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Greetings, my fellow port swillers and, although I’m a day or two late about it, Happy Autumn!

As ol’ Robbo has said probably every year since he first started blogging (well, and before that, too), this is truly my very favorite season.  (Spring is a close but distinct second. While I like the start of winter, the novelty seems to wear off earlier every year.  I have always despised summah, a loathing picked up during my misspent yoot in South Texas.)

Ma Nature, getting into the swing of things, has seen fit to dish up a series of highs in the low 70’s in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor for the next week or so, allowing ol’ Robbo to spend about four hours this morning giving the grounds a good Monty without suffering from heat stroke.  (What is a “Monty” you ask? In this context it means mowing and trimming the entire yard, plus the ditch between the sidewalk and street and the little meadow between the back gate and the creek.  I also sprayed weeds, watered whiskey barrels, and cleaned the accumulated ashes out of the grill.)

While this is pleasant enough, ol’ Robbo’s ideal fall weather conditions – which won’t arrive for at least another four weeks or so – involve a temperature of about 45 degrees with a steady rain and fog.  There’s something about tramping around in it, smelling the mixture of dank, rotting leaves and chimney smoke, hearing the crows cawing off in the distance, that gives ol’ Robbo a delicious feeling of memento mori.  I’m not being morbid in this, because it also seems to focus and increase my sense of (or at least desire for) piety.  I sometimes wonder if the Church Fathers had this psychological phenomenon in mind when they set the liturgical calendar to restart in late fall.  (Of course, there’s also something delicious about coming in out of it, pouring a large glass of Lafroaig, and flopping down in front of the fire which is also highly satisfying, if perhaps for not such high-falootin’ reasons.)

Anyhoo, working around the house today brought two other things to mind.  First, this year ol’ Robbo put a couple of large urns on the patio out back, in which he planted dwarf boxwoods and surrounded them with trailing annuals.  (They really look quite nice.)  I have begun to wonder what I ought to do about them over the winter.  Boxwood is really too pricey to be treated as an annual and, for practical purposes, I really can’t move them.  It occurs to me that maybe I can somehow insulate them – you know, wrapping some kind of material around them to keep the shrubs’ roots from freezing.  Anyone have any ideas or experiences along these lines?

Second, I am resolved this year to finally start using the fire pit that also sits on the patio.  I bought it about three years ago, and for some reason have never done much more with it than use it to burn empty charcoal bags.  Why this is, I just don’t know.

(Speaking of fall, a colleague of mine at work was telling me all about the trip she and her new fiancee plan to take up to Maine in about three weeks.  She’s never been before and one of the things she said she was looking forward to was seeing all the foliage.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the leaves will be more or less down already by the time she gets up there.)

Collected Aftermath

Collected Aftermath

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo loves to play a little game with Ma Nature: On stormy spring and summah afternoons, he has a look at the radar just before leaving the office and decides whether or not to risk trying to make it home with all the side panels off La Wrangler.  The go/no go decision is based on an average commute time of about 45 minutes or so and the track and speed of the various cells in the neighborhood.

If I win, I get satisfaction.  If I lose, I get rayther wet.

Today, with storms rolling in from the southwest, I timed it to near-perfection, as the rain started within about ten minutes after I got home.  (TRUE perfection is when I park in the garage and am able to scamper out to the mailbox and back just before the deluge.)  But this time I also got an added bonus: As I took my usual pre-dinner shower, I started to hear a series of loud THWACKS!  At first, I thought it was just one of the cats fooling with a toy, but I soon realized the sound was coming from the roof and skylights.  Jumping out, I glanced out the window and saw that we were, in fact, being treated to a hailstorm of some intensity.

It’s been years since we last got any hail round about Port Swiller Manor, so this was a real treat.  (Fortunately, it was mostly somewhere between pea and marble sized, so did little more than knock down a lot of leaves.)  It was also very cool to sit out on the back porch eating dinner and watching the fog rise all around as the hail melted.

Thanks, Ma!

