Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Tip of the Iceburg

This has been a more difficult year to maintain our yard. We "contracted" with employees from a small landscape firm in the area in the years past. The company used Mexicans, employed for around six months at 6 days a week and with "some" arrangements for health care. They arrived around May and returned in early November.  They were EXTREMELY talented in that they helped us fix our lawnmower, repaired the garden gate, identified a gas leak which we missed since we did not weedeat that corner of the house, etc.  They were ALWAYS prompt, polite and efficient.

Our "helpers"  were a "band of brothers."  The family had 8 brothers and each year they were able to send at least 4 of them north to the U.S. for employment.  The local U.S. landscape business could not find local folks to do these jobs, clearly.

For the last two years, their arrival became more difficult and they would come later.  This year they were not allowed into the U.S. at all.  My husband called one of the brothers since we have become friends as well because we have paid for their services for almost a decade.  They explained that they could not get work visas, they also tragically lost their older brother to murder from a gang over the winter months.  He was shot outside the front door of his home. They had related various tales of the increase in dangerous crime over the years.  (If you are a tourist in Mexico, the government may feel it is necessary in some areas to give you a police escort.)

My husband was trying to manage the yard on his own through May and early June of this year until we found a young boy who was saving for college and could help.  (Hubby's back has a recent problem.)  Why don't we just hire from another landscaping firm you may ask?  We did that in years past.  The various small firms either quit on us saying the yard was too difficult, or they would not show up on time after rains and grass would get too high to mow before they could reschedule us, or they complained about everything else.  They were totally unreliable and perhaps just wanted enough money for drugs or until another job came their way.  Living in the countryside is not always easy for finding help.  Even after writing this we will research hiring another landscape company next year.

This event in our lives is related to the huge refugee iceberg that is forming across the globe.  Closing borders, wars, climate change resulting in famine, climate change increasing diseases, criminal gangs, and overpopulation are taking their toll forcing people to flee for their lives.  In 2017 68.5 million refugees were displaced from their homes, their cities, their countries.  One person becomes displaced every 2 seconds.  The Central African Republic, Central America, Europe, Iraq, South Sudan, Syria, Rohingya, Ukraine, and Yemen are all impacted by the ongoing refugee crisis.  

Now it is at our back door where we are housing refugee toddlers and teenagers without a budget, plan, or infrastructure.  MAGA

Saturday, June 16, 2018

A Bit of Fun

Having fun with photographs:

These flowers last only a few days with the heavy rains and later increasing heat, but I have captured some beauty in my yard and then played with layers and filters.

Now back to house cleaning!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Grocery Event

I shop at the local big supermarket. Produce is less varied and must be selected more carefully than when I shop at the more expensive yuppie market across the bridge. While I am fortunate in that my grocery budget is ample for the two of us, I come from that old family farming culture which makes me shop most carefully and not buy so much that I have to throw out food at the end of the week. I do use mostly the outside aisles (bakery, produce, meat, and dairy) while avoiding the processed foods in the inner aisles. I get my cleaning stuff at the Big Box store, but in reality, if I paid attention to sales, I would not need to go there. This intro had nothing to do with my event yesterday, by the way.

I had four large bags of food and was loading them from the basket into the trunk. I heard someone shouting and looked up toward the door of the store. I was parked about eight cars away. Standing in front of the double doors and waving both arms was a black man in his 50s with salt and pepper closely cropped hair, tall and in reasonably good shape. He was all in black. There was a set of black earphones covering his ears, a black backpack and what appears to be a bit of paraphernalia tagged to his shirt pockets. He was also shaking his head from side to side. He was loud, but I could not figure out what he was saying as he was talking fast.  At first, I thought perhaps he was singing to some rap music that was coming from his earphones.  People entering the store pretended not to see him.

I finished loading the trunk and opened the driver's side door. The man started jogging in my direction. I then heard what he was shouting over and over again. "I can't take it anymore!..I can't take it anymore!..I can't take it anymore!"

I was not frightened as I got into my car and shut the door and he ran down the area in front of me between the parked cars. I was sad and curious instead. For just a second, I actually felt like re-opening the door and shouting after him..."ME TOO!"

