Zamboni

Refreshing The Ice, Rockville Town Center

Refreshing The Ice, Rockville Town Center

I met the guys in Rockville Town Square this evening, getting there a little early so I’d have time to take some pictures before they got there. The ice skating rink had been set up and though we’re well into November, there have only been a handful of days that were actually seasonably cold. They can still make ice, of course, and I planned to watched a few people skate for a little while. Just as I got ready to take a picture of two, they cleared the ice to run the Zamboni, so I got a picture of that, instead. I don’t know if this is actually a Zamboni. Apparently there are two other companies that make ice refreshing equipment, but that’s the name that everyone recognizes. Like Kleenex, Band-Aid, and Jacuzzi, Zamboni is a registered trademark but it has become so associated with the product category, it is used in the vernacular for the product.

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Schlumbergera truncata (Thanksgiving cactus)

Schlumbergera truncata (Thanksgiving cactus)

Schlumbergera truncata (Thanksgiving cactus)

Our Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) is blooming right on schedule this year. It’s such a cheerful color to brighten up the kitchen and I’m happy for it. It’s a fairly unassuming plant most of the year but as with many cacti, its flowers are remarkable. We have a half dozen of them and some are doing better than others but they are relatively easy plants, not asking for a lot of attention, which is good, because they really don’t get much from us. And yet, this is what they give us.

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Mowing Up The Leaves

Cathy Mowing The Leaves

Cathy Mowing The Leaves

At our old house we had 6 oak trees all more than two feet in diameter and four more than three feet. We had a ridiculous amount of leaves to get up. To make matters worse, as anyone with oaks knows, they are among the later trees to drop their leaves. Usually the leaves would not all be down before Christmas and we often had to rake into January. A few years we rented a leaf vacuum and that actually was pretty useful but it would go once across the yard and I’d have to empty it. Still, it took less time than raking, which is what we did most years.

At this house we have two large oaks in the front (there was a third but it’s gone now and never had a lot of leaves while we lived here). In the back are two smaller maples, which I think I’ve mentioned before. The easiest way to get rid of the leaves is to run over them with the lawn mower. That would never have worked at the old house (too many of them) but here, as long as we don’t let it get too bad, it works quite well. This is Cathy, mulching up the leaves, and pretending to run me down. This, believe it or not, is Cathy trying to look fierce.

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Euonymus japonicus (Japanese Spindle)

Euonymus japonicus (Japanese Spindle)

Euonymus japonicus (Japanese Spindle)

The hedge. Along the north side of our property is a hedge of Euonymus japonicus (Japanese spindle, although I never really call it anything other than Euonymus). It’s pretty healthy and flourishes even in rough years. The deer seem to like it and when it’s in bloom, the entire hedge buzzes with hundreds of bees. The flowers are not at all showy, but they are quite sweet smelling and last for a few weeks. The fruit, shown here, is quite interesting, I think, and adds a small amount of color at a time of year when it’s very welcome.

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Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura)

Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura)

Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura)

I was outside for a little while today and took a few pictures. Most of them were of trees reflected in the windows on the outside of my office building. They are not as colorful as in some years but with the blue sky behind them and the slight distortions of the not-quite-flat glass, they made for interesting pictures. Then I noticed a vulture land in this tree. I took two pictures of the tree in reflection and then turned around to get a couple directly. There are three birds in the tree and just after I snapped one picture, a fourth turkey vulture flew through the frame and I grabbed one more shot. Actually, I’m not sure they are all turkey vultures. At least one may be a black vulture (Coragyps atratus).

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Bathroom Progress, Day 7

Bathroom Progress, Day 7

Bathroom Progress, Day 7

Today is work day 8 but this picture was taken in the morning before any work had been done today, so it reflects 7 days of work on the laundry room to bathroom conversion. As you can see, the plumbing is pretty much all done in the wall. The electrician came today and removed the 220 volt outlet that was used by the electric drier we had when we moved in (our current drier is gas). That’s right in the middle of this photograph. Another thing to notice in this picture is the joist that would have been directly under the drain in the shower pan. That required a little reworking of the supporting structure. The two joists on either side were doubled up and cross pieces put in to hold the end of the central joist, which had to be cut. The shower pan went in today, as well.

