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Today is a good day. I settled on a rate for a new gig last night and gave my notice at my current gig today.

And I made an Amaryllis time-lapse (I think you will have to click on this and have it open in a new window in order to watch) --
Amarylis Time-Lapse
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The Flowering Quince in the hedge is always the first sign of spring! The flowers bloom in February every year.

Every February, the Flowering Quince in the hedges are always my first sign of spring!
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The house and yard seem to be gearing up for Halloween a bit early! Found some Dead Man's Fingers on an old stump under the yew trees out back --

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Very nice dinner with friends last night...all vegan, and surprisingly good! (Whoever heard of black-eyed peas in a dessert???)....also convinced me to buy a jar of Veganese when I was at the store today!

Today is the 4th...the US Independence Day. Not sure what I am feeling about that this year...I'm off work today and also taking the rest of the week off...still deciding what my activities will be!

Enjoying the garden now that the 'monsoon' rains have stopped. I'm afraid the weird weather interfered with butterflies and hummingbirds and hummingbird moths -- I have seen precious few of them this year. The bees are out en masse, which is good though.
Coneflowers using the Darkr app.
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The forecast lately always seems to be "cloudy with chance of storms" -- it's amazing how much rain we have been getting! It's as if my house magically moved to the tropics! Since Jan 1, the 'official' measure is that we have gotten 34+ inches of rain, 15 inches above normal! The airport here set a record yesterday of 7 inches of rain in one day, causing it to close for a few hours.

I went out to dinner with a friend the other night during one of the deluges, and the restaurant we had chosen was closing for the night because an electrical transformer had blown, and the whole area was without power. So we ended up having a nice dinner downtown. I'm really glad I bought a rain jacket this past year!

Sadly, Charlotte VI didn't make it through all this rain. This is the last picture I got of her a week or so ago --
Orchard Orbweaver / Leucauge venusta

I took the opportunity of a dry day last weekend to get back down to the river -- I miss it when I don't get down there.

Urban Ruins and Grafiti

Mirror Mirror

I noticed some Pawpaw fruits forming, but not as many as I had expected. Like my garden flowers, I think the plants are all waterlogged!

The other night, I went out for ice cream with my Brazilian friends, and I think they noticed my Portuguese was suffering because one of them asked if I were still doing my lessons, lol!

So just night before last, I went back online and started the lessons again and was very pleased at how fast I was able to go though some of them. My comprehension is improving (which is contradictory to what I just said about my skills suffering....maybe I was just having an off night?)

I think it was a good idea to take a break from the lessons though -- gives a chance for things you have learned to 'set' into place. Instead of lessons, I've been listening to music, reading news articles in Portuguese, and listening to Instagram 'stories' from a guy in São Paulo. I was more pleased than I expected to see this message on the lesson site:

This weekend, I'll be having lunch with the family...and then it'll be getting close to the July 4th holiday -- I'd like to plan a day trip out of town, but haven't done any planning yet.

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A day of mowing the lawn, watering new plants, etc...but I started off by taking some bee pictures in the front yard. #Priorities

I titled this one 'Bee-rise' because it looked like a sun or moonrise, except it was a bee coming up over the cone :)

I always like to get bees in flight. This one was shortly after taking off...not a perfect photo, but nice enough.

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Visited Deege at their beach house yesterday. Here are a couple of animated gifs of a carnival in the town --

And here are some beach scenes --
Colonial Beach on the Potomac

Colonial Beach on the Potomac

Colonial Beach on the Potomac


The only hollyhock I've been able to get to live in our humid climate is blooming this year. They are biennial, so any one plant would only bloom every other year. And since I can't seem to get any other started, this is my every other year treat!

Charlotte VI

Introducing Charlotte VI....the latest Orchard Orbweaver that I have found in the yard!
Charlotte VI

Lunch with Nh today to hear about his new apartment...and w(h)ine with J made for an enjoyable weekend!

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Getting a few butterflies in the yard lately. Here's what I think is a Black Swallowtail, feeding on blooms from my hedges (Ligustrum japonicum) --
Madame Butterfly...female Black Swallowtail?

I always delay trimming the hedges until after they bloom, knowing that the bees and butterflies feed on the blooms early in the season.

Madame Butterfly...female Black Swallowtail?

And a Cabbage White on the foliage of an Aster --
Cabbage White butterfly (?)

Also have a few roses blooming --
“Jude the Obscure” rose

I don't take care of the roses like I used to, so these are the hardier ones! This is 'Jude the Obscure'.
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Summer flowers are starting to bloom. Lavender in the yard --


Last year, I gathered a few blooms and dried them to hang over a doorway. I might collect some this year also.
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It took long enough, but it seems Spring is finally here to stay.

Lilacs -- from a small "volunteer" plant (meaning one that came up by itself) that I dug up at my mom's house almost 20 years ago!

One of my Clematis died in this last extended winter, but the other 3 are still around. One started blooming this week. I have ordered a new one because I really liked the one that died that had encircled a trellis in the front yard.

