What a Wonderful Morning!

I’ve been home for two weeks in a row now which seems unusual to me. I’ve been riding my bike for exercise almost every day and have logged 40 miles this week – not a lot for an avid biker but for a late middle age woman, it’s not bad.  I have almost established a habit for my Saturday bike ride. My motto is “twice the distance at half the speed”. It makes for a relaxed and interesting ride since I plan to explore a bit or go somewhere different each time.

I live in a city that is full of mobile home parks and they are wonderful places to ride.  On the weekend, there is almost no traffic to worry about once you enter a mobile home park and when you do meet someone they most likely are walking or riding in a golf cart, they wave.  Saturday rides are not just for exercise, they are for calming the mind, stirring curiosity, and enjoying the sunshine and breeze (when you ride a bike there is always a breeze…). Come with me.

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The traffic was intense on this street…

There are a thousand ways to do pretty much the same type of housing. If you don’t believe that, you need to ride through a mobile home park to convince yourself it is true. I’m not a big fan of mobile homes to live in myself, but I love to look at them, at their porches, their landscaping, their ramps, their weird colors, roof lines, windows. The mystery house of the morning was the usual basic shape but the street side had only a garage door. Both other visible sides had no entryways. What’s with that? There is a reason hermits don’t go to mhp’s to live, mainly that they are very social places and people live to decorate their entrances with pink flamingoes, flags, name signs and plants. But no visible entrance? I couldn’t figure this one out.

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On to the next attraction – the champion camphor tree. Pictures do not do justice to its hugeness. Nature always inspires me and I am in awe looking at this tree. The sign explains.

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Bradenton was on national news lately with heavy rains that flooded the area. This next picture shows a drainage ditch that filled to overflowing and did flood the parks that I rode through.

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Can you imagine water rising to cover the road? It did.

Commonly there is a fence of some kind around each park, but if you know where to find them, there may be gates or walkways connecting one to the other.  I crossed a shaded wood bridge over the ditch to the next park.

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Doesn’t it invite exploration?

Without having to cross any major roads or deal with busy traffic, I finally made my way through a small golf course to this destination. I love shakes…

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One hour, ten miles – it was a great ride. Getting out and doing something active, just for the fun of it, is important for people of any age. I find it is essential for me. It made a wonderful morning, on a wonderful day.

Do you sense this need? What do you do that meets it? I’d like to know.

 

 

Sew What?!

Back in t he old days, we had to learn to sew.  Everyone took one semester of sewing in high school, and it was a popular project in 4-H. Some people even made a lot of their own clothes (me)! Since then I’ve made quite a few things and worn out a couple of sewing machines in the process. I’ve made home decor projects, several wedding dresses, baby clothes, doll clothes, but I haven’t often sewn horse clothes. Well maybe not clothes, but accessories would be a better label for this project.  Some horses just want to stand around looking pretty, you know?

It started when my friend and former employer decided to adopt three Freisian horses. They are beautiful animals and have done carriage pulling for a lot of their careers. They are semi-retired now and have the “life of Riley” (they have it pretty sweet, for those of you who don’t know Riley. Come to think of it, I don’t even know Riley, but I know what it means.) My friend also has a lot of horse art and in looking at one of her wall paintings she began imagining her own charges looking just like the horses in the picture. wp-1466703198542.jpgClearly, some horse capes were needed. With tassels, please. I decided to take the job.

I have been to the stable and met my models and measured them. They are sweet animals and on the large side.  I have been trying to imagine how to sew their capes ever since. It’s just a rectangle, you say, how can it be hard?  I will tell you. There is a lot going on when a horse walks and this piece of cloth has to stay on and not scare the horse, or anyone for that matter. It has to be durable, comfortable, and in this case not terribly expensive. All these things add to the complexity of the project.

I initially spent time on the internet looking for suitable fabric because there aren’t a lot of fabric stores to visit. It wasn’t going well. Fabric is ridiculously expensive in our country, and as I said, these are big horses – lot of yardage. Then luck happened and the only fabric store left in my town went out of business and put most of their stuff on sale at 60% off. The fabric and tassels were there. The purchase was approved. I’m now sewing. This is probably one of my weirdest projects, just sayin’.

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What is it with girls and horses?

