Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Skulls for the holidays

Or just for the fun of it.  Saw someone crocheting skulls on Etsy so I decided to see if I could pull off.  Here's the result off this little experiment... 

On Etsy they string them together to make scarves.  They're pretty cool actually.  Now I'm certainly not going to steal someone else's product... but I did have fun figuring out the pattern.
update... 12/7/13
for those of you interested, the pattern is published on my other blog at this address...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Nothing much...

Well, nothing much garden related at least.  Halloween is pending, which will be a relief at the flea, but also signals the beginning of the Christmas sales.  I am, as I type, taking a wee break from spray painting.  A friend, a couple of years ago, bought at auction, bought 100 pieces of cast iron Christmas lawn art.  These vary from 1 foot wire gift boxes to six foot tall wire angels blowing trumpets.  There's even a six foot wire Mary, Joseph, and a tiny little Jesus.  And, even though 'cast iron baby Jesus' sounds like a punk rock hit, they're nice enough.  They came from a nursery which had closed down, and we are not talking the cheap wire things you buy at a bargain store.  These are substantial snowmen, sleighs, and such.

Unfortunately, they weren't stored well, and there's rust issues.  So they bought them, I'm spray painting them, and then we're selling them.  And I need to get them done soon, because people like to get the yard decorated at thanksgiving.

Other developments...  I've signed up for square registry, which is a credit card service through my phone,  cheap rates + quick money turnover to my account.  Good deal for flea market people, or anybody really.  Even the lawn guy can take credit cards with this.   Better than PayPal which holds your money for 7 days, them takes another 3 to transfer it.
Will still have to use PayPal online, which is an issue as I've finally decided to open an Etsy store.  I should have done it years ago, but there we are.  EBay is no longer a really viable option for me and I think I was a little disgusted with online sales in general, but I'm getting over it.
I am also now an official member of the Freelancers Union.  Which has no union dues, but it's a loose coalition of independent contractors, freelancers, etc... right now about 250,000  members and growing, advantages - networking and affordable insurance.  Besides, since companies are not hiring permanent employee's anymore, about 1 in 3 people are now independent contractors working without benefits or job security, (which is ok for a single guy like me, but for a parent with kids... not cool) grouping together is a viable option.

What else?   I think that's about it... we'll see...

After I get a bit more painting done, I'll take a few pics of these things.

UPDATE... I was gonna do another post... but what the heck.   I decided type just update this...

Here's before...

And here's after...

Amazing what a coat af paint will do, aint it?  Now, these candy canes were the worst off, but, heres some more pics...

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Garden event!

The cutting off of the black crepe myrtle that I wrote about a few months ago has graced me with a bloom. 

It had formed buds, but lost them.  I didn't think too much of it, it was tiny after all... still is... but then it managed another bud,  and here we are! 

There are three different color variations in the 'Black Diamond' line of crepe myrtle. Called red, pink or blush.  This, being the palest pink, is the blush.  Which is good, as i didn't like the red, it just wasn't a good red, and I'm so bored of pink crepe myrtle it's not even funny.  

My cutting has a long way to go to reachits maximum size of 10 feet, but he's off to a good start...

Monday, October 21, 2013

Second spring...

Our long hot summers often send gardens into a dormancy from August thru September.  

However, many plants spring back with the first autmn rains, and its almost like spring again.  Enjoy a few of our blooms...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Doll face

