Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Plant Dilemma

Last weekend as Kate and I were waiting for an outdoor table at a local diner, We wandered around the cottage garden of the quaint little floral and gift shop next door. There were some tall yellow snapdragon type flowers that I really liked around the back, so I went in to ask what they were. The proprietor, a lovely little older lady led me right through the store to the back. She said she did not know what they were, just that her brother had brought them home from a hike in the mountains. She pulled a few out by the roots, wrapped them in brown paper and gave them to me.

Some people are a light in the world.

When I got home, I stuck them into my watering can because there was water in it and researched the plant on the Internet.

I have always loved butter and eggs -- both the breakfast and the flower. When I was a kid growing up in Michigan, I adored its bright yellow and orange snapdragon flowers, so valiantly growing in the little cracks in the sidewalks and the crumbling cement around telephone poles. When I moved to North Carolina, I missed them and looked in assorted seed catalogues without luck. Thompson & Morgan had toadflax, same flower, homely nomenclature, but they'd fancified it into multiple colors -- not the same.

I was properly armed for my search: toadflax, Scrophularia, Linaria, butter and eggs all ready to feed to Google along with Utah and wildflower.

And the winner was... Linaria dalmatica, Dalmatian Toadflax, classified by the USDA as a Noxious Weed. Dang!

So I searched out my childhood favorite, Linaria vulgaris. Turned out it's a Noxious Weed too. Double Dang!

So what do I do now? That sweet lady gave me an illegal alien. I'm a Master Gardener, I want to run down the street and pull up all the donkey tail spurge, Euphorbia myrsinitis, a neighbor planted on her side yard because I know it's a Noxious Weed, and now I'm harboring an illegal plant in my watering can.
Don't tell the county agent!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Radish Seeds Are Sprouting

I put in some more work on the raised beds over the weekend. Replanted the tomatoes that got Utahed, planted some seeds, put mulch over the beds to cover up the soaker hoses (wouldn't want them exposed to UV radiation all summer.)

The radish seeds are sprouting -- despite Kitsu laying on them.


And flowers are blooming.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Domestic Adventures With the Engineer

The Engineer got back from China at 4:00 Saturday afternoon. I picked him up at the airport, brought him home and fed him, then tucked him into bed. I had asked him to bring me back a silk scarf from Beijing in a floral or dragon motif, thinking it was a simple, inexpensive thing to request... He came back with three huge, amazingly ugly silk scarves. I thanked him profusely and gave him lots of hugs and kisses, but, geeze, those scarves are ugly. I think his taste is all in his mouth. He brought Toblerone bars too. He always brings Toblerone bars. We have at least 20 of them stored in the gifts stash. Neither of us eats them.

After the long flight, he snored extra loudly, so I got very little sleep during the night. As dawn was breaking, I gave up entirely and went to sit in the bathroom (remember, we're living in one room) until he awoke and silence came creeping on little cat feet like the fog. At that point, about 7:10 a.m., I staggered back into the bedroom and collapsed on the bed.

At 7:26, I heard him shout, "What are you doing with that rabbit?"

There was the sound of a brief scuffle, then he began calling, "The cat brought in a rabbit, what should I do with it?"

I wobbled from my bed and into the hallway where I found him with a large bundle of towel. He thrust the towel at me.

"It's a baby rabbit. What do I do with it?"

He carried it outside and laid it on the picnic table. I gently folded back the towel to reveal the head of a cottontail bunny young enough to still have the white star on its forehead.

I love my cats, but if there was one thing I could change about them it would be the hunting. I know cottontails are the fast food of the wild, but I really like bunnies and absolutely hate it when the cats catch one. I hate it when they catch anything except rats -- and those had darn well better be thoroughly dead before they bring them into the house.

The Engineer took the bunny down a couple of yards, past the yard with two dogs, and let it go. He was very pleased with himself. It was the first rabbit he'd ever caught.

Actually, it was the first brought into the house cat prey he'd ever caught. He usually bellows for me when he discovers the cats at something he doesn't approve of. I've been catching birds, mice, chipmunks, rabbits, snakes, etc. for years, I'm good at it. One time he set up a ruckus over a "live bird" that the cats had. You would have thought the house was on fire he was so excited. So I excused myself to our company and went and caught the "live bird." It was a leopard spotted cat toy with feathers poking out one end. I displayed my catch with pride as the Engineer kept telling everyone that it really had looked just like a live bird.

