Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Natural Forms and Functions

Can you guess what this is?

If you said a honeycomb....you'd be wrong.

For one thing, it's made of metal, and bees, strong tho they are... don't do metal.

What it is, is an anilox. It's used to transfer ink from the ink reservoir to the printing plate in large printers of things like brochures, newspapers, and even cloth. It seems the shape of the cells is one of the more efficient ways to transfer even amounts of the ink, with less waste.

You have to think, though, that a plate like that would be a pain to clean. If you've ever tried to wash something dimpled like that, like a golf ball, you know that the dirt, or ink in this case, tends to hide at the bottom of the dimple.

The bees don't seem to have any trouble cleaning their cells, but then, they're just the right size to get in there, and they don't mind eating the rest of the wax... reuse, recycle!

The anilox rolls, however, need an anilox roll cleaner to dissolve the residue and make the machine ready for the next printing task.

It's fascinating, what one can learn on the internets...

People Watching

The hotel here has a free laundry room, with some washers and dryers. It shares an area just off the lobby with some gym equipment. Needless to say, I don't have much use for a stationary bike, and frankly, my upper body has been getting all the workout it needs. So, I waited outside in the lobby, watching the television in there.

This also gave me some time to people watch. After not very long... I noticed that a lot of the people I saw were wearing or carrying vests of some kind. There were hunting vests, tuxedo vests and one vest that, well.. is kinda hard to describe.

It was made of leather, with fringe, but wasn't really a cowboy style. It did have a lot of different pockets here and there, some of which seemed...occupied. It was lined in a silky looking material...of a paisley print. I'm really torn between thinking it was a statement of personal style.. and payback for losing a bet.

It did help pass the time.

Coming Home?

The doctors gave us the news today that it might be possible for my mom to go home by the 21st. This is good news, as we'd like her home before Thanksgiving. Frankly, it would really suck to spend Thanksgiving here in the hotel room and long term care facility.

Perhaps I've become a little tired, because one of the first things I thought of when the doctor said "3 or 4 days"... was that it was just about time for my mom to come down with another setback. See, things have been going that way. She gets over one problem, and another pops up. She's gotten over the shingles (or is through the worst of it), and has a bladder infection.. which is getting taken care of... and now? What next? I shudder to think.

I guess, if I have to, I can go shopping for a good sale on a turkey roaster or maybe a big toaster oven. It doesn't have to be a turkey, but I can cook some sort of bird, maybe a couple of Cornish Game hens.

I couldn't have made it here without my wheelchair. See, when I get tired, it's even harder to walk even short distances. Today, it was hard just walking in the hotel room from the bed to the bathroom. Standing to pack my bag on the back of the chair had my lower back in spasms. No fun.

There has been one drawback. I'm getting callus'. I hate getting a callus. It never lasts and when it sloughs off, it leaves very tender skin underneath. And yes, I do have some gloves. I have three pairs of gloves. They look like this:

The only problem with the three pairs of gloves is that I seem to have lost the left hand of all. three. pairs.

Looks like I'll be buying some more of them. They're good gloves. I miss them. See, they're my primary braking system if I'm going down slopes. Have I ever mentioned that downhill is my favorite direction? Well, it is. I like rolling downhill. It satisfies the speed demon in me...

Somewhere out there, there are three left gloves. I wonder if they ended up in the same place that missing socks go...

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Fix'er Up...

My sister is still working on getting her new house in a better condition. It's a solid house, but needed a lot of work, after having been neglected for the past 10 to 15 years.

It was amazing how many of the original fixtures were still in the house. I think it must have been built as one of the "houses of the future" style homes from the 1960s. As such, it was high end for the time. Since then, the futuristic aspects have become quaint, but nonfunctional, and had to be replaced. Had it been me, I'd probably have tried to save a few of the quirks of the original kitchen, but modernizing only makes sense, and indeed...when you think about it...really keeps the original premise of "house of the future" alive better than keeping the non functional bits.

One of the rooms I do envy my sister is a kick ass laundry area that's big enough to probably double as an office space or even craft area. I'd want to warm it up a bit, if I were going to make it a double use space, and not put in too many steel colored fixtures. I think I'd put in a deep, double sink near the washer, for hand washable clothing and for washing things that are just too big for any thing else. I miss having a sink like that.

I'd put in another little snack/wash up area as well. Some place to keep sodas cool and someplace with something like copper kitchen sinks, that would let me wash out brushes or just wash my hands. Copper would be warmer and prettier, if a little more expensive. After all, it's not my house and I can day dream about what I'd do with a free pocketbook.

Dunno if my sister would agree, though. She's more practical and less dreamy than I am.

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

Knowing that you are going to have a lot of demands on your hands for Christmas things this year, I'll try to make my requests simple and few.

Okay.. at least...not complicated and not very many.

I'll work on it!

First of all, I don't want you to spend too much money on me. Things are probably tight for you, too, so I know you'll be shopping for a sale with the same fervor and concentration the rest of us will be bringing this year's shopping list. More thought, less cash on everyone. A tighter control on the budget and a smaller budget than last year, means that no one's going to go too crazy over here, and I can see and appreciate your need for frugality as well.

So, my list is fairly short, so far.

We've been in correspondence for 42 years after all, ever since I learned how to write, so I know you expect at least three letters from me this year. By the way, say hi to the secretarial staff from me. I'll be putting out an extra bag of cookies for you to take to them after you stop by. I hope the usual chocolate chip pecan cookies will be acceptable?

One thing I wanted to give you some lead time on was this garden seat.

It looks like this:

I appreciate its wider seat and fat wheels. When it gets muddy in my yard, I need the wider wheel base to help me scoot along.

