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Archive for the ‘Orbiting the Crooked Moon’ Category

Old Crowitis

The young cashier at the butcher’s shop made a remark about my shiny penny collection as I dug in my wallet. It prompted the guy in line behind me to give me his shiny penny. I tried to demur, of course, but he was insistent. It was so seldom he could make someone happy for a penny.

Outside in my car, I sat for a moment. I needed to let my brain slow down before I tried to drive off. I was amazed that the cashier remembered that shiny pennies make me happy. It meant that I had dug in my wallet for ugly pennies enough times for her to associate me with shiny pennies.

Why would this make my brain spin? Simple. My penchant for bright, shiny things was becoming memorable. How long before someone gave it a name like Old Crowitis and assigned the disorder to senior citizens? My fellow senior citizens have a lot to worry about – body parts going bad, outliving their money – without me adding weirdness to the list of things attributed to old folks.

Old Crowitis creeped up on me slowly. It started with shiny, copper pennies and my sister’s bling. Not being hip, I don’t think I knew what bling meant when Priss started showing up in t-shirts and sandals adorned with metal brads, rhinestones, and sequins. Priss was already afflicted with Old Crowitis. I, on the other hand, kind of wanted a bling shirt but not if I had to go shopping for it. My shopping occurred when I was with a friend who wanted to “just pop into” some store we were near. If it weren’t for my friends, I’d never get into any serious shopping trouble. My Hawaiian shirt with magenta sequin flowers was acquired during one of these friendly shopping trips. It didn’t cost a lot of money and I was bling-happy for several years.

At the beginning of 2014, my Old Crowitis sped up when I acquired a handbag with lots of metal brads and fringe. Oh my stars, the fringe! I was beside myself. I was in love. Once again, I was with friends but I was suffering through some lean years and they bought the handbag for me. Truth be told, I would have eaten cat food for a month to acquire that handbag.

2014's fringe handbag

2014’s fringe purse

The fringe handbag was made of “PETA-approved cruelty-free vegan” fabric. This probably means imitation leather made from polyurethane. I absolutely hated it. The shoulder strap deteriorated and by the Fall of 2015, Priss and I were out shopping for a new handbag I had seen in a magazine. It had beaded fringe and better quality imitation leather.

2015's beaded handbag

2015’s beaded handbag

I still couldn’t part with the original fringe handbag and its tattered strap. The new, beaded handbag went in the closet. This probably wasn’t a good idea because I think it was emitting Old Crowitis signals that ate into my brain. By 2016, my fascination with bright, shiny things went off the rails.

I began to buy beads, charms, and beading tools with the idea of sewing bling onto clothes since I couldn’t find any to buy that were already blinged-out. In craft stores, rhinestones and sequins literally stopped me in my tracks.

This was followed by cheap rings and watches with dazzling cubic zirconia. Lunch dates with other old crows were made for the express purpose of wearing all our “jools.”  The other old crows always had real jools but I was fine with my fake jools until the gold-plating wore off the ring in the first two weeks. This was so unacceptable to my Crowitis, I ended my online purchases of costume jewelry coming out of China. In short order, better jewelry was purchased and, once again, only because I was out with a friend who was shopping. This purchase fired up the “outliving my money” thoughts and, finally, the shiny penny incident at the butcher set off clanging alarms in my brain. Alarms that whispered  — you might have a problem.

Please understand that I have not confessed all of 2016’s bling events but I’m starting to wonder. Is there a 12-step program for old crows?

 

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crockpots

These are my crockpots

 

How many of you are afraid to turn on a slowcooker or crockpot and leave the house? I was always afraid the crockpot might burn my house to the ground while I was at work because stuff happens to me. I don’t volunteer for stuff; it jumps on me with glee.

Once I left the 9-to-5 life, I had time to monitor bad crockpot behavior and searched the back of my pantry for a one-quart crockpot I had purchased many years before. It must have been many, many years ago because the metal body had rotted away to nothing while I wasn’t looking. On the bad crockpot behavior list, such action should be right behind torching my house. A crockpot sitting on a dry pantry shelf should not rot away. Even if it sits there for 30 years. I was going to use it someday!