Within a few seconds a man in a white shirt with a name tag and black dress pants and holding his phone appeared.  He was moving after the black man but did not seem to want to catch up with him as he typed something into his phone.  He stopped in front of my car and then another man in what appeared to be a supermarket shirt and cap (perhaps a deli-counter uniform?) showed up behind him.  The second man looked at me and then shook his head and chuckled.  I raised my shoulders and arms agreeing as if saying "WTF?"  But I do not swear, so I was more commiserating with the situation for all.

My take was that I wished I could have helped the man.  Had he shoplifted?  Had he threatened an employee?  Did he have a fight with another customer about who was next in line?  Did his mental illness manifest itself?  Was this a reaction to a drug (legal or illegal)?  I actually wish he has not been moving so fast and that I would have been brave enough to get out of the car and display some sympathetic body language if nothing else.

Clearly, this was not a major crime or even a novelty to the two employees who walked back into the store as I pulled out of my parking place.  The black man had totally disappeared as I found my way to the exit.  

Crime in our county has been climbing this last year.  Not sure why with all these great emplyment figures and growing economy (snark).

Monday, June 11, 2018

What Color Are Your Thumbs?

A Man's Home is his Castle

We built our house over twelve years ago. Over the years I have had to have two casement windows repaired (one no longer can be opened); two ceiling areas re-taped, floated and painted; the stairs leading down from the back deck to the backyard re-leveled as one side sank; one toilet valve replaced twice; the wine cooler solenoid replaced; the gate motor replaced and the garage door opener fixed.  I have had one burst water pipe (my fault for not disconnecting the hose).  We also had the two chimney's recapped last year due to water leakage through the ceiling.  Next week someone is coming in to replace the cracked baffle and insulation in the wood fireplace.

Some of these events are normal wear and tear items and others the result of living in a humid area with dramatic temperature changes.  The windows are just bad product.

This year the starters on the gas range have been giving me fits and I have been told corrosion means they cannot be replaced. I will need a new range top which I keep putting off due to the complexities of measurement and my fear of getting it wrong. We have a dual AC system and one unit is now not working and waiting for a part ($400 not including labor) and I have been cautioned that this could be a temporary fix and I may need a new unit (thousands of dollars). The good part is while the air is so thick you can cut it with a knife, temps are below 80 F.

My refrigerator is making odd noises.  I am working hard to keep the coils clean while it runs in this warmer than normal house.  

I often wish I was more of a handy-man like my Dad who could fix anything.  Hubby is mostly thumbs even though they are green.

I have read that you do not own a house, it owns you.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

I have Questions.

I have always been a curious person and have many questions this week (not necessarily in order of importance):

  1. Why did Pruitt try to buy a "used" Trump Tower mattress?
  2. Why did a Congressman get turned away from an abandoned Walmart building that is housing children separated from their parents who were crossing the border illegally?
  3. Why did Melania Trump have 700% longer time in a hospital for a procedure than normal and why have we only seen her many weeks later?
  4. Why were the Eagles uninvited to the White House to celebrate the Superbowl?
  5. Why is Medicare going to run out of money in 2026?
  6. Does Russia really have a smaller economic footprint than Italy?
  7. Do the bulletproof plates being given students actually stop bullets?  (not AR-15 bullets or assault rifles)
  8. Is Bill Clinton extremely naive (and out of touch) to be promoting a "fictional thriller" book he co-wrote with Patterson.
  9. As Facebook gives us more control over the ads we see, does this mean they are going to be losing money?
  10. Why don't Americans know the difference between a reporter and a contributor?
  11. Why do we not teach financial literacy courses in public school?
  12.  Do you ever forward your spam mail to
  13. Why war??

Monday, June 04, 2018


This is close to La La Land.

Many years ago when my sister was in her early 40's, she contracted skin cancer and lost the battle against it after only a few months. She lived on the other side of the country and our correspondence was by sporadic phone calls and emails.   The expertise of the staff of a major Los Angeles hospital was not smart enough nor quick enough to save her life.  I flew out to be with her for a few days in the middle of her battle.  When she passed she left behind a 10-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl soon to turn 13 and their Dad.  These two children grew up into beautiful, stable, and sweet adults through some miracle of good parenting and good genes and damn luck.

This weekend I flew out again to attend the wedding of the young man, my nephew.  We were there for only 2 and half days and it was very emotional...more so than weddings are normally emotional for me.  I left the rain-filled skies here in the Mid-Atlantic for the sun-filled skies of Southern California.  

