Friday, October 9, 2015

Keeping those names and numbers safe and handy

I'm a little terrified of my computer. 

my computer

It isn't the actual box on my desk that worries me as much as the information that is stored in its memory. Oh, I have the usual backup, but I can't help but wonder if that is enough. 

Last month, my husband John attempted to download the new Windows 10 operating system on his computer. He had a bugger of a time with it, having to spend hours on the phone with tech support. After days of back and forth and long conversations punctuated by longer waiting periods, he finally got his computer up and running. He loved Windows 10 and was thrilled to finally have the headaches behind him. 

It worked flawlessly until one morning when he turned it on. It refused to boot.
my address book 1
He and I tried everything we could think of, including a clean Windows 7 installation, reformatting the hard drive, etc. Nothing worked. Windows tech people told him they could fix it for $99. He hung up on them. 

His computer was strictly personal, which means he lost all his email, photographs, favorite places and bookmarks, software, games, some which he actually paid for, all his passwords, and most of his sanity. He backed up the system, but it didn't work. How many times have we all backed up our computer, with the question in the back of our minds, is this going to fail when I need it the most? Well, he asked that question and sadly, got the answer. Yes, it failed. So, at a time, when we really couldn't afford it, he got a new computer. 

Since then, I've been in better-be-safe-than-sorry mode. With so much information being stored on home computers, how often do we consider the what-ifs? 

I always think of the what-ifs. That is why this week I bought a new address book into which I can write all of the addresses and phone numbers that are stored on my home computer.

my address book 2This back story about John's computer failure isn't the only or even the most important reason I wanted a new address book. Truth is, I just wanted one. I have for some time. John's computer failure was the catalyst that pushed me into acting on it. 

As I set out to buy an address book, I realized how that wasn't as easy these days as it once was. They are not readily available, and they are certainly not cheap. I looked around a bit and finally settled on a book from E-Bay for $10. 
I remember having such a book with all those names and numbers of people and business I knew, close at hand, but I'll be darned if I know whatever happened to it. I haven't seen it in years and I really missed the thing. 

my address book 3I readily admit that I have always enjoyed writing in a new book. I pondered whether I should use a .05 mechanical pencil or my favorite fountain pen. Oh, such difficult decisions! Many years ago John gave me a Cross fountain pen for Christmas. I use it only for special occasions, like Christmas cards or whenever I decide to write in my journal. I had just purchased refills for it and decided that would be my tool of choice. If someone moved or died, I could use white-out or simply cross out the entry. I hated having errors on the pages, so those things used to bother me, but I have grown to like shabby-chic. That is what I think of when I see something look worn, well-used. I expect this book to be just that.

When I was a kid, my favorite time of year was just before the new school year began. There was a kind of exhilaration, first about picking out, and later using clean, blank pages in brand new notebooks, an armful of rainbow color-coded folders, and of course all those brand new pencils and packages of pens. I was especially fond of black ink--don't know why. 

I guess the years haven't changed me much. The trend has carried on into adulthood in the form of stationery and address books. If I had to choose whether to shop for new clothes or new office supplies, the latter would win hands down. The first time I walked into a Staples store, I felt like that was heaven. 

I've spent the better part of today, a gray and rainy day, writing in my new address book while listening to John Lennon songs on Spotify. Today would have been his 75th birthday. Such an interesting connection--the music I listened to as a kid and a brand new address book to write in--the more things change, the more they stay the same.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Jigsaw puzzles, more to me than fitting pieces together

I've been puzzling for most of my life. I find this to be a relaxing and enjoyable activity that I don't do often enough. Yesterday though, I decided it was time to drag a puzzle from under the bed. This is the first one I grabbed, one of the many I have picked up at a garage sale.

If I don't like the photograph of the finished puzzle, I simply won't do it. I seem to be drawn to nature scenes. This one is pretty--rather reminds me of Arkansas in the Fall.

As in the photo at right, this one cost only $.50. Such a bargain for hours of enjoyment. I never know if all the pieces will be there in a used puzzle, but if not, well it only adds to the challenge.

I love a good challenge.

