Columbine #232BR, 227BR, 218AR & 223AR

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October 31, 2015

Columbine, whose scientific name is Aquilegia, which is derived from the Latin word aquila which translates as eagle, is so named because the spurred shape of the plant’s sepals on many of the sixty to seventy species of the flower resemble an eagle’s talons. This easy to grow, hardy perennial blooms from late spring through early summer. Though not particularly a long-lived plant, most die off after only two or three years. However, the plant does grow easily from seed, and if seed pods are allowed to develop annually will reseed themselves. The long spurs of the flower produces a nectar that is a favored by hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.

Native to Asia, the plant is now found growing in the wild in meadows, woodlands and at higher altitudes throughout North America and Europe. Columbine, which come in many colors ranging from red, pink and white to purple and blue, are propagated by seed, growing to a height of fifteen to twenty inches. The plant will grow in full sun, however it prefers partial shade and a moist, rich, well-drained soil. Having a long taproot, which allows it to survive periods of drought, this same taproot does make transplanting the plant somewhat difficult.

Columbine, the state flower of Colorado (Rocky Mountain Columbine), were consumed in moderation by Native Americans as a condiment and are said to be very sweet. However, the seeds and root of the plant are very poisonous and if consumed can be fatal.

If I am fortunate to have you view my photographs and you find the color saturation too much or the color schemes of the mats do not match either themselves or the photograph, please let me know via a comment. Being color-blind, what might look great to me might look like sh*t to everyone else!

Steven H. Spring

Zinnias #36B, 42B, 38B, 39B, 41C, 40C, 37B & 43BR

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October 25, 2015

Zinnias are a genus of twenty species of flowering plants of the Asteracea family. However more than one hundred different varieties have been cultivated since crossbreeding them began in the nineteenth century. Zinnias, which is also its botanical name, are native to the scrub and dry grasslands of southwestern United States, Mexico and Central America. Noted for their long-stemmed flowers that come in a variety of bright colors, Zinnias are named for German professor of botany Johann Gottfried Zinn (1727-1759).

A perennial flowering plant in frost-free climates, Zinnias are an annual everywhere else. With leaves opposite each other, their shapes range from linear to ovate, with colors from pale to middle green. The blooms come in different shapes as well, ranging from a single row of petals to a doom shape. Their colors range from purple, red, pink, orange, yellow and white to multicolored. There are many different types of this flower. They come in dwarf types, quill-leaf cactus types and spider types. Fully grown Zinnias range from six inches high with a bloom less than an inch in diameter to plants four feet tall with seven-inch blooms. This plant will grow in most soil types, but thrives in humus-rich, well-watered, well-drained soils. They like the direct sun at least six hours a day; however, they will tolerate just the afternoon sun.

If grown as an annual, they can be started early indoors around mid April. Any earlier and they just might grow too large to manage as the plant germinates in only five to seven days. However, these plants are said to dislike being transplanted. If seeding is done outdoors, they should be sown in late May, after the threat of the last frost, when the soil is above sixty degrees. They will reseed themselves each year. Plant the seeds a quarter-inch deep, covered with loose soil. For bushier plants, pinch off an inch from the tips of the main stems while the plant is still young.

If I am fortunate to have you view my photographs and you find the color saturation too much or the color schemes of the mats do not match either themselves or the photograph, please let me know via a comment. Being color-blind, what might look great to me might look like sh*t to everyone else!

Steven H. Spring

Chrysanthemums #199BR, 190CR, 191BR, 187BR & 198CR

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October 17, 2015

Chrysanthemums, more commonly knows as Mums, are a member of the Asteraceae family of flowers. This flower is considered a hardy perennial, although many consider them only as a short-season, fall-planted annual, as they bloom in late summer and fall. There are forty known species and thousands of different varieties of Mums. Most species originally came from China, Japan, northern Africa and southern Europe, although China is thought to be the original starting point of the plant, dating there as far back as the fifteenth century, B.C., where the flowers have customarily been boiled to make a tea and also used medicinally to treat influenza. The plant has been grown in Japan since the eighth century. Over five hundred different varieties were known to exist by 1630. Chrysanthemums are considered to have been introduced in America in 1798, when Colonel John Stevens imported a variety known as Dark Purple from England. The plant is considered the death flower in Europe because of its widespread use on graves.

The word Chrysanthemum is a derivative of two Greek words, chrysos (meaning gold) and anthemon (meaning flower). This particular genus of flower at one time included many more species, but was divided into several different genera a few decades ago. The National Chrysanthemum Society recognizes thirteen different classes of flowering blooms of the plant, based on form and the shape of its petals, although there are only eight major types; anemone, cushion, decorative, pompon, single, spider, spoon and quill.

