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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter will know that ol’ Robbo had been gassing all winter about some jasmine he put in last summah and whether it would survive AlGore’s Global Freezing.  Said friends will further recall that ol’ Robbo pronounced said jasmine dead and, a couple weeks ago, pulled it out and replaced it with wisteria (which is now sprouting like weeds, BTB).

Well, friends, I must here own up that I was not completely forthright about all this.  You see,  although it was quite clear that from the ground up said jasmine were completely dead, when I actually went to pull up the first of them I was disturbed to see that its roots, which were longer and deeper than I’d imagined, didn’t really seem so.  They weren’t dried.  They weren’t withered.  In fact, they seemed rayther supple.

Truth be told, I was strongly tempted to put the thing back where I had found it.

However, the wisteria had already been bought.  Further, I didn’t want to spend another month agonizing over probably-dead plants.  So gritting my teeth, I yanked out the jasmine.

All except one, that is, because I wanted to see what would happen and whether I was right or wrong in my initial diagnosis.

Well, you can see where this is going.  Yesterday, I noticed a pair of new leaves on the thing.  D’OH!

I generally dislike the idiot savant character in book and film, but Chauncey Gardner is right.  “As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.”

I was clever in one respect, however.  The plant that I saved was one of two on a double-wide section of lattice.  So it will grow up next to (and perhaps tangled with) one of the wisteria.  I’ve no problem with that.

 

 

Sat out on the porch this evening to watch the lightning flicker around the northern horizon and to listen to the frogs.  I hadn’t been there more than a few moments when I spotted my first couple fireflies of the season noodling about against the tree line.  It’ll be another week or two before they’re going all out, but as I say, shiny!

O’ Robbo loves fireflies, especially when associated with summah lightning.  Indeed, one of my fondest memories is of an evening back in the summah of 1989.  It was after my first year of law school and I was working on the Hill and staying with my godparents outside of Fredericksburg, Virginny.  Now, Fred-Vegas (as we insiders call it) gets hammered something fierce by thunderstorms during the warmer months, and is particularly susceptible to lightning ground-strikes.  Somebody once told me this has something to do with the high iron content of the soil in the immediate area.  I don’t know if I believe this, but I do know from years of observation that they catch it pretty hard there.

Anyhoo, one evening in this summah of ’89, we had a typical Fred-Vegas pounding – 45 minutes or so of the Apocalypse followed by a sudden hush as the storm rolled east.  For some reason, I had to go outside just after it had passed.  The air was still very warm and soggy, there was an absolute hush all around, lightning still flickered in the distance….and the hedge that bordered the back driveway was absolutely covered in fireflies.   I’m talking Christmas tree light concentration.

I just stood there for a few moments, taking it all in.  In my fancy, I almost thought I could hear a faint pah! pah! as the fireflies did their stuff.

Shiny, indeed.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Because I motivated myself to mow and trim the lawn of Port Swiller Manor yesterday evening, I had the time today to really get a twist on trying to clean up the garden.

The main villain I have to contend with at this time of year is the jewelweed, a kind of impatiens that, if left to itself, would blanket the entire area in stalks five or six feet high.   It’s easy enough to pluck out when small because it has shallow roots, but there are just so damn many of them that I confess to spraying large chunks of them in otherwise open patches and only pulling the ones immediately around other plants that I wish to preserve.

Hey, there’s only one of me.

When the butterfly bush is in full swing at high summah and surrounded with various nectar-loving bugs and birds, my garden has what I have seen written somewhere as “a certain dryad loveliness”.  Otherwise, I admit that it is semi-cultivated at best.   As I say, there’s just one of me and I don’t have the time, energy or dosh to really do the thing justice.

Some day when if I retire, if I don’t get sent to the camps first, my plan is to bring in a pro, clean the place out, build proper beds, critter-proof them, and then start again with some serious horticulture.

In the meantime, I’ll just muddle on.

UPDATE:  Mrs. R and the gels went to the local community festival this afternoon, something I’ve been able to avoid successfully for fifteen years.  Having finished my chores, I climbed into the hammock with my book.  It was mid-80’s, very humid and sunny.  Soon, I was lost in La La Land.  Woke up a while ago to find a darkening sky and thunder in the distance.  Must now go check out the radar to see what I’m having for dins – steak on the BBQ or a burger grilled inside.  All will depend on how fast the system goes through.

