horns are a hindrance

Clip, Snip, Chop, Saw, Voop-ah!

February was not kind to the landscapes in this part of Midgard. Plants that will take a day or two of freezing weather in stride just couldn’t cope with about a week of Fimbulwinter. There are a lot of dead palms, bottlebrushes, cycads, and other wimpy shrubberies around and about.

Likewise, the humans’ landscaping is quite haphazard. The birds and the wind and the squirrels plant things and the human female leaves them be. All the best things came up on their own. But it gets a bit tangly sometimes, or else things come up where they shouldn’t. Or try to eat the house.

For both reasons, some corrective pruning is in order. Theoretically, everything that is going to recover should be showing signs of life. The neighbors have begun to tidy up their own yards. It’s a pretty day with no rain forecast so, human female, you can’t really put the job off much longer. Since this involves you and edged tools, I really want to be involved (in an observing sort of way, not a doing-chores sort of way), because I smell the opportunity for mischief.

Especially if you get out the ladder. (It’s the folds-a-dozen-ways kind, and those things need very little urging to crunch fingers!)

I think you should probably start with the Vitex. This poor thing has had a large dead tree dropped on it, it has been hacked up by vandals unknown, and it’s naturally brittle-wooded. Now it has a large, low branch that is partly hollow and blocking access to the sprinkler system.

Voop-ah, voop-ah, voop-ah, voop-ah! That’s my impression of a pruning saw in hard wood. I’ve meddled your the saw so it doesn’t lock open anymore, though, which means that, between it and you, the noise is going to be more like voop-ugh, voop-dammit, voop-grr. I’m going to laugh if it folds up on your fingers…

Next you should probably take a look at those outlaw invasive elms you’ve been hoping the Native Plant Society of Texas doesn’t notice that you have.

They’ve got a lot of very low branches that stick out over the lawn, and while it amuses me to watch you duck as you mow, I’ve bonked my horns on them a number of times, so I wish you’d limb them up. Or, you could wait for your neighbor to just chop them off at the property line, because they annoy him too.

While you’re at it, pay some attention to limbs and saplings too close to the house. I know it’s going to break your heart to cut down that slender, six-foot live oak that planted itself all of ten inches from the foundation, but leaving it is a pretty stupid idea. (I know, I know, I’m depriving myself of the opportunity to cackle about a cracked foundation about ten years down the road, but it’s jolly good fun to see her mourn the tree now.)

Sweet Sif on a cracker! No one should have to see this! She has eschewed the ladder and has climbed up into the crapemyrtle to get the branch that’s been trying to tear the gutter off. Woman, you are too old and too rotund to be hanging up there like some strange, globose fruit with your fundament at everyone else’s eye-level. Come down from there this instant!

Here, observe this sad Boxwood. Surely it’s in dire need of some help.

Yes, Sigyn, it’s very sad. Apparently “evergreen” doesn’t actually apply to bushes that were encased in ice for days on end. Oh! Wait! My clever Sigyn has discovered a bit of green beneath the bark in a few spots so it might not be a total loss. The clippers have been put aside. I know what you’re doing, human female. You can call it “Giving it a few more weeks to see if it will start to recover,” but we all know it’s really “I’m too lazy to figure out what to cut and what to keep so I’ll worry about that later.”

Ditto for the very crunchy Pittosporum in the back yard.

What you really should tackle now, though, is the Turk’s Cap (or as Sigyn likes to call it, the Cupcake Bush). That thing dies to the ground most years anyway, and last year it tried to eat the garage, so you’ve got a whole lot of eight feet tall and twelve feet wide to cut down.

That should keep you occupied for the rest of the afternoon.

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I Suppose It’s the Thought That Counts

Look, Sigyn! It’s a parcel, and it’s addressed to the human female!

Let’s open it.

Oh, don’t play innocent with me. I know you want to! No, it’s not addressed to you or to me, but the human female has so many people who truly do not like her that we OWE it to her to, um…pre-inspect it and make sure that it contains nothing harmful. Yes, that’s it.

Does it say who it’s from?

Ah. Flourish–that’s the University’s touchy-feely outfit, the one that encourages people to breathe, exercise, get in touch with their inner moppet, and not be mad at the school for making them teach live during a pandemic. (Did I say that out loud?)

Well, let’s have at it. Good thing I always have a dagger handy.

Well, look at that.

It’s a slogan. Graphically designed, multicolored, and kind of cryptic. Who is supposed to be kind, the sender or the recipient? And who’s meant to be great, President Young (that’s his little message in there) or the human female?

I’m so confused. Is there anything else in the box? Surely there must be, or why send a package via Usually Smashes Parcels Significantly when an email would suffice?


