To Pull or Not to Pull

Filling the air with the sounds of Spring

It’s a gorgeous day out today.  I have all the windows open to take advantage of the warm temperatures and to celebrate the fact that it is also the first day of Spring.  I can hear the birds singing and, believe it or not, some overachiever in the neighborhood actually has his lawnmower up and running.  Unfortunately, because I’ve been fighting a nasty cold, I haven’t been able to get out and enjoy this stretch of good weather but I think I’m finally turning the corner and on the road to recovery.

At any rate, as I snuck outside today to grab the newspaper off the driveway, I noticed that the weeds in our front flowerbed have survived the winter (drat) and decided to come up hale and hearty.  I glanced over at the butterfly bushes along the side of the house and noticed that they really need to be trimmed back sooner rather than later.  Thank goodness that I had trimmed the lilac bush last fall because that is already starting to bud.  So much to do now that Winter has fled the scene.

Pondering Spring Clean-up

Herein lies my dilemma.  I SHOULD be getting together the gardening gear and preparing to go out and assault those weeds as soon as I feel well enough to do so.  This is particularly wise considering the fact that the Commander’s idea of weeding is to grab a hoe and start hacking away at anything green in his path.  I tend to lose a lot of my flowers and plants when the Commander weeds my flower beds.  He has all the gardening finesse of a Sherman tank.   But do you remember what happened to me the last time I got “down and dirty” in my flower beds?

Bad memories of past weeding efforts

In just a few days I had one arm swollen to twice its size, covered in oozing poison ivy or oak blisters and a similar rash under my armpits and on my legs.  I don’t EVER want to go through that again.  In fact, my doctor told me that I should steer clear of yard work forever more, since I was obviously now sensitized to whatever ornery stuff lurks in our yard.  But short of hiring a gardener (yeah, right), I just don’t think it’s going to get done if I leave it up to the Commander.

So I’m back to the question of….”should I pull weeds or not?”  If I decide to get out there and do some work, I can guarantee you that I shall no longer pull weeds with my bare hands.  No sir!  From now on, I’ll be wearing a long-sleeved shirt and gloves to do yard work and when I’m done, I’m going straight into the shower and those clothes are going right into the washing machine.  We’ll see how it works.


An Amazing Little Christmas Plant

Have you ever wondered how certain plants just seem to “know” when Christmas is right around the corner?  Take my Christmas Cactus, for example.  This little girl is now sprouting blossoms daily.  The buds started to appear in late November and sure enough, when December arrived, so did the flowers.  I guess that is why it is commonly called a “Christmas Cactus.”  But it still is pretty amazing that it blooms right around this particular holiday.  To me, that is another convincing bit of evidence for a belief in “intelligent design.”

Even more amazing to me is this poinsettia plant.  I’ve written about it before.  It is actually two plants that my mother bought for me over a period of two years.  This was about 8 years ago or so.  The first plant bloomed for almost 8 months before reverting to green foliage.  The second plant wasn’t quite as determined in its blooming habits but still was a lovely green plant after Christmas.  Somehow they have survived and thrived.  I’ve cut them back more times than I can count when they’ve gotten leggy.  Several times, I’ve thought they were goners but they always came back strong.

I finally came up with a regimen that this poinsettia seems to like.  I keep it up in our guestroom, which is fairly cool in the winter.  Come late Spring, I take it outside and put it on the front stoop.  It really “spreads its wings” out there.  I can tell that it likes the warm weather.  By early Fall, I bring it into our sunroom in the back which is glass-enclosed and on the shady side of the house.  It gets the afternoon sun for a brief time and I put it near one of the windows.  There it remains until around late October/early November when it gets a little too chilly to stay out there.  Then it is back to the guest room for the winter.

Now I remember some years ago, I attended a talk by a horticulturalist about how to get a poinsettia to bloom each year.  It was VERY involved.  You had to do things like put the plant in total darkness inside a cool closet somewhere for a certain amount of time to force it to get ready to bloom.  I’ve never done any of that and yet this amazing little plant blooms every year.  It truly is the “gift that keeps on giving.”  I always make a point of telling my mom that her plant is still going strong…..kind of like my mom.

One thing that really has made a difference in my success with houseplants has been the self-watering pots.  I bought these at Wal-Mart, I think.  You just fill the bottom reservoir and there is a cloth strip that sucks up the moisture into the soil as it is needed.  I fill up the reservoir once a week and that has certainly helped me to stop over-watering.