The Bridal Wreath Spirea was here when I bought the house, and has been a reliable, if short-lived, bloomer every year!

The native azalea I planted years ago has finally come into its own. It has a pleasant smell and puts on quite the yellow show --

A native honeysuckle bush -- my parents gave me this -- like the lilac it was also from a "volunteer" from one of their existing bushes. I didn't have room for it in the yard, but I found a sunny spot on a fence.

Going hiking w/ a friend tomorrow -- taking our cameras out, so hopefully I'll have some pics to post. I'm doing a 'staycation' this week, not working, and planning a couple of short day trips, lunches, hanging out with friends, etc.

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Funny...the tulips I planted last Fall were supposed to be 2 different colors -- a pinker color and a darker color.

Although, I think these are are very pretty, I think there's not a dark one in the bunch!

Here's one from a couple weeks ago during our last snowfall --
Snow and Tulips

I gave some of these as gifts to my sisters, and I'm hoping that I didn't mix things up and give them all the dark ones, lol! Theirs have not bloomed yet, so I'm waiting to find out!
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I found it amusing going into Target and buying fingernail polish, lol! Me, a fairly butch looking, shaved-head, older guy, got a few "looks" from passersby as I squatted and considered each shade of pink. During the recent bad windstorm, I had forgotten to bring inside a metal table on the front porch...and the table got picked up and banged around by the wind. So, I figured I'd use fingernail polish as touch up paint to cover the bare metal scratches.

I have also lately been doing my damndest to make Spring finally arrive, but Winter is lingering (snow today)... I have sown a few seeds in planters out back, and I'm am waiting on the indoor seedlings to get larger before transplant.

This is the first time I'm trying these black, cloth pots. They have handles, so I can move them, and are designed to last a few years. For Winter, I can fold them up if I want, implying I'll dump the dirt somewheres (I haven't actually decided what I will do with them next Fall) --

And yes, that is cardboard (and landscape fabric) on the ground -- figured I would get 1 use out of cardboard as a weed barrier, then I'll recycle it at end of season.
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I read once that the difference between a flower bed and a landscape is a Flowering Quince :)

For years after I moved into my house, I wondered what this plant was that always bloomed in the hedgerow every February. Using Google image search, I found out that it was a Flowering Quince -- something I knew nothing about.

It is such a harbinger of Spring that I have gotten quite fond of it, and last year( or year before?), I planted 2 additional ones in different colors. They can be huge plants (and thorny), so I just decided pruning the plants would be an annual hedge trimming task for me.

I noticed today that the original one is blooming now, right on schedule! And I think one of the ones I planted will bloom this year as well.
Flowering Quince
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I decided to plant a terrarium.

I bought this particular one off Amazon because I liked how it looked a lot. The layers in it are:
  1. Pebbles -- I had some colored stones from a previous project.
  2. Activated Charcoal -- I checked a home improvement store and a local aquarium store, but nada. I read somewhere that I could have tried a drugstore. In any event, I ordered this online also.
  3. Dirt -- I used cactus dirt because of the succulents, and figured the big plant would be okay in the dirt it came in.
  4. Moss -- TOTALLY FORGOT this...I had planned to get some from outside. Maybe when I work with it next!
  5. Plants
One thing I knew I was doing wrong was that I mixed succulents, which need very little water with a more tropical plant, which needs more water. I did this...and we'll see how it works out.

One thing I didn't expect was that the plants look crowded. They looked fine, until I put the top on...but I think I should have used fewer plants. Or maybe that one gigantic plant in the back is too big. Again, we will see! It's my first try at this!

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It's been cold lately....which makes me hibernate! I've still been keeping myself occupied inside.


I have 3 Amaryllis bulbs inside in pots. I posted the time lapse of the white one blooming here. And the pink one has bloomed now --
Amaryllis 'Sweet Star'

The red one is in progress of blooming. It's nice to have growing things inside when it is so cold outside!

Frozen Bubbles

Speaking of cold...it has been so fricken' cold here! I'm not used to -3F (-19C)! While it was cold, I attempted some frozen bubble pics ---
Frozen Bubbles

Frozen Bubbles

Low Carb Diet

To get rid of some unwanted pounds from the holidays, I have been on a low(er) carb diet, which is the first time I have ever done this. It's been interesting! The diets tend to call for 25-50g of carbs a day, which was a non-starter for me. I love my oatmeal in the morning too much! I settled on 50 - 55 or maybe sometimes 60.

Here are my experiences so far --
  1. My jawline is sharpening, so I’m already losing weight. Probably water since you lose water on low carb.
  2. I have had some of the ‘keto flu’ or ‘low carb flu’ — feeling low energy even when I’m eating plenty of calories! Pecans help that a little. It reminds me of when I fasted for 3 days once — by day 3 I had no hunger at all, but day 2 was a drag. The lethargy went away today (Day 4).
  3. The top blood pressure number seems to be better today, although the stubborn bottom one is not improved. But if it helps the blood pressure, that will be great!
  4. My wine taste has shifted a bit, away from red to bubbly white or rosé. Not sure why, but sparkling Prosecco tastes better now.
  5. At first, I was very, very thirsty — constantly drinking water, and then constantly peeing it out! That passed after a couple of days.
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Yesterday was the family's Christmas dinner and gift exchange.

