Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Road Kill

The nine-banded armadillo is not native to this part of the country. They migrated here about fifteen years ago from points south. Today they are found sixty miles north of here --evidence of global warming, perhaps. So watch out, they may be headed your way. Up until last Saturday, I thought all armadillos looked like the one on the left; I'd seen plenty of road kill, but never seen one on the hoof. Saturday evening one crossed the road in front of me moving more like a wind-up toy than a quadruped. And no, I didn't hit it.
The dog situation has improved greatly and I think the whole neighborhood, including me, is relieved. We walk them first thing in the morning and I keep them in the house until 8:00 A.M. Then I put their anti-bark collars on and let them go in and out the back door to the yard at will. They still bark some. Learning the relationship between barking and the small shock they get is a long process and behavior modification is slow with negative reinforcement. But, I think they are getting it. I bring them in the house at 6 P.M. and they go out once more on the leash before bed time.
I've started a new blog -- it's in addition to this, not a replacement. "Melody Meanders" is intended to let anyone interested know what we are up to. The new one is a collection of reminisences -- I'm using a blog because I invite anyone interested to expand, correct, question, or just comment on it. The frailty of memory and the subjective nature of it will cause some distortion. Feel free to help me weed through that. Most of you will probably find it uninteresting. The name of the new blog, Blair's Mad House, comes from the way my father would sometimes answer the phone.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fauna Update: Butterflies and barking

Can you find the chyrsalis of the black swallowtail in this photo? It's the blob that looks like a daub of mud on the side of the box, just about dead center in this photo. There are two more in the box and one of a different unknown butterfly. What we don't know is how long they will pupate. This late in the season they may stay dormant all winter and emerge in the spring. Or if the weather stays warm, they could come out in a couple of weeks.
The back fence neighbor came to call again yesterday -- he who complained about the barking dogs on September 11. Let me be clear, I think he is absolutely right. They are a terrible nuisance. However, when it comes to protecting the boys, I cannot be rational. I did dump the boys' story on him, explaining why I felt I had to keep the dogs. He was truly touched, but unswerving in his position that something had to been done. Again, I'm in total agreement. I told him I had been trying really hard since he first complained and he countered that they barked five straight hours yesterday. I was gone for three hours and they may have barked that entire time, but I know they didn't bark five hours. Anyway three hours is too much. I get it. So, this morning Logan and I headed for PetSmart right after church and bought anti-bark electronic collars. They have been wearing them all day and still bark some, but much less. The collars have a chip in them that is supposed to calibrate the intensity of the "correction" by monitoring the frequency, duration, and intensity of the barking. They can wear the collars up to ten hours a day. If they work, that should be enough to keep us all out of jail and in the good graces of the neighbors. I hate this stuff.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Here we go again

Often at the dinner table during my growing up years, my father would wax nostalgic and tell us tales of his youth. When he launched one of his monologues, my brothers and I (my sister wasn't old enough yet) would roll our eyes and chant in chorus, "Here we go again." We groaned, but we loved the stories. That said, be warned, "Here I go again."
Cousin Chris in Florence blogs that she recently inherited a 50 year old sewing machine from her husband's grandmother. It reminds me that I got my first sewing machine 50 years ago (and it was a dandy!).
I had been sewing a bit on my mother's old Singer -- it was electric, but it had a long spindle bobbin and could not sew in reverse, nor could it make buttonholes. So, when my grandmother asked me what I would like for graduation, I told her I wanted a sewing machine. She was in town to see me graduate and she took me shopping at Sears, Roebuck. We entered the hospital-green building located on Broadway, just north of downtown Oakland. (I think it was Broadway, may have been Telegraph, and I think it was north -- toward Berkeley.) We found the machine of my dreams, a portable Kenmore for $99. Grandma reached in her purse and drew out an orange Atlasta Ranch check, filled it out and handed it over. The salesman looked at it and said, "I'm sorry, we can't take out-of-state checks." Grandma began to sputter and fume, she was as mad as I've ever seen her. An affront to her solvency was about the greatest insult you could deal her. She squawked about her Dunn and Bradstreet rating and how no one had ever questioned her trustworthiness. How dare he! Finally somehow, she managed to convince them she would be good for the money and they let us have the machine.
I loved that machine and could really make it hum -- forward and backward. The buttonholer was fabulous -- a large maroon chunk that screwed onto the machine and came with several dies for making buttonholes of various sizes and configurations. Later, I bought myself a new Singer which could also zig-zag, but the Kenmore remained my first choice for buttonholes and solid straight seams. It had one major flaw -- the flimsy case was held together by clamps which had a perverse way of jiggling their way undone. This was a fatal flaw -- during one of my many moves, the clamps came loose while a friend was carrying the machine and it crashed to the concrete. If I had that machine today, I would still be using it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


