31 July 2006

On Gardening (again)

Today I am having as part of my lunch a cucumber that grew in my garden. *smile* That's just kind of neat. I like being sort of a little bit self-sufficient when it comes to food. There is at least one other cuke ready to be picked, so I'll pr'bly have another tomorrow or Wednesday. And there are lots more (pr'bly eight to ten) that just need some more time. I know because I found them this weekend when - in a fit of self-disgust - I finally cleared out all the weeds from that patch. *blush*

We did some sort of .. well, at least general idea planning this weekend about the yard. It started with a discussion of what do we want to do with the side yard now that the bushes are gone and developed from there. Generally, we're going to pretty much overhaul the look and feel of our yard over the next several years, mostly in the back, though the front and side yard will change a bit too.

The biggest change we'd like to make is to re-landscape the backyard and get rid of most of the grass. We tend not to use the backyard much because there's very little shade. There's lots of wide open grass space, but we don't have much need for it and we have mutant grass and very good soil, so the grass grows incredibly fast so it's a pain to maintain. So our loose plan is as follows:

1) Move the fence between the backyard and the side yard out to where the bushes used to be, and shorten it to about half its current height (it's currently 6 ft. tall). This brings the shade from the apple tree into the part of the yard we're most likely to use while still allowing folks from the street to see the garden.

2) Use patio pavers to extend the patio area out into the backyard another 5-6 feet. This will require us to dig up that section of the yard a little to get it all level, but allows us to make more of the yard actually usable.

3) Pull out the sand cherry in the back by the garage. Relocate the raspberries (don't laugh, we can make it work) to the other side of the fence so they grow along the fence and will therefore be easier to actually get to. To do this, we'll likely replant plants to the back of the fence and then just use something to completely kill whatever remains. Don't worry, we aren't planning to grow much there anyway.

4) Continue the patio pavers along the property-line fence (not really on the property line, but on that side of the yard) to what we hope will be a little gazebo area around the small apple tree. Possibly with a fountain where the raspberry bushes are currently.

5) Create a pergola over the patio and the walk to the gazebo. We're looking for something here that we can grow some kind of quick-growing vines across to get shade in the summer, but that will die back completely in winter so the roof-structure doesn't need to be strong enough to withhold the snow incumbent with a Midwestern winter. This piece is the kind of crucial one - it will give us a lot more shade in the backyard and make it a more green space.

6) Fill in along between the patio and the gazebo with plants - not grass. This is the big piece for me - getting to plan an actual garden instead of just borders or whatnot. We're thinking something that will be diverse and bloom throughout the summer, but requiring little in terms of annual replanting. A good friend has a yard like this that we really like and he's offered to help us design ours (and to give us starters from some of his plants).

7) Leave the side yard as grass, enclosed by the existing (or planned) gardens. The veggie garden will be put in the side yard where the bushes used to be because they'll get the best light there. We may also replant several of the rose bushes to that line to get them off the garage.

8) The front yard will stay mostly as it is, but we'll run morning glories up the front of the porch (from window boxes) and likely some shade-loving veggie or whatever up the side of the porch, so we'll get the shade in the summer and the sun in the winter.

30 July 2006

M is for ..


There's nothing quite so motivating as receiving a large box of new yarn and patterns for two new projects. No, I can't tell you what the Cotton Fleece is for; this represents the start of my holiday knitting, so pictures will be a bit obscure.

This is Rogue sleeve number 2 as of sometime yesterday evening, a little blurry:

And here are both sleeves, finished but unblocked:

Yup. Motivation. On the hottest weekend of the year, with heat indices over 110, I was struck with the indescribable urge to pick up 100% wool and pound out sleeves. *shrug* Blocking will likely wait for a bit though - the humidity is so high I think it would take days for it to dry - and it's not like I have any inclination to try it on at the moment, so for now, it's enough that the pieces are all complete.

In the meantime, though, I have a decision to make.. cotton, or alpaca & wool?

28 July 2006

M is for..


"Melm" -- that is, the word itself -- is a monosyllabic expression of...well, just about anything. It's one of a long series of unintelligible neologisms that characterize the conversation of a small, bizarre group of people. This particular melmism was first uttered many years ago by Grand High Melm Chris Manly. Since that time, your humble sitemaster, Uncle Mikey, has been trying to spread the Gospel of Melm to the far curves of the Internet.

