Tree Update, Gardens a Lily, and Heat

Let’s start out with heat. Yesterday it hit 95 here and today it’s supposed to be even hotter. The only thing we did outside yesterday was water the gardens in the evening. It was too hot to do much of anything except huddle around the air conditioner and today is going to be even worse. I know Wisconsin is known for things like ice fishing and snowmobiling, but we do get hot weather here, but only rarely does it get this hot. (Edit: I wrote the above at around 7 AM and it was already in the low 80s. It’s now late afternoon and my recording thermometer tells me we hit a high today of 101. Sheesh…)

Do I need to tell you that I am really, really glad I’m not farming any more when we get weather like this? Remembering what it was like to be out working in the fields or, even worse, milking cows in that crowded old barn, makes me shudder. I don’t know how the hell we managed to do it back then. We’d rush through milking as fast as we could and quickly get the cows down into the woods where there were springs with plenty of water and a lot of shade and it was much, much cooler. Of course today they can’t do that. The majority of cattle these days are crowded into feedlots and never see actual real grass or natural springs and streams in their entire lives.

I’ve been slowly working on cleaning up the mess that was left after they brought the trees down. That picture up there shows what I was left to deal with after they were done. And the picture below is what it looks like now.

As you can see considerable progress has been made in reducing the pile of wood. Considering I’m just one old guy with a chainsaw nibbling away at it when I get some time, I think I’ve made pretty good progress. There’s actually less now than what you see. Pretty much all that’s left out there is just the main trunk from the ash tree.

My neighbor came over with his little Oliver and hauled out three good sized logs that will hopefully go to a friend of his who has a small sawmill. The idea there is to slab them to eventually make table tops out of the slabs.

The gardens are looking good, but things are getting dry again. We’ve been watering all of the vegetable gardens almost on a daily basis, especially now that it’s got so hot and breezy. That hot wind really sucks the moisture out of the soil.

The carrots are looking absolutely amazing. We need to get in there and start thinning them out again so they have a chance to grow to a decent size. Why so many carrots? Well, why not? They’re tasty. The home grown varieties always seem to have much better flavor and are much sweeter than the ones we get in the store. And they’re easy to harvest, clean and freeze.

The beets are looking just as good. MrsGF and I both love beets. We like them roasted or made into harvard beets or just cooked up on a stove top with a bit of butter, salt and pepper.

And you can see that the onions to the right of the beets are looking good as well. We put in a lot of onions this year because I want to can pickled onions. We have a mix of white, yellow and red onions out there. And they’re delicious right now, young, tender, sweet but with a delightful spiciness to them.

We only put in three tomato plants this year because we still have a lot of tomato sauces on the shelves down in the basement. They’re looking pretty good and are just starting to blossom.

We put in pole beans again this year. We had good luck with them last year and they looking like they’re going to be just as good this year.

We also have some bush beans planted in the corner garden, along with some squash. The stuff does really well well but we really have to watch the moisture levels in the soil. This corner dries out very, very quickly. Those squash plants you see behind the line of beans will rather quickly grow and totally overwhelm that whole area if we don’t keep them trimmed back. It’s amazing how fast those squash vines grow once they get started.

We’re trying to plant pepper plants along the south side of the house this year. This is another area where we have to watch the moisture levels. that area dries out very quickly as well so they have to be watered every day as well. We were thinking of expanding this area out to about the end of the downspouts, more than tripling the size of the bed. We might do that this fall after the peppers are done.

Ooo, and I can’t forget the lily! They’re just starting to pop open and they look amazing!

Let’s see, what else…

We still haven’t really decided what we’re going to do in the area where the tree was. We’re still thinking of making a large decorative raised bed back there surrounded by stone or brick. It’s going to depend on how much work and money we want to sink into that area. We probably won’t do anything until at least this fall, maybe not until spring next year.

