My Auntie’s Garden – Part 1 – Introduction

Very rarely do I have an opportunity to visit my favorite aunt in the spring when her rock garden is in full bloom, so today year when I got lucky I took a ton of pictures. I will post them piecemeal over a non-specified period of time.

This is the outside view of her house and the garden. You can already see the multitude of shapes and colors.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

And to start things first a picture of a small pond with water lilies. They are not blooming yet, so just a little anecdote to amuse you: When I was a little kid, I liked to play in this garden by running and jumping on the rocks. My aunt did not mid as long as I did not damage any plants, which I somehow managed. But she did warn me to not do it near the pond because I could fall in it. So of course I ignored that instruction and one summer day I did indeed fall into the pond, butt first. There was laughing and Itoldyousoing on my aunt’s part and wailing and gnashing of teef on my part. Luckily I did not hurt my self nor the water lillies.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Mighty Kites

For me, a true sign of coming spring – a red kite sitting on the huge ash tree behind my house. They are magnificent beasts and I do wish they would sit still long enough to get really up close and in focus pictures.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I have realized that I have not posted any bird pictures for a looong time. Unfortunately, there are very few birds around lately and even fewer opportunities to take pictures.

A Day at the Zoo 3: Because the Night

Night zoos are one of my favourite things because they have the coolest animals. They’re also bad for taking pics. Even my most light sensitive lense isn’t much good, mostly because it’s too dark for the auto focus but also too dark for me to use the manual setting. But there are some acceptable pics.

Dark image of a tree porcupine

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The tree porcupine was kind enough to step into the little light and my focus. This is where digital cameras with their near limitless image storage play to their strength: I probably deleted 100 blurry images to walk away with about 6 decent ones.

Very dark and blurry picture of an echidna

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Nope, that’s not a worse pic of the same animal, that’s actually an echidna. No, I don’t care that the father next to us told his kid it was a porcupine. Zoos offer many learning opportunities, but obviously no learning obligations.

And now, are you ready for one of my absolute favourites? The aardvark!

Image of an aardvark, full body

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We were very lucky: on our second visit to the night zoo, the aardvarks (3 wonderful animals) had their enclosure cleaned and the caretaker had turned up the light there. They didn’t mind (they could have gone to their dark burrow) and posed for some nice pics.

Image of an aardvark, front view

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Aardvark in action!

Side view of an aardvark

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Look at that snout!

There is a story that goes with the aardvarks: The zoo in our state capital also has a night zoo with aardvarks, but while this here has the glass all up the enclosure, our zoo only has it about a metre high, just enough so the aardvarks cannot escape. Some years ago when we visited the zoo, Mr looked at the aardvarks, not realising that there was nothing between him and the animals at the level of his nose. Well, the aardvark obviously thought it was only fair game that if Mr got to look at it, it got to look at Mr, went on its hind legs, put the front legs on top of the glass and put its snout almost into Mr’s face. The look on my beloved one’s face was something I still treasure to this day.

Better Late Than Never???

It is still unclear whether or not I or my parents will have some long-lasting Covid effects. However, so far it looks good. It does not look so good for one of my cousins though. The cousin in question is about twelve years older than I am. When we were kids, he sparked my interest in nature, and thus he was one of the first people who have put me on the path of actually seriously studying natural sciences. But…

My parents are an exception within the family in that they both are decidedly non-religious (my father even being resolutely anti-religious), a fact that I have not known about until my late teens. And although my religious relatives are not the “frothing-at-the-mouth-fire-and-brimstone-biblical-fundangelicals” that seem so typical representatives of Christianity in the USA, the negative effects of the religious rot on the human mind are noticeable amongst some of them even so.

That my moderately religious cousin has married a deeply religious woman was unbeknown to me for years. They both seemed pretty reasonable in our interactions and religion rarely, if ever, came up. When my cousin-in-law scolded my mother that she should not do laundry on Black Friday because it makes Jesus bleed or something like that I just rolled my eyes, but it was not a harmless superstition, she actually believes that crap. The first warning sign of really bad things to come was when she has become a part of a radical cult and the family almost broke apart – she almost left not only her husband but also her three children over religious bullshit. Once you start to truly believe moderate bullshit, apparently believing egregious bullshit becomes easier.  They managed to reconcile that issue somewhat, but it was apparent from that time on that many of the problems in that family – which I won’t discuss in public in detail – stem from the fact that religion, not reality-based knowledge, and not even common sense – guided many decisions.

Things came to a culmination of sorts last year when they both got Covid and were sick for over a month. They did not get vaccines because “they did not believe in them”. They both have long Covid now and my cousin, a jolly bear of a man of rude health to whom illness was a nearly unknown thing for most of his life, is now battling chronic tiredness and depression. He did say to my mother that he will accept vaccine boosters if they will be recommended to him, as well as new vaccines should the need arise in the future.

It does make me wonder if this is “better late than never” or just “late”.

Mini Holiday 2: Fishes!

Aquariums are always cool. Fish are cool. Glass fish are double cool, just hard to take pics of.

A translucent fish

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A small blowfish

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A tiny but relaxed blowfish.