This freak rust incident prompted the purchase of a 3-quart, oval-shaped crockpot by Hamilton Beach. I have cooked all manner of meals in this crockpot although I can’t recommend Crockpot Lasagna.

After a while, I was overcome with the desire for a larger crockpot. I purchased a 6-quart, shiny black, round and programmable crockpot by Crockpot. I can’t remember using it more than once or twice but I’ve got it if I need to feed the village.

Several years passed before temptation placed a third crockpot before me. It was a 2-quart crockpot for less than nine dollars. A bargain! I envisioned using it for side dishes. I could see black-eyed peas in my future.

The 2-quart crockpot went home with me. Rather than open the box, I went to my computer to look for recipes specific to a 2-quart crockpot. I was amazed. There were several websites but Pinterest had the most recipes.

The next day, problems with the new crockpot came to mind.

  1.   I had nowhere to store it.

     2.   I had a realization buzzing in my brain that there might be something wrong with me. Three crockpots? How was I ever going to explain this to Miss Priss on our weekly telephone chat? From time to time, her end of the telephone line goes silent after I have spoken. What if a third crockpot brought on the silent treatment? What if Priss began to think I was making too many Crooked Moon orbits (this is defined at Chicken News)?

In the end, I lost the courage to keep the 2-quart crockpot and returned it to the store. Do any of you have more than two crockpots? It’s time for you to confess.

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Tuesday I went with some of the ladies from Mandarin Garden Club on a field trip to Eat Your Yard. It’s a local, heavily wooded 40-acre farm run by Tim Armstrong to provide cactus and succulents to the wholesale market but he also has edible garden plants, a few farm-raised tilapia, chickens and rabbits. He was also affiliated with a garden project on the grounds of a school for handicapped children. I think it was Berry Good Farms. I wanted to read the brochures we were given but being a perpetual dingbat, I accidentally left them behind and the condition of my memory is beyond hope.

Tim Armstrong of Eat Your Yard

Tim Armstrong of Eat Your Yard

Eat Your Yard embraces organic farming, permaculture and any good ideas Tim encounters along the way.

Permaculture - plum trees overhead, pineapple sage, jack beans as understory, sweet potato as root crop

Permaculture – plum trees overhead, pineapple sage, jack beans as understory, sweet potato as root crop

Close-up of jack bean 14 inches long

Close-up of jack bean
14 inches long

Coincidentally for me, he mentioned something called hugelkultur which uses stumps, branches and twigs thrown in a mound and covered with soil to make a raised garden bed requiring little to no water or fertilizer. I almost missed this nugget because my mind had once again wandered off to orbit the Crooked Moon. It wandered back in just in time to catch the name and see the hugelkultur bed. Near the end of the tour, I saw a hugelkultur sign for another bed and I snapped a photo so I would have the spelling for further research. This was the most important thing I took away from Eat Your Yard. One of the old women in our neighborhood, long deceased, once told Momma that we have “seven years of dry and seven years of wet.” I never doubted the woman but also never paid much attention until I found myself unable to grow a vegetable garden the last two years. My garden sits in a low area that becomes a virtual flood plain when we have a lot of rain like we did this past summer. Just a few months before the Eat Your Yard tour, at another garden club function, I learned about adding pine bark chips to our sandy soil. This nugget of wisdom came from our local County Extension Agent, Terry delValle, who briefly mentioned it. That’s the problem with golden nuggets of wisdom. The people sharing them seldom ever raise their voice, tossing the nuggets out almost as an aside and I often need some hysteria to snap my wandering mind back to attention. Worse yet, these nuggets are usually what cause my mental crayons to start scribbling like a rabid left-handed dog and then I miss the next nugget. Thankfully, I caught both the pine bark chips and the hugelkultur nuggets and I will now be saving my 3 to 5 trashcans of limbs that usually hit the curb every week.

After our tour of his small farm, we were treated to freshly made Yard Soup and bread. He had collected the ingredients from food-producing perennials as he toured us around. He mentioned dozens of plants that can be made into teas, including a cranberry hibiscus and another hibiscus whose name I didn’t catch.

