Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I Realize This Violates the Female Code, But.....

I cannot stand Pride and Predjudice. I reserve judgement on the rest of Jane Austen's works. I own a copy of Sense and Sensibility, but have yet to read it. My complaint about P and P is largely the shallowness of the Bennett women and particularly Elizabeth's penchant for jumping to conclusions and passing harsh judgements on those around her. She's an unpleasant snob. Perhaps not quite so snobby and stuck-up as Miss Bingley, but still not terribly likeable in my opinion. Her only saving grace is that she does realize the error of her judgements and actions, but it's awfully painful to wade through nearly the entire book to get to that point.

It may well be that Ms. Austen is intending to highlight the shallowness and frivolity of society at the time, but her writing lacks the sarcasm and zing of Edith Wharton. To me Austen provides more simple narrative, rather than cutting commentary. I'd rather have the latter, I'm afraid.

As far as the movie versions go, I must say I still prefer the Lawrence Olivier/Greer Garson version over all the subsequent re-makes. Mr. Olivier fills the role of Mr. Darcy with the perfect combination of sophistication, grace, regret and discomfort.

Speaking of Lawrence Olivier....the last time I watched Wuthering Heights, it occurred to me that Viggo Mortensen might make a darn good Heathcliff. He's definitely capable of a good brooding, moody role.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

How Does This Help?

I realize that many states have budget woes. Mine is no exception. Fortunately my state isn't yet putting employees on furlough. What I don't quite understand is how cutting the pay of employees is supposed to help the current economic situation. Given the fairly tight budgets most Americans are on, many of whom live paycheck-to-paycheck, I don't see how this solves anything. It merely shifts the burden of the budget crisis to the employee. Now the employee can't pay their bills or their mortgage, not the employer (who is likely to be much more able to do deficit spending). So cars get repossessed, utilities get cut off, homes get foreclosed. The employer doesn't care. They saved their money. Not enough to solve the budget problems, but apparently enough that it makes it ok to shift the budget crisis to someone else. Hardly seems fair to penalize employees for bad decisions of the employer, does it? I am very curious if the unpaid furloughs and pay cuts also apply to the legislative branches and elected officials of these states. It better.

In the meantime, more problems develop for regular folk. More folks are forced to tap into savings or to assume more debt and hope that no emergencies arise. Personally, I don't live paycheck-to-paycheck, but there are millions who do. There are folks who don't have an emergency fund or savings. Folks for whom an unexpected car repair bill would be devastating. Or a house repair. Or a medical bill. Doesn't seem quite fair to punish folks struggling to make ends meet by sending them home unpaid for 2-4 days just so the employer can balance things. Then again, I overhear people complain about not having enough money to pay bills while they take grade school children to get manicures and pedicures or while they shop for a new purse. That really puts a dent in my degree of sympathy. What kind of priority system is that? If you haven't money to make ends meet, wouldn't you consider cutting out all non-critical spending? I guess "critical" means manis and pedis to some folks. It sure doesn't to me.

Critical to me is utility bills, mortgage, car insurance and food. Everything else is optional. Even the food is seriously negotiable. I have lived on <$50/month for food by eating nothing but frozen vegetables, pasta, marinara sauce and Cheerios or oatmeal. And coffee brewed at home. No eating out (unless someone else was picking up the check). No junk food. No "treats". Thankfully I don't have to eat like that any more. I'm am, however, glad to know that I can do that if I need to. At the moment what I need to focus on is diligently sticking to my grocery shopping list and weekly menu plan instead of picking up extra stuff as I think of something else I'd like to eat. The food doesn't go to waste, but it's silly to buy things for meals I don't eat that next week. On the other hand, I am getting to the point where I only go to the grocery store twice a month--once for a big shopping trip (~$75-80) and once for more perishable stuff or things that run out that can't wait for the big trip (~$30-40). In July, I'm going to give Dave Ramsey's envelope budgeting method a shot with my food/household shopping. I'll put a specified amount of cash into an envelope for the month and then pay for all food/household goods out of that envelope for the month. When the money is gone, there will be no more buying. It'll be interesting to see how that works and what I learn from it about my spending habits.

