If you plant it they will come (Monarch Butterflies)

August is the season of the annual butterfly invasion of my back yard.

I’m not responsible for it. The Chasteberry bush was in my yard when I moved here almost 2 decades ago. It grows big and wide (8-10 feet tall and wide), it’s not pretty, and smells terrible. It actually gives me a headache when I trim it, i.e., a mild allergic reaction. But I put up with it just so I can enjoy these scenes in August. It’s like a busy airport for monarchs and other butterflies and bees.

When I started hearing about monarch butterfly numbers diminishing a few years ago, I thought it was a story concocted to advance a political agenda. The monarchs had never let up on their visits to my yard, and it never occurred to me that things were different elsewhere. It’s the bush. It brings all sorts of butterflies and bees.

Each year late in the fall after there’s been a freeze, I cut the bush down to the ground, and reclaim that corner of my yard. Then every summer the bush grows back with a vengeance, and then in August the Monarchs return to frolic with each other, do touch-and-goes, and feast on the purple flowers.

The Chasteberry has potential medicinal properties. I can’t speak to those properties with any authority, but the aroma and it’s power to give me a headache makes me not doubt its potential. The National Institute of Health has a page on the Chasteberry. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/chasteberry

The Chasteberry has similarities in appearance to the more well known ‘Butterfly Bush’, aka, Buddleia. However, the Buddleia grows into a smaller, more compact bush, with a fuller purple flower than the Chasteberry. The Buddleia bush might be a more visually pleasing option for a front yard. Like the Chasteberry, the Buddleia also looks easy to grow, to the point of being a challenge to contain.

The Farmer’s Almanac has a page on the Buddleia bush and other butterfly attracting plants. https://www.almanac.com/plant/butterfly-bush

If a big bush isn’t right for your space, Zinnias attract butterflies too, are super easy to grow, and look pretty through the window.

And because there’s no such thing as too many butterfly pictures:



Checking in on the Song Draft over on Slicethelife.com, we are now on Round 3. Here’s the awesome playlist from the first three rounds. https://slicethelife.com/2021/08/15/2021-song-draft-recap-rounds-1-3/

The latest Run|Sew|Read pick goes back to music my teenage parents grooved to before I was born: http://slicethelife.com/2021/08/09/2021-song-draft-round-3-pick-8-run-sew-read-selects-apache-the-shadows/

And for the synchronised guitar dance moves:

I click on the numbered list every time. And now there’s a song about it.

  1. “10 things you need for a perfect […]”
  2.  “5 must-have tools for a successful […]”
  3.  “365 ways to […]”
  4.  “These are the 23 best views in America.” 
  5. “These 15 images will make you forever see your [blah blah blah] differently.” 
  6. “You get one point for each experience you’ve had. Share your results.”

The list can be a round number like ’10’, or seemingly random, like ’23’. Anyway, I don’t have a cure; only the observation that the internet is an endless supply of lists for people who gravitate toward enumerating perfection and objectifying comparisons and rankings.  A numbered list or checklist is a way to compare yourself to others, or test your level of perfection against a list compiled by someone who is likely not qualified.  Example:  “24 ways to raise perfect children”, *barf*.  

Before the internet, it was magazines like Cosmo:

Kitty: Good news, Red. I just took Cosmo’s ten ways to please your man in bed test, and I got nine out of ten! But I didn’t get number three because I’m a nurse and number three is icky.”

So anyway, stop it.  I say caringly and forcefully. 

  1. If you are going to compare yourself, or if you are motivated by a set of goals, make sure the goals fit you.  Number them if you must, but make them your own.  
  2. When you are reading articles on the internet and you start to click on an article that is based on a numbered list, consider the source.  Consider the amount of time you’ll waste only to find that:
    1. Of course you ‘failed’ to check off everything on the list. 
    2. Of course the thing you think is the best didn’t even make the list.
    3. Of course you scored less points than your younger Facebook friend, because you haven’t been arrested or haven’t tried that one drug, or haven’t been to Gravahispanoslavanda. 

