Friday, August 31, 2012

The Case of the Deadly Paintbrush

I'm having trouble posting from home again.  Oh well.

I'm trying a new product in my garden.  It's vine and stump killer.

I normally don't use much in the way of chemicals of any sort.  I try to spray the peach and cherry trees at least once in spring.  I don't always get around to it, and sometimes the leaves curl up and drop off in protest of all the fungal diseases even when I do spray.  But everything else, from black-spotted roses to zucchinis dusted with powdery mildew is on its own.  I think that we have the yummiest worm-ridden chemical-free apples in Clark County.

I think something snapped when I faced round three (this year) of cutting back blackberries out of my largest garden bed.  And we're not talking some unsightly runners.  I'm talking monster canes, some of which verge on an inch thick.  I cut these bastards down to the ground not two months ago and they're back and just as huge.  When I look at the stumps, the new cane comes out of the side of the old one just under the cut and just as wide as the original vine.

It's totally, totally evil.  I kinda have to admire it, though.  I wish all my roses were this vigorous.

So I went to the stinky aisle at our store and got this stuff.  You cut the vine and then use a paint brush to brush it on the end.  I've been dabbing it on the leaves too whenever there are some left below the cut.

The stuff didn't have a nasty smell, or make the vine blacken or instantly shrivel or anything.  Mostly it just made it wet.  I'm juggling an open container of poison and a toxic paintbrush around plants I love, cutting a few vines at a time, switching the brush to my other hand, wetting it, and dabbing the cut ends before I lose track of what I've done and not done ... and of course I'm halfway through this before I remember someone recommending adding food coloring so that I can see what's been done and not done.  A couple of times I felt something brush my off hand, only to see a valued plant, and I'm scanning the leaves looking for wet spots in case I have to prune off the poisoned region right away.  Not fun.  And once I almost fell over and that could have meant poison splashing everywhere.

But I'm determined.  I'm going to make this work.  I've done my job (mostly--I have a long way to go) and now it's the poison's turn.  Justify my labor and make my time and worries worth it.  Kill 'em, kill 'em all, down to the root.  Let's have a beautiful, blackberry vine free spring next year.  Or if not free of all those little guys I'll probably miss, let's at least not have to deal with MegaBramble.

Don't let me down or I swear I'll never, ever buy you again, you nasty, nasty chemical you.  Deal?  Deal.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

ABBB Prep 2012

We're prepping for our big party of the year.  Weirdly, I love it.  Yes, it's hard work and all that, but stuff gets done.  That's rare anymore.  Lots of stuff gets started, and half done, and way too much doesn't get done at all.  But done?  That's like magic.  Suddenly I can actually see up the road before I pull out of the back driveway.  It's like being psychic.  Well, maybe not really.  But I don't have to guess if someone's coming now and pull into the wrong lane first before moving over into the proper lane, just in case.  Our wyrd window is open again.  (It's an opening among the akebia vines.)  There's a wonderful shady place for lots of people to sit.  On and on.

Of course that brings up the point that if we worked like this all the time, our place would be so full of awesome we might not be able to contain ourselves.  We won't, though.  I'm not sure many people do, or would want to.  We wouldn't have traditions like spring cleaning if we did.  Must be a human thing.

Anyway, we're almost ready.  The ongoing disaster area is slightly less disastrous, and we're at a point that it's unlikely that our guests will be eaten by cougars or get lost in the blackberries.  Party on!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Return Man

Sometimes customers bug me for no other reason than they're just being their same old selves, but on a hot day.  I try not to let it get to me.  I hope it doesn't show.  Everyone should get the same excellent customer service they always do, regardless of my mood.  But the world isn't an ideal place, y'know?  Still, I do my best.

Ordinary stuff that happens all the time that bugs me number 309:  The customer that returns everything.

I mean, what's the point?

There are people who frequently return things, and people who never return anything including things that they should return.  Most people fall somewhere in between.  But it's a rare duck that returns everything.  I should say, everything possible.  They can't return firearms or ammunition, though some try.

I had one today.  He had four items on his return slip this time.  One item had already been returned--crossed off, signed, dated, and initialed by a coworker.  He came in today (why not do it all at once for crying out loud!) to return the rest.  By the time I was done, he had one item left on his receipt.  It was for a candy bar.

Why buy that stuff in the first place?  Why does he do this to me?  Why tease us with a purchase of a whole bunch of camping gear, only to bring it back?

Sometimes it's a scam, or a theft operation, or what we call free rental.  The stuff he brings back isn't.  It's too big, it's usually unopened and always unused, and it's on a credit card (which we return back on the card ... he doesn't get cash back) so it's not like he gains anything.  If anything, he loses because he may have to pay interest on his credit card purchase.  He wouldn't have to ordinarily, but sometimes he waits over a month to bring stuff back.  