What is it with girls and horses? There is an affinity there that becomes so obvious from a veterinarian’s perspective, especially when the veterinarian is also a female.  I’ve been riding around in the vetmobile for a few days and it always gives me some unique character studies to write about, some experiences with blood and manure, and a lot of hours sitting in the truck. But, girls and horses first…

Today we made a call for some routine immunizations and dental work. There were three horses, two women and a toddler.  It was the mom and her baby girl that were most interesting to watch.  If there was such a thing as a stereotype horsegirl, this gal would win the title for sure. Cute little thing (the mom), slender, tight jeans with bling on the pockets, western boots, big smile and horse, horse, horse in her talk.  Both ladies took in horses as rescue projects, whether they could afford it or not.

Mom was evidently teaching her little girl to be at ease around big animals and at the same time trying not to let her walk under the horses or get near their feet. She was more than busy running after the child and keeping her away from the dental tools, the antiseptic bucket, the vet truck and the yard gate while still keeping her fairly happy. Was she frazzled, upset with the child or feeling sorry for herself? No. She was relaxed, calm and equally loving her mother role and her horse girl role.

All these horse girls talk about rain rot, cleaning sheaths, varying consistencies of manure, multiple kinds of horse feed, supplements and medicines like it was second nature and the most interesting stuff in the world. They love to watch Dr. Julia work and to ask her questions. And more than once this week I’ve heard something like “this old horse has been with me for __ number of years so I’m going to take good care of him now”. And they say it when they’re looking at a pretty hefty bill for meds and services.

Dr. Julia and an associate vet performed surgery in the field one day. There were two procedures needing to be done and only a short window of time in which to do them before the anesthetic wore off. One doc took the castration and the other, the hernia repair. It’s interesting how you get a horse to lie down on the ground with his feet in the air.

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Yes, they have to be pretty sleepy to lie in such an undignified posture.

The two vets both went to the next client as well. This horse had an interesting procedure done. It was blind from glaucoma in one eye. In cases like this, pressure continues to increase in the eye and it can become painful, and even rupture. It is better to remove the eye, and that’s what they did. Not fun to watch, lots of blood, no pictures. You’re welcome.

Two days worth of clients.  All the horses were owned and attended to by women. That is not to say that men aren’t involved, but they seem more content to provide the finances, build the barns and fences and then let the women actually touch the horses.  So what is it with women and horses? Didn’t it used to be the cowboy that was in love with his horse?

As usual, visiting Dr. Julia gives me time with Tess the dog and her sidekick cat-with-no-name.  Every morning when I let Tess out, she sits for a moment on the top step and surveys her yard.  The cat comes and joins her.  I didn’t catch it in the photo but I often see them both staring out with their backs turned toward the door, like two old friends on the porch. It’s beautiful.

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Old friends meet in the morning…

Looking for Adventure

I have this fear, and I’m  sure we all do – that we are going to run out of adventures and slip ignominiously into the boredom abyss. To stave off this looming possibility I decided to sign up as an Uber driver.

I signed up a few weeks ago actually, almost by accident because it was so easy. I wondered if I could and before I knew it, I had. Not that they don’t vet their drivers, because they do.  But it takes a matter of minutes instead of the days that usually pass when you want to be cleared for something.

I took my first rider the next day, just to see what it was like before I left to visit my daughter. I took a nice tourist 10 miles south to visit a friend of his. It was the briefest of exposure to the Uber app but enough to make me think “I can do this. I can.”

Now, more than three weeks have passed, my Mom has gone back to the north woods, and Uber has started sending me messages asking why I’m not driving and hinting about my partner account being at risk (AAAAGGGHHH!!!) They call it an inactivity alert. Of course we wouldn’t want that to happen, so I went driving yesterday. All day. I’ll show them.

It’s slightly addictive. It’s like the feeling I get when I’ve just published a post and am waiting for reactions. The phone starts ringing and flashing. I get such an adrenaline rush. I have to accept that invite. I have to see who wants a ride. I have to get out there and sit in long lines of slow moving traffic.

No, wait…

I thought I was used to the long red lights at intersections. Here in Florida, probably no where else, the traffic is horrible, horrible, horrible in the winter. The weather is nice and that’s why so many people are here, in their cars. But now, the red lights seem much longer, like maybe half an hour when I am trying to get quickly to a passenger. And maybe even longer than that in cases like tonight when five teen-age boys were giggling and snorting over something on their ride to Shake ‘n Steak, in my car.

I won’t get rich driving for Uber (more about that later) but I’m already finding it adventurous. Can’t wait to write about the experience as it progresses… just sayin’.

