Greening the Balcony – Part 3

Avalus continues his balcony gardening adventures and he has shared some more thoughts and pictures. This is from somewhere mid-summer, I only got now to actually publishing it.


The Blooming Buzzing Balcony
Things are establishing, the tomato plants are continually exploding and I get a bowl of salad every day, although with late June, it gets so hot that the salads are racing to bloom. And they are not alone. So today we look at colorful hot plant sexy bits.
First, a quick overview of what changed in the meantime.

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Yes, more green, tomatoes racing up, and the added board gets really bent by all the pots. Time for a support beam. A yes, parts of an old alu camping bed will be perfect!

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On the other side, my usual chaos, more greens, a rescued kumquat bush hiding behind the table, on the table more plants waiting to be potted. The tomatoes on this side take their time. In previous years, these would grow much faster. Both pots got fresh earth so it is probably down to the variety.

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Enjoy!

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Nasturtium. The camera really struggles with their red shine. I really like putting these in salads or on just bread with cheese and butter. Yum-yum!

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Sweet potato with an extra earth bee. Sadly the other won’t bloom and all the flowers fall off. I really would have been interested in growing them from my own seeds next year.

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Ornamental Pea. I have them in a wide variety of colors but they grew down the outside of the balcony and I can’t get a good image (I am very afraid of dropping my camera).

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A very prickly aubergine, I think I will need to cut most of them off, as the plant is still pretty tiny and I don’t think it could support the many flowers it produces.

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Fiery red climbing bean, green leaves, blue sky. Contrast!

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Tomatoes. I can’t wait for tomato season, my sister is already drowning in fruits.

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Cucumber. They had a slow start and are not as sprawling as the years before. Maybe it is because of old seeds.

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Mystery capsicums, probably sweet peppers. This one I bought but the tag had fallen off.

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Tagetes, bumble bees really love them.

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Strawberries, a monthly variety that steadily produces new fruit and is nearly as expansive with its shoots as the non-blooming sweet potato.

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Stalked celery. Somehow, the wasps really love these flowers.

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Sage, this is a very small steppe variety. I bought this to attract more pollinators to the balcony. I think it worked and the smell is fantastic.

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Red cloves or small onions, leftover from last year.

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And more Beans to close it off.
Soon there will be more. The Echinacea paradoxa is still growing, as are the sunflowers and the calendula. Then there is the thyme and one of the salads I left standing.
Overall, I notice a distinct lack of honey bees on the balcony (and in general) this year, the bumble and earth bees are also few and far between. On the other hand, I get several types of wasps that crawl all over my balcony (and occasionally me, which is a bit unnerving). The climbing beans have had dozens of flowers but so far only three have started to fruit, all the others just fell off, which is disappointing. The tomatoes fared better, but a number were stung by stinking bugs and developed a rot. But these are acceptable losses, one should never expect to have 100% success while gardening.

Next time, I think I will take a closer look at my “exotics” – tropical and half-tropical plants and my experiences. Because I really just can’t throw out avocado and mango pits, or pass by sprouting ginger in a shop … .

Spatzenbaden

We do not feed the birds in the summer but there is an old baking tray among the bonsai trees that we fill with clean water once every few days, especially in this heat. Today I managed to take a few pictures of sparrows frolicking in the water.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

Crafting: polymer clay

I’m currently a bit confused, as I wanted to do this post as a follow up to the last one on polymer clay, but it turns out I didn’t write that one, despite me remembering the post. Well, just imagine that you read the first part of this post 4 weeks ago or so.

Having seen gorgeous shit on social media, I decided to do some polymer clay jewellery. I did a lot of it as a kid/ young teen, but the style back then was pretty different. I saw some tutorial on youtube and decided to go for a calaidoscope cane.

two pairs of earrings. Each earring consists of two square parts with the same pattern: colourful shapes wrapped in black, all symmetrical.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Now, while I liked the results, I didn’t like two things: One, it’s very material intensive. That was easily 10 bucks worth in polymer clay and if you fuck up that’s it.

