Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Barack Obama visits the grocery store

A friend forwarded this photograph of Air Force One on the tarmac at Tri-Cities regional airport. Prior to its most recent renovation, our local airport looked more like a bus terminal than an airport and even now it features a whopping 7 departure gates and flies nonstop to a total of 7 cities.
So you can see why this photograph documents a rather momentous occasion. President Obama was here to give a town hall style speech at one of our local grocery stores. It happens to be the one I shop most often, the Bristol Kroger.

In the days preceding the president's visit, the store went through the kind of cleaning and polishing that most of us would perform if the mother-in-law was coming for an out-of-town overnight visit-- more even, as they had more manpower. Peeling, exposed duct work was repainted and workers broke out toothbrushes to clean surfaces on the numbered lights above checkout aisles.

ABC news said the president delivered remarks on the economic recovery, but in reality he spent most of the hour providing an explanation of the health care proposals currently underway in Washington.
I went shopping the evening after the President's visit and found the staff response to the visit intriguing.
The store had been closed from noon until 6 pm for the approximately one hour event. Attendance was by invitation only and grocery store employees comprised the vast majority of guest list.


(not my actual cashier)
My cashier said the president was a really good speaker, but supposed that came with the territory. (Oh, how quickly people forget.) She also commented on how he could make one believe what he was saying. Now I may be misinterpreting, but I heard a tone in the cashier's voice that indicated that she thought this was some kind of sneaky trickery. And silly me, my thoughts were that transparently had been the president's primary purpose in bringing his message to the people in this forum.

(not my actual groceries)
My grocery bagger offered the observation that the president seemed like a real nice guy, but indicated he thought the man might be all talk and no action. All in all, quite interesting interpretations.
*Warning, political opinion espoused below *
In one study I read, the health insurance industry is spending on order of 1.4 million dollars per day to fight health care reform. The industry has contributed 372 million dollars to politicians of both parties in the past nine years. They run an industry constructed to generate profits, not to promote the health of its customers.
While many people doubt the government’s ability to perform tasks effectively, we don't clamor for the privatization of government functions like the military. In fact we have seen what a pitiful job private military corporations have done by looking at the performance of Blackwater.
We would at least find a difference in mission with the provision of a public health insurance option. The government would be charged with the mission of providing health care instead of profits as its primary objective.
The United States spends 16% of its GNP (Gross National Product) on health care, yet leaves an estimated 45.7 million of its citizens uninsured. France and Germany spend 11-12% of their GNP and achieve universal coverage. Polls of public opinion generally find that France has the population most satisfied with their health care options. We are watching a battle that has happened repeatedly.

(Mike Luckovich - Editorial Artist - Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
It is amazing that we ever got that other government run health care program, Medicare, off the ground. It was heavily opposed when it came into being in the mid 1960's.

Hopefully, at some point in the not-too-distant future we will be able to change the date on this Shepard Fairey poster and apply it to the health care situation.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Here are photographs of two postcards that started journeys to Charlottesville and Seattle with today's post. They will go that distance for a mere 28 cents.

Postcards by United States Postal Regulation may not exceed 4 and 1/4 inches by 6 inches. If you make them larger than that, they go for the same postage rate as a letter.

These are experiments in spray paint from the on-line stencilry class I recently took from Mary Ann Moss. The stencil image is larger than the postcard format. When seen in full, it is the image of a barefoot young woman gathering flowers in her skirt or perhaps her apron.

Brighten someones day by sending something personal in the mail today.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Double Wall Potting Technique - A Tutorial

This tutorial shares a technique that I used with good success to propagate bay laurel trees. The example here is an attempt to use the process to multiply lavender. You will need to stay tuned for future updates to see how well it worked.

The process requires two clay pots that differ slightly in size. In this instance I used a 4-inch and a 6-inch pot. It is the size combination that I use most often, but other sizes work well too.

Pots do not need to be new, but they must be clay for this process to work well.

As you can see, a cork has been placed in the pot hole. Sometimes I do this with both the small and the large pot, or sometimes only in the smaller pot. It is crucial that the smaller pot is plugged with a cork.

