Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Laundry Days

The last two days have been  blustery with winds leftover from Hurricane Sandy finally making their way this far west.  Our temperatures have been in the mid-40's during the day which isn't too bad, but the wind somehow manages to find a way through all my layers of clothes no matter what I wear.

Since we had such an enthusiastic 20-30 mph breeze on hand, I decided to hang my laundry out on the wash lines on Monday.  Actually, I got the idea from my mother when I drove by her house on the way to exercise class and saw her sheets already flapping on the lines by 9 AM.   All the while I was hopping around at exercise class, I was thinking about the laundry.  My friend Nancy agreed with me; there's nothing like line-dried laundry.
Flapping in the breeze.
I got home by 11:30 and had the laundry out by 1PM.  Steam was rising from the laundry basket and every wet hunk of clothing as I hung them up; it was a bit cool out.   Mid-afternoon was too late in the day to have the wash dry completely this time of the year, but with no rain in sight, it dried beautifully by Tuesday.   I love my solar dryer.  (I don't have any other kind.)

And neither does my mother.

Mom and I both still use wringer washers.

In case you don't know what a wringer washer looks like, in the photo below is my wringer:

Ain't she a beaut?
Never leave the wringer's rubber rollers together when not in use.  The rubber will stick together and the rollers will be damaged. 
 I know you will all want to take notes on the proper usage of wringer washers.  I'm here to help, grab some paper and a pen, this won't take long. 
There she is, my circa 1950's Maytag.  I'm circa 1958, so we have a lot in common.

The Elusive Lucille has always owned Speed Queen washers.  Hers is also circa 1950-something.  Mom is circa 1920, so to her, this is a rather new machine.
Oh, what's that?  You're not interested in learning to wash clothes in one of these?  You don't want to run your fingers (or other 'parts', tee hee) through the wringer?  Don't worry, your fingers will learn right quick to steer clear of the rollers.  And once you wrap a bath towel around both the top and bottom rollers at the same time, you'll be SO proud of your cussing skills and new-found upper body strength when it comes time to pry them out.  Oh, I forgot.... you get to master the stairs, too, because you have to hoist all that wet laundry up the steps and out to the wash lines.   It's a workout, folks. 

   I can hear you now; 'Why don't you buy your 92 year old mother a nice, new machine?  Or, better yet, do her laundry for her??'


 If you knew my mother, you'd know why.  She wouldn't hear of it, that's why.  She has nothing but the utmost disdain for automatic washing machines.  To her, they are wasteful of water, laundry detergent and time.  And the same goes for dryers, too.  We both still hang our laundry in the basement during the winter. 

And she insists on doing her own laundry, thank you very much.  When I tell her I can help her wash clothes, she gets an attitude.   Yes, even 92 year-old ladies can tell you to 'talk to the hand''s not just a teen-age thing. 
Mom won't listen to talk about new-fangled machines.
Mom says doing the laundry keeps her young.  She has a system for taking the baskets up the steps by placing the basket one step up at a time until she's at the top.

How long will she be able to handle all this work?  I don't know.  But I do know this:

I'm blessed.

Mom and Pudding.

Monday, October 29, 2012

New Torture Apparatus

Here it is, late Sunday night/early Monday morning again.  Gotta make this quick.  What did we accomplish this past weekend?  Not much, sorry to say.   Carl cut more stone for Aaargh, but it's too cold to mortar.  We've been down below freezing every night since Thursday now.  We may be done mixing mortar for the year, phooey.    Last Thursday, we were in the balmy 70's, but a fast-moving cold front brought thunderstorms and cold temperatures.  We dropped from 73 to 30-something overnight.  The storm also brought more rain, which is a good thing; the Quarry has a little more water in it now.

Teeny pond has reappeared
My mother, aka the Elusive Lucille, has been coming to help me put the garden to bed while Carl concentrates on cutting stone.  At 92, she is still as agile as always, getting up and down with ease.  She has never enjoyed kneeling in the garden, though, and prefers to sit on the ground instead, in a posture I can never emulate.  Kneeling does get tiring, but if I sat on the ground as long as she can, I'm not sure I'd get back up without a hoist.  Sometimes, Mom semi-reclines to weed or cut plants down, which does look alarming to those who don't know her.  She told me a week or so ago she was lying on the ground out by the road at her house, cutting back some peonies when a car drove by.  She didn't think anything of it until she was startled by a voice asking, "Ma'am, are you ok?  Do you need some help?"