I hope your holiday season is filling up with laughter, joy, peace, and good will.

True Confession Time

Veggies on CounterOK, it’s time to confess.  I can’t WAIT until our organic farm produce subscription ends, which will be Thanksgiving weekend.  It’s not that I can’t keep up with eating it.  No, that’s not the problem.  Maybe part of the problem is that a lot of the stuff we have been getting is stuff I’ve never eaten nor had any desire to eat.  For example, what the heck do you do with that yellow thing?  It’s hard as a rock.  I guess it is some type of squash but where’s the pull tab?  How do you open it to get to the edible stuff?  See that green Acorn Squash?  I almost cut off my fingers the other week trying to cut one of its siblings in half in order to sit the halves in a shallow pan of water to bake.  Gee whiz…..the knife literally bounced off the skin of the darn thing.  I FINALLY found mention in one of my cookbooks of a method to microwave the whole enchilada which would soften the outer skin enough to slice it open.  Of course, by the time I found this, I had managed to hack a jagged gash across one side of it and when I microwaved it, the innards became outards.

Rotted Green PepperThen there’s the little matter of rot.  This used to be a green pepper.  I didn’t need the whole thing for my cooking so I put the other half back in the vegetable crisper.  Apparently it can’t read because there is nothing crisp about it.  Of course, I think it’s been in there about 4 weeks, which might have something to do with it.  And tomatoes…..I can’t eat one more BLT sandwich.  I’ve been faithfully eating tomatoes  in BLTs all summer but if I have to look at one more slice of tomato next to a slice of bacon, I think I’ll run for the hills.  And believe me, I NEVER thought I’d run from a slice of bacon.

Veggies in FridgeI do have some vegetables that I think I’ll get to before they go bad.  I’ve never eaten a leek that I know of but they appear to be related to onions so I plan to just use them like onions.  I like radishes so those will go into a salad.  And this week’s shipment included carrots for the first time, probably the only vegetable that I truly can say I like.  That red thing?  It’s a sweet pepper.  I have no idea what you do with it but I suspect it is the kind of vegetable that becomes limp and slimy when you cut it up and add it to cooked dishes.  Ugh!  I always fish those out and stack them on the side of my plate unless I’m at someone’s house, in which case I force them down.

But the BIGGEST reason I’ve fallen off the organic farm wagon is the bugs.  I am so tired of finding bugs in my produce.  I could get excited about a head of cabbage but not when I start to peel off the outer leaves and find a slug crawling around in there.  Mixed greens don’t excite me at all when I observe things crawling around in them.  Aphids on my broccoli are just a tad too close in appearance to the broccoli itself for me to be comfortable eating the florets.  No, when I signed up for produce, I didn’t think I was signing up for wildlife, too.   If I didn’t think it would kill me, I’d take a can of Raid to those darn critters.  Instead, I’m just pulling out the stuff that is hard for a bug to hide in and the rest gets left in the bag it came in and goes right into the trash can.  Yes, you read that right.  I am tossing it.  I can not move beyond the bugs.  Next year, I’m getting my organic from the supermarket where hopefully, the mud has already been washed off and any critters have been flushed down the drain.

Some Fave Five Sunshine

FFF fall leaves 2I don’t know about you but it has been mighty rainy around here lately.  I could do with some sunshine.  So since it’s Friday and time for Friday’s Fave Five, I thought I’d share some of the things that have added a little sunshine to my week.

Poinsettia1.  Bringing greenery into the house – I used to have terrible luck with plants until I read a column in the newspaper that mentioned watering plants just once a week.  That coupled with buying pots that are self-watering has given me great success.  This little beauty on the right is actually several poinsettia plants that my mother gave me quite a few years ago.  It sat on my desk at work for about 4 years and then came home with me where it has been ever since.  Over the years it has looked like it was a goner and then rallied more than once.  I’ve cut it back many times.  It once bloomed for almost 2 years straight.  This past year, I moved it to the back sunporch which it dearly loved.  Now it’s getting quite cold out there so I have brought it back inside to its winter perch.  Nothing like a little greenery inside to make you feel all sunny.