Southern California where real estate prices START in the very high six figures and never seem to end.  This little gray house in the background was worth a couple of million!

This was a special trip for me since I had not had a chance to see my niece and nephew for many years as their careers took them away from the places where I visited their father.  

The wedding was small, semi-formal, and was a chance for me to see my other brother and sister briefly as well.

It was both a tough and terrific time for me and I am so glad I did not miss it.  

Now I am back home and returning to normal---my version of normal that is.

Saturday, May 26, 2018


"The Health and Human Services Department has a limited budget to track the welfare of vulnerable unaccompanied minors, and realized that 1,475 children could not be found after making follow-up calls to check on their safety, an agency official said."--- Time Magazine.   The richest, most powerful country in the world cannot keep track of the children that they make into orphans by removing them from their parents at the border.  OK.  Let us put this in "perspective".

According to the FBI's National Crime Information Center Missing Person File, 36.5% or approximately 32, 121 that are missing are humans under the age of 18.  Of course, these children were not the responsibility of the Federal Departments nor was their separation from their parents an action by the government.  Data indicates that 90% of these are runaways.
The European Commission reports that 250 000 children are reported missing every year in the European Union, 1 child every 2 minutes.  Runaways account for 57% percent of EU missing children.  23% were parental abductions.

The Internet has been a tool for luring children away, but it also has been a tool for finding them.  Cell phones owned by children have been important in finding children who just get lost.  We cannot blame it on technology.

Did the immigrant children go to a relative who is hiding them?  Were they taken in by a foster family that is evil?  Did the children run away in confusion and fear and are sleeping in the desert or the sidewalk?  Is this part of a sex slave network?

I saw the movie Lion based on a true story a year ago and was deeply moved by the overpopulation and poverty in India that created a culture where children were treated like lost dogs.  

I just wish we would fight for the rights of the born as much as we fight for the unborn.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Abstraction and Distraction

The Laughing Tree

I have been watching the National Geographic series Genius. Last year it was about Einstein. This year it is about Picasso. The style of storytelling these days, whether in books or video, is to jump back and forth along the timeline. You reveal a little something in the present and then you go back in time and explain how it came about. While it does add tension and even works for the writer sometimes, I am not as in love with it to the extent that the popular culture seems to be.

I am also not a fan of contemporary and/or abstract art. Moving into the impressionist period was as far as my interest would take me. But I have always loved the work of Picasso and admired his creative and evolutionary talent for his time:  misogynist pig that he was in his personal life. In his blue period, he conveyed such a depth of misery with each painting. In his cubist period, his works invited a more intense study as they slowly revealed an edginess and a novelty and an energy in the inanimate.

His life was very complex, so I am not sure that Nat-Geo has been as accurate as it could be. It glosses over so much and leaves one wondering why and what impact something had.

The casting of Antonio Banderas as Picasso is effective. He has those dark Spanish button eyes that Picasso had.  If you study his interviews you will see that he has much the same passion and devotion and openness in his real life that Picasso had.  Banderas is an underrated actor. The Thirteenth Warrior is one of my favorite movies that he did even though it received mediocre reviews. It is moody, heavy, and slow, with a little too much blood and guts, but full of atmosphere and a wonderful musical score. He is very compelling as the warrior.  

OK, just a review of what has taken up my time, because of the days of rain, I spent too much time in front of the television, on the other hand, my house is pretty clean.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Subdued Holidays

Hoping you had a nice Mother's Day if you are a mother. I am not super comfortable with this holiday because I do have friends and relatives that lost their mother when they were very young, early teens or one in college. For those who have gone through this tragedy, it may bring up days of sweet memories and for others a deep longing for all that they missed. I will be attending the wedding of a young man that lost his mother when he was about ten. He lives on the other side of the country and I do not get to see him as much as I would like.

My daughter-in-law has recently learned that she will probably not be able to have children and her sister learned the same fate years ago.  They both married later in their lives which complicates things.  I think they have both decided not to try adoption, so it appears her parents will never have the joy of grandkids, and they are special people and would have made wonderful grandparents.

This Mother's Day, while special for many, carries baggage for me.  I had a complicated relationship with my Mother.  She was judgemental and overworked and angry much of the time.  I understand it all now but did not when I was a young girl which she burdened and guilted with chores. 