Though Mom hadn't noticed his return, the driver of the car must have turned around and come back to check on her, which was very nice of him.  She assured the driver she was fine, and thanked him for his concern.  I asked her if she knew who her would-be rescuer was, but she didn't recognize him.  "I guess I should be more careful how I look when I'm weeding out by the road from now on," she told me.   "I'll try to sit up more instead of laying down, at least where people can see me."  Though she feels a bit sheepish about it, she remains very impressed that this person would have come to her aid if she needed assistance.   (And I'm happy, too.)

 Every afternoon Mom comes down and we march out to do battle with the wilted hostas and other perennials.  We yank out the annuals, too, placing them in pails and eventually I tote them to the car trailer.  We usually manage to fill the big trailer every day while Carl is cutting stone.  Then, just before darkness falls completely, Mom heads for her home.  I help Carl put his tools away and lock up the chickens and gather the eggs.   Then we hook up the trailer to our car and Carl heads out back to our compost heap.  While he is busy unloading the day's plant refuse, I take Teddy and Pudding out for their night walkies.   We usually don't get in much before 7PM, though that will change when the clocks are set back next week.

On Saturday, Mom was housecleaning (no, I don't help her, she's adamant about not needing my help) so even though the garden is not all cleared of plant material yet,  I decided to take on a job which has been bugging me for a few years now.  I don't have any pictures, but we have a very large rock pile that has become overgrown with sumac, grapevines and blackberry bushes on our two acres and I'm tired of looking at it.  We're going to need some more rocks to extend the tufa wall in the hosta garden, and there's still a small stash of tufa in there somewhere, so I decided to poke around and see what I could find.

The rockpile became home to any and all rocks we have collected over the past 34 years which we had no particular use for right away.  Joel was home for a bit and lent me a hand with the truly big flat rocks we have stashed there for our eventual waterfall renovations in the Quarry.  We worked together for about an hour before he had to leave, sorting the stones and putting them on pallets, but the pallets fill up way too fast.  We're going to be needing a whole lot more.  If you don't like rocks, you won't understand what I'm about to say, but what a hoot this job is proving to be!  There's so many memories tied up in this old pile, Joel and I were remembering rock excursions from twenty years ago when he was barely old enough to hoist the rocks he handles now with ease.  I'll be lucky to have the pile moved before the snow flies, but I'm looking forward to the process.

Just what I need, more weight training.  And speaking of weight training, I was thinking I could use some more free weights to add to the roughly one hundred pounds Carl found in the dumpster.  Many of the exercises in the 'New Rules of Lifting' are done on machines at a gym, and I was trying to find ways to modify the moves for home use but needed more 'weighty' accessories.   On Sunday morning I decided to check Craigslist to see if anyone had weights they didn't want anymore.

And that's when I came across this posting:

Bodycraft Total Home Gym--$200.
Not used much. I want it gone, as it is mocking me. Has a bar that you pull down vertically, one you pull out horizontally, another for bench presses, and the part for your legs. Comes with 2 extra bars for use with the gym, 3 for free weights, and 300 Lbs of weights. I used it primarily as a clothes rack, and it works great for that too. It is currently disassembled and in my garage ready to go. 

Well, there I go!  A total home gym which also doubles as a clothes could I go wrong?  I wouldn't even need to go to a gym to be mocked, as the ad said it was good at that, too.  This machine had it ALL.

Oh, but the ad had been posted four days ago....I quickly typed my response, asking if the gym was still available.  Five minutes later, I had a reply.

"I have someone coming to look at it around 12PM.  I'll let you know either way."

Aw, rats.  I was too late.  I typed back, "Ok, thanks.  The trailer is hooked up to the car, I'll be waiting to hear from you."

I busied myself getting dinner on the table and tried not to think about it too hard.  I mean, really, did I want a big gym-thingie like that?  Where would we put it?  Will I use it?   Is it worth $200?  Oh well, I thought, as I tossed a salad glumly, I don't have to worry, because I'm sure it will be sold out from under me.  While I was cooking, I was bouncing these same questions off of Carl.

"We can put it in Dave's old bedroom," he said.  "And as far as if you will use it or not, if you go at this weightlifting business the same way you've walked the rug to bits in the living room, I'm pretty sure you'll use it, alright.  And if you don't like it, we'll sell it." 

Well........yes, I guess we could put it in Dave's old room.  But did I want to clutter up the spare bedroom with a big machine?  I guess so, why not?  The room has been empty for over a year so it would make sense to use it for something useful other than storage.  

