Sunday, November 13, 2011

Autumn storms, odds and ends

Two weekends ago, we had a freak autumn snowstorm that dropped a little more than a foot of snow on trees that still had the majority of their leaves. As a result, some people lost power for a week, and trees and tree limbs went down everywhere. (I was lucky, losing power for a mere three days, but darn was it cold at night in my house!) A maple tree in my yard had a large, horizontal limb partly break off and fall onto a privet hedge. Part of it was sticking out into the street, and I had to grab my pruning saw and go out while it was snowing to cut that part of it off so that it wouldn't block cars. The part that wasn't sticking out into the street is still where it fell, still partly attached to the tree. The tree-pruning companies are so booked up that I couldn't get an appointment for someone to come and remove it until the 22nd of this month, still a little more than a week away. Here's the branch:
Here's another view:
Here's the tree just a little more than a week before the storm - you can see the branch that broke off in the lower right:
In other news, my father will be buying a new house this week. I will be helping him gradually pack and move stuff out of the old house where he has lived for almost 30 years, and where I grew up, and into his smaller new house. We will be able to do this gradually because he plans to sell the old house to neighbors who are interested in it, and they won't be ready to move in until around March.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Flowers, fruit, insects

I haven't been posting many garden photos, mainly because the garden at my current residence is long on plants but relatively short on showy flowers (at least compared to the garden at my dad's house, which is where I took photos in previous years).  I've also been a bit negligent about taking photos in general this year.  Nevertheless, I 've managed to take some decent photos over the last 2-3 months.


Spiderwort (Tradescentia)

Roses (past their prime - I wish I had gotten a picture a few days before this).
Daylily (I don't know the different varieties - I just call them all daylilies).

Daylilies and Hosta in bloom together
More daylilies
A different variety of daylily near an ostrich fern
 Daylily closeup - can you tell that - 1. I like daylilies, and
2. Daylilies are some of the few large, colorful flowers in my garden?
Wild blackberries - various kinds of berries grow prolifically
(i.e., like weeds) in my current garden
Wild black cherries ripening

Same dragonfly at a different angle
I've rarely seen an insect stay still for this long, which is
why I have so many photos of this dragonfly.
20 minutes later, what I think is the same dragonfly came back
and landed near me again - talk about a helpful subject!
A typical view of my semi-wild garden, with goldenrod starting
to flower on the left, and wild berries ripening to the right.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Random observations

  • One of my projects at work is going through the biographies section and polishing up the catalog rec records there.  I've recently run into a lot of biographies of Grover Cleveland.  He was a big deal in the late 19th century, when he served two non-consecutive terms as President of the United States.  Between those two terms, he barely lost the election of 1888, in which he came in first in the popular vote but second in the electoral college - this would not happen again until the 2000 presidential election.  In spite of coming in first in the popular vote for President three times, he lost much of his popularity when the country was hit by a major economic depression during his second term as president, and he was largely forgotten in the 20th century.  It makes me wonder if even the most influential political figures of recent times - George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Dick Cheney, Hillary Clinton, etc. - will be forgotten by almost everyone except historians in 100 years or more.
  • A few weeks ago, I bought the cheapest garden hose I could find.  I soon realized why it was the cheapest available.  It is basically impossible to roll or coil this hose up neatly.  Every few feet, the hose bends in a different direction, and when I try to force it into a proper coil, it springs back to its original position or folds up so that the water is blocked.  Every time I try to roll it up, I end up with a series of large knots that I need to untangle next time.   
  • I used to enjoy driving a lot more before I had my OCD-inspired fears of hitting people and animals.
  • Last week was damn hot, getting into the upper 90s for several days.  This is nothing special for people who live in the southern part of the country, but for us northerners it was unusual, and very unpleasant for someone like me who sweats a lot.  I was very lucky - the air conditioning in half of the office space where I work broke, but I was in the half that kept working, thank goodness.  More importantly, the AC in the stacks where we keep all of our books, newspapers, and other printed material, never stopped working.  Our collections are kind of like me - they much prefer cool and dry over warm and humid.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