Woodworking projects are all on hold as I’m doing some major remodeling in the workshop. The 25 year old fluorescent lights, along with the entire ceiling, are coming down. Lights are going to be replaced with LEDs and I am not going to put another drop ceiling in there. The ceiling is pretty high in there and I’m thinking about building a lumber storage area up there. Right now my spare boards and things are sitting on pallets in the other part of the basement taking up a huge amount of floor space and it’s always in the way.

Chainsaw, Trees, and What Happens to that Wood?

Chainsaw Stuff

Let’s start off with chainsaws. I talked about the little DeWalt 20B Max SR 12 inch chainsaw back in March of last year when I first got it. It’s small, lightweight, and runs off the same battery packs my other DeWalt cordless tools use. It’s currently selling for around $240 on Amazon. Up until recently it’s been lightly used for cutting fallen branches, trimming small tree limbs, cutting up firewood to fit into the outdoor fire ring, etc. I like it. It’s light weight, well made, and basically it’s a tough little saw that does what it’s supposed to do. But when the trees came down in the backyard, I became even more impressed with the little saw. It works much, much better than I ever thought it would.

Battery life is impressive. Just look at that trailer load of wood up there. It cut up all of that on just one battery. And those aren’t little two inch branches, either. Those are ash and maple logs about 10 – 12 inches thick. The motor is surprisingly strong. It had no trouble at all dealing with 10 inch thick hard ash. It just kept going, and going, and going.

I am really impressed with that little saw. It does have its limits, of course. If I push it too hard it will over heat and shut itself down until it cools off, but that’s only happened to me twice, and both times I was really pushing the saw’s limits. Otherwise it’s been great. The only thing it needs other than electricity is standard chainsaw bar oil.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a small chainsaw to hack up fallen branches, trim trees and other light use, take a look at it.

While I’m talking about saws I have to mention the Husqvarna 440. That little saw has been working well beyond expectations as well. It’s a standard 2 stroke gasoline engine (requires gasoline mixed with oil). It’s done the vast majority of the work of dealing with the two trees. This is actually my son’s saw so it was already used when I got it from him. I had to replace the bar and chain and it was running a bit rough and he complained that it was hard to start. I’ve had no problems with it, though. It is a bit quirky to get started. When the engine is cold you have to follow the recommended starting procedure exactly. If you do that it’ll start right up. When it’s warm you don’t do anything except pull the starting cord. If you fiddle with the choke or throttle when it’s warm it isn’t going to start.

Side note: Husqvarna recommends you use their branded premixed gasoline in their saws. And at the time I bought the 440 they were claiming that if you promised to only use their premixed gas they would double the saw’s warranty. (Exactly how they’d know you’d used only their gas in the saw is something I don’t know.) The problem is that their branded gas sells for an eye watering $8 per quart. Per quart. That works out to $32 per gallon. Seriously? All it is is premium non-ethanol gasoline with a couple of ounces of oil and a preservative like Stabil mixed into it. That’s it. Let’s say premium non-ethanol gas is selling for $6 a gallon. You need to buy a premeasured little bottle of oil for $1, then a splash of Stabil if you feel you really need it. Total cost for a gallon of fuel if you mix it yourself is about $7 per gallon for exactly the same stuff Husqvarna wants to sell you for $32 a gallon.

Trees and Wood

So let’s talk about wood and trees for a minute. If you live in a town like I do and you have trees, eventually you will reach the point where one or more of your trees needs to come down for a variety of reasons. Getting a tree taken down by a professional tree removal service is not cheap and you may be tempted to do it yourself. Do I really need to tell you to very strongly resist that temptation? Just look up “tree fails” on YouTube sometime and you’ll see why. I’ve dropped a lot of trees in my lifetime but even I wouldn’t try to bring down a tree near buildings, gardens, sheds, garages, power lines, etc.

So what happens to all this stuff after a tree comes down?

But one thing I always wondered is what happens to the wood when one of those tree services brings down a tree in a city or a town? A lot of these trees aren’t all that big, true, but some of them are massive, like the ash and maple that were taken down here a couple of weeks ago. Now wood is a valuable resource. As anyone who’s been doing remodeling or who builds furniture or does anything that requires wood these days can tell you, lumber prices have skyrocketed in the last two years. Prices have moderated somewhat but they’re still high. So I always figured that the wood from all those trees was being used for, well, something. Firewood if nothing else, but I was really hoping all those nice logs were going for something useful. But I was curious and did some digging and found out that more often than not, I was wrong.

