Wednesday, April 29, 2015


How does this happen?

Same socks came from the
same package and worn
same number of times and went through the
same number of washes and the
same number of dries.

Yet one shrinks and one grows.  I could wear one and Walt Kowalski could wear one.

Plants and flowers are the same way.  Four years ago we got some azaleas on sale at the end of the season.  They all did great.  Except for one.  They were planted the same, at the same time, watered the same, same light, same dark.  Yet one died.  Who knows. 

Last night we did some work around the yard.  Cutting grass, planting shrubs, trees, and hostas.  On the way home I said to Walt Kowalski 'I need to dig out the dead azalea, dig out the three shrubs for Grammy, and dig holes to plant the five hostas.'

He said "I need to dig two holes to plant the two new fruit trees, too.  Why don't we just dig holes everywhere in the yard?"
I said 'Well, we're already up to eleven holes we need to dig, so it sounds like that is what we are going to do.'

Monday, April 27, 2015

His and Hers

We splurged again this weekend.

New shovels.

I don't remember the last time I used a shovel with a good point.  These also have a larger "step" to put your foot on when digging.

I broke the handle on our older shovel last week while trying to pry bamboo roots out of the ground. I should have got the digging bar. I could feel the handle getting weaker, and finally it snapped.

It looked so sad and pathetic. 

When we were at the home improvement store this weekend, I was looking at the selection of shovels.  Walt Kowalski and I were debating the pros and cons of wooden handles versus fiberglass handles. 

An older gentleman walked by as we were "testing" the shovels and said 'Make sure you buy the one she can use! har har har.' I replied to him 'You are right! I broke the last one.'

He thought he was making fun of woman who would use a shovel. har har har.

My only complaint of so many tools is that the handles are not sized small enough for my hands. The hammer manufacturers have changed and made smaller grips, but the shovels are too large for comfort. (I'm sure it has to do with stability.) 

In the end we bought two new shovels, one with a wooden handle and one with a fiberglass handle, and a new handle for the old shovel.  

At the Cat Ranch, you can never have enough shovels and spades. We just don't have many diamonds. 

Both new shovels worked extremely well attacking the bamboo.

We dug up this entire field of bamboo by the roots and gathered a nice pile of rocks to add to the path by the shed. I'm certain we will have to do this process many times over the course of the summer and years to come, but it's a good start in this battle. 

Walt Kowalski didn't need that jacket for very long. 

P.S. Shovel and spade are used interchangeably, but a shovel has a pointed tip and is most often used for digging large holes.  Whereas a spade has a flat tip and used for cutting, edging, and scraping. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

New Projects

Look what we started:

Because we didn't have enough to do. 
We priced dumpsters and then we priced garbage bags.  It's terrible, but the cost might be better if we just bag things and put it out for the trash we already pay for. Then burn the wood in the fire pit after a day of hard work. 
I worked on the ceiling in the front bedroom while Walt Kowalski worked on removing the doors and door trim.
There was water damage to the original ceilings. The previous owners added some pine boards and made a false ceiling to hide the bad ceiling.  The roof was still leaking.


That is a beautiful blue color.  Maybe if I lived in Florida.


This pink room was considered the "third" bedroom.  It is a closet and will be turned back into a closet.

I already removed the carpets and padding in the fall.  The original floors aren't in any condition to save.

Thursday, April 23, 2015


Then all of a sudden, I'm in a yogurt commercial. 

Scene: Lunch Room
Time: Mid-morning
Stomach: Empty

Woman walks into the lunch room to find this:

Yes, that's pizza.  Yes, those are cuppycakes. Vanilla.  Buttercream icing. I opened the box and just breathed the cupcake air.


What other temptations do they want to throw at me? A bag of tortilla chips? A box of chocolate?  A margarita?

OH and those aren't breadsticks in the little box. It was small chocolate cakes.  Yeah, they did throw the chocolate at me. 

*sigh*  I'll go back and have my chicken, salad, and water now. At least in the yogurt commercials you get a yogurt. I'll pass on the yogurt, thanks.  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Loaves and Fishes

Saturday was opening day of trout season. The weather was beautiful, the fish were biting AND nobody fell in the creek. (crick or creek, no matter how you say it.)

These are the two winners of the day.

24 inches and 21 inches. Chain Saw Johnny and Russel.  (I don't have a name for Russell.)

You can see the size comparison of the fillets of the other fish caught. 

The weather was so nice all day we were able to do the clean up outside. Even though I spent part of the morning prepping the kitchen for the fishes, I was glad the process was moved outside.  We turned it into an evening by the campfire. 