To me, working a puzzle in the quiet of a cloudy day or just before the sun sets on the natural light that is so advantageous, is just about nirvana for me.

Working jigsaw puzzles has taught me many lessons in my life.

I suppose it all started with my father, who was a master puzzler. I remember one night he stayed up all night working on a 5,000-piece puzzle that was the hardest one I'd ever seen. The pieces were tiny and the colors muted. I was little back then, maybe 7 or 8 years old. He was working on it when I went to bed. When I got up the next morning, the puzzle was done. I was pretty impressed. 

Finish what you start

I have always believed in finishing what you start. Perhaps this is where it began. My father had the patience of a saint. I'd like to think I learned that from him too. I don't mind performing tedious tasks. I like the process of accomplishing something, never hurrying just to get it done. 

I have specific disciplines in mind when I put a puzzle together. First, the border pieces must be located--as many as possible. They all get taken out and put into a pile until the four corner pieces are found. Only then do I allow myself to put the border together, at least as much of it as possible. That is the stage pictured above. Most of the border is complete, with only a few pieces missing. 

The next phase is to turn over all the pieces, right side up, and lay them onto the table. That is always the hardest part, because as is evident at my house, there are tiny paws that like to play with puzzle pieces. Ryan has her claws into the pieces and is raising the border off the table. Such a great action shot--who knew? The next step will searching the floor for whatever is missing.

This only adds to the challenge. Let's face it, challenging myself is what this is all about.

Ryan loves puzzles. Her playfulness, along with that of her sisters, may explain why I don't do this very often.

There is always a lot of sleuthing going on when putting a puzzle together

As I was working on this puzzle this morning, I was thinking about other lessons this activity has taught me. It has certainly made me observant. My eyes tend to scour the pieces in the box in search of any and all straight edges. Later, I look for specific colors or shape. Colors of the pieces are so important. Subtle changes in color make all the difference in locating just the right piece. Then there are those seemingly one-of-a-kind shapes that are just a little different than all the others. That aids in finding the pieces too.

Puzzling is meditative. Often times my mind will wander as I look for pieces to fit into the right place. There is no corralling the thoughts that run through my mind, thoughts that range from what I'm going to make for dinner to whether or not jigsaw puzzles have contributed to my love of quilting. The two activities do have some commonality. Of course there is the news of the day that comes and goes and the more deep thoughts about how I wish my father was sitting beside me working his magic on this puzzle.

People my age still do puzzles, evident in senior gatherings, for example. But I wonder how many young people today do them. The world is so fast-paced today, that I doubt young people have the patience for such an activity. They tend to like instant gratification. Putting a puzzle together takes too much time for that.

Puzzling is a nice family activity too. I remember a folding table being set up for days at our house. The whole family would work on it. Sometimes, it was just a matter of walking by and spending a few minutes looking for a few pieces. Other times it was like a magnet in the room that refused to release me.

I hope this activity never gets lost in the shuffle. Puzzling really is so much more than just fitting pieces together.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Happy Autumnal Equinox!

hummingbird rests
While I truly love the Fall, one of the saddest parts is that I will miss these beloved hummingbirds as they head out on their long long journey south for the winter. I always miss them.

This little female, (pictured above), was perched on a heart-shaped wrought-iron plant hanger. It is positioned just past the front porch, but still beneath the overhang of the roof, so it is always shaded.

front garden
This seems to be a favorite place 
for the usually frenzied fliers to rest those crazy wings of theirs, which flap a feverish 50 to 200 beats per second.

I love to watch them, whether they are flying, hovering, or just sitting and looking around. They don't generally perch for long, because the more aggressive males will generally chase the females. Often times, they simply take her place. No worries. There are lots of shrubs and trees that offer perfect little twigs on which little hummers like to perch.

back porchA few weeks ago I was sitting on the couch talking on the phone when a hummingbird flew right up to the window, and looked right at me, hovering close to the glass. There used to be a hummingbird feeder in the back of the house, until one of the pesky squirrels I've been plagued with this year, knocked it down, shattering the glass on the rocks below. I hadn't replaced it.

But after this encounter, I took the hint and installed a new feeder there. Before long, it became a regular stop for several hummers.

