Monday, May 31, 2010

Summer at last!

“The key to happiness is not being rich; it’s doing something arduous and creating something of value and then being able to reflect on the fruits of your labor.”
Arthur Brooks (as summarized by David Brooks)

What could better describe the satisfactions of gardening?

While WS is on the road, I post again from Michigan. Today was our theoretical last possible frost date, although global warming has surely moved that back at least two weeks. Accordingly, I moved a half-dozen raised-from-seed pepper plants out to the garden yesterday—between the raspberries and the roses in the photo.

Within six hours, the four that were not protected by hardware cloth had disappeared into bunny gullets. Dang it. When will I learn that the garden is not solely mine?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

It’s snowing in Michigan!

Cottonwood trees make me think of James Michener’s Centennial — something to indicate where the creeks are on the vast prairie. Here, though, they are common yard trees, and they do seem to enjoy the environment. I tried to capture the falling cottonwood “snow,” but this is the best I could do. It fell thickly enough that you could not avoid inhaling it outdoors today, as the curbside drifts indicate. I recall cottonwood clogging the pool filter around the Fourth of July — is it the generous spring rains or global warming that brought on the snowfall so early this year?

Update on the porch lamp robin’s nest: at least three babies survived. Perhaps the eggshell below the nest was just from hatching and not a sign of a premature end. They are long since fledged and have dispersed to feast on my unripe Bing cherries. It is once again safe to use my front door.

The giant bumblebee is busy in the wickedly thorny but delightfully clove-scented rose. As honeybees die off everywhere, thank goodness the bumblebees continue to thrive.

For someone who does not like pink, I sure seem to have a lot of it in my yard. I could show you the clematis, the roses, and the peony, but let’s settle for the lemon thyme, with Tiny Monster geranium in foreground counterpoint. They aren't the colors I’d prefer but are beautiful nevertheless. The turtle is not real but still seems to enjoy sunning himself on a poolside rock. Once the cottonwood storm abates, I’ll have to wrestle the cover off that pool one last time. The steps are cracked — it’s time I ripped it out and filled in the hole before the toddler next door and his newborn sister discover the “attractive nuisance.”

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Somebody Could Really Use That

“What is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof?... Just staying on it, I guess, as long as she can.”
Tennessee Williams

These days, I have trouble dragging myself out of bed in the morning. The house is haunting me. Permit me to explain. I don’t hoard. I do, however, have loved ones who do. Yesterday, Tech Support Guy was heard to say: “I hate to get rid of them. Somebody could really use them.” His comment slipped out when we were cleaning out the back room and I suggested he toss a carton of old computer manuals (Commadore 64? Really?) and electric cord adapters to prehistoric cell phones. This is exactly what hoarders say on that TV program about hoarding. I’ve heard them.

Alas, we weren’t cleaning the room to make it into an actual inhabitable space.

We have to make more room to store more progeny stuff that progeny hoards. Is there a disease called second-hand hoarding? If so, I’m a sufferer. I hate living in a mess, especially watching it slowly accrete on tables and other flat surfaces, like chairs and couches. The back room was stuffed to the doorway. Now there is room - if not to actually swing a cat – at least to fit both of us in the room at the same time. Me and the cat, that is, not me and another human being.

I have no doubt that somebody could really use this stuff for purposes other than providing a three-dimensional play space for curious cats. Does that make me a hoarder too? Hoarding is contageous?

So, next week it’s driving up to Berkeley, hauling minor furniture and more cartons of books than you could shake a dirty dust mop at down four flights of stairs and into a Rider truck that the person who loses the coin-toss will drive back to SoCal; unloading the truck, thereby once again blocking the closet filled with my dress-for-success clothing I no longer wear, and scattering a box of moth balls in before closing the door for another six months. Meanwhile, I’ll just try to stay on the hot tin roof. At least there’s plenty of room up there.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In Medias Res

Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger.
- Franklin P. Jones

I could be losing my mind. Sometimes, my life suddenly confuses me. I get this feeling like I have entered a theater after the first act is well underway; and I can’t quite catch up with the plot.

Standing by the coffee pot this morning, waiting for my coffee to brew, I looked out the window at the perfect spring day. I smelled fresh green growing things and coffee. I suddenly couldn’t remember what I was doing there or what I had been doing before. For that moment, I was just soaking in the present and that was enough.

But then, I realized it was probably just an attack of geeziness; a brief burst of static shorting out my short-term memory. Some mornings, I feel as dumb as a pink balloon before I have my coffee. I once invented the inflatable archery target in just such a mood. So it’s not all bad.

I have a good mental exercise to bring me back from the brink of stupidity, and I will share it with you now. I try to remember if my safe word is albatross or applesauce. Some things you can afford to forget. Others, you shouldn’t. By the time the coffee was drunk, I was back to my old self again. It’s albatross.

Monday, May 17, 2010

New Lifeform Discovered at Whole Foods!

“The difference between ignorant and educated people is that the latter know more facts. But that has nothing to do with whether they are stupid or intelligent. The difference between stupid and intelligent people—and this is true whether or not they are well educated—is that intelligent people can handle subtlety. They are not baffled by ambiguous or even contradictory situations—in fact, they expect them and are apt to become suspicious when things seem overly straightforward."
Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age

This package of "Beef Marrow Bones" has a nice orange sticker announcing that is it "LAMB." The clerk and I decided that it comes from an animal called a Blamb.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Spring Wind

"Love calls like the wild birds--
it's another day.
A Spring wind blew my list of
things to do...away."
Greg Brown, Spring Wind

My sweet peas are sparse this year, but lovely. The bunnies discovered most before they got very far, but the survivors don’t disappoint – either for sight or smell. I’m excited to see my tumeric returned this year. Last year’s experimental mail order sample seemed to die back over winter. I wasn’t sure it would re-appear. Once it gets big enough to be worth a picture I’ll snap one.