Chrysanthemums are divided into two basic groups, garden hardy and exhibition. Garden hardy are perennials capable of surviving winters in northern latitudes and produce a large quantity of small blooms. Exhibition varieties are not nearly as hardy and sturdy; usually require staking and being kept in a relatively cool, dry location over the winter, sometimes requiring the use of night-lights. In addition to its many different types of blooms, Mums come in a wide variety of colors, ranging not only of gold, but also white, yellow, bronze, red, burgundy, pink, lavender and purple. The plant also comes in an assortment of heights as well, ranging from a height of eighteen inches up to three feet tall, depending on the particular variety, growing conditions and whether they are pinched regularly during the growing season. Pinched plants will generate a smaller, bushier plant, producing many more blooms.

These plants can be planted either in the fall or in early spring. Those planted in the spring will produce a more vigorous flower. Mums prefer fertile, highly organic, well-drained soil and plenty of sunlight. The plants should be spaced roughly eighteen to twenty-four inches apart, although some varieties might require spacing up to three feet. They can be fertilized once a month up through July. Mums particularly need plenty of water once they start blooming. Every two or three years, Chrysanthemums should be divided to invigorate their growth. If bought as a potted plant in the fall, as many people do, they should be planted at least six weeks if not more before the season’s first killing frost, although it seems that many who buy fall pots will throw the plant away after the frost kills the blooms, having never transplanted the flower into a garden.

If I am fortunate to have you view my photographs and you find the color saturation too much or the color schemes of the mats do not match either themselves or the photograph, please let me know via a comment. Being color-blind, what might look great to me might look like sh*t to everyone else!

Steven H. Spring

Left Alone To Die

October 13, 2015

Twenty years ago today, on October 13, 1995, oddly enough a Friday, life as I knew it ended. Technically, I did not actually die, and there were a few close calls, but that whole day sure felt like hitting a brick wall head-on doing ninety miles an hour. It was on that dreadful day that I was falsely accused by a subordinate at work of sexual harassment, along with several other serious charges. After being interrogated by a couple of “investigators” and after numerous hearings, I was found innocent of all charges by the Auditor of State of Ohio, which I was employed at the time as an audit supervisor. However, the acquisitions resulted in me losing everything that mattered most in life. It cost me my job, career, health, marriage and most of all my precious children.

What cost me my career was that between my attorney and myself, we made the entire Auditor of State’s office look like bumbling idiots. At my final hearing, it was just the two of us against every high-ranking official in the Auditor’ office except for only the Auditor of State himself. And yet, they looked like complete fools. My attorney kicked all their asses. Each hearing led to another with more officials getting involved. I remember one time someone had to warn the Columbus district supervisor that he needed to calm down, so out of control was he. It was far more circus than kangaroo court. If only I had hired my attorney prior to being interrogated. During the interrogation, I was denied repeated requests for legal counsel by the two “investigators.” I was even told I could not leave after stating more than once that I was going back to work. It wasn’t until they brought in their supervisor, that legal order was somewhat restored.

Losing everything all at once was hard enough to take, however to make matters far worse was the ordeal of quitting my medication cold-turkey. I kept working for about six months after the acquisitions were first filed against me, and over that time, with the approval of two doctors I upped the amount of anti-depressants that I was taking four times the amount one should ever take. When I lost my job and benefits, my nightmare really begin. I went through Hell, both emotionally and physically, while withdrawing cold-turkey from the anti-depressants. I still suffer from numerous side affects of the withdrawal, and will probably do so the rest of my life. Only by the grace and mercy of God did I survive.

My children meant the world to me. I grew up never knowing my father. And, to say that my mother and I never got along is putting it mildly. The best way to sum up my relationship with my mother is something my ex-wife once said to me; my mother told her that she had better think twice before marrying me. Wow, what a ringing endorsement (that accidental pun is intended). If truth be told, it was my ex who asked me to marry her. I did, however, end up in a bad marriage.

The relationship with my ex-wife ended not long after our children were born. I place no blame on the children, it was solely the fault of both my ex and myself, but that was what happened. Except for going to a Buckeye football game once a year and an occasional concert, we did nothing together.  Sad to say, we even stopped talking to each other. When my babies came into my life, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Losing them devastated me. I paid a terrible price for any youthful indiscretion that may have possessed me. It haunts me every single day, and will haunt me all my remaining days.

