JAPANESE MAPLE: CEE’S FLOWER OF THE DAY IS A LEAF – Marilyn Armstrong

Japanese Maple – FOTD – 05/24/19

We had a couple of truly lovely days, so I took some pictures. I should have taken more pictures, but for at least a part of the day, I was helping trim the garden. We have a ground cover that has taken over the fence to the degree that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to open or close the gate.

And the Japanese maple looks so lovely in the sunshine and since we raised it from when it was a seedling, I’m proud of how beautiful it has become.

I love the shape of the leaves!
Sunlight on green leaves

NARCISSUS BY THE WOODS – Marilyn Armstrong

Narcissus – FOTD – 05/21/19

These flowers used to grow on the other side of the driveway. In the garden, in a grouping with the daffodils. I don’t know how they wound up on the opposite side of the tarmac.

Wind? Birds? Bees? The driveway is too wide for any kind of natural spreading, so something moved them.

I was really surprised to see them. I thought they had died. I thought a lot of things had died. Some things did.

The old Rhododendrons died, but new ones popped up and are blooming. We have to cut down the dead ones and are planning to on Wednesday. We also need to cut down the Holly which isn’t a bush and has become more of a  tree. A big, bushy tree.

We have about a thousand baby-sized maple trees trying to grow. And we have too many signs that the Gypsy moth caterpillars have come back.

NOW we need rain and a lot of it.  Maybe a solid week of rain would kill them before they get their tiny fangs into our trees.

It’s the only thing that will stop them. I get totally depressed even thinking about them. The last time they showed up, I hid in the house for weeks while they killed off all our trees. I’m trying to not see it, pretending it isn’t happening, but I’m terribly afraid that it is. And this time, I simply can’t afford to bring in the spraying people.

No money.

The irony of this is that these caterpillars BLEW HERE FROM A CITY MORE THAN 50  MILES AWAY. All that windy weather? It brought the monstrous bugs back. Again.

I’m not thinking about it because maybe it won’t happen. Talk about positive thinking, I actually think I’m more afraid of the caterpillars than Trump. That’s serious fear.

AMERICANS DON’T PICK COTTON – Marilyn Armstrong

Photography: Garry and Marilyn Armstrong

You really get a feel for rivers when you live in a regional watershed. The Blackstone and its tributaries flow down from the Worcester hills at the northern part of the state.

The Blackstone is not a wide river. Not like the Mississippi or even the Hudson. It’s a relatively narrow river that drops about 900 feet from its beginnings. It does a lot of twisting and turning, making it much more powerful than its size would suggest.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

It concludes its nearly 50-mile run as it flows into the sea down around Newport, Rhode Island. All the dams were built to power factories and mills, which is why every town in the valley is called “mill” something — or has the name of one of the mill owners.

Early greenery along the river in Rhode Island

Uxbridge is unique. We are named after Uxbridge in England. That’s our twin town, though it’s nothing like our Uxbridge. England’s Uxbridge is an affluent suburb of London. We’re not an affluent anything.

Spring by the Mumford Dam – Photo: Garry Armstrong

The problem with the dams is they block the river and make it hard for wildlife to move up and down the river and many people want to get rid of the dams.

Because this region was the “birthplace” of America’s industrial revolution (1788), most of the earth used to build the dams is hazardous. It’s amazing how much pollution we created in the good old days, before the chemical revolution. We made things every bit as poisonous as we do today.

Spring, downtown Uxbridge

So although they would like to release the dams, they can’t. That hazardous dirt would poison the river. The 45 years we’ve spent cleaning up one of the most polluted rivers in the world (as of the 1970s) would be undone. Instantly.

The train doesn’t stop here anymore – Photo: Garry Armstrong

We are — in 2019 — more or less the poor cousin to other towns in New England, but once upon a time, this was the most prosperous area in the country. Uxbridge had a population and stuff like trains, buses, and businesses.

In the early 1900s, mill owners decided they weren’t rich enough. So they moved down south to where cotton grew and where people worked cheap. By the 1920s, they had closed all the factories in New England.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

The south got the mills, the dams, and the pollution. Then, they realized they were rich, but not rich enough, so they said “Screw the USA” and moved the mills to the far east where people were willing to work for pennies, including children as young as four or five.