I couldn't resist checking my email just before we sat down to eat, and was surprised to see this response, "As I surmised, the people weren't willing to pay my full asking price, so if you would like to view the gym, it is still available, just give me a call."

I have to admit, this poster had a way with words.  I made the call and we arranged to meet at 2PM.  We dined rapidly and drove up to the house right on time.  There he was, a tall young man, seated in a lawn chair in the driveway with parts and pieces of the home gym laid out around him.  Next to him, barking up a storm, was a ferocious, chubby Chihuahua on a long chain.

 We got out of the car and our host warmly greeted us with, "Hello.  I have to warn you in advance not to try anything shady.   I do have an attack dog here, as you can see."

 I had never been that close to an actual Chihuahua before, they are really cute; and he soon stopped barking and laid down with his little head on his paws. 

Carl, Joel and I all stood and stared at the piles of parts lying in the man's driveway.

 "I don't have an owner's manual, but I can tell you how it goes back together," the seller said.  "It just looks daunting, but I guarantee it's not that bad.  I bought it from a friend a few years back for $500, but he didn't have a manual, either."

Everything was in very good shape, and though I know next to nothing about home fitness equipment or even if all the pieces were there or not or if I'll even use this thing we sealed the deal and loaded it up on the trailer.  I was supposed to have a 'rest' day today from weightlifting and walking but by the time we got the gym home and hauled upstairs and assembled, we were all tired.  Carl and Joel worked on putting it all together after I found a manual online we could print out.

While they were tightening nuts and bolts, I carried the 300 pounds of free weights up the steps in 20 pound increments while talking to Mom on the phone.

 "You are all out of breath," she said, "What are you doing?" 

"Carrying weights upstairs," I huffed.  "We just bought a used exercise machine."

"Well, I don't even know what an exercise machine looks like, but listening to you all out of breath, it sounds like it's working already.  What do you do with an exercise machine?"

"That remains to be seen," I said. 

"Oh, why's that?  You bought it, but you don't know how to use it?"

"Yes, that's right.  But the guy we bought it from assured us it doubles as a very useful clothes hanger."

"For $200?  That's a pretty expensive clothes hanger," Mom said.

There it is, Karen's Torture Apparatus.  (This is the picture from the ad...not our house.)

Carl and I made sure all the bolts were tight and then we went through the exercises in the book I have to accomplish tomorrow, trying to figure out how much weight I can lift and how to adjust everything.

"All I'm asking of you is this: take it easy and be careful!   The last thing you need is to get hurt," Carl warned.

Before Joel left for the evening he said, "When you start to use the machine, you should text me at work and then when you're done, let me know, too.  That way if you get in trouble, someone will know and you won't be trapped until one of us comes home."

Funny, Mom said the same thing, "What if you get caught in that contraption?"

No one has any faith in my ability.

The ad was right--- the mocking has already begun.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

I Pick Things Up and Put Them Down

I started the workouts in the book, 'The New Rules of Lifting for Women' last week.  So far, I've only done two workouts (the plan takes six months to complete) and after the first workout,  I could honestly say, "Ouch," and mean it.  Oh, I wasn't in agony or anything, but yes, I did find some muscles I didn't know I had.  ( It probably didn't help that I've been transferring rocks from rotten pallets out in the Back Eight to new pallets so we can haul them up for Aaargh construction, either.)  Every pallet holds a thousand pounds (or more) and I've lost count of the pallets I've loaded this week.  Though I do a lot of lifting in my daily gardening life, the formal weightlifting bends my old muscles into new shapes or something.  I don't often press rocks up over my head or do rows with a hunk of limestone in each hand, so these new angles are good.   

I'm running into some difficulties substituting dumbbells for barbells and figuring out how to do a wide grip lat pull-down (good thing the book has pictures, or I would be forever wondering what that was) without gym equipment.  I bought some resistance bands in varying strengths which I can use together to get the same effect (hopefully) as the machines at the gym.  This is all a big experiment and I'm way out of my league, but so far, I'm enjoying the process.  One thing I found out the hard way: when the company who makes the resistance bands tells you to make certain the door you use to affix your bands to is locked shut, they aren't kidding.  Getting a resistance band in the face doing a lat pull-down thingie is not pleasant, ha. 

When I read the book through the first time, it became clear to me a gym membership would make the exercises much easier to accomplish.  But there's still that part of me (the miser) who would rather save money and work out at home.  So, I went in search of videos online showing various workouts with possible substitutions for equipment we don't own.

