Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Haunted Humpday III - A birthday party with cake, clowns and a diabolical barn

Happy Haunted Humpday III
Burt and Ivy are joining Marfi at Incipient Wings for some spooky fun leading up to Halloween.  
This week the skeleton crew is celebrating the birthday of their favorite writer, Stephen King.

Ivy and Burt went to see It on the first night the movie opened and they loved it. Now they're planning on going again when it gets closer to Halloween so they can relish all that horror in the spookiness of autumn. Will it be less frightening the second time around . . . or more? 

To me it's always interesting to find out what inspires people to create works of fiction. According to Stephen King, It came out of a desire to write a really big book, one that would incorporate all the monsters plus an super monster-of-all-monsters. At over a thousand pages, It is a big book. Several years ago Conan O'Brien asked him how he decided on a clown to personify the evil entity in It and he had this to say about going to the circus as a child:

"there would be like twelve full grown people who would all pile out of a tiny car,
their faces were dead white, their mouths were red, as though they were full of blood,
they're all screaming, their eyes are huge . . . what's not to love?"

He makes a good point.

Stephen King has even admitted that there were parts from his books that gave him nightmares.
I wonder which ones and how many? You would think he wouldn't be able to sleep at all.
In honor of the master of horror's birthday, Ivy has decided to go a little crazy and . . . 

make a birthday cake!

Happy Birthday Stephen King! Keep up the good work.

I have a spooky story to tell about a clown but it didn't take place at a circus, it happened at the county fair. Every August practically my entire family would stop whatever they were doing to take part in  the county fair. Mom and Gram made pies for the church stand and Dad took a turn frying burgers. One of my uncles was a board member and my Mom's little brother always drove in the demolition derby.  Grandpa had a booth because he had invented a manure removal system and was marketing it himself. Like my cousins, I spent most of my time in the cattle barn primping my calf for the judges ring. It was the day before the fair was set to open and the sun was beginning to set when I noticed a clown standing all alone by the manure pile. He just stood there, intently watching the activity inside the barn through the big open doors. It struck me as odd because no one in their right mind spent any more time than was necessary in the vicinity of a heap of manure, except grandpa.

There was still lots to be done that evening and I was expected at the Round Barn to help set up my 4-H club's booth. When I noticed the clown was still there, I left by a different door. The main exhibition hall (seen above) is the Round Barn. The ground floor has two rows of booths around the outside perimeter rented to retailers. The center circle, used for crafts and produce judging, is open all the way up to the peak of the roof. Two narrow staircases lead to the upstairs booths used for 4-H club displays. They are all lined up against the outside wall but the soaring center space is blocked off by a display wall that is too high to see over. It's a maddening place if you were trying to find someone because if that person was on the opposite side of the building you couldn't see them. If you were both walking at the same pace but on opposite sides of the barn you could just keep going round and round and never run into each other. Plus there were two stairways so it was possible to come and go without being noticed. This led to a lot of pre-teen angst. 

When I got to my 4-H club's booth it was about half set up and there was no one around. Having no patience and even less sense, I started walking around the upstairs hoping to run into someone from my group. As I passed by an open window I looked down and caught the eye of the clown as he was entering the barn. We stared at each other for a moment until I stepped back from the window. It gave me goosebumps on my arms.

Still brushing it off as nothing, I had just started on my second lap around when I suddenly caught a glimpse of the clown right in front of me! Even though there were other people about, I was starting to feel uneasy. Then I remembered my grandpa's booth on the ground floor and decided to turn around and go down the stairs I had just passed. Just as I reached the top step, someone grabbed my arm from behind! When I spun around to discover it was the clown I started screaming and pulling away, nearly falling down the stairs.

The moment I stopped screaming I recognized that evil laugh, the clown was my cousin Gerald! As it tuned out, he had gone over to the cattle barn looking for his brothers but found his parents instead. He had just finished having a cigarette and didn't want his mom to yell at him for smoking so he stood next to the manure pile hoping to cover up the smell of cigarette! He did offer a half-hearted apology for frightening me. A couple days later he gave me a large plush Panda he'd won playing one of the carnival games and it is still sitting in a corner of my old bedroom at the farm.
He never did explain why he was dressed up as a clown though.

This badly deteriorated polariod is the only photo of Lady and me I could find. I don't know why I look so angry because she had just been awarded a blue ribbon! Although it's hard to tell from this photo, she was a Guernsey and I named her after Lady from Lady and the Tramp because they shared the same golden brown coloring. She was very lovable when she wasn't stepping on my feet. 

Last month was the first time I had been back to the Pierce County fair in thirty years. It has become larger but I have to admit that it still looks and smells the same. Happily, no clowns either.

As for these clowns, they will probably be giving us all nightmares tonight.
(Actually, they kind of remind me of the Simpsons, doh!)
Maybe The Dead Zone would have been a more appropriate book to turn into a movie this year.

