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Archive for the ‘gardening’ Category

Once my husband started ordering from infomercials there was no stopping. To his credit, he watched many more—to the bitter end—than he responded to. My shelves, though, are testament to the fact that he did respond on more than one occasion. On many birthdays and Christmases I’d unwrap a gift I knew well from hearing the excited users on TV. So I would be excited and reluctant all at the same time. After all, Jerry had pictured me using these marvels of science, and I had to follow through.

I’m not sure which was the gateway drug, but probably the “storage system” complete with containers and a turntable. Never search for the right container for your leftovers again, nor the lids. Just spin and you would find them. Ha! So I put them to the test. That was years ago. They are still up there making each day easier exactly as advertised.

Surely the GTX-press Jerry ordered next would not live up to its billing: quick, perfect eggs, leftovers wrapped in a tortilla and made into a healthful dinner, angel food cake with fruit in the middle, etc. all in about three to seven minutes. Come on! How often would I drag out an appliance to do one of these things anyway? A lot! Again, except for the propensity for the Teflon to peel a bit, it was perfect and is indispensable in my kitchen.

Jerry also responded to fantastic promises in catalogs. We all know flower catalogs should be sued for false advertising, but after years of restraining himself, Jerry ordered a “carpet of flowers.” When it arrived he cut a small portion to test and followed directions to the T. Did we have a carpet of flowers? Yes and no. A few varieties came up, but most vigorous was the verbena. It eventually made a verbena carpet and we loved it. Verbena was my mother’s favorite flower, so we always knew she had orchestrated its insidious march through our garden.

Walk though my house and you’ll see item after item you’ve seen in catalogs: Galileo’s temperature gauge, little German boy and girl that pop out and foretell the weather, elegant, domed barometer, solar waterfalls, gargoyle cats, and the list goes on and on. I treasure them all.

Did I ever call a halt to a purchase? Yes, yes I did. Twice. For a Lifestyle neck lift and a “slimmer” undergarment. Jerry was genuinely puzzled with my attitude—and I did have an attitude. Those are the two times I said, “BUT WAIT!”

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How many highs and lows can you cram in one week? I don’t know, but last week fate did its best to break a record.

 

 

 

Riverwalk, Sanford, FL

Riverwalk, Sanford, FL

 

 

Hannah in Antique Shop

Hannah in Antique Shop

 

Haley & The Dragon

Haley & The Dragon

Saturday, I prowled the nooks and crannies of antique shops in Sanford, FL with my granddaughters and daughter-in-law and let the cool breezes blow on us on the Riverwalk on Lake Monroe. Downtown Sanford is right on the water. Its beautiful old main street has been gussied up with charming restaurants and shops and is a great place to spend the day. What history lessons the “antiques” provide! Try it sometime with your grands. They’ll meet the first I Pod (78 rpm record player), manual cash register with pop-up numbers, embroidered tea towels grandmas made and put in a hope chest for their trousseau, and school desks with ink wells. You picture them in fifty or sixty years showing their grands antique stores with unrecognizable items such as flat screen TV’s, I Pods, I Phones, ear buds, and select furniture from Rooms to Go.

 

Two mornings later I’m on the phone to 911 before 7 a.m. Why do they try to keep you hanging on the line until six strapling EMTs are in the middle of your bedroom? Does anybody know? I finally told the lady I had to hang up and get some clothes on, and I did – just in time. I guess they are used to staying in contact when the caller is in the closet and Freddie Kruger is gassing up his chainsaw. But I had more important things to do than chat. The guys and girls got my husband breathing in seconds. We were totally impressed with them. We spent the better part of the day in ER, but were allowed to go home with promises to return immediately if the pneumonia worsened. I’ve been afraid to take my clothes off all week, but Jerry is better. My friend Abbe says the blonde medicine is working. 🙂

 

Highs and lows pretty much pinged around like a piston election night. Without anyone to really support, you would think some of the thrill would go out of the election, but no. It’s in our blood. I would like to nominate John McCain for best concession speech EVER. I had forgotten how gracious politics could be in the old days. Thanks for bringing that back, John, if only for a few minutes.

 

 

Mountain to Mole Hill --Someday

Mountain to Mole Hill --Someday

Cooler weather today was my cue to begin making a mole hill out of the mountain of wood chips the tree people dumped in our side yard for free. So I started this morning. I soon began to glisten and my muscles hinted at how they will feel tomorrow. I stepped back to see what must be a greatly reduced pile, and hoped I had enough. Take a look at the picture. Perspective. It’s all in the perspective. Up close it seemed I had chiseled away the size of the Grand Canyon.  At least I don’t have to do my yoga today for exercise.