UPDATE DEUX:  Burger it was.  I went out after the deluge had eased off and looked around.  Remember that scene in “The Perfect Storm” when Clooney looks out the porthole and sees a dim gleam of dawn after getting battered all night?  And how just as you’re thinking he’s got a shot to get out the sky suddenly goes all dark again?  It was something like that.  Ultimately, it didn’t actually rain during the window in which I would have been grilling, but this is a thick-cut steak from the deli at 13 bucks per pound and I’m not going to play silly buggers with something that pricey.

We’ll try again tomorrow.  Forecast says it’s another crap-shoot.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy May Day!

An off Friday for ol’ Robbo and my one goal for the day is to plant some wisteria against the porch pillars to replace the jasmine that didn’t survive this winter’s global warming.  I’ve already got a hedge of the stuff along one side of the back fence, so it will all compliment nicely.

The great thing about wisteria is that, once established, it is virtually indestructible.  And apart from whacking it back every now and again to keep it from consuming all around it, it’s virtually maintenance-free.

The older I get, the more I like that combination.

UPDATE:  Done and done.  Meadow Farms was selling nice, big, three gallon container specimens with hearty root systems and good budding.  (Somebody told me long ago that one must never buy a wisteria unless one sees flowers on it.  Otherwise you might get stuck with a dud.)

Sigh…even as I went to pull out the jasmine, I still cherished a hope that it might just be pining for the fjords.  Nope.  It was, indeed, ex-jasmine.

Whelp, now that that job is over with, the garden is a solid mass of weeds and the lawn needs mowing again, but I’m not going to bother with those today.

UPDATE DEUX:  By the bye, when I said happy May Day, I meant the traditional holiday, not the rat-bastard Communist one.  As a matter of fact, today is also the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, established in the mid-50’s to emphasize the dignity associated with honest labor that the Church felt was lost under Marxist regimes.  The difference between it and the Commie May Day is that Christianity is first and last about the salvation of each and every individual soul.  Honest labor contributes to that salvation.  On the other hand,  to the Commies, the “worker” is nothing more than a faceless number, simply part of an overall politickal calculus, and utterly meaningless in and of himself.  Indeed, that whole “worker’s paradise” line was nothing more than bait designed to get the mob to do what the elites wanted.   (Spits.)

Just so we have that sorted out.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No, I’m not talking about that wretched post-WWII generation who currently are raping the Republic of all the wealth on which they can lay their mitts before they die off and who are, also, directly responsible for the rise of a generation of Millennials who are in the process of establishing a reign of Precious Snowflake Fascist Terror that will eventually come to a painful, violent end when the Gods of the Copybook Headings return.*

From the Port Swiller Deck this evening, courtesy of the Youngest Gel and her iThingy.

From the Port Swiller Deck this evening, courtesy of the Youngest Gel and her iThingy.

Instead, I’m talking about good, old-fashioned, thunderstorms, some of which came a-calling in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor this evening.  First time this season.

Ol’ Robbo used to be quite frightened of thunder and lightning.  I recall distinctly an incident in my misspent yoot in San Antonio.  My bedroom window looked out on a hackberry tree in our back yard, maybe 50 yards or so from the house.  One evening during a storm (I think when I was in high school), I walked in and looked out just in time to see the poor tree hit by a lightning bolt.  (You can always tell that you’re close to a strike because you can hear a distinct vzzzzzt!! before you hear the thunder.)  I hit the deck completely by instinct, all my fears of my earlier yoot very much reenforced.  (I believe that same poor tree got knocked down by either a microburst or an F0 tornado a few years later when I was away at college.)

Anyhoo, I gradually overcame said fear, to the point where I now quite enjoy watching a storm in all its fury.  To sit out on the deck this evening and watch the cell scud past us to the east while the bats flitted about overhead was very delightful.

A little game I like to play in this season is Beat The Storm.  My office is about 14 miles southeast of Port Swiller Manor.  When conditions are stormy, I take a good, hard look at the radar just before I leave work.  If there are storms about, the game is to decide whether to slap the sides up on La Wrangler or to see if I can just beat them home bare-sided.  In some cases, I have cut this close enough that the deluge has hit literally between the time I got into my garage and the time I tried to go back out to the mailbox to retrieve the evening bills.   Very gratifying when I get it right.