Happy Birthday to Stephen King and Happy Haunted Humpday to all!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Haunted Humpday II - Signs of the Season

Happy Haunted Humpday II
Burt and Ivy are joining Marfi at Incipient Wings for some spooky fun leading up to Halloween.  
The skeleton crew has been busy this week watching butterflies and soaking up the sun!

It's dahlia season and Ivy has been busy arranging all the fantastic blooms Burt bought at the Farmers Market. Fall is always a little bittersweet here in the upper midwest. Cooler days are a welcome relief from the heat and humidity of summer but at the same time they're a reminder that in a few short weeks the flowers and veggies will be dead as a doornail. No offense to Ivy & Burt of course.

With only a few weeks of summer left, Burt has wisely taken the opportunity to pick up some produce and flowers while they're still fresh from the garden -  as opposed to flown in from parts unknown! Spenser prefers to eat flowers rather than simply admire them.

Who knew there was this whopper hidden in that bouquet? 
No wonder it takes all summer to grow them!

The butterfly and hummingbird migration is in full swing, another signal that summer is waning. They're way too fast for me and my camera, especially the Monarchs but there have been quite a few Yellow Swallowtails passing through at a less frantic pace. This one arrived completely intact (see below) and was even nice enough to pose on a plant that wasn't full of yucky, half-dead blooms!

Every so often a raggedy butterfly glides in for a visit but this summer there have been way more than usual. Apparently having big chunks missing from their wings doesn't hinder them at all and according to their wingspan is so large they can still fly with half of them gone.

The damage is almost always inflicted by a predator, usually a bird or cat and rarely by weather. Although some butterflies can live for many months their missing parts don't grow back. At least they weren't harmed by my bad kitties, we have a city ordinance that prohibits them from roaming free. 

Garden chores don't end with the cooler weather. It was Burt's turn to mow the weeds behind the garage. Every year I make ambitious plans for this end of the backyard and every fall it ends up looking the same. Burt and Ivy did clear away a pile of unused flower pots and the leaky hose earlier this summer. So what would you put here? A garden shed, greenhouse or maybe a fancy DIY tent? 


Meanwhile, there goes the Gazing Ball. Poor Burt, he has the worst luck! 

What's this? Has His Madness arrived on the scene to help?

Ok, well at least it's unbreakable. I guess this is just how we roll.

Now if we could just get it to glow!

As the sunsets on another day it's time for a little relaxation after all that hard work.

A special thanks to Marfi for hosting!

Thank you for dropping by and I hope you're having a very Happy Haunted Humpday!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Down on the Farm with Art and UFOs

The last weekend in July we spent a few days at the family farm with Andy and Kristin. It was Kristin's first visit to this side of the state and we were hoping the eccentricities of Wisconsin's west coast wouldn't put her off. She is a grade school teacher however, so I suspect she's had her share of odd experiences. His Madness wanted to mark the occasion by taking an"American Gothic" type photo and found what he thought was an appropriated prop. I didn't tell them it was a manure fork though Andy may have guessed as much since he's holding it at arms length.

The adventure began in Minneapolis since we picked them up at the airport there. Our first stop was the Weisman Art Museum, designed by Frank Gehry and located on the University of Minnesota campus. I'd always wondered what was in that fabulous building, ha! It seems pretty obvious now.

Among lots of interesting artwork there was a fantastic exhibit of pottery found in the Mimbres river valley of New Mexico. Although the pieces date from around 1000 BCE, the chubby bat in the bowl and that poor dead rabbit look like they could pass for modern day Halloween decorations.

The next stop on the cultural tour was a visit to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden because we appreciate great art, whether it's inside or out. The Spoonbridge and Cherry by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen was the first piece of art commissioned for it and continues to be a family favorite. It was always a struggle to keep Andy from climbing on it when he was a child!

Sharing the spotlight is a recent addition to the garden, Katharina Fritsch's Hahn/Cock. It's hard to miss a 24 foot tall cobalt blue rooster. Although it is new to Minneapolis, it graced a famous square before coming to roost in the midwest. You can read about it's interesting history here.
All grand-scale public art is inherently political so why not poke a little fun at all that seriousness?

Eventually we left the twin cities and headed east across the Mississippi for the country. This part of the state is peppered with small villages that hold festivals all summer long. Each town has it's own theme and specific weekend - how else could their beauty queens be in all the other town's parades? There's a Cheese Curd Festival, Bacon Bash, Pepper Fest and June Bug Days, to name a few but the one happening during our visit was UFO Days! So we made our way over to Elmwood to catch the parade because we can never get enough of that synchronized waving! There's also beer.