 So, here's what happened.  The flea market where I'm set up is basically semi-enclosed.  To be blunt, it's more like car ports with partial walls, and even though it's safe enough to store things there, when a storm blows through, there's water damage.  Well, storms came through last week.  And some stuff, inevitably, got damaged and got thrown out.  And there was this ruined little clown doll... and I found it strangely fascinating.  So, I took an extreme close-up of it's face with my cell phone, and the results were even more fascinating... and very very disturbing. 
And, I had to test the results.  Of course, there's plenty of dolls and figurines and toys around, in various conditions and states of repair.  So I took some more extreme close-ups.  The results are interesting to say the least.  When you take an extreme closeup of a doll face, you notice things that aren't evident.  You see the blank stare.  The sometimes wicked twist of the lips.  Things that you'd never observe otherwise.  Soon other dealers heard what I was doing... and they brought dolls to see how the pic would turn out.  We were all having a blast.  Here's some of the most interesting pics...
This small poirot doll has a melancholy expression that is only intensified by the dust across her face... before she was cleaned up, we took this pic.
This is a strange doll that needs batteries.  With batteries, her eyes open and her mouth moves, and she carries on conversations.  Without batteries, her latex skin gives her closed eyes a spooky quality.  It must be noted that the dealer who has this doll will probably be discarding it soon, as almost every child confronted with it is terrified.  In real life, she looks a bit like a heroin addict.  In this pic, most of the dealers agree she looks a bit cadaverous. 
Another clown doll.  At least this one isn't creepy. 
This is only erie in that it's far too perfect.  Pretty.  In a Stepford Wives sort of way.  It's one of those lady head flowerpots, made in the late 50's. 
Another Poirot.  This is actually my favorite of the pics, because of the colors probably, those grays and blues work for me. 
This is one of those resin statuettes.  The slapdash paint jobs on these give the pics and almost impressionistic quality.  The statuette was one of those Native American things, Indian Chief with full feather headdress. 
This is a plastic toy.  Green, one eyed grinning monster.  He was in a movie a few years ago, but I have no idea which one. 
Resin sea captain. 
reproduction Egyptian Cat.
Resin Santa Clause. 
Porcelean Baby figurine. 
And that's some of the pics.  Very few of them came out as interesting as the original ruined clown, but they were a lot of fun as a group effort at the flea.  Hope y'all are having a good weekend!   

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pregnant Onion

The Pregnant Onion, Albuca bracteata {formerly known as Ornithogalum caudatum, the botanical name was changed in 2009} is a South African plant grown primarily for its unusual method of reproducing.
This is another of those plants that I remember from my childhood. It inhabited many front porches in the small town I grew up in, sometimes growing in cracked clay pots, but more often than not, thriving in a half rusted coffee can, rubbing shoulders with a monstrous aloe that was overflowing a chipped and leaking enamel kettle. 
These plants were 'pass-a-longs,' usually being passed from neighbor to neighbor over the back yard fence.  If they were purchased, the transaction took place in the church basement at the Autumn Bazaar, where you bought a tiny, barely rooted 'start' crowded into a Dixie cup filled with soil from the vegetable garden for twenty-five cents.
It's also one of those plants that are kind of difficult to explain.  While it's not particularly attractive, it is none-the-less treasured by many. 
In the photo below, if you look closely, you can see the reason for its common name of 'Pregnant Onion'.  Just below the surface of the skin, you can see the oval outlines of offsets.  Soon, the outer layer of skin will dry, turn brown then split open, revealing...
 small plantlets.  (while many people leave the brown skin on the plant, I'm a meticulous plant groomer, and I remove it for a couple of reasons... first, I don't like the looks of the dead and peeling skin, and secondly, when I remove the brown papery skin I can observe the new 'babies' growing under the green skin.)