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Evidently there are other desperate adventurers in the area…

 

Landlord Rant #2: Why I’m not renting to Jasmine

I seldom rant and even in doing so I will try to be kind – but this is the way it is.  If you rent for any length of time, from anyone, please pay attention.  And to be fair to Jasmine, this is not just about her but a compilation of several experiences renters have given me – the not-so-good surprises that I talked about here in “Are you still coming?” post which was Landlord Rant #1.  This is meant to help you renters get that space you want.

  1. If you want to impress a prospective landlord positively with that first phone call, be prepared to ask some intelligent questions. Could I suggest ones like “How much is the rent?” and “What do I need to move in?” “Do you accept pets?” “Are utilities extra?” “Is there a lease?” The answers to some of these will determine whether you should ask for a showing and may save you and the landlord a lot of time.
  2. If you make an appointment to see the rental, keep it and be on time. Please!
  3. And if it’s not simple and something comes up, use your cell phone and call to reschedule. Life happens.  If you don’t make that call, you’re not going to get a second chance – at least not from me.
  4. Be honest on your application because I am going to check it out. If something needs explaining, just explain. Don’t lie.
  5. Complete the application. Yes, I want to know how much you make because if you’re spending 99% of your income renting my unit, I’m pretty sure we are both going to be in for a hard time. It’s for your good too.
  6. Don’t be afraid to let me know your circumstances. I may be able to help you even if I can’t lower the rent just for you.  Remember, you don’t know my circumstances (like how I’ve been underwater on this investment and been paying people to live in my unit for seven of the ten years I’ve had it…).
  7. If you know other people will be living with you, include them in the preliminaries so I can know them as well as you. Disclose them in the application, please.
  8. Expect to sign the lease before you move in.  This was the last lesson I learned as a landlord when my compassion got out of control.  The lease has important protections in it for the renter as well as the landlord and is just a good idea.
  9. Stay in touch until you know whether you are a renter or not. Answer phone calls.  Show your interest by communicating.
  10. There is no #10. Read through the above 9 suggestions again, and hope you are never a landlord yourself.

Are you still coming?

I am a landlady, a female landlord in other words. I never intended to be one as a long term occupation, but time flies and it has probably been fifteen years or more now. It is not a job for the faint of heart and there is much to learn.
Almost everything that comes along in the way of landlord business is a surprise. Once in a while, but not often, the surprise is a good one. More often, it is not. Over and over, I find myself being disappointed in people. By supplying them with living space I get a front row seat to how they live…not always pretty.
Today I had a 2 pm appointment to show my almost vacant apartment. One thing I have learned is to call people if they are not early and remind them. So I called Jasmine to remind her at 1:55 and judging by the noise in the background she was still at home with a house full of kids. She was “oh so sorry” and wanted to see it badly so asked me to wait, maybe 20 or 25 minutes. An hour and a half later I am still waiting and feeling, well, like a fool. At least I finally have time for a blog post.

On Riding a Bike

When do I really get serious about taking care of my body?  I’m asking the question because I really don’t know.  So many years have gone by when other things came first on my list.  There was only so much time and other things were urgent.  And didn’t I get enough activity in the course of daily living? I wasn’t a couch potato.  I lifted, pushed and pulled, walked and ran and stood up most of the time.  I had a young body and it took care of itself (because it had to).

Time has changed a few things.  Specifically, my blood pressure is higher and I think it’s having effects on other systems, like my vision.  I don’t want to start medication and deal with all those side effects, and of course, there’s the problem of my hating to swallow pills which I avoid by never remembering to take them. But I can exercise. Walking would have been my first choice but after feeling a few twinges of pain in my right knee, I’ve switched to riding my cheapo bike.

Because I am on the way to being more serious about exercise (I’m not totally there yet…) I give the bike ride a priority place in my “somewhat retired” daily schedule.  Morning, right after the gate to the nearby mobile home park opens for the day, I strap on my fanny pack, turn on the health app on my phone and get going.  It’s a fairly safe place to bike a large loop and not surprisingly, I am one of the fastest things moving on the road.

Biking in the mobile home park reinforces my desire to take care of myself seriously.  There are lots of people there who are trying to be active.  Many of them have been “not serious” longer than I have judging by the fact that their exercise consists of riding to get coffee and donuts at the clubhouse in their golf carts. The other bikers I see are usually stationary, talking to their neighbors.  Lots of people are walking but it’s the kind of walking where you can hold hands with your walking partner and take long looks at scenery.  And today I saw an elderly woman, probably the most serious exerciser I’ve seen there in a long time, who could barely stand upright and had a decided list to the right.  But she was moving as best she could.  Every time I think, “get serious now or this is the next version of you”.