 

To cap the week off, I checked our 401K. Am I ready for next week? I don’t know. Perhaps I’ll adopt the phlosophy of my friend Bob Buckman: The lower our accounts go, the less we have to lose. 

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Perhaps this photo deserves a note. The yellow African iris was a gift from a friend (thank you, Abbe) from her yard. She has several plants growing since the 40’s or 50’s, planted by original owners. If they are not heirloon, they seem to be. Others have seen my yellow iris and asked where I found it. Apparently most out there are white. I know, you can’t tell after my manipulation of the photo. There is a reason for it. The feature that thrills me most about this flower is its proud self-esteem. If it had a chest it would be swelled as it stands as tall as possible and reaches toward the sun. I was trying to capture that effort, that movement. I hope it comes through. Enjoy.

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Could I get some help here? This beautiful, vine-like plant was given to me by a friend, but neither of us know what it is. It was in the yard of an older house when she moved in and grows vociferously in Florida.  Not that a rose by any other name would be any sweeter, but we would both appreciate knowing what we have.

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Unstuck in Time

imga0001.jpgSunday we drove over seventy miles to get a burger and French fries at Angel’s Diner in Palatka. When a friend and I ate there some time ago we felt we had stepped back into the fifties. I wanted my husband to experience the burgers of our youth in a real, shiny, stainless steel diner. It was easy to spot just past the St. John’s bridge. The sign proclaiming its 1932 opening was faded and worn, as was the interior, though the basket-weave stainless shone in the sun. When I remarked on the worn condition, my husband ticked back the calendar to when we were there last. It was the Mug Race, a sailing regatta and the year was 1985 or 1986—at least twenty years! So I gave the “patina” a pass. We had our wonderful burger, real fries and onion rings, and were transported to another dimension for the first time that day.

The second came on the way home. We looked for a roadside junk shop we had passed earlier and spotting it, Jerry quickly pulled over. The rough, “wake up” edge to the pavement rattled our teeth at the same time a Harley thundered by too close and our radio inexplicably popped on. That was only the beginning of the twilight zone.

The middle-aged woman who ran the junk shop in the small Central Florida town set off my creepy meter. She greeted us by spouting her frustration with misplacing a refrigerator shelf. During our visit she spent the whole time running around looking for the illusive shelf as if it were life or death, her face reddening by the minute. Her clothing was a patchwork of layers and her hair’s red highlights framed sharp, searching eyes. She wound through the sun blanched “products” outside bobbing and leaning as if walking on a mountainside.
There was a lot of stuff outside and some things looked promising until we got up close. I had not noticed the building behind the mildewed sofas, headboards, pea green toilet and other assorted large items. The crimson faced lady invited us into the rooms in that shack — dusty, gray, packed rooms with spider webs draping here and there over the flotsam of many peoples’ daily lives, including a white, signed wedding registry. She offered us each a dirty, well-used whistle as we entered — in case we got lost. We declined. The only available light shot through openings. Doors, windows, cracks? It was too cluttered to tell. I waited for the musty, mildewy smell to fill my nostrils, but amazingly it did not happen. Nor did my nose get that dusty feel. In fact, there seemed to be an absence of scent. I followed a shaft of light, and it too lacked something — no particles danced in the light beams. Strange. But cobwebs coated “merchandise” and threatened to attach to the taller of us. I had to tell my husband to duck under the yellowed doll swinging from a frame overhead. I felt uneasy and kept bouncing outside, partly so as not find myself lost in a back room with only cracks of sunlight, wishing I had taken that whistle filled with others’ spittle. Jerry kept searching for some little thing to buy, not wanting to leave without making a purchase just to be nice. And here you must realize I married a really super guy.

The last time I came out for air I spotted the rusty, iron bird cage standing as tall as me. I called Jerry over and surprisingly he could see it as garden art, too. It was obviously no longer of use to a bird. The door was missing and base had rusted off, but it had curlicues and charm. How much, I asked. $50. She said it was special because her father had brought it from Africa after he sold Pan African Airlines. Okay. I told her mine was a passing impulse and I didn’t really need it, certainly not at that price. Her face now reverted to a tad more normal hue, and easing into one of the many wheelchairs, she told me not to give up so quickly, that she could bargain. She forgot about the shelf for the first time. So Jerry and I discussed numbers in Armenian. He suggested $25 and I said $20, so that’s what I offered. She countered with $50!!!!! I felt like I was in a SNL skit. I reminded her she said she would negotiate. She contended she was since her first offer was $500. Jerry and I both clearly heard $50. She said these cages were $100 in Barberville, which in no way supported her argument. I started to leave and she began bargaining again. I told Jerry I wasn’t sure where exactly where I would put it and he suggested our little back yard where I had been looking for a focal point. Now HE is a salesman. It just clicked. The birdcage was no longer an impulse, but something I had been searching for for years. We bantered and I paid her $30. It seemed a fair price to get out of that place. No sooner than the money exchange was made the lady stepped to where she had been standing when we arrived. “Here it is!” she said, waving a small shelf. The whole incident seemed like theatre and this the puzzling ending.