And lest you think Ol’ Robbo is delusional on this point, let me just note that others play the same game.  A couple years back, I was on a late-afternoon flight from Dee Cee to Cleveland when the captain announced we were going to take off a couple minutes ahead of schedule.  I didn’t think much of it until, during our descent, the sky suddenly got awfully dark (and the plane suddenly got awfully quiet).  We came down smoothly enough, but by the time we were taxiing to the gate, the heavens had opened up and the tempest was crashing down all round us.  That sum’bitch pilot had beat it in with seconds to spare.

Once I retrieved my jangled nerves, I tipped my metaphorical hat to the fellah.

 

*No, but it felt damned good to get that off my chest.

 

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ah, Spring!  Season of swings and roundabouts!

On the one hand,  ol’ Robbo learned yesterday that the Port Swiller Manor air-conditioner, which I hadn’t realized was eleven years old, has given up the ghost – rusted coil, leaking freon like a sieve, electrical contacts burning out.  Well, what else can one say except ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching? UPDATE:  The hot water heater decided to get in on the game by leaking while the HVAC guys were putting in the new A/C unit.  This came as no surprise, as I’d been warned two years ago that the thing was nearing the end of its life and had been wondering idly since then when it would go, but still……”When sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions.”

On the other hand, I discovered this morning that both the lawnmower and the weed-whacker are in fine working condition despite my very minimal (which is to say, non-existent) winterization efforts.

On the third hand, I’ve killed about seven wasps on the porch over the past few days.  (Red wasps – fortunately not especially aggressive.)  They must have a nest very near at hand and also must have found a way to get through the screen.  I haven’t found it yet and I’m probably giving myself cancer with all the spray I’ve inhaled while shooting at them.  UPDATE:  A couple yellow-jackets, too.  However, I found the breach – a corner of wood where the roof meets the house that has warped up, leaving a gap.  I think I can block it with a simple can of sealant.

On the fourth hand…….Iced Coffee.  Nectar of the Gods.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, Spring is finally getting her act together in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor.

Late last evening, ol’ Robbo found himself loitering around the parking lot of the St. Albans School waiting around for Middle Gel to come out of the school play she’d gone to see. (A steampunk version of The Tempest, in case you’re interested.  With this particular play, given its majickal character, I’d argue that one can get away with this sort of thing so long as it doesn’t swamp the rest of the production values.)  The school is sited on a hill (Mount St. Albans, in fact) that affords a fine view southeast across downtown Dee Cee.  As I sat there, I got to watch lightning for the first time this year – a small storm way off on the horizon.  Very pretty.  (As a boy, I was terrified of thunderstorms.  Now I love them.)

A few weeks ago, perhaps a bit prematurely, I posted here about some of the signs of spring in the Port Swiller garden.  Well, I’m afraid I have to revise my earlier optimism just a bit:  The knockout rose on the porch stairs did not, in fact, make it, but appears to be dead, dead, dead.  Oh, well.  If we get another, we’ll bring it inside for the winters from now on.

In addition, I am now about 85% sure that my poor jasmine didn’t survive.  (One has what might be a single new stem coming up from the roots.  The others, nothing.)  So much for AlGore’s Globull Warminj.  I’m going to give them a couple more weeks to produce new shoots, then fall back to Plan B and replace them with wisteria which, once established, is practically indestructible.

Now for some genuine good news:  Long time friends of the decanter will know that ol’ Robbo has been griping about the poor flowering of his forsythias for years and years now.  Well, last spring, after an especially anemic showing, I went out and razed those baddies to a height of no more than twelve to fifteen inches.  This spring?  A pleasantly respectable flowering!  The one mistake I made was not doing a secondary cut in August or September to even out some of the longer and stringier branches, but I will remember to do that this summah.

And if you’ve read this far, you may be amused to know that last year I also put in a couple of new clematis by the patio.  (A variety with lovely indigo leaves and a golden center.)  Unfortunately, they’re very near the bird feeder, and in their bottom-feeding activities, the damned squirrels exposed the roots of both plants. I thought they were gonners, but each one has got new growth on it this spring.  (Tough plant, the clem.)  I’ve since put chicken wire around each one, so hopefully the tree-rat problem has been solved.  (You might wonder why I don’t just move the feeder.  Well, it is just where I can watch it from my library comfy chair.)