I got a call from my distant son late that evening (certainly prompted by his wife) and nothing from my busy daughter who is a very wonderful mother in her own right.  But they know I would not guilt them about their actions or inactions on this day.  We love each other with or without holidays to remind us.

Anyway, for those who have children, I hope your day was filled with attention and honor by those you worked so hard to raise.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Where Have You Been?

I am impressed (while perhaps not motivated) to find bloggers keeping up their posts in the spring season.  I am compelled and even guilted into being outside most of the time.  There is dirt under my fingernails, those that are still undamaged, and dirt between my toes and some even on my face.  The weeding is endless this time of year.  The dead zones due to winter harshness have been discovered and new perennials have to be placed in those black holes, either from the division of overgrown perennials or shopping for something new.  An entire hedge of pyracantha is looking awful as are we from pruning the deadwood and bloodily fighting the thorns. 

There is also a rather large gray rabbit who is fearless and makes me break into an aerobic run each morning across the lawn.  (I am trying to protect my sunflowers and zinnias!)  He clearly finds my gallumping in slippers mildly amusing.  Where are those two foxes when you need them?

Needless to say, this is NOT the rabbit in my yard.

My Master Gardeners group is in high gear with endless projects, plant sales, and interns to interview.  Gardeners are a distinctly high energy group in the spring.  It is as if they have been revving their engines all winter and spend time arguing about whether a plant is an invasive, a native healthy spreader or a weed before they price it.

April was also the month of birthdays (two grandsons and a daughter) and with gifts to buy there was also a girl's weekend getaway to cram into two days.  I do not use the word "girl's" loosely as both that went with me were in their 40's.  I do not consider myself a girl.  That weekend was mercurial with coolish rains, spring warming sun and fluctuating temps that required on-again off-again jackets.  The only hard plans were staying at a B&B winery/distillery which was a gift to my daughter as she could enjoy the tastings and not worry about driving as I hate the driving part of any adventure.

I learned that I am too old to taste various hard ciders at noon and then hit a free distillery tasting before dinner.  I did sip the lavender gin from my daughter's glass and the cinnamon rum! 

This was followed the next day by a visit to her favorite creamery-dairy farm where we were able to sample the ice cream, pet the cows and photograph a curious alpaca.  

Then in the afternoon was a tour of a historic mansion and talking to several weavers and admiring their work.  The next morning, we took in the antique shops on the antique row for my daughter-in-law where I bought a few gifts and two "whimsical" vases.  

This is the genre of activities that transforms the males in my life into zombies, so we were relieved to just meander and do low-pressure stuff.

Today I have lots of housework which I have ignored forever.  So where have you been while I was away?

Thursday, April 26, 2018

An Opportunity for You to Express Yourself

One spring somewhere in Utah.

My days are so full of gardening and planning a weekend get-away with my daughter and daughter-in-law to celebrate their two birthdays, that I hardly have time to slow down and blog.  So, I am going to use a "writing prompt" to get some creative juices flowing and also offer you an opportunity to participate in the comments below. Come on...take a chance.  If you want to write a longer response...just invite us on over to your blog.

Here is the challenge:

"In this world when you turn 18 you are sent an envelope with the name of one person on the planet that you must meet and get to know. Who is your person? How do you meet? What happens next?"

Since the list of those I might want to meet is so long I am going to qualify the challenge and say they must be living today.

I narrowed my consideration further by including women only for consideration since men have had all the breaks for hundreds of years in history.

I want someone not too quippy because I am 18 and going to pick their brain on important decisions in life and mistakes they have learned from. I will ask the most important thing they have learned. I will ask the most important relationships that they have made in their lives. I will ask what they say "no" to on many days. I will ask them about their most important success. I will ask them what they wish they could do over. I will ask them about their relationship with a higher being or what they use for spiritual guidance. I will ask if they think one can be successful in love and what are the keys to that. I will ask them what second career might they wish they could have followed.  I will ask them what keeps them centered on their most difficult days.

How do we meet?  Well, maybe I win some contest.  We would meet on a hike to a mountain lodge or a walk to a cabin on a lake. NO one else, just the two of us stuck together for most of the day.

What happens next?   This would be a challenge for me to try and apply some of what I learned to my own future career, marriage, and decisions on life in general. I would also hope we could keep in touch over the years ahead.

