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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

It seems Port Swiller Manor has been under the shadow of the Canadian wildfires for weeks and weeks now. Some days it’s a high haze, others it’s definitely thicker. Today is one of the latter, and is also one of those days I can actually smell the smoke. (I gather a fairly heavy plume is on its way into the area.)

Eldest tells me there’s a rumor that the whole thing started with a controlled burn that got out of hand, which wouldn’t surprise me.

Of course, the local media are having a field day with their “Air Quality Alerts” because this is what the media reflexively do. (Yes, regular friends of the decanter will know that this is a common theme with Ol’ Robbo. I had thought of entitling this post “Smoke of the Century of the Week.”) For myself, my eyes have been stingy and runny off and on but that’s pretty much it so far.

As I believe I said already, the whole thing has provided some pretty sunrises and sunsets, but I admit I will be quite happy when it finally blows itself out.

UPDATE: He – An idea so crazy, it just might work!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry for the lack of posties here. No, the Gestapo did not break down the Port Swiller Manor front door in the middle of the night (at least not yet). Instead, Ol’ Robbo has just been very busy and his Muse seems to have gone AWOL, as she does from time to time.

That being the case, I’ve not much to tell. The Gels are all gainfully employed for the summah, which makes Ol’ Robbo happy. The weather is drying out to the point where I’ll soon have to start watering things, which does not. Western Civilization continues to crumble, but you knew that already.

Speaking of nothing in particular, I ran into my parish priest at Total Bev the other day. It was startling like the first time you met your grade-school teacher at the supermarket when you were a kid – all out of context. I’ve been working up my nerve to get to know him better without seeming to impose, so I said hello and shook hands.

He said, “This is the first time I’ve ever seen you not wearing a suit.” (I had on a t-shirt and shorts. He, by the way, was in full cassock and biretta. Father rocks it.)

“Well,” I said, “This is the first time I’ve ever seen you in a wine store.”

We larfed. And he remembered next day when I was leaving Mass. We’re getting there.

On a completely different house-keeping note, Ol’ Robbo has long meant to mention that I have nothing to do with the ads that appear here. I suppose they’re the price I pay for not actually buying my WordPress account. So far they seem to be pretty innocuous, but if you see something you don’t like, just know it’s not my doing.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo hopes you all had a pleasant Memorial Day.

For myself, I am still chuckling over the fact that I had juuuust enough time between bouts of rain to get the charcoal going and grill up the burgers and dogs. It was literally just coming on again as I made my way up the stairs to the back porch carrying all the meats, and by the time we sat down to feast, it was pouring again.

A very small thing in the Scales of Life, I suppose, but it still matters to me.

UPDATE: Speaking of small things, it looks like the hummingbird I saw last weekend has taken up residence. In all these years, it’s always been a female that checks in for the summah, never a male. I wonder why that is.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A quiet Memorial Day weekend across the Port Swiller Manor demesne.** Ol’ Robbo has learned that mowing the lawn late Friday afternoon instead of Saturday morning really shifts the balance and allows for that much more productivity. And on the subject of mowing, I’ve finally – after all these years – accepted the idea of not cutting the grass so close, but leaving it about three inches or so. The lawn seems to be thankful.

Those of you keeping tabs on the Great Raspberry Transplant will be interested to know that all of the first wave seem to have survived the shock and are holding their own nicely.

My main task today will be to deal with the Jackmanii clematis out front, which seems to have been hit hard with some ailment to which it is subject from time to time. It’s such a Gordian knot that I’ll probably just whack it back outright.

Pollen is hell. It seems to affect me more and more as the years go by.

On the bird-watching front, a couple years ago Ol’ Robbo set up a birdhouse on a pole next to the fence in almost an identical position as that of his next-door neighbor’s. I can’t help noticing that while my neighbor always gets bluebirds nesting in his, I only get sparrows. This is disappointing. The Mothe always maintained that there is a pleasure in identifying the five or six varieties of sparrow that typically get in to the feeder, but I think the whole lot of them to be dull and uninteresting. My best guess is that the bluebirds shun my birdhouse because the wisteria all over my fence (my neighbor’s is bare) doesn’t leave it open enough for them.

