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A few more garden glories

>> Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The lilies I planted two years ago have really taken off.  When I planted them, they were two scraggly lonely stalks.  Now look at them!

I find them positively intoxicating, with their crisp pink and white symmetry, delicate polka dots in the centers if the petals, and luscious sprays of dusty orange pollen.  I hope they continue to multiply.

The bear's breeches seems to have gotten over its shock at being transplanted.  The poor stuff just plain hates to be moved.  But it's happy enough now to have shot up some of its weird, spiky purple and white flowers:

For some reason my husband just loves my weird bear's breeches.

Finally, this year I put in some columbine.  It's struggling a bit with being transplanted, but is still happy enough to give me a few of its amazing court jester hat flowers:


Belly Whuffles

>> Monday, June 28, 2010

Cats and hot weather do not mix.  Our four have been pretty crabby on the hot and humid days.  We don't have central air conditioning in our house, just one window unit that we put in our bedroom for the really sticky nights.  We have discovered that if any of the cats is being insufferable, locking him/her in the bedroom with the air conditioner on for a few hours makes him/her emerge a totally different cat.  Poor kids.  I wouldn't want to be wearing a fur coat in the summer, either.

When not locked in the bedroom with the a/c, they use their own method of kitty belly cooling, which amuses me no end.  At any given moment, one is liable to find all four splayed flat on their backs:

It takes everything I've got not to go up to them and whuffle in their fuzzy bellies.  Reason usually trumps over temptation, though, as soon as I remember just how grouchy they are about being hot.  

The dogs still haven't learned that cat belly whuffling isn't a good idea in the summer, though.  If they haven't learned yet that the cats are pointy, they never will.  They look so surprised every time they get whacked in the snoot for taking liberties with the cats' bellies.  Dumb dogs.


Why are the fun toys so expensive???

>> Sunday, June 27, 2010

I have discovered something.  I do not like to sit at a computer when it's nice out and I could be outside instead.  Consequently, my blogging is suffering.  Sorry folks.  While I love to write and share stories, I'd rather be out there, collecting stories.  I guess that's just the way I am.

A few tidbits from the past couple of weeks when I've been playing instead of blogging:

First, white water rafting is rather fun (although not photographable with my nice, non-waterproof SLR).  My husband and I took a day off work to go on a rafting trip on the Black River with an environmental professionals organization I'm involved with called Central New York Chapter of the Air & Waste Management Association.  I called it a "business development" day, since many of the folks on the trip refer me business, or have the capability of referring me business.  Talk about a sweet way to spend a pseudo "work" day!

It was a Friday, it was about 90 degrees and sunny, and it had pretty much rained all week so there was plenty of water on the river.  The company we went with was Adirondack River Outfitters, located in Watertown.  Our river guide was a guy named Alex, with a long gray braid of hair, a smoker's rasp, and a whole lot of tattoos, who has been a white water rafting guide on the Black River for nearly 30 years.  Alex was a one man show.  He's the kind of person I could spend an entire day with, quite enjoyably, and never have to say a word.  Alex has a story about everything, and it's bound to be a good story, too.

Unfortunately for me, he was almost too good a guide.  He navigated the white water so well that I never really got scared.  Bummer.  I was hoping for a titch more adrenaline.  Regardless, I can not think of many better ways to spend a "work" day than alternately drifting and rocketing down a cool, fast moving river between gorgeous wild banks in the hot sun, with good stories and good company.  Completely delicious.

It desperately made me want to get back into white water canoeing.  Too bad I'd need a canoe.  Why does everything outdoorsy have to be so expensive?

Speaking of expensive toys, I am on a quest for a mountain bike.  My husband has been trying to get me interested in mountain biking for years, but I've resisted.  It's hard to observe wildlife and take pictures while focusing on not wrapping oneself around a tree.  Besides, I hate that mountain biking is hard on the trails.

However, it has finally dawned on me that mountain biking combines three things that I love - bicycles, woods, and MUD.  I am inexplicably drawn to mud and puddles like they're magnets, and the idea of being able to intentionally aim for them and spray all that goo up my back and into my hair is somehow awfully appealing.  It's a perfect excuse to act like the grubby kid I am at heart.

Only trouble is, the things are bloody expensive.  I've got several that I'm considering, but I can't actually afford any of them, especially not with the shoes and clipless pedals I'd also need.  I don't want a bike that's so cheap it can't be repaired if I break it because, frankly, I know myself - I'm hard on my gear.  So I need an entry level bike that has at least somewhat respectable components.  I keep hoping that I'm going to stumble on a used women's 15" mountain bike for sale someplace at a reasonable price.  It hasn't happened yet.