The Engineer also does not do litter boxes. Nor does he touch canned cat food. He will pour crunchies into their dish and fill their water fountain, though. Should he find a hairball or mess on the floor -- I find out about it when I spot the can of carpet cleaner sitting, ready and waiting for me, next to the untouched cat sin. He's a subtle sort of a fellow, isn't he?

This evening he really made me nuts. We were going to have barbequed seafood shish kabobs, so he hauled out the Webber Kettle grill and fired it up -- right next to the beautiful yellow rose bush. As he strolled back into the kitchen, I looked up from my shrimp shelling and saw the side of the rose bush thrashing in the heat from the fire.

"Sweetie," I said, "you're going to set the rose on fire, you need to move the grill!"

He laughed and said he thought the lighter fluid flames would die down before it actually ignited.

I pointed out that the leaves and flowers were blackening and shriveling.

He laughed some more. He finally realized I was serious as I charged out the door, so he came out and moved the grill. Then he laughed about the rose having gotten "sunburned from below."
Men! Why do we let them live? It's a darn good thing (as I frequently tell him) that he's cute.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Hanging My Head For Poking At Kate


I laughed at the death by freezing of a friend's tomatoes on May 23rd. I should have looked to my own garden before sticking my foot far enough into my mouth to choke on.

This used to be a nice, healthy Cardinal Climber seedling.

I hope it survives being Utahed (90 one day, close to freezing the next.) I also lost some cucumber seedlings and four tomatoes. I have no idea why the watermelon seedlings survived.

Ah well, Kate and I are going on a tomato hunting expedition tomorrow morning. I'll 'fess up and she can laugh at me.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Here Birdie, Birdie, Birdie...

The cats were recreating this evening. Fortunately the birds stayed clear of the fun.

There's a hummingbird on the right-hand flower on the feeder, really, look closely.

A Quick Explanation

Why, people ask me, does Wunx~ have the squiggle mark at the end?

It's the tail, of course.

Wunx~ was my Girl Scout camp name when I was a kid. It's Mohican for fox. I have red hair which I wore in a long braid or pony tail. Foxes have red fur and long tails, thus Wunx~.

It also makes Kitsu and me sort of related. Kitsune is Japanese for fox. (Sachiko means "daughter of bliss" in Japanese.)

Pretty cool, huh?

And I think I'm getting a little better drawing with the tablet.

To Go Or To Stay -or- Wunx~'s Law

The Engineer travels to many exotic destinations for his job. This week he's in China, Beijing to be specific. In June he's going to Bogotá, London, Abu Dhabi and Washington DC. When my friends ask about his travels and I tell them where he is and where he's going they usually say something like, "Ooh, are you going too?"

My answer is, "Wunx~'s Law," which states, "If the journey is longer than the stay, thou shalt not go."

This seems eminently reasonable to me. I can't see spending two days each way cooped up in an airplane for a day and a half on the ground. Factoring in jet lag on both ends, it means I lose a week of my life going someplace I will probably be too fuzzy headed to fully enjoy or even remember. Plus which, his company sends him business class, $13,933, I would have to fly roach, $3,577. And when he gets to where he's going, he's expected to work the whole time, so I'd be on my own. Not bad during the day when I could explore, but I'd at least like a romantic dinner without business talk.

Fortunately, the Engineer is, to quote himself, very durable. He enjoys the international travel and is seldom bothered by jet lag.

So, no, I'm not going.

Unless, of course, he decides to take an extra week there to play tourist with his wife... That I'd do.

And a note to my buddy, GuiGirl: If the DC trip didn't involve going to London, Abu Dhabi, and back to London before hitting DC, I would surely come with him to visit you. Let's plan on next fall, just you and me for an East Coast fall colors photo expedition!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


The cucumbers died. The sugar baby watermelons are thriving.


Danged if I know.

Maybe Utah got 'em. It was in the 90's Sunday, didn't get up to 60 Monday. It was a cold and rainy day. Monday and Tuesday nights dropped close to freezing. Which is way better than my frosty, high-altitude, friend, Kate, got. Her tomatoes met Jack Frost and lost. (Do as she says, not as she does.)

I keep looking for the radish seedlings to pop their little cotyledons up. I don't eat radishes, but they're usually the quickest to sprout and the first sprout is always the most exciting. Here I must hang my head and confess the watermelons and dead cucumbers were transplants. Guess I'd better direct seed the cucumbers now.
Soon. Soon it will be time to celebrate little green leaves uncurling from the soil.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

All Dressed Up...

and ended up going no place.