Sigyn would be thrilled if this were all the box contained. (My girl has a definite “thing” for confetti and crinkles.) I’m not as big a fan. Paper tends to catch annoyingly on the helmet.

Moving on.


Oh–I see what this is now! This is a care package, a little “Something-something” to say, “Stay safe in this time of difficulty and pestilence!” All the staff were mailed one. It’s a nice gesture.

Can we pause for a moment and appreciate how the little bottle of sanitizer is of a size compliant with TSA rules for air travel?

Not that anyone can GO anywhere at the moment, but hey, it’s the thought that counts!

Sigyn, we’re standing on something flattish… Get off and let’s see what it is.

Antibacterial wet wipes. Very useful! The Covid may get her, but the human is all set to ward off bubonic plague.

One last thing…

A mask. Very thoughtful. Very soft. Very on-brand.

Very much too big.

You wouldn’t know, because–thank the Norns!–the human female’s likeness never sullies this blog, but she really has a tiny little pinhead. There’s no way this one-size-fits-all mask is going to work.

I can hear you now–“Just tie a knot in the elastic earloops and it will fit better!” That might work, if her ears didn’t stick out like taxicab doors, but they do. Any loop small enough to hold a mask securely to her face is going to be strong enough to fold her ear right over and slip off. Trust me, I watched her try. It wasn’t pretty.

So looks like the human male gets another mask, to go with the one he received in his little care package last week.

And that’s it. That’s all there is. I was hoping for cookies or candy, and Sigyn was stumping for stickers, but sadly, it’s just plague supplies.

Bored now. Come on, Sigyn, let’s just leave all the contents for the human female.

And all the packing for the felines.

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Nerds in the Woods 2019, Part II: Scribbles in the Shade

My sweetie would wander about all day, given the chance, but she says she promised to help with the children’s activities at the Native Plant Society of Texas table.

Besides, although the day is fair and breezy, it is more than a little warm in the sun, and some shade would be quite welcome.  (My helmet is glorious, but it is heavy and heats up something dreadful.)

The first order of business is to check out the art supplies.  My sweetie has a distinct fondness for crayons. She enjoys both coloring with them and sorting them out into waxy rainbows.

And, apparently, she also has a thing for bus-shaped art supply caddies. 


She is completely enthralled by its tinny resemblance to the real thing.


Tape, hole punch, pencil sharpener…  I just want to know what’s in the engine compartment, which snaps off as its own little tin.

The tyke-friendly art project on offer this year is a little book of leaf rubbings.  Sigyn and I have done these before, but only always single sheets, never a whole book.  I very much doubt that pint-sized mortals will have the patience to complete more than one, but it might be amusing to play with the components.

The process is best accomplished with more than a modicum of help from grown-ups.


As I suspected, the mini-mortals are coloring with more enthusiasm than finesse, and not all of their efforts are “keepers”.  The sample booklet, however, was produced with a little more care.


Look Sigyn, it’s a post oak–just like the big tree in the back yard at home, the one that did not leaf out this year and which I have suggested to the human female more than once is probably just choosing its moment to fall onto the house

Whoever brought the art supplies (it wasn’t the human female–she showed up with a list of plants, a sign that reads, “Ask a Botanist a Question,” and a lunch) took great pains with the rubber stamps and colored pencils to produce a beautiful cover.


All most of the children are managing to achieve with the rubber stamps is blackened fingers.  Keep your distance from my sweetie, you filthy younglings!

The adults running the table are binding the books in a manner similar to this.   Ehhehehe!  It is taking the human female many tries to learn to do it correctly, and I suspect the first few she did will were assembled incorrectly and will fall apart before their creators even get them home.

A fine way to represent your organization, woman.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this new group of Plant Nerds doesn’t invite you back again next year…

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Great Frigga’s Corset! She’s Actually Doing Work! Part II: Mischief In The Mix

Before the human female can fill up all the jars, she has to make the cocktail that goes in them.  Behold, the sacred, secret recipe her Tech II has left:


This makes a little something called FAA–Formalin Acetic Acid.  It’s toxic, carcinogenic, flammable, explosive —you name an unpleasant characteristic, and it has it.  And someone trusts the human female to MAKE this?!

Since PPE (personal protective equipment) is incompatible with horns and messes up Sigyn’s hair, I’m just going to throw a protective spell around us while we are here.  The human female is on her own.

She’s starting with the glacial acetic acid.  Think of this as vinegar turned up to eleven.  It’s so awful that it’s kept in the flammables locker


The mischief I could do with just one spark…

That’s the bottle she needs. That big one, there.  The one too big to accurately pour from.


