Non conforming history Saturday, Oct 3 2015

I seem to recall people getting all upset over Stirling castle too when it was restored to its original color (a nice buttercream yellow). It was quite a change from the somber grey of the exposed stone, I’ll grant. It didn’t loom quite so severely over the country side.

What do you suppose people would make of a classical marble edifice, the Parthenon say, if it was repainted in its original colors? Best guess on those is something a bit, shall we say, screamingly garish….

Sparrows Wednesday, Sep 30 2015 

One of my jobs is at a store selling bird seed, consequently I get to talk with a lot of people who are adamant that their bird, squirrel, or skunk is something exotic. Species belonging to California, the Southwest, or Mexico are the most popular ones.  Probably because general guides will list them. But try explaining that the large skunk is not likely to be a hog-nosed skunk, that it is a Northern Cardinal in an odd stage of molt and not a Pyrrhuloxia*, that the squirrel with the odd tail is not a ring-tail ground squirrel.  Sometimes it is even simpler, the pride in seeing a flock of blue birds or a bear; it is a ‘new’ thing to be told and retold. The trick is to never let on that the last ten customers have been equally proud of the same thing….

I understand, of course, we all want to be connected to that once-in-a-lifetime exotic event.  To be part of something rare and greater than oneself. In an everyday world, to be special, even if it is just by having more birds in the yard. I certainly am not going to forget the first Indigo Bunting that I saw.

But I wonder, why is it only the flashy ones, the rare ones, the exotic ones? It is glorious that all birds aren’t sparrows, of course; the hundreds, thousands of bird species are an awesome display of nature’s complex beauty. But isn’t the humble, common sparrow itself something of a miracle? What I find is amazing is just how much life is out there, surrounding us, even in a parking lot.  Even there, surrounded by the cars a flock of doves rise; the sparrows are in constant motion; the nuthatches, the woodpeckers, the chickadees they know their trees even if they are just street trees. Oh, we lured them in with food, but they were there before that; before we were looking.

Now, to be honest, some birds are annoying, some I would rather not have around, and some (chickens) have a very specific purpose and it isn’t a long life.  But none of them are boring. It is life, a miracle and never mundane.

But maybe that is just me.


*I can’t even pronounce it. But ‘generally non-migratory in Texas and Mexico’ is unlikely to be in New England.

It might Tuesday, Sep 29 2015 

rain….that would be nice. What would be nice is if it started off gently and watered in the plants that I put in the ground yesterday.  I can’t claim prescience, I didn’t know it was going to rain, I just knew I needed to get them in the ground before the growing season stops.

Otherwise, it smells rather like a cider mill here. A good cider mill at the moment, but if I don’t get in gear….it won’t be so pleasant.  Anybody want some apples? I can’t give them away this year, I tried. Everybody has apples.  I ended up swapping apples with a guy at work. He brought apples to give to me and I brought apples to give to him. Rather defeated the exercise.  At least they were different varieties.  I tried giving them away at church coffee hour, and at vestry, and at choir…..apparently, apples aren’t popular, even really good old style MacIntoshes.  (And I forbore from making jokes about serpents even!)

What I need to do is to freeze some more, but that whole peeling apples thing is a bore when the gratification (the pie) is relatively immediate, when it is a distant idea, even worse.

Maybe I should take the rotten ones to a certain bit of politics I ought to attend as a symbolic statement….

Bad idea that!

I can still…. Sunday, Sep 27 2015 

Drive a stick!

I learned on one, of course, but with several years of no driving and then coming back and driving automatics for the most part for the last five years….

Summer went some where, but I finally knocked the psychological rust off by driving the Green Truck downtown today to drop some things off. It is older than I am by a fair bit. It runs well. It’s loud, it lacks all safety features, it eats gas….you can keep it running with nothing but an odd whack on the carburetor. We might take it to the local car show again next week, people seem to enjoy unmodified, working vehicles. The only thing that doesn’t work is the horn and the gas gauge.

I then spent some five minutes wrestling with the gas cap on a trimmer….unlike the Green Truck (1970 Chevrolet) this bit of equipment is a modern, leak proof creature (Stihl 2012).  I agree that a leak proof cap is Wonderful. But it does nothing good for one’s blood pressure when the —- won’t lock down!