On a broader scale, a quick check on the innerwebz confirms that a) the dread El Nino is still a’cummin and b) it’s all somehow my fault. “Human-induced warming from greenhouse gasses” has become such a reflexive parrot-call that NPR tacks it on to the end of an article that otherwise admits temperatures rise and fall and weather patterns shift naturally, without seeming to notice. (Well, they probably do notice but don’t care since Glowbull Enwarmening has nothing to do with science and everything to do with politickal totalitarianism. As Glenn Reynolds likes to say, when the people who keep telling me there’s a crisis start acting like there’s a crisis, maybe I’ll begin to listen. In the meantime, they can STFU and STFD.)

And speaking of broader scales, I see where Betelgeuse is acting funny again. Oh, no you don’t, Orion’s left shoulder! Ol’ Robbo got caught up in the hype a couple years ago and actually found himself standing in the yard at night a few times, staring into the sky and wondering if he’d actually get to see the thing go nova. You fooled me once, so shame on you! Not going to happen again.

Whelp, off to work.

** noun

Historickal: land attached to a manor and retained for the owner’s own use.

Law: possession of real property in one’s own right.

Modern Anglo-American property law is rooted in Medieval feudalism and at least when I was in school back in the day, we went right back to studying its historickal origins. (Heaven only knows what they’re teaching the kidz now.) The irony is that my prop prof was a self-professed Communist. Anyhoo, “demesne” was one of the terms that somehow stuck in Ol’ Robbo’s braims and it gives me simple pleasure that it is so apropos to this blog.

Best-Laid Plans UPDATE: Whelp. After trimming the edges of teh lawn, Ol’ Robbo decided to clean up the hollies along the sidewalk, lest I get one of those sanctimonious (and anonymous) notes in my mailbox citing the regulations about keeping the sidewalk clear. Then I cleaned up under the porch because I had promised Mrs. R I would: When the basement flooded last year and we had to all that tear-down in order to reinforce the walls, I just piled all the insulation, dry-wall, and flooring in a heap under the porch, where it sat until we finally had a guy come haul it away last weekend. There were still bits and pieces left plus a lot of dead leaves to be removed. Then I found myself digging up moar raspberry plants because Mrs. R’s friends who said they’d be interested in them wondered if this weekend would be possible to pick them up. So I’ve got nine of them sitting in pots on the patio now. They all look a bit shocky at the moment, but hopefully they’ll cowboy up before delivery. On the other hand, I made clear multiple times that I offer no guarantee as to quality or survival. You get what you pay for.

So after all that, I completely forgot about the clem until I was in the shower just now. D’OH!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Where has the week flown, Ol’ Robbo wonders.

I’m so out of it that it was only yesterday I learned that the hazy skies (and pretty sunsets) we’ve been having in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor were the result of smoke drifting down from wildfires in Canada. Being a nerd, I’m usually right up on that sort of thing. Take off, ya hosers.

I’m afraid dear Decanter Dog is beginning to show her age (whatever that actually is). I notice that one of her eyes is starting to cloud up. Also, she won’t go down the stairs anymore unless all the lights are on. Both of these things make me think her sight is starting to go.

Well, all the Gels have now lined up gainful employment for the summah, a thing that makes Ol’ Robbo happy. Speaking of which, Youngest heads off to her counseling gig at Bible-Thumper camp this afternoon. I swear that even having gone there a dozen years, she still doesn’t actually know how to get to the place. (GPS won’t work because of some quirk or other.) Five will get you ten that I’ll have to write out directions for her before she leaves.

Another thing that makes me happy is that my beloved Nationals continue to play with spunk and spark. Sure, they’re seven games under .500 and in the basement, but that’s a lot better than I or (I believe) anybody else thought they were going to be this year. Increasingly, Ol’ Robbo sees what might be a very good team in another year or two, and in the meantime, it’s fun again (although I’m not yet sold on the Home Run Wig thing). What else is there to say except GO, NATS!

UPDATE UNO: Perusing the links over at AoSHQ, Ol’ Robbo spotted this: Techno-Hell: New App Harangues Men For Not Doing Enough Domestic Chores. As apparently the only member of the Port Swiller Manor household who knows how to properly load the dishwasher and balance the clothes in the washing machine, I just laughed grimly.