Happily, I found ways to get the job done without a gym membership.  Many of the videos I watched were informative and helpful with sincere athletes demonstrating proper form and useful information.  I was very impressed.   I was starting to think gyms weren't all full of stereotypical sweaty guys, grunting and prancing around trying to impress women.  Maybe, someday, I'll join one after all.

But then I found this video: 

P.S. I'm safe even if I did go to a gym though....I'm old and large.   It would take a really buff dude to get this unit airborne.  Oh, but that landing!  Ouch, again.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Aaargh Update: The First Seven Years

We spent the weekend working on good ol' Aaargh again.  The weather was just perfect; October's bright, blue skies were out in full force. 
Early Saturday morning, perfect weather for stonework
 On Saturday morning, we realized we were out of mortar, so a trip to Home Depot was in order.  On the way to town, we took a few backroads and some photos of other round buildings that have been an inspiration:
Should Aaargh have a roof like this?
I took this picture out of the car window haphazardly in a big hurry as we were in traffic, so that's why it's crooked.  This house was built in the 1970's.  Carl and I were married and built our humble abode in 1978.   We were both 20 years old and had no idea what sort of home to build, but I do remember this stone entrance/staircase was high on our list of dreams.  We couldn't afford to build anything so fancy, but 34 years later, this structure remains a favorite with us both.  We drive by this home quite often and never tire of looking at the field stone masonry tower with the copper roof.

A little farther down the road, a housing development was built a few years ago.  Check out the lovely little stone structures in the entrances:

Entrance to subdivision

Not sure what purpose these stone towers serve, other than to look amazing.
Every time we drive by these towers, I admire them, they are just gorgeous.  And ironically, they're actually newer than Aaargh is, ahem. 

 Beautiful masonry.
Interesting roof lines, the upper windows must let in a lot of light.
 There are a few more round or octagonal buildings in the neighborhood; I just thought I'd take a few pictures since we're really not sure how Aaargh's roof will eventually look.  (Yes, I know, most people would have all the construction details figured out, but we are not most people.  Sigh.) 
Look at the size of this tower, makes Aaargh look like a speed bump.

This is another structure in the subdivision,  the stonework is gorgeous.

In a nearby neighborhood, we found our dream home. 
I had to have Carl back up the car so I could get the whole 'house' in the picture.  Now that's a Castle!
Check out the details on this stonework:
No Trespassing signs kept me from getting closeup pictures (and arrested)...this is the south part of the house.

There's the midsection with a castle tower. 
And there's the other end complete with another castle tower.  All this could be yours for just under $3 Million
This place was built around three to five years ago, but the realtor's listing states it is not finished, so I'm assuming no one has lived here yet.  I don't know if this was a spec-home (built in hopes of a buyer) or someone's dream home, but what other description can you give than 'Wow'. 

Carl and I sat in our aging sedan and took in the view for awhile.  Then we simultaneously said the same thing, "That's a LOT of stonework." 

We've been together for way too long.

"It's for sale," I said.

"Yes, I see," Carl said.

"Can you imagine living there?  All the upkeep, just look at the size of that roof; why, we'd be up there forever putting new shingles on when those go bad, and as the years go by, all the stonework will need tuck-pointing," I said.  "Of course, it is a new house, so I guess we wouldn't have to worry about the stonework needing attention until we're long gone." 

"Yes, that's true, being new, what problems could there be?  But as the years pass, the upkeep would be a never-ending thing," Carl ventured.

"And who is going to clean it?  You'd need a fleet of maids.  Heck, I can't keep up with our little hut."

"I hear you."

"Oh but that masonry is fantastic, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is."

With that, we slowly drove away from our Dream Castle and back to our mess here with the Never-ending Castle Aaargh.  Right after lunch, Carl popped the trunk and hauled out the two seventy pound sacks of mortar and we were back to work on our dream gone bad.

Walls rising ever so slowly.

The 'Golden Raindrops' crabapples are just starting to turn.

I was looking at some of the old pictures of when we started back in 2005 (yes, it's been THAT long.)

There's Ann and Ron, seven years ago, in the thick of the action, shoveling wet cement into place while Carl and Joel run the 'screed' board to level off the pour.

L-R,  our youngest son, David, 15 at the time, Jessie, Ann's daughter, 11 years old, Ann, 35 years old and Joel, on the other end of the board, 19.  How time flies!

There's the floor after we were done.  The hosta leaves were put on the cement when it was wet to put imprints in the floor.