However, the trimmer is absolutely critical to maintenance here: that balance of trees and undergrowth would not happen otherwise. Once a year, the entire lot must get trimmed, some sections more often than that.  Perhaps a little early this year, but not really since it is dry: the ferns are dying back and while the wood aster is lovely, cutting it as the flowers start to go past reduces the seed count. I don’t want all of the area to be wood aster, after all. The trick is to not cut what one wants to leave, since the blade will happily go halfway through a fiberglass, half inch fence post on the first swing (if you hit it right/wrong) not cutting things can be a little tricky. I do pretty well.  If I don’t recognize it, I try not to cut it!

I ought Friday, Sep 25 2015 

to update my tree list at some point….

Despite the rather absurd weather swings, we have several new plants this year: a false hydrangea vine (still in its pot, I know) and a weeping Serbian Spruce are the only two brand new species. But there are several new cultivars of roses, hydrangeas, magnolias, apples, azaleas, and junipers. The last is a replacement for the big Pfitzer Juniper that blocked the view on the west lawn; hopefully this compact form really will be compact.  If it isn’t, however, it is not placed so that it will block the view.

I suppose that is more than several? Now can I remember all the names correctly? Probably not!

I am not counting those in pots, in particular the fig. Though, I may gamble with the fig and plant it against the south basement porch. The gamble is that a) it will overwinter there and b) that the roots won’t invade.  There is no foundation on that end (just piers and sills) but still, I hope I won’t regret this.

Wildlife Wednesday, Sep 23 2015 

A current project of mine, really too good to be true, got me out in the woods yesterday for a bit*, which is always enjoyable. Aside from an interesting and educational foray into timber management, I saw one black bear and several brook trout. I didn’t see the bull moose that was in the area though, pity. For a densely populated, suburban state there is a remarkable amount of wildlife out there.

I wasn’t even counting the turkeys, come to think of it. We get so focused on the problems and ‘learning from our mistakes’ I sometimes think we forget to pay attention to the things that have gone right and why they have gone right.  Bear, moose, turkeys, brook trout were either extinct in the state or nearly extinct in the state a generation ago. Now the moose is unlikely to ever establish a breeding population of any significance, but still.

What worked is as important as what didn’t work, and very important for moral.

Enough with the sermonizing!

*It also had me descending nearly seventy feet into darkness and then climbing back up when we couldn’t find the lights for the rest of the way down.

Nineteen! Monday, Sep 21 2015 

Amaryllis, that is.  All trundled in to the basement now, hopefully to dry out in a correct fashion and set flower buds. Last year our percentage was so-so. The year before all but one bloomed.  Now, granted, they mostly bloomed in April or May….  We don’t have any that manage Christmas here.  Sometimes a Christmas cactus will be timed correctly, but they too are usually later (January-February).  Or, annoyingly, much earlier.  The cactus are still cooling off outside, hopefully that will trigger some decent flower set at the appropriate time.

Then there are the Jasmine….those plants that require not only cool but dark. We think that we have a section of house that will work for that this year, due to no guests being likely.  Something about a plant that holds one hostage over the light switch and use thereof….

Nice of it Saturday, Sep 19 2015 

That white Gladiolus, seen in the vegetable garden last year and this year chucked rather quickly into the big garden, has managed to bloom. Despite the late planting in heavy, soggy soil, several of the bulbs have managed to bloom. I didn’t think they would since I planted them in late June; I just hoped that by planting them, I would be able to save them for next year.  So far, a nice yellow and the white. It would be wonderful if the crimson and rose would bloom as well; but the yellows are most probable given last years numbers.  Still, who am I to complain about this!

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Looking towards the fall Thursday, Sep 17 2015 

The fleeting day and life cries

Turn back, turn back!

And ever onward turns the wheel.

The sinking sun will not, this day,

Rise again

And the words you should not have spoken echo.

Regret shades the night,

And heavy silence lies beneath the singing.

Do you keep it still in your grief

In hopes that tears will turn time around?

I say,

Look to the wild stars of the field.

They are the last

And they will not come again.

You missed the loveliness of the lilies;

But these sharp joyed moments

Are not yet lost.

Would you miss these too?

A fire of promise,

A fire of shame,

Chose on your turn.

Cottage Garden Tuesday, Sep 15 2015 

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From year to year, and day to day, entirely different. The wild, random nature is part of their nature. It is, perhaps, their charm. The flowers are each, individual, a statement of purpose, a testament to eons of change and evolution, ever sure of their path, blind though it may be. But towards what? That defined purpose simply explodes in a riotous, abandoned display of life by chance. Or not chance? Is that one glorious moment the whole point of the exercise?

I do wonder if that white gladiolus is surviving out in the big garden this year, rather than in the vegetable garden of last year….

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