Christmas Cactus BudsAnd look what else is happening in my plant community.  My Christmas cactus is getting flower buds.  Looks like I’m going to have a nice flowering display in time for Thanksgiving and on into Christmas.  Or maybe it was just trying to put on a show for its poinsettia buddy, now that they are sharing a room again.

CM Page Prints2.  I got my scrapbook page prints back from the Creative Memories Photo Center. These are the ones I worked on during the last weekend scrapbook crop.  I made them into 12″ x 12″ pages and had them printed up.  Now all I have to do is slide them into hinged page protectors.  The only problem is that I don’t seem to have any spare page protectors that are hinged.  Somehow I slipped up on having a supply on hand so looks like I’ll have to get an order out for those.  I might even need to order another album to hold them since I have a big scrapbooking retreat coming up next weekend and I’m sure I’ll have lots more pages finished after that.

Pillowcase Fabric3.  The last of my pillowcase fabric arrived yesterday. I can’t show you too much of it just in case any of the intended recipients read my blog.  But now that I have it all here, I can really buckle down in earnest and start sewing those pillowcases for all the intended victims relatives.

Damson Shawl4.  My Damson Shawl is almost ready to be unpinned and worn. I’m really pleased with how this turned out and can’t wait to take more pictures to show you.  For now, you’ll just have to be satisfied with this little teaser.  I have to say again though how wonderfully soft that Mini Mochi yarn is, especially once it is worked up.  Oh my, this is just going to hug my shoulders this winter.

5.  I finished a great book.  Have you read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows?  I just loved this book.  Although it is fiction, it covers events (the occupation of Guernsey by the Germans and the aftermath) in such a way that you really learn about a little-known aspect of World War II.  It also gave me a wonderful heroine (in fact, two) to enjoy.  The characters were just delightful.  I kept finding myself thinking that it reminded me quite a bit of a Jane Austen novel but set in the 1940’s.  I highly recommend it.

To read what others are “faving” about (or to join our Fave Five bunch), visit Susanne’s site at Living to Tell the Story.


Picking and Pinning

Have you ever been so sore that you just didn’t want to move a muscle?  That’s my state today.  Yesterday I went outside to empty the dust receptacle from my dust broom and glanced over at our front yard.  Ugh!  The nut sedge grass is taking over the whole darn yard.  I had thought earlier that maybe just pulling out that grass would solve the problem.  And yesterday, looking at that cheeky stuff, I decided to go over and give one an experimental pull.  Hey, it came right up.  Well, one clump led to another and before I knew it, I had spent over a half hour tugging and pulling clumps of nut sedge grass out of the yard.  Man, that stuff is insidious.  It really spreads, too.  What totally frosts my cake is the fact that it came up in the area that the landscaper had seeded.  That’s the only place it came up initially.  We didn’t get grass.  We got this stuff.  The other thing that annoys me is that we have a lawn service that is supposed to fertilize our lawn and treat it for weeds.  The other day when they were treating our lawn, they left a notice on our door that they noticed we had this stuff and that they’d be happy to treat our yard to get rid of it ….for an additional fee, of course.  Well, what in the world are we paying them to do if it isn’t to get rid of stuff like this?  Grrrrr!

Anyway, back to the nut sedge grass.  I finished up with quite a pile of it and hauled it over to our outdoor yard waste can, dumped it in and then went back inside to wash off my hands and arms with soap and water.  After my last bout with poison ivy, I’m super paranoid about getting it again.

Girasole UnblockedNext on the agenda was to give my Girasole Shawl a good soak in the sink and then take it out to the sun porch to block it.  I thought you’d enjoy a picture of how it looked when it was unblocked.  It is always amazing to me how lacework looks after a good blocking.  This is my first (and probably my last) circular shawl and I must say, it was a bear to block.  The sheer size of the thing meant that I couldn’t pin it out in my usual place which is our guest bedroom.  There simply isn’t enough open floor space in there.  There’s more room in our Master Bedroom but with one or the other of us wandering to the bathroom in the dark, I didn’t want to take a chance of us accidentally walking over it.  So the sun room was the logical place to put it, especially since we now have a large open area where the table and chairs used to be that are now gracing our daughter’s deck.