Hummingbirds are said to be smart, with remarkable memories about their food sources, remembering every flower and ever feeder they have visited. I believe they return every year, so some of them are like old friends. They know at this location, there is always clean, fresh nectar for them.

hummersI plan to enjoy them for as long as I can, while they are still here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Just sittin' for a bit

Sometimes you just need some time to sit and enjoy the view.

That's what happened to me on this gorgeous Tuesday morning. The temperature is perfect, there is a slight breeze--just enough to let the leaves dance as they fall from the trees. Tomorrow is certainly the start of Fall. And, all is well here in the Ozarks.

I had just finished mopping the kitchen floor, so I decided to take a minute to chill on the front porch while the floor dried. I went out to sit for a while, my feet resting comfortably atop a homemade stool.

All of a sudden I looked down and realized I wasn't alone. There was a young opossum drinking out of my cat's water dish. I don't know where it came from or when or how it got here. I must have really been deep in thought because the little critter seemingly just appeared.

I haven't seen many possums in the yard. They rarely have rabies, and they are generally nocturnal, so this one was probably asleep and like the rest of us have experienced, he got up because he was thirsty.

I watched for a short time before I decided to get my camera. I didn't get a picture of him drinking, but he did stick around long enough to pose for a few shots. Then off he went.

possum 1

possum pic 2

Funny, as I watched him walk across the front yard, I had an idea where he was going. We have a pretty large oak tree at the edge of the woods that has a huge hollowed out spot near ground level. I swear, that tree must be a neighborhood all its own. That's where all the raccoons run to and from in the night when I catch them stealing bird food. I've seen a squirrel or two take refuge there as well.

And one time, there was a guinea hen sitting on a branch of that very tree, squawking. I couldn't figure out what the heck it was until I got the binoculars and saw it.

There must be something about that tree.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Rebuilding Heron Pond

For the last several days I have been trying to get our little pond--Heron Pond--up and running. So far, this has been about a three-day project. 

The first order of business was to place the concrete shell, which I assume was the top of a bird bath at one time. I had to drag it from the backyard where it was sitting on a stump. Who says a bird bath needs a pedestal? 

I bought it at a garage sale. Hubby was furious with me because let's face it, the darn thing is pretty heavy. 

Thanks to the lawn tractor and garden cart, I finally got the thing placed close to where I wanted it. The pump had stopped working and the water was getting pretty nasty. It definitely needed to be drained and cleaned. 

The pond is small; it didn't take long. When I took out the pump to clean it, it started working like a champ. It was working great before I went in to fix dinner. By the time dinner was over, all the water was gone. Even now, I'm not sure where it went because nothing seemed overly wet around it. I was hoping it wasn't a hole in the pond liner. The general consensus was a hole in the rubber tubing.

I put the pump back in, but it stubbornly refused to work. At least the tubing checked out; no holes. 

The pump ran only intermittently. Geez! Hubby and I decided it was just worn out, so I went to the store to replace it with a slightly larger one. 

I'm guessing the water leaked out because my waterfall wasn't placed correctly. It must have dribbled out of the shell at the sides and into the rocks below. 

A little adjusting and all is well. In fact the shell now completely fills with water before spilling. I'm really pleased with how it turned out. Now, to do a little general sprucing up and some landscaping, and Heron Pond will be just what I envisioned when I first bought that birdbath top several years ago.

I'm sure the frog population will be pleased. I expect to hear them croaking with joy real soon.


Pay no attention to the background noise. That is just the television since the windows were all open. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Winning the wildlife war; nature returns

I finally had a squirrel-free moment, not something that happens around here very often.

There is no body count, but my trusty pellet gun does scare them away for long periods of time.

These front yard bird feeders get most of the action, by both birds and the beast squirrels.

I awoke yesterday morning to find the red (squirrel-proof) feeder, you know, the one with the springs attached so the door closes to the food when a squirrel steps on it. Well, not my squirrels. They drop the thing to the ground and work it until they break the door and the perch right off. The entire mechanism was completely broken; its screws who knows where. I hope they ate those too and get a belly ache from them.