School pictures are here! I guess it was worth the fuss over the haircuts. This may be one of the last photos you'll see of Logan without braces for a couple of years.
Tonight we went to Tae Kwan Do and to Wendy's after for a treat. While the boys work out, I sit in the car and read, so I pass on the treats; the sewing and housework I did today didn't burn enough calories to earn a Frosty. The boys' favorite ice cream treat is a Chocolate Concrete Custard from Andy's. Logan likes Oreos and Brownies stirred in; Ben prefers strawberries and marshmallows. There are many custard shops in this part of the country -- it's a very smooth soft ice cream and Andy's, a local chain, is the best!

Monday, September 22, 2008


The caterpillar is a black swallowtail.
The sign outside Logan's door is Chinese (I don't know which dialect), not Japanese.
Colleen's dogs are fine.
A turtle was eating our cantelopes.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

". . . dust thou art and unto dust shall thou return." (Genesis 3:18)

You can see the corn patch is now empty. Vegetable gardening is hard work! I think the agricultural revolution was a big mistake; maybe next year I'll take up hunting or gathering. The sweat ran into my eyes, which I couldn't wipe because my hands were muddy and covered with morning glory residue which was causing a rash that I didn't want to transfer to my eyes. I couldn't wipe my nose which was running because I'm allergic to everything out there. But we did score a lot more green beans, bunches of carrots and six of these cousins to tomato horn worms. These particular critters live on the carrots and have retractable orange horns which Ben suspects might be poisonous since the caterpillar uses them as weapons and charges quite aggressively with them. Very interesting. We captured the critters and put them into a carrot-filled habitat on the front porch. I'd like to see what kind of moth they yield.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Last Sunday, the river covered the roadway of this bridge and the mill pond dam was completely overwhelmed. Today everything is normal, sunny, and bright. I guess you could say water over the bridge is water under the bridge. Sorry, Ben thought it was funny.
I just returned home from visiting my first-ever quilt show. My reactions ranged from "Wow, how did she do that!" To "I can do that." So I'm signing off for now, I feel compelled to go work on quilts.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pride and Joy

Here's Logan singing at his first jam. No, he's not singing "Pride and Joy," although Ben played it on the drums earlier in the evening. Sorry, I can't remember the name of the tune Logan sang. Can you imagine how much courage it took to stand up there at the mike for the first time? I really like the way he handles himself in tough situations. In fact, I'm so proud of both of them for all they accomplish while still being normal boys. Logan's bedroom door is pictured on the right. In case you can't read the signs, they say: "!Radioactive! Do not enter. Bens are restricted!," "!Danger! Wild Rabid beast inside," and "!Caution! Scientific studies." The red and yellow sign with the curly-cue snakes says "Welcome" in Japanese.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ike's Aftermath

Grandpa Steve and Julia lost five trees on their 1/2 acre lot. None fell on wires, cars, or buildings, although one took out some of the fence and smashed a birdbath in Julia's garden. Today Steve chopped down the trees that were about to topple over (onto the house). He rented a lift and cut them starting from the top and dropping the sections into the yard as you can see on the right. What you can't see is the house because the yard is filled with tree debris. It's pretty sad and reminds me of how Tommy mourned for the tree that was cut down in front of his house when he was very young, 2 0r 3.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Yikes! Ike

I have to admit, storms thrill me. Now, I also must say, I've never been in a killer storm, so my delight is that of a naif. Last night I stayed up waiting for TD Ike to show me something. I gave up around midnight when all was still relatively calm: light sprinkles, gusty winds, and very warm. When I woke up this morning, the carpet on the back deck was soaked, a hanging basket had been shredded and I could see a downed tree on the next street. I hadn't awakened, so I figured nothing much happened. We went to church, and on the way I could see that all the local farm ponds had turned into lakes, many trees and limbs were down, and water crossed the road in low places. It was breezy and overcast, but nothing was falling out of the sky. Apparently, I had slept through the excitement. We had somewhere around 4 inches of rain and the local river was out of its banks, closing off the route we normally take to get to our house. The river was almost up to the bridge and nearby businesses were flooded. Grandpa Steve had three large trees nearly uprooted. He has secured them today with cables, but the next stiff breeze will take them out. Tomorrow he plans to rent a cherry-picker and cut down the one posing the greatest threat to his house.
Trees are nice; I love to look at them; but NIMBY, thank you. I'm getting too old to rake leaves and deal with storm damage. I will donate to re-forest the Sahara with my carbon points.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Batten Down and Gobble Up

As the prelude to tropical storm Ike moves in, we prepare by harvesting the remains of our garden; we don't want the storm to claim the fruits of our summer labors. Ben is about to polish off our late season raspberries. The wind has begun to knock down the black walnuts that line the road near our house.