Next she’s adding the formalin.  It’s a preservative, a watered-down formaldehyde, if you will, but it’s still very bad for humans.

It’s in an unwieldy container too.  She plans to pour some into a beaker and pour from that into the graduated cylinder.  Good plan.  We’ll see if it works.


The last ingredient is the ethanol.  This stuff is very flammable.  And also explosive.   And she has fifty liters of it.  Leaving quickly and going for a walk outdoors is sounding better and better all the time.


Well, at least she has the carboy pushed back and the spigot not hanging over the edge of the bench (where someone walking by, might just happen to nudge it open a bit…)

What will she use to measure out the 2700 ml she needs?

Fenrir’s Fleacollar! Sigyn is trapped in glassware again!  What is it with her?!


Oh, whew!  She was just behind it.  Sigyn, that is one TALL graduated cylinder.  You fall in that one, and I’m not sure even I could fish you out.


So now all the ingredients are in this big beaker inside a running fume hood.  Fume hoods are good.  They keep chemicals from filling a room with nasty vapors.


I quite like the little tornado that the magnetic stirrer is making.  I think I shall devise a spell to do the same thing in my morning grape juice.  Juice with a tornado would be super cool, just the sort of thing one would expect the ruler of Midgard to have!

And that, light of my life, is our exit cue.  In just a minute, the human female it going to try to pour neatly from this big beaker into a large carboy with a spigot.   Then she will do this all twice more, to fill the carboy.  Think she can do it without spilling?

Me, neither.

Fortunately, I have the good folks at Eek! Hazards, Sickness, and Death on speed-dial.

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Well Done, Fenrir!

Fenrir, the great wolf who will swallow the sun at the time of Ragnarok, is making a pretty decent practice run today.

This part of Midgard should see about 68% of the sun’s disk swallowed up.  Of course, I have also arranged for it to be about 68% cloudy.  (It is a true fact that, if there is anything occurring of astronomical interest, be it a comet or a meteor shower or a large canid noshing on the primary, the local skies will almost always be overcast.)

The human female was too cheap to buy me a telescope and, no doubt, too stupid to know how to use one, but she did consent to do the bare minimum and poke a hole in a piece of cardstock so that Sigyn and I can use the old-fashioned method of tracking Fenrir’s snack.

Here we are.  It’s fairly near the beginning of the event.  (Notice that the human female had to weigh down the paper with her big, ugly eyeglasses.  It is breezy AND cloudy today.)


See, Sigyn?  The little sun spot is still mostly round.

We’ve all walked over to the plaza in front of the student center.  The Astronomy Club has several telescopes set up. The lines are long, but we have hopes of getting a peek.


(Some time later.) Well, that was a rip-off.   The human female saw something, but Sigyn was too short to peek in, and my horns got in the way.  We’ll just have to make do with our cardstock apparatus.

Look!  It’s working!  Our spot is more of a D- or crescent shape! 


Here’s a close-up.  I must admit— I am impressed.  Fenrir should be able to swallow the whole thing when the time comes!


(I am also a bit surprised that the human female’s cheap card trick actually worked, but don’t tell her that.  She’d get a swelled head and it’d take me a week to get her good and humble again.)

>|B [      (approved eclipse glasses)

I Don’t See Mint *OR* A Spring, Part I: It’s Very Flowery Here

The human female hasn’t been doing a lot of field botany because she’s still having trouble with her feet.   Or that’s what she *says,* anyway.  Personally, I think she’s just to rotund to move anymore.

Nevertheless, she happened to have a meeting today in a part of town that is not too far from an area she knows can be lush in the spring, so we are stopping for a quick look.  It’s called Minter Spring.  Minter than what?  Is there a plain Mint Spring somewhere?  Is there a Mintest Spring a little further down the road??  I do not know.  Place names in this part of Midgard are so silly that there’s no telling.

So here we are.  The soil is very sandy.  The plants here are ones that like living in a place that’s like a beach with no water.  (That’s right. No water— I don’t see any actual spring.)

This is pointed phlox.  I think that particular obnoxious shade of pinky-purple is not otherwise found in nature.  (And that’s a good thing.)


But Sigyn doesn’t seem to mind.

Sometimes Sigyn needs a boost to look at the flowers properly.  The human female says this next one is called “drum-and-sand warts.”  That can’t be right.  She’s wearing a hat, but maybe she needs sunscreen and some shade.  Perhaps the warm spring sun has scrambled what passes for her brain.


Or maybe she’s just drunk.  Can’t rule that one out.

Just to show you how DUMB Midgardian names can be, this next one is called “blue-eyed grass.”


It’s not a grass, it doesn’t have EYES, and the flowers dry purple.  But the flowers on the phlox dry blue, so I suppose it all evens out.