Oh,  you want to know who I selected?  Ruth Bader Ginsberg.  No special reason as there were many authors, journalists, political leaders that I could have considered, and since she has her own exercise program I am guessing we could handle that gentle mountain walk.  Perhaps a spring walk in Utah?

Now, your turn...if you like.

Friday, April 20, 2018

One Word Summary?

The last few days, if you follow our President,  you will have heard news about about peeing, prostitutes in an industry in which Russia seems to have the most beautiful if you listen to misogynist pigs such as Putin, and almost everything else being fake news  and witch hunts (notice how everything bad is either dark or female?). But, if you follow the real news you will learn a First Lady has died. She did not get enough credit when alive, and while I disagreed with her politics, she was an honest and strong person and loyal to family. She lost a small child when she was young, was a military wife with all of the sacrifices that entailed, took on the thankless role of First Lady, listened to others say awful things about her sons who ran for office, and while a white privileged mother, still paid her dues.  I have heard several times in the news that she was known as the "Enforcer."

This got me thinking about my life.  What if I died this year?  Would there be one word that came to the mind of those that knew me?  I was hoping it would be "loyal",  but it could be "loudmouthed,"  or "uncommunicative" or "over-organized"  or "opinionated" or possibly "emotional." 

What would be the word that you think you should be remembered by and is that the same word that others would use?

Monday, April 16, 2018

Curiouser and Curiouser

"I needed to compose you one little bit of observation to be able to give thanks again for those striking strategies you've shared above. It was certainly pretty open-handed of you to offer publicly exactly what most people might have marketed as an electronic book to make some profit for themselves, even more so considering that you could have tried it if you ever considered necessary. The secrets in addition acted like a good way to comprehend the rest have similar zeal like my very own to realize significantly more with regard to this issue. I'm certain there are thousands of more fun moments ahead for those who find out your site. holiday ideas on." (This was followed by a link to the blog.)

I allow immediate comments on this blog because I  usually am able to read them at that time.  After a week I have set my blog to prevent comments from being  published until I give approval as this is usually the time a "bot" or spam blogger posts something in the comments section.  

This comment in quotes above was left on one of  my posts.  One would think "they" could write some routine post that at least makes enough sense to  make me curious to go to the link they add to  their blog.  This must have been written by a computer.  Strange....

Thursday, April 12, 2018

I Knew That Already

I use Facebook more than many people do, but I do not judge those who will have nothing to do with this social networking site,  like my husband. I like to keep in touch with friends who live hundreds of miles away. I am somewhat restrictive in my criteria for accepting FB friends and I have written about that before. I usually like to at least have met the person. I have made a few exceptions. In one case the person and I grew close through blogs and the person also had a terrible illness which at least restricted travel on their part. We were probably destined never to meet in real life. In another instance, one of my close relatives was going through a difficult time and one of her colleagues asked to become my friend on FB. I accepted that just to be able to see how my close relative might be doing from another's perspective without actually discussing it! 

I know exactly how many friends I have on FB.  I keep it as close to 100 as I can.  I have very few FB friends here in my community, but I do have a few.  I am very political on FB.

I have not answered friend requests from a few co-workers that I did not become close to when we worked together or that I thought were not generally "nice" people. My judgment---my call, and I am sure others might just judge me the same way.

I have lost only one friend over the decade or so and this was a distant relative who could not stand my political postings.  He 'unfriended' me.  It was sad because he would post "photos" of the "rape" of the Ambassador in the Benghazi debacle and other questionable links.  The photos were not true and violent and fed his conservative fire, and I never pointed out that sources are essential when attempting to post facts.  I let him post what he wanted.  He was young, an ex-marine and a gun-lover.  He had lots of problems with romance in his life, lost his access to his toddler daughter due to his anger, and this was and is sad.  We had a few attempts at face-to-face conversations on his goals and direction in life, but you cannot change the spots on some leopards.  He had been a great marine, which is a structure many people need and his life stalled a little after he left.

Now to the title.  I know that the 'world' knows all of this about me.  I have taken a few of those quizzes, so they know my exercise, food, personality, travel preferences, and my habits and my spending profile.  I did not take many because I realized this data was being compiled elsewhere.  ( I was not smart enough to think about the Russians, but I did think about Pakistan and ID theft.)

I downloaded my FB archive today and it is a surprising history walk, because we do forget the intimate conversations we might have with others.  I am glad that at least others are aware of this.  Elders have less to lose in terms of information compromised, but just as much to lose in terms of ID theft.  

