Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Post-Christmas - 12-26-2017

On Christmas day these two ships seemed to be heading towards each other eventually merging.

If I had posted the above process in the opposite sequence, it would have looked like one amoeba dividing into daughter cells. More fun! Clearly I don't have much to do today, do I.

Today the rising sun produced the silver lining on what is most likely lake affect evaporation clouds for future Canadian snow squalls. It's bitterly cold here today so I'll have to run over to the pole barn and check on the pipes. Not looking forward to that. Visiting the pole barn in winter reminds me of the frigid winter scenes in the Doctor Zhivago movie.

Later after the sun had risen more, those clouds took on a more chilling icy appearance. Brrr. My spoiled-by-the-warm-house Icelandics don't want to stay outside for long, it's too cold even for them. Pila is not amused .

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The last snow is beginning to curl over the eaves like old-fashioned Christmas ribbon candy - not as colorful but they are still black and white pretty. I gave up years ago trying NOT to include a dog in photos. My ubiquitous canines. That's my wonderful Kria in the first shot below. Clicking on photos enlarges them.

Two big snowfalls happened this past week so I lost both internet and phone for a while but still had electric. DTE has been estimating my bills, they're separate - one for the house and geothermal and the other one for the pole barn, which they call a business, for over six months. The house bill was fairly accurate but the pole barn was significantly underestimated which means that one of my Christmas presents was a large pole barn electric bill. Property taxes also come just before Christmas and this year I got almost a thousand dollars less, yes, less, in social security. Why is that? Insult to injury? Sigh.Do NOT get me started on politicians.

I'm grateful that I can pay everything but it leaves me a little short. Still, it's been a good year, dare I say a great year. The Christmas trees (I call them Jul Trees and I have two here in the house) are up; the lights are pretty.

I drove in the snow to Sandusky yesterday for groceries and supplies; it took a little longer because of the snow and the snow plows but it's always a great feeling to know I have supplies in case the next snowfall is a biggie. The chickadees have found the suet already. Maybe this year I'll just do suet for the woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, brown creepers, etc. Hmmm!

Walking in the garden with the dogs this morning I saw animal tracks coming into the yard by the gate. Was it a feral cat, a skunk, a raccoon? I'm guessing a cat. I have a wooden porch on the north side of the house with a space under it. I'm thinking it might go there for some cover. I bought a cat-house - no, not that kind - that's by the pole barn. I don't know if any cat has ever used it but I know a pregnant raccoon gave birth in it last year - not happy about that. I chased her away and she took the newborn pups with her. I wonder if I should feed the feral cat? If I do will the raccoon benefit too? Will they fight over the spoils? How do you encourage or at least tolerate one and discourage the other? LSDL! (Let Sleeping Dogs Lie - or in other words, forget about it.)

I've had this cyclamen (on the right below) from the Royal Oak Farmers' Market for about five years; it flowers continuously but there are more flowers in the winter. It does set seeds if I let it and the plants are easy to grow from seed so I have a few more now too. The color makes them look Christmasy, doesn't it.

Last year I started some Hosta from seeds. They, the seeds, are small, black, and tissue paper thin. They don't look like they could possibly actually grow. However, last year's plants did well and are now outside doing their first winter rest. Those were an experiment and came from an old fashioned green-leaved species (Hosta ventricosa). I've heard that if you want a variegated plant grown from seed then the parent plant also has to be variegated. So this year I saved seeds from one of my favorites; it flowered late, the seed pods were slow to mature, and failed to open. So after a couple of frosts I harvested a couple of seed pods, opened them, and scraped the small seeds out and into a bonsai pot. I chose that plant to save seeds from because the leaves remained attractive all summer and fall, didn't show any insect or slug damage, had attractive flowers on short stems instead of long ones, and, perhaps most importantly, survived running dogs. This past week several seedlings showed their first leaves. Very cool, eh? (They are really small.)

I have been working on a new book about Icelandic Sheepdogs with Outskirts Press for several months now and we're probably close to publication. Jamie, Kirsten, and Brenda have been very supportive and have helped me enormously along the way. I have proof-read the copy for the third and final time, have selected many photos for the cover and interior, and agonized a bit about what to leave in and what to omit. I have expressed some opinions knowing full well that some people may not like my views and I have grown comfortable with that. We'll just have to agree to disagree - hopefully. Outskirts press is what I would call a vanity publisher because the author pays for the publishing. It is expensive. I know the book will never make money because not many folks will be interested in the topic. Regardless, it is almost finished - probably. Perhaps after the first of the year it will be available. I will sell copies myself to begin with - cost plus shipping and handling. I realized that if I didn't do this soon, I would most likely not be able to do it at all - time and creeping age.

Today is David's birthday and he is still very much missed. I am a gregarious introvert and he kept me grounded. With no new friends and all my other friends gone, it is a totally different existence for me now. Every couple eventually becomes "single". No one cautioned me about that.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Lake Affect Snow - Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Foolishly last year I made my appointment for my annual physical at 8:00 a.m. for today. Duh! It was dark and stormy here at the edge of Lake Huron; the lake affect snow was wildly blowing so I left early for the meeting. Surprisingly once I got about a mile away from the edge, the snow and most of the blowing stopped. The first two photos below are from Monday morning. Twenty four hours ago! Clicking on photos enlarges them.

I thought the blowing snow storm was over and on the way back from the doctors' offices I loved the view and took these shots - looking carefully in the background (east towards Lake Huron) I saw clouds but didn't think anything about them. Silly me.

The closer I got to the shoreline, the more ominous the sky appeared.
Still it was absolutely gorgeous, however.

The clouds weren't coming closer to me; 
I was going towards them!
They hugged the lake's shoreline.