The small limbs are fed into a chipper which shreds them up. That stuff I assumed was going for mulch or compost. Sometimes it is but generally, no, it isn’t. Landscapers don’t want the stuff for mulch because they want only wood chips. This stuff has lots and lots of leaves shreded up in it. Landscapers are also (with some justification) worried about plant diseases being spread. It can be composted, but that’s time consuming and often expensive to do, especially on a large scale. Sometimes it’s sent to a power plant that burns it as fuel. A lot of the time it just gets dumped somewhere where it rots, or it ends up in a landfill.

I thought that here in Wisconsin where a lot of people burn wood for heat a lot of the bigger limbs would be going for firewood. That doesn’t seem to be true either. The firewood market has a glut of wood right now because of all the ash trees coming done because of the emerald ash borer. They don’t want the stuff. The tree service guy talked to several, even offered to bring it to them for free. They don’t want it. Every individual I talked to who burns wood has more than they can use already. And Wisconsin has a regulation prohibiting the movement of firewood across county lines in an effort to the contain the emerald ash borer. A regulation that has done absolutely nothing to even slow down the movement of the ash borer in the state, I should add.

What about the logs then, the wood that could be turned into lumber for construction or furniture or whatever? The commercial sawmills around here won’t touch urban wood. And once I found out why I can’t say I blame them. The stuff that comes out of towns and cities is often full of metal – nails and screws from people attaching birdhouses or whatever to it, steel cables and even massive bolts that were used on the tree if it started to split, and things like that. They don’t want risk damaging their saws.

What about these guys you see on YouTube with portable sawmills who will come to you to cut up your old tree into lumber? Good luck trying to actually find one.

So what’s happening to my trees out back? I’m setting aside some pieces that might be useful for my lathe, but mostly they’re getting cut up for firewood and I’m stacking it up in the backyard as I get it cut. I have a couple of people who are interested in some of the bigger pieces to use for lumber but that’s not certain at the moment. I have one guy who says he’ll take the bigger logs, but I know for a fact he doesn’t have a way of getting them out of here to his facility. His equipment can only handle stuff weighing up to 1,500 lbs and I know for a fact that the one ash log weighs more than his loader does. I’ll get the bigger stuff cut up into more manageable sizes, roll it into an out of the way spot in the backyard and see what happens. If none of these guys get here to deal with it, it’ll get cut up too. I know enough people who burn wood for heat that I’ll get rid of it eventually.

Trees Come Down

Aspen Tree Service from Chilton was here Thursday and Friday of last week to take down the ash and maple trees out back. The ash tree he’s working on in the photo looks fairly healthy but it wasn’t. About a quarter of the branches he’s taking out up there were already dead or dying. He found evidence of a fungus infestation up there as well as some rot starting in the crotches where the main branches attached to the trunk. The maple tree was in even worse condition.

To give you an idea of how bad that ash tree was that pile of firewood in the foreground to the right of the chairs are just from branches that fell down in the last few months

I’ve dropped a lot of trees in my life but there is no way I would try to bring down two full size trees near buildings and decorative landscape features like these two are. In cases like this I let the professionals who have the equipment and experience deal with these situations. These guys are good. They’ve been in the business for years and know what they’re doing.

And down comes the ash. That tree was pretty massive. All of us underestimated just how big the thing was. The main trunk ended up being almost 36 inches thick. The maple was smaller, about 28 inches thick at the base.

Normally when these guys get done with a job you can hardly even tell there used to be a tree there. They clean up everything, haul it all away, take out the stump, repair any grass that was damaged, seed bare ground, etc. But I complicated things for them because I wanted to keep the wood, or most of it. They chipped the brush and hauled it off but I got everything else. And now I have a massive pile of wood to deal with.