Two: You end up with lots of the same. I can understand why there’s a lot of small businesses making polymer clay jewellery: You can actually create things within a reasonable time in a way you can’t do with beads. But I’m just making stuff for myself and friends and family,  so I don’t need 50 pieces with the same pattern.

So I thought: This was nice, but I’m not going to do much more of it. Well, I should have known I was wrong. Of course I did. I learned different techniques (I’m still learning, they aren’t coming out quite as planned yet) where you can use smaller amounts of clay and end up with a couple of pieces, not a whole drawer full.

A pair of earrings. on a brown marbled background are white cala lilies and green and gold leaves

©Giliell, all rights reserved

A pair of earrings. green and old leaves on a brown marbled background.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Oval earrings, blended yellow purple and blue, with abalone shells.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

U shaped earrings in blue, yellow and purple

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The last two pairs are a bit too bright for my taste, but the kid already stole some, so I guess they came out alright.

Small colourful studs

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The good thing about having may hobbies is that I have many tools, so I used my silicone moulds for the scraps. While I love my big earrings, my ears occasionally appreciate small studs.

Drop shaped earings. white pieces with blue lines

©Giliell, all rights reserved

This is another technique where you cover the clay pieces in mica powder. Again, I’m happily stocked in that particular area and I really like the results. Now to my favourite pieces from that collection:

Round blue and white earrings with a dragonfly charm

©Giliell, all rights reserved

I’m just in love with them. The charms (again, yay for having tons of craft supplies) work just perfect.

The next pieces are from the same batch, only that I had to roll the clay more thinly and it turned into a whole different affair:

Moon shaped earrings, white and blue

©Giliell, all rights reserved

varios small studs in white and blue

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The effect became more like marble, with the colours blending more. Again, lots of nice, light studs. I think I could do with a second pair of ears.

Tram Depo Graffiti – Part 5

I still have some pretty pictures from that depo, this is not the last post with them. And I did not accidentally publish twice the same picture – two of the graffitis were very similar.

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

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

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

Views of Tampere from Pyynikki

Guest post by Ice Swimmer


Tampere is the second city in Finland. It’s been called many things, including Manchester of Finland (short form: Manse), the City of Women and the Sauna Capital of the World*. Before this spring it was a city I visited in order to have fun with my friends who live here. Now it’s my hometown.

The city was founded on an isthmus between two lakes, formed by an esker. The lakes are connected by a channel of rapids that were dammed and provided power for the textile factories, paper mills and other industry. The textile industry led to comparisons to Manchester and to a lot of girls and women moving to Tampere to work for Finlayson (founded by a Scotsman, James Finlayson) and other factories.

These pictures are from a Sunday walk to Pyynikki Sightseeing Tower and Nature Reserve, which are on the esker, in the middle of Tampere, next to the city centre.

First, we take a look to the east from the tower, towards the city centre.

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Then we take a very touristy angle and look northeast. The big tower is Näsinneula (Näsi needle), the highest building in Finland (168 m), the amusement park is Särkänniemi. The lake is Näsijärvi. This picture is taken May 8th and there is still some ice on the shores.

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I talked about the two lakes. This is the other one, Pyhäjärvi (Sacred or Holy Lake one of the many lakes with the same name in Finland). We’re looking southeast from the tower and we can see a part of the woods of Pyynikki and parts of the city centre as well as the northeastern corner of Pyhäjärvi.

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Then we take a look at the northwestern parts of Tampere. The peninsula is a mostly residential area, parts of which are called Niemi (peninsula), Lentävänniemi (Peninsula of the Flying) and Reuharinniemi (the tip of the peninsula, a free translation could be Cape Rage).

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The following pictures are taken from the Nature Reserve.

First, a sign that says on the top “Place for sightseeing” or “Scenic view” and below that “Dangerous slope”.

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Both are true. You can see Pyhäjärvi through the trees and yes, taking a few more steps could spoil your day.