It's going to be a great fish fry this summer. 

The bread man cometh!

Actually, the original bread man died.  It was sad. But his son took over his route.  Walt Kowalski's friend at work gets the "old" bread from the bread man.  Technically, there is nothing old about the bread. It has neared or has passed it's "sell by" date and is pulled from the shelves. There is nothing wrong with it. 

Except for buns bought specifically for hotdogs and burgers and sandwiches, we rarely eat store bought bread soft on sandwiches. We are toasters.  I love me a sandwich on toasted bread. Even a lettuce sandwich is better when the bread is warm and toasty.  Yum.

So bread near the sell by date is fine by us.  It goes directly into the freezer and is toasted before tasted. 

There have been times when the freezer was so full of bread I had no room for vegetables.  You can't squish a loaf of bread into a crevice in the freezer like you can a bag of peas.  

We get all kinds. This batch is mostly the swirl flavors. Cinnamon, strawberry, and chocolately chip, Sunday morning I'm going to make a french toast bake with the cinnamon swirl. The strawberry isn't my favorite, but I'm going to look for a dessert recipe. 

Other times Walt Kowalski has brought home pumpernickel, rye, round flats, oatmeal, whole wheat, honey wheat, and very thins.  The flats made nice toasted sandwiches, but the very thins toast into crackers. They were good with soup, but you had to watch them close.  

1 minute not toasted. 1 minute 30 seconds burnt.  ARGH!

In search of butter and a knife....

Monday, April 20, 2015

Bamboo to you

We waited a few days and watched to see where the bamboo returned.  It's fast.  You *think* you've got all of the roots in one particular spot, but you really didn't. 

This is part of the area we cleaned last week

It looks awful. 

Nothing a few new plants won't help fix.

They look so small. The others were planted only 3 summers ago. they were originally the same size and they have grown considerably and quickly. We did lose one of the originals.  I tried to keep it alive.  Half still had leaves and flowers.  This year the leaves are even fewer and I don't see any flowers.  Of course it would be one of the ones near the top by the driveway.  
Walt Kowalski in action with the weapons of mass bamboo destruction.

This is not the final view.  We want to paint the gas meter brown so it's not as obvious, add more stones along the front of the new mulched section, remove the pine trees, and continue raking out the bank. 

It's going to take more than one spring. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Knotweed AKA Bamboo

Walt Kowalski and I are working on the front hill in the evenings.  It is full of weeds, bamboo, azalea shrubs, and a few daffodils. More Bamboos than anything. 

Then again, it is better than it used to be. The bamboozles used to be so big that you could park a car in the driveway and the car couldn't be seen from the road.  It's an ongoing battle around the Cat Ranch.

This is the mature bamboo.

Here are new shoots coming up through the asphalt.

The Bamboozles or Japanese Knotweed as it is "officially" named, are often called a "prolific, noxious, invasive, dangerous bad-for-the-world, the-sky-is-falling weed." Oh by the way, it’s edible. Might be even really healthy for you. It is also listed as one of the world's most invasive species.  In our yard, and along the train tracks, this is definitely true. 

The bamboo grows over 6 feet tall and 65 feet wide by sending runners underground. You'll see a piece growing here and a piece growing WAY over there. As you start to pull one up, you'll find out they are connected!!! It will work it's way up through concrete, stones, and even the blacktop of our driveway. The poison ivy doesn't want to be left out and loves to join in the fun.

In some areas you have to disclose the presence of knotweed if you want to sell your house and some landfills won't even take the stuff. 

I can tell you that the dried stuff burns nicely, and I do it with pleasure, but we don't let it stay long enough to dry.

As for eating it, I don't know.  They say it tastes like apples, but if I made a pie with it I know Walt Kowalski is not going to eat it, especially if I told him what it was made with. I've also heard that goats love it. 

In the mean time, we will continue to attack with our shovels and pitchforks and heavy, black, plastic bags.

Last night, as we were showering up, I said to Walt Kowalski 'My calves are killing me from standing on the hill.'

From the other room, he responded with 'Your cats are killing you?'

Yes, my cats are killing me.  My dogs were barking, too.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Not to be confused with blogging.

Saturday's tree cutting was slow.  More planning was required.  The tree is tall.  The wind was windy.  Every time Walt Kowalski climbed the ladder with the saw the wind kicked up again.  He was swaying with the tree.

It was a beautiful day. Look how blue.

Walt Kowalski trimmed the smaller branches and let them fall.  But the larger branches required planning.