It's crazy, and it's crazy-making.  Most of the time I can shrug it off.  It's just his thing.  But on a hot day after four hours of sleep, I wanted to strangle him.  I don't always have a ton to do, but I always have something far, far more useful to do than process a return onto a credit card for stuff someone buys who has no intention of keeping said stuff.

I suppose he could be doing it for points.  But do they still give you the points if you return everything?

Anyway.  If you're going to be weird and return everything you buy, do it in the middle of the week, first thing in the morning, on a nice, cool day.  Otherwise, it's possible you'll get the hairy eyeball.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Adventure in a Box

Yesterday we got something in the mail.  Everyone should get  something like this at least once in their lives.  Not necessarily what we got, but something along these lines in this fashion.  Because getting a big wooden crate from overseas is really awesome.
Cue the Indiana Jones theme music (and ignore the existence of the last movie while you do it, please.)
It arrived while I was at work.  I didn't get a phone call from my daughter, (though my DH did--what's with that?!) so I was totally surprised.
Being surprised is super-fun, so actually I didn't mind not getting the call.  And I was working, supposedly.  I just have to publicly hassle my family once in a while.
Anyway, I got my camera and started snapping pictures.  The girl had a hammer ready.  I think she was a little excited too.  :-)
The thing was built like Fort Knox.  Now that I've read 1776 by McCullough, the name Knox has a whole new depth to it.  It's a rockin' name, and a great book.  Highly recommended.  I regret not getting the illustrated edition.  BTW, I have a weird association with McCullough the author and Support Your Local Sheriff, where the bad guy Joe Danby asks what the hero's name is and he replies with Jason McCullough in the middle of a cute, funny section of dialogue.  Also also highly, highly recommended movie.  But I digress.
Getting the box opened was no easy feat.  I had to use my very modest carpentry skills to do it.
Now you can cue the creepy Indiana Jones music where they're about to open the Ark of the Covenant.
And inside the box ... was another box!
I had a flashback to a scene in The Emperor's New Groove.  Also highly recommended.  I don't think as many people saw The Emperor's New Groove as some of the other Disney movies, which is a shame.  It's one of the better ones.  I've rewatched it many times, of my own free will, with no small children to prompt me to do so.

Inside the box was an egg-like object, something wrapped in bubble wrap that was then wrapped in brown mail packaging tape so thoroughly that you couldn't actually see the bubble wrap.
We got a knife and began extracting the contents with surgical care.  My surgical nurse provided tension as I cut and peeled the bubble wrap apart.
This was what was inside.
I gasped.
.... it's so beautiful ....
But our faces didn't melt off.  We were safe.  You can go back to the adventure theme now, if you like.
We put it up on a shelf in the entryway.  Then I started to have waking nightmares about cats hopping up there, as they often do, and knocking it down.  I could actually hear the crash of it hitting the floor in my mind in the middle of the night, followed by the skidding and scrabbling of kitty feet on laminate flooring so that I couldn't even identify the perpetrator that I would have to hunt down and kill.
Not literally kill.  Or even hit, or curse at, actually.  Mostly I would just hug a pillow and rock and sob and tear my hair and throw ashes on my head.  Part of that is very Greek, appropriate in this case.

So we moved some books out of our built-in bookshelves and there it sits in a greek wine amphora-sized cubby.  The cats may still knock it down, but they would really, really have to work at it this time.  It's also nicely at eye level.
It's a replica, of course.  If it was the real thing, I would have to put it in a box.  Preferably a glass box, but back in the wooden box in the meantime, and of course I would never get around to getting the glass box, and no one would ever see it.  Which would be a shame.  But it's a replica, so it's all okay.

I won't have anything nearly so nifty to post about in a while, so enjoy the moment.  I'll get back to our regular boring stuff tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

In Representing Myself, I Have a Fool for an Artist

No Carey.  The neighbors haven't caught that cat yet, though, so there's still hope it's her.

My thoughts are turning toward OryCon.  I've been invited to be a panelist again (yay!).  I'm just hoping that by then I'll be able to officially announce which issue of a certain magazine a certain story of mine will be appearing in.  It's a very, very nice magazine, and I'm excited to be in it, but I haven't gotten the contract yet, so it's best that I muffle my enthusiasm for now.

I will have some sort of card or bookmark or something to hand out, though, which I have to design.  It's funny how I can get a job to do a book cover or a promotional poster and I just sit down and do it, but I freeze up when it's my own stuff.  Human brains can be really dumb sometimes.

I don't think it has very much to do with looking foolish, though it feels that way.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that when I'm doing something for someone else, I'm aware that if they don't like it or need changes, I just do them and I feel that I've satisfied their requirements.  When I'm working for myself, I have no one to really provide outside opinions or judgements that has a stake in the result.  I can ask opinions of friends, but other than their kind enthusiasm and hopes for my success, they don't have a dog in the fight, per se.  They can't really look at it in terms of whether it represents my work well, if that makes sense.  I also fear that they must measure their response in such a way that they can be helpful without bruising my feelings, and each one of them estimates my skin thickness and aptness to bruise differently.