It is truly a worthless, and counterproductive exercise.  I vow to remind myself of that next time I see a list to click on. Sure, that list of pretty views is missing the one I think is best, but that’s because the list is a few photos someone spent 5 minutes harvesting from other people’s internet sites.  Sure, ‘Karen’ made a list that got people talking or arguing, but ‘Karen’ may actually be a guy who really needs to put on some trousers and go mow the lawn.

Rant over.  Sorry for the list.

The Count Sesame Street meme

This rant has been festering in my draft folder for a really long time. Then this week, Billy Bragg, a singer-songwriter (who actually does his own social media interacting) put out a new song about these internet phenomenons. His almost-Cockney accent made me have to listen hard for the lyrics, but it was worth the effort. Internet behavior makes for good lyrics. ‘Rabbit holes’ rhymes nicely with ‘rabid trolls’.

“…Ten mysterious photos that can’t be explained are draining away the best of my day, and fragments of songs that I never wrote are rotting in the pockets of my winter coat…” “Just a click away from all of the facts…” “Common sense, like art, is in the eye of the beholder.”

https://www.billybragg.co.uk/

Today, 59 years after their training, one of the ‘Mercury 13’ astronaut-trained women will finally be on a space flight.

Back in October 2018, I wrote about the 13 women who trained to be astronauts in 1961.  Their program was shut down before any of them could be selected for a space mission.  Today, one of the 13 astronaut-trained women, 82 year old Wally Funk, will be on a space mission with Jeff Bezos. The flight can be watched here: https://www.blueorigin.com/  

Right now, it is 8:12am Central time, and lift off is imminent.  They have closed the hatch and are posting updates to their https://www.blueorigin.com/ site.

UPDATE 8:36am: The flight is back on earth, and here is a screen capture of Wally Funk emerging from the capsule!

 

My post from 2018:

Mercury 13–what I’ve been watching

This week I watched the Mercury 13 documentary on Netflix.  It is about the thirteen woman astronauts who trained for the space program in 1961.

I tried to be inspired and not let myself be consumed with anger at the stories told in this documentary.  It wasn’t easy.  There were plenty of moments that moved me to tears, at how these brilliant, accomplished aviators and scientists were trivialized and relegated to lesser status for being women.  They were put through more rigorous testing than the male astronauts, and scored better on some tests.  These 13 women qualified, but were banned from the missions to space.

Below is an excerpt from one of the woman astronauts’ testimony before Congress.  She used the exclusion of woman nurses from Civil War field hospitals as her example of why women should be allowed on space missions.

Mercury 13 testimony highlight

National hero John Glenn then testified, drawing laughter from the senators when he said he would welcome qualified women astronauts with ‘open arms’.  Then President Johnson ended the women astronaut program, saying, “We have to shut this thing down.”

More reading:

The IMDB listing.  https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8139850/ 

Wikipedia page.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_13

Nicodemus, Kansas USA

Please allow me to extend Black History Month by a week, to tell about this unique and special place, the town of Nicodemus, Kansas. Nicodemus is the “only remaining western town established by African Americans during the Reconstruction Period following the American Civil War.” (Per Wikipedia)

(Image from Google Maps)

The National Park Service has a page telling the history of Nicodemus: https://www.nps.gov/articles/nicodemus.htm Here’s an excerpt from their page:

The small town of Nicodemus, Kansas sits quietly on the northwest Kansas plains. Founded by newly freed slaves in 1877, Nicodemus was a refuge from the Reconstruction-era South, a reflection of a mass black migration from the South to the Midwest after the Civil War. Nicodemus was the first black community west of the Mississippi River and is the only predominantly black community west of the Mississippi that remains a living community today. An all-black outpost on the frontier, this “unsettled” land offered a chance for black farmers and their families to start anew. Today, a few people and buildings remain from the original township, a testament to the resolve of the people of Nicodemus to build a new life on the prairie. Between the end of the Civil War and the 1880s, many courageous black settlers sought better lives, better land, and better opportunities in the heartland.

