Posts Tagged ‘Gardening’

Horse Chestnuts, Dandelions and Garden Pests

July 31, 2018

I’ve taken gobs of photos this past spring and summer. It seems summer flies and it’s suddenly gone. Here it is now the first of August and leaves are already turning gold and falling. From the heat? Maybe. But the plants already know, summer is nearly over.

I’ve missed spring in years past. I notice the buds, next thing, the trees are out, all bushy and full, their blossoms long gone. How had I missed it? So I try to pay close attention to the blossoming of spring.

It begins with the dandelions – bees’ first feast!

Nice for the bees, not a great look for your front yard

I love to see fields of dandelions, however, by the end of April it’s a declared war, humans vs. dandelions, daily raging battles, humans extracting dandelions from suburban lawns – a war that can overcome the average adult strapping male.

Dandelions are clever imposters, posing as a fill-in for a gorgeous bouquet

So vibrant!

Ha! You think you can get away with this?

Yeah, like we don’t recognize a clump of dandelions

Oh, you think we don’t recognize that you’re not tulips? We’re totally on to you. Your gig is up!.

By early May tulips and daffodils command the show

Rudy finishes his inspection – May 5

Crab and May Trees flower and alight with buzzing bees

Then the lilacs bloom! – and fade so quickly. Don’t miss it! Fill your kitchen with their marvelous fragrance.

Bury your nose in their velvety moist blossoms!

My absolute favorite tree of all blooms in late May. I watch for it. There’s a big ol’ ancient one in town beside the Broadway Bridge on the Snake River.

“Oh Megan, pose in front of it!”

“Okay, mom, if I must.” June 2, 2018

The 6-inch blossoms stand stately on their limbs like lavishly decorated Christmas trees.

There’s a red variety too. I took a photo of one in Tautphaus Park:

I’d love to plant one of these trees in our back yard. Oh wow! Here’s a plaque by the big tree Megan is standing under identifying what it is:

‘Horsechesnut’
Shouldn’t that be two words?

Horse chestnut??? Hmmm. Well, okay.

By the first of June the flowers were all planted in our pots and flowerbeds – marigolds and zinnias, impatiens, petunias, red and blue salvia. Tomatoes and green peppers. Let the battle begin! You know, against slugs, fungus, heat, insects, weeds, crowding, drought, poor soil, under-fertilizing, over-fertilizing, over-watering, not enough dead-heading. And one more pest – our next-door neighbor’s dog, Einstein. Here – I’ve captured this ‘pest’ problem in this video:

Einstein is an escape artist. It’s simply impossible for his owners to keep him in their fenced back yard. They have given up. You will see in the video the ladder we propped up against the fence beside the arborvitae three summers ago to keep Einstein from jumping directly from his back yard into our garden. But, no matter. He simply jumps their fence and once he’s escaped his yard, we obviously can’t keep him out of ours.

This helps explain why I’ve been remiss all summer in writing my blog. I’ve been crazy busy. “Gardening” among other things. Figuring out why some stuff grows okay and a lot of it doesn’t. I’m not posting any closeup photos of our flowers. There’s just too much explaining to do. I keep learning, though.

This year I learned from the local nursery how important it is to apply their special brand of fertilizer on the flowers and vegetables – at least once a week!, to achieve, say, the desired effect for your next dinner party of showing off your happy bushy flower pots. Except if, on your petunia leaves, you start to notice what looks like a serious case of spider mites or maybe lace bugs, and you run a sick leaf down to your local greenhouse for their expert diagnosis, you might learn that applying liquid fertilizer to plants at the beginning of a 90-degree day will likely burn the leaves as if they’re infested with tiny bugs. On the other hand, with the application of liquid fertilizer on a 90-degree day, you could also maybe burn any existing pests off the leaves? I know. It’s hard to tell about these things, other than to admit your giftedness to kill plants.

Alas, by late summer the plants know to stop growing. So you can relax. I practice relaxing at home on the couch by example of our dog, Rudy.

Rudy demonstrates the proper way to flop

I’ll have you know, we think we’ve made some progress in discouraging Einstein’s over-the-fence leaps directly into our garden with the installation of a wind vane whirly thing we bought at my brother Eric’s shop.

Wind vane

With the persistent Idaho winds, it stands out as one very happy thing in our garden, downright exuberant in a high wind:

Oh, and all those blooming trees are now bearing fruit! We happened upon my favorite spring blooming tree this past week. You know, the “horse chestnut.” Sure enough, it has chestnuts all right.