There are several places to find corks. They can be purchased in the section of home improvement stores that have packaged nuts, bolts, cotter pins and the like. You may need to ask for help to locate them. In a pinch (you know, a plant propagation emergency), I have used a pocket knife to shape a used wine cork to the appropriate size and shape.

A little dirt goes into the larger pot, enough so that when you place the smaller pot inside the larger one, the upper lips of both pots will be about level.

Next, the space between the two pots gets filled with a light potting mix or seed starting mix.

When I do this, some soil invariably ends up inside the smaller pot as well. This will hurt nothing, but if you have tidiness issues, there is a simple solution.

The soil mixture between the pots should be well tamped down. Lift the smaller put out. Dump it and replace that smaller pot.


Here I am using the pruned portions of an old, established lavender to start new plants. This process works to propagate both soft wood and and hard wood cuttings. Those are simply done at different times. Soft wood cuttings are taken during a period of active growth and hard wood cuttings during the period of dormancy, so late fall or early winter.

The lavender is cut into more manageable sections.

These are the final bits of the plant that will be put into the pots to propagate. As this is my first time trying this with lavender, I experiment a bit, using different lengths and trying both tip cuttings and heel cuttings.

Cuttings must contain a leaf node on the remaining stem. This is where new roots will grow.

Cuttings can be dabbed with rooting hormone prior to placement in pots, but I have also had success without it. Here I am using a wooden skewer to make a hole to insert my cuttings.

In the last step, the small inner pot is filled with water. The small pot is kept full of water. In several weeks, when the shoots show new growth they are potted into individual containers.

Almost one month later

This process started at the end of June, after visiting Beagle Ridge for the Lavender Festival. It is the pruned portion of their plant that was propagated here. It was gathered with permission to propagate.

As you can see in this last photograph, only a few of the shoots started. I have had better luck propagating bay laurel and other things. That leads to a discussion of things that can go wrong. On hot summer days, the outdoor cats quickly find this handy source of drinking water and can be seen lapping from the inside pot.

In this instance, my spousal unit plunked some of those dunks that prevent the maturation of mosquito larvae into the pots. The dunks are supposed to be environmentally safe and friendly, but I have to wonder if that did not interfere with the development of roots. One answer to both concerns would bet to put mosquito netting over the top of the smaller pot.

As a result of my efforts, I have gained a few very inexpensive lavender plants and obtained enough photographs to instruct others in this technique. If I try to propagate lavender again next year, I will probably employ rooting hormone which may increase my success.

This process does work well to propagate a variety of plants, so give it a go if you are so inclined.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Spray - Cutting my own stencils

Installment number two of my spray paint odyssey has me cutting my own stencils. The first two cut were of a clapper rail (a type of shore bird) and a curled tail dog. I decided to make instant mail art by doing my initial test spray of the stencil on a large yellow padded envelope.

The stencils were cut out of a heavy plastic using a stencil burner. It leaves the delicate aroma of melting plastic wafting through the air.

Here I have combined a commercial stencil with the one I cut and placed them on a lace embedded spray paint background.

I really like how the circular commercial stencil resembles a stain glass window. To achieve this effect, the stencil was given an overall coat of yellow paint, then three little spritzes of red and then black paint, without ever moving the stencil.

These are supposed to be art journal pages so I need to add some text to this one, but it is otherwise finished.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

His Claim to Fame was Growing Potatoes that Looked Like Butts

This past Saturday was gorgeous here in southwestern Virginia. Temperatures slowly climbed into the low 70's and the big blue sky held a handful of white clouds for the sun to play peek-a-boo.

The morning brought my first visit to the Abingdon Farmer's Market since the new shelter was erected. The Bristol Market is a more frequent destination.

Once at the market, a friend takes me by the arm and discreetly points out one of the vendors. In a low voice she tells me that he is famous for growing potatoes that look like butts. Skeptical as always, I went to investigate.

So it's not exactly like seeing the Virgin Mary on a tortilla or Elvis on a piece of toast, but it is noteworthy. While I can indeed authenticate the potatoes' resemblance to certain portions of the human anatomy, I am unable to verify the extent of this farmer's fame.