Why would I keep all that stuff? I hate to see anything go to waste, especially trees. I love trees, but I know that eventually all trees die and have to be taken down and I’d like to see them used for something useful rather than ending up being chipped for mulch. Even going for firewood would be better than having them just dumped somewhere and left to rot. We have friends and family members who use wood for heat so a lot of the smaller stuff might go to them.

We’re contacting a couple of local guys who have small sawmills to see if they can use anything in that pile up there to make some usable lumber. The problem with urban trees is that the big lumber companies don’t want to deal with them. Running their equipment into a town just to pick up one or two logs isn’t cost effective for them. Plus the logs are often too short for them to get commercial sized lumber out of them. They want logs that are over 8 feet long and most tree services cut them up much smaller than that to make them easier to remove. And the firewood dealers around here don’t want to deal with 36 inch thick logs, either. It’s too big for their equipment to handle. So as often as not those logs end up being dumped in an old gravel pit somewhere and just rotting away.

I want to keep a lot of the wood myself. I’m going to make bowl blanks out of as much of the wood as I can for future projects. Ash and maple are both great woods for making wood turnings. I figure I’ll end up with enough material to keep me busy for the rest of my life.

There’s a stump in there too, somewhere. We’re going to keep that too. That’s going to become some kind of centerpiece for a decorative feature we’ll be putting in back there. We’re kind of tossing around ideas for how to deal with it. Right now we’re leaning towards the idea of using the stump as a base for a bench in the center of a decorative garden. We’ll see how that goes once we get the mess cleaned up back there.

On The Silly Side…

On the silly side of things I’m making allegedly humorous “artwork” for a brewpub down in Milwaukee and then using one of the lasers to engrave it on stuff for them. Drinks coasters seem really popular. People just sort of start giggling over these things when they find them under their glasses at the bar. I either draw the images myself or, as is the case with the one on the left, I find public domain images and add suitable captions. Hopefully people steal them and take them home. They’re cheap to make and if people pass ’em around it’s good PR for the pub.

Weather, gardens, and Stuff

We’ve been on a sort of weather rollercoaster here. We went from high temperatures in the low fifties to 91 degrees and humid on Tuesday, then back down to a high of about 60 on Wednesday, and today we’re supposed to be back up in the steam bath again today with temperatures up in the 90s. Sheesh. It’s been an odd spring.

I’m back out on the bike on a regular basis at least thanks to the warmer weather. It looks like farmers are a bit behind in planting this year from all of the unplanted fields I’m seeing out there.

It’s dry out there, folks. According to the statistics we’re reasonably close to normal rainfall, but actual ground conditions are not good. The entire state is under a burning ban and we’ve had wild fires popping up all over the state. Some parts of the state got some decent rainfall but it skipped around us. We’re going to have to start watering the vegetable beds here today or tomorrow if we don’t get some rain.

Now that I’m back on the bike again I’ve been down to the river at the old stone bridge about 4 miles from here and things look unusually dry down there as well. Water levels in the river are unusually low for this time of year. This branch of the Manitowoc River usually isn’t this low until mid to late summer.

The old stone bridge is a great spot to stop and get a drink and just watch nature. There’s almost no traffic on that road. I’ll stop there for ten or fifteen minutes, get out my water and stand on the bridge and just watch nature. There are at least two families of geese out there, a few muskrats swimming around, turtles and birds everywhere.

Here at the house the early spring flowers are popping up everywhere. The tulips are coming up now that the daffodils are coming to an end.

Out in the raised beds everything is coming up; onions, lettuce, carrots and beets and even the garlic is emerging now. The garlic we planted last fall didn’t make it through the winter, so we planted a different variety and hopefully we’ll get some by fall. We’ll see how that works out.

We talked to the tree service and let them know that it’s dry enough out here now that they can get in with their equipment so they’re going to be coming over next week to take out the two trees you see in the photo up there. The one on the right is a big old ash tree that’s starting to rot from the top down. Every time we get a good wind it sheds branches all over, some of them big enough to cause damage or injury if someone happened to be standing in the wrong place. The one on the left is an old maple that belongs to our neighbor. Almost the entire right side of the tree up in the canopy is dead so that one has to come down too. I hate to see trees coming down but these two are at the end of their lives and they need to come down before they do some serious damage or even hurt someone.

