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It’s cool and getting ready to rain right now, but for the past three days I have taken my coffee outside to sip while I watch the world around me grow. Some mornings were a tad chilly, but a towel on my bench and a blanket over my knees, hot coffee in hand – who cares as long as the sun peeps out from behind clouds?

The birdsong this morning drowned out the ambient sounds of the city (the distant freeway, traffic on the street beyond our fence, the drone of airplanes): “Cheery Up! Cheery Up!” sang robins delineating their territories and calling their mates. The familiar “Brr-Whirr” of the Spotted Towhee told me that they are nesting nearby.

The past few days, a male Anna’s hummingbird has been doing it’s dangerous aerobatics over our heads: it flies thirty feet up into the air, hovers, then makes an arcing dive. Ten feet above the ground, it abruptly changes directions back toward the heavenlies and the wind through its wing feathers creates a loud “CHIRP!” overhead. He’s courting a mate, but often she’s nowhere in sight. (It is a startling sound if you don’t know it is coming and he lets loose his miniature version of a sonic boom just over your head.)

My computer is being crazy slow today and my photos are not loading properly.

IMG_5745I’d love to show off the new flower bed I created in front of the house, where I have planted my rose (which is showing no signs of life!), a Rose of Sharon, and left room for many more perrennials while cutting down the need for lawn mowing. Purple anemones, Vinca Minor, hens-and-chicks, above the wall, Lady’s Mantle and orange daylilies below, on the city right-of-way.

Along the back fence, I pulled and cut and swore at English Ivy that has entrenched itself over the past 15 years (the last wild spot in our yard). I’ve weeded and planted – no more than three hours per day (my mind wants to keep doing but my hands and back rebel – especially my hands! – and I have to give the work up. Still, I have accomplished more in April of this year than any single year in the past – yay for retirement and the freedom to be out there when the air is clear and the day is still cool enough to work!

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The crazy Camellia is over-laden with blooms, a cacophony of pretty pink-and-yellow flowers, new green leaves, dying yellow leaves, and messy wet fallen blooms. I hate it when it looks like this, the limbs drooping low with all the weight and the slippery mess underneath.

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My husband broke my garden bench (it was rotting through). I’m excited about this corner because I have Comfrey that will try to push past its boundary of weird metal grating – a perfect bee flower I have to gold in check because it *is* invasive and it can cause caustic reaction to skin. I planted a blue elderberry to the right of the comfrey (behind the yew), a blue huckleberry just to the left of the white grate and a red flowering currant behind the bench. COLOR! (The black plastic is killing the nasty Oregon Grape). I plan to encourage the forget-me-nots to fill in a neglected space – but I also love them right where they are in this photo, blooming bright blue and covered in mason bees.

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It looks sweet and tiny here, inside its cage, but that broad-leafed plant will be six feet tall by mid summer: Comfrey.

I love this time of year, my hands in the dirt, the small insects and invertebrates (except the slugs!), and the myriad of birds who come to visit. Mesmerized by diamond-dew drops in the early morning, I sip my coffee and know I will not get anything done inside the house on such a day.

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April rains have imprisoned me inside the house. Outside, the flower beds sprout more and new flowers open up. I long to be outside, to wear messy buns under my garden hat and flip-flops on my feet.

Inside, I have been working on a venue for selling my artwork, and I believe I have found it: Zazzle! I’ve added nearly 20 products so far, but will add more every day.

https://www.zazzle.com/store/twocrowfeatherwoman

However, I have done this whilst ignoring everything else I have down on my to-do list, which includes digging out some old family portraits for a distant cousin on my father’s side so he might finish up his family genealogy (and share his wealth of knowledge with me).

I have four books to read, including a little heirloom my Uncle Mike gifted me very recently:

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I am also reading (on Kindle):

Gift of the Shaper by D.L. Jennings (fantasy)

Cold Waters by Debbie Herbert (thriller, suspense)

River Bodies by Karen Katchur (thriller)

I have two paintings in the works and numerous unfinished crafts, but this is an ongoing state of life for me.

Two novels I am cleaning up (but I am procrastinating by writing this post).

Thank God it is raining! I would never get anything done inside the house if not for the rain – and I have so much to do inside the house. Rain has forced me to:

1. file Federal and State Taxes.

2. Work on my novel (I’m at a hard part, deciding what stays and what goes).

3. Work on my plan for my art (which is a much longer post and therefore that’s all you get to know about that.

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Just a doodle, really. By working on art, I don’t mean actually creating. I need to work on my website and a shop where I can sell my images.

