Monday, March 31, 2008

Crocipetti!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (tm the Beat Cats)

Woo-hooooo! This morning when I walked the perimeter of the house where I'd planted over a hundred crocus bulbs a few years ago, I saw nothing that even vaguely resembled a crocus leaf popping up through the mulch. BUT.... when I got home this afternoon, what caught my eye? Check it out!

Yes, that's right - THREE crocus flowers* right around the front step, plus a few other green leaves that look quite crocusy in biology. Add that to the return of our local heron (aka the pteradactyl - you should hear this thing fly over our back yard with his giant, whoomp-whoomp-whoomping wings) to the pond behind our house and the mourning doves who have once again staked out a spot under one of our pear trees (note to self: buy birdseed for the feeder) and it is undeniable, forecast or not: Spring has sprung!

* did you see how I avoided pluralizing crocus so cleverly there? A group of my friends and I decided a few years back that we are going to call multiple crocus flowers crocipetti. So, there you have it... though one of these days, I really ought to investigate what the actual pluralization is for crocus....

Sunday, March 30, 2008

In the garden

Well, the snow is melting - again - and I can see the lawn and my planting beds looking sodden and forlorn. It will probably be a good month before I can get outside and actually plant anything, but that doesn't stop me from thinking about it now!

We have several different beds around our yard, including one food garden and a berry patch (strawberries, blueberries and as of last year, raspberries). The rest of the beds are devoted to bulbs, perennials and bushes/shrubs. I'm not a big annuals fan, beyond two hanging baskets and a planter for the front porch and a couple of planters for the deck out back, which I usually do in petunias. Love those wave petunias!

Unfortunately, our yard is not terribly conducive to gardening. The soil - or more accurately, "soil" - in our yard is just about 100% clay. We amend the heck out of the planting beds, but still, underneath lurks the solid, non-draining clay (think "bathtub effect" regarding its draining capacity, or lack thereof). This presents more challenges to gardening than I'd like to deal with, frankly, so I tend to ignore the clay-related issues (and the base v. acidic soil issues, and sometimes even the sun-partial sun-shade issues...) and just plant whatever the heck I want and hope for the best. Sometimes, this works out okay - I have 4 rhododendrons which are doing surprisingly well, considering their location and soil type, for example. Other plants, not so much - I've stuck many things into the beds only to have them go kaput. Some of them are helped along by the slugs (including all my beautiful, hand-me-down hostas) or the voles or the bunnies, but nothing is as bad as the year before we fenced in our back yard when the deer positively decimated most of the plants and shrubs I had so optomistically planted. The voles are particularly evil, being little, fat masochists who will even chomp away at the barberry bushes that are evil personified themselves, as we learned when transplanting one of them last fall. OW!

Soil and critters aside, I've found sufficient varieties of plants for our yard that thrive and are gorgeous each spring/summer. English lavender, Russian sage, lilies of the valley, shasta daisies, black-eyed Susans, echinachea, day lilies, hollyhocks and coreopsis all flourish. I've got butterfly bushes, a peony and some forsythia bushes that were all hand-me-downs and survived being dug out, moved and replanted (in the peony's case, several times over one year!) to settle in quite happily around the yard. Some of my favorite bushes are the lilacs that border the front porch and have grown well beyond their expected "dwarf" variety labels. In the food garden, I've had some hits and misses. Beans and sugar snap peas are traditionally hits, whereas carrots (chosen by the kiddo last year) were a pathetic miss. They came out looking like the gnarly, arthritic survivors of a nuclear blast, though they tasted quite carroty. Cucumbers and tomatoes have been great some years (Hubby said that last year's crop were the best tomatoes he'd ever eaten and he mourned the end of the season) and other years, they've been deplorable. I've never had success with any type of melon or squash - though I've yet to try zucchini which always grows, doesn't it? - because the critters seem to get to the blossoms before they've had a chance to turn into fruit. We did have one watermelon (another of the kiddo's selections) last year that survived to full ripening, but it never grew bigger than the size of a golf ball. Herbs do spectacularly. I have parsley and basil coming out my ears by mid-summer, and I've had to quit growing cilantro altogether because we just don't use that much of it! I have some hand-me-down chives that came back all of their own accord and in much abundance despite rototilling the garden before planting it last year. The berry patch did much better last year after I covered it with critter-proof netting, and the kiddo and I actually picked about a quart of blueberries off our three bushes. The strawberries never grow that large, but they've been getting a bit bigger every year so perhaps this will be the summer when we have a decent strawberry crop. Our yard as a whole - planting beds and lawn - would look a lot better if we were less organic about things, but I'm not a fan of chemicals (so ChemLawn and your competitors, kindly stop leaving your "lawn evaluation" junk mail wedged into the flag of our mailbox and jammed into our front door), so we do the best we can with natural fertilizers and weed/pest repellents. (Love the Escar-GO! slug stuff, which is much preferred than the "cup of beer" method I did in my hosta bed one year, when Hubby found a cup lost among the hostas that had become a nasty, smelly, thick goo of sun-warmed beer, liquified slugs and rainwater. He almost barfed while disposing of it. Oops.) I will confess to putting the occasional box of poison waaaaay under the deck for the voles (not that it even begins to control their ever-burgeoning population) and to having the exterminator spray for our insidious, pervasive yellowjacket population, but other than that, we're pretty green about our greenery.

Each year, I look forward to strolling the aisles of the local garden stores and the public market and picking out the new plants for the year. Every year, our planting beds expand a little bit more, giving me more room for new plants. The kiddo has become an avid gardener as well, and even helps with the weeding when she isn't busy playing with the worms she's unearthed or the watering can. I love that she loves to wander the garden store aisles with me and pick things out, that she enjoys poring over seed packets as much as I do. I've been perusing gardening catalogs for weeks now, and I think that one new plant I definitely want to try is the "sunrise" echinacea which is a gorgeous, creamy yellow color. I'd love to live somewhere where it is warm enough for a citrus tree or two - oh, to have a lemon tree or orange tree in my own yard! But I guess it will take either winning the lottery (and thereby giving us enough dough to buy our own tropical vacation island) or major global warming to grant me that wish...

For now, I will have to content myself with watching the yard green up again, the bulbs poking up their shoots through the mulch, and the pear trees behind our house start to bud.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Hardy har har, Mother Nature

Guess I shouldn't have posted about how I can't wait for spring to hurry up and get here! This was the view out the back door of our house at 7:00 this morning:

Our house was in the 3-6 inch total snowfall color band on the morning weather report, so I guess it could've been worse, as some of the higher elevations a bit further out were in the 12 inch total snowfall color band. There even were some delayed openings and school closings listed on the bottom of the screen for some of the heavier-hit areas. We did have enough snow in this part of town that I got stuck behind a plow both on the way to and from dropping the kiddo off at school though, grrrr.

Since whinging on about the nasty, snowy weather when it is supposed to be spring and sunshiny isn't getting me anywhere, I'm going to try instead for a bit of reverse psychology and see if that helps.....

Woo-hoo, snow! Yippie! Can't wait to go make snow angels and snowmen and get in another sledding run! Yee-ha! I looooove having to brush my car off after going to the grocery store, mmmm-hmmm! Oh, and having a big, slushy pile of snow fall out of the trees overhead as I walked out of preschool this morning and land with a plop right down the back of my neck? Twice? Positively delightful! I just hope it snows even more this weekend! Oh yeah!! Global warming, my foot! I hope I can keep cramming hats and mittens onto the squirmy and protesting kiddo until at least May or June! Whee!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Soapbox Moment - Familiarity

Okay, I'm about to hop onto my soapbox here for a moment or two. See, on the way home from a playdate just now, I had to stop for gas and I went to the full-service station that is just up the road from the house. (Yes, it is $.03 a gallon more there than DeltaSonic, but it was right on the way home and I splurged on that extra $.54!) Well, when the perfectly pleasant gas station attendant was concluding our transaction, he said "Thank you, Heather, have a nice day" as he handed me back my card and took his pen and the signed slip back from me. Like I said, he was perfectly nice - we had exchanged the meaningless pleasantries that folks do in situations like these, about the weather and the cost of fuel, blah blah blah. But..... Heather? Really? I don't go to this gas station that often (I usually am frugal enough to pump my own gas over at DS instead) and I'm certainly not on a name basis, much less a first-name basis, with any of the employees there. I wondered whether it would've bothered me less or at all if he'd called me "Mrs. Smith" instead, and I'm not sure. It just seemed a bit too familiar, I guess, for someone who was essentially a stranger to call me by my first name.

In all honesty, being "Heathered" by the gas station attendant didn't bother me that much, except that familiarity, or rather over-familiarity, is a hot button issue for me when it pertains to the kiddo, which brings me to the focus of this rant. When I was growing up, we addressed our elders by the appropriate honorific and then their last name. Mr. Green. Mrs. White. Miss Peacock. Colonel Mustard. You get the idea. We never, ever, ever called an adult by their first name alone. If they were a close friend of the family, like my parents' friends with whom we socialized on a regular basis, then they might be "Uncle" or "Aunt" Firstname, and there were a few parents of my closest high school friends that I called "Mom" or "Dad" but overall, even my friends' parents were still Mr. or Mrs. Lastname, and certainly teachers or any other adults. (Oh actually, I did have one English teacher who had us call her by her first name when I was in high school, and I adored her - she was my advisor and taught me so much about writing, including gently but repeatedly pointing out my tendency to write very long, run-on sentences.... *whistling innocently* ... and there was one drama teacher who went by his first name, but they were definitely the small and only exceptions to the rule.) To this day (and I'm closer to 40 than I am to 30 now), I still have difficulty addressing my parents' friends or my friends' parents by their first names, even when they have indicated that they're cool with that.

Anyhow, it was meant to be a sign of showing respect for one's elders, I suppose, but mainly it was just the rule. The way it was. My friends all did the same thing - we never presumed to call any adult by their first name, it just wasn't done. But now today that all seems to have gone right out the window, and it drives me more than a tiny bit crazy! We've been teaching the kiddo to address adults the same way we did when we were little - honorific and last name. We seem to be in a rapidly shrinking minority with this, though, and that has me completely bemused. At the kiddo's preschool, all the teachers and staff are Mr. or Miss First Name, and while I've gotten used to hearing that on a daily basis now, I will jump all over her if I hear her drop the honorific and call a grown-up just by his/her first name only. Some of the kids in her class do this regularly, but I am quick to stress that the "Miss" or "Mr." need to be used by my kiddo at the very least. I'm not at all horribly offended if someone else's children call me by my first name, (though mostly I'm just "Kiddo's Mommy" to them, as in "Hi, Kiddo's Mommy!" "Kiddo's Mommy, will you help me zip my coat?" etc) but it does make me notice how we appear to be in the minority when it comes to teaching children to use the more formal way of addressing adults. There are a few friends who use the same "Honorific-First Name" combo that the preschool uses for their children, and I find myself using that back to them in those situations, but even doing that goes against my grain a bit. Again, I should stress (and I know it is at odds with the whole subject of my rant here) that I don't take it personally as a sign of a lack of respect when someone else's child addresses me by my first name instead of saying Mrs. Smith. It's more of a head-shaking type thing about the general overfamiliarity of society today than anything else, I suppose. While it is just the way things are these days, and I get that, I just don't quite get how we got to this point.

So, am I just crotchety or quaintly old-fashioned or positively Victorian in my thinking? Too uptight about something that is not that big a deal? Making mountains out of molehills? Possibly all of the above. I don't think it is wrong or démodé to learn respect for one's elders, though, and I'm going to persist in having the kiddo use the old-fashioned way of addressing adults. I don't know how it will be done when the kiddo starts kindergarten in the fall, but boy am I hoping that elementary school will require the use of last names like back in the day.

In closing, let me say this. When I was a kid, I never thought I'd grow up to be one of those adults who said "When I was a kid...." and then went on to complain about the way things are today, but whaddya know, here I am. Please tell me I'm not the only grown up who feels this way, at least about this subject, if not in general! Surely there are other Crotchety McGrumps out there with whom I can commiserate, eh?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

It's supposed to be spring, dagnabit!

Well, that didn't go quite as planned. The kiddo and I just headed out to her favorite playground, and I should've known it wasn't my most brilliant idea when we arrived and were the only car in the parking lot. In the summertime, we're lucky to find a parking spot anywhere in the large, spacious lot. Hmmm, perhaps that is the key, that "in the summertime" bit... We had to walk the long way around to get to the playground as there was a melting-yet-still-decently-large mountain of snow bordering the parking lot, left over from when they plowed the lot during the winter, I am guessing. We had to step carefully as the ground was a few degrees beyond sodden, but we squished and squooshed our way to the edge of the mulched-in play area where all seemed good. The sun was shining, a gentle breeze (okay, Arctic wind, more like) was blowing, the mulch wasn't too wet and the slides were all dry. I sent the kiddo on up to the top of the slide and prepared to capture the First Slide of the Year with the camera. By the time the kiddo had climbed up and slid down, my hand that was holding the camera was a wee bit numb. Hmmmm. We lasted just under five minutes before I pulled the plug and piled us back into the car to warm up. We're planning to meet some friends at one of the local indoor play areas tomorrow, so at least that was some consolation to the kiddo. In the meantime, I'm still waiting for the feeling to return to my camera-holding hand...

Now, spring officially started last week. The robins and the bulbs have gotten the message, as they're popping up all over our yard. Well, not my crocus bulbs (crocuses? crocii? crocipetti? how does one pluralize "crocus" anyhow?). They don't seem to be anywhere in sight, and I blame the voles that live - nay, thrive! - in a community under our back deck. I'm telling you, those fat, little critters are burping crocus bulb burps and breathing crocus bulb breath... But back to spring - if the birds and the bulbs know what time of year it is, why hasn't the weather caught on by now? *sigh* I'm guessing it will be at least a good month before it's warm enough to go outside in less layers than a polar explorer requires, but boy, I cannot wait. I want to start working on the garden, I want to bask in the sunshine without my nose freezing even as it starts running down my face, I want to open all the windows and let fresh air into the house... Please, spring, please get here soooooooon!!

The inaugural post...

Well, here it is! The toe dipping into the pool, as it were, my very first blog post. I've been messing around with the layout for so long now, however, that the kiddo is antsy to get out to the playground and I've got to run and take her as promised. I'll be back later with posts of a bit more substance! So, welcome and hope you enjoy your visit! Cheers!