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Grass Seeds

Grass Seeds

Grass Seeds

We often don’t pay a lot of attention to grass that’s gone to seed. There are some grasses, though, that are specifically grown for the ornamental value of their seed heads. This is a relatively small one, growing in a small bed near the older parking garage next to one of the buildings across campus. I was there all day for a class (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday this week) but had a chance to get out during our lunch break. I also found some oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), an invasive species similar to our native American bittersweet (C. scandens).

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Maple Leaves On A Rainy Day

Maple Leaves On A Rainy Day

Maple Leaves On A Rainy Day

It was an absolutely beautiful day today but I was stuck indoors for almost all of it. I’m in a class today, tomorrow, and Thursday and that’s keeping me in the classroom. Nevertheless, we took a break for lunch and I used the opportunity to go outside. It was raining. Actually, it was raining fairly hard and I wasn’t really dressed for it. I still went out and enjoyed the colors. Overcast days are often the best for fall color. Add rain and it only gets better. These maple leaves are over a set of stairs down to the building I was in today and they were so beautiful. I love a rainy day.

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Fall Color In The Woods

Fall Color In The Woods

Fall Color In The Woods

I’m reasonably happy with my commute. On a good day it’s under 15 minutes and it’s pretty rare that it takes as long as 25 minutes. On the other hand, it isn’t the most picturesque commute you’re going to find. There’s are a few bits that are nice, though, including a stretch of woods on both sides of Rock Creek. In my homeward bound commute, that’s also the most likely stretch to have a back up. Today, I stopped part way along that stretch and was able to take a few pictures of the woods before we started moving again. The woods are quite lovely right now and I don’t mind a short stop if I have that to look at. Pretty soon it will be a lot less interesting, so enjoy it while you can.

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Bathroom Progress, Day 4

Bathroom Progress, Day 4

Bathroom Progress, Day 4

The difference between the beginning of day one and the end of the same day were more obvious than the difference between the end of day one and the end of day four. Of course, day four was Friday and it is now Sunday but of course the bathroom is in the same state today as it was at the end of the day on Friday. In the top of the picture you can see a black box in the ceiling. That’s the new exhaust fan. There are also two recessed light fixtures above what will be the shower. Another not so obvious change is the air duct that used to open in the floor in the far right and which now comes up in the wall in the foreground on the right.

The place where there was a door to outside is closed in, as it was on the first day. You cannot see it in this photo, of course, but the siding is up on the outside of that and if you didn’t know a door had been there, you might not be able to tell. There are a few signs left, but they are minor and will be taken care of in due course.

I picked out floor and wall tile yesterday and bought one of each so the builder could measure the thicknesses and get the transition from floor to shower nice and smooth. He needs that calculation before he can install the shower pan. Also, the plumber is supposed to come tomorrow and we should be able to do laundry again, which will be nice.

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Steve and Kai (and Photo 2,500)

Steve and Kai

Steve and Kai

We had a family dinner night today and it was great (as always) to see Kai (and the others, of course). Every time we see him, and it’s only been two weeks, he’s doing more and becoming more and more his own person with his own reactions and mannerisms. This evening he was in a good mood, as well, which is always a bonus.

We had Chinese carry-out and he had spaghetti squash and some other mushy something. Then he played on the floor for a while and of course he was held by many. He’s gotten old and sturdy enough to ride on his dad’s shoulders and as you can see, he’s enjoying it.

This is officially my 2,500 photo in my increasingly ill-named “Project 365.” Unofficially, I’m actually at 2,503 consecutive days with a photo, because I took pictures December 29, 30, and 31 in 2010, before starting my Project 365 on January 1, 2011. This is photo number 148,044 on this camera. I’m nearing the 150 thousand mark and expect to get there shortly before the end of the year.