Can’t wait to walk here barefoot when they ripen and drop off

Chestnuts coated in prickly spikes (Huh. that sentence rings like a new verse for ‘White Christmas.’) I picked a developing horse chestnut to show you, but it was too prickly to put in my pocket. David held it long enough for me to take a photo.

Horse Chestnut

Yeah, well maybe we should plant a horse chestnut tree in that corner by the fence as an added deterrent to Einstein. David did some research – found a link (click here) that tells all about the Horse Chestnut tree or ‘Aesculus indica.’It is in flower from June to July, and the seeds ripen in October. It’s common along the Himalayan Lowlands and its leaves are used as cattle fodder in parts of Northern India. “It is used in traditional Indian medicine, for the treatment of some skin diseases, rheumatism, as an astringent, acrid and narcotic, and in the relief of headaches.” Huh. I believe, with all this stress of gardening, it’s just what the doctor ordered.

Except all those horse chestnuts dropping to the ground in October would turn that area of our back yard into a snow-covered no-mans’ land with those horse chestnuts to greet us at next year’s spring thaw…

And I’d likely exhaust myself trying to keep the dumb tree alive, anyway. Maybe just turn our whole back yard over to dandelions.

The Continuing Battle with Slugs (… Continued)

July 10, 2017

Part II – Boy, I sure did come up with a nifty solution to controlling garden slugs – containing little piles of slug bait in plastic open-ended water bottles, setting them under bushes in my garden, facing away from the sprinklers, ‘come here little sluggies’ – good to go!

I put those plastic baited bottles out on a Sunday about two weeks ago.

By the way, I’ve investigated several non-toxic ways to control slugs – and settled on ‘slug bait’ per elimination of options, as follows:

(1) Crush eggshells into small bits and spread around your plants. You need a boat load of eggshells, by the way. Plus, think about it. The slugs drag their bodies over the sharp edges of the shells and cut themselves to death. Too violent!

(2) Fill large jar lids with beer and a little yeast and place lids flush to the ground in your garden – This concoction will attract the slugs, they crawl in and drown. Death of slugs by drowning? Isn’t this a waste of good beer? Alcohol abuse! Plus, how can you enjoy your flower beds knowing you have to deal with those stinky lids containing drowned slugs?

(3) Wake yourself up at 2 am to catch the slugs in action and hand pick them off your plants. (Don’t think so.)

(4) Use organic slug bait. They eat it and disappear.

Case dismissed.

Perfect! I set out 6 half-bottles of bait nestled under plants and bushes in our gardens … (as explained in my previous blog).

Set under the bush facing away from sprinkler – brilliant!

Over the next few days the sprinklers ran twice and I gave no thought to slugs or slug bait, the flowers were doing fine, thank-you. However, the dog started acting strange. Not his usual hyper self, he would stay in bed in the morning when we got up instead of bouncing up to greet us. He whined a bit during the day, hid under the dining room table, and would get up and shake his head – did he have an ear infection or something? He wasn’t eating normally either.

Then on Thursday night, four days after putting that bait out, I let Rudy out to ‘go potty’ before bed. Hey, where is he? I waited by the back door and finally called him. He came running to the back door – what is that stuck to his nose? One of those plastic bottles of slug bait! Stuck to his nose like a honey jar! Oh my goodness! Has he been into those all week? I was careful to shove them way back under the bushes so they wouldn’t been seen! Plus, this one had been saturated with the sprinklers and the bait had formed into a soup – apparently yummy to slugs and miniature poodles. OMG!

I read the label on the slug bait in detail. It said, “Harmful to pets, may sting their eyes?’ Huh?

I ran Rudy to the vet the very next morning (Friday). Besides being in need of a serious teeth cleaning, the vet also discovered a hard lump on his left side. Cancer! That’s what I get for my carelessness and willingness to talk myself into using chemicals in the yard. Your pets get into them and develop cancer and die young! (Rudy is nine years old.)

