, doesn't he. Yet, even at that young stage, there was something not quite right about that cat, something suggesting a Jeckel-and-Hyde kink.

Relocation aside, this oreo wound up at the home of the village cat lady. Bless her heart! For the cats, it must have been a nightmare straight out of a Dickens' orphanage. 

Cat Lady's daughter found Annie through our local want ads. Daughter wanted--above all else!--to divest mother of the clowder of mostly feral cats before further destruction of the family homestead. 

Fortunately, we escaped the cat house with ONE scared-shitless cat vocalizing in a borrowed carrier! One smelly cat, at that. Thus, Stinky.

My lovely life partner cats being kept inside. Let's 'em on the furniture, even. So it was, initially, this black-and-white newbie gained a roof over his head, all the kibble he could hope for and access to furniture. He did have to share a litter box with one other, much older, half blind tom with attitude AND got his balls whacked off in the bargain!

Several months (years?) our household had grown to four cats, a cockatiel and Beano, a boglen terrier. We lucked into a three-bedroom rental with a fully-fenced back yard and infinitely patient, understanding landlady and lord.

In the new (to us) home, the litter box found a permanent home beside the back door. While the other three cats were curious about "OUT THERE!", Stinky was the only one to chance it.

He had been born a feral cat, after all.

The first time was like, "STINKY'S OUT!! OMG, DO SOMETHING!" After the first dozen or so escapes, it was nearer "Stinky's out again...." So it was that Stinky morphed into Stanky.

Beano and Stanky, waiting at the gate
Initially, Stinky only became Stanky for odd periods during daylight. He was content with the inside-the-fence back yard, showing little inclination to venture beyond his home turf. 

Inside Stinky was skittish, suspicious of others, selfish and seemingly starved for attention but on his terms. Outside Stanky became cautious, confident, aware and watchful of others, and starved for attention but on his terms. In the course of the transition, it became increasingly clear that Stanky was a happier cat than was Stinky.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hello, we're back!!

The Country Club Rat

Ironic, is it not, that the only wildlife encountered during last weekend’s bonfire birthday bash in the wilds of Archer County was a Country Club rat in the middle of Martin Blvd. at 1:46 a.m.??? What, exactly, were we doing on Martin Blvd. at quarter-of-two in the morning? Wending our ways home, as best we could, at Oh-dark-thirty Sunday morning.

I’ve no idea what kind of rat it was, standing half erect in the middle of the center stripe like some traffic rodent. Wikipedia (the Lazy Bloggers’ Bible) suggests it was a “brown rat, common rat, street rat, sewer rat, Hanover rat, Norway rat, brown Norway rat, Norwegian rat, wharf rat (Rattus norvegicus),

Hanover rat arose in the 18th century, allegedly in an attempt to hang England’s problems on the House of Hanover.

Nor, as it turns out, did the common brown rat originate in Norway. So just because you happen to be born a rat does not make you Norwegian. Even Charles Dickens wrote of the misnomered muroid:

"Now there is a mystery about the native country of the best known species of rat, the common brown rat. It is frequently called, in books and otherwise, the 'Norway rat', and it is said to have been imported into this country in a ship-load of timber from Norway. Against this hypothesis stands the fact that when the brown rat had become common in this country, it was unknown in Norway, although there was a small animal like a rat, but really a lemming, which made its home there." <Dickens, Charles. (1888) All the Year Round. New Series. Volume XLII, Number 1018. pp. 517.>

As it turns out, our common rats most likely came out of central Asia, possibly China. My rat, however, was a brownish-gray, blue-collar, common Texas rat, standing in the center stripe of a residential street in the heart of Country Club as if he owned the neighborhood.

Wildlife encounters reportedly are increasing here in the Falls. The other morning a flight of some two dozen Canada geese came honking over PATTERSON’S, settling down on the open field south side of Holliday Creek. The creek greenway, winding across the southern and eastern neighborhoods, is itself an attractant for turtles, egrets, herons, ducks and even white-tailed deer. Fresh tales of coyotes foraging through neighborhoods make the rounds every other week.

The more suburbs crawl and sprawl, the more decay eats away at the inner city, the more frequent will become encounters between people and wildlife. Too many of these close encounters end badly for the non-humans involved. For more in-depth information and practical guidelines check out the Wildlife Diversity Program at Texas Parks and Wildlife. Learning to share our neighborhoods with non-human neighbors is vital for all of us.

Old Sheds and Coyote Tracks

No place this side of wilderness is half so attractive as a really old shed. Be it a garden shed behind the house, or grandpa’s garage that hadn’t had room for a car since the first Eisenhower administration.

Ma’maw & Gran’dad Saunders had such a shed out back, across the path from the persimmon patch. (I tried eating a persimmon...once. The possums are welcome to all they want.) That shed also had a big old padlock on the door, and the window sash was a good six inches above my 5-years-old head.

After some months of studying, I designed a mobile access platform; my rocking horse in the bed of my little red wagon. What could be suspicious about a horse in a trailer in Texas, right?

