Out with the old, in with the new

Happy New Year!

I just love the first day of every year: time to clear the decks, dream new dreams, make new plans and start afresh once again.

I spent the day deep-cleaning and making minor repairs around my house, adding important dates to my 2014 DayMinder, purging too-large clothes out of my closet, and generally putting things in order in my world. A fresh air filter for the furnace and new batteries in the smoke detector. All my 2013 paperwork filed away. E-mail files purged and photo folders sorted. I feel as though I am right on top of things.

Today was the last day for my poor old bamboo plant, which I finally disposed of. In its place, I intend to put a brand-new pineapple plant, because I read on Pinterest about how easy it is to grow your own, and planting something on the first day of the year seems perfectly auspicious. I only glanced at the pin without really checking it out, so I just cut off the top of a pineapple and dropped it in dirt. How hard could it be, right?


But after I got it potted, a little niggling voice in my head suggested that maybe I should consult a few sources to see if I did everything right because that little voice has seen so many of my projects go FUBAR for lack of research and planning. Not surprisingly, since I neither researched nor planned, I did it all wrong.

You don’t cut the top off, you twist it off. Then you trim it down to expose the little roots, then you put it in a cupboard for a week to “harden” so it won’t rot in the soil. Assuming it hardens and does not mold, only then do you plant it. And if you’re lucky and your little pineapple top takes root, you might have a new fruit in about two years!


I had no idea. But then, what I don’t know about pineapple propagation could fill a book. I always thought they grew on trees. In fact, they grow on low bushes, one fruit to a bush. It’s staggering to me that something that takes TWO YEARS to mature sells in the supermarket for $2.50.


Learn more about how to grow a pineapple at home straight from the Dole Plantation in Hawaii or from this guy, who seems to know what he’s talking about.

The pineapple has long symbolized welcome and hospitality, which are certainly qualities I strive to cultivate in my home. I shall do my best to help my new houseplant—along with all my endeavors in 2014—take root, bloom and ultimately bear fruit.


Summer philanthropy

You gardeners know how it is this time of year, when everything starts producing at once and you can’t keep up with the overwhelming numbers of zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, and whatever else you planted this spring. It just makes you want to give a big basket of fresh produce to everyone you meet!

My neighbor across the street put in a nice little garden in her front yard this year and it is producing as abundantly as ever one could hope. She got her kids to help distribute the bounty this afternoon while she was processing as many cucumbers as possible into pickles.


Small Boy Child was not very happy about manning the “Free Veggies” booth by himself in the hot sun.


When he saw my camera, though, he put on a sweet smile for me.


This was the entire selection of “Free Veggies” — some very nice cukes. I got a couple of them myself (and a jar of pickles, too).


Small Boy Child’s two elder siblings made him a new sign that more accurately described the available goods.

As the day went on, the produce stand moved into the nearby shade, where all three kids energetically promoted it, and they had a handful of visitors who insisted on paying for what they got. The kids made, I believe, $3 on the day.

Good work, kids.


Garden of weedin’

Such a nice day we had today, just a tad over 80 degrees with plenty of sun. A delightful day to be outside working in the yard.

Unless, of course, your boy dog has a touch of the trots overnight and wakes you up no fewer than five times for an urgent run to the backyard and you’re so darn tired that all you want to do is go back to bed and sleep through that nice sunny day. Oh yes. I was up and making my coffee at 7 a.m., reluctantly, and to say I am not a morning person doesn’t even begin to cover it. But I could see a lovely day coming up and I really, really didn’t want to waste it.

Even though my eyes were gritty all day from lack of sleep, I suited up in my work duds, slathered on the sunscreen and tackled the worst of the weeds in my back yard. I started my assault with the electric string trimmer, but I’m not good at making consistent passes with it so I plowed up a lot of dirt and made more of a mess than anything else. So I switched to the hula hoe, which proved to be pretty strenuous work with, again, a lot of dirt plowing. The easiest and cleanest way to get the weeds up, as it turned out, was just to get down on my knees and pull them by hand.

I don’t know what they’re called, the ones that colonize the bare spots in my yard every spring. They have little buds on them that are soft and tender now but that dry out in the summer and become quite spiky, which presents something of a hazard to the dogs’ paws (if you’re wondering, no, they’re not goat heads; if they were, I’d kill them with fire).

Update, April 28: After much Googling (which I was too tired to do last night), I’ve determined that the weed is called the bur buttercup. So now we know.

They have super-shallow roots that make them the easiest weed to pull on the planet. One just has to get down to their level to do it, and god knows that stooping and kneeling are really hard on bodies of a certain age and, ahem, girth.

But it had to be done (fortunately, only once a year because they don’t regenerate during the growing season) and I am the only one to do it so I did. I reformatted a camera card prematurely and lost my before photos, but here are the after photos of the two patches I cleared. Both were completely covered with a 4-inch-deep carpet of weeds, all of which filled two 30-gallon yard bags.


The far corner of my yard that gets full sun exposure all day and would be an ideal spot for a raised bed or container garden if I had a green thumb. Which I do not, sadly, so it’s pretty much just a doggie latrine.