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This place is a short walk west from the previous place. A bench is safer…

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This view is to the southeast from the rocks, over Pyhäjärvi. I bet the apartments in the buildings by the shore are somewhat costly. I think the chimney belongs to the former knitted underwear factory (Suomen Trikoo).

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This is a view of one of the roads that go through the woods in Pyynikki. This one is Tahmelantie.

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This concludes our trip in Pyynikki. As you were able to see deciduous trees didn’t have any leaves yet. Now, about 2 weeks later the leaves in birches and willows have come out just about fully. I’m hoping you got a little inkling of what Tampere looks like.
__
* = The public saunas in Tampere are popular places, also for the locals.

Grey Heron

Avalus has encountered this dapper beauty and managed to snap a few pictures for us. It is a long time since I have seen a live heron. Decades, in fact, since the nearest water reservoir where they at least occasionally occur is more than an hour’s worth of brisk walk from my home. It seemed closer when I was a kid.

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

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

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

Promising Developments

Among the green in the greenhouse, a bit of flaming bright orange caught my eye. After some looking around, there was a second one.

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

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

Who can recognize what those are? I’m not telling. I do hope the blossoms open at the time my mother arrives back from the hospital, she has never seen these. Neither did I, not live ones – I’ve only seen pictures of these and my aunt used to have a pygmy variant, but this is not a pygmy variant, this is the real deal. And these are the first flower buds that have shown up since I planted the seeds over a decade ago. I never expected the plants to flower at all.

My mother called on Tuesday that she has been transferred to a rehabilitation clinic and we could visit her, but we don’t have to. So of course we had to, even though it is over an hour’s worth of driving away. We visited her on Thursday and she cried and was in dire need of a hug.

She feels reasonably well, the incision site does not hurt at all but her leg is swollen and she does not have full use of it – the swelling pinches a nerve and she cannot move her knee properly. All this should so far be normal development and rehabilitation should help. Electrotherapy has allegedly some effect on the numbed nerve and she is slowly getting her feeling back.

They also found out she is anemic, which explains why she had for several months cravings for red meat and liver. Hopefully, iron supplements will help with that.

She will need some additional accommodations at home, I will have to order some stuff before she returns. If nothing goes wrong, it should be in about two weeks’ time. In the meantime, I am still busy cutting wood every day in every way.

NOT an Itty Bitty Spider

I was cutting wood for knives and this fellow was hiding in the pile on a piece of maple branch. I nearly inadvertently squashed it, but luckily it got away in the end unharmed.  I have no clue what species it is, but it is fairly big. The cephalothorax and abdomen together were about as big as my thumbnail, that’s about 15 mm.  So with the legs and all it exceeded the size of a 2 € coin. Pictures are below the fold. [Read more…]

Tram Depo Graffiti – Part 1

Near where my auntie lives is a small tram depo. I went for a walk and ended up there and I noticed that the walls are covered with graffiti. A passer-by told me that it is fresh, just a few weeks old. Thus it was not yet defaced by other, less artistically inclined and more vandalous graffitiers. I will post pictures probably without much comment in the next few days. There is not much to talk about.

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

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

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

There Used to Be a Railway Here…

We had a planned power outage today morning so I went for a long walk instead of working. I did not take my camera with me, but I did snap a few pictures with my phone. let’s start with a picture of “find teh sleeper”.

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Did you find it? What looks like a strangely shaped valley in a forest is a former railway road. The signs are still there if one looks for them. Unnatural basalt gravel (we are on phyllite here, which, btw. is suitable for making natural whetstones). And sleepers buried in the moss and ferns. Look, there is another one, a few meters further.

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And the unnatural valley is suddenly cut short by an earth mound completely overgrown with half-century-old trees today. I forgot to take pictures of their roots. Next is a vestige of the reason why this railroad is now defunct and derelict.