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was frowsting over a cup of coffee in his favorite chair in the Port Swiller library early Saturday morning when he noticed that the goldfinches at the thistle feeder directly outside the window were beginning to show the first faint signs of their yellow summah plumage.  With gardener’s logic, I realized that my plans to spend the day doing nothing suddenly were kaput, and that I had to get out and chop back the butterfly bush which so dominates the Port Swiller garden.  (Very long time friends of the decanter will recall that I refer to these bushes as Kong and the Konglings.  For those of you who don’t recall, the original Kong was a very, very small and frail seedling that I cultivated in the Port Swiller basement something like thirteen years ago.  Somehow or other, it survived not only its incubation, but its transplanting into the garden.  Since then, when all my other original cultivational experiments have withered away, it not only has thrived, but has multiplied copiously.)

A couple hours of hacking and hauling later, I stood looking at the results.  I can’t put it any better than did the Eldest Gel who, shouting over from the rope swing, said, “Hey, Dad! It looks like a forest fire swept over your garden! Haw, haw!”

Everybody’s a comedian these days.

Give it another couple months, the jungle will close right back in and will be filled with birds and butterflies, as has been my intent the past few years.  I am mulling over some plans to make the whole thing somewhat more formal, but not yet.  Not yet.

Speaking of which, remember the Great Panic over the imminent dooooom of the Monarch Butterflies because Globull Warmeninzs? Well, maybe not so much.  Funny, it’s almost as if Nature has the capacity to sort things out for herself or something.

On a different note, last evening Ol’ Robbo watched Radio Days for, I’m fairly certain, the first time.  A pleasant little tribute by Woody Allen to his WWII-era yoot in Rockaway, Lon Gyland.  In fact, Robbo’s father-in-law grew up somewhere in Brooklyn a few years later himself, so there was a lot about this movie that I definitely got.  The biggest thing, though, was the epiphany that this was Julie Kavner.  Marge Simpson before she was Marge Simpson, although the voice and the humor were plainly there already.  Very zaftig, if you know what I mean.  (‘Course, the movie came out in ’87, the year I graduated from college, which is a damned sobering idea.)

On another note, I also read Cary Elwes’s book As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride.  If you’re a Princess Bride fan (and if you’re not, what the hell’s wrong with you?), it’s a moderately interesting read:  A goodish bit of behind-the-scenes backstory and trivia, but in my opinion somewhat too much, er, glad-handing.  Were I Emperor, the Superlative  Abuses Squad would have been down on Elwes with billy clubs and handcuffs before he got half way through his first paragraph.

But….You don’t pen a 30th anniversary book in order to trash the thing that’s keeping you in royalties, so who am I to second guess?

One legit sour note to the book: Elwes, in speaking of fan enthusiasm, relates the story of some young thing who had recently had “As You Wish” tattooed on the back of her neck and asked Elwes to autograph below the tattoo with a sharpie.  I ask you, friends, just how pathetic an image is that?  And what do you do if you’re in the position of being asked to sign, and therefore approve, such a thing?

Well.  All I can say is that I am very thankful I have not pledged my personal worth in this world on the altar of celebrity.

On a more positive note, in keeping with the whole Princess Bride theme, ol’ Robbo just got a new coffee cup with bears the legend: “Hello.  My name is Inigo Montoya.  You drank my coffee.  Prepare to die.”

Now that, my friends, is teh funny.  Except I’m not kidding…….

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was able to get out for his accustomed lunch time walk today after being denied such pleasure earlier this week due to snow and rain.  As I hoofed along, it seemed to me that there was a faint but real hint that spring might not be all that far off.  You know how round about the second half of August you suddenly realize that the light has changed and that how ever awful summah still is, it is definitely coming to an end?  Well, I think I saw the same thing in reverse today.  Also, I noticed that people seemed to be moving about with a bit more jauntiness in their step.

Of course, ol’ Robbo is in the Mid-Atlantic.  Your mileage may vary depending on where you are, but sooner or later the same sort of thing happens even way up tah Maine.  (Mid-June, in fact, according to the Mothe.)

Anyhoo, it was a good feeling.  Snowzilla apart, we really haven’t had anything like a nasty winter round here this year, but I can’t remember one I’ve been more eager to get behind me.

Probably a sign of age.

Nonetheless, bring it on.

Oh, and pitchers and catchers report tomorrow.  How sweet is that?