A few of the inanimate objects in my life get named. This does not include stuffed animals, they are not inanimate. The bike I rode for more than 20 years was MagicBike, my first car was L.Y.C. (LittleYellowCar), and my monopod/walking stick is named Stick; perhaps not highly original, but descriptive.

Today Stick was transformed into Staff. I wrapped it in ivy from top to bottom and tied a magpie tail feather up near the top. I put on my motley broomstick skirt, a chamois colored T-shirt and a garland of ivy (to match Stick as Staff) in my hair and hied myself to the Utah Renaissance and Fantasy Faire, dropping the Engineer at the airport on my way (he's headed to China.)

I've been to Renaissance Festivals before in Georgia: and Texas: These are truly grand and glorious Renaissance festivals. There are entire villages of permanent shoppes, inns, theatres and arenas, trees, flower bowers and hundreds of employees in full if very anachronistic costume and vernacular. Many of the visitors dress too. There are knights in armor jousting, sword fighting and slaying dragons, jongleurs, magicians, wenches, trollops, charlatans and royalty. And always the ladies inspired by Frank Frazetta, strutting by in their chain mail bikinis.

Ready for great photo ops, I took the big camera, its case also decorated with ivy, and high expectations.


What I found was a cow pasture, complete with cow flop and a couple of dozen canvas tents and canopies. There were some tawdry shoppes, a couple of food stands selling roast turkey legs and funnel cakes and two Clydesdales -- oh, sorry -- bold chargers, and not a square inch of shade on a day predicted to reach well into the 90's. Mine was one of the best costumes there.

I came home.

But the good news is that the raised bed garden is progressing slowly but surely. The irrigation has been laid, the poles for the vertical netting in back are pounded in and the first watermelon (sugar babies) and cucumbers have sprouted. When it cools off this evening, I will transplant my seedlings and plant some bean seeds.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Beauty Stalks on Eight Legs

I'm in one of those weird moods tonight when nothing seems to come together, so I surfed through some of my photo archives looking for inspiration. I have lots of pictures, some good, some bad, some pretty, some not pretty. But what makes pretty? Flowers are pretty.I really like spiders. I think they're lovely. I don't understand why some people are afraid of them.

When I lived in the dormitory, one of my male friends owned a red legged tarantula. When anyone knocked on his door, he would put the spider on his shirt before answering. I was one of the few people who knocked a second time, but that's because he let me hold Gracie. I loved the way she seemed to pause and think about it before she lifted a leg. But when she was hungry she could pounce on a cricket faster than I could see. To me Gracie was a thing of beauty. Not many things are handsomer than an orb weaver. They would often spin their webs around the doorway of my duplex in North Carolina. It was an easy way to wake up to a plentiful breakfast of night flying bugs drawn by the porch light. The orb weaver's long magnificently articulated legs move so precisely when swaddling prey in silk

Jumping spiders make me laugh. They're so little and they jump so big. They are the Jack Russell terriers of the arachnid world.


Even tiny spiders are ferocious hunters, lurking to leap upon unsuspecting insects. The gardener in me loves seeing aphids get chomped.

This little guy is not as big as one of those hard silver sugar balls that my Grammy used to put on Christmas cookies. He is a wonder in miniature with his striped legs and diamond patterned abdomen.






Long, lean Fred Astaire spider is not much larger, but looked so elegant dancing with himself on my mirror.



How could anyone not like spiders?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Dirt

It snowed a week ago Saturday. Last Saturday it hit 91 degrees. That's Utah.
Filled the raised beds with dirt Sunday. The Engineer tilled the first layer of fill into the very top of the underlying rocklike soil, I mixed the top layer in with the bottom layer using a cultivator, then watered it thoroughly. The soaker hose is partially laid and the tomato cages placed. Tomorrow I hope to begin planting. The two raised beds don't provide a whole lot of space, Each is 12' by 4' making a total of 96 square feet. Back in the day, in North Carolina, I had a rental garden of 25' x 50' -- 1250 square feet. In some ways I guess I've come down in the world.

I've plotted out what I'm going to plant, though.
Can you tell I like tomatoes and beans?

Of course, one always needs beauty in the garden. Kittens and flowers provide generous eye candy.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Pimpin' My Machine

I'm not a wildly extravagant person. I don't buy lots of clothes, shoes, furs or jewelry, fancy cars or IPods, DVD's, dishes or stuff to decorate my home, but I do have a few weaknesses.