The babies in the previous photo are of a size to be removed if you wish... they detach with a slight touch, and will quickly root if placed in soil.  Or you can leave them where they are.  Eventually, they'll get large enough to come off on their own and root where they fall. 
Culture of the plants is fairly easy... even though they are considered a succulent, they actually do better if they're treated more like a tropical.  Plant them in a good potting soil with sand, perlite or vermiculite mixed in, water them when the top inch of soil gets dry, and place them on a bright patio or in the brightest window you have.   
If the bulb begins to wrinkle up or go soft, it needs more water than you're giving it... but don't panic.  It does store water in it's bulb, and there are reports of plants surviving after they've been unwatered for six months.  The plants may look totally dead, but there's a very good chance it will begin growing as soon as they've received a good drink.  This is an adaptation to its native habitat in South Africa, where it often goes dormant during the long and intensely hot dry season. 
If the plants have a good potting soil, they don't require much in the way of fertilizer, maybe about 1/4 of the recommended strength about once a month. 
They do have a few other interesting, possibly annoying, quirks.  The leaves naturally arch out and down, and where they touch the soil, tabletop, etc, the leaf tips promptly turn brown and die, leaving the rest of the leaf green and intact. This habit has prompted many people to grow them either elevated on stands, or in hanging baskets, where the straplike leaves may hang down two or three feet, and they can look pretty striking, especially if there are three to five of the bulbs planted in the pot to really fill it out. 
In it's native country, the plant is considered an aphrodisiac, no doubt the appearance of pregnancy giving it a fertility aspect in sympathetic magic cultures. 
It was also commonly used much like Aloe barbarensis (Aloe vera) to treat minor skin complaints throughout much of Europe, but I don't recommend it, as the sap has been known to cause rashes and all parts of the plant are considered toxic.  Under no circumstances should you mistake this for a real onion.  Please don't eat it.
If you're  lucky, the plant likes you,  and you'll witness it's one true claim to beauty.  You may have noticed in the first picture, but here's a close-up...
They do bloom, and rather dramatically.  Mine is just beginning to grow a bloom stalk, but eventually, that stalk may grow to 3 to 6 feet, and begin putting out dozens of 1-inch wide green and white flowers...  The plants may bloom at any time of year, and may bloom more or less continuously.  The key seems to be enough water, and enough light. They rarely bloom for me during the hot summer months, which isn't surprising,  as I mentioned before, in habitat, they tend to go dormant in the heat of summer, and even though I manage to keep them green and growing all year I can't really expect to fight back generations of evolution.  Gardeners in milder climates than mine can keep them blooming all summer, and I suspect that they would be more likely to bloom here if they were planted in the ground rather than confined to a pot. 
They are reported to make good border plants if they're grown in the garden, especially if several of the bulbs are clumped together. Cultivated in this manner, the strap-like leaves look reminiscent of a crinum lily, and the tall bloom stems can make a nice display when they're blooming all at once.   If you want to try it, just be careful to not bury the bulb as it may rot if you do.
The flowers, when grown outside and exposed to pollinators, will produce seeds which will scatter and sprout, but they are easily uprooted and shared with friends, or discarded. 
In zone 9 and further south, a hard frost will kill the leaves, but the bulb will quickly regrow.  Further north, it's simple to take in a few bulbs, offsets or seedlings and pot them up as a houseplant over the winter, or bulbs can be allowed to dry and go dormant till they can be replanted next spring. 
They also won't bloom until the bulb reaches about 3 inches in diameter, but this one reached that size in the space of one year.  The maximum size you can really expect from the bulb is 5 inches, but the plant will take it's time getting there.
When the blooms open, I'll be sure to post an update.