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Zelkovas on Norbeck

Zelkova serrata

Zelkova serrata

Every year I get to enjoy the three lines of Zelkova serrata planted on either side and in the median of Norbeck Road between Rocking Spring Drive and Westbury Road. Other parts of Norbeck have Bradford pears, and they are nice in their seasons but are not, in my mind, nearly as impressive as the Zelkovas in their autumn orangeness. Some years it seems more rust colored but this year it’s a brilliant orange. They are particularly nice on overcast days but beggars can’t be choosers and I’ll take them as they come. I stopped on the way home and took a few dozen pictures, waiting for breaks in the traffic so as not to get run over.

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Confused Cherry Tree

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

For the last few days I’ve noticed this cherry tree in bloom. I’m afraid it’s been terribly confused by the mild fall we’ve been having and it’s going to be mightily disappointed when it gets colder rather than warmer. Well, it won’t actually be conscious of the weather. It’s just a tree. But I think it unlikely any fruit will come of this out-of-season blooming. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty little tree and gives me something to think about on an otherwise unremarkable commute. For a few days I’ve been meaning to stop to take pictures and today I did. Enjoy.

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Oak Leaf

Oak Leaf

Oak Leaf

I started walking across campus to an 11:30 meeting this morning but got a phone call while I was on my way, saying the meeting had been cancelled. At it happened, I had brought my camera with me so I walked back the long way, going through the woods and taking a few pictures. I got some of the yellow fruit on what we call “Cathy’s Hawthorn” (because she parks next to it most days). In the woods I came across an oak tree with beautiful leaves. The oaks haven’t been as spectacular, overall, as in some years, but there are individual trees that are worth noticing. I also love the lines of veins in the leaf, which are still visible in the partially eaten bits.

Unofficially, this is my 2,500th consecutive day of taking a picture. I officially started on January 1, 2011, so the official 2,500th day will be in three days. Nevertheless, I had taken pictures on the three days prior to my official start, so today marks 2,500 days.

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Laundry to Bathroom Conversion, Day One

Laundry Room, Before

Laundry Room, Before

As some of you know, we have been planning a little construction project for a while now. Initially the thought was that we would renovate one of the two bathrooms upstairs, making it more accessible. This is all towards having Cathy’s mom come live with us. Renovating an upstairs bathroom, which is all we thought of for a while, also entailed putting in something to help her get up and down the stairs. Currently she can do stairs but it’s not easy and it’s going to get less easy as time goes by. We had an occupational therapist out to consult and while he was there, the thought occurred to make a totally new bathroom in our existing laundry room. Once that idea was aired, it was clear that it was the right thing to do.

Laundry to Bathroom Conversion, Day One

Laundry to Bathroom Conversion, Day One

By putting a full bathroom on the ground floor and converting our family room into a bedroom, we eliminate the need for a stair-climbing chair. Of course, the conversion of the laundry room to a bathroom has some costs associated with it, but those costs are going to be reflected in our property value. An accessible bathroom is a valuable asset, after all. Also, there are some tax credits for this sort of home improvement. After a bit of planning and consultation with out contractor (http://mafortierandcompany.com/) we got the building permits and today, the work began. I’ll post updates from time to time, as the project progresses.

Note that the “before” picture was taken after we moved a lot of things out of the laundry room. There were two shelves on the wall above the washing machine and there was a big bin of bird seed under the sink, for Solomon. But it’s “before” in the sense that the construction hadn’t started yet.

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Lake Needwood Wood

The Woods At Lake Needwood

The Woods At Lake Needwood

I’m a fan of the woods. I love the colors, the sounds, and the smells. I won’t say there’s nothing I don’t like about woods but in general I’d say the things I like outweigh the things I don’t like. Of course, I’m happy that I live in a modern house with running water, central heating and air conditioning, a roof to keep off the rain, and electricity and gas to power all sorts of appliances. I do like a walk in the woods, though. In the autumn, with the colors in the trees, it is especially nice. A rainy day, practically any time of year but particularly in the spring when the leaves are various shades of green is also a wonderful time for a walk in the woods. But today was glorious and bright and cool.