1. My computer.
2. My camera.
3. Garden stuff, plants and orchids.
4. Books -- but I'm on literary methadone, the public library.

Garden stuff, with the exception of orchids is mainly a spring thing.

(I went to two plant sales this morning.)

I've gone digital with the camera(s), so, really, it's much less expensive after the initial investment. No more film to buy and develop, no more pictures to print just to see if they're any good. I only print those that I want to give away or frame. Even more economical than printing them is to make CD or DVD slide shows -- CD's cost but pennies each. It's such an economical hobby these days -- and that new 2 Gig Compact Flash card only cost $30.

The computer is the most expensive of my money pits. There is always something new in the world of electronics, and I want it. More RAM, bigger faster hard drives, fancy-dancy monitors, peripherals, new software.

I've been doing a good little bit of freelance web work lately, so I've convinced myself I need a graphic tablet. I wanted a Wacom Cintiq (with full lusting and drooling.) The price, however, was $2500 -- ouch! So, for a tenth the price, I am now the proud owner of a Wacom 6x8 Intuos3. Still learning to use it as you can probably tell by the exceedingly sophisticated drawing of SuperWunx~ on my May 4th blog entry.

One cannot have a lovely new tablet without the appropriate software to go with it. Plus how can I claim to be a proper nerdette if I'm not on the bleeding edge? And, of course, I can write some of it off as a business expense. Adobe Creative Suite 3 Design Premium makes me quiver with delight. The advertisements are true -- the components do work better together. I truly do need it, you know. And it works with my photography. And, of course, one needs a nice little program to put the Photoshopped pictures into a lovely slide show, complete with transitions and appropriate music. ProShow Gold is surely not an extravagance, it's a necessity. And Nero to efficiently burn the CD's and DVD's -- can't live without that. And, of course, one does need a good photo printer for those give-away pictures.

No, I'm not at all extravagant. The Engineer should be grateful he has such a frugal wife.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Simple Joys

Yesterday I scrubbed the picnic table. Tonight we ate dinner on it for the first time this year. Every summer since we moved into this house, we've eaten at the picnic table whenever the weather and the yellow jackets permit. For the first four years we ate at an ever more rickety KMart table. I looked and looked for a new table without success.

The spring of 2004 my parents came to visit. My Mom is a genealogist, so she headed straight for the LDS Family History Center and we didn't see her except for breakfast and after the center closed for the day. I had to attend a Master Gardener function on Saturday. I decided that it was time for Dad and the Engineer to do some father-in-law/son-in-law bonding, so I looked up plans for a picnic table on the Internet and printed them out.

The men spent Saturday in Guy Heaven. They went to Home Depot and bought lumber and bolts, then came home and played with power tools. By the end of the day they relaxed at the new redwood table with a couple of beers, totally please with the table, themselves and each other. It was good.

The picnic table is wonderful. After we eat dinner, I like to sit at the table and watch the cats chasing each other like maniacs or the hummingbirds sipping at the feeder. Cool evening breeze blows down the canyon and the songbirds chirp in the trees surrounding the yard as shadows shift and deepen over the mountain. It's a golden moment to simply inhabit.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The Hummingbirds Are Back

I've been hearing them for a few days now, but today as I was scrubbing the picnic table one kept buzzing me. After I finished scrubbing and hosed off the winter's accumulation of grime, I went into the house and cooked up some sugar water. Cooled it off a bit, then put it into the feeder and hung it on the shepherd's crook. The first hummingbird thrust her bill into it in under 10 minutes. I would guess she was one of the crew that nested here last year.

Making Progress

A friend of mine looked at the picture of my first raised bed (see April 21st) and said it looked just like a giant cat box.

Geeze, I hope he doesn't give the cats any ideas...

Here's the second box with the Engineer standing beside it.

I'm afraid that at times I can be a manipulative woman. I know my spouse, he's an engineer, with all that implies. I know his weak spots, everything has to be under control and perfect.

Since I couldn't get the whole project done before he got back to town, I left the boxes crooked. After the hoohah about my building them blew over -- I pointed out that I'd told him I was going to do it before he left -- he snapped up my bait and straightened the boxes out and installed the galvanized corner brackets I'd purchased but hadn't used (silly me.) Now he takes pride in his project well done.

Next comes the fill (already hauled, but not installed), the irrigation and the plants.