I had to figure out a way to fix the thing, using what I had available. I found a screw and nut that was way too big for the hole, so I just made the hole bigger. The squirrels knocked the baffle to the ground in their quest for one more sunflower seed. The vertical feeder is their actual destination and they will destroy anything to get to it.

I was shocked to wake up this morning to find the feeders still in-tact and the baffle still in place. Often times, the raccoons will come in the night and are even more destructive than the squirrels. I always know when they were here because the feeders are lying empty, somewhere in the woods.

Ah, the beauty of living in the country. Still, I wouldn't change it for anything.

For a time I moved that vertical feeder to the front porch. I hung it from the eaves. The squirrels did their best but had a hard time reaching it. I got tired though of sweeping birdseed from the porch every day. The squirrels were content to eat the seed that fell on the ground, but because they were attracted to the front porch they found other things to eat, like all the flowers I had in pots--all gone, except for one--a pink begonia. Either they don't like begonias or they just didn't get to it yet. All the breakable pots are broken too, by the way.

All is not lost however. I saw my very first Monarch hanging around the Butterfly Bush. I've heard gardening experts say to get rid of these bushes because they are non-native and invasive. I say heck no--this bush is right in front of the porch and it thrives every year. It attracts butterflies, moths, bees, and hummingbirds.

Speaking of hummers, I was distressed at not having very many of them this year. That is so odd, since we always have them buzzing all around the front porch. It occurred to me though, that they don't like being in the same flyway as the bigger birds who were eating at the feeder on the porch. Once I moved the feeder back to the front yard, the hummers started to return. I now have a healthy supply of them busily feeding at each feeder, flying away, and then returning.

When the squirrels and raccoons are eating the flowers, the deer usually make gluttons of themselves as well. I started spraying a natural deer repellent spray on my plants, so hopefully I can turn my black thumb back to green.

It was a pleasant surprise to see something blooming for a change. It has been months since a flower dared to show its pretty head around here.

The venerable Crepe Myrtle shown here is always pretty. I love these bushes. I am always so amazed at how they don't seem to care how hot it gets. They just keep on blooming.
What a wonderful plant!

One day, a grouping of these Bare Naked Ladies (lilies) appeared. I'm not sure if I planted them or they just appeared. Wouldn't it be funny if the squirrels left me a present?
Hah, doubt that; I probably just planted them and forgot about it.
Either way, I adore lilies, so I can't wait to see if they come up again next year.

This Passion Flower vine finally made itself known. I was starting to wonder. I inspected the area, where I first planted it three years ago, regularly only to find one or two shoots coming up. This year, the vine exploded and bloomed. I think it is about the third year for this beauty.
They say it is invasive, but that's fine by me.
Bring it on; I have lots of room for pretty, delicate, purple flowers.

I've been trying to grow Cone Flowers ever since I first saw them filling a field. The color is my favorite and I am always delighted to see them. Every year I fight with the deer who just love to eat them. I haven't seen many deer this year, either because of the spray I put around my flower beds or the more than likely the war I'm having with the squirrels. Either way, I'm so glad these were able to stand up to show how pretty they are.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Well it didn't work for long

Arkansas squirrels can just go to hell!

lazy squirrelThat make-shift bird feeder mentioned in my last post didn't last long. Not only did the feeder fall to the ground once again, but so did the suet feeder and the hummingbird feeder. Big, fat, gluttony squirrels aren't very dainty when they go after what they want.

I have taken down the hummingbird feeder because I'm tired of picking up glass shards from the ground. It saddens me to see one or two hummers peering in the window as if to ask where it went. I try to tell them to go round to the front, but I imagine they know that anyway. Hummingbirds have to be smarter than squirrels.

At least the suet feeder doesn't break when the piggy squirrels ravage it. I just continue the habit of retrieving it and filling it up again. I'm not sacrificing the woodpeckers. This is the only feeder I have left for them. The beasts have destroyed all the others.

The front yard feeders aren't fairing much better. I've gone through an entire tin of pellets, shooting at the little varmints. I really don't want to kill them; I just want to deter them. Apparently dead is all they understand. I'm just not the killer type. That may change in the future!