You know I'll be needing to spend a lot of time in my garden in the coming months, since I've been away from it so long, and still will be away for a few weeks.

I hope you can help me out with this, Santa! I've been a good (ish) girl this year, I think, and I'll try to be even better in the next few weeks.

Hugs and kisses to the reindeer!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A Peach of a Gift

Waaaay back at the end of July, I received an email from Gurney’s® Seed and Nursery.

They made some wonderful sounding promises about a peach tree.

"Gurney’s Flat Wonderful Peach Tree is the result of decades of breeding at Rutgers University. The peach’s flat, doughnut-like shape gives it a perfectly bite-sized height—great for fresh eating, and less messy than round peaches. The snackable shape also makes it easier to pit and slice.

Flat Wonderful was practically a secret until Gurney’s claimed it and started marketing—its hybrid parents had never been released by the University. A round ‘momma’ and a flat ‘daddy’ give this decadent peach its flat shape and truly wonderful flavor.

Obscenely Rich Flavor Like No Other Peach

Flat Wonderful’s flavor has been described by industry experts as richly complex, with hints of raspberry, blueberry, honey, and—believe it or not—expensive, carefully brewed beer. Slightly spiced and very sweet compared to the typical peach, which is often blandly sweet, Flat Wonderful offers hardcore peach-lovers a firm texture. Unique to this variety and unusual for peaches, experts describe its texture as gently chewy. With a Flat Wonderful Peach Tree in your yard, gone are the days of melting peach textures and messy snacking. Sink your teeth into this wonderful peach, and you’ll never grow another variety again.

The best peach you’ll ever eat grows on a beautiful semi-dwarf tree that matures to 15 feet with an 18-foot spread. Leaves start the season a brilliant red, then fade to green in mid summer. Large pink blooms in late spring—and the tree’s size and shape—make it a true garden specimen."

Sounded intriguing, to say the least. I'd been wanting to add a peach tree to my back yard, ever since I'd been forced (by the life cycle of the tree) to cut down my Ash trees. Their loss, while traumatic, did open a window of opportunity. And here was a chance to not only get a peach tree... this one would be free. Yes, a free peach tree. I likes free.

There was a catch, however. This tree was rated for cooler areas of the country. How would it do in Houston? Will it fruit? Will it survive the heat in the summer?

I decided to give it a try. I volunteered to test the tree, in Southern conditions.

This is what I got.

It came a little early.... in August. Now, if you're from anywhere but Houston, or areas farther south, you'll probably be thinking.. humm.... kinda late... will it get established before winter?

My problem was just the opposite. I had to keep it alive until it was cool enough to plant, probably towards the end of September. PLUS...we were in the midst of an epic drought. And, did I mention, it was HOT. Oh, and it had arrived unheralded, as I'd not heard back from the company that it was coming. That meant that it sat in its little cardboard box for about 12 hours or so, until we found it at the very end of the day. The day it arrived, the high temperature had been 103 F.

So, I stashed the little tree in the shade and made sure to water it often.. every day or so. I watched anxiously to see if it would wilt or show signs of stress. It seemed unfazed by its transition from the Midwest to the heat and humidity of Houston. That was all the more amazing to me because I knew that, where it had been grown, it had been cooler and wetter than normal for the summer.

I let the rest of the month pass, and by then, the rains had started to come. The heat had broken and the weatherman promised at least a week of cooler temperatures and some rain.. and most importantly... cloudy skies. I needed those clouds, not only to keep things cool, but to make sure the little tree didn't get sunburned before it could settle its roots.

This is where I chose to plant the little tree. Remember, I am at least one growing zone south of its southernmost rating, so I planted it where it would get shade in the hottest part of the day for the first couple of years it's going to be growing. After it gets tall enough that it will be in sun full time, it should either have established itself, strongly....or have died from the heat.

Humm... not root bound, by any means.

The graft was good, and the shoot from the graft was strong and vigorous, about as big around as my index finger. The root stock was about as big around as my thumb.

August 30.. yep... that's when it got planted. You'll note that it's got some nice branching going on and that the leaves are in very good shape.

It was even putting on new leaves!

Now, where I was planting the tree was once the site of a compost heap that became a raised bed. I knew the soil should be pretty good there, though I'd not dug in the bed for a while, as I'd planted it in shade perennials... who did not survive the felling of the tree, alas.

Yeah, I'd say the soil was pretty good. I didn't need to add anything. We'd dressed the whole area with leaves the previous three years and they, and the earthworms had done their magic.

Then, knowing as I do, that I have a dog that likes to dig in dirt I'VE recently dug... I made some provisions to protect the little darling. I also started to lay out a DIY sprinkling system.

I've not finished that project yet. Sigh.

So far, the little tree is doing very well. I'll get 'Pup to take some pictures and send them to me to post. We've gotten a little rain lately (about 15 inches in the last couple of months), and it seems to like where I've planted it.

It will be, I think, a semi-dwarf tree... though.. in Houston, what that means is any one's guess. Things tend to grow somewhat larger here, because of the extended growing season. I'm not sure if I'll get fruit this first spring (I rather doubt it), but I can always hope. I am quite delighted in this FREE gift, and hope to see it be successful here.

For more information about this tree, and the company who sent it, go to Gurney's Seed and Nursery for online ordering and a free catalogue.

To make sure I've satisfied the law regarding disclosure, let me restate that I've received this tree for FREE, and that I will be test growing it under some conditions under which it is not guaranteed to thrive. My report of its progress will be (I'm gonna try) monthly or semi-monthly. Cross your fingers, folks...this might be interesting!