Long Weekend Plans

My holiday weekend project was going to be cleaning and staining my deck. I'm a bit worried about the timing of that project though. If I get it washed on Thursday night or Friday, I can stain it 24-36 hours later if there is no rain. Of course, that means I have to pick a stain color this week. And figure out what supplies I will need to get the whole job done in 2-3 days. (Thank goodness for the internet.) Given how badly discolored some of the boards are (the previous owners seem to have spilled melted citronella candle wax and/or tiki torch fuel on parts of it), I don't know how long it will take to get the deck clean enough to stain. I will have to stain it on a weekend morning since stain isn't supposed to be applied in direct sunlight. If I can't get it stained on Saturday or Sunday morning, I'll have to wait until the end of July to get it done, which may necessitate cleaning it again before staining. Depending upon how tricky it is to get the supplies pulled together this week, I may decide to move the whole project to late July. Of course, given the recommended temperatures for staining are between 50 and 90 degrees F, it may be wisest to move the whole project to later this fall anyway.

Alternate projects
Relocate/divide irises and perennials. Relocate volunteer tree seedlings (three or four of them). Weed the veggie garden. Dig up/establish the deckside flowerbed. Buy/install mulch. Plan and lay out the shady bed at the north end of the yard (where the violets are doing so well). And those are just the outside projects!!! Somehow I don't think I'll be at a loss for things to do.

Monday, June 22, 2009

There Is a Time Wrinkle in My Backyard....

That's the only explanation I can find. I get home and it's about 5pm. By the time I change clothes and get outside, it's between 5:30 and 5:45. I mow the lawn, pick berries, weed a bit, prune a bit, water a bit, and tidy things up. WHAM! It's 8:45 pm and time for me to get things put together for work tomorrow! Where DOES the time go?!?!? Granted, I did spend a bit extra time indoors before starting the mowing today, but I still "lost" a couple hours in there.

Despite having another heat advisory today, it didn't feel nearly as hot as it did the past three days. If it doesn't rain tomorrow, I'll have another go at lopping off my fingertip weeding the blackberries tomorrow night. I am taking some blackberries to work for the building receptionist, who always has a cheery wave and hello for me in the morning. Later this summer I'll take her tomatoes too.

The Key to Evening Productivity
This really isn't a surprise to me or at least it shouldn't be. The key to getting things done at home after work is to STAY THE HECK OUT OF THE COMFY CHAIR. Or to at least set a timer so that I have to get out of the chair at the appointed time. Otherwise I spend the entire evening in the chair and the things I need to do don't get done. Like tidying up the house, cooking dinner, washing dishes, doing laundry, weeding the garden/flowers, writing letters (yes, I really still do the kind with pen, paper and stamps), etc. You know, those normal activities of daily living that we'd probaby hire staff to take care of if we had the funds to do so.

If I park my bahookie in the chair, that stuff gets put off. And usually so do my knitting and reading. The detritus of life then piles up a bit, which I can ignore for a while. Eventually it starts to wear on me. If I let it go long enough, having things get messy and disorganized makes me agitated, depressed and crabby, which, in turn, leaves me less likely to take care of the messy disorganization. You can imagine how much fun things get at that point.

I have learned over the years that if I do a little bit every day, I can keep on top of things without having to resort to marathon clean up sessions. The one exception is the kitchen. I tend to do a big clean-up in there every weekend, mostly because I do a big cooking mess in there every weekend and usually wind up filling the dishwasher. The rest of the housekeeping is 5-10 minutes a day, with up to an hour set aside on Wednesday for the "big" stuff like taking out the garbage, dusting, throwing out the "stuff to be read later" pile of mail and vacuuming the whole house. Bathrooms are scrubbed on the weekend as I use them.

So, the key for me is to limit my Comfy Chair time immediately after I get home. I allow myself up to 30 minutes to check my e-mail (usually the first time I check my personal e-mail since the previous day) and to either eat a quick dinner or to have a snack. Then it's time to change my clothes and get on with whatever tasks need to be done. Thinking about this as I write....I think I should change my clothes immediately when I get home, then get my snack and e-mail. That might leave me more motivated to get out of the chair.

Weekends are a bad Comfy Chair time. Since I often am getting grubby in the garden or yard, I tend to not take a shower until after I'm done with the dirty work. I still wake up by 6am every morning even without an alarm set, but I shuffle out to the living room while the coffee brews and the oatmeal cooks. And suddenly it's 9am, then 11am, and I'm still in the Comfy Chair in my pajamas instead of outside in the yard digging things up before the blazing heat returns. This is a problem. I shall have to work on the timer system for weekend mornings too. I can always surf the internet and read listserv messages when it's too hot to be outdoors. I hate wasting good outdoor time. Besides, it's pretty when the dew bejewels the spiderwebs that were built while I slept.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


So today started to have a hiccup in the middle, but shortly after I decided to shrug it off and keep going, things turned around. I might have to ponder that a bit....