Removing the big ash gives us a lot more options for gardening as well. It shades out a huge amount of space in the yard making it difficult for growing anything except grass and weeds back there. Once that’s gone we’ll have a large area back there with full sun that give us a lot more opportunities for growing stuff. We have some general ideas about what to do with the space back there but nothing firm as yet. I’ll keep you posted.

With those trees coming down I also had to take down my OCFD antenna (off center fed dipole) and it’s a good thing I did because I found this:

Well, that’s not good, now is it? The antenna was just hanging on by a thread. Fixing something like this isn’t hard to do but it’s annoying. The problem area is only a few feet from the end so I could have just fudged it by cutting it off at the frayed bit and attaching that to the insulator. Cutting a couple of feet off of a 130+ foot long wire antenna isn’t going to screw it up too badly, especially since I use an antenna tuner anyway.

What caused the damage? The antenna was running to the cedar tree behind that small shed in that photo of the trees up there. It looks like my line sagged letting the wire down far enough so it was rubbing on the roof of the shed.

I really need to look into a different antenna configuration. That OCFD is just too long to fit completely in my yard. Fortunately both of my neighbors don’t mind if I run a line into trees on their property, but I need to try to figure out a different way of setting it up to try to keep it entirely on my property. I do have a vertical antenna which works fine, but that OCFD gives me more options. And it’s also my NVIS antenna for semi-local communications down on 75 meters and I don’t want to give that up.

Other stuff going on:

Now that the weather has turned nice I can finally finish up bringing down the dropped ceiling in the woodshop. I’ve been procrastinating on that because there is a lot of dust up there above those ceiling tiles and I wanted to put a couple of exhaust fans in the windows to suck it out of the house instead of having it plug up my air filters in the shop. That ceiling is getting bad. It’s been up for more than 20 years, and incorporates old fashioned fluorescent tube lights which are terribly energy inefficient. I already have new shop lights waiting to go in, LED versions which will use about a quarter of the energy and give better light.

I reviewed the LaserPecker 1 laser engraver a while back, and I now have its big brother, the LP2 sitting on the shelf and in use and I want to do a review of that. The hardware is very, very nice. It’s much, much faster, more powerful and has a lot more options, including a roller system that should be very useful. Unfortunately it shares the same major problem the LP1 had: the software is horrible. This is a professional quality engraver that is badly hampered by amateurish cell phone based operating software. There is PC based software for the LP2 which is what I’ve been using which makes it easier to use, but the program riddled with bugs and odd quirks. It’s sad, really, because the LP2 is a fantastic gadget. I’ve been doing custom artwork and engravings for a craft brewer and pub owner in Milwaukee and it does a great job.

On the wood lathe side of things I’ve had a really nifty bowl hollowing system sitting around for months now that I’ve never had an opportunity to really talk about here, so I need to put that in the que one of these days.

And one of these days I want to talk about the “metaverse”. What’s his name over at “Meta” as they now call FaceScam, uh, excuse me, Facebook, has stumbled across an idea that is at least 25 years old and has been done before with varying degrees of success (and more often failure), they’ve stolen that, claimed it as their own, and is now are hyping up a storm. Meta’s “vision” of this metaverse is, frankly, silly, childish, badly implemented, laughably cartoonish and doesn’t even take into account basic human nature. It’s really kind of sad, to be honest. I’ve seen Meta’s “virtual world”, which they call Horizons, and to be honest it looks like a badly rendered version of The Jetson’s cartoon show from the 1960s. To call it cartoonish is insulting to cartoons

I want to talk about cameras too somewhere along the line. I want to talk about “cryogenic” tools… Egads, look at that list… Sigh… I’d better get to work.

Well, maybe I’ll get to work later. Right now it’s sunny out, warm, there’s a bicycle sitting in the garage waiting for me…

Spring At Last!