Suddenly, all the modestly priced cotton sheets we used to buy became expensive. Between moving the mills and fabric factories to another continent, they simultaneously realized it was also cheaper to buy the cotton there, too. Like, from India, Pakistan, Israel, and places in North Africa.

So it was and so it has remained.

Roaring Dam: Photo: Garry Armstrong

It’s why you can’t find decent percale sheets anymore. The cotton they grow overseas is different than the cotton we grew. It’s finer and silkier, but not as strong or crisp.

To finish us off, we then banned immigrants from picking crops. The idea was that Americans would pick cotton once those brown-colored foreigners were gone. Instead, it turned out that no American of any color, race, or creed will pick cotton. The professional pickers are gone and so are the farms where cotton grew.

Bridge over the Blackstone River

Americans will not pick cotton. Not only do we not do the job well, but we refuse to do it at all. Today’s Americans do not pick cotton. Not white, brown, black or any shade in between. We would rather starve.

John Grisham wrote a book about growing up in the south and picking cotton called “The Painted House.” It’s his little autobiography about before he became a lawyer, then an author. It’s enlightening.

Early autumn at Manchaug

David Baldacci has written something along the same lines about his native West Virginia and how it has been completely destroyed, its people uprooted and ruined. These lawyer-writers are interesting guys. They are more than lawyers, more than writers. They are thinkers.

These southern authors come in two varieties: racist and incredibly liberal.

Guess which ones I read?

SPRING AND CACTUS FLOWERS – Marilyn Armstrong

Fresh forest leaves, a Chickadee, and cactus flowers – 05/12/19

Usually, I limit these posts to actual flowers, but it was such a glorious, lovely, warm, bright day and all the new leaves in the woods look like flowers. Even the birds look like flowers.

A flyaway Chickadee

We intended to go take pictures, but we wound up cleaning the house, which badly needed it. I had to clear the dead leaves off the deck and also clear off at least some of the millions of seeds. Then there was vacuuming and floor washing and sofa cover changing, and the vacuum cleaner bag exploded.

You know. A lovely weekend day at home.

I also have a little bird story.

Very red cactus flower

Yesterday I was in the bathroom about to do something I felt was somewhat urgent, but I made the mistake of looking out the window. “Holy Moly!” I cried. There was a Pileated Woodpecker on the flat-feeder. That’s the really big woodpecker who looks just like  Woody Woodpecker. He has a hammer-shaped head with a huge, heavy beak.  He’s a big guy, too. About as big as a medium-sized hawk.

My azalea

That beak that can break through a chunk of live oak in search of a bug and they have no objection to whacking some other bird over the head if he or she gets in the way.

So the Pileated Woodpecker who I have seen before, but never gotten a picture of him, was right there. There were also about a dozen Brown-headed Cowbirds lined up on the railing, waiting for him to leave. One Cowbird (they aren’t afraid of anything, probably because following herds of buffalo had its own perils) jumped up on the feeder and without a second thought, Mr. Pileated Woodpeckeder bonked him on the head.

Cowbird returned to the railing. Brave, but not stupid.

A crowd of cowbirds

I ran to the dining room, grabbed my camera, turned it on. And, of course, the woodpecker was gone. Vamoose.

Meanwhile, the cowbirds were jumping onto the feeder. I guess they felt they’d waited long enough.

Baby leaves

Me? I sighed, turned off the camera and went back to the bathroom. I’m getting used the disappearing act. So is Garry. He can’t understand how they completely vanish in literally the blink of an eye. But they do. Kind of amazing in a frustrating way.

Baby oak leaves and a very blue sky

So today, I took pictures. Mostly of plants and trees because they do not disappear. They sit still, roots firmly in the ground or in their pots. They let me take their pictures and do not fly away while I turn on the camera.

SPELL CHECKING AND WORDPRESS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Semantics

It’s just a matter of semantics.