When the railroad was built, it didn’t pass through Nicodemus. The interstate highway system doesn’t pass through the town. The challenges getting to and from the town, and the Dust Bowl and other conditions in the region made it hard for the town and citizens to thrive. As the end of the 20th century approached, the town was down to just a handful of residents, and the buildings were badly deteriorating. There was concern that the town might literally disappear. The National Park Service brought it into their system. It’s now a National Historic Landmark and Site.

Nicodemus is a more thriving site now, with the NPS resources behind the ongoing restoration projects. They hold cultural events. Nicodemus has a great, active Facebook page, where they regularly post historical facts and photos of their town and related events and places. Here’s a post from today:

On my visit to Nicodemus several years ago, while I was speaking to the Park Ranger at the Visitor’s Center, a young adult black woman arrived, almost out of breath. She was attending a professional conference in Denver, and saw it as her chance to visit Nicodemus. She had rented a car and made the 5-hour two-lane highway drive to get there. I got emotional seeing her emotion; and I still get tears in my eyes remembering it. Like I said at the start, it’s a special place.

Television portrayal:

The town of Nicodemus was featured in two episodes of ‘Quick Draw’, a Hulu original comedy series set in Kansas. The filming of the series did not actually take place in Kansas unfortunately, but I still enjoyed the ‘Kansas feel’ to the series. The two Nicodemus episodes are probably my favorites of the series. I’m thrilled that they featured the town. Here’s a clip:

Here’s the series page on Hulu’s site. https://www.hulu.com/series/quick-draw-f15643e4-501e-44da-ac26-bbb3024bf9b1

Nicodemus on the web:

Getting to Nicodemus (It’s not on the interstate, or near any metropolis.):

Below are driving directions from airports in the region (Denver, Wichita, Omaha, and Kansas City), and from the Brown vs. Board of Education site in Topeka. Note: The Visitor’s Center is currently closed for the Covid-19 pandemic.

Three upcoming releases I’ll be watching

TED LASSO

The first four episodes are available now on Apple TV+. Future episodes are being released each Friday. The first episode was silly. From then on, each episode got better than the one before. I now don’t want the series to ever end.

This is the story of the coach who led last year’s (fictional) Wichita State Shockers football team through an undefeated season, and trip to the Rose Bowl; and then agreed to coach the Richmond, UK football (soccer) team. It’s London, Kansas, sports, and a bit of baking, all in one delightful package. In real life, there is no Wichita State football team. The university hasn’t had a football team since 1986, which makes this series even more awesome. They use the actual WSU mascot and logos.

IMDB page: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10986410

FARGO, Season 4

The next season of Fargo will be released on September 27 on FX. It is set in Kansas City in the 1950s, and stars Chris Rock. I cannot wait. “Girl, you’ve got a panty on your head.”

IMDB page: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2802850/

REBECCA

The latest remake of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca will be released October 21, on Netflix. How much am I looking forward to it? I’ve written a whole post on it, that’s how much. Read it here.

IMDB page: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2235695

(This is an entertainment report on the movie; not a trailer)



And now for some music: We are now in Round 5 of the Slice The Life 2020 Album Draft. For the latest ‘desert island album’ picks, click here.

For the latest Run-Sew-Read pick, click here. Or sample a song from the album:

New washing machine shut off valves (and more)

Last summer I recommended checking your main water shut off to your house. This summer it’s the washing machine shut offs and hoses.

Like my former main house shut off valve, the washer shut offs were this round red handled type, that can’t be trusted to last more than a few years.

This time the old washer shut off valves didn’t break or start leaking, but recently, when I tried to turn them off, the cold water valve was stuck open. I didn’t try to force it to turn, because I’ve had one of the handles break off in my hand and the valve start spraying water (a la last year’s post).

The new shut offs. I replaced the washer shut off valves myself, with these Shark-Bite connections, and cpvc pipe. As you know if you’ve done any DIY plumbing projects in recent years, Shark Bite connections are a literal game-changer, making anyone and everyone a potential plumber. They push into place. Honest. No cement, flame torch or solder required; and no leaks.

