Monday, February 29, 2016

New for me--a "corn plant" bloom

Just last week, my mother asked me about a dracaena (Warneckii) plant someone had given her.  She had already surmised that it didn't do well if kept too moist.  (She has a green thumb that way and observes things about plants that I wouldn't notice.)  She asked me if it had blooms.  I told her it was grown as a foliage plant.  To be honest, I don't think I had ever seen a bloom on a dracaeana, though I've tended many a dracaena plant as an indoor foliage maintenance technician (a job I had years ago). 
Wouldn't you know that only a few days after that discussion, I actually saw a bloom on a dracaena fragrans.  My husband and I were in a local Mexican restaurant Saturday.  In the front window, just across from the cash register, was a corn plant with a long stem of buds in the top.  I couldn't get over it.  I didn't have my camera with me, but my son was in the vicinity today, and I asked him to stop in and get a few shots for me.  As you can see, whoever is taking care of the plant has propped up the bloom with a stick.  I'm guessing someone who works at the restaurant also takes care of the plant.  They have my admiration for coaxing a bloom out of the plant.  (The plant appears to enjoy good lighting close to a window with a northwest exposure.)
How about it?  Have you ever seen a "corn plant" in bloom?

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Spring is just around the corner

The sun is getting higher in the sky these days and is shining brightly.  I'm start to see daffodils here and there.  I'm also seeing more bird activity as they scout out nesting territories.  I saw a pair of bluebirds in the sycamore tree this morning.  They will probably nest in the birdbox I have in the front yard.

Any tinges of spring in your neck of the woods?

Friday, February 26, 2016

They don't make things the way they used to

Have you heard old people lament that things aren't made as well as they used to be made?  I guess I'm an old person now because I've taken to saying that.
When we moved into this house, it was two years old.  The heat pump was a Carrier brand.  It served us well for a long time before we had it serviced.  It was about 21 years old or so when we had to have some points replaced.  Not too long after that, a leak developed, and we had to replace the unit.  I assumed the replacement unit would be similar.  I was very disappointed to find out that the Goodman that was installed is a much larger and noisier unit.  Then, only a year after it was installed, it began acting strangely.  January, we had the highest electric bill we've had since we've lived here.  What a bummer!  Folks in the know tell me that the Copeland compressor used in the Goodman unit has some sort of additive which is supposed to keep the coils from rusting, but when the additive comes in contact with the Freon, a sludge is formed which clogs the piston.  Darling son cleaned the piston with a pin, and so far that seems to have helped.  I'm told there is a solvent that can be used in the unit to prevent the sludge.  It seems as if every solution causes yet another problem, so who knows what the ramifications of adding the solvent are. 
A few years ago, someone who thought he knew something said that replacing an old unit (even though it was still working!) with a newer,  more efficient unit would save money in the long run by reducing the power bill.  What a joke!  I'm hearing that the newer units aren't lasting as long, either.
I admire folks who have the know-how to "get off the grid."

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Stormy weather

Yesterday, many areas in our state experienced stormy weather.  I watched the radar image of an impressive line of thunderstorms moving across our area.  I think we managed to miss a lot of the wind and rain here at my house, but we were without power for 4 hours.  I heated a can of beef stew over a candle and served canned peaches for dessert. 
I took a few pictures of the clouds as the storm moved through our area.

As the storm approached, I noticed a pair of ducks flying overhead.  They were basically flying sideways in the wind!  Just after that, a flock of geese flew over.  They seemed to fare just a little better because of their size, but you can still see how the wind affects their flight.
Some places near us had it rough, but all in all, we were lucky here.

Monday, February 22, 2016

An afternoon in the woodlot

Last Friday, I went to poke around my little bit of property in the woods.  We had a portion of it clear-cut several years ago.  The pines that naturally seed themselves in a clear-cut area are starting to grow, but the sprouts from the hardwoods are quite thick as well.  I had taken a few hand tools, and I removed some of the smaller stuff.  My father arrived later with a chainsaw and helped out a while.  I had inherited Grandpa's old bush axe, but it was heavy and cumbersome.  I remember one summer that I worked with the forestry service, we used Swedish axes that impressed me considerably for cutting saplings.  I'm thinking I might just spring for one of those.
After all was said and done (I can imagine my mother interjecting here, "...more was said than done!..."), I felt only a small fraction of what needed to be done was done.  On the positive side, I did get some exercise, I did enjoy the nice day, and I did enjoy listening to Daddy's tales about the olden days while we took a break.  I tried to imagine how times were when Daddy was a youngster riding a bike all around the rural community selling packets of Henry Field's seeds.  While we sat on a sourwood tree that had survived being uprooted, I saw two lizards venturing out.  It was a warm day for February, and they were taking advantage of the sunshine.  Earlier I had seen a warbler of some sort foraging for insects in the thicket.  The day was perfect weather-wise.  I might try to go back again sometime soon.  (I live too far away to go as often as I would like.)  Once warm weather, ticks, and redbugs arrive, I will not want to be out there.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