On the Home Front
It rained yet again. I could have probably mowed today, but with no rain in the forecast for the next few days, I thought it wiser to wait until tomorrow. With an extra day of drying, I might not end up with clumps of grass clippings causing dead spots in the lawn and one more day of growing won't make the lawn look any worse than it looks now.

The blackberries are starting to ripen. Today I was able to pick a handful of mixed berries--red raspberries, black raspberries and blackberries. I'll eat them in my oatmeal tomorrow morning, right after I wash off the mud. Hopefully my upcoming out of town trip won't keep me from harvesting many berries.

One of the Rose of Sharon has started to bloom. This is the largest of the five plants. I don't know that the other four are large enough or old enough to flower yet. I like the darker red at the center of the blossom.

I have decided to stop mowing this section of my lawn. It's not even grass any more. It's a nearly solid section of violets. The corner they fill is shaded most of the day. I don't expect grass to ever do well. It may take some doing to figure out how to shape a flower bed around the violet patch and make it look nice. It will also take some doing to figure out how to contain the violets only in the area I want them.

I found this little toadstool growing among the dead poison ivy vines growing on one of the sweet gum trees. I can just picture a tiny person living in the toadstool on this craggy cliff of bark and vines.

Perhaps one of these tiny people from the Polyphonic Spree game Quest for the Rest.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Rain Rain Go Away!

At least just pass by for a few days so I can mow my lawn! Dodged another tornado today. There was pea- to marble-sized hail at the office. No visible damage to my car. No wind damage on the way home. Even the section of road that usually floods was mostly clear. Of course, we're not out of the woods yet. There is another line of storms headed this way. Sounds like a perfect night for curling up with a good book and/or some good knitting!

Things To Do, Things To Do....
Job responsibilities at work are going to be shifting around a bit. One of the staff is moving to a different position. I'll have a good chunk of the moving staff person's job now, which is good. There will, of course, be a learning curve but hopefully I'll catch on fairly quickly. I did apparently worry people today when I asked as part of today's exercise debriefing when they would have wanted aggregated/summary data produced. I was told that it was really hard to say when that is necessary as a general guide. I understand that. What I wanted to know is when *today* they might have wanted it, since at no point was it mentioned and we had >30 patients in the exercise. The boss asked what my responsibility would be in a real world situation and the answer was "write the report". I can do that, but that's after everything is over. I'm thinking I might have responsibilities during the situation too. I've asked that question before too and there doesn't seem to be a clear answer, though it does seem to worry people that I don't know what I'm supposed to do. I'm apparently supposed to draw on my experience to know what to do, but I haven't really had any experience from which to figure that out, so I ask those around me who do have experience and might know what needs to be done that I might be able to assist with. It's quite a conundrum. I shall have to ponder this more. It may be that I just jump in and do stuff and hope folks tell me more once I'm in the pool swimming where I'm supposed to be headed. I just don't want to fail to meet expectations or screw something up. I also don't want to get into trouble for going off and doing something without asking permission first.

Guilty Pleasures....
Every summer NPR does a segment about summer reading. Frequently this results in list of "guilty pleasure" reading material--stuff that would never be classified as literature or even high quality writing. The recommendations aren't quite as trivial as romance novels, but are more along the lines of pulp fiction. I've never felt guilty about reading mindless books, though I have felt guilty about buying fine literature and failing to read it. Examples of the latter include the copies of Bleak House, The Republic, Sister Carrie, Anna Karenina and The Mill on the Floss, among others, which currently reside on my bookshelves. I purchased these books for less than $1 per title when the local adult literacy program closed and held a book sale. I figured they were books that I "should" read one of these days. That was over a year ago. I have read exactly one of them--Silas Marner.