If you have bought anything on the Internet outside of FB, they also have your data.  I have been informed by Target, Office of Management and Budget, Experian, and some others that my data has been stolen which is more than a credit card number.  So let us all blame that shy, awkward nerd, Zuckerberg and ignore all those millionaire CEO's that are storing their money overseas while selling out data to others or at the very least being lazy in keeping it safe.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Four in the Morning

This is actually a sunset and not a sunrise
As many who are retired with no little ones or pets to demand time in a morning schedule,  I have a pretty regular morning routine. My sleep patterns are the most dyslexic. I sleep until 7-ish about three mornings a week and sleep until 4:20 something about four mornings a week. I sometimes take a nap on those days to catch up.   There does not seem to be any reason for my insomnia as it occurs those early mornings when I have been mulling a problem the day before as well as on mornings when I have been pleasantly busy the day before!  Although lately, it seems more coordinated with a full moon(?)?

While up I would love to finish that load of laundry or clean the bathrooms or vacuum (as this is the time of day when I have energy); hubby is sleeping (like  a hibernating bear) and I am polite.  Instead I make my coffee and do the following:

Sip that coffee and check outside in the dark through the porch light to see what might be happening (usually not much)
Check out Facebook (sometimes a fun trip and sometimes a bit disappointing)
Glance at the Google news and then read a bit of the digital New York Times
Do the mini-crossword puzzle from the New York Times (never brave enough to do the real puzzle)
Check my photography website looking for sales or comments
Take a digital class or two from the Great Courses subjects I have downloaded (How  to Boost Physical and Mental Energy, Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft, Introduction to Water Coloring, English in America: A Linguistic History, Everything Gourmet: Recovering the Lost Art of Cooking---Some I have competed and am re-watching these videos just for fun and memory.)
Listen with earphones to a program from the BBC In Our Time  (probably one of the jewels of the Internet)
and then finally read blogs and write on my own blog.

Today I discovered that the author Malcolm Gladwell has a podcast so I am subscribing to that to fill future time.

I am not sharing this to impress you on the industriousness of my mind or to reveal that I might be a bit of a culture nerd or even to show that I am not as empty-minded as one might think...because I am an elder and no longer care about what people think.  I am just sharing to be sharing.

All of this in the hours before the sun comes up.  What do you do on an early morning when you cannot get out and about?

Saturday, April 07, 2018

The Whole 5 Yards

With a passion for gardening, we ordered a truck of that Leafgro that I wrote about in the prior post. We have a good-sized vegetable garden and I have to tend about seven various sized flower beds, the rest we sprinkle on our pathetic lawn which is really just an effort to control erosion.

Below is what half of 5 yards looks like.  (Our garden helpers are weeks away, so much of this work we have to do ourselves....sigh.)   ($200 and we will use it all.)

We are about 70% done. Since I have company next week, I want all of the chores out of the way so  I can play.

This is where it goes:

I had to do lots of weeding, some perennial dividing, etc. prior to topping the beds  with the humus and after several days I am DONE with this work. Right now, I just want an afternoon bath and a book!

But I do get a reward and some photos with which to play.

I have written before about this germander speedwell that snuck into a pot of something I was planting so many years ago and since it looks so lovely in the spring I have let it wander.  It is a polite wanderer.  It is also called Catseyes or bird's eye speedwell and we have the wild version  roaming in our lawn.  The wild version has fewer and paler flowers.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Humus with One M.

Do not scroll down through this post. Yes, it is boring and maybe repetitive for some of you, but the next time you feel helpless in fixing this old planet, you now have one tool below.

My state is making an effort to improve the way we deal with waste. We are composting (turning organic material into soil conditioner instead of waste) big time! And, because you may have a busier life than I, I am going to take you on this selective tour with Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists on this cold day.

First, we got a slide show and a brief intro. This man loves his job and these "Masters" were serious enough to take notes.

This facility has a potential for 200 acres but is currently only using 40. They produce two kinds of humus. That compost which is made just from leaves, branches and grass clippings and a second process from plant material and from human food wastes. They are marketed as Leafgro and Leafgro Gold. They accept truckloads from all over the contiguous counties and charge a fee to leave waste. No plastic, ceramic, tissue, styrofoam, diapers, foil or glass is accepted, although bits and pieces do sneak in.