After a few misplaced drops and near misses, a controlled fall was the plan. They would tie off the branch, using the tree and phone pole as pulleys to lighten the weight.

The Walt Kowalski would make the cut (hoping his saw didn't get pinched between the branches by the weight of the tree.)

Then it would be slowly and carefully lowered to the ground.


The other reason for lowering was to not smoosh the boxwood shrub directly beneath.  Smooshing of shrubs has occurred recently in the past.  I was not pleased.  Walt Kowalski received the laser beam eyes from me.  He knew he'd be going to the shrub store.

Smoosh is a technical term.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Rockin' and Rollin'

Saturday was a day of tree cutting, raking and burning.  (I'll have more photos of that later.)

Sunday was a clean-up day. It didn't start that way, but it turned into that. Around the yard we have unfinished things and things we don't know how we want to finish and things we don't know what to do with and remainders of things. That happens with ongoing projects.

We used to have a log pile by the upper patio. We burned up all of the logs, moved the metal log rack up to the patio, and filled it full of outside wood. Yet, the stones from the old  pile remained. 

I have some plants coming up near the path to the shed. They blend in and I didn't want them to be stepped on if you're cutting the corner to go up to the shed.  So I put little sticks around them as a barrier.  It helped, but still blended in. There is also a hole in the ground where I removed a lily plant last year. The hole was never filled in and was an ankle twister in the dark. 

Yup, done it myself several times.  Still never fixed the hole. 

So Walt Kowalski and I started thinking, instead of filling in the hole, why not dig it out some more and move these rocks over here.

It would create more wall, protect the flowers, and use the rocks from the wood pile.

I had to dig out more than a bit, but it finished the wall nicely.  AND we cleaned up some random rocks.

Saturday while I was burning, I was also raking leaves and sticks out of the lower garden.  I moved most of the hostas out of this garden two years ago, but it is still full of Lily of the Valley.  Once that starts to come up, you can't even step foot in the garden without stepping on a flower. 
This garden was also full of large rocks. 30 years ago it looked nice, but now it is overgrown.  Our long term goal was to remove the large rocks and transplant the flowers.  Long. Term. Goal.
I forgot that part. 
As I was raking, I started removing the rocks.  It was easier to rake without the rocks in the way. The first few weren't as large as I thought.  I could remove them by hand without even a shovel to lift them. Walt Kowalski was carrying them up the hill to the shed.  He was using them to create a "patio" stepping area at the shed entrance to reduce the mud. 
This will be easy after all! (How many times have I said this?)
What I couldn't see was that the pachysandra had grown over and was covering the especially large rocks. 
No, these can't even be called rocks.  These are boulders.  They are foundation stones used for building a foundation for a house. 
It took a shovel AND Walt Kowalski and I to release them from the ground.   Instead of carrying them, we put them in the wheelbarrow to take them to the top of the hill.  (Why didn't we want them at the bottom of the hill?!?)
After the first trip up with the wheelbarrow, Walt Kowalski returned covered in sweat and out of breath.  This method was not going to work. The rocks were getting heavier and the hill was getting steeper.
We needed a better method.  Let's try the refrigerator cart.  Walt Kowalski pulled.  I pushed.  Walt Kowalski pulled.  I pushed.  Walt Kowalski pulled.  I pushed.  20 trips later we got all of the rocks up the hill. 
On the first trip up the hill, I said "You know, that rock is a good height for me to step on then step in the shed."

Instead of a patio area, we created steps! Now I can easily step into the shed. It was a big step up for Walt Kowalski, too. We were planning to buy wooden steps from the home improvement store, but had just never got around to it. 

What an accomplishment!  Next time we're just buying steps.

Torches, solar lights, patio furniture, everything came out of the shed for spring.

From the upper patio you can see the BIG burn area and our needs-to-be-split log pile.  After the boulder endeavor, splitting wood will have to wait until another day. 

That area is next on the cleanup list.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

After the Storm

All fared well at the Cat Ranch.  It was a mighty storm. We were on our way home and Walt Kowalski said "Those clouds look green. That is a bit concerning. Green clouds are never good."

He had reason to be concerned. Welcome to spring! (Notice how GREEN everything is today! More on this later.)

As we were sitting eating dinner, I said to Walt Kowalski, 'Did I leave the light on outside?  There is something shining in the window.' 

Nope, it was the sun breaking through the clouds after the storm.

Clear drops, blurry sky.

Clear sky, blurry drops.  It's your artsy-fartsy for the day. 

So about the theory that the grass looks greener after the first thunderstorm. I've always noticed it and though "Well all of the plants got a good drink and woke up from winter sleep." Maybe. 