I’ve had people (the husband) say “well, you’re not getting much exercise riding a bike here in Florida where it’s flat”.  But they are wrong.  First of all, it’s not flat.  I know there must be some kind of incline when I ride east.  I imagine there might be one riding north as well (because north is “up” on the map). And then there is wind resistance.  Pushing air is exercise and don’t let anyone tell you differently.  It’s true that wheels make moving easier but they don’t move by themselves – as evidenced by the husband’s bike which has not moved an inch in months.  I push hard and go fast and I feel the burn.

Which brings me to the part where I challenge myself, to keep it interesting.  My health app SHealth, Shea for short, is my co-conspirator in getting serious about my health.  In fact, she nags me to the point of irritation.  I’m always being asked if I want to record my sleep, or add a meal.  And she gets downright bossy when it comes to exercise.

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Yeah, just be more active yourself!

Shea gets on the job when I’m biking and talks me through the whole painful process, starting with a little five second countdown.  At each mile she announces my progress and tells me how long I have to keep going to reach my goal, which is five miles, at my present speed.  Behind the scenes she is mapping where I’ve gone and the places where I’ve gone the fastest.  And in a world where I will take any little bit of encouragement I can get, I love hearing her sweet voice at the start of the last half mile “Almost there – you can do it.”

Today I broke a speed record with my fastest ever average of 10.6 mph.  I found out that several of my gears actually work and I really booked it (going west, remember the incline) which brought it up, along with the fact that I didn’t have to wait 5 minutes to cross the highway before getting to the gate. If I get much faster I’ll have to leave the park where the limit is 15 mph.

I sweat when I bike so don’t tell me it’s not a workout, and do encourage me to keep it up.  It only takes half an hour and I’m breathing hard the whole time.  It’s better than a pill for my blood pressure – certainly doesn’t have as long a list of adverse effects – and it does make me feel a little more serious about taking care of myself.  (But it doesn’t mean I’m not looking for a used golf cart. Those things are handy.)

 

Shoveling the Drive

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My drive is lined not with snowbanks, but flowerbanks. Rough, huh?

While some are bundled up and shoveling the white stuff, I am in my shirtsleeves and shorts shoveling the red stuff.  I’m not complaining.

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Every day, the heavy, wet blossoms fall out of the kapok tree. They are sticky as they decompose and notorious for embedding themselves in the soles of our shoes and tires of our vehicles. Capable of denting a car, or a head…

 

 

If you’d like to check out Just Jot January, the rules are here.

JJJ 2016

Mirror, mirror…

Disclaimer: don’t think I’m suggesting that anyone do this at home. I’m not. 

I’ve been learning some new things as a result of my latest remodeling project.  Some of these things about mirrors you might want to know someday so here goes…

Our house was built by a contractor who also did a lot remodeling jobs for other people, and of course he salvaged a lot of useful things. Things like mirrors. Shortly after we moved in he offered us some mirrors that he thought were way too good to throw away and we took them.  Back then we were still in the stage of life when we took anything that didn’t have a price tag on it.  For years now I have had a 4′ x 6′ heavy (HEAVY) piece of reflective glass leaning against the wall in my rec room. I only mind it when I have to clean behind it because it can hardly be moved.  I also have a triple mirror medicine cabinet attached to the wall in the master bedroom because that was the only wall big enough to hold it.  It’s wider than our king size bed and at least four feet tall.

The master bath is our present project and from it we removed a 4′ x 7′ mirror which has been leaning against the wall in the hall.  Getting a bit overwhelmed with large mirrors, I began to investigate what might be done with them.  The answer is, not much.  They are heavy, as I mentioned, and actually dangerous.  They aren’t made from safety glass so if they break the pieces are sharp and unpredictable.  You don’t just throw them in your pick up truck either.  They require a special method of transport.  I thought maybe I could use half of one mirror in the remodeled bath but the glass and mirror company would charge me $100 to come to my home and cut it.

A couple days ago I got tired of looking at the monstrosity in the hall and began to think about where I could put it, out of my way, until another day.  Because I don’t like to be talked out of my plans to move heavy, awkward furnishings, I don’t usually tell anyone I’m going to do it. I think about the plan at night when I should be sleeping or during random times in the day, until I know what I’m going to do, and then, I wait until the perfect time to carry out the plan.

