I finally nudged my Christmas cactus to blooming in March. Now, I’m pleased to announce — I did it again!
We had crocuses. I saw them between snows. But it’s cold and snowing again, so I’m not optimistic about their survival. And anyway, their time is just about over. Thus, I am happy to have a bouquet. At least there are colors in it.
Flowers from my birthday bouquet. Or, more to the point … the end of my flowers. The golden-yellow flowers are astroemeria (Thank you Judy!)
And of course the blue ones are daisies. The green is eucalyptus and if you take it out of the water, it dries out and you can store it more or less forever.
All that drenching rain came pouring out of the skies — and it wasn’t the first time in the past couple of weeks, either. What had remained of grass in the front of the house was just dried or almost dried mud. When these rains came, it washed the mud down from the upper lawn and turned the sidewalk into a mess of oozy brown mud.
It’s pretty awful out there. Drying out as we speak, but what to do?
Between two old and broken backs and arthritis crawling into every part of two skeletons, it’s hard to figure how we will get it cleaned up. It’s not like the dogs … who think layers of dirt are just fine, thank you … are likely to help. Right now, the yard is exactly the way they like it. There are fallen branches and twigs everywhere plus all the leaves that fell after last fall’s cleanup.
Our leaves are a three-stage process. During the early Autumn days, the maple leaves fall first. As soon as the color fades, they come down like rain into giant leafy drifts. Owen usually cleans them up. He has a machine to do that and it helps.
The next wave of falling leaves consist of half the oaks, as well as the sassafras, any remaining maples, and the few other deciduous trees such as the Catalpa. Owen gets them, too, or most of them. There are always a few which are missed.
Finally, there are the leaves we don’t collect because they hang on the limbs until winter. Some don’t fall until the following spring. The last, late oak leaves don’t drop until late November or December. No one cleans them up because there is usually snow on the ground by then. There are — I don’t think this is much of an exaggeration — millions of leaves every autumn. Anyone who wanted to live in a woods and thought it would be romantic was right — except that living in a woods gets complicated and often messy.
You can’t leave the sodden leaves rotting against your house because it’s unhealthy for the house. It keeps your foundation damp. Damp foundations are unhappy foundations.
The bed of leaves remaining in what we humorously call “the garden” goes to insulate flowers (and weeds) from the bitter cold. We certainly had a bitterly cold winter. January was one of the coldest months on record. It was so cold, we didn’t get nearly as much snow as usual because when it’s that cold, the air is too dry to make snow.
But then, we moved abruptly — in a matter of hours — from well below freezing into the extremely springlike, mild temperatures. All of February was punctuated by a couple of warm days followed by a couple of bitter days. A bit of snow, a bit more snow, more melting … and deluges of rain.
It’s a mess around here and I feel I should shut up about it because however much of a mess we have got, a lot of other people have a lot worse with which to contend. We didn’t lose any trees. Our roof is intact. No cars or people were crushed. We have some small branches and a million twigs everywhere, but no larger life-threatening limbs fell. Something of a minor miracle considering what might well have occurred.
These are the times when being old is a significant deficit. If we had even a little more money — we got whacked last year by the door replacement (Thanks Bob, for the help or we’d never have made it!), the exploded hot water heater (third times the charm?) and adding a stair climber to the steps from the front door to the living room. But to use the climber requires a viable walkway from driveway to door … and right now, we don’t have one. Fortunately, I can still lumber my way up the extra steps from the basement. I notice that Garry is beginning to have trouble with the steps too, these days.
The great truth is we are not getting younger. Garry is in good shape for a man turning 76, but he is turning 76. He was never handy around the house. That is a kind way of saying that he has never had either interest or aptitude for house stuff. For years, Owen took care of it, but Owen moved out and doesn’t have nearly enough time to take care of it … and Owen himself is eligible for AARP. How time flies!
Withe the failure of our government to support older people both in health care and generally in keeping them from falling below the poverty line, hiring others to do the work isn’t really in the cards. We got a 2% raise in Social Security last year — less than $5 per month per check and of course retirement funds never go up, so whatever you got last year, any inflation means you are that percentage poorer. It is fortunate we don’t eat a lot.
Meanwhile, I’d like about two weeks of a strong young handy-person to help straighten up the mess. I thought I had one, but he seems to have vanished. It’s possible poverty forced him to look for a better deal elsewhere.
In the midst of the deluge and hurricane winds of yesterday, the builder came by to look at the problems we are having. We have a window that has sagged and is under the vinyl, obviously rotted out. It will need to be replaced. Whether or not it’s just the window that need replacing or the wall around it also need replacing remains to be seen. Regardless, it has to be fixed. There’s no alternative. We cannot easily extract ourselves from this house. We can’t “keep it up” the way it should be and that saddens me … but we can at least make our best effort to keep it from falling down.
It’s not the “what” of the mess with which we deal. It’s the “how” that’s killing us. Now, I have to call my son and find out where the faucet is in the front of the house. I think it’s buried in leaves near the front door. I hope it is!
Nothing look more other-worldly to me than the desert. Even when I am there, it all seems unreal to me.
From the huge blue dome of the sky, to the rocky ground and the strange trees and cactus, it is another world.
The bloom is finally ending. I watered it, which was probably a mistake. I think the water finished it off. WHEN will I learn? So these will be the last of this year’s flowers.
This was a fantastic blooming. This little flowering plant doesn’t owe me anything! It did great.
I must admit, this is the most amazing bloom I’ve ever gotten from any of my cacti. Not only are there a lot of flowers — new flowers replacing earlier flowers — but the flowering is lasting a long time.
This morning, while I was fixing my coffee and toast, I realized there was sunshine in the dining room. For the first time in weeks, the cacti were brightly lit. I was torn. Eat my warm toast –or take pictures of flowers.
Of course I took the pictures because you can make toast any time, but sunlight on flowers is a brief moment. Later, my toast was cold but the pictures came out great. All that bright sunlight let me get some use out of my macro lens.
Macros are such weird lenses. They either do amazing, fantastic work … or they make you crazy with frustration. This was one of the good days. I used a different kinds of processing to catch both the colors and the complexity of the blooms.
I’m pleased with these effects. For the first time, I created the effects I wanted. Not from scratch — I’m not that talented. I found basic designs I liked, but weren’t quite “it.” The originals were in black & white. I wanted color in a graphic sketch style using more detail, color, more texture to created a painted graphics image. Sort of.
I worked from two designs — an HDR-Micro format in which I loved the design but hated the colors –and another using a black & white graphics sketch that needed more contrast, color, and texture.
Then I saved my effects and released them to Topaz. I have been creating these or similar effects for a while, but I never saved them. Each time I wanted to use them, I had to reproduce them.
It finally occurred to me that I was wasting a lot of time creating the same things repeatedly when I could save them and add them to the studio. I had not realized I could release them so everyone can use them. That was a nice touch.
All of these oddballs are effects I originated based on models from Topaz.
What am I trying to do? Glad you asked. I’ve been trying to create a “magazine cover” graphic design. I want it to look like old copies of Look (think Norman Rockwell) or maybe The New Yorker. I’m not there yet, but that’s the goal.