The head of a fish üoking out of the ground

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What’s up?

A piranha

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Nobody ever told me that piranhas are sparkling!

A striped scalar with several smaller fish around

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several clownfish

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a clown fish ion front of anemonae

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No trouble finding Nemo here

A yellow and blue fish

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All of Frankfurt is decorated in support of Ukraine, and it seems like even the fish are showing their solidarity.

Mini Holiday: A Day at the Zoo 1

For the easter holiday we wanted to do a day trip with the kids, but given the ongoing pandemic we didn’t want to do a theme park with all the screaming and close contact that entails. But even my two very cool teenager can be lured into a nice zoo with interesting animals. This time we chose Frankfurt. It’s easy to reach by train, not too far for a day trip, and the train tickets were still in the affordable range, though they only were because the kids were free.

And my camera got something to do (it’s getting bored in here), with the stalker lens giving insecure men inferiority complexes. So stay tuned over the next days for a lot of animal pics.

A male lion lying on a stone, looking relaxed.

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This chill boy has his enclosure near the entrance, and showing off his amazing talent of chilling 20hrs a day, he didn’t move once between us arriving and leaving.

A ball of fur in a green canopy

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A ball of fur in a green canopy

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I saw a sloth! At least that’s what the signs claim. But it had moved from the canopy to a location unknown between our first and second visit.

A binturong family with 2 babies on top of mum

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Look at those babies! Binturongs are seriously cute, even though they always look ancient, even when they’re babies.

Covided at Last

At first, I thought I am just tired from heavy work. Then I thought I got a mild strep throat infection and bronchitis from exposure to cold (something that I have always been susceptible to). It lasted from Friday to Sunday, yesterday I was almost completely symptom-free and today as well.

I have bought and made a Covid self-test today nevertheless and it turned out positive. So although I no longer have any symptoms, I very probably did/do have Covid, in all probability Omicron. My parents were due a visit to an orthopedist on Thursday, they will have to postpone it now. My mother probably has it too, she does have a sore throat and a cough, although no fever so far. My father thus almost inevitably has it by now as well. I really do hope they will too only have a mild case. They usually do fare better than I for some reason, and they fared better after the vaccine and both boosters too. But there are no guarantees with illnesses and Covid is no exception.

There are only two instances where I could get infected recently – during one of my bi-weekly shopping trips or during a dental visit last Monday. The dental visit seems a more likely culprit to my mind, although during the shopping I did of course encounter vastly more people.

I really hope my parents come out of it OK. We managed so well for two years and I bring the plague into the household when the cases are in decline around here. I guess it was inevitable, one cannot avoid it forever, but still.

Beading: A Promise of Cherries

And the flowers of spring.

These ones are a bit different from my usual work, where the effect is created by artfully and precisely stringing beads. These two are created by stringing a lot of beads together. Nobody will ever notice if the leaves are three seed beads apart or four, just that there’s a lot of them.

Selfie of a middle aged woman wearing a necklace made from Bohemian beads and wax pearls. Detailed description of necklace in the next pic

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Close up of the necklace around the neck. The necklace is about 1" in diameter and consists of irregularly strung beads in the shape of flowers and leaves in red, green white and gold.

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Same as last image, necklace lying on the table

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I al

Small earrings with white glass flowers and green leaves

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so made some matching earrings with the leftover beads:


The bracelet actually came first. It’s in my favourite colour: all the hues of blue. The technique is the same for both: A row of large seed beads is strung up and then you keep adding  the different elements, always working from one end to the other, spacing them more or less regularly.


Close up of the bracelet

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Bracelet made from blue and green Bohemian glass beads. The beads are in the shape of leaves and flowers, alternating in an irregular but very dense pattern. Bracelet seen worn on wrist.

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Same bracelet lying on a wooden table

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Same bracelet, lying on a table formed as a ring

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There’s another major difference between this project and the usual ones: cost. A normal bracelet /set of earrings hast a cost of a few bucks. Even the “Mermaid” one was definitely under 10€ , even with the Bohemian crystals. these are quite expensive. Sure, one bag of flower beads or leaves isn’t much, just around 3 €, but you need a lot o them, so each piece comes down to 35 to 40 € is beads alone, hours worked not counted.  I’ll call them my easter gift, I could spend money more foolishly.

Akin All Avo

This Wednesday and Thursday the weather was warm enough to plant pohtatohes. These are the fruits of mah lay-bour:

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

In the top left corner, you can see my sewage cleaning facility, specifically, its last two stages, the gravel-reed-bed where the water is further cleaned after the anaerobic tank and the seeping pond where it seeps into the ground around the edges. The reeds grew especially big last year with some stalks exceeding 3 m in height and 1 cm in thickness, which is normally unheard of at my elevation. Hooray for global warming, I guess. Mowing them with a scythe was an extreme p.i.a.

