Tuesday, June 28, 2016

See-Sawing a Garden Project

One minute I’m up, the next minute I’m down. Maybe I’m breathing in too many spray paint fumes.

I’m working on a big project and other projects are suffering. But I know me. If I don’t finish this, it’ll fall by the wayside and I’ll never get back to it. I feel I could work 24 hours a day and I’d still feel behind and chaotic.

The current huge endeavor is gardening. The house already had two flower gardens on either side of the front door. They were 7 feet deep rectangles with one side longer than the other due to the house layout; plain, square-edged rectangles to a plain, square-edged house – boring and unappealing. 

It’s a bit exciting waiting to see what comes up, but in the meantime, I went to the local Agway a couple of times and spent way too much on annuals and perennials. Even before I had them all planted, I began making my own garden manual. If I want to look up a plant in my yard, I don’t want to thumb through hundreds I don’t have. My goal is to list every plant, have a write up about it (gathering info from websites on plants and plant care). A timely job for sure, as I’m also taking photos and adding pictures to better know the plants.

A couple hours a day I’m outside playing. The guy who built my garage helped me fix up a new flower bed in the middle of the lawn incorporating the crabapple tree that was already there. He did the cutting in and taking the grass off the top, then we mulched. I had already planted a couple of flowers in that area and we added a couple more. (My body just won’t handle that much physical labor any more.)

I’ve finished researching the plants I bought or brought from Bradford; although I eventually want to get photos of leaves and seed pods. There are a couple that if I don’t deadhead every day, I can’t tell if it’s a new blossom coming or a seed pod. Now I’m to the point of trying to identify what’s coming up in the older gardens. Some I recognize and some I don’t. Some I remember from last summer when I moved here: black-eyed Susan, goldenrod, yarrow, and, of course, I know roses, azaleas, and rhododendrons.

I’m learning that some plants like to be mulched up close while others like a couple of inches between the mulch and base of the trunk. There are different kinds of fertilizers for some while most do well with just Miracle Grow. I’ve even learned that coffee grounds are great to use around some. (‘Course I still have to look up which is which for now, but eventually I’ll remember and know.) 

Some plants want dry soil, some moist, and others need daily watering. I’m still struggling with if it says to plant in full sun, why do the plants wilt in the afternoon? There are plants that in these dry conditions need to be watered morning and evening (mostly those in pots and flower boxes). 

But I’m getting better and this property no longer looks like a cookie-cutter, boring-colored place. Oh, and the spray paint? I’m adding color to all the lawn ornaments, feeders, poles, and flower boxes. I intend for my yard to be bright, colorful, and happy.

Monday, June 20, 2016

A Legacy Ends

Entering the cool, dark tunnel of Ruggles Mine on Islinglass Mountain in Grafton doesn’t even give a hint of what’s to come. Glimmer catches my eye even in the near dark. I take my time getting down the steep incline carefully maneuvering camera, pail (pitifully small compared to the size buckets some people brought), and walking stick. The tunnel winds downward, turns, and I get a first glimpse of how deep this mine is. 

A few more steps and I emerge from the tunnel into the bright light. I look up from watching my footing. The size of the open pit is stunning! This isn’t a little hole in the ground. Flashes of light are everywhere as the sun reflects on the many shiny mica, quartz and feldspar surfaces. Openings in the walls at various levels are caves, caverns, and more tunnels of past excavations. Some are narrow and round while others are tall and wide. Many are inaccessible while there are those that allow an explorer to delve into the dark depths. 

I continue on the descent. Do I look at the walls or the ground at my feet? It doesn’t matter as there is sparkle everywhere and the ground at my feet is just as intriguing as the walls which go up and up and up. 

The incline becomes steeper and I choose to use the stairs to the side still being cautious of footing. The stairs have a short rise which is easier on bad knees and short legs. A tumble wouldn’t only be embarrassing it would hurt – a lot – as my mind pictures my body toppling down the hill. I pause halfway down and look to the wall above one of the caverns where ravens nest. Did they nest here this year with no one to look out for them? The huge stick-build structure is empty. I find one small, black feather – perhaps they did.

Already I notice other differences. Though I’d only been here a couple times in the past, there are signs that things are not the same. The neglect shows. The winters take their toll here and the trail is rougher and not as clean. (Debris was always cleaned up in the past and the trail smoothed out as best as possible.) Falling rocks have not been cleared away. It would be easy to step wrong and twist an ankle. I pause for another breather and to take in the sight. It’s still a long way down. 

I debate about writing an impersonal, just the facts, piece or being more personal, but with over 200 years of history, I don’t need to repeat what has been said. Oh, it definitely is fascinating and I could go on and on. 

The mine, bought by the current family and opened in 1963 as a tourist attraction, closed in the fall of 2015, and is now up for sale. Perhaps it is my own sadness at changes. I did an interview with a couple of the owners in the spring of 2014 for the InterTown Record newspaper. They both had wonderful and different stories; she with growing up at the mine and he with a more geological take on the mine. She and I had wonderful conversations as she talked about what it was like as a child growing up in a mine. He gave a personal tour with not only a history lesson, but a fascinating geology lesson as well – priceless. They worked so hard to make this an enjoyable experience for the public. I could have happily spent days with them!

Another difference today is the free-for-all feel. Yes, it is free as this open house, held by the realtors, is a last opportunity for people to explore the mine under the present ownership. (It is hoped a buyer will step forward and there is some interest; whether it would remain open to the public – who knows.) This day there is no one watching and visitors take the advantage to explore areas not previously open to the public. Plus, they can haul out whatever rocks they can carry.

