Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Grate Adventure

In keeping with the old adage, 'You get like the people you live with', I have found myself picking up on Carl's habit of reusing and repurposing found items we come across. 
One of our original tree grates
Last month I stumbled across a Craigslist ad:

Tree grates for sale, four sets.   One is broken.  See picture. 

Oh, I was excited!  They were the same pattern as the grates we have on the entrance to the driveway, but just a foot smaller and best of all, they were in Green Bay somewhere.  

I immediately sent an email to the seller.  'Hello, I'm interested in the tree grates you have for sale.   When would be a good time for me to view them?'

I checked my email the next day and the next.  A week went by, no reply. Going back over to Craigslist, I saw the ad had been taken down.  Drat.  They must have been sold already.  Oh, well.   Better luck next time. 
Side profile of our bigger grates.   I love circles in the garden and in designs.  I'm weird.

A few weeks went by and then this message showed up in my email:  "Hello, are you still interested in the grates?"

"Yes, I am still interested.  When would be a good time to take a look at them?" 

Three days went by, no reply.  Ok, well, apparently they'd been sold?  I didn't know what to think.  I had no idea of an address or contact name.  I waited a week and sent the same message again.  No reply.

After a few more days, I tried one last time, "Hello, I am still interested in the grates.  Are they available?"

Almost instantaneously, a return reply, "Yes."

I waited for a bit for an address or phone number, but again, nothing, so my next email was, "Where are you located so I can come and take a look at them?"

Within seconds, a hotlink to an address appeared in my email.

Ok, good, now we're getting somewhere.  

"Do you know when you would be coming to see the grates?  I'll have someone here to show them to you if you give me a time," was the next message.

It turns out the grates were located at a business that closed every day at 3PM.  I set up a time on Friday after Carl was done with work at noon.  

Imagine my surprise when I checked Craigslist on Tuesday and saw the same ad up again.  I was really confused and a bit nervous, I'd finally gotten in contact with the seller on Monday and our appointment to see the grates wasn't until Friday, so with our luck they'd be sold out from under us, but there was no helping it.  We'd have to take a chance. 
Still our original pair; ok, I know, not to everyone's taste, but I love them.

I Googled the address and discovered the location was a construction business.  We made plans for me to take the Pontiac and trailer into town and meet Carl after work to (hopefully) haul our purchases home.

Friday morning came and I checked Craigslist again.  The grates were still listed, so I grabbed the car keys and headed off to Carl's workplace.  We drove across town and arrived right on time.  A friendly receptionist led us through the shop and out to the yard and there they were on a pallet, four sets of tree grates.  Carl and one of the employees carefully handled each one checking for any more breaks.  The grates are heavy, over two hundred pounds a piece, so it took some time to inspect all of them.  Satisfied that only one of the four was broken, I asked if the price was negotiable and after the receptionist checked with her supervisor, a slightly lower price was agreed upon. 
This was the broken section.  Not too bad.

Carl went to get the trailer and start loading and I went back into the office with the receptionist to pay the bill.   All was going smoothly until I produced my personal check.  

(Yes, I know what you're thinking, we pay money for a bunch of rusty metal things?  Am I truly insane?  Yes.  But every year we buy one goofy thing for the yard in honor of our anniversary, birthday and Christmas all rolled into one.  Divide it by two people and three holidays, and heck, it's not so much money.  Hey, I'll justify it any way I can.)

So there I was, this close to owning the tree grates, when the receptionist said she could not take a personal check unless she calls my bank to verify the funds are present.  I told her that would be fine, but my bank didn't answer the phone.  She tried calling a different branch, but they would not verify funds over the phone at all, even if I gave permission to do so.  

Drat, again.  So close, yet so far.  

I was thinking I may as well saunter back out to the lot and tell Carl to unload them again when the supervisor came into the office.  The receptionist asked him if she should take my check.

He looked at my check and then looked at me.  "Is it good?"

I looked back at him and said, "It certainly is."

"I see your address; it's not far from here....well, if you're sure this check will clear the bank, alright, I guess we can accept it," he said, still eyeballing me sternly.  