A hibiscus for tea

A hibiscus for tea (this was not the cranberry hibiscus which looks like a red Japanese maple)

Close-up of hibiscus pods which are dried for tea

Close-up of hibiscus pods which are dried for tea

Several ginger varieties

Several ginger varieties

I had a lot more photographs but I think Poppie’s camera bit the dust. I’ll find out tomorrow when I test it in brighter light than we found at the farm.  You can see a similar version of our Eat Your Yard tour on YouTube here, catch Tim on Facebook or sign up for his newsletter at http://eatyouryardjax.com.

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Orbiting the Crooked Moon as I do, I’m always having these “adventures” I would just as soon not have. Yesterday was no different. I headed south to visit with one of my blog’s first subscribers, Meta. I ran into more than my share of T-stops that had so much signage I couldn’t see the name of the street or either the name of the T-stop was different than it was supposed to be. Then, of course, because everywhere I was driving was mostly rural, street signs required a magnifying glass. Plus, when you get far enough south, they number all their streets which can REALLY confound you when you are in the northwest teens and you need to be in the southwest teens. It doesn’t help when your visitee gives you the wrong area code for her phone number, either. This was nothing personal I learned. She regularly gives hapless fools like me the wrong area code.

Meta came to visit my gardens in July 2014 and I wanted to see hers but not in the heat of July again so I waited until now. Although it was a scheduled visit, it came at a really bad time as her daughter-in-law was in the hospital. The three of them – Meta, her son and daughter-in-law live in a family compound arrangement like I have done for the last 25 years.

I took a few photos of things I had not previously seen. To see previous photos, check these links: Garden Visitors, Meta’s Gardening Ideas, Meta’s Lion Tail.

A plant grouping in deep shade

A plant grouping in deep shade

 

Metas Easter Island head-6293

Meta had several pieces of yard art, including this Easter Island head, from Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville. The hosta is one for hot climates.

 

A pathway with Aztec Grass on either side.

A pathway with Aztec Grass on either side.

 

A very sturdy, fairly inexpensive support if you are handy.Coral Vine, Antigonon Leptopus (sounds like a disease!)

A fairly inexpensive support if you are handy.
Coral Vine, Antigonon Leptopus (sounds like a disease!)

 

I had just missed the blooms on these bromeliads.

I had just missed the blooms on these bromeliads.

 

Same bromeliads in bloom.Photo by Meta.

Same bromeliads in bloom.
Photo by Meta.

 

Clerodendrum paniculatum or Pagoda Plant (tends to be invasive)

Clerodendrum paniculatum or Pagoda Plant (tends to be invasive)

 

Small pink roses but the sun was too bright for a good photo

Small pink roses but the sun was too bright for a good photo

 

This is me in Meta's side yard with all the loot she gave me.

This is me in Meta’s side yard with all the loot she gave me.
Photo by Meta.

My worst adventure happened on the return trip. I was looking for 326 and came upon another one of those T-stops that was NOT labeled 326. At that point, I had no idea where I was. I turned around and headed back and saw a County Sheriff trying to leave a gas station. I rolled my window down and waved my Google Map pages at him. The Sheriff said he hoped I didn’t want directions because he was awful at them. I would have liked to have seen my expression because it most certainly radiated “Oh shit.” Not only was I lost but this dude didn’t have a clue, either. I think he was pulling my leg, though, because he said NE 70th and 326 were the same thing and I should take a left there, go through two lights and turn right. I could have kissed his badge because he saved me a lot of grief.

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Becky and Bunny2-

This is Becky B. and her bunny. Those of you who read the Comments already know Becky as the Gypsy. Frankly, I don’t know whether she is descended from gypsies or just fancies herself one. I do know she orbits the Crooked Moon.

Most people have cats and dogs for pets. Not Becky. She does bunnies. Becky claims that bunnies are very much like cats – great personalities and they are warm and cuddly!! She got her start with a rescue bunny in her neighborhood and it went from there. One of her bunnies, Alexander, spoke French if you can believe it, and was always greeted at the veterinarian’s office with “Bon jour, Alexander!”

