Saturday, February 27, 2010

Scorn of Buckthorn: The Video

With apologies, I now bring you the video recording of my performance of Scorn of Buckthorn. Remember, you asked for this when I posted the lyrics alone! (Don't worry about me being fuzzy. I look better that way.)

I hate buckthorn, it is not the plant for me
Merely a shrub but thinks it's a tree
Roots as long as the trunk is tall
Spreads early spring to late in fall
Spiky thorns pierce gloves and shoes
No buckthorn I would never choose

It's non-native, it's invasive
It kills the spring ephemeral
It is glossy, it is spiky
It is a hardened criminal

I hate buckthorn, it is not the plant for me
You pull out one and it grows three
It does not heed your swears or pleas
It laughs at Roundup on its leaves
It will not die so you can’t mourn
Oh buckthorn I can only scorn

It's non-native, it's invasive
It kills the spring ephemeral
It is glossy, it is spiky
It is a hardened criminal

I sang this in December at a friend's house filk party (filk assumes singing is a human right/need and people sit in a circle and take turns performing). Some University of Michigan music grad students were recording performances for a class project, and Jessica took the time to edit out my portion for you. (I also performed Planting Queen, but it wasn't recorded.)

The lyrics came to me one day in the shower after years of struggling with buckthorn removal. Click for a buckthorn fact sheet from Ann Arbor Narural Areas Preservation.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Willy-Nilly Wednesday

Welcome to another Willy-Nilly Wednesday. It's like Mish-Mash Monday, only mid-week.

One, Two... Twelve (Wait, Stop Flitting About!)
Like many of you, I enjoyed taking part in the Great Backyard Bird Count over the weekend:

Locality: 48108, Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, MI
Snow Depth: 2 - 4 in (5.1 - 10.2 cm)
Habitat(s): deciduous woods, scrub, suburban, freshwater
February 14, 2010, 10:00 - 11:00 a.m.
    Mallard - 15
    Downy Woodpecker - 1
    Northern Flicker - 1
    Blue Jay - 1
    Black-capped Chickadee - 1
    White-breasted Nuthatch - 1
    Northern Cardinal - 2
    House Sparrow - 7
February 15, 8:30 - 9:30 a.m. 15, 2010
    Mallard - 12
    Red-bellied Woodpecker - 1
    Downy Woodpecker - 1
    Northern Flicker - 1
    American Crow - 1
    White-breasted Nuthatch - 1
    Dark-eyed Junco - 3
    Northern Cardinal - 3
    House Sparrow - 12

Comments: I normally also see mourning doves.

Wonderful, Wacky Wildlife
The other afternoon, out of the corner of my eye, I spied a brownish, cat-shaped movement near my bird feeders, and yet the brownish cat-shaped lifeform who lives with me was stationary by my side on the couch. My brain slowly came to terms with the idea that the groundhog may be awake form hibernation and my butt  left the sofa to check outside.

Whew! It wasn't the groundhog, it was just an opossum. Wait, what?! In the nearly 8 years I've lived in my house, I've seen an opossum only once before, by chance, at night.

Well, that didn't change the fact that this opossum was eating in broad daylight. I'm always honored when wildlife visits my yard, and I think opossums are cute. Look at its cute pink nose, hands, and toes!

Squirrels (fox and red) are much more common visitors at my feeders, and I don't mind. The feeder to the left, which you can hardly see, is especially for squirrels. They can't resist hanging off the normal feeders, either, and this upside-down technique is the normal approach.

Until the other day, anyway, where an intrepid pioneer found it more advantageous to simply insert most of its body directly into the feeder. It's apparently a magic squirrel with a collapsible ribcage!

Finally Snow!
While the rest of the country has more snow than it knows what to do with, we had our first real snowsotrm all season here in southeastern Michigan.

Photo by Laura Crawford, Washtenaw Community College

We finally got some snow a few days ago. I love the smiley face added to this sculpture on the campus where I occasionally teach.

We got about 7 inches (here on my winter-sowing containers), but it has melted and compressed a lot since then.

Thank You, Kind Bloggers!
A while back, I won a reusable grocery bag, hand-knit by Aunt Debbi! Here it is. It's hard to see the subtle color gradation, but the bottom of the bag (which you can't see at all) is primarily black with some beige, the bottom shown is more primarily beige and black, and the top is primarily white and black. Cool, huh?

As long as you're admiring the bag, feel free to also admire my cool, retro metal canister and spice rack, but please ignore the crumbs on the counter!

Thanks also to Country Mouse who recently tagged me with an Honest Scrap / 10 Things You Don't Know About Me award / meme. I've previously posted 7 Things You Don't Know About Me, so I'm going to say that's close enough for rock 'n' roll. Do stop by Country Mouse's blog, though, as Duncan, her canine companion, wrote an amusing post about himself!