It weighs me down


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and depression are still pressing down hard on me.  I see a psychiatrist, but  he no longer does active counseling, and only monitors medication at this time.  Furthermore, neither of the two best psychologists in my area are currently taking new patients.  I've definitely had better times, mentally speaking.  Compared to the better points of my life, I feel like I am dealing with the burdens of two lives - my external life of everyday responsibilities, and my internal life of obsessive anxieties and self-hating depression. I feel like I'm barely treading water in my "normal", everyday life because most of my energy goes into dealing with my anxiety and depression.  Doing ordinary things like getting ready in the morning or driving or washing dishes seem much more difficult and energy-consuming than they used to be.  It definitely weighs me down and narrows the scope of my life.  Fortunately, it's not bad all the time.  Hopefully things will improve soon, and I will have something more positive and interesting to write about!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Working with a "semi-wild" garden

I like to think of the garden at my new house as a "semi-wild" or a "woodland" garden.  It's unruly and unkempt, but also very lush and full of healthy plants that seem to like their current location.  There is an abundant mixture of geraniums, ferns, lily-of-the-valley, hostas, irises, daylilies, barberries, blackberries, violets, strawberries, and a couple of other plants that look nice enough but that I haven't identified.  There are also, however, plenty of weeds, including tree seedlings and saplings (some resprouting from stumps), the invasive weeds garlic mustard and oriental bittersweet, and of course, the bane of my existence, poison ivy. 

I've ruled out trying to dig a large part of it up and starting over.  I don't have the energy for that, and it isn't my style anyways.  I like to try to work with the plants I have as much as possible.  I see my job as removing the weeds, encouraging the existing plants that I like, and making a few additions of my own wherever there are gaps.  So far, I have gotten a good start on the first two.  It isn't always the easiest job.  I need to carefully separate the weeds from the desired plants when the two are all mixed together in a lush mass of plants.  I have to try and avoid stepping on anything, which is almost impossible in many parts of the garden.  With some plants, especially the blackberries and barberries, I want to have a few of them in the garden, but not too many, so I need to decide which to pull and which to leave.  The blackberries and barberries also have thorns, which catch on clothing and occasionally break through even leather gardening gloves.  Then, of course, I always need to be on the lookout for poison ivy.  I've brushed it with my gloves a few times already, but I haven't actually gotten any rashes.  I get a little paranoid about touching things with my gardening gloves on, however, since poison ivy oil can be transferred from one object to another.  I don't think I've touched enough poison ivy with my gloves for this to be a serious problem, but I'm not 100% sure. With Obsessive Compulsive Disorder I can easily get too paranoid and spend more time worrying about poison ivy than actually gardening, if I don't fight my excessive worries.  All in all, I think I have done a pretty good job so far - both with the gardening and with the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Here are a couple of pictures at different angles of the main garden bed.  I've done some more weeding since these were taken, but it basically looks very similar:

The little pink-white flowers are geraniums.

Meanwhile, in other parts of the yard, two bushes are in full bloom without me having to do anything whatsoever.  The first is the rhododendron in front of the house, which turns out to have flowers of a lovely  lavender color.

Here's a closeup, with an ant crawling around one of the flowers.

Here is one clump of flowers near the ground ...
... and what I think is the same branch of the plant in March, when there was still snow on the ground and the flowers were enclosed in a tight bud:

The second bush in full bloom now is a Spirea of some kind, with pure white flowers :

Here is a closeup of the little clumps of flowers:

Unfortunately, neither the rhododendron nor the spirea will flower for long - very few flowering bushes have long-lived flowers.  Still, there should be plenty of more flowers coming - the irises are just starting to open, and they are beautiful.  Unfortunately, I broke my old digital camera yesterday by dropping it.  Fortunately, I got a new and (hopefully) better camera today, and I should be ready to take some more pictures (as well as pulling some more weeds) tomorrow.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Garden update

This morning, early April called early May and asked for its weather back.  In other words, it has been unseasonably cool so far this May.  I'm not complaining - I actually like cool weather (not cold) better than warm or hot weather - but the coolness means that the plants have been growing and leafing out in slow motion compared to what they would be doing in more normal weather.  Again, I shouldn't complain - it means I can do my weeding at a slower pace and I didn't have to mow the grass for the first time until today - but I'm still looking forward to everything becoming fully green for the year.