To me, no book is a complete waste of time. I can always learn something from it, even if I cannot stand the writing long enough to finish it. From those books, I learn what I do not like about an author's style or about a particular book. I also learn what I don't want to do if I ever write a book myself. Since I started thinking about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I have started looking for the structure of a book when I read and have tried to identify what things define an author's style. Composers write variations on themes from other composers. I speculate about what a book by Charles Dickens might be like if it were written by Debbie Macomber or Neal Stephenson. Or what if Stephen King or Dean Koontz re-wrote one of Jane Austen's novels? By considering how others write, I begin to figure out what I like to read and how I like to write.

While I don't have guilty reading pleasures, I do have guilty movie pleasures. These are largely low(er) budget fantasy/science fiction or action movies, often from the 1980s. They're low on plot and high on fights and cheap special effects. At the moment I'm watching Highlander on American Movie Classics. (How it qualifies as a "classic", I do not know.) Plotwise, this movie is completely unbelievable, but it does feature a Frenchman playing a Scotsman (in a kilt, no less) and a Scotsman (none other than Sean Connery) playing an Egyptian working for a Spanish king. The acting is fairly wooden and predictable. There are some decent swordfights, a rocking soundtrack by Queen, plus just enough of a romantic storyline to keep the chicks in the audience interested and some naked breasts to keep the guys watching. I would never have expected this movie to spawn two sequels and a television series, but it did. I never watched much of the TV series. The movie sequels, especially Highlander 2: The Quickening, were nearly too awful to be watchable and would never qualify as guilty pleasures to me.

Other guilty pleasure movies? Dirty Harry movies, the Conan the Barbarian movies, the occasional Nightmare on Elm Street flick, Stephen King horror movies (perhaps with the exception of The Shining), and the Vincent Price versions of Edgar Allan Poe movies.

And on that note, I'm signing off to workout, then knit.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Slight Change of Plan

Yesterday I had a long list of things to get done so that I could go buy myself a hard drive enclosure today as a reward. I changed plans. I did get the work done, except for the one load of laundry still in the dryer, but I decided that I'd rather stay home today. The day started out with a thunderstorm, which really got me entrenched in the "stay in" mode. It's now sunny and warm, but very humid. I'm still in "stay in" mode. I've watched two scary movies on the SciFi channel. I may watch stuff on Hulu in a little while or watch a DVD.

The pool is no longer lime green. Apparently I got enough chlorine into it yesterday to get it back to being mostly normal. The water is a bit cloudy yet, but that's to be expected. If it doesn't clear up in a day or two, I'll throw in some clarifier.

With any luck the lawn will dry out in the next day or two and I can mow it. I really should have mowed it late last week, but I didn't get it done. Oops. If things don't dry out soon, I'll almost be able to bale hay from it.

All the rain has helped the garden, however. There are baby cucumbers growing and LOTS more cucumber blossoms. I picked a bunch of radishes and two jalapeno peppers today. There are eggplant blossoms too and I spied a baby tomato as well.

Workout Kickstart
I had a crazy idea the other day. As you know, I've been working out regularly since last fall. I rather fell off the wagon between late April and mid-May, but am now back on track. It occurred to me the other day that I might need some advice or guidance to get the greatest benefit out of my workouts. I sent an e-mail to a retired competitive bodybuilder and certified personal trainer friend of mine asking for suggestions. She asked me to send her my entire workout and eating plan so she can look at it and make suggestions. Yay! That was completely unexpected and now I'm really excited to see what she has to say. It will be interesting to see what the suggestions are. Short of starting to eat animals, I'm willing to change what I eat and how I workout to get better muscle definition.

Now back to my knitting. I'm declaring today to be my contribution to global knitting. I didn't have an event at which to celebrate Worldwide Knit in Public Day yesterday, so I'll spend most of today knitting and vegetating in front of the idiot box.

And Now, Just For Giggles....

I am the Third Eye Chakra

You are insightful and spiritual. You trust your intuition.

You are deeply philosophical. You spend a lot of time thinking and theorizing.

You are wise beyond your years. People turn to you for direction and hope.

You are a clear thinker. You often know what you want to do and how you're going to do it.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Snapshots from the Week

This weekend I am staying inside. First, it's very humid outside thanks to last night's thunderstorm and the impending storms for today. Then, there's the accumulation of several weeks of housework that I've been avoiding. You see, I haven't been a very good FlyBaby. I have done my personal routines, more or less, on a daily basis, but I haven't kept up with the weekly tidying and cleaning. On top of that, I haven't even looked at the Zone tasks in months, except the one day that I swept the front porch. So here's what is on my plate for today.....