The nicer weather pulls me outside. I have weeded almost all of the flower beds, pulled up sod out of the front (and newest) flower bed, raked off the leaves from under the rhododendrons, cut back the black-cap raspberry bush (old canes, a job which requires leather gloves and long sleeves), sorted all the garden fencing & peony support rings, dead-headed everything left over from last autumn, and… you get the picture.

I’m a woman obsessed when the weather warms up and I can be OUTSIDE. I ordered two roses from Jackson Perkins: one arrived and I have planted it, but it has yet to show signs of life (but neither has my grape vine and it always surprises me late in May with sudden buds). I ordered a hops plant, but it has yet to be shipped. Rose #2 should be arriving this month as well, according to the JP website. I put my Rose of Sharon in the ground (I love these beautiful shrubs! The flowers look a bit like hollyhocks. I picked this baby up at a yard sale and she’s got pink-purple double blooms).

Monday, I asked my husband if he’d like to go to a local nursery. I thought I knew right where it was, but it wasn’t there. It’s about five miles from home, along a little frontage road that takes one into the village of Willamette (will.AM.ette), which is actually part of West Linn to the west of home. Willamette has a 20MPH speed limit through town, lots of cutesy shops, crosswalks, and a 30MPH speed limit to the very limits of the village (where the Tualatin River passes under a bridge. Tualatin is pronounced pretty much as it is written.

That’s where I thought the nursery was. Nope. We drove on out the frontage road and passed a commercial nursery (we’ve shopped there before – yawn) and no sign of the one we were seeking. We back-tracked and took a side road. Crossed the freeway and came back to the frontage road. We even tried driving into West Linn to see if maybe we had faulty memories: nope.

Two things: 1) we mis-remembered having ever been to this nursery before and 2) I didn’t have my phone with me out of deference to my husband who hates smart phones – but he asked me why we couldn’t just look it up on my phone and follow the directions.

We tried again after lunch and after my husband googled the address of the place. We’d never been there before. Go figure.

The road it is on does NOT have a road sign on the main road – we went with “the second left turn after crossing the Tualatin River” . We turned, we drove up, we parked.

Bosky Dell Nursery.

It’s freaking awesome. Native plants. As in: acclimatized to the wet Willamette Valley and shade to part-shade gardens. Great prices. We spent more than an hour there, wandering and drooling.

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I wanted an evergreen huckleberry bush to fit into an impossible little spot in my garden. Blue huckleberry, not red. $30. It’s already in a nice shape and about 18″ tall. Lots of blossoms. Loves shade/partial shade.

Don decided he wanted a red-flowering currant. I killed the last one he dug up in the woods for me, and I have no idea how. I had one at our previous home and you couldn’t kill it. They’re very pretty, very native, and grow a lot in the right conditions. Found one in a $20 pot, but they charged us $10 because the one we picked had died back so much. I have a perfect shade/part shade spot for it.

Then we stumbled onto a blue elderberry. I LOVE elderberries. Growing up, they were a high altitude plant that bore berries late (October). The best use of elderberry is syrup, which is jelly that doesn’t quire gel. Those of you who have grown up with wild elderberry know how that goes – the berry is touchy about gelling. I had a secret patch near where we lived before we moved here. They like sun and drought. I have a place for that, too.

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They’re sitting in a wagon, waiting for the rains to ease up a bit to be planted.

Total cost: $50.

I’m dying to go out and plant them.

 

We had a sudden change of weather here in the Pacific Northwest: it suddenly got warm! February was unusually cold, so this was what I refer to as “all-out-gardening” weather. The problem with all out gardening weather is I’m so used to having two days out of a week to get a month’s worth of gardening done (because you never know what next weekend will be like). I tend to over-do and hurt my back and…

I am learning to slow down. I have time. I don’t have to get up to an alarm clock. I have every morning that is slightly warm and dry to work in the yard, clean debris, dead-head last fall’s flowering plants, pull the first weeds, and clear sod for new flower beds. And, after I iced my back for two days, slow down is exactly what I did. I hurt my back in a frenetic attack on the day lilies, pulling out the old leaves and the moss as if the day would end too soon & I wouldn’t have accomplished something. Silly me. (But I did watch some good movies while my back muscles recovered, so there’s that.)

I ordered roses. One has arrived, the other is on back order. I bought rhubarb roots because my original one has been transplanted too many times. The race was on to get these all planted in the narrow window of nice weather – BUT the flower bed hadn’t even been created yet!