Friday, September 12, 2008


I've been working on a hand-appliqued quilt for about nine months and I'm nearly done with the hand-piecing. I have one more block to go and when the quilt store gets the pattern in, I can finish. It has been an incredible learning experience. I started out confidently thinking I could do it. With each block I completed, I learned more about the subtleties of yet-to-be-learned skills. And now waiting to work on Block 23, I can't wait to apply what I learned from Block 22 and I wonder what Block 23 will reveal as yet to be learned. It's a great metaphor, one that nearly drives me back to writing. Yet, I hesitate because somehow I'm afraid it is hackneyed and I will be unable to bring anything fresh to it. Maybe I've failed to assimilate the lesson of the quilt!
See the unassembled blocks at http://picasaweb.google.com/melodypix4/QuiltsFlowersForMacKenzie#

As soon as I assemble the quilt top, I'll be ready to learn how to hand quilt -- another lesson in humility, I'm sure.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Soul Searching

Who am I, really? How much of what others see is just what I want them to see about the person I think I should be: smart, generous, good, creative, energetic, perfect parent, etc. Well, I guess most of it is true, but they don't know that while the kids went off to church on Wednesday evening, I had dinner alone at home: a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats and a martini (with four olives!).

This morning a neighbor complained about our dogs barking. I’ve been waiting a long time for this to happen, and I know it was justified. Still, I want to know who it was (he/she only spoke to Ben while he was out waiting for the school bus). And I want to tell them our story and make sure they understand why I put up with the dogs and why they should, too. In other words, I want to shame them and make them feel bad for what was really a reasonable request. I have to work hard to sort this out before I do anything. I really don’t know what to do about the dogs; I’m about at my wit’s end. They go on a barking rampage about twice a day morning and evening – times when lots of people are out in the neighborhood, going to and from work and school, walking, gardening, etc. This activity makes the dogs crazy. I want the dogs to be watch dogs, I feel much more secure during the night because they are here. I put up with a lot to keep them.

For starters, I put up a fence to keep them in the yard and then spent more to add to the fence so I could plant a garden and keep them out of it. I have fought and struggled with ways to keep them from digging under the fence, installing chicken wire and other barriers. They have fouled the carpeting on the screened porch, ruined the downstairs carpet so that I had to have it ripped up and Pergo installed. Cinder, AKA Chainsaw, has destroyed every left shoe I own, eaten the crotch out of most of my panties, shredded the venetian blinds on three glass doors and descreened the porch. But, I can’t get rid of them. First of all, I don’t know how to ethically: I can’t euthanize healthy dogs; I can’t wish them on anyone else; and besides, I don’t want to throw away my “investment” in them. Oreo has mellowed now that she is around four years old. Cinder is getting better – he’s nearly two years old. And then there is the boys ‘ attachment. How could I take Oreo away from Logan who has already suffered more loss than any child should? Not only the loss of his parents, but his first puppy died two weeks after Christmas, breaking his heart. And Ben! Ben found Cinder straying one day when we were having a garage sale. Ben is very cautious about forming attachments, so when he asked if he could keep Cinder, how could I say no? So, what do I do about the neighbors? I guess I will try to be attentive to when their barking cycles occur (both the neighbors and the dogs barking cycles), and enlist the boys to distract them (the dogs).

Friday, September 5, 2008

All Things Orange

Here's my favorite carrot top holding carrots (with tops) fresh from our garden. Today was a major harvest day. Besides the carrots, we collected green beans, our first Roma tomato, zucchini and yellow squash, corn, and pumpkins. Something rather large with an appetite for cantelope has also been enjoying our garden. By large, I mean bigger than a bug, maybe a squirrel or ground hog. I don't think deer can get over the fence, and I can't imagine what else could take big bites out of a melon. The pumpkins are gorgeous as you see in the photo, so round and unblemished. I know they'll make great jack o'lanterns and we're hoping for good pie.

Speaking of orange things, here's Cinder begging for pizza. He's hard to photograph because he's the same color as the kitchen floor. When he's sitting up, he catches food in his mouth, and toys with his paws.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Doggie Update

Wampa: You can see the swelling on the right side of her face near her eye and in her chest.
She is still suffering.

Chomper: (received antivenom) is doing fine. See the swelling in his face around his nose and forehead.