Girasole BlockedHere’s a view of the shawl pinned out.  I certainly could have done a better job blocking it but my knees just couldn’t have held out any longer.  What a pain!  I spent so much time crawling around on the floor pinning this baby out that by the time I stood up, my legs were just shaking.  They still have that “weak” feeling today and boy, are my legs and backside sore!  I started pinning this shawl from the middle out.  To be totally precise, I probably should have taken a tape measure and pinned it to the center and then rotated it around, making sure that each tier was the exact same width at all points of the circle.  You know what?  I have decided that at age 60, I’m not that anal anymore.  It’s going to be partially folded over and draped over my shoulders so nobody is going to be measuring the sections when I’m wearing it.

Girasole SunflowerBy the time I got to the outer edges, I looked at all those little points and thought, “Oy, vey!”  I probably should have pinned each and every point but I ended up pinning at least every other point.  My knees were going fast and I thought I might pitch nose-first into the center of the darn shawl if I had to pin much longer.  It’s going to sit out there until it is good and dry because what gets pinned, must get unpinned and that means more kneeling.  Ugh!

I’ll leave you with some more pictures of the Girasole Shawl, as it sits out on our sun porch, blocked and drying.  Enjoy!Girasole Floor Level

Girasole Outer Tier Floor LevelGirasole PetalsGirasole Arrowpoints_0001Girasole Closeup Arrowpoints

Poison Ivy – Aye, There’s the Rub!

Poison Ivy_0001I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but it’s been raining almost daily here in our area of PA and not only the grass and flowers, but also the weeds have been thriving.  On Memorial Day, we finally had a bit of a break in the weather.  At least it was dry enough for my hubby and I to go outside and do a little weeding.

He used a hand cultivator to dislodge the buggers and I raked them up so he could scoop everything into the wheelbarrow.  While he was working on the front flowerbed, I went around the side of the house and pulled weeds by hand along our lilac bush and the drain pipe, back in behind our butterfly bushes.  There were some serious vines back in there but I just grabbed and pulled.   You know what’s coming, don’t you? Aw, click here anyway and keep reading.

More Holes Than a Slice of Swiss Cheese

Day One Left side of lawn Remember my post a few days ago, when I found the notice hanging on my door from Verizon, saying that FiOS would be coming to our neighborhood?  I was pretty excited.  The flyer also said something about the possibility of minimal digging and how if that was necessary, lawns would be reseeded – no problem!

Well, for some reason, it appears that our lawn has been chosen as “Hub Central” for our particular section of the street and this is what our lawn was looking like after the first day of excavations.  I’m not sure why they picked our lawn but I have my suspicions.  It might be because we were the only lawn on the block that had a big patch of unseeded area in the front.  We had two trees removed in the late fall and that bare area was waiting to be reseeded.  Or it could be because the neighbors on either side of us have landscaping that looks like something straight out of the pages of  “House Beautiful.”  They probably looked at those yards and said to themselves, “Whoa, let’s not mess with these yards. They’d kill us.  Let’s tear up the crummy yard.”

Day One Right side of lawnSo all day yesterday Fresca the Wonder Dog was tearing from living room windows to guestroom windows barking and growling as fellows swarmed over our yard, digging, jackhammering, measuring, lugging cable here and there, and loitering in the shade on breaks….frequent breaks.  Every so often a supervisor would show up and there would be renewed activity.  At times I felt like I was at one of those old-time spas with the exercise machines that had the vibrating belts that were supposed to jiggle all the fat off of you because the whole house would shake as I sat here at my computer.  And at the end of the day, when the noise stopped and I felt it was safe to stick my head out the door and assess the damage, er…progress, here’s what I saw.

Curbside Left side of lawnThe staging trucks were still in place, cones were up, those big black “boxes” were still awaiting burial, and everything was a mess.  Plus there is now a crack across our driveway.  This had better be one heck of a fast Internet connection after all this fuss.  The folks on our street have started walking by and stopping in front of the house where they just stare and shake their heads.  If they keep this up, I might start charging them a quarter to look and tell them it’s to go towards “neighborhood rebeautification.”  Here’s the ironic part –we just contracted with a landscaper to regrade our front yard, improve the slope of it, and reseed it, as well as put in redesigned front flower beds and shrubbery.    I’m thanking my lucky stars that the landscaper hadn’t started his work yet because if he had, I’d be camped out on the front lawn with a hoe in one hand and some organic pest spray in the other, defending my property.

Day One Upstairs ViewAt 7:00 a.m. this morning, this is what greeted me.  Oh, boy, let the games begin!  I think I’ll take two aspirin and go visit my mom.