So – I spent three days digging up sod, which you can’t put into the yard bin because it has too much soil attached. I have to dump it in an empty corner of the yard to let the rains come and wash the sod off, returning the loam to the yard. The filbert tree kills the grass, so that’s where I dumped it. Take that! Nasty grass!

Day one, I kept finding cool creatures in the loam. Centipedes, army worms or cut worms, earthworms… And no camera. Mud on my garden gloves. There had to be a better way.

Day two, I placed my Google Pixel in my hip pocket. The thing has a great macro lens. I’d dig up something, take my gloves off, zoom in, and click! Unfortunately, looking at the LCD image on my cell phone is a foreign way of taking photos (I’m a die-hard DSLR – formerly a die-hard SLR film photographer). The sun reflects off of the LCD image and I couldn’t always tell if I had the subject in focus. The photos aren’t large by DSLR standards (I normally shoot at the highest setting on my Canon), but they’re decent – and focused for the most part.

Now that I have that out of the way: DO NOT PROCEED if creepy crawlies get you creeped out. If you dislike any of the following: spiders, wasps, cutworms, earwigs, centipedes – do not scroll on down.

This fine piece of thin material appears to be part of a beetle wing. It could be plastic, too, but I think it is organic. It was extremely fragile and only a portion of it ended up being in the photos. I found it with a couple pieces of pottery and a vintage playing marble.

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This guy (all 11 of them I found) was as large as a U.S. quarter or a Susan B. Anthony silver dollar. Very green-hued. I can’t identify it without the moth it turns into, but it’s much larger than the usual cutworm one finds in the soil. I took to tossing them out into the streets for the crows and automobiles to take care of.

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The cutworm (also a moth) was about nickel sized when curled up. I only found a couple of these and they got to go flying into the Great Asphalt Desert as well.

Don’t worry – I probably didn’t harm the overall moth population at all.

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It has taken me years to come to terms with earwigs. They were a pestilence in my childhood. I later learned they have redeeming qualities (they eat aphids) but I still don’t like them in my house or crawling on me. One of the few insects I truly struggle to like.

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Bingo! There’s nothing to compare the size of this critter within the photo (sorry) but curled up like this, it was only the size of a dime or less.

 

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Stretched out, the centipede is not much wider than a blade of grass and about 17mm long (just over half an inch).

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I love jumping spiders. They’re very friendly. This one was about the size of a penny, the size I used to find lurking around the office back in my employed days.

Paper wasps, not to be confused with their aggressive cousins (yellow jackets). These are solitary, make small nests of paper (they will protect their nests with stings, but you have to really threaten them to anger them). We live at peace with most stinging insects here (yellow jackets and bald-faced hornets can be exceptions, but only when they get aggressive or nest in the yard).

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The woodlouse spider! It is about half an inch long, hates sunshine, moves fast – it hunts the wood louse (pillbugs, roly-poly bugs, sow bugs, potato bugs – whatever you grew up calling them – although potato bug is a misnomer).

What I did not find were slugs. This is good. It means I have done a good job of cleaning up our yard so slugs don’t want to live here. I hate slugs. The Pacific Northwest is renowned for slugs. We have giant slugs, banana slugs, big brown slugs, black slugs, green slugs, and leopard slugs. I put down hazelnut shell mulch to discourage slugs.

I got my rhubarb roots in the ground today. Tomorrow, I will finally plant my rose. Hopefully, I will get my second rose to plant soon. And my hops rhizome. I’ll be taking a lot more photos of creepy crawlies.

I’ve sifted through it several times, but I’ve never felt comfortable with the contents until now. There isn’t anything in the box that I would sell (his keepsake box is another matter) as nearly everything left in the Japanese inlay box is heirloom or sentimental in value.

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Dad liked all things Japanese, so it is not a surprise to me that he had this box (the hinges are broken) as his primary jewelry box.

The contents are small items (the box is 22x15x6 cm or 9.75x6x10.5″).

SA Class ring 1920(2)

Chas Edwin Cusick’s high school class ring – St. Anthony High School, 1920. Uncle Ed (he went by Ed) was born in 1902 and died in 1960, never having married. His parents and sister preceded him in death, and he was close to my father The Cusicks are the Irish lineage, having come from Derry, Cavan, Ireland in the 1750s.

Franklin Hebbard Cusick’s class ring from St. Anthony High School, 1926. Uncle Frank also never married, but he lived a very long life. He was born in 1907 and died in 1985 It doesn’t seem that long ago. Great Uncle Frank was a kick in the pants and told me stories about my father that Dad would never tell me – and he did so in front of Dad, forcing my father to confront his wild youth. I adored him.