A new knife

Once a man at a local hardware store overheard me ask my son why he thought he needed one of the knives in the case when he already had a few knives at home.  The man tried to explain that knives were to guys like earrings were to gals:  "You can never have too many."  I pointed out to the man that I did not have earrings.  Like a good salesman he tried to adapt by changing the analogy to shoes.  I still wasn't impressed, but I think my son took it straight to heart and began accumulating a ridiculous number of knives.  I thought he should take his time, save his money, then get a good quality knife rather than snatching up every knife that caught his eye.
I definitely like to deliberate over a purchase, and I finally bought a knife I've wanted for a while.  Who knows, I might even want to start a collection.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A gift in good taste

My darling husband did a wonderful job with this gift this past Christmas.
I say that tongue-in-cheek, and I might as well explain what I mean.  I had decided to buy some gift sets of sea salt for Christmas gifts.  The more I looked at them, the more I liked them.  I said, "I almost want one of those sets for myself."
My husband said (and who knows if he meant it), "Well, why don't you get one, wrap it up, and say it's from me, and I'll pay for it."
So I did.
I chose a green and blue (my favorite colors) salvaged wrapping paper.  The hoarders will know what I mean.  It was from a prior gift, too pretty to throw away, but probably with too many strategically placed wrinkles, tears, or tape pieces to actually use.  I actually had to piece the paper on the back side of the gift, which was totally okay since I knew the recipient wouldn't mind!
(It's the package with the green and blue background with the folksy snowman with the red scarf and heart shaped buttons.)  When my husband asked me who the packages were for, I told him that one was to me from him.  "It is?"
Yes, you told me to get the salt gift set and say it was from you.
"I did?"
When we opened our gifts, I dutifully said, "I wonder what this could be."  "Oh, how nice, just what I wanted!" And it was.
I recently got around to trying some of the salts.  I sprinkled a little of alder smoked sea salt on some pork roast, and I sprinkled a little of the French grey salt in the kale I boiled.  Of course, I taste tested them before using them.  The alder smoked sea salt had a nice smoky aroma when I opened the package and a robust flavor on my tongue.  The French grey sea salt had a similar flavor to a mouthful of Ocean Isle sea water.  Anyone who got tumbled over by a wave on the NC coast will be able to identify.  So, all the flavor without the terror.
I'm enjoying my Christmas gift.  It was more to be desired than a hot air balloon ride on a cold, cloudy day.  Of course the Lindor truffles dh got for me ranked right on up there as well.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Ice spike

Last Saturday afternoon, I noticed there was an ice spike in the outdoor water dish.  Ice spikes are interesting phenomena.  They form when a water surface is freezing.  If the surface in a dish, for example, freezes all the way to the edge except for a hole, the water underneath can expand as it freezes and be forced through the hole.  As the water is forced through the hole, it freezes and forms a spike (or tower or vase shape) It is most likely to happen with pure water such as rainwater and at temperatures between 15 and 25 degrees.  There was, in fact, rainwater in the water dish (although there is some debris in the bottom of the dish), and the temperature that night was in the 20's.


Have you ever seen an ice spike and wondered what caused it?  Now you know.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The acorn cap whistle

How I managed to grow up in an area full of oak trees without learning about an acorn cap whistle is an amazement to me.  But better late than never, as they say.  A few weeks ago, someone told me a large acorn cap, such as a red oak acorn cap, could be used as a whistle.  I was able to make a whistling sound by using the same position as whistling into my hand (which my cousin had showed me when we were youngsters).  However, as I suspected, there were lots of videos and instructions on the internet of how to whistle with an acorn cap, and I quickly learned a much more reliable technique.
Last week when I took a walk at the local nature preserve and someone on an adjacent property began target practicing with a .38, I blew my whistle hoping to alert any and all to my location. 
I'm thrilled to have learned this simple whistle.

my acorn cap whistle

(If you want to see a picture of how to position your thumbs, check out the simple instructions on THIS PAGE.)

