Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has been busy with all kinds of grown up stuff lately.

Yesterday found him and Mrs. R in the offices of an estate attorney putting our signatures to a complete set of new wills, trusts, powers of attorney, medical directives – indeed, the whole ball of wax barring funeral instructions.  Not that we’re expecting anything to happen to us any time soon, you understand, but it’s nice to get these things out of the way.

Then this morning we had yet another meeting with our building contractor.  Regular friends of the decanter may recall my mentioning a few weeks ago our plan to replace the porch at Port Swiller Manor which has now come close to the end of its useful life?  Well, our idea was to put up a new covered and enclosed one.  When first we explained what we wanted to the contractor, he came back with a plan for what was really a genuine room – with siding and windows – that would be indistinguishable from the rest of the house except that it would not have heat or air-conditioning.  This was far more than we wanted, both in terms of “room” -iness and (needless to say) price.  So today we had him back to explain in greater detail exactly what we wanted, which is essentially something far closer to a screened-in porch than a genuine room.  I think we’re on the same page now.  Whether I did not sufficiently explain myself the first time around or whether he was trying to hustle us into an upgrade we didn’t want, I couldn’t say.  But he took our restated desires in good stride.  We like the guy and he comes highly recommended, so I’m eager to see what he comes back with this go around.

All these new experiences typically act to unsettle ol’ Robbo.  So it was with a sense equivalent to that generated by snacking on comfort food that he toddled out into the garden this afternoon to perform an annual (or at least biennial – I don’t seem to recall doing it last year) task familiar to long-time friends of the decanter, that of razing the forsythia hedge.   I know that in past years this doesn’t seem to have had the slightest effect in producing more enthusiastic blooms the next spring, but dum spiro, spero and all that.

Perhaps I was a little more jangled and preoccupied this year, or perhaps I’m just aging, because although this job is always a nuisance, I don’t recall it previously giving me such a physical beating.  Several times I managed to knock both my hat and my glasses off with wayward limbs.  I also went after too thick a stem with the cutters and was rewarded by a very serious cramp in my ribs.  And once, while trying to dig out a stubborn root, I fell backwards and landed on my hand at a very awkward angle.

This year, I cut them waaaaaay back – to within 18 inches of the grounds or so.  As I made my way along the hedge, I couldn’t help imagining losing my balance and falling backward on one of the relics, thereby impaling myself on five or six cut stalks.  (What do you call those traps the Viet Kong used to set? Pungee sticks?)  What an idiotic way to cop it, I found myself thinking.

The root that I mention belonged to a giant weed of some sort that bedevils my planting.  Imagine a cross between a carrot and a potato, put it on steroids, and you’ve got one of these things.  If left undisturbed, it will eventually produce an eight-foot tall plant with red stem, long, smooth, skinny, horizontal limbs and  small, black, shiny berries.   I’ve no idea what it is, but it’s quite common in this neck of the woods.   If you get it early enough, you can dig the whole root out, which is very satisfying.  Past a certain point, you’re likely simply to shear through the thing with your spade.  That’ll slow it down, but won’t stop it.

Then there’s the wild grapevine, which sneakily gets itself into the hedge and the trees when my back is turned, and has a root system so vast and complicated that no power in the ‘verse seems to be able to stop it.  If you have any suggestions for dealing with said vines, I’d love to hear them.

At any rate, mission accomplished.

UPDATE:  Behold the all-seeing, all-knowing power of the Innertoobs!: The mystery weed I have in mind turns out to be American Pokeweed.  According to Wiki, the berries are poisonous, something I could tell just by looking at them.  The catbirds and mockies chow down on them, though.

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