Friday, May 4, 2007

The Not So Thin Line Between Fantasy and Revenge

When I was a kid, and for a number of years when I was technically an adult, I read super hero comics. Marvel and DC, XMen, Green Lantern, Thor, Spiderman, Batman, I read them all. There was a corner store near where I lived that had an ample supply of month old comics with half the cover torn off. They sold for about a third of what a new comic cost. Didn't realize until the summer after I graduated from high school and one of my friends got a job tearing covers that they were black market comics.

I also started reading my Dad's Analog magazines and science fiction paperbacks in about the second grade. I read all of the fairy tale, fantasy, and historical fiction I could get my hands on as well. I owned The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. The librarians at the public library gave up trying to keep me out of the adult stacks when I was in the sixth grade and gave me an honorary adult card -- which they weren't supposed to do until a kid was 16 or in high school. I was so proud I almost popped.

All of this fed what was probably an already overactive imagination. After Mom took away my desk lamp for burning a hole in my sheet while trying to read underneath it after my bed time, I would lay in bed at night and travel to distant times and places in my mind, all more interesting than my mundane reality.

For a very long time, I wanted to be Robin Hood, living the free life in Sherwood Forest. When I approached puberty, however, I realized that being Robin Hood would entail kissing Maid Marion. Eww! Gross!!! If I had to kiss anybody (revolting but becoming more intriguing by the month) I would prefer it to be Robin rather than Marion. So I traded in my Robin Hood identity for Maid Marion and became the most swashbuckling lady in the forest. I didn't need Robin to rescue me, I would rescue him.

In my mind, I sailed the oceans in pirate boats and sailed the sea of stars in rocket ships. I fought the bad guys and the evil oppressors of the oppressed with cunning and might. I swung a sharp sword, science officered a tight ship, and tossed baddies to Spidey to cocoon in webbing for the cops.

Reality lurked in the daylight, however. I was mercy marked in gym class because I would get up and try again after landing on my head. I couldn't move objects with my mind, cast a spell or solve quadratic equations (whatever the heck those were) without breaking a sweat. I was just a kid. And now I'm just an ordinary, mundane adult.

But fantasy still thrives within my soul. Inside I right the wrongs as I see fit. I've sent George W. off to the front lines in Iraq many times, with Rummy and Dick at his side. I've cast spells on rapists and kidnappers so that anytime they think about, much less act upon, their wickedness the emotions of their victims are reflected, raw and unedited, into their minds. And when somebody hurts or mutilates a child or an animal or a plant... Well, it differs from time to time, it's not always being stomped by a moose or having their fingers cut off to see what it feels like, sometimes I get much more creative...

But, for heaven's sake, I would never do any of it. Well, maybe the one about sending Bush and staff to Iraq. And the one about cursing rapists with uncontrollable empathy. I'd never send a moose to stomp someone. I just fantasize about it to relieve the anger that sometimes rises in me, so I can behave like a civilized person in real life.

Because that's where my body lives even if my mind is unfettered.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

In the Heat and Humidity Capitol of the USA

Here I am in Houston, Texas --
at least it ain't August.

I end up here the first of May every year because the Engineer attends a big conference. Biggest conference Houston hosts every year. Imagine 60,000 engineers, large and small, young and old, all geeky, gathering in one place. The conversation is not fit for mixed company, nor is it understandable by normal humans. But it makes them happy, so it's good.

My role is support staff (as usual.) I hold down the home-away-from-home fort. Take the cleaning in, pick it up, schmooze with the big wigs. We have to go to fancy parties and dinners with Houstonians and poobahs. I most often feel like a kid at a cocktail party, out of place and out of my league. All this while wearing uncomfortable shoes. (Why are uncomfortable shoes a requirement for being properly dressed up?)

The ladies who populate Houston high society are often of a type, slim and elegant with lots of jewels and money and big hair. They get a weekly manicure, pedicure and foot massage. They talk about opera and their children going to private prep schools or Texas A&M (Go Aggies!) They know they're the cream floating on top.

And there I am, short and round and usually looking like someone forgot to iron me after taking me out of the dryer.

But I'm nice. I'm kind and soft spoken. Everybody likes me even if I do look more than a little out of place.

I think when I die it's going to say, "She was nice," on my tombstone. Talk about damning with faint praise. I don't want to be nice. I want to be interesting, eccentric, memorable, intriguing and a heck of a lot of fun. But I don't want to drip with jewels or have big hair or kids in prep school. I guess I'll settle for nice.

As long as I can wear comfortable shoes while I'm at it.