Wordless Wednesday…wonder if?

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Magnolia Madness in May: I promise to stop soon

Magnolia hosting an ant for breakfast

Overnight, the magnolia flowers decided “it’s time.” I checked this morning and three of the blooms from yesterday have opened. There is a tiny ant on the carpels–the yellow cone-shaped part. These will be home to the female gametophytes. Below, the reddish little tubes are the stamens, which house the pollen grains of the male gametophytes.

Magnolia flowers are kind of like cats to me: I find them endlessly fascinating. Perhaps I should turn that passion toward cleaning house…but not until tomorrow, please.

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The blooming of the magnolia has begun!

Breakfast with the sweet magnolia this morning! Amazing how overnight things can so quickly change. Perhaps it was the little mini flash flood rain late evening that pushed the blooms to open up. Last evening, none were beyond the early stages of unfurling those magnificent white ‘not petals.’ I learned only yesterday that the Magnolia grandiflora–native to the southeastern US–was taken to Europe in the early 1700s and from there spread to other countries. [We are the “invasive species” this time.] It is one of the oldest trees in existence, and their flowers do not actually have “true petals and sepals”, but rather something called a “petal-like tepal.” Their evolutionary process from some 95 million years ago ensures their reproduction. They were pre-bees, so pollinated by beetles, and as fascinating as human reproduction may be, these flowers have an amazing history. You can read the details at The Botany of Magnolias (Philip Evich, 2021, Smithsonian Gardens), but the short version is the flower has evolved to ensure cross pollination from the beetle, rather than self-pollination which causes problems.

I am also relatively sure that my theory on why so many buds/blooms this year compared to years past is flawed at least partially, but I am still checking on that, and considering other explanations. Maybe I will have it figured out by the time this tree is full of fully-opened blooms!

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What is it about Magnolia Grandiflora?

We have lived in this house now for a little over 18 years now. This year, the number of buds appearing are far more than ever before. I am not certain what it will look like when they all begin to open, but it is curious to me that there are so many more than ever before. I have a theory about why, and once I finish researching it, I will do a follow up. Perhaps by then, all these hundreds of buds will begin to bloom. Meanwhile, happy Sunday!

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Have I mentioned Groundhog Day?

A few weeks ago, I saw “the critter” from last year that I could never figure out what it was. That was the first, and since then, only time I had seen it until the day I looked out the living room window to see it munching by the fence. I got a couple of shots through the window, and then went outside to see if I could move closer. It was moving around the end of the fence and when I tried to take another photo, the sound of the shutter caused it to make a mad dash toward the tangle of kudzu and privet and down a hole I surmise is its main burrow entrance. This afternoon, I opened the curtains to see it out in the yard, but by the time I got the camera and got out there, it was long gone. It was however my “confirmation” that I indeed am caught up in the continuing loop of daily life on Taylor Hill…even if only in my imagination. Does anyone else who is retired have nightly dreams of your former work? I am talking about the way back machine as well as the place from which I actually retired. It is wearing me out, having to “work” every night when I am asleep.

I was outside with the camera, so I figured I would slip around and see if I could find the groundhog nearby, but no luck. Scruffy was out looking scruffy and I think she might have been looking for it also. The moss is prolific much of the time due to the shade and intermittent sun, but I always find each patch has its own wonders. The lavender bush is starting to bud.

It rained heavily yesterday afternoon and evening, so I went to check how the new water treatment system is settling and the effects of my continuing efforts to fill in the trenches around the edges. I was pleased to see it settled slightly, but no new cracks so that is a good sign. I also still have plenty of dirt to continue, and to finish the backfill on the retaining wall, but it will need another few days of sunshine to dry it out enough for me to get over there. Next, we have to extend the retaining wall behind the studio and reroute the little ditch to direct the water back toward where it used to run before the construction shifted the water run-off pattern.

The good thing about it all is that my moving (calories burned), exercise credit, and distance in steps has increased so my daily average is improving. Yesterday I even cranked on some Hugh Laurie and did a little dancersize while watching the pouring rain out the front window.

Posted in Acts of Restorative Kindness, Cottage Construction, Ecosystem, Mississippi, Mississippi Cats, Wildlife | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Do the next thing: Breathe.