 

 

primaveraGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, it’s the first full day of Spring 2015, and ol’ Robbo would love to be out in the grounds this morning doing yard work.  However, it’s still awfully soggy out there from yesterday’s snow and it’s still pretty chilly and Robbo isn’t quite the young man he used to be, so instead I am parked in front of the keyboard with a cup of kawfee.  (I am looking out the window, however.)

♦   Speaking of kawfee, the G-Man has an excellent take on Starbucks’ plan to have its baristas hector their customers over race relations.  (I don’t much go to Starbucks anymore because of the cost.)  As Jonah correctly notes, it’s not the subject matter itself but instead the creeping politicization of every corner of public life, something I have been bewailing for years.  (Who was it who talked about the fundamental right just to be left alone?)  Anyhoo, for all the publicity,  I’m guessing that any actual attempts to indoctrinate caffeine-starved customers at seven ack emma will go…..poorly.

♦   And speaking of indoctrination, when She Who Must Not Be Named starts talking about adult camps – even if she’s joking, even if she says “fun” camps, even if she’s just drunk – I get a cold, cold chill down my spine.

♦  Speaking of spring, I should note again that this is a March Madness-Free Blog®.  I’ve no interest in basketball, whatsoever.  And while I can understand the whole school spirit thing, my education was all at Division III institutions (NESCAC and ODAC) and it just isn’t the same thing.

♦   OTOH, I didn’t realize until the other day that this is the 10th season of Robbo’s Beloved Nats in Dee Cee.  Where does the time go?

♦  Oh, speaking of schools, may I trumpet here the fact that my nephew has just been accepted to Virginia Tech?  I don’t know if he’s going, since it’s damned expensive for out-of-staters and he has another program lined up also, but I’m still pretty proud of him.

♦   And speaking of school,  I have managed to convince the Eldest that Woodrow Wilson was personally responsible for the disastrous end of WWI and the rise of both Lenin and the Communists, and Hitler and the Nazis.   I think my work is done here.

♦  Reread GKC’s The Man Who Was Thursday this week.  This has to be the single craziest adventure story I know.  And I love it.

♦  Speaking of reading, got a subscription plea in the mail this week from “Teen Vogue”.  Gawd.  It was addressed to “Miss To The Port Swiller Family”, came in a violently pink envelope and even promised a student discount.  Thanks, but no.

♦   Also got a solicitation from the local publick teevee station threatening that if I don’t slip it some coin, it won’t be able to bring All New Episodes of Downton Abbey.  Well, I’ve never watched it, nor do I intend to, so this would be no great loss.   Back in my misspent yoot, I used to love period dramas, but what with all of the rampant politicization going on these days (which see above), I simply don’t trust ’em for historickal accuracy anymore.

♦  OH! Speaking of art and history, do not forget that today is the 330th anniversary of the birth of the Greatest Musickal Genius of all time!  Be sure and listen to some of his output today if you can.  (Teh Middle Gel and her cohort are in the middle of rehearsals for a presentation of his St. John Passion down the Cathedral next weekend.)

Well, I hear the stirring of various gels, so I suppose I ought to leave off here and go reassert my paternalistic hegemony.  Or something.

UPDATE:  Mid-afternoon and sunny.  I went out and discovered new growth buds all over the clematis on the side of the garage. (It faces southwest and is sheltered, and thus is always the first thing to get busy in springtime.)  Happy, happy, happy!

Speaking of signs of spring, I see that Scott’s is starting to run their grass-seed/feed ads.  I don’t mind the Scots fellah they use, but it’s too bad they couldn’t have done a deal with Groundskeeper Willie:

UPDATE DEUX:  Looks like all the foundation plants we put in out front last summah after repairs to teh flooded basement also made it.  And my climbing rose by the front door is about ready to explode.  It’s an improved Blaze, and after it was done blooming last summah I cut it back to about four feet or so.  It seemed to like this and I even got a few second-growth flowers.

UPDATE TROIS:  Wow – We have a knockout rose in a bucket inside a large ceramic pot on the upstairs landing to the back porch that I thought was absolute toast this winter, being in such an exposed position.  It’s taken some battle damage, but the thing’s actually got growth buds on it.

UPDATE QUATRE:  Juuust warm enough to have dinner on the porch in celebration of the day.   Very nice.

Pi_pie2Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy 3.14.15!

Teh gels celebrated the curious date by having some pie with breakfast.

I, not caring much for pie in the morning, instead went out in the garden in the rain and cut back my butterfly bushes, (known around here as teh Children of Kong) while Mrs. R stood on the porch sounding like Estelle Costanza.  (“Georgie! What are you doing?”)

