For They Rest From Their Labors

Lt Michael Davinich at Emirau in WWII

Depending on our age, certain days are burned into our memories. Pearl Harbor. President Kennedy’s assassination. 9/11.

For me, there is an additional day: September 23, 2000.

Some phone calls you never want to receive.

“Hello, is this Judy S.?”
“Yes. Who’s calling, please?”
“My name is –. There’s been an accident…”

One remembers the incredible kindness of strangers, the shock of friends, the grief of kin. The aftermath. The empty places now in family gatherings and photos where a father had always been.

I am fortunate, in that as an adult I had a good relationship with my father. He respected me, and I him. He wasn’t an easy man, but he was a good man, a deeply principled, honest and hard-working man. An inventive problem-solver, who left his mark in the engineering world that was his domain. A patriot, who fought in WWII and spent a life in service, first as a commissioned officer for his beloved Seabees, then eventually rising in his civilian career to become a District Chief for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

But for me, most of all: he was Dad.

Michael Davinich, July 24, 1917 – September 23, 2000

Lux Aeterna luceat eis, Domine, cum sanctis tuis in Aeternum, quia pius es. Requiem Aeternam dona eis, Domine; et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Late Bloomers

The geese are already starting to fly overhead, migrating south, and some of the flowers that only open in late autumn started blooming this week. Enjoy.

New England Aster

This blossom opened just this afternoon. It’s a New England Aster. The plant will have hundreds of blooms covering it for the next several weeks. Last year I found it sprouting in a bed of bee balm, brought in by bird or bunny from who knows where (from somewhere near Kris’s yard, perhaps? After all, it is a New England Aster!) and let it grow. Grow it has… right now it’s over 5 feet tall and three feet wide.

Cardinal Vine

I didn’t plant this cardinal vine either – my neighbor did, and I’m so glad he did. It’s happily grown up and through our fence, intertwining with the red runner beans that I had planted on my side of the fence. It’s been blooming off and on, but it seems to have really exploded with blossoms over the last few days.


These are boltonia, my favorite fall flower. The blossoms are scarcely an inch across, but each plant, like the New England Aster, is covered with hundreds of blooms. I have several plants against a fence, and they make a beautiful four-foot high hedge bursting with tiny white flowers that remain open from late September until well after the first frost.

Sedum with Bumblebee

I was chasing a bumblebee that was right next to the fence with my camera lens, trying to get a shot of its cute little fuzzy self, and it flew over the fence onto my neighbor Dan’s sedum and… well… I just had to take a photo. Isn’t that a gorgeous flower? The bumblebees love these flowers, too – they’ve been swarming Dan’s sedums all this week.

While I was taking these photos today, a hummingbird came and visited the zinnias. I wish I had a photo to show you, but its movements were much too quick to capture with my camera. We rarely see hummingbirds, but earlier this week, when I was out in the yard, a hummingbird zoomed in, ignored the flowers and instead thoroughly inspected me, its wings a blur against the jewel-toned emerald feathers that covered it. All the time it was barely inches away from me. He was so close I couldn’t even move my camera to take a snap of it, for fear of injuring the little fellow, or frightening it away. It was, hands down, one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced!

It Isn’t Easy Being Green

Degree of Green Logo

What does ‘green’ mean, when you’re looking for products to build or remodel your house?

Sounds like a straightforward question.

The answer, unfortunately, is, “it depends.”

Does ‘green’ mean that a product is made from recycled materials? Or is it something that uses minimal non-renewable resources in its creation? Does it mean that the product is non-toxic? Are ‘green’ items only those that come entirely from post-consumer waste?

Is that low VOC paint you’re buying really healthy? Or has the manufacturer played a shell game and eliminated the chemicals that are defined by law as VOCs, and substituted in equally toxic chemicals that aren’t tracked – yet.

Are your recycled shingles really helping the environment by reusing a product that would otherwise go into a landfill? Or is the manufacturer adding a chemical that will run off the roof with the rainwater and cause endocrine disruption in fish and put ‘gender bending’ chemicals into our drinking water so that our children grow up infertile?

Straightforward? Nope.