There are rows and rows of this compost in various stages of decomposition.  

The plastic that sneaks in is filtered at the very end.

There was only the odor of freshly chopped wood and garden mulch.  On warmer days the smells may be stronger.  We did have to be careful where we walked as there were some pretty muddy areas.

They were moving into a more technological approach by covering the rows with a permeable long-lasting fabric and then pumping air to control temperature and oxygen levels for the breakdown.

There are environmental companies that pick up the produce and plant materials from stores and restaurants.  This man below had more customers than he could handle and delivered from some of the finest restaurants in D.C. since this facility accepted raw meat!  He had to pay a fee to deposit these materials but still turned a profit from the retailers' fee he collected.

This material was immediately covered by the bulldozer with several feet of plant materials and that insured that no rodents or animals came in.

And for us gardeners, we were drooling over the final gold.  They sold everything they produced and always had a waiting list.  They sold directly as well as through over a dozen retail outlets that sold both in small bags and by the truck!  There was a sliding scale and I cannot remember the price, but it was reasonable.

Now some of my readers may have no interest in this process or resulting product, but you cannot tell me you are uninterested in much smaller landfills, much less pollution, and a healthier environment!  (Don't I take you to the best places?)

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Best Places to Be In

Spring has sprung and so have most of my ligaments. I spent hours weeding and cutting away perennials on my knees in wet soil. My roses never got their late winter cutback and now they are 4 feet high.  

Then there is the danger after taking a warm shower to sit down for an hour or so and go through emails. On these days I need a crane to get me off the couch when all the joints have joined in protest against moving ever again.

A pod from my gardenia.

I have spent much time going through expired packs of seeds and scolding myself for not throwing them all out or even to sprinkle in an area of soft soil, and thus, giving them a fair chance to rally. I also collect seeds in the fall and sometimes I am good about labeling and stratifying and or keeping in sealed containers, but other times they end up in an unmarked envelope and then leak all over the plastic shoe box in which I keep my seeds.  80% will most likely never germinate.  I faithfully gather black plastic seedling flats and fill with seed soil and place on a warming pad under a grow light and try to talk them into emerging.

I learned that pea and bean type seeds can be shocked with very, very warm water for a minute and they will germinate more rapidly when planted.  That is my experiment with my hyacinth bean this year...we shall see.

This week I took a tour of a magical composting facility which is too good to not have a post all its own.  By hanging out with gardeners and farmers I get into some of the very best places!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

A Talk About Home Away from Home

We were lucky in that we had time for a quick lunch at the airport before boarding for our lengthy second flight due to the layover in Charlotte. Of course, we landed at one concourse and had to make our way to the end of another. The people traffic was reasonable which made it easier to navigate and work around the people treadmill.

You may not know this, but airlines new move is to not only charge for the class of assigned seats but they now charge for boarding times! I think for $14 we could board before others, and we passed on that just because it seemed so stupid and mean!  Thus we boarded near the last and overhead bins were getting full, and it was harder to get around large knees in the aisle, and stewards and stewardesses were cheering us on to get seated as fast as possible, etc. 

We had an aisle and a middle seat. I almost always get stuck in the middle. The window seat had not been filled, but we put our stuff away and sat. I reset the air fan and turned on the reading light and thumbed through the airline magazine (pretending it was not full of germs) which contained articles on local restaurants, local tourist sights interspersed with full-page ads for plastic surgeons (had they had surgery ?) and executive love-matching facilitators who looked a lot like our President's liaisons. It is so hard to make a love connection when you are rich and busy, I guess.

After a short time, our seatmate was coming down the aisle.  She was a stocky woman in her 50s-60s of Latina heritage with very close-cropped hair and drawn on eyebrows.  Someone commented that there was no room for her hand luggage and she responded that she was not allowed to lift over her head anyway and she would tuck it under her seat.  We did the get-out-into- the-aisle dance while she moved in.  As she reached below while next to me I noticed she had a compression stocking on her arm, and realized she could not lift probably due to some circulatory or surgery issue.

I was not in a talking mood, but she was.  She was flying back to New York, her home.  She asked where we were from and what we had been doing.  I keep my responses polite but short.  Then, my mistake, I asked what she had been doing in San Juan.  I learned the following over the next hour or so:

She was on 30-day treatments for 4th stage breast cancer, but doctors felt she was in good remission and able to make this trip.  She was thankful to God and felt that her future looked bright.  I felt guilty about thinking her drawn on eyebrows were overkill and was impressed by her optimism and energy.