So the following Monday the vet put Rudy under to clean his teeth and remove the lump. When we picked him up Monday evening (8 days after I put that slug bait out) – the vet explained, Rudy had one broken molar which they removed, along with his bottom front four teeth. (Those teeth must have been giving him a lot of pain.) His expression went from his pre-surgery “let me tell you something with my lower front teeth”:

“Please give me that steak off your plate”

To, uh, post-surgery inverted fangs:

‘Give me the steak off your plate or I’ll puncture you with venom”

Rudy’s lump turned out to be benign, thank goodness, a warning to pay acute attention to the toxicity of every chemical we use, in and outside the house. The slug bait is non-toxic to dogs, birds and humans as well. The vet called the manufacturer to confirm this. Whew!

There are several brands of slug bait that are approved for organic gardening. (“Sluggo’ is one.) We used this brand:

and it says right on the front that it is approved for organic gardening. There really is no excuse not to use a non-toxic slug bait, especially if you have pets. Of course, our neighbor with the immaculate gardens who gave me her expert advice of putting slug bait out in plastic bottles, doesn’t have a dog – another reason her gardens stay in immaculate shape!

One more note, it says in several places in the fine print on the label “use product as directed.” It even states separately, “It is a violation of Federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.” The label says to “scatter bait granules, ensuring uniform coverage around the plants, .5 – 1 tsp, per square yard. Do not place in piles.” (!!) ( Does it count if the piles are inside plastic water bottles cut in half?)

Yeah, so I removed the bottles of bait ASAP after Rudy’s exposure. Except for one, because I only found five, when I had put out six, they were so well hidden. But not to worry. Rudy found the sixth one, fished it out from under some tall plants in the back corner garden.

Rudy saves the day, uh, sorta

Moral of story, if you must use chemicals, make sure they are non-toxic, read the directions for use on the label, and follow the directions on the label.

As for Rudy, he’s back to his old self again, albeit he’s not so frisky and adept at chasing and snagging his frisbee in the back yard – he misses those bottom teeth!

But he’s eating just fine now. In fact, so fine, that he pooped four times on our walk through the neighborhood yesterday. Good thing I was carrying extra bags. Retrieving those doggy nuggets can be a challenge. I’ve decided as an added bonus for you, dear reader, for reading this far, I’d post a puzzle, a little brain exercise here at the end, a little surprise, if you will, called, “Find the turd” (compliments of Rudy):

A doggie exercise for your brain – did you find the nugget?

Yeah, well now I’d like to figure out what the hell’s going on with our ‘hen and chicken’ patch.

Should I lop those, shall I say, ‘protrusions’ off so as to avert a full-blown alien invasion? Is it radon exposure? Are those sex organs? Is this normal? Shouldn’t the hen and chickens just fill out into a flat succulent bed? Do these plants come with directions?

Hollyhocks, Einstein, and Pigweed

August 2, 2014

Summer in Idaho! At our house David takes care of the lawn and I take care of the flower gardens, the tomatoes, and the lettuce patch.

Except, this year we don’t have tomatoes or a lettuce patch. Last year all our tomatoes caught a fungus; even the tomato plant in a pot, in direct sun, on our deck, which I only watered at the roots – got a fungus. It was completely frustrating, pissy, and ridiculous. I refuse to apply a fungicide, so I’m just not doing tomato plants this year.

And the lettuce? Well, maybe the rows could have been placed differently, whatever, but I’ve picked enough grass clippings out of harvested lettuce leaves to last me a life time. So no lettuce this year, either. Last fall I ripped out all the lettuce and tomatoes and planted perennials. Here’s how that garden patch looks today:

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Pretty good, huh? The yellow is yarrow. The pale pink flowers in the front are geraniums – annuals I planted this summer. I don’t know for sure what the rest of the flowers are – the tall reddish orange I think are coneflowers – although they shot up a foot higher than I expected – which – leads into the meat of my blog … gardening tips!:

(1) Pay attention to ALL the details on the plastic tab that comes with the plant: what it is, how hardy is it, how wide and tall it will grow, how much sun it needs, etc. (This exercise can be difficult for a person with ADHD). This helps you decide if, and (just as importantly) where you should plant each flower.

(2) Save the tab from each plant for future reference in case you want to buy more or to help you know what you have coming up again in the spring. You could simply shove the tab in the ground next to the plant you’ve just planted, or do what I did, place all your tabs together in a ziplock bag, which you then store in a very safe place, so safe that you never find it again. In early spring, when you don’t recognize anything coming up besides dandelions, limit your time looking for the bag with these useful tabs to half a morning, while assuring yourself that you will likely find it again when you decide to move.