You can see the board we balanced on to put the leaves on the cement.
Oh, how the trees have grown....look at those teensy cedars
We've gone so slowly on the construction phase and all because we had other stone work to finish on the Quarry itself and other 'things' that came up; garden walks, tours, weeding, you know what I mean.  Stuff. 

But look how much the trees have grown; in the picture below, the little 'George Peabody' cedars are less than two feet tall and the spruce are very young; the white fence posts were supporting the three 'Golden Raindrops' crabapple trees:
September 2005: Joel, Dave, Carl and a friend during the first courses of stone.

One year ago, October 2011, me (standing around yakking) and Ann, working on Aaargh.
Six years later, in 2011, the cedars and spruce had grown a few feet.  And the crabapple trees just don't quit growing, supposedly reaching a height of 20' with a 15' spread.  I hope they like being pruned.

This Monday night: Castle Aaargh, October 22, 2012
So, there's the update and the flashback all at once.  It took us seven long years to get this far. 

We coulda/shoulda/woulda worked on this project much more diligently than we have been, but life keeps getting in the way, and the weather.  Carl works full-time and though I don't work, it seems I'm always busy.  Can't mix mortar when it's freezing cold and snowing out, and in the summer the garden has a mind of its own and we have to tend to the planting and weeding chores.  About the only time we can find to work consistently is late summer/early fall and alas, this fall is getting long in the tooth already, too. 

On Sunday afternoon, we were taking stock of what we've accomplished this year on Aaargh.

Carl optimistically said, "We've gone up another foot or so in some places."

"How far do we have to go before we're done?" I asked.

"Another seven feet, give or take a few inches," Carl said. 

"Oh, our current rate, we won't be done for ANOTHER seven years!" I blurted out.

That was, unfortunately, not the most encouraging thing I could have said to a tired man.

We've both been working as fast as we can.

 Oh heck, if it does take another seven years, let's see, we started this project when we were 47, so by 2019, God willing, we'll be 61. 

October 2011

If anything is falling apart on the old mortar by then, we'll just whip up a new batch and fix it.  (I'm not sure what we'll do about any random parts that are falling off of us by then, though.)

 All we can do is hope for the best 
Rock On.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Weighty Matters

The waterfall rocks have sheltered the fern from frost, but not for long.
I'm in full swing of the cleanup phase for the year in the garden.  In reality, I could/should be almost done by now, but my mornings are taken up with exercise and pesky, truly necessary housework and laundry and other so-called 'important' things, so I don't get outside until afternoon lately.   Ms. Sansone always says it's more important to have a fit body than a clean house though my house might beg to differ.  "Your health can't wait!"   Ok, she's right.  The dirt will always be there.  I'll just tell our visitors Leslie told me not to clean.

I'm still marching along with Leslie in the morning; you'd think after ten months of 'Walk, walk, walk' I'd be somewhere other than home, wouldn't you?  My pedometer tells me that coupled with the garden work and everyday activity plus Leslie's jaunts, I'm walking about 50 miles a week now.   Just think, I could have walked to some place exotic, like Florida (I've never been there) and be halfway back.  Instead, I'm wearing a hole in my rug in the living room.  But that's fine with me, I'm not much of a fan of leaving the farm anyway.

And what do I do when I'm not cleaning, working on Aaargh, gardening, or exercising? In my quest for all things fitness-y, I've been trolling the web for any and all sorts of workouts to try to get this old body back to some semblance of 'fit'.  Most of the exercise gurus out there all say the same thing, to get fit, you need to pump some serious iron.  And what do the gurus recommend as the best place to pump said iron?

"Get thee to a gym."

Actually, I'd rather get me to a nunnery.

A gym.  Me.  Uh, no.  Thanks,  but no.

Though I'll have to admit to the same feeling about attending the exercise class at church at first, too.  My friend Nancy invited me and I put it off for a long time.  It's not that I didn't want to go; I so enjoy her company.  I guess I felt it would break my day up too much to have to drive three miles twice a week for an hour-long class.   I haven't worked outside the home for over 26 years and have gotten very used to my days being what they are.  Weird and unstructured.  Just like me.  I'm set in my ways.

I always thought I'd just work out at home and not waste the gasoline and wear and tear on the car, but once I started going to the class, I found something more important than mere exercise.  Camaraderie and Inspiration.  Leslie often refers to her cast as her 'sisters in sweat'.  There is something to be said for a group of people all exercising together.  Our little core group increased to around 20-30 people a few months ago when the local 'Curves' franchise closed their doors and many of the former members decided to give the free 'Senior Exercise' class a try.   I think most, if not all of the ladies are regulars now.   Though I don't know all of them by name yet, their smiles are contagious and the moans and groans and giggles and guffaws as we all try to push ourselves down the path to fitness are what keeps me coming back.