Did we get taken? Who knows? But our new “garden art” comes with a story, and I guess that’s worth something.

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The monarch butterfly had obviously recently emerged from his chrysalis hidden somewhere in our garden when we spotted him. He clung to the thyme plant unmoving for the longest time, then opened his wings periodically and hopped from stem to stem occasionally. Then came the rain, a deluge. We were surprised to see he had held his ground, and was still on the thyme, now drying his new wings. I took picture after picture without much movement on his part. My husband decided he was sick and offered his finger to him, at which point he flapped frailly into the sky growing stronger with each pulse of the wing. It was then we smelled it, the pungent scent of thyme perfuming the air around us as it wafted from the monarch’s wings, a little surprise to puncture the ordinary on a winter’s day.

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A HITCHCOCK MOMENT

If you read my blog you know I have a wildlife garden, and that includes plants attractive to butterflies. Not that I did all that digging and watering to attract a pretentious bug that gives me the willies when it flits anywhere near me. The purpose was to bring hummingbirds to the plants outside the kitchen windows—and it worked. They visit almost daily, circling the penta, porterweed, firebush and milkweed, spinning their tiny wings as they enjoy one nectar Slurpy after another.

All the gardening work was a success the minute the first hummer showed. Long before that, though, monarchs, zebras, swallowtails and other butterflies honed in on the wildflowers. I am careful to stay out of their way and none have landed on me, thankfully. I realize it is almost sacrilege to be afraid of butterflies. I do love Mom and apple pie, though. Honestly. I can only guess that cold chills prickle across my body in a butterfly’s presence because they move like bats. You could paint the most beautiful designs and colors on bats and many of us would still cover our heads and duck when they swooped by. It’s the best explanation I have.

They are a joy to watch out my window, and in their chubby, stripped caterpillar form, the monarchs stole my heart. When the count got to 21 at Christmas and milkweed leaves were almost gone, I transported some to a friend’s garden where they would survive. Many of mine lived to form stunning, bright-green cocoons, decorated with what appeared to be 24-K gold crowns. As the days went by and the cocoons became more transparent, the wings showed through. So fascinating was the process, I camped out with a camera as the moment of transformation was near and videoed the emerging monarch as it flew up over the roof. This happened several times and all were magical moments. I hoped I was making progress with my fears.

Forward to last week. My sister and I are speeding down Highway 181 in Texas and bugs are splattering on the windshield in great numbers. Suddenly my sister suspects she has left her meds back at home, so she pulls off the road into a tall stand of grass to check the trunk. Then I see them—thousands of butterflies filling the vast Texas skyline like the birds in a Hitchcock movie. They surround the hibiscus-red Mustang and one, the largest, flies in the door. I duck and yell for my sister to get back in the car and get out of there. We escape with no hitchhikers somehow. Later we heard a couple of explanations for the butterfly phenomenon. A migration to Mexico, says a cousin. Unexplained biological anomaly says a friend whose swimming pool is covered with the creatures. Me? I have a theory. Somewhere, in some pasture in the plains of Texas a depraved director is shooting a horror movie for next Halloween season.

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Wildlife GardenI  know going in the African irises are not part of the “working group” in our wildlife garden.   The coveted hummingbirds and butterflies ignore the tiny blossoms and go on to porterweed, firebush, pentas and lantanas. But the tall, broad iris leaves catch every nuance of breeze and flag me down with startling movement each time I glance their way. They are a gift, one that does not appear to fit with the garden’s purpose, but it would be a mistake to think that. The robust, twelve-foot firebush stretches like the giant it is, pushing toward penta’s territory. But standing guard, straight and sturdy as a fence, the African iris halts the invasion, doing much more than I ask of it. Just being a sentinel would be enough, or sprouting tiny yellow  blooms skyward would be enough, but there is that swaying, dipping, shimmeying that it does for no reason but to bring the garden alive with movement. So in the lull between wildlife visits, we enjoy the dance of the irises, a ballet to fill the waiting stage.

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