DC-3 Cleared for Building, Over 
Every so often, I like to try a new hobby. My friend Pete is an avid and long-time modeler, mostly of scale model rockets, which he flew in competitions and made many of the parts for himself, but also of non-flying plastic model airplanes, assembled from kits.

I've never been super interested in airplanes (and don't enjoy flying), so I really wanted to build a house for a model train layout. Not that I have one, but I like trains and I like houses. Investigating the cost, it quickly became apparent that building a surplus airplane kit of Pete's for free would be way more commensurate with both my pocket book and skill level.

So I was given this plastic model kit of a DC-3 by Italeri. These are all the parts and how it looks out of the box. (The decals to the left came with the set, the ones to the right are 1970s German Easter decals from my grandmother, left over from my childhood, which clearly had to be incorporated.)

Pete also built a DC-3. His is the smaller, more completed gray model to the right. My fuselage sections had to be clamped together while drying. The glue to the right isn't truly glue, but liquid cement for plastic, which spreads through capillary action. I loved it. I also used what I would call tube glue but which modelers call plastic cement.

I was expecting this project to be a challenge because I don't have the finest, precision motor skills or the best vision. That ended up being an issue, but not a real problem. What I hadn't been expecting was all the modifications I needed to make to the pieces. In my mind, a kit means you should be ready to rumble with only minor fussing.

Apparently, that is not the case. Now, I get that parts might have excess plastic from being removed from the sprue (the non-part plastic that holds the pieces together) and I felt marginally capable of using an Exacto knife, fine. But my whole interior section (except the pilots, which I insisted must stay) had to be scrapped because it was a fraction too wide for the fuselage to fit around it. Pete assured me this was the kit's issue, not my clumsy hands' fault. Shouldn't the pieces of a model just fit together?!

Also, I had to do a lot of trimming and scraping of plastic edges to get some seams to match up more precisely. Other seams didn't fit flushly, so I had to use putty to fill the gap. (That was actually fun, but not something I'd have expected to have to do.)

Here is most of the model put together. It was really helpful being able to use all of Pete's supplies and having him on hand to answer a quazillion questions I had and share his expertise and tips. I don't think I ever would have attempted this on my own.

Here are all the first-coat painted parts. The gloss silver enamel paint didn't coat as smoothly as I would have liked. (Advanced modelers use spray paint, but I didn't fancy masking all those tiny windows!)

Here's the almost-finished version (only missing the decals). Most of the colors are accurate--the body was most often metallic silver, the propellers were black with those yellow edges, and the navigation lights and location of numbers (next photo) are accurate. But I took some liberties, because I was doing this for fun. Hence the orange tail (though both paints are Testors' gloss enamels, though the orange has 100x better coverage and a much smoother look. I'm now wishing I'd painted the whole thing orange, and apparently some Dutch versions of the plane were entirely orange, but I wanted silver for a more retro look).

Apparently, adding the water-transfer decals is sometimes tricky, but for me that was the easiest bit. I had some awesome rabbit decals for the rudders, but they had disintegrated due to age. Fortunately, Pete had some Flying Tigers decals, which are just as cool. The rest of the decals are those from my Grandmother. 

The only one you can't see in the previous photo, on the port wing, is this one. Ignore the crappy painting job and instead marvel at the cuteness of the decal and how nicely it lays over a three-dimensional surfaces!

I enjoyed the process, overall, but don't think I'll be making any other models any time soon! (Though I am fascinated about creating landscapes for train layouts...) 

Crimes Against Horticulture
Jean recently posted some photos of very bad planting and pruning techniques. I suggested she post them to Billy Goodnick's Flickr group, Crimes Against Horticulture, which she did. That reminded me there was a house in a nearby neighborhood whose photo I was meaning to take to add to the group myself.

Not only are the Mugo pines planted too near the foundation and ridiculously in need of pruning back, that poor poor cedar was not only planted way too close to the house as well, it suffered a very very bad haircut as the "solution" to the former. Arg!

Blogger Grumble #459
After fixing the "Read More!" that Blogger was automatically adding to all my posts, I switched to the new editor, assuming new was synonymous with improved. HA!

Where the heck did the spellchecker go, and why can I only upload one photo at a time? I used to be able to upload 5 at a time, and the spellchecker icon was obvious.

And I had this post almost completely done, when I went to hit return and somehow the whole screen went blank/all content was erased. No big deal, I hadn't saved it, so I navigated away from the window and came back... to an empty screen. Blogger had automatically saved the cleared screen, which meant I had to re-do the whole post. Where do I set the timing for autosaves?