I usually work out next to Nancy and the eldest member of our class, Arlene, who at 87 won two marathons this summer, competing with people much younger than herself.  And then there's Mary, who perhaps hasn't had the easiest life, but has the sunniest disposition of anyone I've ever met.  Our intrepid leader, Gloria, is an inspirational figure in so many ways, having recovered from a near-crippling car accident which would have left many people incapacitated, but she fought her way back from her injuries and puts a much-younger me to shame with her fitness level.  Every person (yes, we even have two men!) in that group is special and I find myself looking forward to each and every class.  A year ago, I would never have believed I'd be in an exercise class and liking it. 

So why don't I think a gym membership for weight-lifting would be a good thing?   Well, let's see.....for one, I'm cheap.  I don't wanna pay for what I could do at home. 

Two: I'm not that crazy about jocks.  I'm sure there are very few of the stereotypical 'I pick things up and put them down' mentality running around in most gyms, but I remember high school Phy Ed all too well.  I wasn't the last one picked for teams, but I sure as heck wasn't the first one, either.  I wasn't a Popular Girl; I was an Invisible Girl.  You may know the type, I did my best to get fair grades and stayed far out of the spotlight of Unnecessary Attention.   I had the self-esteem of a gnat back then, but hey, we can't all be narcissistic big shots.  (Oops, did I type that out loud?  Sorry.)  I had one goal in high school.  To graduate.

Three:  Spandex.  It's in everything lately, isn't it?  I swear it will turn up as an ingredient on a cereal box one day if it hasn't already.   "Stretch your food dollar and expand your diet and nutrition goals with new 'Granola Expandola'!!  Now with more added fiber, iron and Spandex!!" 

I don't look good in Spandex because there's far too much of me. At my age, I shouldn't worry, though.  There's not going to be any leering looks in my general direction checking this old unit out; that ship has done sailed.   But what if my Spandex reaches its Spand-limit and explodes while I'm attempting to lift something?  Not a pretty sight.

Four:  Leg warmers?  Work-out fashion Do or Don't?

Five:  Ditto on Sweat Bands?

Six: Do I have to sanitize everything before I sit, squat, or row on, over or around it?

Seven: If by my mistake, a weight falls in the weight room will it make a sound? 

Eight: If aforementioned weight falls on the foot of any aforementioned jocks could I be sued?

Nine: I'm going to stop with this list now because I'm tired and I don't want to be accused of having a Top Ten List.  Might get me in trouble with Letterman's people.

So, since weight lifting seems to be the direction where all the gurus are pointing, today I started a weightlifting workout from a book.  Though the author encourages joining a gym, I can modify many of the exercises from gym equipment to dumbbells.  (I forgot to mention, Dumpster Diver Extraordinaire Carl found a set of dumbbells in duh, a I have a full set of them.)    We're going to do some scrounging around for barbells, should just check a secondhand store or rummage sale for them.  There's no room in our teeny house for a full home gym set up anyway and if I get the bright idea to swing a barbell around in the living room, a whole bunch of stained glass lamps could become mosaics in no time.

Leslie has an upper body workout on one of her walking videos that I started around the first of the month.  She says, "If it gets too easy lifting your current weights, just add more weight to challenge yourself."  So far, I'm pretty challenged, though I hate to admit it.  I haven't upped my weights yet.
And I've only lowered a few pounds of my own on the freight scale under the kayak recently.  But I'll be steering clear of the ol' freight scale for awhile now, we'll give this weight-lifting a go and see what happens.  The gurus say the scale isn't always your friend because you don't necessarily lose 'scale weight' when you lift weights.  That doesn't seem fair, does it?

The last time I was on my freight scale, I'd gained 36 pounds...oooooooohhhhhhhhh........that was a shocker.  Then I turned on my flashlight and saw the heavy chains for pulling tractors were coiled up on the platform right behind me. Some people believe muscle weighs more than fat.  I guess it does, but not so much you'd notice really.

 But, standing there on the freight scale trying to get the weight arm thingie to balance, for awhile there I thought I'd gained a Whole Bunch of Muscle.  (No, that's not what I thought I'd gained, believe me, I was sweating, the cold kind.)  Oh, just chains.

Mental breakdown averted.