She was born in New York but lived in Puerto Rico for about 20 years of her younger life.  She had traveled various places following her husband who was in the Army.  She had taken this trip because she had to take care of her parents' house.  Her parents had passed on years ago, but neighbors had informed her that a wall and a fence had need of repair due to the recent hurricane.  This house was in a town outside of San Juan and most of the town had taken on substantial damage, so it was complicated getting there.  

While there she visited with a friend of hers, a teacher in her 60s.  This woman was living in a house owned by another and it had been pretty much destroyed.  The teacher has been living in the basement without water or electricity since the hurricane.  The owner was in no hurry to repair the house and the teacher had no friends or relatives that could take her in.  Imagine living in a basement without water or electricity for months!  My new friend on the plane said she got her parent's house somewhat repaired and convinced the teacher to move in and watch it for her for at least a couple of years.  There was still some contracting work to be done and she told the woman that she would have oversight to see that it was done correctly and she left her some cash for that.

All of the blue in the photo above covers roofs that have yet to be repaired on one of the Caribbean islands we toured.

I am sure this was just a smidgeon of the many stories that could have been told in that town.  I read an article the other day that said Puerto Rico had been set back at least a decade in development and infrastructure.  And of course, a new hurricane season is just a few months away.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Do you like to Samba?

The photo below is the back of the Capital Building and taken from the exact spot where I fell!  134 architectural designs were submitted from the US, Cuba, Canada, France, Spain, and Puerto Rico. After controversy and changes in architectural designs and more modifications of the final selection, the building was completed in 1929. The day we were there, the Governor was going to give a speech and therefore there were many police officers all around. This photo does not reflect how many!

The second photo of the Capital Building above is the front of the building and was taken the day after the speech and the barriers had not been taken down.

The statue in the photo below is the gateway to the Old Town area of San Juan where there are many restaurants and shops. It was not super busy on the day we were there and I think this was reflective of the reduction in tourism due to the hurricane.

"The statue commemorates the 400th anniversary of the discovery of Puerto Rico by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the new world. Christopher Columbus originally named the entire island of Puerto Rico to be San Juan Bautista (Saint John the Baptist), however, the island was later renamed and only the capital city of San Juan retains the name. Bronze plaques on the base of the monument provide pictorial representations of the ocean journey and arrival of Christopher Columbus and the meeting of the indigenous people."  

I will not discuss the colonial guilt I felt while studying this symbol.  Soon the local Indians had been enslaved by the Spanish.

This was a beautiful statue when you really looked at it.  

Old Town is colorful and artistic and a perfect place to shop and eat.

It is also full of colorful characters.

There were examples of hurricane damage even in these simple palms along the waterfront. There were buildings that had still to be repaired and others that were brand new on the same street.

I am not so sure I like the new architecture and I hope it is a reflection of storm sturdiness and not bad design. Of course, comments in U.S. social media complain that Puerto Rico does not deserve our support because it is so corrupt and the money would be unlike the real estate projects, private university efforts and philanthropic foundations established by the staff in our White House.

I did read in the newspapers of small grants and a few large loans being made through our government, so there is small hope.

There are a number of small and larger forts around the island where Spain protected its colony from attacks by pirates and others.  This is El Morro, one of the more well-known and one we have visited before.  The views of the ocean and bay are amazing and the freedom of such an open area is welcome on crowded days.  There is a small fee for the museum which is part of our National Park Service.  On this day the temperature was perfect as it can get quite hot!  (This is me after my fall, and you can see I am recovering well.)

We had to be at the airport by early to mid-afternoon and so had time to stop here:

The sunny courtyard was protected by palms and umbrellas and in the background was some very nice samba music to get you in the mood.  I had a rum Pina Colada and hubby had the virgin version.  It seems this famous drink was created here.

This barely touches the flavor and culture of the island that we absorbed in our two short days.  I didn't even mention the great restaurant attached to our hotel and the conversation with the man who runs the food program at the church that had been damaged across the street!  I also have to write the tale of the lady I sat with on the plane home and her story about the hurricane!  And I failed to mention that the very days we were there, winter storms on the north side of the island had sent huge waves inland washing cars into the ocean.  Never enough time is there?