 

Kitteh and Rose

Kitteh and Rose

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo finds himself standing around and kicking his heels today while waiting for the construction guy to show up.  For those of you who have followed the saga of the Port Swiller Manor renovations, the basement (specifically, the Eldest’s bedroom) is flooding again owing to the melt from Snowzilla, so once more the fellah needs to come out and find the leak.  This is his third or fourth attempt.  So far, he’s tried to fix it from the outside but I think he’s probably going to have to face the fact this time that he’s got to re-excavate part of the inside wall.  I know he’s trying to save himself labor and supply costs (I have no intention of paying for this repair), but enough is enough.

Anyhoo, I noticed this rayther aesthetically pleasing scene of kitteh and rose so I thought I would share it over the decanter.  The kitteh is Fiona, a very quiet and self-contained animal but quite friendly in her own way and capable of some very crazy fits.  The rose is the double-knockout that usually lives at the top of the porch stairs out back.  That’s probably the sunniest window in the house during winter, but as you can see, the plant has got quite gangly trying to soak up the rays.  Better than freezing to death outside like the last one, however.

By the way, who do you guys like for “L”?  Personally, I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of watching Manning miss it by thaaaat much over the years, but as this is his last game and I kinda like the Broncs anyway, I’m going with them.  Anyway, my brother in North Carolina would rightly tag me as a band-wagoner if I suddenly started rooting for the Panthers, plus that Cam Newton guy, undoubtedly a very gifted young QB, has been making jackass comments lately.

Port Swiller Manor after the  Initial Driveway Cleanup

Port Swiller Manor after the Initial Driveway Cleanup

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, the Family Robbo survived Snowzilla intact.  Indeed, we didn’t even lose power this time around, owing to the lightness and dryness of the snow. Deo gratias.

Dulles recorded 29″ while they got 22″ downtown.  I think we probably split the baby here.

In any case, I’ve spent the last three days heaving snow off the Port Swiller driveway and my arms and shoulders ache something fierce as a result. (I also think I pulled something in my abs today.)  But the real story of the cleanup was the Eldest Gel.  I had mentioned casually to her a couple days before the storm that I expected her to help shovel out, given that her own car was involved in the matter.  Nonetheless, I had envisioned that when push came to shove she would balk, finding some excuse for weaseling out and leaving the whole job to ol’ Robbo (who, quite frankly, is getting a bit old to deal with this sort of thing all by his lonesome.)

Well, was I pleasantly surprised.  Both yesterday and today, the gel was actually on station and shoveling away even before I even got out of bed.  Plus, not a single word of complaint the entire time, indeed, the closest she came was to say, “I hate this, but I know it needs to be done.”  Instead, we chatted and listened to her iThingy playlist of classic rock.

Musick to ol’ Robbo’s ears.  That the gel is thinking like a responsible adult is something I’ve been praying for, for a very long time indeed.  Also, although I suppose we could have hired somebody to come and dig us out, ol’ Robbo was brought up with the idea that hard work (including manual labor) is important to character development.  The gel felt damned proud of herself for pitching in, and so she should have.  (And get this: She also asked if she could borrow my copy of C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, as she has felt the need recently to shore up the underpinnings of her faith in the face of all the hostility she gets about it from some of the kids at her school.)

Oh, speaking of musick, at one point I was at the top of the drive while she was working closer to the garage.  “Bohemian Rhapsody” turned up on her phone, and even though I was some distance from her, at the appropriate point I went into “Wayne’s World” head-banger mode.  The gel laughed and laughed.

Good times.  Good times.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Whelp, here she comes – they’re still calling for a total of a couple feet starting this afternoon, together with howling winds and whiteout conditions.

If you don’t hear from me in the next few days, it’ll be because the power is out.  (Yeah, it seems I should have bought that generator now, but this is still too rare an event to quite justify it to me.)

Picking up on the comments below, we’ve lost power before in the winter, of course, but I don’t recall the outages lasting more than a day or so.  The longest blackouts that I remember at Port Swiller Manor came in the wake of Hurricane Isabel in ’03 and the big Derecho in 2012, each one lasting four or five days.  Those were miserable times.  In winter, if you have enough firewood, blankets, and adult beverages, all you have to do is snuggle in.  But in summah?  The house gets progressively hotter and more disgusting and there’s not much relief other than to hide in the basement.