The weather has finally started to turn! After one of the nastiest Aprils I can remember with almost perpetual clouds, cold, rain, mist and snow, it looks like we’ve turned the corner.

Daytime temps have been up in the mid to high 50s, even pushing a bit over 60. And we’ve had bright, sunny days. MrsGF and I have been spending a lot of time outside cleaning up after winter and things are starting to shape up nicely. The daffodils are all up and it’s delightful to see those bright yellow flowers out there.

We’ve even planted some stuff already, although that’s a bit chancey this time of year. We have a lot of onions out this year. One whole raised bed is all onions and some garlic this year.

And this…

That’s lettuce. Yes, lettuce. MrsGF said what the heck and put in a bit of lettuce just to see what would happen. I thought the ground was still too cold for the seeds to sprout but damn, look at that up there. Lettuce growing. In Wisconsin. In the first week of May. Outside. Sheesh…

Rhubarb is well on its way as well. It’s always the first thing to pop up out of the ground.

The irises are all up as well and looking beautiful. They’re early risers as well, so to speak. They’re about 8 inches or more tall already and looking very good.

Thanks to the old ash and maple trees back there we’ve had to clean up a lot of branches and twigs. Most of them went down to the town compost site where they’re chipped and turned into mulch but some of them went to feed the stainless steel fire thingie we picked up early last year. That thing was one of the best investments we made. It wasn’t cheap but it’s well made out of thick stainless steel. Beats the heck out of something like a firepit or one of those cheap sheet metal ones you get at the big box stores that rusts through within a year or two. Because of the clever venting system it has there is little or no smoke, and fires are fully contained so the chance of starting the grass on fire is virtually zero even in dry conditions.

Hopefully our big ash tree and the neighbor’s maple will be coming down soon. The two of them are definitely at the end of their lives. Large amounts of bark are coming off the maple along with branches and there is significant rot up in the ash tree where some of the main branches come together.

With the trees coming down soon I had to take down my OCFD wire antenna, and discovered significant damage on it where it must have been rubbing against something. Sigh… Always something. Fortunatley I found that before it got bad enough for the wire to break completely. I’ll have to fix that before it can go back up again. Grr…

So I only have the vertical antenna in operation right now and that has some issues as well, it seems. I’ve noticed that the SWR is fluctuating a bit. The meter indicates it’s fluctuating from about 1.12 to 1.16 during transmissions. I’m not sure if that is being caused by the antenna itself or feed line, or if it’s something in the meter on my Palstar antenna tuner. If I look at the SWR meter built into my transceiver I don’t see any fluctuations at all, but then that is a tiny, tiny flutter in the first place and that meter might not “see” it. I might be worrying over nothing but it still makes me a bit concerned.

The improvement in the weather means I can get out on the bicycle again. I love biking but not when the temperatures are down in the 40s. For the last few days I’ve been getting out every day for a half hour or 45 minutes to try to build up my endurance after a long winter of basically not doing much of anything as far as exercise goes.

That’s it for now. Time to get back out into the gardens!

Addendum – just got stung by a wasp. Damn that hurts! Wonder what I did to make him mad at me?

Tree, Spring Photos, Garden Tour, And Stuff

I’m not going to miss this tree too much. It’s been shedding limbs every time we get a 20 mph wind for years now.

The only big old tree we have left on the property is going to have to come down. I’m sad about that but it has to go because it’s rotting out from the top down where two of the major branches of the canopy come together. If we don’t take it down soon it will come down itself and quite possibly do some serious damage. So that will be coming down probably in August. That’s going to mean some big changes in the gardens around here. That tree is massive and it shades out a huge area which always meant what we could grow back there was seriously restricted because of the shade.

Right now I’m thinking of putting in another decorative feature like this one:

MrsGF looked at me like I was nuts when I first proposed it, but then she thought about it for a moment and said sure, why not. Neither of us want to end up with just a big area of nothing but grass back there. So we’ll see. Putting in that feature up there with the retaining wall blocks and all that was a hell of a lot of work and it wasn’t exactly cheap. I think I have about a thousand bucks sunk into that one garden when the costs of the retaining wall blocks, rock, plants and everything else is added up.