Moving right along …

Hollyhocks: They are a funny flowering plant. Funny, in that you are not laughing when you see them growing wild in groves along desolate roadsides, but try to propagate hollyhocks to annually sprout up and bloom in a designated spot in your garden!

I do have a perfect spot for hollyhocks – or so I declared last year, where this crop sprung up and bloomed.

IMG_8719

But then this year nothing came back. No hollyhocks? What the hock, I mean, heck? Turns out, hollyhocks are a bi-annual – that is, the first year they come up from seed as low leafy plants, the second year they come up again with budding stalks that bloom in late July into August. Then they die. Period.

So, to deal with my bare patch, at the beginning of summer I bought two hollyhocks at a local nursery (“Hey, don’t those grow wild?” another shopper asked me in line). I also transplanted into the same bare area, every first-year baby hollyhock I saw popping up where I didn’t want it (like, in groupings, in the lawn). Here’s what the hollyhock garden spot looks like today, two months later:

IMG_8728

(The stuff creeping up over the brick is actually raspberries)

Our holly-hock patch is not going to be big on blossoms this year. But maybe next year? Another not-laughing funny thing about hollyhocks is that they don’t like to be transplanted. The two plants from the nursery sat there completely frozen in shock for about six weeks, then finally sprouted pencil-thin stalks with buds, stalks that won’t stand up. Thank goodness I had some extra tomato cages lying around. I encased the hollyhocks in the cages to keep the blossoms off the ground (and out of harm’s way of the evil mower).

Hollyhocks are happy when they get to grow on the spot they pick. A few feet away from the designated hollyhock spot – we have a boisterous full-sized hollyhock – grown up and ready to bloom – like an overgrown weed

IMG_8701

belting out the “Because I’m Happy!” song.

Down the east fence line from the happy hollyhock, I have this menagerie, involving a green bike and a hodgepodge of pots filled with shade-loving begonias:

IMG_8706

(The biggest flower is a gigantic metal fake?) I felt the spot here along the fence needed something. David says the whole thing is an eye-sore, why do I even waste my time? I tell you why. Because a couple times a week I have an excuse to visit that end of the yard, check on the flowers, see if they have water, see if a pest hasn’t devoured them, flowers and all, etc., and … see what the neighbor’s new rescue dog, Einstein, is up to. Sometimes he peeks through the fence.

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I’ll come over and he jumps up – props himself up for a closer encounter

IMG_8663

his expression begs me to let him slather my hands in his doggie saliva

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Sometimes Rudy races to the fence, barking like a maniac at Einstein.

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Einstein doesn’t make a sound. I have honestly never heard him bark. That’s okay. Rudy does enough barking for the whole neighborhood.

Yeah, well, I’m going to plaster Einstein’s expression across my face every time I pull a pigweed out

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I thought I could get it all out of this walk without using round-up.

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So far the pig weed is winning.

I’m sure I could find lots more gardening tips to share with you. What? Everyone else on the block grows countless juicy fat tomatoes? And every variety of lettuce for their salad, and all the fresh veggies that go on top of the lettuce, too?

Awwwww. You suppose I should maybe take up, say, knitting as a new summer hobby?

Trippin’ – II

August 5, 2009

Thought it would be cool to post some pictures to accompany my previous (rather verbose, I see in retrospect) blog about our trip to Coeur D’Alene. Caraher's At WeddingSo here we are at the wedding reception on Saturday July 25. There’s the family patriarch back center in blue, my darling husband, David, a.k.a. ‘Father Time,’ who has since shaved his beard and gained about 15 yrs. life-expectancy. You will see the mindful matriarch, me, the short one, front-middle. That is Ben on the left, then Megan, and Aaron on the right.

I’m a little more hesitant to post photos of my family on my blog since hearing on the news yesterday about a Massachusetts mother who found her 7-month-old baby up ‘for sale’ on Craigslist. Her baby’s picture had been lifted from her family blog and advertised as a ‘cute baby baby boy up for adoption.’ She had been alerted by someone who recognized this baby as her son. The mother carried on elaborate correspondence with the website where she learned that her son was supposedly in an orphanage in Camaroon, a republic next to Nigeria. Ultimately the scammer wanted $300.00 to ‘start up the application process.’ Bingo! It was at this point that the mother alerted authorities of the scam.

It might be nice to know as a parent that if you have reached your wits’ end with your kid then you could put the little rascal up for adoption on Craigslist. Or at least threaten him or her with it as a stress buster/behavior management strategy.