I haven't posted in a while, largely because my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has been hitting me really hard and often leaving me feeling exhausted and uninterested in communicating with the outside world during my free time.  Still, I figured I should post a few pictures.  These were taken about a week ago, so some of the bulbs have lost their flowers, while the other plants have grown some (but not as much as you would expect given the time of year).

My main garden area.  I've inherited a sort of woodland/shade garden, with 
hostas, blackberries, geraniums, barberries, lily of the valley, ferns, a few bulbs,
violets, and various other wildflowers scattered around underneath a large spruce
and a couple of small cherry trees, plus a lilac and a small fir.

Not much is blooming yet, but fortunately there are a few bulbs.  
Here is a tulip and two hyacinths.

Here is a closeup of the tulip.

Here are the two hyacinths, with what I think are geraniums and violets coming up around them.

There are a few daffodils as well.  I especially like the white one in the middle photo - 
it's different from most daffodils that I've seen.  Unfortunately, the daffodil flowers
pretty much shriveled up over the past week.

Most of the plants currently in my garden aren't noted for showy flowers, so it looks like I will have to add new plants of my own if I want more color.  On the other hand, maybe there will be some surprises coming up - there are still some plants that I haven't identified.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

First flowers of the year in my garden

A little snow on Friday made it seem like winter again, but almost all of it has melted, and today the first crocuses were flowering - the first flowers in the garden:

This one was fully open

This one was just starting to open.

 Very soon, another set of flowers will be opening - but these will be on a tree.  The buds on the red maples are growing, giving parts of the forests around here a slight reddish tint.  Soon they will open into tiny red flowers:
 Buds of Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Conifers (and a rhododendron)

Evergreens have a head start when spring is approaching.  Here are a couple of pics from last weekend (Captions above the photos this time):

A clump of foliage from a Canadian hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)

Fallen twigs from 3 different species of conifers.  From top to bottom:
Norway Spruce (Picea abies)
Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
 Yew, probably Japanese Yew (Taxus cuspidata)

An evergreen but definitely not a conifer, this rhododendron is a little 
worse for wear but doesn't look like it will take long to recover and 
start growing.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Yard and garden update

With everything that is going on in the world, the condition of my yard is almost infinitely insignificant.  Still, it's significant to me, so I figured it would be an appropriate thing to write about.

A week ago, I thought that it might be a month before all of the snow melted.  Even a couple of days ago, I thought it might be a couple of weeks.  This weekend, though, I realized that at the rate the snow is disappearing, most of it might be gone in a few days.  Most of the snow already is gone, in fact - there was just so much that some of it is still left.  A combination of temperatures reaching at least 40 Fahrenheit (about 5 Celsius) each day, plus lots of rain, have really pushed the melting along.

A couple of pics of the largest garden area in the side yard

Little stream running down the side of the driveway - it's been running continuously 
for a week.

This side of the house still has a decent amount of snow.

The most pleasant surprise to me, though, is that as soon as the snow melted, underneath it there were already plants sprouting!  The most common plant that I see apparently ready to grow is this one.  I'm not sure what type it is, or whether it is a weed or a "cultivated" plant (sorry for the non-centered photo - Blogger is acting up and won't let me shift my photos to the center for some reason):

 I may have my work cut out for me if this is a weed - they're all over the place.

There are, however, other plants sprouting that I am pretty sure I will want in the garden.  This looks like an iris of some kind, pushing up past a bunch of twigs from the Norway spruce that were blown down over the last few months:

Here's a fern of some kind emerging green from underneath the snow:

Why are some plants emerging from the snow green and looking almost ready to start growing?  Maybe the snow actually acted as an insulator, keeping the ground warmer than usual.  In that case, I hope it doesn't get cold enough to damage the plants that are out of the snow now.  The ones that are already green are probably pretty tough.

Sobering facts about the earthquake/tsunami in Japan

There's nothing that I can say about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan that many others haven't said much better.  It is a tragedy and a sobering reminder of how we are definitely not in the drivers' seat for so many things that happen on this planet.  Unlike climate, geology seems to be something that we have no effect on or control over, one way or another.  All we can do is try to prepare for disasters and do rescue and recovery when they do happen.