So, on my husband's birthday yesterday, I got to stay home and cook while he and a buddy went mountain biking through all that mud without me.  Boo.

I have, however, still been working on that whole running thing, with some success.  To my surprise and delight, I find I'm really enjoying my time out there with just me, my sneakers, my heart beat, and my music.  It's MY time.  Absolutely no one can reach me with any kind of demand, and the endorphins are addictive.

My old Asics finally bit the dust, though, which I had to admit when I started to develop some knee pain.  So, on the advice of several runners I know, I went to Fleet Feet in East Syracuse for a proper sneaker fitting.

My new treads:

They're Mizuno's, which is a brand I'd never even heard of, but they seem pretty awesome.  It was an extremely pleasant experience to work with someone who really knows what she's doing.  The sales person measured and fit, asked a lot of questions, and watched me walk and run to determine just what sort of support I need.  The difference was remarkable when I finally got the right pair on my feet.  I think I'm going to find running a rather different experience with proper stability and support.

Buuuut, the $113 I spent on the sneakers set me back that much further on my mountain bike quest.  Bummer.  My knees, however, are something I happen to value, so the bike shall just have to wait.


Surprise Gardening

>> Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My gardens are starting to come in rather nicely.  I love watching all the green stuff coming up and filling in the spaces, and never cease to be amazed by the rate at which plants can grow.  Things seem to double in size over night, despite crazy weather, ravenous slugs and digging cats.

Unintentionally, I engage in what I refer to as surprise gardening.  Every year I pick out seeds from catalogs that specialize in heirloom and organic varieties.  I'm no big fan of the ginormous seed companies that utilize genetic modification, and abuse the power they have over farmers.  Plus, I happen to think heirloom varieties are more fun and taste a whole lot better.  I spend hours poring over catalogs, selecting things that look good.  I always order more seeds than I should.

As excited as I am about what I'm going to grow, I seem to have a major problem keeping track of things in my gardens.  Every year I go out and plant all those little seeds, and every year I think that I don't need to mark what I have planted where because I'll remember.  How could I forget where I put the blue hubbard squash, or the rainbow swiss chard, or the watermelons?  I'm so excited about each one, that I'll certainly remember exactly where I put everything.

Every year, about a week after planting, I haven't a clue what's where.

Then it becomes a fun test to identify what comes up and what doesn't.  Certain things I recognize without hesitation.  The dill that re-seeded itself is pretty unmistakable.

The mint that takes over everything every year and has become the bane of my existence is also unmistakable.  Curse the strangling stuff.  I don't rip it out solely because I'm always afraid nothing else will come up, and at least I'll always have the mint.

The lavender always stays put.

I recognize the cute curly leaves of the kale when it starts to appear.  And the rainbow swiss chard gets rainbow-ey mighty fast.

The tomatoes are in the earth box, but which variety is which?  I will know only when one or the other sprouts purple cherry tomatoes or big red ones.

However, there are things I won't be able to identify for months to come.  There are a couple of varieties of squash out there, and there's no way on Earth I could distinguish one from another.

And what didn't arrive at all?  I know I have a big bare spot or two, but I may never remember what I put there.  Bad seeds?  Bad planting?  No idea.  Has the zucchini appeared somewhere and I don't recognize it?  What happened to the lettuces, and how many varieties did I even plant?

Am I missing purple striped lima beans or watermelons or genovese basil?  Perhaps I shall find out.  Eventually.

As always, my gardening efforts are one great big adventure.  It amazes me that I ever wind up with anything edible out there.  But I always do, somehow.  There are always failures, and there are always delicious successes.  I generally find myself inundated with something, and lacking something else.  It's different every year.  And you know what?  That's just fine with me.  It turns out I like surprises.


Why I Garden

>> Monday, June 14, 2010

This, my friends, is a big part of the reason I sweat and toil in my garden.  The reward is, when I'm lucky, intoxicatingly glorious results.  It doesn't seem like anything should be so indulgently gorgeous:

The peonies were way too short-lived this year, I think largely because we got a whole lot of rain just when they hit their peak.  These shots were taken a week or so ago, and I'm now looking mournfully at some wilted last stragglers out there.  The roses are starting to fade rapidly, too.  But the lilies are just starting to bloom now, and the next rounds of flowers will soon follow. 

Ah, how I love my summer gardens.