UPDATE DEUX: I learn from multiple sources that today is National Wine Day. Allow Ol’ Robbo to make the obligatory point that every day is Wine Day. And a glass of one with you!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo’s church had a new parochial priest assigned to it by the Bishop this week. Today I learned that not only is he an “addition to” instead of a “replacement for”, but that he is also a Latin shark, thereby – as our pastor gleefully noted today – doubling our capacity to practice the Mass That Must Not Be Named. (I suppose this means we’ll also double our number of Eff Bee Eye spies as well.)

On another note, I’m not saying that people shouldn’t spend as long as they like in private devotions after the Mass formally ends. I’m just saying that perhaps they should have a certain situational awareness regarding their neighbors. If you know you’re going long, pick a spot in the middle of a pew, not on one end of it. Ol’ Robbo got himself thoroughly bottled up d by a couple of ladies today, and since it is my policy not to crawl over people to get out of the pew, had to sit patiently until one of them finally got up.

On a completely different note, I just looked up and spotted a hummingbird at the feeder for the first time this year. Boo-yah!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last Sunday found Ol’ Robbo idly staring out at the Port Swiller Manor back yard as he waited for his ladies to finish getting ready for Mothers’ Day brunch.

My gaze fell on to the two beds in front of my main garden. Each is roughly five by thirty feet. The one contains my roses and peonies and has become downright civilized over the years. The other contains the raspberry patch, a legacy of the former owners of the Manor. It is reverting to jungle, having recently been overrun with ivy and wild grape.

In a flash, it occurred to Ol’ Robbo that this just wouldn’t do anymore.

A plan quickly formed itself in my braims. I’m going to clear out the raspberry bed using weapons-grade Round Up and a tiller. That’ll happen later this year. Then I’m going to replant it with some of the peony root-balls I keep promising I’m going to separate, together with this year’s Mothers’ Day rose, which is currently in a pot, and of course supplemental MD roses going forward. I’m also going to plant both beds with clumps of iris (which I can’t think why I haven’t introduced before).

The result? Balanced, semi-formal beds. And I get to keep my butterfly garden behind them, to which I’ve grown quite attached.

But here’s the immediate part: In addition to the fact that we like to eat them, the raspberries have a sort of symbolic meaning to us. The prior owners of Port Swiller Manor were very kind and patient with us when we first sought to purchase it, and even after all these years we’re hesitant about erasing their marks on the place. (Well, the outdoor ones, anyway.) So Ol’ Robbo also got the idea of clearing a much smaller patch along one of the side fences, long a kind of No Man’s Land anyway, and transplanting, say, eight or ten young raspberry plants there, thus preserving the legacy. And I’m doing that today in order to make sure that they survive and thrive before I start nuking the old bed.

Clever, no?

I put my idea to Mrs. R. She loved it. She put it to her friends. They loved it (although I’m dashed if I know why I should care). So away we go.


I give you the new bed. As I say, modest and manageable. We’ll see how the first wave of transplants go. (By the bye, this was only made possible by the big maple falling a couple years ago and opening up this area to a lot more sunlight than previously. Swings and roundabouts and all that.)

And for those of you not interested in Ol’ Robbo’s garden nattering, I give you Monument Valley National Park, courtesy of Youngest Gel who was there yesterday:

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As I may have mentioned before, Ol’ Robbo is a member of a Patrick O’Brian fan group over on FacePlant. (I’m also in a P.G. Wodehouse group and a mostly-dead Anthony Powell one.) One of our members is a graphic designer, and thanks to his efforts I just received my Aubrey/Maturin 2024 (“There is not a moment to be lost”) bumper sticker.

I’m quite pleased. On the one hand, it’s a literary joke highly appreciated by those who understand the reference. (POB fans are an intensely enthusiastic bunch. I often get nods and smiles, and sometimes even a note left on the windshield.) On the other, I like to think it subtly registers my contempt for all real-life politicks and politicians (which seems to grow exponentially with each passing day).

I tried to explain all this to Eldest Gel when she saw the thing on the kitchen counter last evening. (Evidently, she never noticed that I have been sporting the ’16 version on the back of La Wrangler all these years.) Her reaction? “That is the nerdiest thing I’ve ever heard of. You may as well go with Kirk/Spock and get it over with.”

Humph. The lubber. Well, if Ol’ Robbo is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

** Spot the reference

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo hopes you all had a happy Mothers’ Day! I had had read some articles recently about it being the latest target of cancel culture, but didn’t see much evidence of that myself.