I thanked them for the transaction and went out the door, helped Carl tie down the load and off we went.  (The check wasn't cashed for three days, I was really quite surprised they didn't do it sooner, and yes, the funds were available.)

We had to take the car and trailer back to Carl's workplace and pick up his car and I proudly drove our new garden accoutrements home.  The load was quite heavy, all four sets weighed over a thousand pounds, so I took the backroads and drove slowly.

Once we got them home, Carl's next question was, "Ok, now, what are you going to do with them?"

This is the broken grate, it doesn't look bad from a distance.
I had Carl prop one set up so I could take a look at the size of them. (In the background you can see a whole bunch of other projects waiting in the wings for a bright idea or three...yes, we have more ideas than time.)

There are the rest of them, lying around, awaiting their fate.
Now it's been almost a month since we brought the grates home and my idea has been to add them to the garden entrance to my mother's remembrance garden; one pair in front of the gazebo and the other pair on the exit of the garden.  Carl is not in favor of the idea, but I finagled him into propping one set up where I'd want them to be so we could see if it would work or not.  Carl thinks they would look like cow yard gates for people to walk through, but I don't agree. 

One of the new grates temporarily placed for artistic effect.
 The other idea we had would be to add two of the smaller grates to the ends of the original big grates on the driveway, which may happen, too; they could be slanted in a bit on an angle, but we'll see. 

Trying to picture the two smaller grates on either side of the big one...maybe, maybe not.

Our future plan is to make a square channel iron frame for the grates to hang from.  I know the extra steel frame would really set them off nicely.  But again, we need some spare time which is in short supply.

I like the idea of having the grates placed in the gardens nearby the original driveway pair to have a bit of a repetitive theme, but we'll see.  Some day I hope to add stained glass to the centers, as we did with the scrap stainless sculpture we made a few years back.

I'd probably do a much smaller variation on the big round window we made three years ago:

Maybe just the center part?  (Boy, we'd better find some more spare time.)

 For now, I've got to get the garden put to bed for winter. Plus, we are working on finishing up the other big project of 2017 I'll be writing about soon, so the tree grates will have to wait for a bit. 
 But that's ok, it gives me more time to get Carl used to the idea of where they're going to be placed permanently.  (I think it will grow on him.)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Worry, What is it Good For?

 Absolutely nothing!

The weeks whiz by and I don't accomplish as much as I should.  Here we are in mid-October already; hard to believe.  I'm on the verge of, if not depression, at least a downturn in the optimism department, if that makes any sense.  Anxiety has been gaining the upper hand at times, and I have to work hard to keep it at bay.  

Looking back on my past history, I have always and ever been a worrier.  Worry about this, worry about that, and for what?  I've written about this before, I know, but I still have not reformed. 

 Sometimes I picture a mythical 'Worry Bank'; an imposing, forbidding, dark granite building with bronze doors and a marble staircase to gain entrance; everything about the building is cold and hard, just like the anxiety I deposit in the vault.  Making these deposits doesn't help at all, even if in some perverse way I think stockpiling them will benefit me.  My silly thoughts run along these lines; by worrying about every possible outcome of every possible scenario, I'll be 'covered' and protected from catastrophe somehow.  After fifty-nine years of living, I should know by now, we can never, ever predict the future.

Case in point, the other day I was in the bathroom trying to put my socks on standing up.  Yes, I'm a rebel.  I do this quite often and have never had a problem in the past, but as fate would have it, I lost my balance when I was putting on my left sock.  Tipping over sideways towards the shower, my first instinct was to catch myself on the wall, but I missed the wall completely and hit the shower curtain instead, continuing to fall until my arm hit the far wall of the shower stall.  The side of the bathtub almost took my feet out from under me, but being a tad tall, I won the battle and retained my footing.  
After the flailing ended, I stood up, dusted myself off, and checked for broken body parts.  Thankfully, there were none, not even a bruise, but it could have ended much, much worse.  I was lucky this time.  This was definitely one scenario I had never worried about before; now this could lead to more frenzied 'What If?' worries, but I won't go there.  At least I'm trying not to.  