>> Sunday, June 13, 2010

After a couple of weeks of feeling seriously under the weather, I'm back to feeling mostly human.  It's such a relief.  Mind you, just because the most-evil-sinus-infection-ever is receding doesn't mean I'm not feeling a bit seedy today, but at least I can say it's all my own fault.  It just turns out I'm getting old.  I can no longer stay up until 3:00 in the morning and expect to function properly the following day.

Yesterday was my high school's annual reunion weekend.  I go back for at least some of the events every year, and this year was no exception.  Upon hearing that I regularly go back for high school reunions, most people assume either that I'm trying to hang on to the glory days of my youth in a pathetic sort of way, or else that I'm moderately insane.  After all, who wants to relive high school - zits, hormones, crushes, social awkwardness and all?

It turns out I just happen to be particularly blessed by all the friends I have in my life.  It's difficult to describe the friendships I have maintained since high school without sounding nauseatingly cliché.  My best girl friend in the whole world is one I met in high school, and she's become a part of my very being after knowing each other for nearly 20 years.  Marriages, moves, and major life events have passed, and we're as close as ever.

I have a couple of other friends from high school that I now pretty much see only once a year on reunion weekend.  Yet despite the years and changes we've undergone, when we get together it's always just as easy, just as fulfilling to be in each other's company again.  In fact, in many ways, it gets better with time.  While people scoff at social media and social networking sites like Facebook, I have to confess I'm a big fan.  It allows us all to stay caught up on the essentials of what the others have been up to, so when we get together there's less need to catch up, and it's easy to just enjoy each other's company.

One of the people I had the pleasure of spending time with last night I have been friends with since I was 6 years old.  How many people are lucky enough to still positively adore someone they positively adored in kindergarten?

Every so often when we all get together, we look at each other and marvel that we're all still in touch, and that we all still actually like our friends from high school.  Most people I talk with don't seem to have similar luck.

It's not just high school that has given me such wonderful friends.  I have collected a handful of beloved souls from many different parts of my life - college, my junior year abroad, and people I've met since then.  In fact, part of the reason I'm so dang tired is because, after getting to sleep at 3:00 a.m., my husband and I dragged our sorry selves out of bed at a reasonable hour to go watch a relatively newly-acquired dear friend play baseball in a local league.  Dark circles be damned - I wouldn't have missed it for anything.

So, today I'm feeling particularly blessed by the friendships that make my life so much richer, and thankful that I am aware of how important my friends are to me.  It's funny, for someone who considers herself rather misanthropic, I seem to have collected a remarkable number of loved ones.


Still Alive

>> Wednesday, June 2, 2010

For those who are wondering, no, I have not fallen off the face of the Earth.  I have, however, been suffering through the worst sinus infection I've ever had.  I didn't know sinuses could hurt this much, that one's whole face could swell when one has a sinus infection, or that I could love antibiotics as much as I do right now.  It's been 20 hours since I started antibiotics and I'm starting to feel a little more human.  But what a wretched way to waste a perfectly good long weekend.

The only one who's feeling worse than I am right now is Pippin, who just came back from the vet without the family jewels.  He's grouchy and disoriented and whiny.  Buddy, I sympathize.  I'm grouchy and disoriented and whiny too.

The vet told me to keep him quiet, and not let him jump up on things for 7 days.  I love instructions like that from the vet.  Have they never met a rambunctious 9 month old cat before?  He's currently walking around the attic circling my feet, YOWLING.  My God, clearly his lungs weren't affected by the surgery.

This little guy does not like to be enclosed anywhere, and has now twice trashed our downstairs bathroom when we've locked him in there before vet visits.  He knocked over the lamp, smashed the mirror, and pried up the floor vent so he could escape into the heating ducts.  No, really.  He weighs 9 lbs, and even I have trouble lifting up the floor vent.  Yet he managed, apparently effortlessly.  Extricating him from the heating ducts involved many tools and a massive duct deconstruction project in the basement, of course all at a furious pace since we were late for the vet when we discovered he'd escaped.  There's no leaving this fellow in a prison with a spoon - he'd tunnel out in a heartbeat.

I guess what with having been born and lived his whole life in the great outdoors, being confined makes Pip a titch edgy.

It could be a long 48 hours with this fellow locked in the attic.  I just resorted to catnip.  I'm not sure how long that will keep him entertained.

Until then, he and I shall hang out up here in the air conditioning, watching old episodes of Xena, Warrior Princess on the computer.  I'll blow my nose and cough, and he'll yowl and pace.  We make a great pair.


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