Alexander is now in bunny heaven and after his departure, Mr. Becky said, “No more bunnies!” I don’t know how long this lasted but it obviously wasn’t permanent. Their daughter was shopping for dog food at Rupert’s, who, according to Becky, has his own novel.

“Mom, there is the cutest little bunny here! I’ll send a picture to Dad.”

In a few minutes, Mr. Becky walked in with his phone and said, “Look at the picture M just sent.”

Becky tried to explain, “She’s the last bunny there, all the others had been adopted, and she has been alone for weeks.”

“Poor little thing.  Well, when you get her, you take care of her!”

And that is how Becky got Enna, the little Scottish bunny, who, of course, told Becky her name.

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Back in 2013, at Chicken News, I explained that Poppie (and truthfully, some of my other relatives as well) seemed to hold the view that I orbit a crooked moon. I have several friends who admit to orbiting that same moon right along with me. I don’t feel bad about that as I had nothing to do with whatever craziness caused their orbit. They hung themselves on that moon all by themselves. Just like I did. I do feel bad, though, that my baby kitty, at six months of age, is apparently orbiting the Crooked Moon, too. It is not normal, to knock the garbage can over, toss out half the garbage, and climb in to go to sleep. I hope the Crooked Moon is not contagious!

Zorro in trash can-5997

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Rather than purchase an expensive macro lens for your old SLR or newer DSLR camera, buy an accessory known variously as a close-up filter, close-up lens, macro filter or diopter. These screw-on lenses attach to the front of the lens or lens adapter to extend the close-up range of a camera (I don’t know whether or not they can be used on digital point-and-shoot cameras). The quality is not as high as a macro lens but close-up lenses are small, lightweight and inexpensive.

Forty years ago, cough cough, I purchased a set of three for a Nikon SLR camera. They came in a small 2.5” x 2.5” hard leather case with a “tab” on the back. To this tab, I attached a key ring and put the ring on my camera strap. Thus, I always have the lenses with me and I hardly ever grab a camera bag. I don’t know if this hard leather case is available nowadays. It definitely protects the lenses from the wear and tear of being drug everywhere the camera goes.

Close-up tab and key ring

Close-up tab and key ring

It would be safe to say I never use the 18-55 mm lens that came with the DSLR camera so my 52 mm Vivitar close-up lenses (made in Japan) include a No.1, No. 2 and No. 4  lens for my everyday 50 mm lens. Close-up lenses have diopter ratings such as +1, +2, +4, +10 that can be purchased individually or in sets.

Close-up lenses

Close-up lenses

When stacked, they provide more magnification than the built-in macro mode found on many digital cameras. When you stack filters, it is important to place the filter with the highest number closest to the camera lens, then the next strongest lens. If you use a standard filter and a close-up lens at the same time, place the close-up lens first and the filter last.

Keep in mind that close-up lenses decrease depth of field as you get closer to the subject meaning that very little will be in focus. To bring more into focus:

  1. Set your mode dial on top of the camera to the flower icon.
  2. Use a small lens opening, such as f/16, to allow less light through the lens opening and get more depth-of-field. You may have to compensate for this lack of light by using ISO or shutter speed.
  3. Set the camera lens to M (manual mode) and twist the focus ring on the lens to get your focus as close as possible then move the entire camera back and forth until you find the sharpest image.
  4. You can use tripods and clamps to keep the camera and the flower still but, frankly, I’m too lazy to do this.

I would encourage you to check online reviews to help you decide which brand to buy. You don’t want a lens with aberration. To find the current brands, check Adorama or Amazon. At Amazon, plug “photography equipment + close-up lens filter” into their search box.

Lastly, I am the WRONG person to ask about photography techniques so don’t. I’m an amateur of the first order but I did want to make sure that you knew about this frugal way to get close-ups because I have happily used my close-up lenses for more years than I have been howling at the Crooked Moon (circa 1990).

Thanks to Poppie for loaning me his camera to take these photographs.

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