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Then there is this – This photo does me in. Sylvia Cusick. She was born in October of 1903 and died in March of 1930. The photo above is dated September 1930 on the back. She married my grandfather in 1925. She was a young mother of only 26 when she died of sepsis related to strep. My father was not quite 2 years old.

Those are some pretty awesome pants she’s wearing and fuzzy slippers!

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Somebody (most likely my Great-Grandfather John T. Wilcox and his bride, Azema (née Kimmey), visited the 1904 Wolrd’s Expo in St. Louis. Gramps – Fred Orson (Fritz) – would have been 6 years old. There are a couple mementos from the World’s Expo of that year.

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A pin of one of the nations represented (only one pin, sadly). The flag part measures 2x3cm (1.25×1.8″).

This is perhaps the coolest – a folding book in copper. The book itself is 2.5×1.75cm (1x.75″). I’m loading the images separately because they are so tiny!

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Still with me? Haven’t bored you yet?

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There are other items in the box – pins and such – but this is the only other item of any interest to someone other than myself: a gold nugget.It’s roughly 1cm (2/3 of an inch?). No note, no history, just a random gold nugget. I’ll just leave it like that.

Oh! Wait! One more. Dad’s pin.

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His handwriting, no date. He was left-handed. Writing is still legible, so when he was much younger. 🙂

 

 

This post is brought to you by Daphne the Goose, who is in her third incarnation.

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This is how she looked when I discovered her inside a thrift store in 2011.

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She was clearly screaming for someone to rescue her and give her new life. “Ave me from the blue flowers on my butt!”

“Save me from this dorky Mother Goose Hat and these awful feet!”

I tried to make a more realistic Daphne and by July of 2011, had painted a 2-goose Daphne.

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She was a white-fronted wild goose on one side…

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Blue-fronted Snow Goose on the other side.

Daphne has weathered seven years in the garden and was beginning to look the worse for wear last summer. I brought her inside in the fall with a promise to give her a new life.  Her paint was worn and she just looked tired.

I started work on her this week – and that’s when the arguments started. She wanted an orange foot. I told her that was stupid. She insisted my former paint job was stupid. She wanted to be a domestic goose. I wanted her to be a wild goose. I told her that she’d been a big white goose when I found her. She told me that not all domestic geese are white (remember the song, “The old grey goose”?

Daphne won.

Just a simple Greylag Goose getting ready for Spring. She looks quite happy.

Who knows what other incarnations she will have throughout the years.

Since I was already dusting our bedroom today, I decided to whip out the camera and take some photos of the vintage items there – especially the salt & pepper shakers from my mother’s collection. I do not collect S&P shakers, and I don’t think our children will be interested in these, either, so if I can dig out what they might be worth, maybe I can set up shop and sell them.

But – first – I took photos of my shadow pictures. They were Mom’s a long time ago, but I’ve owned them for so long that I forget that. The largest is only 5×5″ and I’ve already priced these at antique shows: they’re worth no more than $20 and what you can sell them for.

The top two have curved glass and paper backgrounds, two have flat glass and foil behind the shadows. The last – and smallest – is a decoupage.

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Etched into the bottom of these faux shakers is “Handmade Solid Copper Bull Montana” – apparently, they are simply souvenirs of the 1960’s or 1970’s. Charming.

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Lusterware, hand-painted penguins, undated.

This is a four and a half inch tall urn with lid, no date. JAPAN stamped on the bottom. Hand-painted.

NapCo china from Japan. I found the exact set in an image search of the Internet, but it was a dead-end on Pinterest. There are four. They are tiny and they all have corks in the bottom.

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Clearly hand-painted, this is not lusterware, but painted to resemble it. Peeling & one is missing the cork.

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A fine example of lusterware – the egg is that perfect blue hue. The maker’s mark looks like a 7, but the top is an indent and the side protrudes (bottom right of egg, above the gold. 4″ tall.

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Just for a comparison of the quality of glaze and gold (or lack thereof).

I really didn’t find much of value until I looked up the last set.

Vintage 1930’s Black American Children Eating Watermelon. I found a site where the exact set sold for $115.00. 2×2″, hand-painted

I think I will start setting these things aside to sell on eBay or Etsy.

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P.S. These are the only S&P shakers I have “collected” – they were a parting gift from my dear friend, Rosie, when she sold out and moved to South Dakota to live with her sons. I suspect they are vintage, too. I think they’re adorbs.