Friday, July 05, 2013

3749 Trees

Friday, July 5, 2013

It ain't the parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me,
it is the parts that I do understand. 
--Mark Twain--


My neighbors must be smarter and more organized than they seem.  Last night's back yard fireworks started at precisely 9:30, and except for a few small sputters they ended at 10:00.  The purpose of the coordination appears to be to overwhelm the police.  They can't arrest everyone all at once.


The dominant volunteer tree around here seems to be the sweetgum.  At the country house, in the Mid-Hudson Valley, it's the locust, some black locust and some honey locust.

Any smart homeowner around here will immediately kill any gum tree found on their property.  The damn things produce copious pollen that thickly covers everything, and then in fall they drop thousands of hard spiny gumballs that threaten bare feet, destroy lawn mowers, and grab the grass so that they are serious work to rake up.  No insects or birds eat the seeds or balls (some people claim goldfinches eat them, others argue with that), and the balls take forever to rot into humus. 

I inherited a huge gum tree at the end of the back yard, and my neighbor has two that overhang my driveway in front.

I hate the damn things.  They have no redeeming features (if you're not a furniture manufacturer).

In the Hudson Valley, you'll find locust trees in places where old pastures and orchards have gone wild, and in straight well-spaced lines bordering current fields and along old farm roads.

Crowded locusts are rather ugly, especially the black locusts.  They don't like crowding, and grow spindly and strangely angled.  The woods around the country house are black locust, in what was once colonial apple orchards.  I joined Jay there in January, 1994, when the locusts were bare and starkly black.  They looked exactly like what you would expect to see behind a movie haunted house.  Spooky.  Ugly.  They disturbed me, especially in moonlight.

Locusts have long very sharp spines on the trunks, branches, and twigs.  Touching a locust tree can be painful - so just don't touch them - and the spines make them look even more evil in the winter.  In spring they have long clusters of blossoms that look like white wisteria, and smell wonderful.  My first spring in that house I forgave the locusts their evil appearance.  I looked forward every spring to that scent.

Given room to grow they become full, straight, spreading, and rather attractive.  The well-spaced straight lines of locusts around old farms are due to an interesting feature of locusts.   The wood is hard, strong, and resistant to rotting, so early farmers cut sections of locust branches for fence posts.  But that's not the interesting feature.  A chunk of locust branch stuck into the ground, will, after a year or two or three or even five or seven, grow roots and branch out, and become a tree, and that's why you so often see huge old locusts in lines along farm roads and between fields.  They were once fence lines.

Compared to the nasty useless gum balls, the long flat bean pods of locust are beneficial.  Mowed, they make a nourishing mulch for the lawn.  The sweet pulp in the honey locust pods is a delicious treat, if you can get to them before the animals.

I never expected to say I miss locust trees, but having met gums, now I do miss and appreciate them.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

3748 Boomers

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.
-- Albert Einstein --


Well, I almost forgot what day it is -- until about ten minutes ago when the neighborhood erupted into WWIII.  There are fireworks on all sides, and we're talking about the big chrysanthemums and boomers.  The seriously not-in-the-backyard stuff.  The rattle your windows stuff.  The sky is lighting up.

So I checked the internet.

Yup, personal unlicensed fireworks of any type, including the little sparklers, are highly illegal in NJ.  According to the announcement from this county, they've got additional police on tonight, and they are serious about arresting and confiscating.  There's a large fine and jail time involved, and they "intend to prosecute everyone they catch".  That's what the county says.

Yeah.  Sure.

I've never seen this kind of blatant civil disobedience at the country house.  A few teenagers with cherry bombs, occasionally.  Nothing like this.


I entertained the Nugget this morning while her parents packed the car.  They've gone to Pennsylvania to visit the other set of grandparents.  I get to feed their cats tomorrow.

Normally, cats are good alone with dry food for like three days.  But they have two small timid females, and one huge fat bruiser of a (ex)male, Titus.  If they put out three days of food for three cats, Titus will eat it ALL the first evening.  Damn hog.  Me, I'd separate and confine them to their own areas, and if Titus ate all his own food, he'd just have to live off his fat for the rest of the time.

So anyway, I'll go over tomorrow and put out one day's food for three cats, and stand there so Poli (Titus's tiny antisocial sister) and Schmeck (very tiny, extremely shy, at least 15 years old, never leaves the master bedroom except to use the litter box) get a chance at it, knowing that as soon as I leave, Titus will raid all three dishes.