The chink of hammer on rock and children’s excited voices echo off steep walls and through tunnels and caverns. The sun beats down in the open pit and some people are flocking to the dark caves to get cool and explore. (The smart ones brought flashlights.) I don’t take any detours this day. I have all I can do to make it down through the south tunnel and then get back up.

Again, I look up and up at the walls and see the tops of trees over the top. That the excavating (by hand) actually began in the 1800s way up there is intriguing. Mica and feldspar were the two main minerals mined here, but there have been over 150 others found. 

Sweat runs down my back and the pail grows heavy. What I wouldn’t give to haul out some bigger pieces to put in my gardens as mementos. I’ve always loved rocks. They don’t have to be expensive, just pretty to me. I don’t even have to stray off the main path as what is at my feet is fascinating. 

Another rest over, I trudge onward and farther down entering the south tunnel. This area is a frozen glacier in the winter and flooded in the spring. Even now there are wet, muddy places where the water trickles down from the first cavern and other places. Some people pan in the stream finding pieces of beryl, quartz, pyrite, or garnet. People are exploring the caves off the tunnel.

I finally emerge into sunlight again, pick up a few rocks, and pass under another rock cropping onto the flat area at the end. Time to turn around and head back up. 

The climb up and out is much slower. I stop often and chat and joke with others. I tease one young girl in a walking cast that she should have a walking stick like mine. Everyone is friendly and eager to tell of their finds. Some have been here many times and others are first-timers taking the opportunity of the free day.

I get back to the entrance red-faced, extremely hot and thirsty. The line of people waiting to go into the mine extends well into the parking lot. I chat with a friend, grab a free cheeseburger, and head back down the mountain. I am shocked at the number of people still arriving. An hour and a half into the open house, the parked vehicles and people on the road extend over a mile, halfway down the mountain and from there a line of cars is still coming in. Many were turned away. 

I hope a buyer is found and they continue the legacy of allowing the public the opportunity to do their own prospecting.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Time Frame to Kansas City, Mo.

June 6: Google Maps says 20 hours, 38 minutes to Kansas City, Mo., taking I-90W and I-70 W for 1,406 miles. June 7: 21 hours, 43 minutes. For me, the joy of driving is to take my time and enjoy the sights along the way, so I want to give myself plenty of time. 

I was originally going to give myself five days to get there which would mean leaving on a Sunday and allow time to do a little sightseeing along the way. This would also let me get the week’s work done before getting on the road. I’m only good for driving 5-6 hours a day and now, in looking at all the construction icons on the map along I-90 and I-70, I am not sure I can make it within that timeframe.

The 5-6 hours on-the-road hours usually includes stopping for one meal and perhaps doing a little sightseeing; an excuse to get out of the car and stretch. I need to be looking for a hotel by 2-3 p.m. as that’s when my energy runs out. I find myself dozing at the wheel and that’s scary. 

I developed that routine back in 2013 when I went on my first trip. I’m usually up 4:30-5 a.m. and spend a couple hours on the computer and then out of the hotel by 8 a.m. It’s good to be settled in the next hotel by 4 p.m. which allows time for dinner and work on the computer before bed.

Another aspect of traveling has to do with the return trip. I like to take an alternative route on the way home as much as possible. Of course, that’s not always convenient when needing to keep to major highways and interstates, but some newness is essential. This often means that I can’t say, “Oh, I’ll stop there on the way home,” because, even if I do the same route, my mind is not in the same place. 

So now I am thinking five days to KC aren’t enough. I don’t want to be late as I’m meeting up with others. I didn’t want to be gone more than two weeks, but when taking a driving trip, I have to take sightseeing opportunities. If I put more days in the beginning, does that mean I should short-shrift myself on the return? Does that mean I won’t be able to make stops?

Monday, June 6, 2016

Upcoming 2016 Big Adventure

My oldest grandson is getting married in September. He lives in Wichita, Kansas; the wedding will be in Kansas City, Mo. I said I’d go – and I’m driving out. The difference in this trip and the last couple I took is that there is a specific time limit in which to arrive. 

I was excited when I first heard and pored over the maps. Soren’s dad and grandfather are flying to KC where I will meet up with them for the last leg of the journey to Wichita. This will save them a car rental and give me company on the road for a bit.

As the weeks went by, my enthusiasm waned. The old fears over traveling popped up. This time there’s the added pressure of a holiday weekend. I prefer traveling when crowds are less. I don’t like booking hotels ahead because I like to be spontaneous. Who knows what I’ll see along the way? Maybe I’ll want to stay in a particular area for more than an overnight.

Eric made his arrangements and this morning he informed me of hotel bookings. I went online and found there are no vacancies at either of the places he is staying. I prefer Comfort Inns anyway and although I don’t like booking in advance, I figured I’d better do so. I don’t want to take the chance of not finding a place nearby the others if I put it off. I now have three nights taken care of. 

Google Maps says it is 20 hours, 38 minutes from here to the hotel in Kansas City. The major routes would be I-90 and I-70. I’m generally OK at five to six hours driving in one day which means I would need five days at a minimum to get there. That would not leave me a lot freedom to do much sightseeing on the way out, but there is a little leeway.

Right off the bat there is Niagara Falls within an 8-hour drive. The question is whether I want to stop there. I’ve never seen the falls, but would I want to do so at the end of August when there would be all the last-hurrah crowds before schools start for the year. Should I take the time? Would I regret it, if I didn’t?

Today I am thinking no. 

The earlier planning had me listing rivers and lakes I’d be crossing or by-passing. I got as far as the Missouri border. I’ll want to finish that. I also researched various routes; some to bypass the big cities and I may elect to come back a different way. I’ll also make notes of points of interest although, for the most part, I’ll make choices in the moment and within the time frame.

Back to planning.