I will finish my laundry, including the folding and putting away of said laundry. As you can see, there is quite a mound of clean clothing accumulated from the past few weeks. Then there is the vacuuming, dusting and general tidying up. Hot spots have begun to develop again. These are places where I set things down, meaning to work further with them or meaning to find them a "real" place to be put. Except that often the stuff just sits there. I also have some cards and letters to write that I have put off for several weeks now. The writing thing I know is a perfectionism issue. I don't really have to write a publication ready note or even a solid school-type essay. Rambling on in a conversational manner would be just fine, I'm sure. Finally, I need to figure out what to do with the two printers sitting in the living room. They either need to be put away or they need to go to the GoodWill store. Given that I don't really need more than one printer here, I think they'll need to go to the GoodWill store.

What I have already accomplished includes adjusting pool chemicals (overnight there was a lovely algal bloom and now the pool is a beautiful lime green color), checking air conditioning ducts for holes, baiting the attic mice, grocery shopping and cleaning the kitchen.

If I accomplish everything else today, I will reward myself with a trip to BestBuy tomorrow so I can purchase a hard drive enclosure. I need to move my biggest HD out of my old gaming computer and add it to my Mac Mini. I'll install WinXP on the external drive so I can have a dual boot Mac and still play my favorite computer games. Of course, that's really just more work. I really should come up with a reward that isn't more work.

A Selection of Photos....
First, the short bus parade, making a refueling stop
They are new buses on a roadtrip to their new homes. They were NOT, as my sister hypothesized, coming to take me away.

This is the next section of the yard which needs to be fixed. It's the corner next to the deck.
On the left, near the end of the deck, is the birdfeeder. There are holly bushes at the base of the deck which will need to be moved. I figure I'll make a nice curved bed so that it'll be easier to mow around. I have no idea what I'll plant in it. Behind the half-bag of peat moss are two small Rose of Sharon bushes. Ideally they need to be moved farther apart and also further away from the house. I could use the holly bushes as a border in the new bed, but that doesn't seem quite right.

Calla Lilies

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Downside of Not Using Your Brain Regularly....

is that you sometimes forget to use it at all.

I very nicely told a co-worker that they might want to roll up the windows of their car before it rained but failed to remember I left my windows all open about 1 1/2 inches. (DOH!) Fortunately I hadn't left the sunroof open. I did, however, end up with a damp behind on the left side by the time I drove home. Hopefully the next couple of days will be hot and dry so I can leave the windows cracked again and cook out the excess moisture. I'll pick up some DampRid and seal it into the car over the weekend to finish pulling the dampness out.

While blowdrying my hair at the gym, I discovered a discolored area on the side of the t-shirt I chose to wear to work. It looks as though the laundry detergent pooled and removed some of the dye. Of course there was no time to go home and change before work. Fortunately I had an overshirt to wear which neatly covered the problem area.

After getting home from work and investigating how wet the inside of my car is, I discovered an 8" x 3/4" spring laying under the passenger-side front seat of my car. Fishing around under the seat with my hands, I am unable to figure out where the spring came from. When I go around to the driver's seat and read underneath, the spring on that side just falls into my hand. There is no useful information in any of the VW repair forums about the mysterious springs. While looking this information up, I discover a big glob of grease on the belly of the previously discolored t-shirt. This is the second work t-shirt in two weeks that I've killed. (The first one got grass stains on it.) I really must remember to change into my grubby clothes when I get home from work BEFORE I go play in the dirt, grease and muck.

I'm going to bed early, before I find some other not-so-smart place to not use my brain.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Playing for Change: Stand By Me

I heard about this project this morning. Pretty cool stuff. This is easily my favorite rendition of this song....

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Must Find Next Book

I am finally about to finish reading Cryptonomicon. This has been both my bedtime and lunchtime reading material for several weeks now. For a while, it was supplanted at lunch by a biography of Warren Buffet, but then a) the Buffet book had to be returned to the library and b) Cryptonomicon got really good and I didn't want to miss anything by not reading it at lunch too. (Yes, I know intellectually that technically nothing happens in the book after I put it down. You try telling yourself that when the pace of the book takes off on you and you have to stop before you're ready to stop.)