Melm -- the concept -- is sort of like Zen, only...well, stranger. Some might even say that, by comparison with Melm, Zen is comprehensible and straightforward a concept. Melm shares with Zen (and with the Matrix) the quality that it is very difficult to define. One knows Melm when one sees Melm.

Drew "Bob the Dancing Monkey" Johnson, the Mad, Mad Minnesota Melm, offers this expansion on the theme:
Melm is the sound of a stock option turning into a mushroom. The smell of Silent Bob pontificating about the beautiful blonde chick that Gary Gygax has no chance of getting into bed. It is Kate Bush's lips used as a croquet mallet in a large-scale recreation of the Battle of Waterloo starring Alicia Silverstone and the schoolmarm from 'Little House on the Prairie', the one you always get mixed up with Daisy Duke's halter-top (the schoolmarm, not her blouse).
Melm - the one-sided, double-minded Penguin Mint with the reflection of a thousand laughing Greys on the beach party of the Green Knight.
(The astute may have noticed my sig tag on blogger is /vm. It stands for Very Melm. That's me. If you ask Uncle Mikey (he's my Uncle Mikey, he's your Uncle Mikey, he's even a real Uncle Mikey now, but he's always been everybody's Uncle Mikey), he'll likely explain why (he might even also tell you about Rargh). You may not understand the answer, but you'll pr'bly get one.

*green-toed llama*

Signs of the apocalypse?

1. Last night, I gave in and we bought an air conditioner. I'm not fond of air conditioners - there's just something that doesn't sit right in my mind about spending so much money to modify one's environment for personal comfort. Part of it is a sort of half-hearted we-did-this-to-ourselves response for having so polluted our environment that for several weeks or months of the year in what used to be perfectly tolerable climates we can't seem to survive. Part of it is disgust at the idea of using even more energy, which will add to the pollution, to ameliorate the effects of said pollution. Part of it is much more selfish - it's damned expensive to run an air conditioner.

But as much as I appear to be more heat and humidity tolerant than Jack, it became abundantly clear that I am not more tolerant of a consistently mopey and cranky husband. So I capitulated and we bought a 10,000 BTU air conditioner for the upstairs rooms, a second fan to help circulate the air around the three rooms upstairs, and a spring-tension shower rod and heavy duty plastic shower curtain to try to partition the stairs off so all the cool air wouldn't just rush downstairs (where it tends to stay naturally much cooler to begin with). So now, Jack sleeps better and promises that he'll be less cranky, but I wake up every hour from the fan noise and vague concerns about a skyrocketing electric bill. *sigh*

2. I managed to complete the cable on the first Rogue sleeve successfully.

3. Many people I know, myself included, had significant issues with technology this week. From relatively simple but inexplicable (and painful) lost documents or queries to entire systems crashing for no apparent reason to flooding server rooms to possibly weather-related, possibly technology-related cancellation of several flights out of O'Hare, it has not been a good week for technology. Nope. Not at all.

4. We have absolutely no plans for this weekend. None. Not even a vague plan to come into town for the Art Fair, or to wander up to Hoedown Days. Nothing.

25 July 2006

"I don't know what I've been drinking, but I hope to Christ there's more"

I think Rogue is expressing its displeasure at being ignored for the last several months. I've knit one sleeve through the end of the cable chart, only to discover that I missed an essential instruction in the increase rows. I ripped it back to the turning row, started again, got about 12 rows before realizing that I'd missed a two decreases several rows back. Ripped it back again and decided enough was enough for one night.

In other news, I just got notification from Barnes & Noble that the books I ordered.. a couple months ago? are shipping. Yes, I knew they wouldn't ship until now when I placed the order, but I had a $25 gift card from MyPoints and knew that I wanted to get the next Harry Potter book in paperback, the last Gunslinger book in paperback, and the second of Jacqueline Carey's Godslayer series in paperback, and one or the other of them didn't print in paperback until this month (the Godslayer book, I think). Rather than pay extra shipping for books I wouldn't miss until now, I just had them hold the whole order until they were all available. Yea! Christmas in July! Now to plough through the rest of A People's History of the Supreme Court.. (Not going so well.. feels like I read this one already (which I have, just not in this format - I had an unofficial emphasis in American Constitutional History in college))

In yet other news, I've been contacted and asked to do Artisans Row at Boar's Head this year, which is nifty. I'm not sure yet whether we're actually planning to go to the event, but the fact that they sought me out to ask if I'd coordinate it again - especially with a solid four-plus months advance warning - is hopeful. I'm willing to shepherd this idea along for a little longer in hopes others will start to pick up the idea at other events I may or may not be able to attend. At least until something else catches my fancy. *shrug*

Right then.. off to try to get through the rest of Dred Scott..