Since they got back to me from WordPress to tell me they had fixed the “Settings” function in the Reader “Manage” area, I said, “Thank you very much.” After all, they fixed it in one day. It’s a miracle!

Then I said a lot of people were really upset about the removal of the spell checker.

What they said is that almost everyone “up there” uses the free version of Grammarly (I have been using it for a while, too) — and that all browsers include free spell checkers with the browser. Of course, they seem to be unaware that if you are using an iPad or a phone, there might not BE a spell checker in there, but that was their explanation.

A lot of water pouring over the Mumford Dam right now. Another picture to keep us from losing it.

If you are on any browser, from Safari to Windows to Opera — any of them — all have spell checkers, usually somewhere in the “Language” section of the settings. My Google checker only works sporadically, possibly because when Grammarly is working, it decides to not bother. What I did count on from the WordPress spellchecker was for typos — sort of the “last outpost” before publishing.

I suppose this is truly a  matter of semantics since all spell checkers are free, assuming you are working with some standard browser. I don’t think Grammarly works on a phone, by the way (I could be wrong), but there is probably something that does work.

Spring comes to the Blackstone Valley. It has nothing to do with spelling or checking, but it’s pretty and I thought we needed a few moments of pretty.

My real objection is that they do this stuff without ever consulting their customers — us — or even sending a note to tell us about the changes they have made so we don’t get ambushed.

There are a lot of people who want the spell checker back. It’s an open issue, but I don’t know if they are going to do it or not. I see their point, which is valid, but stupid because really, how much extra work was it to just leave the spell checker there? Not everyone is equally good at dealing with browser settings. In fact, many people aren’t entirely clear that there ARE browser settings.

Snowballs and the Mumford dam in “downtown Uxbridge.”

They do have an explanation in their huge folders full of information about WordPress. The problem is that although these explanations are good, many of them are old and based on everything from XP to Windows 10 and various versions of Safari and Android built in there too. It can be difficult to figure out which of these many choices is what you need for your equipment.

Since I already use Grammarly and I upgraded (still free, but with a few extra perks to include awkward grammar). The grammatical fixes both aggravate me and yet can also improve the phrase, so I never know whether I’m going to be annoyed or pleased.

Semantics indeed!

The little footbridge in the merry month of May by the dam on the Mumford

Anyway, Grammarly is free and it does handle punctuation better than spell checkers. We tend to be sloppy about punctuation, especially online. I know I use a lot of dots and dashes rather than correct punctuation. You can turn that part of it off. Actually, I had to make a separate installation to make that piece work  and it is called “Ginger.” Also free.

However, the simplistic WordPress version is gone. Maybe they will put it back, maybe not. But it was intentionally removed.

The little canal along the Mumford

Wouldn’t it have been a nice touch to tell us? Not just do it, but inform us what’s going on?

Spelling isn’t usually the problem anyway. Most of us can spell reasonably well and can look it up in Google if we can’t. The problem is typos and repetitive statements from too much cutting and pasting — and leaving pieces behind.

So that’s it, kids.

We were ambushed. Again. But at least they fixed those settings and we urgently needed that particular fix.

WEDNESDAY’S BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

We’ve got funeral in Boston today and Garry needs to speak. This was not only one of his colleagues but a friend to both of us. I will miss Tom Ellis. We will both miss him very much.

This also means that we have to be there early and probably won’t be back until late. And considering Boston traffic, it might be even later than I think. It’s one of the reasons we so rarely go into Boston … but this is one we cannot miss.

So enjoy the birds. They are beautiful and they remind us of peace.

A pair of doves
Two Tufted Titmouses
Two Tufted Titmouses
A pair of Chipping Sparrows
Looking down Dove
Two finches and a chickadee
One little Goldfinch
Titmouse in the air and Chickadee on the feeder
One more Goldfinch
Diving Chickadee
A couple of Cowbirds

ONE OF THE DAYS DURING ONE OF THOSE WEEKS – Marilyn Armstrong

Every time I think I’ve got things under control, I am reminded I don’t. This was the week a couple of simple things were supposed to happen. One of them was that Owen was going to install my new faucet for the kitchen sink. He found the basin tool so when he showed up to do it, he was psyched. We had already taken all that stuff out from under the sink.