I have another library book checked out for bedtime reading. It is Heart of the Ronin by Travis Heerman. It's the first book of a forthcoming series of historical fiction/adventure fantasy. The protagonist is a 17 year old ronin (a masterless samurai) with the de rigeur mysterious past and powerful sword. There are, of course, the usual conspiracies, betrayals, treacheries and, no doubt, sword fights. The title caught my eye on the new book shelf, so I snagged it. I have no idea if it will be any good.

My lunchtime reading choice is still up in the air. I happened across an older copy of Dave Ramsay's Total Money Makeover. I've skimmed through it. Not sure it's something I could really concentrate on at lunch. I suspect I might get too caught up in the worksheets. I am also considering limiting my lunchtime reading to just books from my home library for a while. I have a bad tendency to purchase books, then to not read them because I get sidetracked by newer, more interesting books at the library that I just have to check out. I don't pay as much attention to my personal collection because I know it is always available while the library books may be checked out by other patrons. I may write myself a prioritized list of the books I own that I want to read sooner rather than later. Perhaps I'll make two lists: one fiction and one non-fiction or one bedtime and one lunchtime reading. Either way, I think I'll ease up on the library books for a little bit.

This moratorium on library books does not, of course, apply to audiobooks. Right now I've got a Miss Marple mystery waiting for me, plus one of Suze Orman's books. I've never read any of her books on financial matters, though I have read magazine articles or columns she has written. Audiobooks are how I keep myself from hopping off the treadmill/elliptical at the gym before I finish my workout. Some mornings I want to be entertained and other times I want to stretch my brain a bit before work. It's marvelous stuff.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Irony is....

being tailgated very closely by a motorcyclist who passes you and tailgates the semi-truck ahead of you, while wearing a t-shirt that reads "If you can read this, you're following too $*#&@! close!" Either he cannot read himself or is otherwise not subject to this proclamation.

Monday, June 01, 2009

I Finally Figured It Out

No, I don't have the secret to life, the universe and everything. Well, I do. The answer is 42. However, that's not what I'm talking about. What I have figured out is how to kill the Bermuda grass in my lawn. It's really quite simple and I stumbled upon it over the weekend. All you need is a pool cover. Just spread it out on your lawn for a day or two. The heat trapped under the big tarp (which is really all a pool cover is) will kill the weeds and most of the grass.

When I removed the pool cover on Saturday, I was careful to pile it up on an area of lawn which was nearly all weeds and crabgrass with very little actual lawn grass, not even Bermuda grass, just in case the trapped heat would kill the grass. Just a few hours turned that area a nice uniform brown. (I checked again today. The dratted crabgrass is still alive.) Sunday I flipped the pool cover over to scrub the top clean and dragged it onto one of the clover sections. Today I dragged it further up the hill onto more clover. Tomorrow I'll drag it a bit further north and kill the clover there. If I thought I could pile the pool cover onto the side lawn and not risk having someone steal it, I'd kill all the weeds there too. Once the pool cover has done its job, I'll hook the dethatcher to the mower and tear out the dead stuff, then overseed it and cover it with straw. Yay! Fescue/bluegrass is sooooo much nicer on the feet for a lawn. I like that it stays green year round too. Warm season grasses only look nice in the winter if there are absolutely no weeds in them--a scenario that is rarely observed in my experience. The pre-killed Bermuda grass will make it a whole lot easier to get the new lawn growing. As an added bonus, I just eliminated a fairly large area of lawn from my mowing routine since I won't be mowing the new stuff until it's well established.

The Yard Zoo Census

I got buzzed by a ruby-throated hummingbird the other day. One visits the day lilies outside the front window every evening. Unfortunately I have no photos. Every time I see the bird, I don't have my camera. While I was pruning the rosebushes the other evening, three bunnies thundered past me and into the backyard. I startled an additional bunny a few days later. Today I saw a tail-less skink on the deck. Add these to the yard snake, the miscellaneous toads, the evening bats and the broad variety of birds that visit my birdfeeder and I've got quite a wildlife refuge going. One day last week there must have been a dozen goldfinches around the bird feeder. I will have to work on photographing the menagerie.

Yardwork Photos
Here are the newly degrassed raspberries...

and blackberries....
Here are the scratches on my arm from the aforementioned berry bushes...
and the blackberries waiting to ripen....

I still have lots of work yet to do with the blackberries. I got a little under 1/3 of the whole bed done on Sunday. I can work on it a little bit at a time after work this week and finish it this weekend, weather permitting. That would give me time to get mulch spread on it this weekend.