Maybe I do need a gym.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Last Hurrah for Flowers

Once again, time has gotten away from me. Even though this was one of the longest, drought-stricken gardening seasons I can ever remember, now that fall has arrived, I'm missing summer already.  I am writing this late Sunday night, well, ok, early Monday morning, since it's already 1AM.  Up until Friday, we had no rain at all for weeks, but now that's changed.  Starting this Saturday, we were treated to 3.5 inches of rain as of 6PM Sunday night.  I don't think it's done drizzling yet, either.  

Though we really needed the rain, this has been a long weekend since all we could do was stare out the window at the work that still needs doing.  

Castle Aaargh construction.......all the plants that need removal.......statuary to put in know what I mean.

But, we needed the rain, so I won't grouse.  Much.  

We took the weekend off and went to an art fair event which was set up to enable the general public to tour local artists and see them at work in their studios.  It was a wonderful change of pace and a very humbling and uplifting experience to see these talented people and their artistic visions in so many mediums from textiles, jewelry, painting, sculpting and stained glass.  We had a great time, and what better way to spend a dreary weekend?
Meanwhile, back here on the farm, let's see what's new since my last post.  I took these photos last week but since then, the garden has changed immensely.  We finally had the dreaded killing frost which put an end to all the flowers for this year. 
Dry River Bed the day before the Hard Frost.
Here's a look at what's been occupying my time in no particular order, just the way they came out of the camera, on my last stroll around the garden before the killing frost.
Birch tree and toasted hostas in foreground.
The drought was hard on everything.  I didn't even try to keep up with watering, though I suppose I should have.  We'll see what bounces back (or doesn't) next spring.  
Willie the Willow dripping with gold.
I don't usually get outside with the camera early in the morning due to my nightowl tendencies and many of these pictures are repetitive.  I apologize in advance, but the main reason I write this blog is to remember what worked and what didn't, so bear with me.  Especially in this post, you are about to see a Lot of Bubblegum and other petunias. If pink distresses you and/or you're not a petunia fan, I am giving you fair warning.  There will be Passles of Pictures of Pink Petunias ahead. 

No pink here; the woods across the road.
  Though I do not own the woods across the road from our house, I do own the view.  And what a glorious one it was last week.  With the rain and the wind, the trees are fairly bare now.
Hard hats are required for standing under these trees.  Nuts are hard on noggins.
Our black walnut trees bore a surprising amount of nuts this year, but I don't think they're any good.  The squirrels have been leaving them on the ground for the most part when normally they'd be hauling them out of the tree before they hit the dirt.  I imagine drought conditions make for poor tasting walnuts, too.  I was never a connoisseur of black walnuts, and have you ever tried cracking them?  A Vise-Grip is a handy tool to own for that chore.
Another sad hosta up against a granite rock hoping for rain. 

 And here's the Quarry Pond.  Lovely, just lovely, isn't it?  Yep, that's right, the pond went down to the lowest level we have ever had in the ten year span of its existence.  The fish suffered mightily, even before the water all but disappeared.  Carl dug as much of a hole as he could in the muck of the water that was left in the back and  the fish hung out in the 7' wide puddle for over a week.  We had wild turkey flocks coming in for a drink every day since there was no other water to be had.  All the waterholes in the woods had dried up.  I counted 23 turkeys in the puddle last week, but didn't get a picture of them because they are so wary.  For some reason, they won't drink out of our Pan Fountain the way the rest of the wild birds do.