I’d like to list our not-so-cute hollyhocks up for adoption on Craigslist. As you can see, they didn’t fare well while we were on vacation. Hollyhocks Hollyhocks Albeit, they must not have been faring too well before vacation. But here is what they looked like when we got back. Blame it on the ‘s-s-s-s-s-s-slugs’ (Jamie Foxx voice here) and f-f-f-f-f-ing-fungus.

I saturated both sides of every hollyhock leaf with an anti-fungal/insecticide guaranteed to kill about everything. The fungus is called ‘rust,’ I found out, when I took a leaf in to a local greenhouse for a diagnosis. I called a good friend of mine who has had hollyhocks for years and asked her about rust, “Have you seen it on your hollyhocks?” “No.” she replied. NEVER? “Hey, slugs and snails, come git’ yer’ slug bait I’ve laid out for yer’ big dinner party pig out…”

Backing up to our trip, the Coeur D’Alene Resort has had some more ‘after-midnight-we’re-gonna-let-it-all-hang-out’ drama since our infamous vacation ‘fire drill.’ I didn’t take any photos of the resort but in searching for a link on the internet to give you an idea of how large this place is, I came across news of another drama that happened after midnight a few days after we were there. All I can say is, I would advise anyone planning to stay at the Coeur D’Alene Resort that in addition to packing sleepwear that can be donned quickly and worn in a crowded public setting, you might also want to curb your drinking on the balcony, particularly if you are the manic or depressive type or if you anticipate partying with anyone inclined toward over-zealous histrionics. You might consider reserving a balcony room exclusive to the first story or perhaps spring for a room without a balcony. Just a thought …

Last but not least, I must post some photos I took with my i-phone on our 480-mile trek back home through Montana from Coeur D’Alene to Idaho Falls.

This one was taken in Montana, south of Butte:
photo(4)
“Big Sky” Country!

Big Idaho Sky
Big ‘Idaho’ Sky! – above

Who took this?
Uhhhh…?

“Big Coeur D’Alene Lake Bottom?” I honestly haven’t a clue.

Where did this picture come from? It appeared on my i-phone amongst all the other ‘trip’ photos. Where were we here and what in God’s name were we doing? Those rocks just don’t look like mountains illuminated in the sunset to me. Did something go awry with this trip that I am not remembering? Did I … swim? How grateful should I be that I (and all the rest of us) am … alive?

Life is good … I’m bent on living the ‘next 24’ a little more gratefully. “More consciously aware” might be prudent too, although I wouldn’t want to get too over-zealous about it.

‘The Green Yellow Grass of Home’

May 4, 2009
May 3, 2009

May 3, 2009

The blizzard of last Sunday, of course, was completely gone the next day – but that didn’t stop me from sneering out the kitchen window all scrunchy- faced  in complete disdain over our weather.  Here’s a photo taken today of  the same snowy backyard scene posted on my blog a week ago. Look how marvelously lush and green our grass is!  Yes!  Great! Uh,  yeah, except what’s with those yellow patches in the lawn? The yellow looks a bit like patches of sunshine, no?  HECK NO!! It’s raining in this picture. The yellow patches are … yellow patches! Well, I’m not going  to stress over it.  We have yet another fascinating yard/garden mystery to solve! Or not. What’s a few yellow spots?  Fungus? Dog pee damage?  Different grass?    Okay, so it turns out –  like most every thing else in life – you have to apply yourself diligently,  WORK at it, to achieve a half-way-decent-looking lawn.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday, April 26, 2009

May 3, 2009

May 3, 2009

Here’s a closer look in the back yard at our center  garden after that blizzard a week ago.   Check out the tulips! The poor things about froze to death. The spindly tree in the center is our infamous flowering (not)  crab tree not to be confused with the aforementioned crabgrass still proliferating throughout the garden underneath all that snow.  I bought a hoe to dig it out, but haven’t actually used it yet.

Next we have the picture of that same back garden taken today- one week later!  Check out those hardy tulips now!  There are some grape hyacinths poking up in there too.  The ground covers are taking off.  The flowering crab tree, is, uh, sprouting leaves.   I will surely take pictures of it when it blooms, if indeed this tree we planted last fall is a flowering crab.