They put out the garlic jelly to spread on wheat crackers and it was quite delicious.

They also cut up the heirloom tomatoes for tasting. When this photo was taken, the farmer voiced concern that this was not a very attractive portion of the tomato. I think it is easily the best photograph I took Saturday.

And Squash here wants to know what yer lookin' at. "You've seen all the butts you're gonna see, so move it on along!"


Sunday, July 12, 2009

P.S. - Crocosmia

Just a few additional facts about Crocosmia. As you can see, it comes in a few colors other than the most popular red.

Native to South Africa, it is a tender bulb from the Iris family that is perhaps marginally hardy here in Southwestern Virginia. My plants grow well, but other folks in the area have lost theirs in hard winters.

The name Crocosmia is derived from Greek. Krokos is Greek for saffron and osme means smell. Apparently the dried flowers smell strongly like saffron. Guess that means I'm going to need to pick and dry a few flowers to test this observation for myself.

An addition to the fall garden task list is to lift and divide those bulbs.
The advice is to do so every third year.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Crocosmia - You like tomato and I like tomahto

Latin Pronunciation: kroh-KOZ-mee-uh

As Louis Armstrong said in the chorus of
Let's call the Whole Thing Off

You say either and I say either
You say neither and I say neither
Either, either Neither, neither
Let's call the whole thing off.

You like potato and I like potahto
You like tomato and I like tomahto
Potato, potahto, Tomato, tomahto
Let's call the whole thing off

But oh, if we call the whole thing off Then we must part
And oh, if we ever part, then that might break my heart

So if you like pyjamas and I like pyjahmas,
I'll wear pyjamas and give up
For we know we need each other so we
Better call the whole off off
Let's call the whole thing off.

A couple of weeks back, I attended the play
Showtime at First Baptist
at the Barter Theater along with some coworkers. A non-gardener in group wanted to know the name of the lovely red flowers blooming in front of the theater. Two of us offered the correct name, but with very different pronunciations. We varied on our versions of the vowel sounds and had accents on different syllables.

Both of us admitted this was a word we were familiar with in print, but had never heard. Either of us could be correct.

As we discussed this conundrum outside the theater entrance, a stranger offered yet another pronunciation. As my mind tried to absorb this, I wondered why this woman was certain enough of her pronunciation to advise two strangers. Never particularly shy, I asked. Turns out she is a retired national flower show judge.

Well, all righty then!
Turns out neither of us was correct.

The Chinese master Confucius believed all wisdom came from learning to call things by the right name. So perhaps I am one tiny step closer to wisdom.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Spray Paint - Like an airbrush, only sloppier!

From Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary
Inflected Form(s):
slop·pi·er; slop·pi·est
1 a: wet so as to spatter easily : slushy sloppy racetrack> b: wet or smeared with or as if with something slopped over

Yeah, that's the ticket, sloppier!

Spatter, splatter, splash, speckle, slop, spot, scatter, strew, sparge, squish
A touch of Dr Seuss and a bit of onomatopoeia, that's what you get when you combine reading poemcrazy


an on-line class in using spray paint and stencils.


Dorothy, definitely somewhere other than Kansas, may be a bit of a stretch for my artistic skills but the journey is begun. Below I am going to post my portfolio cover pages created after the lessons of week one.

In this on-line class there are 4 lessons total, with a new lesson posted every Friday. Each lesson consists of several video demonstrations and some PDF downloads. It is offered By Mary Ann Moss and is called Pure Experimentation : Stencilry.

Week One showed us how to use spray paint and spray ink with non-traditional stencils. Mary Ann demonstrated using paper doilies, plastic placemats, lace, sequin waste and chipboard shapes.

It being summer and living where the land produces leaves in abundance, I chose to use a few leaves as non-traditional stencil material. These sheets will be duct taped together to form the front and back pages of a portfolio to house the visual journal pages we will be making in future classes.

So are you wondering yet, a class using spray paint as an art material, you paid good money for this? No, I do not aspire to become a graffiti artist, at least I don't think so. It is just that I like to flirt with chaos, dabble with an art medium where random chance shares footing with artistic intent.

Let's see where the next few weeks of lessons take me.