I had noticed that one of my amaryllises might bloom yesterday, so before I left the house, I set up an old camera taking interval photos with the idea of creating a time-lapse.

It worked out fairly well -- the bloom opened. The weight of the bloom caused the bloom to move to the right throughout the time-lapse. You'll have to click on the photo below to open this in Flickr to actually see the time-lapse:
Amaryllis Bloom Time-Lapse

The process I used --
1) Camera settings: I set the white balance on the camera to one particular setting (not auto), so that it did not change on every photo. Since I knew the lighting would be changing significantly throughout the day, I decided to allow the camera to auto focus, and auto expose.

2) Triggering the shots: I used an external intervalometer to control the shots -- setting the device to trigger the camera to shoot every 5 minutes. I chose 5 minutes because I figured the amaryllis would be fairly slow to open, meaning slow movements which would NOT require frequent shots.

3) Editing the photos: I used an old copy of Lightroom to edit 1 photo to brighten up the photo, increase the contrast a bit, etc. Then I copied the settings from that one photo to all the other photos. Then I exported all the photo as JPGs to a separate folder.

4) Constructing the time-lapse: I could have used Photoshop to create the time-lapse, but since I no longer use Photoshop (boy do I hate monthly subscriptions!), I used Time Lase Assembler. The app has a simple user interface that does what you would expect -- takes all the JPGs in 1 folder and assembles them into a movie.
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Hard freeze coming tonight, so this was the day I had to get my Grandmother's lemon tree inside...I had repotted it to a larger pot, and didn't pay attention to the lack of a 'lip' around the pot -- I used to lift up on the 'lip' that surrounded the clay pot. This pot is completely smooth...so this year, I bought a hand truck.

I tie up the tree before I move it to make it as narrow as possible. The pot barely fit onto the truck lift! And I used bungee cords to hold the tree and pot onto the truck.

Still hard to move, even with the hand truck! And VERY messy because to get the tree inside, I had to tilt it enough that it pour dirt onto the floor. I also had to chop it again because otherwise I was going to have to tilt it throughout the house (and spill dirt) to get through the doorways.

Lemon trees have thorns. Here is one that broke off during the transport --

And the tree got one good thorn swipe to my face! (I wear hat and glasses during the move, but I had taken them off when I was unwrapping the rope inside) --

Tree is now in its Winter home --

I had been wondering how long the tree spends outside each year, so I searched this journal and my calendar, etc. for whatever dates I could find. Based on what I could find, it seems the tree spends about 7.5 months outside on average each year.
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A couple weeks ago, my grandmother's lemon tree turned over in a strong gust of wind. The pot broke, and I noticed how root bound it had become! I believe it has been in this same clay pot since the year 2003, when a hurricane knocked it over and broke the clay pot it was in then.

I had trouble handling the tree because it is so big! I had to break the rest of the pot to get it out.

And I needed to cut the root bound roots to make them grow outwards, but I was afraid the whole rootball would break down, so I put it in the new pot before I cut the roots -- but I couldn't do as good a job of breaking up the root bound roots as I would like to have because I could not get my hand and exacto knife down into the crack.

I bought a new bigger plastic pot, which unfortunately has made the tree pretty hard to handle! I think this is the last pot she will be in -- I have rooted several new plants, and will continue to root.

And by the way, I think that it's pretty cool to have a lemon tree that my grandmother grew from a seed, and here it is 18 years after she died, and I still have her tree and I'm rooting new plants!

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It was a really nice dinner with friends the other night this past week...the restaurant had a great vegetarian option -- that's unusual for burger place -- and just really nice conversation.


Wine with a friend tonight, who has bought a full frame sensor camera -- and wow, it worked really nicely with my fisheye lens! It really is tempting me to trade up from my crop sensor to a full frame!


I met a guy for coffee today...I knew he was young...but OMG -- so young, lol! I immediately went into 'uncle mode' because he is so young -- he's 21...There's more difference in our ages than he is old! I can totally hang out with him -- and give him some support as he 'grows up' as a gay man. He was pretty painfully shy -- which brought out my Uncle mode even more!


I was taking pictures of a Goldfinch munching on my Coneflowers today...I never realized that birds would 'squat' before they took a dump, lol! But this finch totally did a wing and leg thing and took 2 dumps -- I didn't catch the actual dumping in my photo, but you can see the pose he took, lol!
Goldfinch, ahem, having a private moment after a large breakfast


Speaking of Uncle mode...one of my great nephews sent me a text today...he's 8. So I texted a few things...and sent him some pictures. He seemed to like the picture of Milkweed Bugs on my Swamp Milkweed plant --
Milkweed Bugs (Oncopeltus fasciatus)


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"O seguro morreu de velho, mas o desconfiado ainda está vivo." -- "The safe one died of old age, but the suspicious one is still living."