Notice the perky patches of yellow grass along our fence … Oh, and there’s our dog, Rudy, in the picture – the furry adorable little culprit, my husband suspects, likely responsible for the yellow patches.  Awwww! Yellow pee-pee spots from our precious little poodle?  Naw!  I’m betting it’s … fungus!  I’ll just run this photo, along with a yellow grass sample, to one of the local greenhouses to confirm my suspicion –  return home with the perfect anti-fungal treatment for the grass, and leave a note for my hubby:  “Darling, I was right.  The dog is innocent. The anti-fungal treatment for the yard that goes in your sprayer is in the trunk of my car.”  How much work can it be, armed with the latest chemicals, to rid our lawn of those yellow spots?  Well, I can just hear my husband’s response:   “Just replace the whole lawn with rocks.” – (This vision being freshly inspired by our recent trip to Phoenix, where most yards are filled with rocks and local species of cacti, requiring no upkeep whatsoever.)

May 3, 2009

May 3, 2009

And here we have the mess around our large tree by the deck (surrounded by yellow patches, you can see). I think it would be nice to achieve some kind of finished look here- frame the edges of the dirt with cement bricks or something – which should be easy enough – you see them in yards everywhere. I’ve measured the area –  it’s about a square yard.  I am picturing those cement bricks made just for this purpose, framing the area with a smooth, rounded cement border (with no grass bursting out through loose seams!).  Or not.  Could just dig that dandelion out, for starters. And then, just continue  imagining what the area around the tree could look like, for the next five years, like I’ve been doing for the past five years.  By then we will likely have moved into a condo.

My ‘Sprinter’ … Dream?

April 27, 2009
April 26, 2009

April 26, 2009

So we’re Baaaack home now from our trip to Arizona! With a ‘fresh’ start – Ah yes! This morning, our first morning back, we awoke to … well, see for yourself.  I shot this picture out our kitchen window – see the tulips ’round our flowering (not) crab tree!  My thoughts are swirling in my head like a spring blizzard – I’m in a ‘sprinter’ mind jumble – and my thought-censoring button is flashing as I write this blog : “Caution!” – “No!” Don’t say that!” But hey, we wouldn’t want my young, budding blog to die a silent, cold, ‘sprinter’ death right here, right now, would we?

Speaking of ‘budding’ and ‘dying a silent, cold,’sprinter’ death,’ I must say, transplanting those hyacinths in my garden two or so weeks ago turned out to be a bad idea. The hyacinths would have done fine growing up co-joined with the tulips compared to, uh, dead. They  look like, uh, well, accidents that should never have happened.   I hope they come up next year. But then if I hadn’t separated them from their Siamese tulip twins and transplanted them this year then next spring (sprinter) I would be like, “Oh, there’s those dumb hyatulips again!” Now I know: Transplant them after they have bloomed and waned,  if I must. Hyatulips, though, are harmless and likely lovable just the way they are – that’s what I know now. I am the one with the problem! How about pluck me out of the garden! Well, to be honest, I suspect my two-green-thumbed-gardening-dynamo neighbor would not be pleased with hyatulips sprouting in her garden.

We had a great trip to Phoenix, Arizona (which, even though we returned yesterday,  now feels like a distant memory).  We stayed in a condo at South Mountain in Tempe. I learned a few things too. First of all, concerning carry-on liquids, everyone who flies knows that you MUST CARRY NO MORE THAN 3.4 FLUID OUNCES AND ALL LIQUIDS MUST GO THROUGH SECURITY SEALED IN QUART (ONLY) ZIP LOCK BAGS. Which I followed. I faithfully laid all my quart ziplocked liquids in the security bins. I took off my shoes, and my watch and my belt and held up my pants so as to kindly not expose my aging butt crack while transporting myself through security. I also just had to bring my Paul Mitchell mousse on vacation to volumnize my fine hair, at least while I still have hair. And I figured I had about 3 ounces of mousse left in my 8-oz foaming can (tucked inside my suitcase) and so I was good. But NOOOOOOO. I learned (while standing barefoot still holding up my pants) from the security agent digging in my suitcase to confiscate my mousse, that they go by CONTAINER size, not by the amount of liquid.

I must make a plug for a restaurant in Tempe called Z-Tegas, on I-10 and Ray Road – where we had a delicious lunch. We took an overnight side trip up to Sedona and Flagstaff – stayed in Uptown Sedona with its exquisite red rocks and shopping and … more shopping!  Not much night life, unless you enjoy window shopping by lamplight, although The Cowboy Club in Uptown Sedona was a great dinner spot.