Ironically, Carl and I met an acquaintance at a meeting this week who rolled up to me on a cart with her leg in a soft cast.   She had  slipped in the shower hitting her head twice in the process.  Being  unable to get up because she has had knee replacements, she would have been in deep trouble, but luckily her husband was home to help her.  Once she was back on her feet, she realized her foot was broken, so off to the hospital for a cast which then caused her to break out in a rash over her entire body, hence the soft walking cast and rolling cart.  


I didn't ask her, but I just bet she never worried about something like this happening to her, either.   

Sometimes I think this is fodder for Stephen King to write horror stories about; there are rarely big, green monsters lurking to nab the unsuspecting; no, it's the small, every day hazards we usually navigate with nary a thought which are really and truly dangerous.  Trip on the stairs, fall in the shower, cut yourself on a broken glass washing dishes; the mundane tasks of living and being on autopilot can be hazardous to your health.

Speaking of health:  I have a followup with my retina specialist this week Friday.  The Thirteenth.  I'm not superstitious, but sigh, really? What was I thinking when I made that appointment?  My eyesight has not diminished as far as I can tell, but the floaters are about the same.  I can live with them, but the macular degeneration possibility he'd mentioned back in June looms like the big, creepy monster in Mr. King's novels, waiting in the dark for an unsuspecting me to bump into.   

I joined an online support group for macular degeneration after the first appointment.  The group is wonderful and has a lot of information, but I found I had to unsubscribe from the feed because I couldn't handle the constant reminder of what is possibly in store for me.  I don't want to bury my head in the sand, but I'm throwing away precious days of fairly good sight in anticipation and dread of losing what I have had up until now.  

Which brings me to another ironic incident: I remember when I was newly married and had mentioned to a rather bitter coworker how close I was to Carl, how we did almost everything together, and how much I loved and depended on him.  She was married, but apparently not happily, and I suppose my rosy picture of marital bliss was wearing on her last nerve.   

"You'd better take a hard look at your life.  What are you going to do if he leaves you for another woman or gets killed in an accident or gets sick and dies?  You should put some distance between you, otherwise you're going to be a hot mess if something happens.  You take my advice, don't stay so close, don't be stupid.  Make a life for yourself. It will hurt like hell when it ends."

All righty, then.

Those words of wisdom were imparted to me almost forty years ago, and what if I'd taken action then?  What if I'd put some distance between us, held my husband at arm's length so I wouldn't get too attached?  Look at the time and love I would have wasted.  Of course, I will be devastated when we have to part, and it could happen at any time, but in the meantime, am I to be an anxious, nervous wreck, trying hard to protect myself from the inevitable pain of losing the love of my life?  

According to quotes I've read over the years, Worry is: the thief of joy, the misuse of the imagination, a wasted emotion, useless.  And paralyzing.  

I don't know how I'll cope if my eyesight does indeed deteriorate or I contract some deadly disease, or if an accident happens and I lose all that I love.  I do not know. 

In the time Mom lived with us, those short months, we had many conversations about death and Heaven.  We had a few ministers come to the house to read her bible passages and she always sat and listened politely.  Mom believed in God, but she was in no hurry to die.  After they left, I asked her if she enjoyed having the bible read to her, and she said, "They are good people.  They mean well."  I know what she meant.  

When faced with her mortality, she wasn't terrified, she was never a worrier, but she was uneasy.  

A few days before she died, she said, "I cannot imagine what heaven must be like, can you?  How big it must be to have all those people there!    Surely it must be full by now, just think of all the people in the world who have died.  And I'm so short, how will I ever see anything when I get there?"

"I don't know, Mom.  But I think Heaven is a vast place, I really do.  Look at the stars at night, there are so many in the sky.  There will be room for you, I just know there will, and you won't be short any more.  You'll be able to see everything."

