Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Night sky

Today was mild, and it was nice to be outside this evening as well.  I had occasion to be outside attending my fire where I had burned some prunings and fallen branches.  The stars were bright, and Venus was a lovely partner for the crescent moon in the southwestern sky just after sunset.  I took a picture of the pair.  I should have looked for Mars which would have been a little above and to the left of Venus.  I'll have to look tomorrow night to see if I see Mars.  It will be in a similar position in relation to Venus, but the moon will be farther away.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Rain, sun, hail, wind all in one day

Yesterday was forecast to be partly sunny after the morning rain left.  The rain was expected to be mostly gone from our area by 10:00 a.m., and the afternoon promised to be very windy.  I thought the wind would be great for drying laundry even if I got it out a little later than usual.
I like to recall a children's poem about a windy wash day.  I especially like the last part, "And every little pair of pants upside down and skipping."

Windy Wash Day
by Dorothy Aldis
The wash is hanging on the line
And the wind's blowing--
Dresses all so clean and fine,
And bowing.

Stockings twisting in a dance,
Pajamas very tripping,
And every little pair of pants
Upside down
And skipping.
So out went the first load of laundry about 11 a.m.  Then a rogue band of rain swept across the area.  The heaviest cell was right over us, and we even got some pellets of pea-sized hail.
Here is some of the hail that blew onto the front porch.

Finally, the sun came out; and, as predicted, the wind was strong.  The clothes were practically dry by the time I got them off the line.  I noticed the top of a dead pine swaying mightily in my neighbor's backyard.  By the evening, the top had been blown down.
The tumultuous weather was the result of a front moving in and bringing an end to the unseasonably mild weather.  Now we're back to more typical late-January weather, which is to say cool, but still nice enough to be out pulling up some honeysuckle and poison ivy vines.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Looking ahead to spring

The sun is bright today and the pine trees are beautiful, their needles having been washed by the rain and burnished by the wind.  The blue sky and white clouds make a lovely backdrop.  We still have cold weather ahead of us, but the angle of sun is a little higher each day and lets me know spring is on its way.  I'm starting to see little signs here and there like sprouting crocus and daffodil foliage and swelling buds on the maple trees.  For the discerning eye, there is a steady procession of signs announcing the changing seasons.

pansies by the steps

new daffodil foliage emerging through the mulch of pine straw

Friday, January 20, 2017

Mountain stream

Darling son just got back from a mountain retreat with some folks from his church.  I borrowed one of his pretty pictures.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

I like making a fire

Today, I had some limbs to burn.  I do compost a lot of things, but there were some Leyland limbs that I wanted to burn.  I also burned quite a bit of privet brush; burning it is about the only way to ensure it doesn't root.  Little holly saplings that sprout here and there I sometimes burn just so I don't have prickly holly leaves in the compost pile.  If something is diseased, I might burn it as well.
This afternoon was perfect for my fire.  It had just started sprinkling a little which meant the ground around would be damp and not likely to catch fire from a hot ash floating on the breeze.  The winds were less than 10 mph.  I really don't like to have a fire if it is much windier than 12 mph or so.
I like to start my fire with natural materials (except for a match or two).  The little twigs from the dried Leyland branches are pretty good for the small stuff.  I used a little pine straw and dried stilt grass to get things started.
When I'm all done, I'll save the ashes for the garden. 
Burning my brush pile is such a satisfying chore.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Feeding the birds in the snow

We've just had a winter storm that started Friday evening with rain, changed to sleet Friday night, and changed to snow Saturday.  The snow stopped Saturday afternoon, and we had not lost electric power by that evening, so I mistakenly assumed we would not.  What a big assumption!  We lost power shortly after midnight and were without for about 13 1/2 hours.  With no alternative heat, it got chilly inside.
Meanwhile, I'm sure the birds are having it tough outside.  I had been watching this Eastern phoebe this past week catching insects in the back yard.
What does it do when it's too cold for the insects to be out and about?
When I went to my local discount store to stock up for the storm, I decided to get some cheap birdseed and to splurge on some mealworms for the birds which eat insects.  (I was a bit amused when the cashier put the bag of mealworms in the same bag as the white cheddar popcorn.  I guess the birds would have thought that appropriate--snacks with snacks.)
The cheap birdseed brought in the cowbirds.  I'm not sure which birds might be eating the mealworms, but I haven't seen the phoebe or the bluebirds yesterday or today.  Tonight will be a frigid night, with temperatures plunging to 2°F or so, about as cold as it gets around these parts.
Here is a mourning dove on the deck rail, feathers puffed yesterday.

Here is a cardinal in the crepe myrtle just outside the office window this afternoon.
If the birds can hang in there for a few more days, they will enjoy a big warm up coming later this week.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Yard work in winter

Though not as relentless and monotonous as summer mowing, there is still yard work to be done in winter.  A mild day in winter is usually when I try to tackle pulling up or cutting down some of the common privet by the back fence.  I'm hoping also to pull up some ivy.  The next two months will be when I try to get some pruning done. 
I guess burning the Christmas tree counted as yard work since I also burned some other limbs with it, which I did Tuesday evening.
Yesterday was mild, and I worked on a small project in my mixed border.  I had a cardboard carton from the washing machine we bought a couple of months ago.  I figured it would be good for suppressing weeds.  I pulled off most of the markings, which may not have been necessary if the ink is soy based, but who knows. 
I spread out the cardboard...
added a little compost to the edges to weight it down...
 and spread it over with some pine straw I had raked from my neighbor's yard.
While I had the wheelbarrow around front, I raked up the weeds (a lot of Bermuda grass) that I had left to dry out beside the edge of the border.  I put them on the compost pile.  It doesn't pay to put Bermuda grass roots on a compost pile before they've died from freezing or dehydration.

I also shot a picture of the pansies in the evening sun.  From time to time when I'm passing by them, I pull up the henbit and chickweed that is sprouting all around them and deadhead some of the spent blooms.

Whatever the season, there's always plenty of work to keep me busy.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


For Christmas, we received a bag of home cooked goodies plus the cutest teapot from our neighbors across the street.  It is always gratifying when someone knows me well enough to know what I will think is attractive. 
We received a dozen eggs and a wish for a happy New Year from the neighbor with the chickens.  (I scrambled 3 in the microwave for us Sunday night.)
And, as impersonal as the online world can be, sometimes one can find "neighbors" on the internet as well.  Dave at OurHappyAcres sent me some cherry tomato seeds to plant this year along with a handwritten note.  I remember loving the tiny cherry tomatoes as a kid.  The larger cherry tomatoes, which everyone else calls cherry tomatoes, we had to call tommy toes.  The variety Dave sent me, 'Mexico Midget,' is probably somewhere in between the size of the cherry tomatoes and the tommy toes we had growing up.  I'm looking forward to trying them.  It's nice to have internet neighbors as well.

Monday, January 2, 2017

A meal out with my menfolk

Today, I had the opportunity for a special lunch with my menfolk.  I wanted to try a different restaurant.  It's a new year and time to try a new dish, so I chose an empanada platter with red beans and fried sweet plantains.  It was good, but between you and me, I think they ran out of empanada dough and just deep fat fried a couple of flour tortillas.  This was the first time I had ever tried plantains, and they were pretty good.  I've had red beans before, but these were spiced with a Caribbean flavor, which was pretty good also.
Do you like trying new dishes?