Monday, February 15, 2016

Valentine pretties

I like the "pretties" that come with Valentine's Day.  Darling son surprised me with a box of chocolates in a very pretty red box.  And I do mean surprised.
Darling husband also got me a box of chocolates in a pretty red box as well as a bouquet.  I added some greenery to the bouquet and am enjoying the beauty of it.
I made a batch of date balls to share with my sweethearts.  I put the date balls in the cookie jar my neighbor had given me for Christmas.  The jar is empty already, but you can take my word for it, it was pretty when full of date balls.
A lady from our church made treat bags for everyone.  I went a little weak when I saw all those pretty red and pink cellophane bags full of goodies.
There were also lots of pretty decorations at the steak dinner where darling husband and darling son played music Saturday night.  I thoroughly enjoyed all the pretty decorations.  The steak looked great, too!
The pretty decorations and pretty goodies were right down my alley.  I think the goal on Valentine's Day is to give a gift that will please.  Sunday evening, we were sitting in the living room just as the evening was coming to a close.  It was cloudy and cold; the temperature probably peaked at about 32 degrees that day.  Suddenly I spotted the hot air balloon!  What on earth!  I wanted to run out and yell, "How's the weather up there?"  Then it dawned on me.  Some guy thought his sweetie would appreciate the romance of a balloon ride--in 32 degree weather!  I hope she liked it or at least appreciated the thought.
Each to his own.  When it's 32 degrees, just give me chocolate and flowers, thanks.


Monday, February 8, 2016

A few more Halifax pics

Here is the historic courthouse.  There are much better pictures to be had than the one I shot as we were leaving.  (Yes, the clock has the right time.  I love when large outdoor clocks are kept on the correct time.)

Here is the Historic Halifax Baptist Church where darling son played music with John White a week ago.
Here are some photos of the Tap Room and the Eagle Tavern.  The taverns were social centers during their time of operation and served as community meeting rooms, hotels, post offices, etc.  I had a heavy feeling when I read that slave auctions were held there as well.
The Eagle Tavern (which now houses museum exhibits):
The exterior of the Tap Room (a photo I took last June):

Pics inside and from upstairs in the Tap Room.

There is still more to see.  Maybe I will have to make another trip there sometime.  The little brick building that can be seen from the window of the Tap Room served as the clerk's office and also housed a printing press.  I had hoped we could tour it.  Maybe next time.  There is also the Montfort Archaeology Museum just a little ways below the clerk's office.
Still lots to see.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Back to Halifax

My husband, son, and I had the opportunity Saturday to visit Historic Halifax.  We were able to go inside a few of the buildings that my son and I had only seen the outside of before.  I took quite a few pictures.  And I imposed upon my son to take one of me.
The head hole is kid sized and the height is kid sized as well.  My son didn't just take the one picture; he took the whole process of my husband trying to squat down and get his large head in the hole of the man figure.  I was afraid we might not be able to get him back out.  I won't put all those pictures on the blog, but I can assure you I laughed and laughed when I saw them.

We spent some time touring the Owens House, c. 1760 and moved to current location before 1807.

Halifax was an important colonial port on the Roanoke River which provided livelihoods for merchants such as George Owens, who lived there.  The house is furnished with many antiques and some reproductions.  In the dining room is a lovely (walnut?) china cabinet. 

On the table is a striking epergne, and, for some reason quite unbeknownst to me, my husband was enthralled with the fragile dishes with the lattice edges. 
Under the table, is a reproduction floor covering.  It was made by first shellacking burlap, then painting it.  I thought that was clever.

  On the side table are two Delft vases and a Chinese tea box (under an English mirror).

The merchant's office has a maple desk.
In one corner are items which represent the kinds of goods a merchant of Halifax might have dealt in, such as furs, cider, cypress roofing shingles, and barrels of corn.
I love to see the wood grain of antique furniture pieces such as this round stand at the bottom of the stairs.
Our guide pointed out how difficult it would have been to climb the steep stairs in a long skirt with a child in one hand and a candle in the other.
Upstairs are the bedrooms.  A cornhusk mattress tops the rope bed that is the main piece of furniture in the children's bedroom.
I was taken with the antique embroidered picture in the hallway.
I was also fascinated with the pattern on this reproduction quilt.  It is old and worn enough for the cotton to show through but still quite an impressive sight.
Here is a bed warmer by an upstairs fireplace.
Here is a table and chair in the bedroom where the lady of the house might have rested and planned her schedule.
Even though this house is an example of prosperity in its day, I can't help thinking how our modern conveniences make life so much more comfortable.
(I have other pictures from our time in Historic Halifax which I will post on another day.)