Harnessed Tiger Moth: Apantesis phalerata

Yes, Taylor Hill is still on the list of things to be mended. I have not tackled any of the things on the list of “what needs doing now?” since the great mishap of the injured muscles. But time has passed, and ice and ibuprofen and rest have helped and it feels like I can get back to work as long as I do not dismantle any more fence panels. There is a big one waiting for me, but it is going to wait a little while longer.

When I stepped out the back door this morning, I almost stepped on this moth. I have seen them a time or two here, and today decided to look it up. When the wings spread, the rust-colored stripes at the top of the wings will unfold into orange.

Rough-leaved Dogwood: Cornus drummondii

The dogwood variety common on the hill is starting to bloom, and last night as I sat outside, the smell of the honeysuckle and the dogwood was just beginning. The magnolia is full of buds, and a few have started to unfurl. Not much longer now!

I have been after Randy to replace the grill that bit the dust a couple of years ago, but he wanted to wait until he built the deck. After all we have spent on the kitchen and the studio, he said the other day that he was buying a new grill and putting it on the parking pad since he could not afford to do the deck now with the continuously climbing lumber prices. He went for the Texas Trio, which has a propane unit, a charcoal unit, and a smoker. It was delivered yesterday. I hope by tomorrow or at least Saturday, there are ribs, burgers, or steaks complimenting the magnolias that should be blooming by then! Obviously, we still have a bit more to do on finishing the retaining wall and cutting the excess plastic as soon as the backfill is completed and the last few remaining ties are in place. Rand hammered in the last piece of the north wall yesterday. Let the summer cookouts begin!

Posted in Ecosystem, Food and Wine, Mississippi, Wildflowers | Tagged , | 26 Comments

Just do the next thing and cross it off the list

Which way?

Lately life on the hillside has been a mite fractious. Sometimes, I do not know with certainty if I am coming or going…or standing still. I have likened it of late to being stuck in Groundhog Day. I suppose the good thing about that is re-doing the same experience often enough–if one allows it to–can help you see more clearly how to get out of the seemingly endless loop. Occasionally, I get a spurt of energy and just tackle something needing doing.

First up, I injured my trapezius and pectoral muscles while dismantling a fence one day last week. I did not realize I had strained not one but two muscles (they work together to let you move your arms and shoulders, right?) until the following morning when I awoke in severe pain and could barely sit up and get out of bed. I went for the ice pack, and used it throughout the day and rested the arm, making sure not to lift anything heavier than a cotton ball. It was better the next day, but I continued to take it easy. By yesterday, I was feeling better and spent the day going through more boxes with the trash, recycle, or store more appropriately routine. While dismantling a day planner from 2018 into shred or recycle, I ran across a series of pages that leapt out at me. The left side of the planner allowed for a section to fill in the appointments for the days that week, and the right side had a section for notes, a section for To Do list, and at the bottom, a block called reminders and one called goal of the week.


Every day we are born again. What we do today is what matters most. –Buddha

goal of the week

Just do the next thing & cross it off the list.

During that time in the 2018-2019 school year, I was doing my daily meditations again, after having slacked off due to the significant demands at work and personally. Each daily meditation started with some quote, and on that particular day, the quote was Buddha, and it seemed significant to me–leading to my goal for the week. Over to the side was my to do list, and I had lined through about half of it, meaning accomplished. I sat there for a few moments reflecting on what matters, recalling Michelle Obama writing about her work, “what matters is what we do with the opportunities we had.”

It is not much, but it is a start.

I managed to empty 3 cardboard boxes, most of which was okay to throw away or recycle, with a few pages needing shredding. I cleared out two shelf space on my chest and made progress in re-organizing. While it is all temporary at the time, it did clear out some floor space, which no matter how many times I do it, like the screened porch, it seems to generate twice as much after I clear out.

When I finished, I had generated a bag of paper and old file folders for recycle, plenty of trash, reorganized my card/stationery/stamp box, and organized my crafts boxes. As soon as we can clear out the living room (I know, I have been saying that since last May), I can permanently finish in here, and get the living room back in shape. I started another Goodwill box and that along with the recycles is on my list for the afternoon. Plus, my new glasses are in. I had already decided that I was not getting back to the retaining wall until my traps and pecs heal. Meanwhile, there are still boxes and stacks here to be dealt with. It may be Groundhog Day for a while longer yet, but “what we do today is what matters most.”