If any good came out of my mid-life crisis it was buying my first Fender Stratocaster guitar exactly one month after that horrific day, which was my fortieth birthday. I can take a decent photograph, but playing a guitar has been a life-long dream. I’m still not very good, but believe I am getting pretty close to being really good. My guitars gave me the will to live during many dark years. And, still do to this very day. My ordeal also gave me some great ideas for putting words down on paper. I pull no punches, and as I once told a psychologist, my mouth has always gotten me in trouble, as I have always spoken my mind.

The following is something I wrote in April of 2001;

Left alone to die,
I was left all alone to die.
No one seemed to care,
No one had the decency to come by.

The look of death, my neighbor said,
Was evident in my eyes.
In and out of emergency rooms,
Was the only way I managed to get by.

Down on the farm and down on my luck,
And with a family that did not give a fuck.
So unstable was I at that time,
That I destroyed my brand new, bright red Dodge pick-up truck.

Left alone to die,
I was left all alone to die.
If it wasn’t for the man above,
I would not have survived.

Physicians whom I no longer had a plan,
Left me all along to die, there is little doubt.
Of the Hell I went through,
When the meds suddenly all ran out.

Down on my knees, shakin’ in pain,
Out of control and out of my mind.
Pleading with the good Lord, please help me get by,
Life was unbearable, all I wanted to do was die.

Lawyers too, had stopped their shout,
No longer cared after the money ran out.
Cost me my job and career,
They had nothing to lose, nothing to fear.

Family whom I no longer had,
Left me there all alone to die.
If it wasn’t for the merciful man up above,
I never would have survived.

Steven H. Spring

Lilies #1546B, 1536AR, 1528AR & 1547A

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October 10, 2015

Lilies, whose scientific name is Lilium, has more than one hundred gorgeous species in its family. There are many plants that have lily in their common name; however, not all are true Lilies. Two examples of this misnomer are Day Lilies and Peace Lilies. True Lilies are mostly native throughout the temperate climate regions of the northern hemisphere of planet Earth, although their range can extend into the northern subtropics as well. This range extends across much of Europe, Asia, Japan and the Philippines and across southern Canada and throughout most of the United States.

Lilies are very easy to grow. They are not especially particular about soil neither type nor pH level. Their only requirement is well-drained soil. Lilies grow best in full sun; however, they may thrive in partial sun as well. An interesting fact about this plant is that most Lily bulbs have very thick roots that have the ability to pull the bulb down into the soil at a depth that is most optimum for their continued survival.

If I am fortunate to have you view my photographs and you find the color saturation too much or the color schemes of the mats do not match either themselves or the photograph, please let me know via a comment. Being color-blind, what might look great to me might look like sh*t to everyone else!

Steven H. Spring

Dahlias #319BR, 325AR, 343BR, 330BR & 339AR

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October 3, 2015

Dahlias are a genus of bushy, tuberous perennial flowering plants that are native primarily to Mexico but also extending further down into Central America and Columbia. Spaniards discovered the flower in Mexico in 1525, where the indigenous population used the plant not only as a source for food, but also as medicine. With at least thirty-six known species, and thousands of different varieties, Dahlias, which is also its scientific name, are a member of the Asteraceae plant family, which includes related genera such as Cone Flowers, Daisies, Chrysanthemums, Marigolds, Sunflowers and Zinnias. Like other flowers in the Asteraceae family, Dahlias appear to be a single bloom, but in reality are made up of many individual flowers. Although this plant produces a gorgeous flower, its bloom does not generate a scent, thus it relies on its stunning colors to attract the insects required for pollination. Dahlias bloom from mid-summer up until your region’s first frost in the fall.

Dahlias should be planted around the middle of April through May, again depending on the region, when the threat of frost is no longer prevalent. The ground temperature should be at least sixty degrees. In much of the United States, these plants do not survive the winter, thus the tubers (fleshy roots similar to bulbs) need to be dug up every fall, and replanted each spring. Before the first frost of fall, these plants should be cut back to six inches. After digging up the tubers, shake off any soil, and then store in a frost-free place. Generally, forty to forty-five degrees is best suited for the tubers.

This plant requires eight to ten hours of direct or somewhat filtered sunlight each day, but especially love the morning sun. Less sun results in taller plants and less blooms. They thrive best in a cool, moist climate, while doing poorly in hot, humid weather. If your summer temperatures routinely exceed ninety degrees, these flowers should be planted in an area that receives some shade during the hottest part of the day. The flower thrives best in a rich, well-drained, slightly acidic, sandy soil. If your soil is too heavy or clayish, sand and/or peat moss can be added to lighten it. Dahlias are considered deer-resistant, though no plant is, in truth resistant to hungry deer. Dahlias are, however vulnerable to slug and snail damage.