Not really a celebration, of course, more just something that needed to be done.  Buddleia is supposed to be cut back in late winter but it’s been so cold and snowy this year that I haven’t had a chance before today.  And given that it’s already mid-March, there’s more than a decent possibility that the growing season is going to come on eftsoons and without warning here in the great Commonwealth of Virginny.

Sweet Briar Update:  I’ll have more to say on this tomorrow hopefully (see below), but things are starting to get warmer and warmer.  This morning’s Roanoke Times is calling for the school’s Board to resign.  There’s a lot of interesting new financials, but here’s the money quote:

College President James Jones has said: “To save Sweet Briar we would need $250 million into the permanent endowment tomorrow morning.”

Really?

To put that figure in context: Hollins University has an endowment of $180 million and seems to be doing just fine. Ferrum College has an endowment of only $50 million and it’s been increasing enrollment — which also seems to run counter to Jones’ other assertion that small colleges in rural areas are having trouble attracting students. He also said the nearest Starbucks was 30 minutes away and that was a problem in recruiting; it’s really about 20 minutes.

You know who does have an endowment of $250 million? The University of Maryland.

Does it really take a Maryland-sized endowment to save a school of 500 or so students when the rest of the balance sheet doesn’t look completely out of whack?

If the Sweet Briar trustees are so absolutely convinced that closing is the only responsible option, here’s what they could do: Resign.

Sweet Briar’s alumnae are now actively engaged in trying to raise money to save the school. Let them take over. If the existing board is right, then a new board would surely come to the same, sobering conclusion.

At worst, a new board would spend down some more of the endowment, but at the rate things have been going, the college’s overall net value might still increase as it has in the past year.

But if the existing board is wrong, well, there is that risk of being proven wrong.

Read the whole thing.  It dovetails nicely with that Powerline article Capt. Ed dropped in the comments here yesterday, especially with respect to the role of interim president Jim Jones:

But of course Jones is your typical mediocre liberal. This fragment from the Slate story gives away the whole game in one compact sentence:

Speaking with IHE, Sweet Briar College President James F. Jones Jr. lamented the closing of the college as a part of a broader change in “the diversity of American higher education.” Jones added, “The landscape is changing and becoming more vanilla.”

“Becoming more vanilla”? This is beyond idiotic even by the low standards of college presidents. When Jones offers the telltale magic incantation “diversity of American higher education,” he means of course exactly the opposite: ritual conformity to the stifling doctrines of campus PC. If he wanted true “diversity” for Sweet Briar, he’d have broken from the crowd, and offered a different flavor than vanilla.

Yep.  I learned what “diversity” really meant to a leftist within 15 minutes of first setting foot on the campus of the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, CT back in August, 1983.

Again, read it all, especially about the intriguing rebranding possibilities.

The narrative that seems to be emerging is of an incompetent board that sputtered along for a few years without really knowing what it was doing and too afraid to let on to anyone about it.  Along came Jones, with a record as a hatchet-man, who rather than looking beyond the blinkers of his own worldview, instead bullied the board into liquidation.

Pathetic.

Oh, and speaking of which, regular friends of the decanter may recall ol’ Robbo mentioning the impact that closure would have not just on students and faculty, but also on staff and the surrounding community.  There is a rumor breaking on FB this morning concerning an elderly lady (around 80) who spent her entire career working in the SBC dining hall.  She retired six or seven years ago and lives alone in a small cottage on campus.  The arrangement had been that, in gratitude to her devotion to the school, she could remain in the cottage for the rest of her life.  Apparently, she was handed an eviction notice this week.

Because Progress!

Anyhoo, Mrs. R and the elder gels are headed down to SBC tomorrow for the first major public alumnae demonstration to save Sweet Briar.  The undergrads are coming back from Spring Break and the alumnae plan to line the driveway and cheer them on.  Mrs. R promises to try and send me some photos, which I will post here along with her report.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

My brother-in-law posted this up over at FaceBook and I thought it too silly not to share:

 

I seem to recall a story that Winston Churchill once had an idea about training seagulls to poop on U-boat periscope lenses.  Doesn’t seem so far-fetched if a toucan will go after a traffic camera, now, does it.

By the way, it may just be wishful thinking, but the goldfinches at Port Swiller Manor seem to be getting just the earliest hint of their summah plumage.

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