Mushrooms again...

 Well, it's mushroom  season in Texas... cold autumn rains followed by warm autumn days result in rather fantastic displays in the lawns...
         While some people hate the toadstools, mushrooms, and fairy rings in the yard, and will immediately run outside with plastic bags and gardening gloves to restore their lawn to golf course smoothness... I like the things.  I think of them as free garden ornaments.  They're also a sign of  
        I've identified the species, to the best of my ability... I've never been confident of my ID of mushrooms.  Which is why I've never been tempted to harvest wild mushrooms for dinner... there's always the chance that I'll kill myself and everyone else... except of course for Morel mushrooms, nothing else looks like a morel mushroom, but I haven't run across any of them for years. 
        Anyway, click on the name  under the pic, and it's a link to the Mushroom Experts truly excellent site.
And speaking of truly excellent sites... there's a new blog in the blog roll... called Eat The Weeds... The acorns are starting to fall, and I'd heard of Acorn Flour, but I'd never had any experience with it, so I did a little web search and ran across that truly excellent and extremely informative blog. I highly recommend you check it out. 
As for acorn flour... here's the post and it sounds like a real pain in the ole patootie, so I probably won't bother, but nice t know I can make it if I have to... 

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Shopping bags...

With more and more municipalities banning or limiting the plastic shopping bag, for various reasons, those canvas totes are becoming necessities.  But they're not really convenient.  Unless you have a couple of dozen of the things taking up room in the back seat of the car,  spontaneous trips to the store become difficult.  And, eventually, it wears out, the sides split, the handle becomes detached... nothing insurmountable, but there we are.
And I just don't like the things...  if you can find some that don't have idiot advertising on the side, you have to pay for them.  And no matter how you fold them, hang them, our try to store them, they take too much room.
Carrying stuff shouldn't require all this thought... then I remembered Moll Flanders.
It's an excellent book, a story of an English  orphan turned pickpocket, turned prostitute turned respectable American immigrant.  I highly recommend it.
But the point is, in that book, at various points in the story, she whips off her shawl and uses it to bundle up baggage, children, stolen goods, etc.  Throughout much old literature, women used shawls, scarves, aprons, tablecloths, etc in this manner.
Now, I'm not recommending that anybody show up at their local piggly wiggly with an old sheet to carry their groceries.  Well, not exactly.
Let's start with this...
Get about a yard of rope.  This is standard jute rope.  You can use any kind of rope you got laying around. 
fold it into two figure 8's, with the ends of the rope in the middle.
a tiny piece of duct tape holds everything in place...
Then more duct tape around it... two layers, as tight as you can wrap it. 
Now, I happen to have this giant roll of bias strip that I bought for $2.00 at a rummage sale... but any strip of fabric you got will work.  Consider strips of an old sheet, or a t-shirt, or anything.  I've made several of these, and I've used about everything, and it all works fine. 
place it through one of the loops, fold it back and start wrapping around.
when you get to the other end, cut off your strip from the roll,  leaving 6 to 12 inches.  Put it through  either one or both of the loops, and then through the loop  of fabric, pull it  tight and wrap it down. 
secure the end with a few quick stitches... no need to be fancy...
Then, find a big scarf.  This isn't difficult around here... the normal bandana doesn't fit on my head, I have a large hat size, so I have a couple of dozen head scarves made from random cotton fabric remnants.  They come in handy when I'm mowing the lawn or I haven't washed my hair... Most are plaid or skeleton prints, but for this I used the solid red so that you could see what was going on...
pull a corner through each loop, and tie in a knot. 
repeat on both ends of your handle, and you have a bag. 
Actually, you'd be amazed at how much these things will hold... and as to the scarves... you get 1 1/2 yards of any fabric, trim it to a perfect square and give it a tiny shirt-tail hem, and you've got a 40 inch square scarf.  But you don't have to buy fabric... sheets that are faded, have frayed hems or you just don't like anymore are made from very durable fabric.  A sheet will give you a minimum of 4 scarves.  And I'm sure you can think of other things to recycle...
You can  store at least three of these handles and three or more of these scarves in your glove-box, and I defy you to cram even one of those canvas totes in there.  Plus, these wash easily... a cavas tote can be washed, but comes out wrinkled, crumpled and misshapen, and is never really right again. 
Anyway, this is what works for me.  If you have any other ideas, I'd like to hear them...

Sunday, October 06, 2013

We've done been occupied

The Occupy the Cemetary/Zombie rights 
movement has staged a sit-in at the flea market to protest the negative stereotype being perpetuated by the haunted house on our property.  It was an overwhelmingly peaceful demonstration...

And then the riot police showed up ...

Thursday, October 03, 2013

I couldn't help myself.

This showed up on my email.  I have no idea where it's from, or who took it. 

I like it.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

well, I'm trying not to be so scattered but there we are.  Later today, I'll be  updating new pics on the little goth bob site... I got sidetracked by the flea market.   Here's what happened. 

Someone at the flea had something that they wanted to sell for $60 bucks, but we don't really have the customer base for it out there.  So I said, put it on Craigslist.  Well, she doesn't have a computer, and the only cell phone is one of those primitive ones that make phone calls and that's it... (How third world) 

So I listed it for her, and it sold for $150.  I considered it my good deed for the month... no big deal. 

But she insisted on giving me $50 for it, (after all, she'd only wanted 60) and said she had some comparable things to sell, and anything over $100 I could have...

Of course, other dealers out there came to me to sell on craigslist immediately, because you'd be amazed at how many people are intimidated by that site.  Really, you're reading a blog, so you're obviously a little computer comfortable at least, but there are people out there that plain flat out shake in their boots when confronted with a keyboard... and many of them seem to be living fairly rural and dealing in flea markets, and I have been declared the flea market computer wizard, which is really amazing since I don't know even the most rudimentary html code, so all that's been taking some time...

And in the process, I've also been listing on some of the Facebook groups.  They have all these groups that are for buying, selling, trading, or just plain flat out giving away stuff.  They're a good source of items for me, and a good outlet for selling things for me.  They also swallow up time. 