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This metal pole was upright when I was a kid and a sign “Caution, state border ahead!” was on it. And although this particular border was with Eastern Germany, the sentiments under the communist rule were not conducive to cross-border travel, thus the railroad was blinded and nature was left to take over. If you were to follow the railroad on google maps, on the Czech side you can follow its former route completely to the border, but on the German side, there is no trace of it anymore. I can’t remember if it was ever finished on the German side and it is not information easily to be found on the internet – I would have to borrow the town chronicles again.

So where there used to be a railroad, there are now trees, bushes, and wildflowers.

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

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

I was a bit surprised by the pale Aquilea, I do not remember seeing that one around here, ever.

For some reason, I thought this dead aspen tree and this particular part of a rivulet were interesting to look at.

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

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

You can see a mixture of natural, local rocks with pieces of brick and some grey pieces of imported basalt gravel in it. I will write some more about local geology when I am making whetstones.

In my childhood, the end of the railroad also served as a local garbage dump, As kids, we went occasionally there to scavenge some interesting things. There are many interesting things to be found in a garbage dump when one is a kid. This was pre-massive use of plastic bags and similar crap, so most of the things that were dumped there were ceramics, glass and metal. But I cannot even find the site of the dump anymore. It was covered with dirt and I think this is where it used to be.

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Twenty years can mean big-ish trees. I really do not know the exact location of the garbage dump, it is completely overgrown and covered with trees today.

When approaching the still somewhat functioning railroad, I came by this stripped-down, derelict warehouse.

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I hate sights like this, I abhor waste in all its manifestations. When I was a kid, this warehouse was still functional, covered in corrugated sheets, and used to load and unload cargo wagons. Although not very much. The whole town went downhill after the deportation of Suddeten Germans after WW2. It was deliberate – the communist regime had no interest in maintaining a town so close to the Iron Curtain, thus the deported population of over 15.000 was filled in with barely over 2.000 people from all over Czechoslovakia, with some of them being sent here as a punishment for misbehaving. But there was still some industry here and thus some need to move cargo. And there were also personal trains coming by regularly. In fact, the train was the main means of transport for me when I was studying at the university twenty years ago. Oh, how the time flies.

Here you can see the nowadays official end of the railroad. In the growth to the left is hidden the decrepit depo from the previous picture.

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And last is the picture of the current train station. It is the westernmost train station in the Czech Republic. If more than five people were to wait for the train, they won’t be able to keep out of the rain unless they are comfortable being very, very close to each other.

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

There used to be a big and beautiful building here, but it was demolished in 2014. The town wanted to renovate it into an apartment building, but the owner (Czech Railroads) declined to transfer the ownership of the building to the town and send in a demolition team instead. It even made the news, something that does not happen to our little town often. The reasons for the outright demolition were never explained, but since the building was carefully disassembled with the healthy wooden boards and timbers from the rafters and the good-quality old-time fired bricks being hauled away neatly packed on palettes, my personal suspicion is that someone rich somewhere greased some palms in order to get cheap building material. Although that might be just my paranoia speaking and the demolition was a simple act of incompetence and not of malice. Either way, it is definitively a legacy of our libertarian-leaning governments that ruled our country since the fall of the iron curtain. That has led to infrastructure being neglected and overemphasis on cars, like in the west.

The EU has stepped in a bit lately to fill the gap in financing rural communities’ infrastructure, but it was too late for the railroad.

Sigh.

My Auntie’s Garden – Part 11 – Finale

Not a grand finale I am afraid. Just a few more pictures of trees.

First, the view that meets people upon entering the garden.

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That huge Chamaecyparis pissifera on the left is absolutely gorgeous. It is over thirty years old. And the small birch in the center originally just happened to sprout there as a weed towards the end of my university studies, so it is somewhere around 24 years old. At that time I was really getting into growing bonsai trees and my aunt has seen some when she was visiting. And it gave her the idea to let the birch live and just prune it so it does not grow into a full-sized tree but remains small-ish, like bonsai. She seems to be fond of the tree.

And the last picture that I have is of a blooming Magnolia hugging the southern wall.

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

I took lots more pictures during this trip, but not in my aunt’s garden. That will be another series – stay tuned.