23 July 2006

What did you do this weekend?

Things have been busy again here this weekend. Mom and dad came down to help us pull out the stumps from all the arborvitae bushes Jack and dad cut down a few weeks ago. You may remember the before and after shots of the side yard; after today, this is all that's left:

All totaled, we pulled 16 stumps, 4 from the front porch..

..and 12 from the side lawn. 11 of them were pulled yesterday and dad and Jack drove them to the green dump before it closed. The dump is only open Saturdays and Wednesdays, though, so the remaining five stumps are still in the side yard for another couple of weeks until dad can come back with the truck.

The side yard bushes were quite old - we counted 22 rings on one of the single trunk stumps - and most of them had really large and entangled root balls:

Dad had some 60 year old logging chain that just barely survived - several links snapped throughout the weekend, but the resulting chain was always still long enough to continue working - and we uncovered two ground hornet nests in the process, but I think at least the "major" excavation work is more or less complete.

The weekend dad comes back to take the rest of the stumps to the green dump, we'll also pick up a truckload of free mulch (the green dump composts everything compostable in what they take in and provides free composted dirt and mulch back to the community) to fill in the holes. In the spring, I'll plant a side garden where the bushes used to be, though we're not going to replant in front of the porch. Instead we're going to put out window boxes and plant something that vines - like morning glories - to provide some shade during the summer on the front porch.

In other news, mom was flipping through some of the knitting catalogs that were lying around and decided that she wanted one of the wraps she found in the Patternworks catalog (Panobo, the one on the bottom left). So, she bought the yarn (alpaca and wool - can't wait to work with this stuff!) for me to make it, along with yarn for another project she wants me to make. That started a project planning session where I figured out yarn for a couple more projects (one will be a holiday gift and the other will be another knotwork hoodie for me - Celtic Icon from Inspired Cable Knits).

I'm also toying with some ideas for other holiday gift knitting - I'm sure I can figure out someone to give this to - but I'll have to wait until September to order the yarn for those projects. And you won't see pictures of the holiday gift stuff until after the holidays - can't risk folks seeing what they'll be getting!

21 July 2006

How did it get to be Friday?

This week has flown. Seriously. I have no idea what happened to all the time, especially the time I thought I had to dig into some seriously interesting and engaging data. It's Friday and I'm just starting to dig into some serious and still interesting, but less engaging data that I was s'posed to have finished yesterday. The seriously interesting and engaging data is going to have to wait until Monday. How did that happen?

In an effort to regain perspective, as I was reading my blog roll, it seems today is pie day. Both of these women have my admiration - for different but similar reasons.

Marcia is, like me, a soshul werker (spelling intentionally mangled), but unlike me, she's a clinical soshul werker. Having peered through the open door that is clinical practice, I know the dedication and committment it takes to pull it off. It's heart-wrenching and full of utter dispair. It's fraught with human failure - both yours and those you're trying to help. It also has it's very bright moments of triumph that make it worth it. But in the end, I knew (and still know) that I don't have What It Takes(tm) to make it as a clinical soshul werker and to witness the strength, humility and humor that Marcia has is, for me, both inspiring and reaffirming.

Stephanie is without a doubt an amazing writing and an even more impressive woman. Today's post, though, could be applied to just about any one of us who find ourselves in the lucky position of doing a job we love, and seem to be able to pull off effortlessly. I could try to make some poetic comparison about unraveling the thread, the story, the context of a data set, but I think I've done that before and as much as I'm feeling calmed by the reminder, I'm also not feeling terribly prosaic at the moment. But I do wonder just how effortless a morning spent man-handling a database into the shape I need it only to discover that it's fundamentally flawed is supposed to have been. Like Stephanie, those three hours have been lost and there's limited time available to carve out another three hours to get things where they should be now.