And right now, as I type, I should be mowing a nearly 1 acre lawn.  And after that... I'll take pics of little bobs and get them posted. 

Sounds like a plan.  We'll see how it works out... 


Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Opuntia microdasys

Opuntia microdasys, and the varieties of the species, are common houseplants, often encountered in dish gardens or in small pots at big box stores. 
Fortunately, O. microdasys is attractive and tends to be of a size that it can be impressive without being troublesome, it's maximum size is three feet tall and wide, but in pot culture, you can expect about half that.  It is therefore common as a houseplant, and for some collectors, (who let's face it, can be pretty picky about what plants they're willing to have around) this may be the only prickly pear allowed to rub shoulders with their much rarer specimens. 
This native of Mexico is heavily covered with glochids, which are the small hair-like spines that are the calling card of prickly pears, and, like a few other species of opuntia, do not have the longer needle like spines of most cacti. 
There are four variations of the species that you may encounter... This, with its yellow glochids, is the standard or main species, and may produce yellow blooms. 
Opuntia microdasys v. rufida  has glochids that are a cinnamon, reddish brown color, and is sometime called the Teddy Bear cactus. 
Opuntia microdasys v. albispina  has glochids that are white, and is sometimes called Bunny Ears. 
The other variety of the species is a mutation often referred to as Golden Ruffles,  where each pad of growth grows ruffled edges, and is properly named O. microdasys v. crestata. 
Despite the cute common names, don't feel tempted to give them a cuddle.  Glochids are not something that you want to deal with on an up close and personal level.  They're not exactly painful, but they can be maddeningly irritating.  Duct tape pressed against the skin to yank them out is usually the easiest way to deal with them.  To be blunt... I'd rather deal with spines, but there we are. 
I've grown all varieties over the years, and the care is more or less identical.  They can take all the sun you can give them.  They appreciate watering about once a week in the heat of summer, but can take less if they have to... if they start looking limp or shriveled, you may need to water them a bit more... potted plants tend to need more water than specimens in the ground.  
Currently, I only grow the yellow standard because it's the only variety that is really  winter hardy in my climate.  Here, in the Dallas/Fort Worth area on the line between zone 7 and 8, this plant will survive the winter outside provided it's in a pot, rock garden, or in a part of the yard that doesn't collect water.  The key to almost any cactus surviving a cold winter outside is drainage. 
This species can take cold.  But they cannot take cold and wet.  
During hard winters, I may lose some of the plant, but there's usually enough to recover so that by late spring it's looking impressive.  However, I don't get blooms off of the outside plants, so I'm probably really pushing it's cold tolerance. 
The other forms, do not tolerate cold, and must be moved inside for the winter.  Placed in the brightest window possible, and watered very little, they will usually overwinter fine.   

Besides the cold issue... any good cactus soil, or even any potting soil with lots of perlite and sand mixed in will suit it fine.  The plants are pretty heavy feeders, and if they're given fresh soil every spring, they quickly show their gratitude with lots of new growth.  Feed them every other watering with about half recommended strength plant food, they'll be happy. While they're heavy feeders, too much food results in growth that is too lush and too soft to stand up for long, especially to cold... I usually stop feeding the plants in September to help them tough up for the coming winter. 
Like all prickly pears, propogation is simple from cuttings.  Actually, the cuttings root so easily, that Opuntia will often propogate themselves without any help from  you.  It's not uncommon to find a pad that has broken off, rooting and growing under the parent... but to do it intentionally... break or cut off a pad, let it sit somewhere for a week or two so that the cut edge will dry out, then pot up the pad in soil.  Within a month it'll be rooted and growing.  If you really want to increase the amount of plants you have, you can actually cut each pad in to four pieces, once from top to bottom and then cut those two pieces in half across.  After the cuts have dried, those four pieces will, when planted, each grow roots and pads.  I once knew someone who would line a black plastic nursery tray with canvas, fill it with potting soil, and place about fifty of these cuttings of cuttings in there.  Each would grow and within 2 months he had plants to pot up and sell in another month.
Personally, as an experiment, I once rooted six pads, two of each of the three color varieties, in a hanging basket.  It was interesting looking on the patio, and, with hindsight, it was  such a relief to have a hanging basket that didn't need watered twice a day, that I kind of wonder why I didn't do it again...