The two new raised vegetable beds are doing quite well. One of these days we’re going to get around to building a brick/stone wall around these to make them more decorative looking, but that’s in the future. We have three tomatoes in one, surrounded by onions, and pole beans and more onions in the other.

I highly recommend raised beds for vegetables. They work really well, are easy to keep weed free, easy to tend the soil, the height tends to discourage animals from getting into them. The biggest drawback is that they dry out rather fast and they need to be watered almost every day. Especially this spring because we haven’t had a decent rain in, well, a month or more, I think. It has been an exceptionally dry spring here.

The other two raised beds are doing well also. One has a variety of pepper plants in it. You can see that the plants have #10 cans with the bottoms cut out surrounding them. Those will be coming off this week yet. The cans are a great way to give the plants protection when they’re first transplanted into the garden. The other bed is all beets with more onions planted around the outside. We really, really like beets. We like ’em roasted, sliced, pickled, etc. They freeze pretty well also so we figure we’ll have enough to hold us through the winter with all of these.

Mr. Spiny, our pet cactus is still doing fantastic along the foundation wall. It’s hard to tell in this photo but there are three other cactus off to the left, started from pads we took off Mr. Spiny and stuck in the ground. The soil right along that wall is absolutely horrible and normally almost nothing will grow there. The cactus seem to love it, though. Makes a great conversation piece because people can’t believe that a cactus will thrive here in Wisconsin for some reason, even though Wisconsin does have some native cactus, including this one. There are some other types that are hardy here as well. You don’t need to live in the southwest to have cactus in your gardens.

If you want to grow your own, go for it. I will warn you that in early spring they will look absolutely horrible and you’ll think it’s dead. At least this one does. It’ll be laying flat on the ground, the pads looking all brownish and nasty. It isn’t, though. Once the weather gets a bit better the pads begin to turn green again and start filling out again.

The hosta garden in the front of the house came through the winter quite well and is looking pretty good. They still haven’t reached full size yet but will be getting there pretty soon at the rate they’re growing.

And then the flowers – holy cow have we got flowers this year!

Other Stuff

Yes, I’m still doing the wood turning thing. Below is a tiny little bowl I cranked out the other day from a piece of scrap walnut I had laying around. It’s only about 3 inches wide and 2 inches tall. Cute little thing. Useless for just about anything, but cute.

This one down below is a rework. This was a rosewood bowl that started to show microcracks on the surface about a week or so after I made it. So I put it back on the lathe the other day and reworked it.

It turned out that the cracks were surface defects that only extended a few millimeters into the body of the bowl. So I reshaped the bowl, put on a finish, and we’ll see what happens this time.

My experience with rosewood has been puzzling. I’ve made four pieces with Indian rosewood, and three of them exhibited what I’ve been calling microcracks, very, very thin, sometimes lengthy cracks that do not follow the grain of the wood and seem to be confined to the surface of the wood. I’m not sure why, either. The wood was dry and stable, didn’t exhibit any other defects. Someone said that rosewood is very oily and that perhaps the oils were evaporating from the surface causing the wood to shrink, and I suppose that’s possible. We’ll see what happens with this one.

Birch

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Close ups of birch trees in my neighborhood. I’ve always been fascinated with tree bark as a photographic subject. The texture, the play of light and shadow, lichen and moss, the amount of detail is astonishing and often quite beautiful.

Birch are getting hit hard here in the state, especially up in the northern part of the state where they’re more common. Not from disease, from tree rustlers, I suppose you could call them.

I’m not the only one who thinks birch are beautiful trees. A lot of others do to, and are running around up north cutting them down, hacking off their branches, and selling them as decorative items. And doing it on private property, public parks, state parks and forest reserves where they’re doing it illegally. They’re finding hundreds of birch trees being hacked down just so people can steal the branches to sell them as decorations. Sigh…