With so many different varieties of Dahlias, the plant varies greatly not only in height, but also in the color, shape and size of the blooms. These flowers range in height from miniature six-inch plants to tree Dahlias that can grow more than fifteen feet tall. Larger plants will requiring staking. Colors range from white, yellow, orange, bronze, lavender and pink to red and purple, as well as dark red and dark purple. Blooms range in size from two inches up to twelve inches in diameter. Mature plants are as wide as they are tall. The large variety of blooms are due to the flowers being octoploid, meaning they have eight sets of homologous chromosomes, whereas most other plants have only two.

The tubers should be planted horizontally four to six inches deep, spaced roughly two feet apart. After covering with soil, the tubers should not be watered, as it can lead to rotting. Do not water until the tubers start to spout. In addition, tubers should not be mulched, as mulching does not allow the soil to warm enough for the tubers to spout. Mulch can be applied once the tubers do spout. Young plants do not require much water, again too much watering leads to rotting. Mature plants should be watered only if rainfall is less than one inch a week. If you are like me, and live in a region with freezing temperatures during the winter months, Dahlias can be grown in containers, however these plants only do well in large containers, generally they need pots at least twelve inches in diameter per tuber. Dwarf Dahlias are best suited when using containers. You should use two parts top soil along with one part of potting soil that has not been chemically treated for weeds.

If I am fortunate to have you view my photographs and you find the color saturation too much or the color schemes of the mats do not match either themselves or the photograph, please let me know via a comment. Being color-blind, what might look great to me might look like sh*t to everyone else!

Steven H. Spring

Gun Ownership In Itself Is Not A Second Amendment Right

October 2, 2015

I hate to keep posting an updated version of my original post, that was first posted on July 28, 2012 after the horrific shooting at the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado that left twelve dead and fifty-eight wounded, however, once again a mass shooting has shaken America to its knees, and those who lost their lives and their families cry out for me to do what little I can actually do about it, that being to put into writing my disgust with the gun culture in this nation. It is believed that a heavily armed, twenty-six year old man is responsible for the deaths of nine students and faculty, plus an additional nine others wounded, this time at the Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, a town of 22,000 citizens located approximately one hundred and eighty miles south of Eugene. I can already hear gun rights advocates opining that now is not the time to discuss new, effective gun control laws, as they always do after every horrific shooting. If not now, in the wake of nine innocent lives shot dead, when is the time to properly discuss gun control?

Proponents of gun ownership and the firearms industry cite the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution as the right of every citizen to keep and bear arms. However, these folks all seem to leave out the extremely significant first four words of the actual amendment. The Second Amendment, as passed by Congress on December 15, 1791 as part of the Bill Of Rights, states “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” A well-regulated militia, in this day and age, to me and I think most every educated person would agree would refer to the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and the National Guard. Yet, this very important phrase of the Second Amendment is never mentioned by gun advocates. It’s as if those first four words do not exist.

America’s fascination with firearms has evolved into becoming the most violent nation on Earth, with the possible exception of those countries who are presently engaged in actual warfare, which it seems would include this nation as we have been at war (or wars) for twenty-five of the past thirty years. And, even more incredibly, America, which was founded on the mass genocide of its indigenous people, have been engaged in some sort of military conflict two hundred and twenty-two years out of our two hundred and thirty-nine year existence. We are arguably the most violent nation in our planet’s history. There is no excuse for any person to own a military assault weapon or a high-capacity magazine clip, yet our politicians who dare have the courage to speak up for sensible gun laws quiver in fear of reprisal from the National Rifle Association. Politicians who do speak out in favor of new gun control legislation face the wrath of the NRA come their next election.

To believe that arming every citizen is the answer to curbing gun violence, as the NRA espouses is just preposterous. Growing up during the hay-day of Westerns ruling television networks, the image I always remember is that the very first thing the town sheriff did when cowboys came into town after a long, hard cattle drive to visit the local saloons was to take away their guns. However, just the opposite is occurring throughout America as more and more cities and states are allowing the concealed carrying of firearms into drinking establishments.