Wishing everyone a happy Monday or Feliz Lunes.

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Happy Mother’s Day: You might not be a mother, but we all had one.

Mother’s Day for Northern Seals
Mother’s first year as a mother, with Jane
There is a reason it takes a village. Share love and lend a hand.
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Suzassippi’s hauling transport: State of the Art equipment

Have I got some dirt for you!

After the completion of the water treatment installation, there was a bit of dirt left over, and the destination was behind the retaining wall to fill in the space between the yard and the wall. The dirt pile is at the top of the incline from the driveway…and had to be moved from there across the driveway and up the incline on the other side. Just in case you have forgotten (after all, the partially completed retaining wall has been sitting there unfinished for the last 3 months) here is how it looked a few days ago.

I moved the Gorilla Cart and my three trusty Homer buckets, located the shovel, and got to work.

Three hours and 6, 956 steps (3.2) miles of hauling buckets of dirt uphill, lifting out said buckets to dump into the trenches, shoveling dirt back into the buckets, and repeating the process over and over, this is what it looked like.

I still had the remaining 2/3 of the east wall to finish, but I was “finished”. Rain was due in last night, and I knew it would settle the back-fill significantly and I would have more work to do. I was jolted awake at 2 AM with a thunderclap so loud it rattled the windows.

After the rain:

At least someone is happy about the rain…

Frog camo

I should probably rename this Sisyphus Hill instead of Taylor Hill. And in a side note of learning something new, while we all likely know the Greek myth of Sisyphus, did you know about Albert Camus, the French author who added his analysis? I did not, but it sounds like exactly my kind of story.

Camus uses the Greek legend of Sisyphus, who is condemned by the gods for eternity to repeatedly roll a boulder up a hill only to have it roll down again once he got it to the top, as a metaphor for the individual’s persistent struggle against the essential absurdity of life. According to Camus, the first step an individual must take is to accept the fact of this absurdity. …the only alternative is to rebel by rejoicing in the act of rolling the boulder up the hill (emphasis mine). Camus further argues that with the joyful acceptance of the struggle against defeat, the individual gains definition and identity.

Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (Retrieved May 1, 2022). The Myth of Sisyphus. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Myth-of-Sisyphus

Let the rejoicing continue!

Posted in Acts of Restorative Kindness, Country Philosophy, landscape architecture, Mississippi | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments

I am feeling a bit under pressure, so I am taking a break to play bridge.

Photo by Rando: Woody enjoying the pressure feeder

I am not going to complain. I am not going to complain. I am not going to complain. I am blessed and grateful. I am blessed and grateful. I am blessed and grateful. So yesterday, two years after I was due for new glasses and my eye examination, and without the vision insurance for which I had paid premiums for those two years prior to being able to get another exam and new glasses, I dutifully headed off. [This is not a complaint, just fleshing out the story. It was April of 2020 and all “non-essential medical services” were shut down. I missed two of my annual checks that were covered 100% as my wellness benefit. I found it kind of ironic that liquor stores were still allowed to be open, but you could not get your hair or nails done and see your physicians or dentists unless it was a medical emergency. Then in May, I retired and the insurance connected with my work was gone.]

Then Rando sent a picture of Woody, hogging the feeder, blissfully in charge. I had discovered that the old pressure cooker lid would survive the raccoon. Platform feeders work best here, but between the deer and the raccoons, they don’t last very long. As my eyes had not yet been dilated, I could actually see the photo and had to smile at Rand’s caption and the image. I had been feeling a little down actually because sometimes, things just do not get done that one would prefer got done…

Then the next photo came in:

Photo by Rando: Steffi playing bridge

It has been sunny and clear all week. Next Monday-Saturday will be continuous rain. After all, it is still April in Mississippi. The good news is Steffi has at least been taught to “play bridge” as well as “wipe your feet.” Sometimes, you just have to love the little things and let go of the big ones when you cannot control the outcome.

Posted in Acts of Restorative Kindness, Bird Watch, Bridges, Ecosystem, Mississippi | Tagged , , , | 26 Comments