Or maybe all this mental contortionist silliness is just another form of self-sabotage.

Anyway, that's my latest struggle.  The good news is that I have deadlines now, and I do really well with deadlines.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Learning and Remembering

I'm still having issues with blogger.  I'm trying to fix them.  It's a frustrating process.  Hopefully, I'm more or less back, at least for now.

It's nice to be able to post from home again.

Still no Carey.  Our neighbors are trying to live trap a cat that's been hanging around their barn near their tractor.  I'm trying not to get my hopes up.  They think it's a long-haired gray kitty, but long-haired and gray mean different things to different people.  I consider the Poop mostly white, but many would consider her gray, especially people who think in terms of horse colors.  Just Google gray horse and you'll see what I mean, or check out the wikipedia article.  Our neighbors have a gray horse, so ....

In the meantime we'll keep visiting the shelter.

The kids and I went to the fair yesterday.  Long, busy, hot day, but we had fun.  I did book research while I was there, because I can't seem to help myself.  During the pirate parrot show, I make notes about how the parrots behave and look and sound.  In the horse arena, I watch the open halter competition and notice how every horse and rider have different personalities, and how some work together better than others.  I peruse the stables and stand near a horse (with its owner's permission) to reacquaint myself with that sense of living mass when you're near a large animal.

It's been a long time since I've gone riding, or played with a parrot, etc.  Our brains think we remember things accurately, but what we actually remember are broad brushstrokes painted over a main single experience supported by other less important experiences.  It's very diluted until you put yourself into a situation where your mind transports you back far more accurately and combines that experience with current information.  I'm happy I had the chance to do that.  And the Knights of the Realm show was a blast.  They changed the story, thank goodness, from the one last year where the unchivalrous knight won.  The boy took a piece of a shattered lance home with him.  He found the way they cut the lances to make them safe (although they had no eye protection--ack!) fascinating.  It's very convincing and spectacular at a distance.  I wonder how many lances (and volunteers!) they went through before they got the cuts just right.  Yikes.  I was also extremely impressed by the rings competition.  I think most people watching it had no idea how difficult it would be to ride at a perky gallop toward a line of rings and put a lance through it.  The 'large' rings were maybe five inches across, the small probably less than four inches in diameter.  They've had enough practice to make it look easy, though they missed often, and I'm sure it wasn't on purpose.

I'm hoping to make it to the neighboring county's fair.  It's smaller, and I'll see more of our neighbors there.  At the moment I'm done in, mostly from the heat but also because of my work schedule.  It's back to split days off, at least for a little bit.  With my one day off spent at the fair, the week ahead looks  long and weary.  At least we have air conditioning at work.  When I'm cool most of the day, it makes it easier to sleep at night, even when it's so hot and muggy that the kitties are still molten piles of fur at midnight with no sign of relief before morning.

Stay cool and check out your local fair.  You might be surprised, especially if you haven't been in a while, just how much fun they are.  And if you're a writer, don't forget to take notes.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Sometimes, Fun Things are a Chore

Another animal day.

First off, woke up and looked for Carey on the deck, like I do every morning.  No Carey.  It's really hard to keep my hopes up when I hear the coyotes cry all night.

Then, deer, not once but twice.  They savaged my super-expensive ($2.45 for only 25 seeds!) broccoli, but I didn't see that.  What I did see was a doe with her spotted fawn helping themselves to our apples.  Which was fine, and actually really cute.  We have more apples than we know what to do with this year.  There's really only so much applesauce, apple pie, apple tart, apple juice, baked, fresh, and caramel and/or candied apples a person can eat, you know.  They did a nice job of picking the fallen ones first, before moving on to the ones hanging from the tree branches.  How nice.  Every time a car or truck went by, the doe would look annoyed and the fawn bounced around or dashed like mad for cover.  They left, and then returned for more after about an hour.

Last but not least, the suicidal baby robin.  I tried to save it.  Really I did.  The girl and I chased it around until I caught it and put it up in our big trees.  It should have been able to hop and half-ass fly from branch to branch all the way back up to the nest.

But, of course, when I went back out to change the sprinkler, there it was.  The Poop was stalking it.  She ran for it at the same time I did.  She dropped it because I yelled at her at the same time that one of the parent robins dive-bombed her.  The Poop jetted for the edge of the tree's dripline while I dutifully put the stupid, spotted thing with not enough flight feathers or tail to fly back into the tree.  All the cats were then banished to the house.

If it's still alive when we get home, and on the ground again, we might have a guest for a week or two while it finishes fledging out.

Wildlife.  Ugh.  Didn't I used to marvel at it when I was a child?  Actually, I still do, and it's neat that we get to experience this up close most of the time.  Sometimes, though, it makes me a little crazy.