Meanwhile, I was distracted from photographing flowers to show Martha in Michigan that I do same some flowers. I found a holy carrot. I’m pretty sure this is Mickey Mouse. Now, I know this may not be worth as much on eBay as, say, the BVM on a picture of toast. But I’m pretty sure it would have been more impressive than a piece of toast on the BVM. But I ate it – the carrot, not the toast. I did dream of Mickey Mouse that night…

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Reality of spring - posting from SE Michigan

All the bright colors in the photo, just two weeks old, are now gone: the redbud tree, the grape hyacinths, the red tulips, and the last of the golden daffodils. But they are being replaced by the next in the procession of spring beauties: the clematis on that lamppost is now in bloom; irises succeed the tulips. Out back, the periwinkle bloom and the violets multiply. The cute little mazus reptans are thriving and flowering, although too tiny to appreciate from across the yard.

The lilacs, after a glorious season, are done for the year. It is time to hack the neighbor's back from my driveway and mine back from my other neighbor's driveway. My dwarf red and extra-dwarf apricot azaleas have opened their first flowers, with the real show still to come. The Tiny Monster geraniums, more monstrous than tiny after many years, have begun their summer-long flower show, and the lemon thyme is a carpet of deep pink. Rosebuds are fat but still unopened, although that will change with all the rain we've been getting.

Other rhythms of life are also evident. Mama robin, on my porch light, has raised her brood of three, and she and papa no longer shriek and head-smack all who dare to approach my front door. The family waits for its annual gorging on my Bing cherries. Although "extra dwarf," the tree has long since grown too big to net.

The power was out all Saturday after a lightning storm killed the transformer in my backyard, so I spent the day planting, between showers, lots of things I'd been looking at in catalogs for years and unexpectedly found in the nursery just outside my neighborhood: Queeny Purple hollyhock, pyrethrum red painted daisy, tradescantia Zwanenburg Blue, crocosmia Lucifer, chocolate daisy, blue dwarf sea holly. I moved a few plants to better homes for them and also put in the red-leaf begonias around the mailbox and the deep red callibrachoa across the back yard. Much of these had to be covered against frost Saturday and Sunday nights, as did the Early Girl in its wall-o'-water and the rosemary, parsley, and basil; I was glad I had held off on the other tomatoes and peppers on the kitchen windowsill. The two big planter boxes were also filled with new assortments of plants, but those can be wheeled into the garage overnight.

It may have been premature, but I'm glad I did all that planting, since the gardening parts of the backyard are now under inches of water and will be unwalkable for weeks, even after the rain stops. It is this time of spring when I am relieved not to be fruitlessly washing the paws of my late dog many times a day as she returns from patrolling the swamp. And maybe it will even be too wet for the bunnies who wiped out my early greens and snap peas (and astilbe!) to come after the second crop before I get the anti-bunny fencing up. I don't like to do that until I have the veggies all planted, since it's a pain to lean over. I really need to get some genuine rubber boots for this season — my tootsies nearly froze in the crosslites when I was placing and removing anti-frost covers in standing, 40-degree water. We'll see soon enough whether that tradescantia really does like wet feet.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Allegory of Spring

By Eugene Grasset

"It is now the time of Laylock, White Thorn, Musk, Florence Iris, Lady’s Smock and White Violets."
J. R. Anderson

'Nuff said.

Monday, May 03, 2010

What the World Knows

“There is not one thing I might say to the world / which the world does not already know.”
Brian Turner, Phantom Noise

My backyard beckons while there is so much yet to do inside: chores; daily routines; several concurrent books with bookmarks midway through stacked by my chair; the hobby project dollhouse. There are a rainy winter’s worth of dead leaves on the shallow pitched roof – an invitation to a conflagration when things dry out later in the summer. They make great mulch, but I have to climb up there with a rake and trash bags to bag them, drop them in the yard, then scatter them. If you simply rake them off the roof into the yard, the dust raised covers every surface, including your lungs, and you have more of a mess to clean up. Once, we did just that, raking the leaves into a patio with two open sliding doors: the dust inside was testimony to one of my more depressing mistakes.

And letters to write. It’s been years since I’ve written so much by hand. I send a card each day to my soldier, now about midway through Basic Combat Training. That’s nine weeks of letters. Over the years, I’ve grown accustomed to typing my thoughts, and I’m a fast typist. But writing things in longhand slows me down and I find some sentences are bereft of verbs by the time I arrive at the period. Others end up as mere phrases, their connecting thoughts lost in the mists of the time taken to write the first few words. Is my hand slower or is my mind faster? While the later would please me, the former is more likely the cause of this disjointed handwriting.

And what’s “news” when you write every day, and when the ideal day is one spent fitting floor tiles together in the doll house, or matching wallpaper patterns, or cursing at the abominable Cir-Kit lighting that is so crappy the chandeliers don’t work straight out of the package? Remind me to post a scathing review of these inferior products. I’ve learned how to solder, and even discovered the joys of no-lead solder, but eventually, the electricity confronts the actual light made by this irresponsible company without any apparent quality control. The other kind (of solder) gives me a headache from inhaling the tiny whiffs of lead-laced smoke – and is probably causing more brain damage than the crack I smoke before beginning to tackle miniature electricity. Kidding.

Besides, what gardener in their right mind would spend such a lovely Spring day blogging or Facebooking when they could be outside, chasing the birds from their bird feeders to plant, weed, water, and generally get their fingernails dirty? It’s too nice outside to stay inside and try to blog the world something that it already knows.