Andy Pace, the owner of Safe Building Solutions, has spent a considerable amount of thought, time and effort creating a new system that homeowners, remodellers, businesses, building contractors and the construction industry can use to help determine how ‘green’ products are that you use in construction or remodeling.

It’s called the “Degree of Green” (TM) Rating System, and it gives products three separate scores, one each for healthfulness, sustainability, and environmental impact. The system also tells you of any disadvantages a product has, looking at such things as a product’s availability, its price and the degree of technical expertise necessary to use it.

I’ve known Andy for many years. He is himself a distributor for several high quality lines of low-toxicity and environmentally safe products used in all kinds of building and remodelling. Andy doesn’t have any blinders on, however, when it comes to the strengths and limitations of the product lines he carries. He’ll tell you about the good, the bad and the ugly for each one of his products – and can give you an honest low-down on his competitors’ products as well. You won’t find a more honest or helpful businessman in the industry.

Go take a look at how the rating system works, and who it’s relying on for expertise. You can even see sample rating sheets to show you how it works.

It’s a terrific resource that we’ve needed for a long time, and my hat is off to Andy for coming up with it!

Degree of Green (TM) Rating System logo and image copyright (c) 2007, Safe Building Solutions, Waukesha, WI. All rights reserved. Used here by permission. Please do not reproduce or copy without the express permission of Safe Building Solutions.

Things That Go Bump In The Night

In our abode, one accesses our basement, oddly enough, by stepping outside of the house and into an attached garage, making a sharp righthand turn, then marching down a set of steps and entering the basement through its own entry door. This peculiar design makes for some rather interesting experiences, as the steps are frequently used by various and sundry critters that are also trying to access the basement. It gets particularly entertaining when it’s dark, and you catch a glimpse of something scurrying about your toes, or feel little feet run across the top of yours as you are ascending or descending the stairs.

Among the visitors we’ve captured (and released) are innumerable spiders, mice, birds, shrews both large and small, various and sundry beetles and some exceedingly noisy crickets.

So tonight, when Michael yelled, “Jud-eeeeeeeee! There’s a lump on the steps and it’s hopping!” I immediately grabbed our wildlife transport kit, which includes:

  1. a large-sized yogurt container (32 ounce size);
  2. the container’s lid (we don’t want anyone to jump out of the container prematurely and fall to their death, or hit the floor running and look for the nearest bolt hole, which usually happens to be a trouser leg, and a trouser leg, from a mouse-eye view, is a pretty inviting hidey-hole in an emergency. You don’t believe that a wild field mouse will run up your pants leg? Ah, Best Beloved, listen to the voice of experience: when transporting field mice tuck your pant legs into your socks. It’ll prevent an unpleasant experience for everyone involved);
  3. a sheet of paper to slide under the turned-over container until it can be flipped rightside-up and the lid popped on.

Armed with said kit, Michael carefully traversed his way down the steps, flashlight in hand, gently nabbed the little varmint and then brought it upstairs for me to see: t’was a toad, a rather handsome one at that, and good-sized – larger than a silver dollar.

Here’s a mugshot of the fellow, snapped from the side as he was on his way back to the Great Outdoors.

Froggy's mugshot

And here’s another shot of him, with his little eyes firmly closed against that icky flash I was using to get his picture!

Frog on the run!

Once outside, Michael shooed Mr. Toad into a good hiding spot under the ferns. We had a great horned owl hunting close by earlier in the evening, so I hope Mr. Toad keeps a wary eye out on the heavens!

(This might be a frog rather than a toad… but he doesn’t have any webby toes, so unless and until some expert looks at his mugshot and definitively identifies him in a lineup, I’m calling ‘im a toad!)

When Bunnies Go Bad

Yesterday, I had two flourishing young hosta plants happily leafing out in my garden.

Today, in place of the hostas, I found… this.

Bunny Biomass

Do you see a hosta there, Oh Best Beloved?

No? Me either. I just see a pair of hostas that have been, uh, recycled. Run through a bunny biomass digester, so to speak.

Stewart, I know it was you – you ate my hostas, you wascally wabbit, you!