Maybe next week will go more slowly. *sigh*

16 July 2006

Some progress.

There was, in fact, some progress Saturday, as planned.

  • I went to Home Depot and after waiting over 20 minutes for someone to come help me cut the PVC, was assisted by a very nice and terribly helpful man who was officially off the clock but knew that someone hadn't come in which had left the plumbing area short-staffed and he wasn't sure if anyone who knew how to use the PVC saw thing was there, but what did I need? When I explained that I just needed to cut some 1/2 inch PVC (actually, I got Pex in the end because I didn't need 10 feet and the Pex came in 5 foot sections), he showed me a nifty little ratcheting cutting tool that was all of $10.99. I figured it was likely that we might at some point in the future (like when we redo the upstairs bathroom) want a handy little PVC cutting tool, so I got it and my Pex and some joints and couplers and left.
  • When I got home, I cut the Pex into two approximately 9-inch pieces for the center pipe and four approximately 6-inch pieces for the arms. The reason the center pipe is in two pieces is so I can take out one piece and make sampler skeins (which is what I did with the cochineal singles at Artisans Row and is likely what I'd opt to do with any very thin yarn in the future). I decided that the smaller center pipe also wanted smaller arms and since I had some Pex left over, I cut four 3-inch pieces for an additional set of arms.

  • I tested out the longer center pipe with the shorter arms (which is likely how I'll end up using it most of the time - the Pex is just enough more flexible than PVC to make the longer arms a little too bendy) on some of the singles from the lovely roving mamacate sent me as my last Secret Pal package last summer.

  • I then started up the kettle - because the whole reason for going with PVC is because Pixel told me I could steam the yarn to set the twist while it was still on the niddy noddy with a PVC one, but not with a wood one - even though it was pushing 100 degrees. The result was beautifully set yarn that I can't wait to knit with. Now I just need to spin the rest up and see how much I have to figure out what I can make. *bounce*

  • While I was setting twist, I also soaked and hung the cochineal merino singles and am rather pleased with the result. The merino fuzzed a bit, but really just to bloom a little (not to felt), so I think it will be quite lovely and warm when knitted up.

  • While I was waiting for the singles to dry, I started spinning the other ball of cochineal roving from Carol. It's still spinning at near lace weight, though the humidity made the yarn "sticky" and I had to stop before I wanted to because it was annoying me.
  • I also managed to get some stuff like squash (I've been craving spaghetti squash for some time now, but Jack doesn't eat veggies, so I tend not to get it often; he's out of town this weekend, though, so I took advantage of not having to make a "real dinner" to get me some squash) and some other lunch-type stuff made up and put in the freezer.
What I did not manage to accomplish was driving the motorcycle & classic car rally route we planned Thursday. I tried, though. I got through the first 30 miles before I hit road construction that has *completely* closed one of the roads we had planned on using, with no detour sign in sight. I took a stab at improvising a detour, but the "replacement" road stops being paved after about 2 miles and gravel and lots of motorcycles does not a happy rally ride make. Since roads are sort of few and far between in that part of the countyo rather than try to clock the rest of the route, I came home to try to find an alternate that would just require changing that part of the route, but I think we're going to end up changing at least half the route to re-route around the construction. At least we have a month and change to figure this out still.

Sunday has so far also been productive, but while I've continued to work on spinning, I've also been making some progress on stripping the woodwork in the dining room. The door into the kitchen is finished from the dining room side (the kitchen side has lots of layers of paint that we'll use a heat gun on) and the arch into the living room has been started. The arch is pr'bly the best place to see the difference between the stripped and unstripped wood:

14 July 2006

Dateline: October 20, 2006

So.. I found out today at a meeting at central offices (2.5 hour drive; left last night to drive out there after the Board meeting* and was home 24.5 hours later) that we have another meeting at central offices on this project scheduled for October 20.

This is not as bad as I originally thought. I originally thought it sucked because I thought I had to be in Ironwood, MI by 8 a.m. on the 21st. Turns out I was misremembering, though. I have to be in Ironwood, MI by 8 a.m. on the 14th. I only might have to be in Northfield, MN sometime on the 21st, and then only if I decide that I am feeling like I want to teach and/or do office hours for Clerk of the Roster. This is not so bad.