We hiked on South Mountain in Tempe- before 11 AM, as the temperatures rose to a hundred degrees.  A hundred degrees! We played several vicious games of scrabble with my husband’s 96-year-old mother who lives near Tempe and I vowed after my pathetic last-place scores to start unscrambling the daily jumbles in the newspaper (or the jumbles in my head, whichever comes first). We did other stuff that tourists do, and thoroughly enjoyed our week in the hot temperatures.  A week in the hot temperatures! Really?  Or was it all just a jumbled-up  ‘sprinter’ dream?

Hyatulips, Crocuses and Dog Turds

April 6, 2009

Ah, spring is here! Out with the snow shovels (one can hope) and in with the … well, mess in the yard and on the back deck behind the southwest end of the house, I found out today. I’ve been glancing out our kitchen window all weekend watching the 5-inch snowfall from two days ago melt away. I ventured out this afternoon in our sunny, bright, best-spring-we-can-hope-for-whopping-47-degree weather, intent on investigating a mystery – which, let’s call it, “The mystery of the Caraher family’s indubitably invisible crocuses” Yeah … I planted the crocus bulbs last fall, so where are the bloomin’ (not) things now? How else are we supposed to know it’s spring around here with our 5-inch April snow falls and such?

My neighbor across the street, the ‘two-green-thumbed-dynamo,’ pretty much has the spring signal thing covered with her fluffy cloistered bunches of yellow crocuses singing out spring!!! beyond her front bushes. And that’s nice. Except they have been blooming for three weeks and are waning now, which might indicate that my crocuses, still invisible, are a hopeless cause, at least for this year. I’m not going to have a crisis over it, though. I figure I either (a) planted the bulbs too deep or (b) planted the bulbs too shallow or (c) didn’t water the bulbs enough when I planted them or (d) watered the bulbs too much when I planted them or (e) maybe got bad bulbs or (f) maybe they’ll come up next year or (g) maybe they aren’t crocuses.

So there I was in the back yard, checking things out, soaking up the sunshine with my pasty bare arms. Oh! The tulips I planted last fall with the invisible crocuses are up! So are the, um, hyacinths, the ones I added last fall to the bed which already had tulips – except I didn’t know where the tulips were when I planted the hyacinths, but I do know now, since I see several tulips and hyacinths are coming up as … Siamese twins, co-joined at the bulb. “Hyatulips” is what I have! Wait a minute. That won’t do! So I carefully dug … uh, rip-rooted … up a few hyacinths and transplanted them to more pleasing locations. And now I will gather my “Experimental Data From Transplanted Hyacinths With Root Lobotomies.” The poor things. Oh well. Teach them to end up in my garden!

Then I decided to turn my attention to removing the ‘quack’ or ‘crab’ grass (so named for what it turns the person into, trying to pull it out?) taking over the same center back garden that houses the tulips and invisible crocuses. I squatted over one clump of crab grass about the size of a small muffin, tore at it with both hands, twisted and pulled at it, digging my feet in and … fell backwards empty handed. Okay! So I need a hoe!

I arose from my haunches to fetch the hoe, and on my third stride toward the tools, I stepped in a dog turd. Glancing across the back yard I could see, of course, scores of turds – little prizes the dog had deposited in the snow all through the winter months, which were now laid bare and grounded by the thaw. Another sure sign of spring. All right! I’m not gonna collect dog shit all over my shoes. I charged into the house and back out again, donned for battle with rubber gloves and a plastic bag. I began plucking wet turds out of the grass and flinging them into the bag like a one-armed turd-flinging maniac. The turds settled in a deadened heap in the bottom of the bag, and a thick dog turd scent wafted up and filled my nostrils …”Ahhhhh!” After clearing the turds, I returned to the task of locating the hoe.

The hoe, of course, was stacked among 10 other rusty long-handled lawn tools in a corner on the back deck on southwest end of the house, buried behind the mower, wheelbarrow, two bikes, six wrought iron deck chairs and three tables, the grass catcher, the lawn spreader, a large bag of charcoal, and two twenty-pound bags of garden soil, that had all been stored there for the winter.

I looked at that mess, turned, and hot-footed it towards the garage, thinking that’s where I might find the ‘Roundup.’ I did want to get rid of that crabgrass before it took over the whole garden. You know, in case the crocuses do come up.