Also line spacing seems to be randomly weird.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Planting Queen

I can't believe I haven't already posted my parody of ABBA's Dancing Queen. I wrote it a few years ago and sang it in December at a friend's house filk party. Which is saying something. While I have no problems giving a gardening talk to 300 people (and don't even have the good grace to get nervous), singing in public is another matter entirely. I was totally nervous and shaking, waiting for my turn to come. Also, I must note I can't actually sing very well, so don't be sad you missed it!

Planting Queen

(Intro: Do do do do do do do do do...)
You can sow, the bed’s rife
Giving small seedlings new life
Feed the soil, sow that bean
Diggin’ the planting queen

Friday night and the light’s not low
Looking out for the place to grow
Where the clay’s not too thick
Won’t need too much toil
You come to look for good soil

Anybody could give a try
Day is young and the sun’s up high
With a bit of rain showers
Everything is fine
You’re in the mood to plant 
and when you get the chance

You are the planting queen
Old and cheap, fingernails unclean
Planting queen
Feel the beat from things wild and green, oh yeah
You amend, you compost
Making the garden its most
Feed that soil, sow that bean 
Diggin’ the planting queen

You’re organic and think it’s fun
Give ‘em water and then you’re done
Looking out for another
Maybe make that two
You’re in the mood to plant
and when you get the chance

You are the planting queen
Old and cheap, fingernails unclean
Planting queen
Feel the beat from things wild and green, oh yeah
You can sow, the bed’s rife
Giving small seedlings new life
Feed that soil, sow that bean
Diggin’ the planting queen

I also performed Scorn of Buckthorn, which was video-taped, but I haven't gotten the file yet.

ABBA: The Album was the first record I ever bought, when I was 12. Even though my musical taste has greatly expanded since then, I still love them, even 32 years later.

Happy Friday, everyone, and happy birthday, Mom!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Seedy Thoughts

February and a gardener's thoughts turn... seedy!

A few days ago, I finally did my first batch of the season's winter sowing. I usually sow one container on Dec. 21st, so I'm a little behind, but still in plenty of time. A lot of what I sowed were natives and other plants that need periods of cold and moisture to germinate. Indoor seed starters emulate the cold cycles by putting their seeds into and out of the refrigerator, and they cut a little notch into hard seed coats to help the little cotyledon break through. Winter sowers don't need to worry about either, because the outdoor containers get plenty cold and the moisture softens the seed coats without scarification. Yay!

In the past I sowed at least eight or more of each seed variety because so many seeds come in those packets. But it dawned on me, hey! I'm not a nursery and I only need so many of each plant. So I'm starting much smaller numbers each of more varieties overall. If you're curious, the list of what I sowed so far is here.

It has been bitterly cold here. The winter-sown containers above are just waiting for the weather to warm up. As they have ice on the lids, I know the moisture inside is good. (Snow or water droplets also indicate adequate moisture.)

Even though I have more than enough seeds for many more batches of winter seed sowing (even despite my seed swaps!) — some might even say too many, and I'm probably one of them! — and even though I really wasn't planning to acquire more seeds (other than what comes back to me in the seed swap) — in fact, you might even say I've been making a very concerted effort not to acquire any more seeds this season! — well, the D. Landreth Seed Company catalog came in the mail on Friday. Uh oh. Oh my. So many lovely and droolworthy heirloom varieties. I'd come across Landreth's about five years ago, when ordering seeds for the 1860s fountain garden I created at Cobblestone Farm, but didn't end up ordering from them. I'm not sure why. Here is what I, showing the utmost restraint, now ordered for my own garden:
  • Corn, Golden Bantam
  • Peppers
    • Miniature Chocolate Bell
    • Jalapeno Early 
  • Eggplant, Black Beauty
  • Balsam, Bush Mix
  • Potatoes, Bintje
  • Tomatoes
    • Black Krim
    • Dr. Carolyn
    • German Johnson
    • German Red Strawberry
I would have ordered giant celosia, too, but they were out. I love the velvety texture and brainy look of those flowers!

I'm excited to winter sow corn. I know the seeds need warmth to germinate, but that's no problem in winter sowing where seeds wait dormant in the containers until the soil temperature is ideal for their particular needs, but I hope the seeds themselves can survive cold temperatures. I'll be growing the eggplant and bell peppers in containers, where groundhogs can't see the seedlings. I'm hoping some zucchini seeds find their way back to me in the seed swaps (waves to participants), as they did last year. Those did wonderfully in a container as well.

And moving (seamlessly, I might add) from seeds for planting to seeds as bird feed, be sure to take part in this year's annual Great Backyard Bird Count on February 12-15. You can do the count on any or all days. It's a lot of fun!
And, finally, I apologize for having been offline for several weeks and therefore not having left any blog comments in as long. I just go through periods like that. But, February is a new month!