What a real estate agent would call a “small RV parking pad” on the side of my garage (I call it a barren waste of space; I’d rather my garage were wider instead). It’s on the north side and half-shaded like this for most of the day so I haven’t considered it to be a good garden spot, either. It sure does grow weeds well, though, so perhaps I’m misunderestimating it.

Between the warm sun, the hard labor, and last night’s brief and fractured sleep, I am plumb tuckered out right now. I hope Rudy has worked out whatever is going on with him and we can all enjoy uninterrupted dreams tonight!

Weekend cleanup

I love weekends because they give me a chance to get caught up on things. Mostly, in my house, that means cleaning: washing dishes and laundry, clearing out the recyclables, vacuuming the carpets, scrubbing the toilets. When I’m out and about, I gas up the car, get groceries, and check my post office box.

In the spring, summer and fall, weekends also mean cleaning up the yard. I don’t have a huge lot, as lots go, but there’s enough grass and shrubbery (and dammit, weeds) to keep me plenty busy most of the year.

Today was a lovely warm one that was ideal for the first lawn mowing of the season, which comes a little late compared to prior years but we had a bone-cold winter that just dragged on and on. I also had to do some serious weeding in the front yard.


The front flowerbed this morning, choked with weeds–dandelions, some sort of climbing vine, and some ghastly stickery weed that I just hate. Oh wait, that’s a rose bush. 😉


The front flower bed this afternoon after being (mostly) cleared. Improvement is the goal, not perfection. I have to remind myself of this a lot when I work in the garden.

Getting the flowerbeds weeded was nearly a day’s work in itself, but the lawns needed to be edged and mowed as well, since the back yard was getting so overgrown that I was afraid I might lose a Schnauzer in the rough.


The grass was chest high on the dogs. And I see that my camera decided to focus on Reggie’s butt rather than on her face in this shot. I need to pay closer attention to where the red dot is in the viewfinder.


Rudy surveys the scene post-mow. Much better! I found a couple of dog piles in the deepest patches that I swear were left behind during the last ice age (otherwise known as January of this year).

So now I’m ready for the coming week with tidy yards, a clean kitchen and bathrooms, fresh linens on the bed (from which I had to remove one blanket in deference to the warming weather), a closet full of clean clothes and a fridge full of groceries.

Tomorrow night, I’m eager to try my own variation on the Sole en Papillote recipe with pan-fried fresh sole. I’m expecting great results, maybe even with pictures this time.

Giving my all in the garden

The mothership’s birthday is tomorrow, and my gift to her this year was a day’s labor in her garden. This is no small thing, either the gift or the garden!

We both started working on it after breakfast, and she put in about an hour pulling weeds and putting her new plants either into new pots or into the ground. When she called it a day, I kept going and going and going, rather too long past the intelligent stopping place, but I know I only get one crack at this all season so I had to make it count. Besides, there was just so much vegetation that needed to be tamed.


The honeysuckle bush on the right is slowly taking over the yard in every direction, so it needed a heavy pruning. The potted roses were in disarray and there was no easy access from the back gate to the raised bed at the bottom left.


So I cleared all that out, hacked back the honeysuckle, and rearranged the pots.


This brick patio is actually a complete spiral, but the weeds had swallowed most of it.


While I could dig out the dandelions pretty easily, pulling the grass out was too much for me. This is a big improvement, though.


I filled and emptied this cart so many times I lost count. Dozens, anyway.


The new Bogs boots worked great, by the way, keeping my feet warm and dry.


The lovely Ms. Regina supervises from her favorite perch in the maple tree. She has had a love affair with that tree from the first day she ever laid eyes on it … and, there might have been a squirrel involved. Every single time I let her out the back door, she runs straight for this tree and jumps into the V between the two trunks.


We didn’t get to planting the seeds today, but as you can see, the mothership is gunning for a bumper crop this year.


These are two of the remedies I’ve taken so far to help ease my aching back … and hands …and shoulders … and knees.

Tonight the mothership is going to give me a Reiki treatment that I hope will provide the miraculous results for which she is renowned.

Girding for gardening

The weather might just be teasing us, but it’s been so nice the past couple of days that the mothership felt compelled to hit the gardening stores early today for soil and seeds to start planning her summer crops. Tomatoes and kale and three kinds of basil, oh my!

We also picked up a couple of gardening tools she (amazingly) does not already have, including a no-nonsense hand weeder and some Bogs boots—well, those are for me, actually—and we are going to go clear out the raised beds, get several herbs and flowers currently in pots into the ground, and remove leaves and weeds throughout the yard.


We plan to start at the break of day (give or take an hour for breakfast) and work until we can work no more, which, for us, might be shortly before lunchtime. 😉 All the dogs are expected to help, and photographs will be taken. I hope to document some dramatic improvement from our combined efforts.

Really spring

Not a minute too soon, the sun is shining with real warmth, the snow-cooled winds off the mountains have stilled, and today looks, feels and smells like spring after a very long winter.


The first daffodil of the season in my yard, peeking out from under the fence rail.

I’ve put the dogs out to play in the back yard for most of the morning because they won’t get cold, and in the meantime, I’m packing my bags to leave town. It’s time, once again, for another visit with my parents to celebrate Easter and my mother’s birthday next week. I’m told that there’s far more evidence of spring at their house than a lone daffodil in the front yard, and I’m really looking forward to seeing it.