The village of Elmwood is located about half hour's drive from the farm. As you can see from this photo I borrowed from their Facebook page, it's located in a beautiful valley surrounded by wooded hillsides. For a couple of years in the mid 1970's it gained national attention when one of it's police officers, a teacher and a few local farmers reported seeing what could only be described as an UFOs. Luckily the rest of the 600 plus residents were happy to embrace their new found fame and in 1978 they established UFO Days to celebrate the sightings. Coincidentally, the close encounters came to an abrupt end about the same time but the event continues and it's still a great excuse for a party.

There have been around thirty people who have admitted to seeing unusual objects in the night sky around Elmwood. Some of them described an orange glow, like a half moon but a few also reported odd occurrences such as their television sets shutting off and then coming back on and their dogs suddenly acting strangely and barking more than usual.  

The most famous of the close encounters involved George Wheeler, a 30-year veteran of the police force and former World War II combat pilot. According to an article in the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, on April 22, 1976 he drove up to the local quarry near Tuttle Hill around 11:00 pm to investigate what looked like a fire. Soon after reaching the area he radioed back to the police department dispatcher saying, "My God, it's one of those UFOs again!" He described a glowing object hovering 100 feet off the ground. It had six bluish-white lights, windows on the sides and he could see moving shadows inside. He was in the midst of describing what he was witnessing when it suddenly it shot straight up into the sky making a whooshing sound. A ray of light shot down from the ship, striking him and then his radio transmission went dead. A local farmer, David Moots soon arrived on the scene to discover Wheeler dazed and the electrical system in his car burned out.  

 There was some speculation that the rock quarry could be attracting the extraterrestrial visitors. Other popular theories alleged that the sighting were most likely due to in part to the overactive imaginations of those individuals involved, the government conducting secret experiments, the second coming of Christ or excessive alcohol consumption. At some point there was talk of building a UFO landing site but sadly (or perhaps, fortunately) it failed due to a lack of funds. 

Here's Andy trying to figure out what these two little green men are looking at. One of the locals told us there used to be several space ships parked in this lot but they seem to have disappeared. Or did they fly away? We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to UFO Days and in keeping with the outer space theme HM and I are looking forward to the Manitowoc Sputnik Fest this coming weekend. 

Burt and Ivy wisely opted to stay home and limit their celestial observing to the eclipse, although it appears they've had this experience before. Hmmm . . .  unfortunately it was a very cloudy day so viewing was limited but they didn't seem to mind.

Happy Labor Day if you're celebrating, hope everyone had a great weekend!

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Ivy & Burt Take On The Backyard

Wouldn't it be nice to spend the summer doing nothing? To wile away the afternoons relaxing in the shade with a cool drink just watching the flowers grow? That's always my goal anyway, ha!

In daydreams it's easy to overlook the oppressive heat and humidity that sends every living thing scampering into the AC or the legions of voracious mosquitoes that hatch due to all the rain. I am grateful for many things but this summer it's air conditioning and screens (that keep those thirsty blood-suckers away so we can enjoy the outdoors when it's not too hot) at the top of my list.

This beautiful Mandevilla vine was one of the new plants at our local garden center this spring and it's added a lovely tropical vibe to the backyard. It's been pretty easy to grow and loves all the hot, rainy weather. Is it time to crack open the rum and drag out the Tiki mugs yet? I'm thinking a big old volcano bowl filled with a mai tai or better yet, a zombie . . that would go better with the mosquitoes!

Meanwhile, back in the realm of reality, some volunteer plants have gotten a little out of hand. How cheeky is this vine to have hitched itself to a spider's web? Then again, how big is that spider? Eeek! 

As lucky as we are to have a garden to enjoy, it's impossible to keep it looking good without tending to it's needs. At least this year Mother Nature has spared us the task of watering! With plenty of chores and projects to accomplish, sometimes there's no other choice but to slather on the sunscreen and get to work! Luckily, Burt and Ivy are always willing to lend a hand.

Burt supplies the muscle.

While Ivy tackles the vine. She's not afraid of spiders!

This summer we have been swamped with projects of one sort or another. Although it's nice to have problems fixed and projects completed, it doesn't always leave a lot of time for fun.

One of the big projects we are currently working on is a long overdue clean up and overhaul of the nether regions of the backyard, i.e. the area behind the garage. Our neighbors recently removed a huge Black Walnut tree that was bordering our property. It was poisoning the ground around it as well as keeping the whole area in such deep shade nothing would grow but weeds and privet.  

So now that it's gone we've got big plans for something fun and of course some flowers. Burt's been working diligently to redistribute a huge pile of dirt while Ivy gets rid of the weeds and hauls all the junk away. We hope it can be transformed into a place we can actually use, instead of just avoid!

Unfortunately, that's not going to happen in one day - but it's a start!
It's a very good thing that Burt can count on Ivy to haul away his tired bones.

I hope everyone is having a great summer. So how are your projects going?

Thanks for stopping by!