She smiled. I don't know if it gave her any comfort.  We were just two women staring at the unknown and hoping.  Did I love her any less, and harden my heart because we were to be parted soon?  No.  Mom lived her life one day at a time.  She always made the best of everything, good and bad.  I do believe that is how she lived to be ninety-six years old; she refused to be stressed by things she could not control.  She did the work in front of her and even when her eyesight failed, did the best she could with what she had left, painting pinecones mere hours before she passed away.

Mom lived her life.  

I saw this quote and had to admit how much this sounds like me:

“People get so in the habit of worry that if you save them from drowning and put them on a bank to dry in the sun with hot chocolate and muffins they wonder whether they are catching a cold.”
– John Jay Chapman

How true!  

 “The reason why worry kills more people than work is that more people worry than work.” – Robert Frost

 Ok, enough worrying.  Now I'm off to work!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Cooler Heads Prevail

And all other body parts too!

Hurray!  Much more seasonal Wisconsin weather has arrived.

'Queen Red Lime' Zinnia and a butterfly for your viewing enjoyment.

Though I still will keep on the lookout for wasps, I feel more at ease working in the garden again.  

Why can't all my winged visitors be beautiful?  (And not sting me.)
The hot weather did come in handy for some things, though.  This past weekend found me yanking down all the curtains and tablecloths in the house and stuffing them into my Maytag wringer washer for a good bath followed by sunbathing on the washlines.  In just a few hours, they were ready to rehang again, all fresh and clean.  

Ain't she a beauty?  I bought this antique lace tablecloth for a few dollars at a rummage sale a few years ago.  (I didn't stuff this one into the washing machine; I treat it gently.)
 There is one thing I dread washing every year, though, the biggest item of laundry in the entire house: 
Our Bedspread!!
   Mom crocheted the spread for us when we were first married.  I don't know how long it took her to complete, but she said she was at it for months. Every time I would drop in unannounced for a visit, she told me she would have to grab it and run to keep it hidden from me.

Unbeknownst to me, Carl knew all about her project, but kept it a secret as it was to be a Christmas present.

Mom had originally planned to make the bedspread to simply fit the top of our queen-sized waterbed
mattress (yes, we still have the waterbed) but without draping over the sides.

But then Carl got involved and told her it would be nicer if she made it large enough to reach the floor all the way around. So, going back to the drawing board, Mom had to figure out how to add on to the width.  I never learned to crochet, but Mom always said how much work it was to remodel the bedspread into the gargantuan beast it then became.

This is one of the few times I wish Carl hadn't gotten involved in a project.  Truth be told, I would have much preferred a smaller bedspread especially when it comes time for washing.  Mom said she had her doubts about enlarging it, too, but she did as Carl asked.

When I opened my gift on Christmas Day, even before I had it totally unwrapped, the first thing Mom blurted out was, "I'm sorry it is so big, but that's what Carl wanted.  I don't know how you will ever wash it."

Well, way to go, Carl.

And yes, every time I wash it, he hears about it all over again.  (The gift that keeps on giving......ha.)

Mom needn't have worried; I loved the bedspread and it is has kept us warm for almost forty years now.

Mom, age 95, in the garden for the last time in 2016, helping with fall cleanup.  I had to be sneaky when I took her picture as she was always camera-shy.
The bedspread is just one more lovely, loving reminder of my dear mother.  

Mom at her home, January 2017
 I will cherish it always.



Monday, September 25, 2017

Killers of Bees

The gazebo sporting our 'Spring' stained glass window in late afternoon. 

 Well, here we are going into the first week of autumn but you'd never know it.  I haven't checked any almanacs to be sure, but we must be breaking records of some sort since we were close to ninety for the last few days.  Looking at the forecast, we have one more day of the heat wave and then back down to the upper 60's again.  


All of this heat has made the wasps and hornets all the more feisty and me all the more jumpy.  The swelling from the stings a week ago has finally gone down in my hands, but I'm still itchy at times. 

The 'Autumn Joy' sedums are crawling with bees. 
 In a normal fall, wasps are pesky enough, but add high heat to the equation and they are even more of a threatening nuisance.  They only have a few weeks left to live, so they're in full-out 'Livin' la vida loca' mode right now whereas I'm doing my best to keep on Stayin' Alive.