Here's a "theory" I found:

During a thunderstorm, every time there is a bolt of lightning the electrical energy is able to break the strong nitrogen bonds. The nitrogen then quickly attaches to oxygen, forming nitrogen dioxide. Nitrogen dioxide dissolves easily in water, which creates nitric acid, which then easily dissolves to create our magic ingredient, NITRATES. The nitrates fall to the ground in the raindrops that seep into your soil and help your grass turn green.

There is some debate as to how much the electricity in lightning affects the greening of the grass. Some people will say that not enough nitrates are formed to affect the green and the nitrates are blown many miles away. Thus, the bright green is an illusion that is created from the wet grass sparkling in the sun’s rays. However, it sure seems that things really green up after a lightning storm, more than after a rainstorm without lightning.

Either way, it is good to have the green grass back.


I have driving skills.  I have photography skills.  I need to work on my photography while driving skills. I'm better when Walt Kowalski is driving. Then again, I'd better not work on that skill.


The sunrise before the storm was lovely. The photos don't do it justice. I should have been taking photos of the terrible driving. Wow. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


It is spring! The little bird is back looking in the window.  Pepper is very interested.

Remember these People?  I loved playing with my Little People.  I had the barn, the airport, the house, the camper, the hospital.  I also had weebles and a tree house.  The tree house was a different family.  Mom, dad, girl, boy.  They were smaller, but they liked when the Little People visited.  the tree house had an elevator.

I found this cowboy outside when I was raking leaves.

Walt Kowalski took a window-maker branch off of the oak tree above the patio.  Whenever we sit and enjoy the sunsets or the campfires we look up at this branch.  Every few months a few more large, dead sticks appear on the ground and on the branch above us.  It was worrisome.

You can see Walt Kowalski's saw in the Y of the tree. He's back there on a ladder and the branch fought him until the very end.  It cut nicely, but bounced and fell only inches from his ladder. 

I gave him the laser beam eyes after the branch fell.  Neither of us were expecting that. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Weekend Updates


The photo speaks for itself.  It was delicious.  I had berries left over from Palm Sunday. Yes, I even made little flowers for the top instead of lattice.  You know me, it's about presentation.


Out free outside refrigeration ended (thanks goodness!).  Drinks were no longer cold-cold.  Some days they were not even cold.  We were using a cooler and making ice and buying ice, but with the temperature over 70 degrees, that was a process. 

We struggled without a spare fridge long enough.  It wasn't he cheapest, which was tiny.  it was the next size up.  It was also marked "Take Home Today!!!!" Walt Kowalski liked that idea.  No waiting for delivery. 

Now drinks and vegetables are cold-cold-cold.  Ahhhh. 


What a job! I worked at these barrels for three days.  The ground moved and the rocks moved and the plants grew MAJOR roots.  Shovels and vice grips and swearing were required. 

The worst part is that several of the barrels were curved on the bottom.  It was nice when we planted because it held in the dirt.  But it also held in the dirt and plants when we tried to remove them!

Lesson learned.  When we reuse the barrels, I'll cut off the curvy bottom part before planting.

Doesn't it look nice! Just in time, too.  The hostas and ferns were just starting to appear.

Thursday, April 2, 2015


We've got plans this weekend.  We always have plans.  Our plan fort his weekend:

"Get stuff done."

It's a good plan.

I started on my plans last night. It was a beautiful evening.

This is the hosta garden on the side of the house. It needs some attention. 

When we planted/created/designed this garden Walt Kowalski brought home several large 55 gallon water barrels like this:

He cut the top and bottom off and then cut each barrel into 3 or 4 sections. I dug holes to fit the barrels, put the barrels in the holes, filled the holes with good dirt, then planted hostas inside the barrels.  After it was all planted, we filled in around the barrels with stones.  Here's an old photo of the progress

The method worked.  The hostas had time to establish and grow (and truthfully they could be divided already!)

Hey, there is Old Blue in the photo!

Now the ground has settled and the barrels are sticking out too much, they really aren't needed any more, and we want to use them in another area.  By the middle of summer, the foliage from the hostas grows so much that you can't just barely see the barrels sticking up.  But until that happens, you can see them and I'm ready to pull the barrels out.

That is one of my projects this weekend.  The ground has finally thawed and the barrels are workable.  But it's not an easy job.  The rocks have worked their way in and around and it takes a little (LOTTA) effort to get the barrels out. 

It is the perfect time to do this, too.  The hostas are just starting to appear out of their winter sleep.