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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A crisp, clear, blustery day today at Port Swiller Manor, which for some mysterious reason feels more like September than April – a patent absurdity when you consider the tons of pollen and legions of maple seed pods I had to clear off the driveway this morning.

Another patent absurdity is the tornado warning which Youngest tells me was inflicted on her school yesterday afternoon when the thundershowers came through.  According to her, they were all hustled into the halls and made to sit there for about 45 minutes.  What nonsense: None of the cells Ol’ Robbo saw (and the school is within about five miles of here) looked anything like severe as they came over.  Prudence is one thing, pusillanimity another.

And speaking of pusillanimity, Ol’ Robbo stumbled across a grass snake as he was messing about in the garden, the first he’s seen in several years.  In fact, I nearly stepped on it. The rational part of my mind said, “Perfectly harmless, good for pest control, more afraid of you than you are of it, etc…..”  The irrational (and majority) part said, “AIIIEE!!! Snake! Run awaaaayyy!!”  No doubt a Freudian psychiatrist would tell me I’ve got unresolved daddy issues, while a Modernist would tell me I’m a homophobe.  I don’t care, I just really hate snakes.  Brrrrr……

Odd that I should have seen it today and right out in the open, because Easter Monday found me deep in tiger country, hacking back the forsythias to within about a foot of the ground, and there was no sign of it then.  I also lavished them with a heavy feeding of phosphate-rich fertilizer.  We’ll see if that has any measurable effect on their bloom next spring.

Meanwhile, the peonies are all heavy in bud (complete with those little ants that like to swarm all over them) and ought to be opening in the next week or two.  Perhaps I’ll post some pics.  When they broke ground this year, several of the plants came up in perfect circles of stems with bald spots in the center, a clear indicator that I’m finally going to have to dig the damn things up and separate out their root masses this fall, a task I’ve been putting off for years.

I’m still fretting about the jasmine, which don’t look outright dead exactly, but which sure don’t look all that enthusiastic about joining in the spring spirit.  I know from experience that they get going late, especially on the edge of growing territory where we are, but still I fret.

On the other hand, Mrs. R has been putting in yeoman’s work tending to the pachysandra bed out in the front ditch, and I see that we actually lost quite a lot fewer of them than I had originally feared.  (All the casualties were within a couple of feet of the street itself and I’m guessing the winter’s road salt was probably too much for them.) We only planted them late last summah so they’re still pretty widely spread out, but hopefully they’ll start to fill in this year.  My general impression of packy is that once it gets itself established, it’s practically indestructible.

And speaking of such, I’m seeing a lot of Virginia creeper spreading around this year.  I don’t understand some people’s objection to this vine.  It’s fast-growing, produces beautiful five-bladed leaves that turn a smashing red in the fall, and doesn’t tear into cement like ivy does.  I encourage it to grow wherever it isn’t going to interfere with something else.

I put the hummingbird feeder up this week, not that I expect any immediate visitors but more by way of an advanced invitation.  I am reasonably certain that we’ve had the same hen come in for several years now, and last year two others appeared as well.  (They spent most of the summah squabbling with each other.  Hummers are very territorial.)

Well, Ol’ Robbo must be off to do some makeshift repair on his Weber.  One of the brackets holding up the grill has rusted out and fallen off so I’m going to try and jury-rig a bit of coat-hanger by way of replacement.  Fortunately, this is something that Mrs. Robbo would not notice in a million years, so there’s no danger that she’ll fuss at me about it.  (I am of the use-it-up/wear-it-out school of thought, she much less so.  You should hear some of the disagreements we have over the state of some of my clothes, for example.)

UPDATE:  The jury-rig worked out perfectly, especially as I was using an extra-heavy piece of hanger. (Not a word to the Missus, please!)  Also, our landscaper guy dropped by for a visit.  We’re getting him to do a little rock work for us, but it’s always a slippery slope to stroll around the yard and say, “And how much do you think it would run to do this project, or this project, or this project……”  We’re actually pretty good about staying within a realistic budget for the yard, but at least it’s fun to stare at the estimates he comes up with for our more lavish fancies and drool a little bit.

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