 Please, please, do NOT sting me again.  

This morning there was a hornet on the chicken coop door which fell into my hair when I let the Girls out for the day. Thank goodness he/she was groggy and didn't let me have it.  Then there was a yellow jacket on my watering can handle, the same watering can I just put down a few seconds before.  Luckily, I spotted that one before I grabbed it, too.  

Reading about the wasp life cycle, the experts say the worker bees are almost starving and can become punch drunk this time of year, feasting on fallen fruit and anything else they can get their waspy little selves into.   I wouldn't dream of eating outside right now, there's far too much winged competition.  

  Wasps and hornets are crawling on the house siding, windows, they're in the trees, gads, they're everywhere.   One more sting this year and I will have a full-blown case of Spheksophobia.  We cannot let that happen.  

I grumbled to Carl this morning that between the heat and humidity and the stinging bugs, I'm far better off in January because our normal cold weather doesn't bother me.  At least I can cross-country ski with no fear of being stung.  

Yes, this is why I choose to live in a part of the country where the wind hurts my face six months out of the year:   
There's no wasps or mosquitoes in January.

This past week of sting recovery left me miserable and kept me indoors.  With too much time on my hands, I began to binge watch endless YouTube videos on wasp nest removal techniques.  Apparently I'm not the only one who dislikes their antisocial personalities.  I know wasps and hornets fulfill a very important niche in the world and they do have a purpose; I just wish they didn't have such attitudes about it.

I've seen videos of people trying to kill nests of yellow jackets with everything from soup to nuts....ok, I guess there wasn't any soup, but there were plenty of nuts trying the following: A squirt gun, a flame thrower (the tree the nest was in did not fare very well)  bottle rockets, shotguns, driving a drone into a nest, gasoline, fire, detergent and water, elaborate electrified contraptions, handheld tennis racket style bug zappers laid on top of the nest entrance (if the batteries last long enough, it might work, but I pity the fool who has to replace the battery.)


My YouTube experience was like watching a horror movie; you know what's going to happen when the heroes/heroines go outside alone....I found myself yelling at the screen, "Don't do it!" every time a wannabe intrepid hornet hunter tried to deal with a nest in broad daylight (and even in the dark with flashlights, because the hornets will follow the beam of light or hose-wielding invader to it's source, the human on the other end.)  

Oh, that's gonna hurt.  

And it did.  People were running, swatting, swearing and stung. 

 A lot.

Surprisingly, one man had quite good luck with a Shop Vac partially filled with water and some dish detergent and was able to suck up the entire colony which had invaded his front porch eaves.  That one looked like a success.

We, on the other hand, have not done anything about the ground nest I had the misfortune of running into last weekend.  It's way, way out in the field and no one goes out there right now. When cold weather finally arrives, their time is up anyway.  We'll just steer clear of them until then.  But I fully agree about removal being necessary when a nest is close to a home or an area frequented by people and pets. 

One thing I learned from my educational viewing is that shooting a nest out of a tree is a really bad, bad, idea, especially in broad daylight.   The entire assembled crowd of goofballs were running for their lives when the nest hit the ground, screams of agony reverberating in the air.  Of course, alcohol and bravado were two main factors.

However, the strangest wasp nest attack I viewed was a man who started his removal attempt with a guitar solo.  Huh, that video was a head scratcher.

Spoiler Alert:  It didn't work.

In the meantime, I'm exercising extreme caution.  I'm still going about my chores, but keeping my eyes open.

After all, in a few weeks Mother Nature will take care of the bees. 