When Owen got down there and looked at it, he came back up.

“You need,” he said, “A plumber.”

All the stuff that was under the sink. And the Duke.

He showed me why. Every fitting and pipe was covered with rust and that crusty green stuff. Everything that was supposed to turn was grafted into place. When we had last taken stuff out from under the sink,  it hadn’t looked bad, so what had happened? It was dry. No pools of water. We had a leak, but the leak was on the faucet itself and flowed into the sink.

I sighed. Owen gave me the name of his plumber, said the guy was honest and reasonably priced — something you don’t usually hear about plumbers. I brooded about money for a while, but ultimately, there wasn’t any choice. We needed a plumber.

Under the sink …

And so, I called the plumber and he came. It turns out there were leaks all along the old pipes. Very tiny leaks … just big enough to corrode everything.

He replaced all the valves and the copper pipes from the basement to the kitchen and bathroom and installed the faucet. $365 later, we had shiny new pipes and each worked like it was supposed to. I’m not sure they were working this well when we bought the house 19 years ago.

I wrote a check, sighing even more heavily.  At least I hadn’t yet started the work on the chimney, mainly because it was raining every day. You can’t mortar in the rain. Not to mention the cold and the wind.

New faucet!

Then there was the remote control that makes our bed go up and down. The bed is 15 years old. I discovered this by removing the innards of the remote and reading the label which clearly said 2004.

Fifteen years.

But for all fifteen years, the bed has worked flawlessly. It came with a lifetime guarantee, too … except that the company that made it went out of business three years ago, leaving a lot of distraught bed owners of which I am one. I knew that one day, something would happen.

Every other time something happened, I rebooted the bed. It’s just like rebooting a computer. Unplug it. Count to 30, slowly. Then add another 10 — to be sure. Plug it back in. Voila! It’s fixed.

Springtime in Uxbridge

For some reason, the idea of rebooting the bed always makes me laugh.

If that didn’t work, the remote needed new batteries. Which made me realize that we are — again — out of AAA batteries. Everything used to be AAs, but now everything is AAA. I ordered more rechargeables as well as a set of regular lithiums because sometimes, rechargeables don’t work. Don’t ask me why. I do not know.

I changed the batteries in the remote. The bed still didn’t move.

I hauled the mattress sideways so I could wriggle behind it to unplug and re-plug the bed again. That didn’t seem to work. I figured the remote wasn’t doing its thing, so I went looking for a replacement remote. Amazon had one and the remote they showed in the advertisement was identical to the one I was holding in my hand. A new version of it would cost $120 — a lot of money for a remote, but a lot cheaper than replacing the bed.

The day after the plumber left, the remote arrived. I took my last four recharged AAA batteries and put them in the remote. I unplugged the bed and then plugged it in again– after hauling the mattress off the bed and feeling the muscles in my shoulders go rigid.

The remote didn’t show any sign of life. Forget about whether it made the bed move. It didn’t light up when a button was pressed. It was broken.

I called the number printed on the back of the remote. They said I needed to push the light on the black brick-shaped thingie under the bed.  There was no black brick-shaped thingie under the bed or at least, I couldn’t see one.

Our bed is really heavy. Garry and I together couldn’t move it. I’m pretty sure that Garry, me, Owen and a couple of other people couldn’t move it either. It’s all wood and the “engine” is steel. The mattress weighs 100 pounds. At least.

It turns out this was the right remote, but it was broken. But, it turned out that there were a lot of models of this bed. Mine was an early model — one of only TWO models that would not work with this remote. Not to fear, they would sell me one that would work — for a less than half the price of the one I’d bought from Amazon. I could return the broken one.

So I ordered another remote, put in for a replacement for the remote from Amazon … and just on a whim, I took the newly charged batteries and put them back in the OLD remote.

The bed worked. Perfectly. I considered banging my head against the wall, but I was too tired.

Garry said it was a miracle.

I think I’ll turn the heat down and go to bed. It has been a long week.