New utility sink! I also used this as an opportunity to add a utility sink, which I’ve wanted for years. I loved the sink instantly. It gives me a place to fill and empty the mop bucket, and rinse off and soak big things. It will also serve as a backup to hold washer discharge water if there’s ever a blockage in the drain (which has happened before).

New washer hoses, too. Murphy’s Law dictates that all of my ‘simple’ DIY plumbing projects will expand into a second project. This time it was new washer hoses. As I was reconnecting the washer hoses to the new shutoff, I realized one of the hoses was going bad. Turns out, the cold water hose was so corroded at the washer connection, that it wouldn’t come loose. I feared in removing it, I might also break the connection on the washer itself. I applied some WD40 and stepped away from the project to give it time to work. Success. The hose connection came loose with some gentle coaxing, and without breaking anything else in the process.

Not good.

I’d wanted the metal braided kind of washer hose, but the store didn’t have that type in the length I needed. I could have ordered and waited on them, but I wanted everything installed that day. These will be good for several years anyway.

Nelly Don Zero-Waste Apron (part 3)–Construction steps

After looking at the life and career of Nelly Don the iconic Kansas City designer in Part 1, and then deciphering the diagram for her 1925 patented zero-waste apron in Part 2, here in Part 3 are the apron construction steps.

The Apron and patent drawings:

Last week’s post provided measurements for drawing and cutting out the pieces, like this:

Nelly Don designed the apron to be sewn in one sitting, without having to remove it from the sewing machine. So now in Part 3 we sit down at the sewing machine and start constructing:

These are the chronological construction steps:

  • Hem all free edges
    • Side Panel (C) top edge
    • Pocket (D) top edge
    • Back (B) centers
  • Sew a Pocket (D) on each Side Panel (C)
  • Join Front (A) to Front Yoke (E)
  • Join Backs (B) to Back Yoke (F)
  • Join Side Panels (C) to Backs (B) and then to each side of the Front (A).
  • Join Front Yoke (E) to Back Yoke (F) at shoulders.
  • Hem entire lower edge
  • Bind neckline
  • Sew ties to back pieces at the waist line.

Here are the above-listed steps in pictures:

Hem all free edges (shown in blue)

Hem all free edges.

Sew a Pocket (D) to each Side Panel (C), along the bottom edge of the Pocket, right sides together.

Then flip Pocket right side up, and top stitch across lower edge of Pocket.

Join Front (A) to Front Yoke (E), right sides together.

Join Backs (B) to Back Yoke (F), right sides together.

Join Side Panels (C) to Backs (B), right sides together. Catch the pocket side in the seam.

At this point, the your pieces will look like this:

Join Side Sections (C) to Front (A), right sides together. Again, catch the pocket side in the seam.

Join Front Yoke (E) to Back Yoke (F) at shoulders, right sides together.

Tada! Now you have your lovely apron. To finish it, turn under and hem entire lower edge and the armholes; bind the neckline; and sew ties to the back for the closure.

How about some finished examples? These were my practice attempts:

This wraps up the Nelly Don apron series. My obsession with the patent drawings has been satisfied…for now; although I do keep thinking of more ways to experiment with it. Have you made a Nelly Don apron? I’d love to hear about your experience with it.

Nelly Don Part 1 is here.

Nelly Don Part 2 is here.



Back to 2020, Series 6 of The Great British Sewing Bee is about to conclude. It’s been a fabulous series of talented sewing contestants and their creations. Last week was ‘Hollywood Week’, and it did not disappoint! https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1148109945557937

Two weeks ago was ’80s Week’, and it was full of larger-than-life creations and personalities. https://www.facebook.com/greatbritishsewingbee/videos/568722604082017/

Dog calming vest for fireworks season

The brand name is ‘Thundershirt‘.  It is a tried and true device for calming dogs who fear thunder and fireworks, by creating a swaddling effect.

[Picture from the Thundershirt website.]