I swung up, onto Rocky’s carved saddle, but the height did not help that much. Glare on the glass made the window about as opaque as if it had been painted. I had to stand on Rocky and lean in near enough to peer through the pane with hands cupped beside my eyes.

The only thing I could make out in that heavy gloom was a huge, black, iron pot. That’s when Rocky bolted, pitching me against the wagon’s side and face down in the dirt. TRUTH, however, hit much harder than the ground.


That wash pot belongs to me, now, since Mom died last year. None of the sibs wanted it, and I have nightmares of migrating to the Pacific Northwest with a cast iron pot tied to the back of the wagon.

I knew there was a reason for not cleaning up that mud...

Discussing coyotes the other day, we noted they seem to be more active in town these days. Now, I’m not sure that they are. I've heard the rumors of “coyotes prowling the alleys of Brook Village”. It is Halloween week. Such testimony is anecdotal, at best.

Two morning’s ago, right after that little rain, I discovered canid tracks in the mud outside our back gate. Beano does not go beyond that gate lest I’m trailing on his leash, and we have not ventured through that portal in weeks. Nor would his prints have been that big.

The prints were large. Naturally, they weren't guidebook-perfect, but they were distinct enough to recognize dog family. Prints in the tracking guide always look so much better than those in the wild.

This shot at right is the best of the set and does not clearly show the faint imprint of the paw pad and outer toes. I know. I couldn’t decide, either.

Another bit of evidence tending to cast doubt on the coyote-at-the-gate hypothesis is that fact that Stanky, the yard cat, is still with us and missing no vital parts.

Guides to animal tracks abound on the web. The Humane Society Wildlife Trust has a pretty good one on coyotes.

Nonetheless, I’ve started going out with Beano on his nightly perimeter checks...

Sunday, March 10, 2013

March Madness & Daylight Savings Time

Texas Redbud  photo by Phyzome
Is it just me, or has March come listlessly in like a lamb on Librium? These past few days have been like moving through cold molasses both mentally and physically.

The month started off fine. Lord, was it really just over a week ago! If spring wasn't exactly bursting out all over, the signs certainly were closing in all around. Henbit was up and growing. Dandelions were in bloom, and the more adventurous among 'em had put on seed heads.

Even our Texas redbud trees were showing pink flower buds by the second day, and green tips were showing from leaf buds a couple of days later. Seems to me this is a touch early. I always have the best of intentions to faithfully record the dates of first budding, or bud burst, for the various trees and bushes in our immediate area, yet somehow I never do it.

A north wind, crossing the lingering snow field of Oklahoma, carried a chilling breath, but the sun pushed afternoon temperatures near 60F the first several days. In fact, clearing the dried St. Augustine grass from the south-facing beds fronting our house was down right warm work. No doubt that's why we did not persist at it for long.

Down and dirty. The trick is getting up again.
 Working in our front yard drives Beano, our boglen terrier, bonkers. He perches on the back of the sofa, barking and whining behind the window, but he is not to be trusted outside unrestrained.

I swear, Jewish mothers have nothing on this damned dog when it comes to throwing a guilt trip!

A stretch, a yawn and time for a walk!

All things considered, we decided degrassing the front garden plots could wait another day. We would go a wandering.

Ever since we first took up residence in Brook Village, I had my eye on a purple sage bush that lives on a small city-owned plot about a quarter mile from our house. And ever since we first spotted this particular specimen, we have had designs on taking a cutting.

Well, Beano agreed we had put this foraging mission off way too long. I suspect his motivation had more to do with leaving peemail on the neighbors' mulberry tree than with scoring a free sprig of sage.
Sage cutting

Much needed exercise aside, the great benefit of a half-mile hike is that it wipes Beano out for the next few hours. We returned with enough purloined sage to make three good cutting starts. Beano immediately hit his water dish and proceeded to collapse on the cold tile floor of our utility room. He would nap away the remainder of the afternoon, keeping him from under foot.

My theory of March's initial doldrums seems to be supported somewhat by the Farmer's Almanac. Save for a couple or three days when the almanac claimed it would be okay to plant root crops, the bulk of the first half of the month are reportedly the pits for putting seed in the ground.

Now, I'm not sold entirely on planting by the moon. Virtually every old person I knew in my youth swore by it, particularly my old-school farming Aunt Kitty and my Grandma, the witch. Regrettably, when these living libraries of gardening lore were alive and available to me, I had other priorities and failed to avail myself of their considerable wisdom in matters of the Earth.

So we have refrained from further planting, spending these sluggish days in lackluster spurts of preparing beds for seeds to come. A couple of rain days allowed us to build our supply of captured rain water to near 30 gallons, and we at long last installed a flagstone footpath across the breadth of our western plot to allow better access to the back side along the fence.
A stone path will aid access to this plot. The repurposed cat liter buckets contain collected rain water.
Finally, hawk-eyed, unemployed English majors and other perfectionists will note the erroneous 's' on Daylight Savings Time in the title above. The majority of Americans believe the 's' to be the proper pronunciation, and the majority of Americans are dead wrong.