Predators have been a big, big problem this fall.  Herons were eating fish and frogs during the day and at night raccoons came in.  Raccoons had already raided the pond when the water was much higher earlier this summer and killed our twelve year old koi, Goldie.  She had been the first fish we had from way back when we had our small rubber pond and had grown very large.  I imagine she was easy to catch, poor thing.  After finding her fish scales scattered all over the shore, we put up a chicken wire corral so the fish could go to the middle and be protected from the herons by day and the coons by night. I had no idea we had such a raccoon infestation until one night I went out after dark with a powerful flashlight and was amazed to see no less than five raccoons around the chicken wire fence trying to figure out how to get in.  They weren't successful, I'm happy to report.  And, as of Sunday, the water level has risen quite a bit, plus the coming week looks wet, too.  The worst is over, hopefully. 
Picture at an odd angle of the last of the water.
Yuck, yes, the algae water is all that was left of the pond last week, but the remaining goldfish and frogs were able to find safety in the middle.  There were hundreds of raccoon tracks in the mud all the way around it, but they were outsmarted at last.  We tied the top of the chicken wire mesh shut, too, because they would have figured out how to climb over it easily.  Raccoons are cute, I guess, to some folks, but oh, they can be merciless to their prey.   We always try to be home before dark to shut the chicken coop up because between raccoons, opossums and skunks, the hens are prime targets for a Predator Buffet. 
Hard to see, but there are two little buff and white hens near the tree in this picture that became hawk casualties.
  Speaking of chickens, we're down to six hens now, too.  Once it freezes, I let the Girls free-range around the gardens instead of being in their big enclosure (in the picture above) and within two days a hawk killed yet another one of the Girls.  Carl heard a commotion and saw the feathers all over the lawn, but it was too late.  When the hawk spied us coming, he flew up into the locust tree and squawked his frustration at us both.  The chicken was apparently too heavy for the hawk to carry so he had no choice but to leave his kill.  Well, he could just save his bird breath, we took the poor little hen and buried her.  We weren't about to let the hawk have his dinner.  The Girls are much warier now, and stick close to the trees for cover.  I only let the flock loose in the gardens when I'm working outside, but we had gone in for lunch and the hawk seized his opportunity. 
Pondless Quarry. 
So, anyway.......there's a long shot of the Quarry without a Pond.  We've been remodeling this pond for years in our heads since it's dirt-bottomed and depends on ground water levels.  Our thoughts are running toward filling it in with soil somewhat, up to the highest level of the water we've ever had, eliminating the pond.  We're going to have to move much of the stonework anyway due to the other varmints digging holes everywhere causing rocks to settle.  Carl was standing down in the Quarry the other day, feeling a bit defeated.  Since the water was so low, it would have been a great time to start work on renovations down there, but there's the pesky problem of Castle Aaargh hanging over his head, too. 
There's some progress.  Not much, but some.
We hauled in many more pallets to choose rock from.  The 'searching for the right rock' part is the most time-consuming.

We decided to divide and conquer; Aaargh takes priority.  Our joint decision was Carl would keep plugging away at stone cutting and I would put the garden to bed for the winter and be on hand for mortaring.  The Quarry will still be there when we're bored.  

And speaking of bored; no I wasn't really bored, but I decided it was high time to limb up the last of the bigger cedars because the bottom branches were bare of foliage from being in the shade.  I didn't realize how much work it was going to be, especially burning all the brush.   And, I had another 'Oh My What Have I Done?' moment of panic after the fact, too.  I didn't take a 'before' photo, but I can say with certainty this 'after' photo says it all.  


Oooops, Indeed.  Now what?  Can't glue them back on.
Well, we'll just have to haul some more rocks in here and extend the tufa wall.  And stick a few more hostas in.  And maybe a park bench or a planter, or a Ferris Wheel......oh, my, it's a big area now.  

Fuel for bonfires, we burned it all up one night last week. 
While Carl toiled away at stone-cutting, I was cutting wood like a maniac. 
Pass the marshmallows.  This is all gone now.
We had a nice evening sitting around the campfire, just Carl and I, talking about the day.  Not too many campfires left this year, I'm afraid.  (But then, there's a lot of pine trees to thin in the Back Eight......)
I'll just move some hostas in.

And extend the wall.  It'll be ok.  (Gulp.)
I love to prune trees, gee, can you tell?

Ok, enough with the destruction phase, let's get on with the Pepto-Bismol Pink:

I stuck the potted Bubblegum Supertunias up on the Quarry Hill and was so glad I did; they lit up the background beautifully, even from a distance.

I had 'em stashed all over the garden.
There are a few mums here and there in the garden, but they weren't blooming very much, probably due to the dry conditions.

The lawn had just about dried up completely and so have the hostas here.  The white pines have dropped their needles now, too, carpeting the garden.  
The lane bed needs another weeding before winter, too.  The trees are too close together here, but we're going to let them grow and see what happens.  

Petunias and tree grates.  And rocks. 

And the other side of the driveway with Pudding.

Oh, Pudding is a dog......not a dessert.

But she's just the sweetest little dog.  

Hold your hats, more Pink on the way:
Tired planters filled with my seedling Tidal Waves and Avalanches.

Over on the Pachyberm, more pink.

Over the bridge into the backyard

I've never seen a petunia that can compare to Bubblegum. 

Even grew well in semi-shade from cuttings.  Amazing plant. 
Yep, they stick out, alright.  I miss 'em already.
The waterfall rocks.
No pink here, just rocks and sumac. 

Ok, it's really, really late and time for me to go.  

 Until next time,
Keep Thinking Pink!