The really sobering thing to remember is that Japan is probably the best prepared country for earthquakes in the whole world.  Everything is built to withstand earthquakes, and there is a large infrastructure in place for warning, searching, and rescuing.  Even with all of this, this huge earthquake and tsunami still had devastating results.  In any other country, it would have been worse.  California is probably the second most well-prepared place on earth when it comes to earthquakes, so an earthquake of similar size there would probably cause similar, or even somewhat worse, damage.  Other parts of the world, though, are much less prepared - especially poorer areas.  A little more than a year ago, the earthquake in Haiti showed how devastating a natural disaster can have in a country where people are already living in very poor conditions and there is no mechanism for dealing with a disaster.  Though much smaller than the earthquake in Japan, the death toll was probably dozens or hundreds of times larger.  Similarly, the 2004 earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia and other parts of the Indian Ocean hit many poorer areas of Asia and east Africa that were less prepared to cope with the damage than a country like Japan or the USA would be.

All of these earthquakes at least happened along active fault zones where the earth's crustal plates meet, places where earthquakes can be expected to happen.  Powerful earthquakes occasionally happen in unexpected places, such as the historic New Madrid, Missouri earthquakes of 1811-1812.  This was a massive earthquake that caused a section of the Mississippi river to flow backwards.  If a similar sized earthquake occurred today, it would almost certainly cause great damage across much of the US "heartland", hitting areas where neither buildings nor emergency services nor the general public are prepared for earthquakes.  There are many other such places in the world, where occasional large earthquakes could occur.

Basically, people and nations all around the world need to realize that events like major earthquakes and tsunamis can happen in many different places, and that while they are extremely unlikely in most places (and you're almost 100% safe from a tsunami if you live well inland or at a high elevation), they should be remembered when designing buildings and organizing emergency services.  In geology more than almost anything else on earth, we humans still have to take anything that nature dishes out and deal with it as best we can.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Shaky conservative

I don't write about politics much.  Part of this is because my own views are uncertain.  Part of it is that my views on a lot of things are more conservative than those of most people I know, and I don't want people to think less of me because of my views.  (Let's face it, people often do think less of other people if they find out that the other person has opposing views on political issues, especially if it is a very sensitive or emotional issue.)

Discussing my views in detail is much more than I have the time or energy to do now, but there are probably a few reasons why I often lean in a conservative direction.  First, there's family influence.  I grew up in a moderately conservative, Reagan-supporting suburban middle-class family.  Unlike many people with that background, I didn't grow up to oppose the ideas and values that I was brought up with.  I don't agree with all of them, but overall I think that most of them make sense.  The conservatism that I grew up with was somewhat moralistic, but not harshly judgmental.  It taught that people shouldn't be dependent on the government, but not that people should be completely left to their own devices no matter what.  It was patriotic, but not overly nationalistic or xenophobic.  I liked it then, and I still like it now.

Another thing that pushed me in the direction of conservatism was that many of the more liberal or left-leaning people I knew, while certainly good people, were a little bit more ... close-minded than the conservatives.  This goes against the common stereotype that conservatives are the narrow-minded ones, but I have often found it to be true.  If someone starts from the assumption that all conservatives, no matter what their actual ideas, are narrow-minded fools and bigots, then there really isn't any room for debate or discussion of any kind.  That attitude always rubbed me the wrong way, to put it mildly.

These days, everything is confused for me when it comes to politics.  I still think of myself as a conservative, and take that side of an argument more often than not, but the conservatism of recent years seems to be more harsh and intolerant than the variety that I grew up believing in.  I guess being harsh and intolerant doesn't necessarily make something wrong, but those have never been qualities that I liked very much.  I guess you could say that my conservatism is very shaky.

Maybe I should start writing about my political views.  Actually, I shouldn't.  There seem to be millions of bloggers writing about politics, and most of them know a lot more about the issues than I do!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Trees and sky

My new home has many virtues, but dramatic sunset vistas that make for good photographs are not among them.  Instead, my house is surrounded by other houses and trees, which is entirely typical of New England.  In this part of the country, being able to look at landscapes that are many miles distant from one's own home is more of a privilege than a standard feature.

Nonetheless, there are a few good views that I've been able to get over the past few weeks: