Monday, May 30, 2011

What's In A Name?

We bought the car, a model year 2001, in 2000. Because of the unanticipated demand, and because we were ordering a manual transmission there was a long waiting list. When it finally arrived we thought it was pretty special – made to order as it were. But after all these years we are noticing something that makes us wonder just how unique our "inferno red" vehicle really is.

All PT Cruisers
say “Limited Edition”
except for our own.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

That Would Be One Under Par

We played golf today at our favorite public golf course located in the middle of a well-used urban public park. In addition to the normal number of joggers and walkers that tread on the paved road that encircles the course, and an unusually large red-tailed hawk that patrolled the skies above and, at one point, landed in a nearby tree – there were others accompanying us on our round.

Twelve Canada Geese
Dining in the right fairway –
Chance for a birdie.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Pretty much every time that I cut my lawn the same ritual performance occurs.

Pecking and stepping
in the mulch of new-mown grass
the birds come to dance.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Three Ways of Looking at Yard Maintenance

Three Ways of Looking at Yard Maintenance

No dandelions,
green carpets bereft of weeds –
chemist’s fantasy.

Zero pesticides,
hands-off, laissez-faire lawn care –
weeds running amok.

Occasional weeds,
corn gluten plus snake-tongue tools –
Eden au naturel.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

In The Wrong Place

"A Weed Is Just A Flower Growing Where You Don't Want It."

I never really understood that definition of a weed until we had to cut down our elm tree last spring. Well, actually it took a year.

The elm stood in the southwest corner of our property. It was there when we bought this place in 1977 -- and, judging by its height, for several decades before then. It shaded the major portion of the yard in which it stood, providing us with coolness on hot summer days and preventing many varieties of other plants from taking hold in that area. Except for the Lily of the Valley.
Like the tree that towered above them, these fragrant woodland perennials had seniority over Mars and me. They formed a thick semi-circle around the front base of the elm, insinuating their thin but firmly attached rhizomes in amongst the much thicker roots of their overseer. Their bell-shaped flowers, when they appeared, were white and sweetly aromatic. Uncharacteristically (or so I have heard), they remained pretty much within the confines they established for themselves - rather than attempting to colonize the otherwise flower-less grass that surrounded them.

We have three other sub-gardens of LotV -- around our lamppost; on the entry door end of our family room plot; and surrounding the Mountain Laurel on the north end of our house. All four of these flower zones are the result of either (a) the gardening prowess of one of our home's previous owners or (b) the innate ability of the plant to realize that its best chance for survival lies in not overreaching. Based upon the almost endless opportunities for territorial expansion around my property, I am betting on (b).

It is now the middle of May and the sweet fragrance of the tiny flowers surround me as I enter and exit our family room, get into and out of our driveway-parked vehicles, and check on things in the north forty.

All of which made it harder to decide to rip out the now outlying ones still living at the former sight of the decimated deciduous entity.

For a while I thought about putting in a small perennial bed using the remaining LotVs as a border. But concerns about the lingering root system, and aesthetic issues convinced me otherwise. Of course, as soon it was decided that the land would now go to grass, the Lilies morphed into intrusive weeds rather than decorative demarcators. And the battle to extricate them was joined.

Grasping one of my two favorite gardening tools, the fork-tongued weed remover -- my other "fav" is the Japanese pruning saw -- I marched onto the field of combat and dug away.

Sixty minutes and four buckets later the job was done. I left a small border along the edge of a woodland garden that abuts that end of our property -- feeling confident that the practiced discipline of the Lilies would keep them from encroaching back into their former space. After thirty-plus years of peaceful coexistence I feel they have earned my trust. Even turning them into weeds does not change that belief.

On the other hand THEY may feel totally betrayed by my diminution of their status and choose to rise up and revolt -- in which case the lawn will look kind of strange, but mowing it down will be one enormous olfactory orgy.

Sounds to me like a win-win either way.

Monday, May 09, 2011

History As It Might Have Been

The Mens Garden Club of Wethersfield wasn't always the world-renowned political and social juggernaut that it is today. Hard as it seems to believe, at one time this group was just one of many struggling civic organizations trying to build up its membership - and striving to get its name known by the public at large.

Which brings us to 21 May 1781, General George Washington, Lieutenant General Comte de Rochambeau, The Onion Maidens, and the event that first put the MGCoW on the worldwide stage.
As frequently happens when great ideas first come to fruition alcohol was involved.

Colonial American breakfasts were far different than the juice, eggs, cereal and bagels of today. The food was usually porridge, or cornmeal-mush and molasses. The "juice" was either hard cider or beer. Dinner was taken in the early afternoon and consisted in part of the same alcoholic libation.

So, by the time Ye Olde Mens Garden Club of Wethersfield gathered for its monthly meeting on that cold March evening in 1781 all of the members were pretty much buzzed, blotto and befuddled -- the three conditions that usually lead to someone shouting out one of these two sets of famous last words -- either "Hey guys, watch this!" or (even more deadly) "Have I got a great idea!"

All through the colonies word had spread that General Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau were searching for a propitious location at which to plan their latest strategy to win the Revolutionary War. Towns all across the northeast were hyping their best local attractions in an effort to lure the two warriors to their doorstep.

It was against that background that Roger Benjamin Enoch Dimmesdale, the first President of the garden club, rose unsteadily and in a barely intelligible voice, explained his "brilliant plan" to bring that pair of heroes to Wethersfield and, in the process, to lead his organization to the forefront of the organizational pack.

"Onion Maidens." He slurred loudly.

"Do you mean those sweet, innocent girls who weed and weep to harvest the red onions that grow so ubiquitously in our fields -- reaping the onions for the reward of a silk dress, or more likely, given the shortage of that lustrous fiber, things like chewing tobacco and snuff?" asked one of the more sober members.

"Well they don't know that. Now do they? For all they know the Onion Maidens could be even hotter than those Plowmates of the Month from that sordid Plowboy magazine that heathen Hughziah Hefner just started publishing. All it takes is a little creative PR campaign."

And it worked. Within two weeks both of the generals had made abrupt turns southward, and rushed to ye olde towne of Wethersfield as quickly as two entourages on horseback traveling badly marked dirt roads could travel.

The Onion Maidens however were not amused -- at all. They refused to participate in or even appear near any festivities involving the garden club or their distinguished guests. And the other women in town joined in the boycott.

Left to their own devices the MGCoW could only come up with a "Welcome Walk of Honor" through a cordon of club members and the few other townspeople that were still speaking to them. To decorate the route President Dimmesdale decided to strew the pathway with discarded skins from the Wethersfield Red Onions that he had desperately gathered from along the edges of the fields.

He failed however to anticipate the rain. It began two hours before the dignitaries' arrival and continued as a heavy mist throughout the procession.

The onionskins became slick with moisture. The generals -- already besotted in both senses of the word -- darted pell-mell up the slippery path in anticipation of socializing with the absent maidens. The inevitable happened.

First the French military hero, then the great American leader crashed to the ground ignominiously right at the feet of President Dimmesdale.

The location is today marked with a sign that reads "21 May, 1781 -- George Washington slipped here."

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Boutique Birds

A pair of cowbirds visited our feeders the other day. This is apparently not a good thing unless you happen to be a cowbird fan, which, after reading about them, we are not. Cowbirds are what are called "brood parasites".
"The Brown-headed Cowbird does not build a nest of its own. The female lays her eggs in the nests of other bird species. The host parents then raise the cowbird chick as their own. The cowbird's egg usually hatches a day or two before the host's eggs. Rapid growth allows the cowbird chick to out compete the host's chicks for food and space in the nest. The result is that the host's chicks usually perish." (

But Mars and I are not worried, even though (based upon forty years of experience) several species of potential cowbird victims will be building their homes and raising their broods on or near our property this year. We know with certainty, again based upon the same history, that the cowbird walk-on was just that -- a one-shot cameo appearance by a boutique bird, to be followed by its total disappearance from our front yard stage. It has happened before, and for sure it will happen again.

One of the first was a Baltimore oriole that appeared at our quince bush several years ago at about this time of year. The orange-pink flowers had just blossomed and the fruit was not yet visible to the human eye. The shrub is just outside our dining room window, in which room we were actually dining -- it being during our pre-empty-nester days. For a moment we thought that the quince itself was gyrating wildly, kind of thrashing about, until we noticed the predominately black and white feathering at the heart of the of the flurry of orange.

The bird stayed at our yard for a few days -- visiting the shrub one or twice per. He never seemed to land any other place on our premises. Finally, I guess because the fruit was not ripening quickly enough for his tastes, he flew off -- presumably further south where the maturing process for that season was farther along.

Then there was a hummingbird or at least that's what I think it was -- either that or a primitive, pygmy, predator drone operated by one of the more scientifically advanced kids in the neighborhood.

It was a warm summer day and I was doing some yard work next to our butterfly garden - which is supposed to attract those small nectar-feeding tropical American birds as well. I was standing at the time and I heard a serious buzzing sound to my left at about elbow height. I looked quickly and just as quickly a tiny green object with blurry things moving on either side of it hovered -- darted left -- hovered -- darted right -- and departed. I looked at its front end -- or at least the end that went first -- and saw either a hideously grotesque bug-face or a long, curved bill. I had no other witnesses

My first thought was an insect. My second was a hummingbird. Over time I've settled on the latter. It makes me feel as if my efforts on that garden were not entirely wasted.

The white crow arrived on a cold early winter morning when murders of the migrating magpies were moving en masse from yard to yard in our neighborhood. Mars was watching the cascade of black feathers nosily descend on our yard when she excitedly spotted a flash of white bobbing in the ocean of ebon. She called me over to look. It was -- according to all the outward signs other than color -- a crow. Before we could think too much about what we were witnessing, the horde ascended and moved on. Later research told us that such pigment-free freaks do occur in the corvine species - but very rarely.

All of this is a good thing. Connecticut, where Mars and I live, is known as the "Land of Steady Habits". We Nutmeggers like novelty and excitement as much as the next guy -- but within reason.