A small success

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I imagine that landscape overhauls are becoming more popular for people that can afford them, but most people inherit their landscaping from the previous owners of their homes.  Older homes have years and years of decaying walkways and hidden bush and tree stumps that never get dug up or ground down when they are deemed expendable.  This is what our yards are like.

I started with dreams of hauling off debris and carving out perfect pathways with brand new pavers and fencing.  Then I sobered up.  Inherited yards are not blank canvases, and mine came with loads of history that would be too expensive to ignore.  For example, the fence surrounding the wide gate into the back yard was dry-stacked logs from trees felled by the previous owner.  It was cool and we kind of liked it, until it fell down.  Now it is a pile of work that laughs at us whenever we try to clean it up a little.  As much as I wish all the logs would just disappear, they are raw material, and free raw material at that.

Another obstacle is that old landscaping starts to fall in on itself, grass reaches across walkways, pavers settle inches higher or lower than their fellows, flowers compete with weeds in their beds.  The logs ended up being the perfect solution to put some designated areas back in my backyard.

Madagascar Periwinkle or Vinca Rosea grows like a weed in my yard and reminds me of my grandmother.  I noticed that the vinca in one corner of the yard weren’t suffering the sudden death of their fellows in the front or anywhere else.  Now, anytime I find a straggling vinca I move it here.  I planted my Mexican Petunia in the back and it is liking the location, too.  Incidentally, Mexican petunia is also a pest plant.  All non hybrid forms spread rampantly through prolific seed pods.  So you might say, I gave a corner of my yard to the weeds.

In Love with My House

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Yes, we have purchased a house and moved.  It has sucked up every ounce of free time and money in a crazy tornado of excitement.  We are still managing a list of to-dos that is a little longer than we’d like (which is why you won’t see any other photos yet), but I think we’re winning.

One of the first things I did with any speck of free computing time was to search the history of my house and the surrounding neighborhood.  It’s both wonderful and a little creepy how many things you can find accessible as public information.  I have a good idea who originally owned my house.  It was built in 1949 and our county’s online records don’t go back that far, so I’ll need to do some real world research to complete the story.  I know who bought it next, and how long they lived there, and who after that.  I know the names of all my neighbors, the years that their houses were built, the crime patterns in and around our neighborhood, and how much every house last sold for.

Our house was built just before the zenith of mid-century design trends, but it has plenty of characteristics of mid-century houses, especially since it was expanded upon in the 60s.  Post WWII decorating is usually identified as being spare, thankful and very patriotic.  Red, white, and blue were often seen as color schemes.  There was a big trend towards outdoor living and incorporating those themes inside as well.  Our house has managed to hold on to bits of these ideas:  The pink and blue of the bathroom tiles with white commode, tub and sink have that late 40s patriotism.  It is ranch style, situated facing south and set wide on the lot so that windows and views of outside (especially the back yard) surround you when you are indoors.

The picture here is through a back window over the raised garden beds just off the porch.  You can tell we’re in Florida–even the weeds look pretty (for now) as our neighborhood embden geese look for a snack.

Yet, my house is not mid-century modern.  It has no transom windows, pine, or terrazzo floors.  It is, as The Mid-Century Modest Manifesto at Retro Renovation says, like the hundreds of other mid-century houses built for the average American family.  I like the mid-century modest idea, and I would like to retain the existing original components of my home and return as much of the updated areas to something more like what they were.  Retro Renovation is an excellent resource site.  Once I’ve got our bathroom more up to snuff I will show it off on Save the Pink Bathrooms.  I’ve also found Atomic Ranch magazine and Mid Century Home Style excellent help.

More evolutionary diversion

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Why is it pictures and stories about weird animals and animal behaviors is so fascinating to humans?  I’m no exception, of course, and I will from time to time stare wide eyed at the weedy sea dragons webcam as they drift slowly about in the water.  Sea dragons are curious things to look at and have evolved a fantastic camouflage that seems to impede their ability to do much more than float with the seaweed.

Binturong in Overloon photo taken by Tassilo Rau

Binturong in Overloon photo taken by Tassilo Rau

Our star today is the Bearcat or binturong.  The Binturong not only has several visual characteristics of a cat, but also has similarly placed scent glands and comfort behaviors:  grooming and sleeping curled up.  It’s tail is prehensile, like many tree monkeys and is used to steady their slow but sure climbing in the trees.  The Bearcat is not related to bears or cats or monkeys, nor is it related to the oninguito or the red panda which are also sometimes called bearcats or cat-bears.  Instead, it shares a family with civets and genets.

Oh, and, it smells like popcorn.

The Sin Eater

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Our little bit of history today comes from the depths of my Evernote where I had saved an article by Meg Favreau on Table Matters about the custom of funeral cakes, and sin eaters.  This reminded me of i09’s article “The Weird but True History of Sin Eaters”  and then the BBC article about how the grave of Richard Munslow, the last known sin eater in the UK, had been recently (2010) restored.

It’s a kind of hapless research I have in my Evernote; collections of articles and links on a subject growing larger over years, never collated.  Sin eaters would become outcasts, tainted in the public eye by the sins they had taken from the recently deceased.  The custom usually includes eating and drinking bread and wine that had been passed over the dead.  The sin eater was paid for their trouble, that of carrying the sins for the rest of their days, but also shunned.

The custom is sometimes tied to Leviticus, and thought to be a mutated practice of scapegoating, where humans and not goats are given the transgressions and cast out.

This custom alludes (methinkes) something to the Scape-goate in ye old Lawe.  Leviticus, cap. xvi, verse 21, 22.  “And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goate and confesse over him all ye iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fitt man into the wilderness.  And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities, unto the land no inhabited: and he shall let the goat goe unto the wilderness.”

-Hartland, E.S. (1892) “The Sin-Eater.”  Folklore.  3(2); 145-157.

But the practices of making one person a sacrifice for a whole community is very common.  Wikipedia’s scapegoat discusses the Greek custom of casting out a crippled member of the community, especially when facing an immanent threat.  Cultures all over the world have had traditions of sacrifice deep in their past, and though most of the world now shuns ritual killings, the tradition of sacrifice continues on in narrative, worship, and even politics.

Names for things and rituals may change a little, but I’m not really sure there ever will be a last sin-eater.

Finally drawing again

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pegasusI am drawing again.  I had said I was, didn’t I?  Well, I am.

I think I like requests the best–I always end up with something I wouldn’t draw normally.  Richard of doomedmoviethon.com and Gyrojets wanted something for Friday’s concert so I drew him this.

If you are out and about on Friday night anywhere near Pegasus lounge in Tampa, you should stop by and see Gyrojets.  They are the bombs.

Mapping a name

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You ever spend a really long time just to get a visual, or organize a huge amount of information for your own personal digestion?  And then you do nothing with it.  Well, welcome to mine.

In the course of doing some genealogical research I started to wonder where my name-sake got her name, and then to also wonder about the popularity and the spread of the name LeEtta.  And so I poured through the census and made a map of LeEtta movement from the 1860 census to the 1940 census in 40 year increments.  It looks like we’re taking over the world, but really there are only 249 of 132 million people in 1940.  That’s like one in half a million.  :)

1860LeEttaMap

Given name LeEtta/Leetta in the 1860 Census.

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