Oooo!  The female says the blue-eyed grass is a very naughty plant and does not transplant into the home garden very well.  Also, the three or four species in this part of Midgard like to play botanical footsie with one another– so much so that it can be impossible to tell what species most plants are!  There are almost no plants of pure lineage.   A race of color-shifting, uncooperative, bastard posies.  I approve!

Sigyn is very fond of daisies.  This particular one is called daisy fleabane.


Supposedly, strewn about the house, it is will keep fleas away.  Hey!  I think the human female has fleas–we should pick some for her!

Which might be harder than it sounds…



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A Late Summer Walk, Part II: Puffy Things and Dangly Bits

This is a good time of year for white, poofy-puffy things.  Sometimes it is seed heads; sometimes it is the flowers themselves.

The human female is laying claim to this one, saying it is her “Kania.”


Well, mortal, what if *I* want it?  Huh?  Do you truly think you could take anything from me if I really wanted it?

Sigyn, ever the peace-maker, is rightly pointing out that there is oodles (her word) of this vine rambling all over the ground here.  Plenty for the human female, for me, and for Sigyn.  Hel, there is even some if Fisi wants to widdle on it.


Sigyn has found her own fluffy white bed.


Say, those flowers look very similar to the Kania ones.  Oh.  The human female says the plants are related, “belonging to the same tribe of the Asteraceae, the Eupatoriae.  Note the slender style branches.”  How very…boring.  But I do think I recognize the plant.  I put some in the humans’ front flower bed last year.  It was quite robust and grew to a great height before producing an abundance of these dirty-white flowers.  This spring the human female discovered it had left about a half a million descendants, all over the flower beds and the lawn.  She is still pulling them up!  Note to self:  Do it again next year.

These white flowers are all very well, but isn’t there something a little more colorful?


Clever Sigyn!  Yes, these are very showy.  Wait for me, and I shall climb up to join you.

Curses!  I seem to be…


… caught on something.

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Yet another Midgardian inn

I forgot to mention that the humans traveled for this past holiday, staying in yet another Midgardian inn. I am beginning to believe that they were all constructed by one person, for they are all mostly the same, same, same. *Yawn.*

I will admit, however, that this one had a unique method of presenting the bath linens. We had a good game of hide-and-seek.


Sigyn won. (Horns are hard to hide.)

This inn was another with a sink cake.


Sigyn, I know you were excited, but remember what I’ve told you about them. They’re not edible, no matter how good they smell.

So we checked out the inn’s actually-food offerings. Mostly the same as previous inn fare, though it did have these small round breakfasts The human female says they’re for eating with butter and honey, but Sigyn found them fluffy enough to recline on. I think perhaps this is what the Midgardians refer to as a "Bed and Breakfast."


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The cold, wet walk that never ends…

Augh! This walk just keeps going. Sigyn has started looking at all the berries and exclaiming about the colors.

We saw one of these beautyberry bushes back in the summer. I will grudgingly concede that the fruit is indeed a very vivid color.


Sigyn wants to climb everything. My cloak is sodden and I just want to go home. (But I seem to be caught on something.)

I know Sigyn has had us in the holly before. (She seems to gravitate to red things for some reason.) But look–wet berries, wet leaves, wet Loki. Sweetling, please can we be done now?


Oh, very well. One last plant. This vine is one I have encountered before. It and I treat each other with wary respect. There is a botanical truce. I could blast it into compost, but it has truly vicious prickles…


…which Sigyn seems not to mind. Sigh. By all means, let us indulge in some foliar gymnastics.

The human female says the pulp in the berries is stretchy and the plant is sometimes called “Snotberry.” Sigyn wants to pull one open and see, but since they also stain your fingers, I think she probably shouldn’t.

Oh, great. Now the human female is blathering on about local dyeplants and she and Sigyn are brainstorming a dyeing session and discussing the merits of solar versus simmer dyeing and the toxic properties of various mordants vis-a-vis their effects on vegetable dye sources and various plant and animal fibers and I’m never going to get home, am I?

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Some fall flowers


Look at what else the recent rains have brought! The human female calls these "Schoolhouse Lilies," but I prefer their other name, "Oxblood Lilies," because it is gorier and sounds much more sacrifice-to-a-god-like.

The human female likes them because they just pop up like clockwork every September, with no help at all. Even she can’t screw them up. Sigyn, of course, thinks they are meant to be climbed. (Bonus: They are red!)


I have tried to join her, but apparently my gloriousness is too much for their frail stalks, because I find myself flat on my back in the damp grass.


(Maybe my helmet is a mite too heavy…)

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