You can also see the pollarded willow trees around the pond that are due for firewood harvest next winter, but for years I did not know what to do with the reeds so they just rotted slowly on the compost. Two years ago I tried to put them directly on top of planted potatoes before they get covered with dirt. And it worked well, it lightened up the heavy clay significantly that year and I had the biggest haul of potatoes from that patch that I ever got – over 200 kg. We had even trouble to give the taters away because of the Covid travel restrictions, so we have tried some ways to preserve them for longer storage. Which worked well, especially dried chips for soups – we have those still and they work great in combo with dried mushrooms.

Last year there were no potatoes but peas, beans, maize, and pumpkins, so the soil can recover somewhat. It did not yield 200 kg of edibles of course, but we got a few dinners out of it. This year it is potatoes again.

So I am trying to replicate the success. On the vegetable patch, you can now see nine full and two very short rows filled with shredded reed stalks. In the next days, they will be slowly covered with dirt to form mounds for the tubers to grow. Inorganic fertilizer was added over the winter in the form of several buckets of ash from the house-heating stove. Some organic fertilizer has been added now with these reed stalks and more will be added over the year in the form of mown grass and raked moss. I do hope the weather won’t be too dry, but the sewage cleaning facility should help significantly if it is, and it adds some nitrogen too since the system is not as effective at cleaning ammonia as it should.

A whole cycle from poop to food in one garden.

Today I wanted to work on knife sheaths, but I am aching all over and it is probably not just from the work. I have a slightly elevated temperature and a bit of sore throat and a mild dry cough. The weather was reasonably warm, but not really warm, so I guess I caught a bit of chill and now some strep is trying to get me. I do hope to be able to work tomorrow, I have a commission due in May and although I still have enough time, finishing sooner is always better than later.

Good bye, sweet Estelle

We really have no luck here. Today the kid came home to Estelle being lifeless. We rushed her to the clinic, but there was nothing to be done for her. She apparently had a big tumour in her belly, and the vet told us that while she could attempt invasive procedures, it was very unlikely that she would survive it, so we decided to let her go. We buried her next to her little sister. Damn, I know that nature never intended for small rodents to live long lives, but it hurts every time.

Picture of our deceased degu estelle, wrapped in a towel and adorned with spring flowers.

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Spring Blossoms and More…

Avalos has sent some spring blossoms and I am wholly envious. Here the spring is so far in various shades of gray and the weather would not be amiss in February. In fact, we had this weather in February…

Mirabelle blossoms © avalos, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Cherry blossoms © avalos, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

A whole lot of mirabelle blossoms © avalos, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

And to top it off, there is also a very cute kestrel picture.

© avalos, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Not a Masterpiece But…

… I am really proud of this knife and I think I have done a good job. I genuinely think I am getting better.

You have already seen the blade, twice. It is a big, fullered, mirror-polished, 5 mm thick at the base blade based on my working knife from a failed attempt at making a machete and a bushcraft knife that I have made for my friend. It has some issues – the fullers are not entirely regular and they are not symmetrically positioned, especially towards the tip. But it is a well-hardened blade and the geometry has been already tried and tested by both me and my friend and it is suitable for camping tasks, from preparing small firewood to cutting BBQ ingredients. So functionally, it is a good blade.

But the asymmetry was bugging me, so I have decided to make a visually asymmetrical handle too. First I have tried to use a piece of black elder, a light-colored wood with dark knots that I have thought would work nicely with the mirror polish. But that piece of wood failed me so I had to seek out an alternative

And I am glad it turned out that way because the alternative I chose was a piece of an old and gnarly juniper wood (probably Juniperus x media). Any piece of that has pretty much guaranteed stark asymmetry in every piece and it is a reasonably hard softwood (oh the peculiarities of the English language!) with very small pores, so it is suitable for small woodwork.

The wood also has two distinct colors – white-ish sapwood and reddish-brown heartwood and lots of small knots, which quite coincidentally ended up positioned in – in my opinion – aesthetically quite pleasing places, especially on the right side. It has curly bits too, so it changes in some places color depending on the viewing angle. My original intent was to make the fittings from pakfong with bone plates for color contrast, but I thought that a combination of pakfong and bronze would look better and would fit the wood’s color palette more. And when I see it, I think I was correct. The pakfong part was stamped out of 1 mm sheets but the bronze half had to be made out of 4 mm sheets simply because I did not want to spend another day making a second set of punches. But I probably will at some point if I make more knives in this design. I was thinking about whether to solder or glue the two halves together and I have decided to go with epoxy glue since I needed to fill the hollows anyway and the knife tang stops them from experiencing any great shearing forces so it should be fine. And if someone uses a knife like this instead of a hammer or tosses it into a fire, then, well, some conditions do not have a cure…

Anyhoo, enough of babbling, here are the pics:

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

It is a big, big boi. ~18 cm long blade, ~14 cm long handle, ~270 gramms. Balanced on the index finger but still packs a punch.

I did not make a sheath yet and I would like to ask you if you do not mind giving me some ideas to consider in the comments. I want to make something really fancy, keeping the two-color scheme. With a pocket for a striker and ferrocerium rod. Maybe some basket-weave with differently colored weaves? Or dragonskin?

I also need to find a suitable paracord, none of those that I have in stock fit the color scheme, I might have to go with a simple beige color.