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Maple Tree and Leaves

Maple Tree and Leaves

Maple Tree and Leaves

It’s been something of a maple-centric autumn this year. There are other trees showing good color but, as I think I mentioned previously, not a lot in our yard. This is a picture of the two maple trees behind our house. Both of them are actually double-trunks and I’m not sure if they are two trees each or single trees with two trunks. Either way, they are not particularly attractive as specimen trees. They both twist a bit and have broken and misshapen branches. This fall, though, they are doing their best to make up for it with their colors. The nearer tree in this picture, in particular, is really spectacular this year. It’s the tree that gets more direct sun and that contributes to the color.

The leaves on the ground add, I think, to the overall effect of the tree right now. It won’t be long before the leaves have all turned brown and we’ll need to get them dealt with, which we usually do by simply by mowing over them a few times, turning them into mulch in the lawn.

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Dahlia ‘Dracula’

Dark Angel Dahlia 'Dracula'

Dark Angel Dahlia ‘Dracula’

I posted a picture of this same dahlia on Monday, September 18, 2017, so you’ll have to excuse the repetition. Although it’s not particularly large for a dahlia flower, it’s very pretty. Also, the plant has very dark purple, not-quite-black foliage. It’s lovely overall and we definitely need to dig up the tuber and try to keep it for next year. We’ve never actually done that before and I’m not sure how successful we’ll be. They are supposed to be stored in a damp place all winter in temperatures that are between 45°F and 50°F, which is a pretty narrow range and not something we have naturally in our house. Our basement is cool but not that cool and we do our best to make it dry, not humid (it’s currently at 38% relative humidity). So, we’ll see what we can do.

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Sycamore Bark

Sycamore Bark

Sycamore Bark

One of the most easily identified trees in the forests of the eastern United States is the American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis). Even from a distance, it’s easy to pick out the sycamore by it’s white bark. There are places along the highways in the area, particularly where the road goes over river or stream valleys, where they are quite the most numerous tree. They grow very well in wet floodplains and of course they get quite large, often reaching 80 or more feet in height and trees with a trunk diameter in excess of four feet are not particularly uncommon. In addition to the white bark on the upper portions of the tree, lower down, where the branches are trunk are thicker, the brown outer bark peels away in a very distinctive way, as seen in this photograph of a tree probably not more than 15 or at most 20 years old.

In 1981 my parents and brothers spent eight weeks backpacking around Greece. We had spent a week there in 1971 and my mom started planning then to return. On this longer trip in 1981 we were in Crete (twice, actually) and happened to find this old plane tree.

Dot and Bob at the Old Plane Tree, Krási, Crete, 2007

Dot and Bob at the Old Plane Tree, Krási, Crete, 2007

The London plain tree is a cross between the American sycamore and Oriental plane tree, P. orientalis. In 2007, Cathy, Dorothy, and I went to Greece with my mom and dad for about three weeks of camping. We were able to find this tree again, in Krási. It is claimed to be the oldest and largest plain tree in the world. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s certainly big, with a trunk circumference of nearly 80 feet. As you can see, it isn’t exactly a perfect cylindrical trunk, and the tree isn’t nearly as tall as many American sycamores that I’ve come across. Still, it’s a mighty fine specimen.

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More Maple Leaves

Maple Leaves

Maple Leaves

Again with the maple leaves. We don’t actually have a lot of plants with significant fall color in our yard, so I have to take advantage of the few we do have. There are two maple trees in our back yard and one of them in particular has good color. I posted a picture of it against the blue sky two days ago. This time I’m looking down at leaves that have already fallen. I love the color on the leaf in the middle of this photograph. I was a little disconcerted by the way it was lying right on top of another, similar leaf, because I thought it might look like I put it there. I didn’t. I moved it and took a few more but they aren’t as good as this one, so here you are.

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