The following is a partial list of mass murders that have taken place in the United States just since the horrendous tragedy at Columbine High School in 1999 that resulted in the death of fifteen students:

Twelve dead in Atlanta, Georgia in 1999,
Six dead in Fort Worth, Texas in 1999,
Five dead in Wichita, Kansas in 2000,
Seven dead in Wakefield, Massachusetts in 2000,
Five dead in Queens, New York in 2000,
Ten dead in Washington, D.C. in 2002,
Six dead in Chicago, Illinois in 2003,
Six dead in Birchwood, Wisconsin in 2004,
Seven dead in Brookfield, Wisconsin in 2005,
Ten dead in Red Lake, Minnesota in 2005,
Six dead in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania in 2006,
Six dead in Seattle, Washington in 2006,
Six dead in Carnation, Washington in 2007,
Five dead in Crandon, Wisconsin in 2007,
Thirty-two dead at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia in 2007,
Nine dead in Omaha, Nebraska in 2007,
Six dead at Northern Illinois University, Dekalb, Illinois in 2008,
Six dead in Alger, Washington in 2008,
Thirteen dead at Ft. Hood, Texas in 2009,
Nine dead in Geneva County, Alabama in 2009,
Ten dead in Covina, California in 2009,
Thirteen dead in Binghamton, New York in 2009,
Six dead in Santa Clara, California in 2009,
Eight dead in Carthage, North Carolina in 2009,
Eight dead in Appomattox, Virginia in 2010,
Nine dead in Hartford, Connecticut in 2010,
Eight dead in Seal Beach, California in 2011
Seven dead in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2011,
Six dead in Tucson, Arizona in 2011,
Six dead in Seattle, Washington in 2012,
Five dead in San Francisco, California in 2012,
Seven dead in Oakland, California in 2012,
Seven dead at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, Oak Creek, Wisconsin in 2012,
Twelve dead in Aurora, Colorado in 2012,
Six dead in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2012,
Twenty-six dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut, 2012
Five dead in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2013,
Four dead in Tustin, California in 2013,
Five dead in Federal Way, Washington in 2013,
Five dead in Manchester, Illinois in 2013,
Five dead at Santa Monica College, Santa Monica, California in 2013,
Four dead in DeSoto, Texas in 2013,
Four dead in Lake Butler, Florida in 2013,
Thirteen dead at the Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C. in 2013,
Four dead in Lockport, Louisiana in 2013,
Five dead in Spanish Fork, Utah in 2014,
Four dead at Ft. Hood, Texas in 2014,
Five dead in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2014,
Six dead in Spring, Texas in 2014,
Four dead in Bucyrus, Ohio in 2014,
Five dead at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, Marysville, Washington in 2014,
Four dead in Cleveland, Ohio in 2014,
Four dead on the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation, South Dakota in 2014,
Four dead (a mother and her three children) in Tabernacle, New Jersey in 2014,
Five dead in Morgantown, West Virginia in 2014,
Six dead in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 2014,
Four dead in San Francisco, California in 2015,
Four dead in Queens, New York in 2015,
Eight dead in Tyrone, Missouri in 2015,
Four dead in Indianapolis, Indiana in 2015,
Four dead in Washington, D.C. in 2015,
Nine dead in Waco, Texas in 2015,
Four dead in Columbus, Ohio in 2015,
Nine dead in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015,
Six dead in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 2015,
Three dead (nine wounded) in Lafayette, Louisiana in 2015,
Four dead in Berlin, Vermont in 2015,
Eight dead (six children) in Houston, Texas in 2015
And six dead (single family murder/suicide) in Platte, South Dakota in 2015.

This is a staggering list of senseless murders and families shattered, and does not detail the considerable number of wounded in the carnage. What is alarming is that the percentage of Americans who believe we need stricter gun control laws is decreasing. What does it take for a nation to realize that something is desperately wrong with our culture of guns and violence?

The NRA has convinced a good number of Americans that President Obama’s hidden agenda is to take away all their firearms. Yet, in the only two firearm bills signed into law by this president during his presidency lessons current restrictions on gun control, contrary to popular opinion. If a person wants to own a firearm, fine, join a well-regulated militia as required by the Second Amendment. We, as a country always seem to be at war, so there will always be a need for someone who aspires to shoot something. I see nothing wrong with a hunter owning a few rifles, and have many friends who hunt, but as a general rule, hunters do not shoot their prey with assault rifles capable of firing hundreds of rounds automatically without having to reload. For anyone to have the ability to purchase military assault weapons capable of creating the type of massacre seen in this country time and again over the past fifteen years is asinine.

Be it this latest, senseless mass shooting, tens of thousands of murders committed every year in America’s inner cities or our seemingly endless wars, this is a violent, violent nation.

Steven H. Spring

C.: President Barack Obama