So why use an error on purpose? Daylight Savings Time scores higher in keyword searches than does the proper form.

Today is the first day of the so-called daylight saving time. As we are no longer among the ranks of wage slaves, we join Arizona and others in refusing to participate. So for about the next nine months we will be behind the times, and we are perfectly fine with that.

Y'all come back, now. Hear?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

SIG: When Redbuds Bud

Squint your eyes and maybe you will see buds?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

 We apologize for the focal quality of the photo (right), but we wanted to document that our redbud trees' buds have opened. Let the record show the fuzzy buds were shot on March 2.

Going into our third spring here, I'm still surprised to find these buds. When I do, I make that mental note to mark the date, but of course, I never have. Until now.

The literature--that is, the handful of site hits from GOOGLE that I actually opened--says redbuds bloom in April. I've got a feeling ours will not wait that long. My TV weather wizard informs me we have a good shot at hitting 80F this afternoon with highs the remainder of the week safely in the upper 60s.

We will further note in passing that the henbit and dandelions are coming on strong with this recent spate of mild weather. Did I say mild? It's downright springlike. All that's missing are the thunderstorms which we dearly could use!

Jus' sayin', Lord.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Square Inch Gardening: In the beginning...

"Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna make this garden grow
Gonna mulch it deep and low
Gonna make it fertile ground"
David Mallett, The Garden Song 1978

Walk with me. We will take a quick tour around the grounds to get our bearings. You may want to grab a hoodie or sweater as the temperature lately has hovered in the low to mid 50s (that's Fahrenheit as we are located in Texas, and I do not do conversions unless asked nicely) with a stiff northerly breeze straight off the Oklahoma snow field.

 Here in North Texas we are some 27 days out from our average frost-free date. Temperature wise, we've had a mild winter so far, and the drought continues. We're currently under water use restrictions here in River City, so that outside faucet there doesn't look to get much, if any, use this season.
The sorry state of the "South Garden" on Feb. 28, 2013
 The South Garden (above), so-called because the plot faces south, is where we left off yesterday evening, the last day of February. It's every bit the mess it looks. We began clearing out the dead St. Augustine grass along the front edge to better reveal the shrubs we transplanted about a year ago. Damned now if I can remember what they are, but I believe I was told they are hawthorn.

The green along the back next to the house is a volunteer immigrant that may be primrose. I did not plant it, nor was it in the bed prior to introducing the alleged hawthorn. Alleged primrose has one bloom open (not visible from this shot) and a tangle of dried stems bearing seed pods. We collected several of the pods yesterday and will be playing with them later.

Part of our plan of the day is to continue clean-up here and in the east bed on the other side of the front stoop. No, it doesn't look any better than this. In fact, it's worse.

The seed germ for Square Inch Gardening was planted by a TED Talk I watched back the beginning of the week. No, I don't recall the title nor the presenter's name at the moment, but I will look it up later...if I remember to do so. Anyway, this youngish woman, I think it was, was going on about innovations that will help us through the trials and tribulations to come as a result of climatic change and population pressure. One notion that struck a chord was the idea of window farming. 

A vertical window farm is born!
 The main idea behind window farming is growing edible plants hydroponically in vertical columns in windows. Such a system allows virtually anyone to grow a portion of their own food no matter how restricted their personal space may be.

Through the website you can get detailed plans for building your own system or buy a system. Both options are too rich for our fixed income, however, so I decided to ease my way into window farming by improvising (right).

These two plots are hanging in our north-facing bedroom window, a less than ideal location for maximum solar gain. The plus side is that AnniePie can interact with them daily and I'm less likely to forget to tend to them. The yellow plot is a commercial primrose I picked up at the grocery store several weeks back. The other plot is an experiment with Bloomsdale spinach.

Think maybe I'll put some of those spinach seeds in the ground out back today.

Now, the Farmers' Almanac has it that the next "good" dates for planting above ground crops are the 11th--12th. However, their "best" window this month is the 20th through the 22nd. Well, maybe we will start some indoor seed pots today and put some "control" seeds in the ground outside to test this planting by the moon business.

My late aunt Kitty was a master gardener if ever there was one. I'm sure she had lunar cycle farming in her bones, but foolish pup that I was, I never took the opportunity to learn from her when I had the chance. Now were faced with having to read up on it and play with it on our own. If anyone has any thoughts to offer on the subject, I'd be proud to hear 'em. My "comments" section is open to all, so keep it clean, please,

Follow the link in the text for the back story of grandma's pot.
 That's my Grandma Saunders' cast iron wash pot there on the left with Stinky, our yard cat. This is about midway down our westside patio garden under an old Texas native pecan tree. We're undecided as yet what to do with this plot, but there is sufficient maintenance chores here to keep us occupied for awhile.

Speaking of which, I've done run fifteen minutes over my time, so that is going to be our tour for today. 

Y'all come back now. Hear? 

 UPDATE: March 3

We found that TED Talk on window farming; A Garden in my Apartment presented by Britta Riley.