Damn hog.

3747 Water, fair, NSA

Thursday, July 4, 2013

"It is not necessary to understand things in order to argue about them."
-- Pierre Beaumarchais --


Went to the country house last Saturday, stayed until Tuesday.  It finally occurred to me that it was safe to turn the water back on (duh!) since there will be no freezing, so now I no longer have to carry water for flushing and washing.  It takes one to two gallons of water just to flush a toilet, so that's a significant help.  I'm still carrying water for drinking, because the well water is pretty hard and silty, because it's not being run enough.

Having already had a house flood because of a leak in a pipe, I turn it off again when I leave.  No chances.


I guess I really am an old-fashioned country girl.  In my mind, a state fair (or county fair) is about the agricultural and animal husbandry bounty of the area, and is held after the harvest.  It's a celebration at the end of a season of hard work.

So, um, a "state fair" held in early July is nothing more than a big carnival.  Harumph!  And here I thought New Jersey, the "garden state", was big on agriculture. I snort at next week's "state fair".  Blah.


[sacasm alert]  I love the way certain groups are blaming the Obama administration for the "misbehavior" of the NSA.  Short memories must be nice.  It keeps one from confusing emotion with fact, which makes life and selectively spouting vitriol a lot easier.

This snooping of communications has been going on a long time.  It's an outcome of the "patriotic" fervor after 9/11, when the Patriot Act swept constitutional protections out the door.  I don't understand why so many people are surprised now.  Am I the only person who heard all the arguments for and against it back then?  Cheney was having wet dreams over it all.  Worst than J. Edgar Hoover.  Remember when we were told that if we had nothing to hide, we had nothing to fear?  When the government could do no wrong where our protection was concerned, and if you dared to question anything, you were accused of being unpatriotic? Do you remember when being accused of lack of patriotism could lose you your job, and get your house vandalized?  Like, shades of McCarthy?

So, Obama inherited it.  He didn't start it.  And in inheriting it, he found himself holding a tiger by the tail -- you know, where you have to hold on because it you let go, the tiger will turn and bite you?  If he stopped all that data collection and there was an attack, he'd be accused of hampering the ability to detect and stop it, if not of downright inviting it.  So, the snooping had to continue.

One thing the Obama administration could do was at least try to put the constitutional protection back in.  They required that the NSA be under judicial review.  Prior to Obama, the NSA had no oversight and no restraint where domestic snooping was concerned.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

3746 I remember

Sunday, June 30, 2013

And who can doubt that it will lead to the worst disorders when minds created free by God are compelled to submit slavishly to an outside will?  When we are told to deny our senses and subject them to the will of others?  When people devoid of whatsoever competence are made judges over experts and are granted authority to treat them as they please?  These are the novelties which are apt to bring about the ruin of commonwealths and the subversion of the state.
--Galileo Galilei--


I remember the insecticide spraying of my childhood.  Trucks went up and down the street almost every evening, spraying.  They killed indiscriminately, though. 

"Sunday Morning" did a segment today on mosquitoes.   They, the mosquitoes, are winning.  With so much flooding all over the world and evolving resistance to insecticides, I think it's likely to get worse.

We have a lot of mosquitoes in the city house neighborhood.  Big ones.  I'm pretty lucky in that I am rarely bitten, but the Nugget attracts them in droves, even when she's covered in repellent, and worse, her parents often take her on hikes in the woods.  Her little legs are covered with bites.  I worry (a LOT) about all the nasty diseases carried by the bugs, so I bought some of those yellow, coiled, inexpensive bracelets impregnated with citronella oil, geranium oil, and lemon grass oil.  Reviews claim they work.  I intended to put one on one of her wrists, and another on the opposite ankle.

Maybe they do work.  We'll never know because they stink so strongly they make your eyes burn, and the Nugget absolutely, flatly, vociferously refuses to wear one, let alone the two I'd prefer.

We went for a walk the other evening, and I wore the bracelets myself.  They seemed to work as long as she held my hand -- the hand with two bracelets on the wrist -- but she's too independent for that, wants to explore on her own (plus she wanted to distance herself from the stink), so within a half block we had to retreat back home.

She's too young to accept the logical argument that "the bites are worse than the stink, therefore you should accept the bracelets."