And I'll be safe to roam again.  (After I shovel.)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Once Bit, Twice Shy Part Two

After my run-in with the yellow jackets on Saturday afternoon, I was pretty much done with gardening or anything else for the rest of the weekend.  Saturday night was miserable, I was up and down all night long.  The stings on my head and neck are painful, but the ones on my hands are the worst.  I was taking Benadryl every four hours along with ibuprofen which did help, but I certainly could tell when the medications wore off.  
Random photos of the garden this past week

By Sunday morning, my hands had swollen even more than I thought possible; it's a wonder the skin didn't split.  They resembled surgical gloves blown up with air.  
Yikes!  That's a fat hand.
 I resembled a Cabbage Patch doll of yesteryear; my hands looked as if they were sewn on, and closing them was very painful.  Taking back to back doses of Benadryl meant I was more or less a zombie, so after making Sunday's noon meal, I told Carl I was going to take a nap.  I managed a fitful two hours before I gave up and went downstairs.   Carl was working on weeding while he waited for me to wake up.  He asked me if I wanted to go for a ride, and I agreed. I wrapped my hands in gauze soaked with Witch Hazel and off we went.  I brought the bottle along so I could re-wet the gauze at intervals. 

First, I asked Carl to drive the car out to the field to see where the hornet nest was.  We had no trouble finding it, there were swarms of yellow jackets hovering and flying.  I could see right where I'd stopped cutting the hay was smack dab centered on their nest.  With the high amount of wasp activity, I was very lucky to get away with only six stings.  Thank goodness the tractor has a good road gear.  Just sitting in the car with the windows rolled up I found I was still leery of being so close to the buggers, so Carl drove away.  

I hope I'm not developing Spheksophobia!  (Yes, there's a name for the fear of wasps.)  I don't want to become a Spheksophobe, mostly because that would mean I'd have to throw in the trowel with gardening and also because that's a weird title to wield for the rest of my life.  "I'm sorry, I cannot go outside.  I am a Spheksophobe."  

Ummmm........sure you are......all righty, then.

When I was a little girl, I remember being terrified to go outside one summer.  I think it was because I saw my father go berserk swatting at a bumblebee with his hat; I actually could see fear in his eyes and that unnerved me.  If my big, burly dad was afraid of a bee, then I'd best take notice, too!  The lure of the outdoors finally won me over, but I've always been leery of the stinging nasties.  
Danger lurks in the long grass

 For the future of my hay cutting, I'm not sure how I will protect myself.  This has never happened to me before.  I think I will be looking into some sort of Kevlar gloves and bee-keeper's hat/suit just to be safe, especially if I wait until so late in the season to mow.  They seem to be especially active and aggressive in the early fall, presumably because it is their last hurrah, too.  I'm sure they fill an ecological need somewhere, but I wouldn't be sad if every last one of them froze to death.  Good riddance.

More random wandering around.
Sunday night was another rough one; my hands were itchy and painful, my arms ached and woke me up several times.  I kept up with the Benadryl/ibuprofen regimen and hydrocortisone cream and finally woke up quite late, groggy and itchy.

I could stand to do some tidying up a bit too, sheesh! 
Thankfully, by this morning the swelling was down a quite a bit, but now the skin is loose on top of my hands.  As I got moving in the morning, though, the swelling set in again.  I spent most of Monday simply sitting and itching, but managed to make a bunch of phone calls pertaining to settling Mom's estate.  I guess I did accomplish something.

I wandered out to the mailbox in midafternoon and took a seat on the gazebo.  Here's something new:  we added two new benches to the gazebo and Mom's Memory Garden.  How she would have loved to paint these beauties:

I just know they would have been gorgeous if she could have turned her artistic talents on them.  

Hopefully in a few days, the swelling and itching will go down.  Most of what I've read said it will take a week.  

Now I have to get over the paranoia of any flying insect I see.  Gosh, I'm a Nervous Nellie!  I didn't even water my potted plants today; this won't do.  

There are lots of pots needing my attention.  (Why do I plant so many?  Carl always asks me that question, too.)  I guess it's good exercise, because it takes a lot of walking to and fro with watering cans to give them all a drink.

Ok, I will get my act together and water them all tomorrow morning, I promise.  The geraniums are amazing plants; most of them have been overwintered for years now and they always repay me with abundant blooms.  
'Americana Series' Pink with Red Splash, new this year.

All too soon, it will be time to haul the plants I want to save in the house.  

And you can bet, I will be checking them for any stinging varmints before I do!