*We had quorum! Yea! We actually did better than quorum! We had all but one of us there. And we voted to accept a new board member. Yea! And we did some much needed planning for our upcoming motorcycle and classic car rally (August 19). Tomorrow I will go drive the rally route we planned yesterday. It's about 150 miles, but it will be a good excuse to spend 3 or so hours in the car in the air conditioning.

11 July 2006

L is for..

Lilies! These specifically are the Asian lilies that grow near our gas meter. I don't recall them blooming last year, and have been trying to patiently wait for them to bloom this year. The buds first appears many weeks ago and I've watched them grow and lengthen, but show no apparent signs that they would actually open. As my trip to DC grew imminent, I was afraid I would miss them altogether and that they would bloom while I was away. I'm ecstatic that they decided to open a few days before I left.

I'm similarly pleased that the orange/tiger lilies I got from a friend who was digging them up this past spring are blooming. Jack has a preference for orange lilies and these now border the front of the garden by the porch where he's most likely to actually see them.

Of course, there are other things blooming in my oh-so-well-planned (but not by me!) garden:

These hollyhock are back in the rose bushes by the garage. I'm told hollyhock are biennial, and I seem to remember that last year we had dark purple. They're a beautiful splash of color now that the roses are through.

Most of the phlox is still pre-bloom, but this patch is quite lovely. There's a vining something that's threatening to consume one of the phlox plants toward the back of this patch, but at the moment it has a lovely red trumpet-like flower so I'm letting it live. I'll have to look it up to figure out what it might be.

L is also for "lace-weight", as in the singles that I spun from the cochineal-dyed roving from Carol.

The blue strand across the skeins is KnitPicks Gossamer for reference. I'm quite happy with how consistently I managed to spin it, especially given how fine it seemed to want to be spun. I'm still learning how to dictate the weight or thickness of my spinning, so this is just the weight that this yarn seemed to want to be. *shrug* I have another ball of roving like this to spin and then I need to figure out what the make with it. I think I'm going to set the twist in the singles and work from there. Since it was dyed with period dyes and hand spun, I'm trying to figure out something period to make from it that could be donated to an auction or fundraiser.

L is also for lace socks, this time out of alpaca and silk:

They're quite lovely and soft, but since I tend not to wear socks in the summer, they may have to wait until fall to get worn and shown off.

If I really want to stretch this, I s'pose L could also be for "lack of bushes". The first weekend I was away in DC, Jack, my dad and Derek (our nephew) cut down lots and lots of old, ugly, overgrown evergreen bushes along the side and front of our house. I don't have a really good before and after shot of the porch, but here's the side yard, before and after:

They didn't have time to dig out the stumps, so dad's planning to come back down in a week and a half to start that process. It will be made a bit trickier by the fact that our electric runs just to the outside of the line of stumps - about three or four feet out from the base of the stumps, but who knows how close to the roots. You can see the red flags in the "before" picture - that's the electric line. We'll need to have them flag again before we dig, and we're planning to just cut the roots off instead of actually trying to dig them all out, but it still makes me a little nervous.

I'm going to need to figure out what to put there, too, since we're not planning to re-sod in that area (the evergreen bushes apparently make the soil very acidic and we've been warned not to try to grow grass in that space for a few years). I also foresee a trip to the local green dump to pick up lots and lots of composted soil to fill in the holes.

02 July 2006

Good morning, America; how are you?

One of my favorite leftie bloggers, Respectful of Otters, is back after a short hiatus. Today's post on changes to Medicaid documentation policy is an excellent example of why I love this blog.

On some levels, Rivka and I share a lot of interests in common, but in so many others, she's an inspiration and in many ways a role model. She's real, for one; her writing is rarely simply rhetoric or posturing, but explanation and analysis of an issue as it effects real people, often the poor and/or homeless. She's compassionate without being weepy and passionate without being trite. She's strong in ways that most of us will never be tested, but instead of resting on her ego, she uses her strength to shine light on those issues effecting people who've been made weak by society.

I'm clearly tired, so I'll stop trying to be eloquent. I encourage you to go read what she has to say.