What a difference a week makes! 
The first three photos below taken last week.
Compare the road in then -

to now - - - -

My Clivia amply compensate me for the winter loss of the gardens. (I like the break from gardening chores.) This is the first plant blooming this winter (below). One of the other adult plants has two separate blooming stalks just starting. I started with one Clivia about 30 years ago; although very slow growing, they do well for me and now I have four adult plants - three are adult "babies" from seeds from the original one. The seeds take two years attached to the mother plant before they can be removed, potted, and live independently. I have also given away several other adult plants, one had creamy-yellow flowers. They are very long lived. I currently have two middle aged ones about 7 years old that have not flowered yet but should flower soon, and about a dozen four year old "seedlings" which I am going to have to separate and pot. Then I will need adoptive homes for them -  soon. Does anyone want one of these orange beauties?

They have very thick roots which seem to store water; they seem to prefer being 'pot bound' - to have their roots under pressure. (They do not like to be re-potted and won't flower for a few years after being transplanted until they are once again pot bound.) I water them twice a week and they get about four hours of good sunlight.  I never put them outdoors in the summer. Each leaf can live for several years and the risk of being sunburned is too great a threat to risk overexposure to the harsher summer sun. They love the conditions here. The flowers have a delightful light and pleasant odor; the color is perfect for chasing away the winter blahs.

Clivia miniata

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Lake Affect Flurries - Thursday, December 7, 2017

My lovely fifteen year old Icelandic Sheepdog Kata today at noon. She prefers going outside alone - the youngsters are so rambunctious! I think she looks pretty good; her sixteenth birthday happens this coming January. Clicking on photos enlarges them.

Early mornings I often see lake affect clouds of evaporated lake water developing over Lake Huron; at this time of year those clouds often dump lake affect snow on Canada which is right across the lake from me. Lake affect snow also develops along the west shore of Lake Michigan all the way across the sate but it rarely reaches me here.

For a couple of weeks I've been working in West Wood trimming dead branches off the evergreens and cutting down dead trees. Walking back from my "play" I travel down my road to my house; this is my view. Lake Huron is at the far end. Today there were white caps on the lake.

These were lake affect clouds this afternoon. Those clouds develop this time of year because the water is warmer than the air which causes evaporation of the water. Note the freighter in both shots

Over the years I have written some articles and filed them away thinking that one day I might use them as chapters for a second book on my beloved Icelandic Sheepdogs. I've been talking with the publishing company that worked with me on my first book. I'm crossing my fingers that things will work out and my second book on Icelandic Sheepdogs might happen and might be published sometime this coming winter. For the first book Christine Vowles and I used lots of photos contributors provided as illustrations for the chapters. If this all works out, and I realize that's a big IF, this time I will try and use mostly photos of my own dogs thereby avoiding the need to get permission from photographers and owners.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

December 3, 2017

Pete Mangiaricini inspired my life long interest in the arts generally and specifically the visual arts when I was in grade school and he was my art teacher. Today is his birthday; Thank you Mr. M.

This morning showed us a great view of a "super moon" - it's brighter (16%) and appears larger (7%) now than at any time in the last 68 years. The moon's orbit is not a perfect circle; it's more oval. It's now both closer to the earth by about 30,000 miles and it's also a full moon. Clicking on images enlarges them.

This morning looking west out my kitchen window towards my West Woods the moon looked like this: -

And a few minutes later look east towards Canada over Lake Huron before the sun rose, I marveled again at "first light" views: -

The soft pastel colors of first lights are amazing.

I've been working for a few weeks in West Woods trimming the dead branches of the evergreens, mostly several kinds of spruce but also some Scots pines, Austrian pines, red pines, white pines, balsams, and even a few enormous birch bark trees, maples, and even one red oak tree. Yesterday I managed to clear a path from the western part of the forest almost to Sans Souci, aka the pole barn. The goal is to be able to walk all the way from Sans Souci to the largest and oldest part of West Wood. I've been leaving all the branches where they fell with the hope that as they decompose they will enrich the soil. Time will tell.

Usually I have one or two feral cats; this year's feline I've named "Tom" as in tomcat! Not very creative but it's an easy to remember name. He, although it could just as easily be she, routinely scouts along the road in for small mammals and probably birds. Although he doesn't come when called, he isn't shy. I'm afraid a car coming in fast could recycle him.

Working in West Wood I found this deer skull half-buried in the soil at the base of a large spruce tree. A few years ago before I had moved here permanently a son of one of my former neighbors here, an erstwhile hunter, shot at but only wounded a deer that escaped. They looked for it extensively on my property before giving up. I didn't really consider him a hunter because they had been feeding deer about 50 yards from their cottage and that's where the deer was wounded as soon as hunting season opened.

I wonder if that deer had found refuge in my forest and hidden in the forest floor hugging branches of that spruce to die. The skull was all I found. Perhaps the rest of the bones were scattered by foxes, raccoons, mice, opossums, feral cats, etc.

Years ago, decades now really, this moose skull was also discovered in situ in a field - not hunted at least by me. As you can no doubt see they are close relatives.

To be perfectly clear. I am not opposed to hunting especially when the normal predator populations have already been decimated by humans. I'm deeply saddened and angered when "hunters" kill animals like African elephants, rhinos, giraffes, lions, bears, wolves, snow leopards, etc. The list unfortunately goes on and on. Of course we have too many deer and Canada geese. Their predators have been removed or severely reduced in number. Many of our problems like the  spread of Lyme and related diseases by tick infested small rodents and deer are, in my opinion, caused by reducing or virtually eliminating predator populations which in turn results in the overpopulation of prey populations. (Increasing the frequency and length of hunting seasons could perhaps reduce the incidence of disease caused by those vector species - one wonders.) Why on earth don't we have vaccinations for those horrific diseases?