Mrs. R, Eldest, and I had a very pleasant brunch downtown, during which the conversation somehow came round to a scathing denunciation by Eldest of Woodrow Wilson and all of his “progressive” policies. (And they say that today’s yoot know nothing about history.) I caught a glance from someone at the next table who seemingly couldn’t quite process what she was hearing and looked rayther alarumed. It’s been a very long time since I had a meal like that in the middle of the day, so my entire afternoon was spent in a more or less catatonic state. (This is what hammocks are for.)

Meanwhile, Middle Gel got to take a daytrip to Munich, from which she sent some lovely pictures, and Youngest also sent pics from Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (western Colorado). Her itinerary for the next few days includes Bryce Canyon, Mesa Verde, and Monument Valley NPs. I hope visiting the latter will turn her into a John Wayne fan. (Eldest, who hasn’t an adventurous bone in her body, is convinced that her sister is going to be kidnapped by the Cartels or eaten by bears, but I think she’ll be just fine.) I know Mrs. R misses the younger two, but she also is enjoying their travels vicariously (as am I).

All in all, a good day.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A warm and muggy morning here at Port Swiller Manor, par for the course for most of the summah but still something of a seasonal novelty here in mid-May. Ol’ Robbo is weighing the odds on whether he’ll be able to grill out this evening and guessing the answer is probably not. (We’ve had quite a bit of rain here this spring, continuing the trend from last year.)

Another peony for you:

This is my favorite of the varieties I have. I love the smooth, creamy petals and lack of fuss. You will argue that peonies are inherently fussy and that if these are my criteria, perhaps I should be growing something else. I will counter that that’s what makes this one so satisfying. When Ol’ Robbo undertakes the Great Rootball Separation this fall (stop laughing), I intend to keep the progeny of this one and give away some of the others. (It occurred to me the other day that my church, which has some big flower beds, might be interested in this. Donating some specimens there would make Ol’ Robbo very happy.)

Speaking of such things, the wisteria are now in full bloom. Ol’ Robbo has lots of wisteria: they run all the way down one side of the backyard fence and surround the back porch. The result is that during peak bloom season, great waves of scent roll across the yard. It’s quite lovely.

Roses are next, and foxglove, followed by the great snowy field which is my oak-leaf hydrangea hedge. And before you know it, it’ll be high summah and the butterfly bush will be powering up. Tempus fugit, indeed.

Those of you following along will be pleased to know that the rhodies I planted a few weeks back seem perfectly happy, especially with all this rain. Similarly, the climbing hydrangea is already showing signs of growth. I’m guessing that it will shoot up pretty quickly. Out of an abundance of caution, I decided to go ahead and throw some chicken-wire around the young thing. As I’ve said before, the deer don’t seem to come into the yard anymore, but the woodchucks do. I haven’t seen any yet this year and I don’t know that they’d eat it, but strong fences make good neighbors (a rule of thumb that seems to have been long forgotten – or should I say flagrantly ignored – among Our Betters).

What else? Ol’ Robbo has held off trumpeting it so far this year, but starting the third season of having a weed and feed service I have not seen the lawn look this good in a very long time. The Reconquista of some bald spots under the trees is particularly gratifying. I pat myself on the back a bit, too, because the liming and reseeding protocols that I picked up from the service and now do myself are genuinely paying off.

Whelp, since the time I sat down here with my kawfee, you may add “rainy” to my description of the morning. Fortunately, I mowed yesterday, but I still need to go out with the weed-whacker and trim the edges. As I said last week, I’m still enjoying the feeling of being in control of things, all the more so since I know it can’t last.

Iced Kawfee UPDATE: (Because, like John Houseman, I’ve eeeeearned it.) Did Ol’ Robbo say “control”? I noticed the morning-glories are already at it in my raspberry patch (they’ll eventually get into the hydrangea and butterfly bush, too). They sink me every year in the end. I’m doomed.

Meanwhile, I wound up spending several hours dealing with a large foundational boxwood-sort-of-thing and a pernicious vine with large round leaves. The latter grows up inside the former, not only tangling it up but also getting into the surrounding trees and shrubs. Ol’ Robbo probably does not unsheathe the pruning tool as often as he should, but when I do I tend to go berserk like the old Vikings.

And finally, with exquisite timing Mrs. R’s Mothers’ Day rose chose to open up this morning. Enjoy!



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June 2023