ThunderShirt for Dogs

I may end up buying the authentic Thundershirt for Myrtle (or one of the smorgasbord of other brands now available on Amazon, such as this one called Mellow Shirt“).

But first I want to see if Myrtle needs it and if it will calm her during fireworks season.  We’ve had three nights of fireworks in the neighborhood so far.  The first night, she was visibly agitated, even in the house when I was with her, trying to comfort her.  She was startled and barked at every boom.

So, I’ve mocked up a DIY compression vest for her.   The first mock up is made of terry cloth, to be soft and cool.

Vest Floor 2 w RSR

The next mock up will be all or part netting, and stretchier:

Netting w RSR

While wearing the terrycloth vest, she immediately began sitting and laying down more, while not showing signs that the vest bothers her.

Sitting w RSR

Napping w RSR

Watchdog 2 w RSR

However, the real test hasn’t occurred yet.  The fireworks have been quiet in our ‘hood since that first night.

I’ll be watching and tweaking the vests all week, hoping that by July 4th, we’ll have something that keeps her from being frightened.


The vest has not taken away her energy, and by that I mean her desire to play with the baby robins in the neighbor’s tree.


Fourth of July tips from our humane society:

Fourth of July pet tips from KHS

And from the totally awesome The Oatmeal:

Image may contain: text

Check your main shut-off valve

Do you have a main water shut-off valve inside your house?  It’s a code requirement, so you probably do.  But if for some reason you don’t have one, I recommend getting one installed.  It makes it easy to shut off the water to repair or replace toilet valves, washer hoses, sink faucets and supply lines, etc.

Mine looks like this.  I access it from a trap door in a closet.  

IMG_20190623_103638574 RSR

 

Do you turn off the main shut-off when you go on vacation?  I recommend it.  It’s peace of mind that you won’t come home to a flooded house if a washer hose bursts, pipes freeze or some other unplanned catastrophe occurs.

Can you easily access your main shut-off valve, or is it behind a locked door, accessible only by ladder, or otherwise barricaded by stuff?  If so, I recommend clearing a path and making it quickly accessible.  That way, if there is a water emergency, such as a burst pipe or hose, you can quickly stop the flow.

The next important question is:  Is your main shut-off valve this type?

IMG_20190519_150242482a RSR

If so, I recommend replacing it, and here’s why.  It will break.

IMG_20190519_150302266a RSR

Recently, I turned the water off at the shut-off, so I could replace a toilet valve.  With the toilet valve easily replaced, I re-opened the shut-off valve.  Unexpectedly, the shut-off valve handle came off in my hand, and water started pouring into the space under my house. 

IMG_20190519_150258359a RSR

Miraculously, I got the handle back on and the valve closed.  Murphy’s Law dictated that this would happen on a Sunday afternoon.  No plumbers were available.  I went all night without running water, worrying that the shut-off would fail.  Thankfully it didn’t.  The plumber got here first thing in the morning and replaced the valve.  He replaced it with a quarter-turn ball valve.

IMG_20190623_103644727 RSR

This is the type of shut-off I had always wanted, but didn’t realize I should have gone ahead and gotten the replacement.  The total cost was $150.  The plumber rolled his eyes at the round handle type and said “they all fail”.

With the quarter-turn ball valve, my peace of mind is restored.  If I want to replace a faucet, or go on vacation, a simple turn of the shut-off valve is all it takes to turn the water off to the entire house.


Not all water can be so easily turned off.  I’m speaking of all of the rain we are getting here in the Arkansas River region.  Our banks, reservoirs and ditches are full, and we are sending the excess on to Oklahoma and Arkansas.  Sorry ’bout that, neighbors to the south.

Bridges are still doing okay in my area, but some streets and paths, not so much.  Parts of our river bike/walk path has been submerged.  When the water recedes, in some spots the path has washed away with it.

IMG_20190524_191555069b RSRIMG_20190524_193019097a RSR

‘Some’ are enjoying it.  Others like me are spending a lot of extra effort on cleanup.  Sigh.