Perfection would be a trained pet bird that sits on her shoulder and eats any bug that comes near her.  Opportunity for an entrepreneur!  You'd be a billionaire in a year!


I remember when milk, eggs, and bread were delivered to your door.  The milk came in glass bottles with heavy cream at the top, and paper caps.  If you didn't have a milk box and a bread box by the door, you had to guard them from squirrels.  Squirrels would pull the paper caps off the bottles and lick out all the cream.


I remember when the dry cleaner man came to your house to pick up and deliver laundry.


I remember when sheets and bras, shirts, blouses, skirts, dresses, pants, tablecloths, and often men's boxer shorts had to be ironed.  In effect, everything except towels.

I remember hanging wet laundry on a clothesline when the temperature was below freezing, and gloves were too awkward for the job.


I remember when all doctors made house calls. If you had a fever, they figured you shouldn't be going out.  They didn't want you spreading germs, and getting sicker from the physical stress of getting to the office.

Now, no matter how you feel, if you can't drag yourself to the office or the ER, you need an ambulance.  I don't understand.


I remember ashtrays in hospital rooms, theaters, airplanes, buses.  I remember when teachers smoked in the classroom, especially in college.


I remember when nobody we knew had a TV.  Then when we all got them, I remember when shows usually had one sponsor, there were commercials at the beginning and end of the show, and maybe one in the middle, and there was ONE commercial at those breaks.  I remember how horrified I was when they started doing two and three commercials for different products, all in a row.


I remember when, especially in larger communities, you didn't ride the school bus if you lived within a mile of the school.  Even in elementary school.  You were expected to walk or ride your bike.  In cities, they didn't even have dedicated school buses.  If you qualified, you were issued tickets for the city public buses, and rode with the general public.

Sheesh.  Now, the school bus drivers around here won't pick up or drop off a child under 12 years old unless there's an "approved" adult to "release" and "receive" at the bus stop.  Think about that a minute -- if a 7-year-old, known to the driver as a regular rider, is standing there alone in the morning, the driver won't pick the kid up, will drive off leaving the kid standing there.  Is that supposed to be safer for the kid?  Or does it have more to do with liability insurance?


I remember when a woman couldn't get a job beyond clerical, secretarial, or service if there was even one man who applied, regardless of comparative qualifications.  (I lived that one.)  And a woman couldn't get a loan unless her male keeper (father or husband) cosigned.

I remember when when a woman's husband could walk into a bank and drain her personal in-her-own-name-only accounts, and could sell anything she owned in her own name, including a business, without her permission.  (I lived that one, too.  It's how Ex#1 tried to prevent me from leaving him.)

Women were kept "in their place", by law.


I remember life before air conditioning.  I remember outhouses.  I remember woodstoves -- not the fancy ones for supplimental heat, I mean like in the kitchen, for cooking.  When I was in high school, most of my friends had outhouses and woodstoves.

For a short period in my early years, Gramma had a real honest-to-goodness ice box.  The iceman delivered blocks of ice for it.

I remember coal bins in the basement, the roar of coal being delivered down a chute, and shoveling coal into the furnace and carrying ashes out.  As the eldest kid, that was my job.


I remember when Yale, Harvard, MIT and other highly selective technical schools did not accept female undergraduate applicants.  Period.  Women could go to one of the associated women's colleges, which were more liberal arts oriented.  It may have been separate, but not exactly equal.


I remember the civil rights movement, but it seemed remote because it wasn't reported on or discussed much in the north.  Things were so very separate that we northern white folks didn't much see segregation.  It was invisible.  The closest I came was when the high school class ahead of mine couldn't go on the traditional senior class trip because the one black student in the school was in their class, and the usual trip hotels and restaurants wouldn't allow her in.


I remember when girls had to wear skirts to school, including college classes and the library, and if the hem was above your knees you were sent home to change.


I remember when long-distance calls were expensive, and were made only for emergencies and special occasions.  I remember party lines.  I remember the onionskin paper of airmail letters and envelopes.


I remember life before cell phones and the internet, back when it was possible to relax, to escape demands, to be "unavailable".  When things weren't so immediate and insistent.  Back when people sent real letters and cards.


I remember when citrus fruit was rare in the winter, and an orange in your Christmas stocking was a true treat.


You know what I find absolutely amazing about today?  That apparently a girl STILL can't, either because of the rules or because of social pressure, go to her prom without an escort.