The perfect time was last Tuesday after the remodeling handyman left.  I could have asked him to help but I’m thinking there will be lots of years when I have to ask people for help and I don’t want to start too soon and wear them out.  I had decided to put the mirror in the rec room since there was already one odd, huge mirror there anyway. They could kind of balance each other. I cleared the path of furniture and rugs and slid some of those handy, plastic furniture sliders under the edges of the mirror – let’s just give him a name. Waldo, I think.

Waldo and I successfully slid down the hall and into the rec room.  This was the first place there was room to put him flat on the floor.  Why do this, you ask?  Wally had been sitting on his long side in the hall and I needed him to stand up in order to fit in the spot I had chosen for him.  We do not have cathedral ceilings anywhere in our house, which means that in order to stand him up without hitting the ceiling, I had to lay him down first and then raise him up on his short side.  Those of you who have moved big bookcases or other tall things will know exactly what I’m talking about.  It’s an art.

You might be expecting this story to end in a display of cracked glass and a bloody trip to the ER, but no.  I planned well, and would have had no trouble at all if it had not been for the ceiling fan which I forgot to figure into the equation.  I was shaking from the exertion but quite satisfied with the end result, Waldo, leaning against the wall behind a dresser.  I’m just sayin’, I needed a mirror there anyway, right?

Waldo the mirror, after his trip down the hall.
Waldo the mirror, after his trip down the hall.

McMaster Carr and other helpers

I am taking a break this noon while my pain killers take hold.  It is yard clean-up day week.  Let me introduce you to McMaster Carr who has helped me in my job.

Thank you McMaster Carr for this neat bundle of fire starting paper.
Thank you McMaster Carr for this neat bundle of fire starting paper.

McMaster Carr is a company that makes and sells virtually everything that other things are made from – every little tube, bolt, bushing, wheel, piece of metal, plastic, rubber or glass that you can think of.  Every year they send out this huge, six inch thick catalog, of which I have three.  I use them for various purposes, most having to do with how well they weight things down.  But today I discovered that they make excellent fire starters.  I have enough paper to start my recreational fires (I have to call them that – explain later) for the rest of my life and probably the first few years of eternity.  Fires are an important part of my clean up, or at least they are fun.

I started yesterday and quickly got overwhelmed with all that had to be trimmed and taken out of the way before I could even mow in the oneacrewoods.  Things got a little out of hand, you might say, over the summer.  But I did make a little bit of progress and  decided to adjust my attitude.  I’ll not be overwhelmed, I’ll just work at it real hard for a week and then it will be winter and most things will go dormant, I hope.  I can do this.

This is awful.
This is awful.
This is awful too.
This is awful too.
This is trying to get better, but it's still awful.
This is trying to get better, but it’s still awful.

I’ve pretty much stopped trying to grow food, unless you count the pineapples that I grow for the unnamed animal who eats most of them. And I’ve kind of stopped trying to grow anything ornamental, unless it volunteers.  I can keep completely busy just deciding what I will not allow to grow and removing it. Really, that’s all I do now is take things out and burn them.  Now you know why fires are so important.

God knew what he was doing when he put the first people in a garden.  There aren’t many things as satisfying as takiing something as beautiful as nature, and then organizing and cleaning it up a bit.  Nature can go a certain distance toward keeping herself beautiful and there are some fine examples of that in the oneacrewoods, but it’s often every plant for itself and that can get wicked.  Someone, me, has to be in charge and keep peace between them.  God called it “dressing and keeping” – good description.

Here is an example of a plant that arranges itself in such a lovely way...
Here is an example of a plant that arranges itself in such a lovely way…

My other helpers are various rusting implements, bought at garage sales and held together with duct tape, several tarps that I use to pull debris from one place to another, and my Toro mower (the one piece of equipment that I brag about here). Without this stuff, well, we don’t need to go to that dark place…

This year I’m going to take pictures after I’m done and hope I can see how much better the yard looks. I have to add that a couple weeks ago when I was outside on the driveway an oak tree threw a fairly large limb at me and barely missed. I’m just saying, I sometimes wonder if plants have a different perspective on my activities.  But, I’m not ready to call it war yet.

This is what I do to tree limbs that don't stay put, grrr!
This is what I do to tree limbs that don’t stay put, grrr!