Or, as Mrs. R is wont to do, flee to a hotel.

Anyhoo, we’ll see what happens.

I’ll catch up with you all on the other side, perhaps with pictures.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Whelp, the local weather wallahs are becoming increasingly convinced that the area around Port Swiller Manor is about to be clocked by a serious blizzard.

Eh.  Although we face the real likelihood of a power outage as a result of this storm, Port Swiller Manor is adequately packed with wine, firewood, gas-range cookables. T.P., and birdfood** to tough it out.  Plus, ol’ Robbo’s order of 40 pounds of driveway melt arrived on schedule this evening, and his garage now boasts not one but two snow shovels.

We’ll do fine.

What the experts like to call this latest “snow event” brings to the fore again a perpetual question: Should ol’ Robbo plunk for a generator?

On the one hand, power outages around here tend to be fairly rare, brief, and hardly life-threatening.   Plus, said generators ain’t exactly cheap. (As I explain to the gels, one does not “get” a generator, one “buys” one.  Yuuuge difference.)

On the other…well, I frankly can’t see any arguments myself.  My family, OTOH, are vociferous in their argument that we need one in order to maintain collective body and soul.  Because comfort.

Somehow, I doubt John Wayne would have thought much of such self-indulgence, so I guess I’ll stick with the Duke on that one.

Anyhoo, the next couple days should prove interesting.  If you don’t hear from ol’ Robbo during that time, you’ll know in advance why.

 

* I mentioned this name to the Eldest and she laughed heartily.  We have a whole, complex protocol for naming storms ’round here that has nothing to do with Jim “Mimbo” Cantore and those self-aggrandizing bozos as the Weather Channel.

** Ol’ Robbo has long been a keen bird watcher and keeps two (three during the humming bird season) feeders going off his back porch for the locals’ benefit.  This said, I feel a heightened obligation toward the local fowl when extreme weather strikes.

 

"Merry Christmas, beyotches!"

“Merry Christmas, beyotches!”

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, like everyone else east of the Mississippi, ol’ Robbo can’t help remarking on the crazy warm weather visiting us at the moment.  It’s nearly 70 degrees here and there’s even a chance of a thundershower this afternoon.  Reminds me more of Christmases from my misspent yoot in South Texas than the norm.

Well, what can you do.

Meanwhile, I find that I’m not happy with either the ribbon or the candles I bought this year.  The ribbon is not wide enough and the candles taper too much.  These are minor things, of course, but I like to get them right.  Speaking of which, my plan is to finally take advantage of post-Christmas pricing and stock up on decorations early, including finally tracking down a creche with which I can be happy.

I’ll go ahead and wish you all some pre-Christmas joy but my other aim is to really try and celebrate the full twelve days this year.  Tomorrow is but the beginning, after all.  See you at the Nativity!

advent

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!  Six days late because of illness (which see below) and Thanksgiving travel last weekend, but a very happy Advent to you all!  As you can see here, ol’ Robbo got his wreaths up this morning, thus ensuring a steady stream of confusion over the next few weeks on the part of mailmen, delivery people and general callers at the front doors of Port Swiller Manor.  (“How come the ribbons are purple?)  I also chucked the remaining fall pun’kins into the creek and mulched the clematis, wisteria and jasmine round the base of the back porch.  A good day.

Advent has become more and more important to ol’ Robbo over the years as a liturgical season.  Indeed, it is becoming much more of a Lenten-like time for me (as it used to be for the Church as a whole) and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if in the next few years I didn’t start introducing more acts of penitence to my current routine of study and reflection.

Of course, this also has the effect of making the outer world’s “Holiday Season” all that more jarring to me.  I couldn’t help noticing yesterday that all the banners on the lamp-posts downtown, in addition to bearing words like “Joy” and “Love” feature….pictures of shopping bags.  I was actually both amused and bothered by the kerfluffle at the University of Tennessee this week over a memo warning not to allow “religious themes” at “holiday parties”.  (The memo came from the same office, btw, that tried to issue a draconian speech code a couple months back and was laughed out of touch.)  Back in the day at the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, we didn’t have “Secret Santa”.  Instead, we had something called “Non-Sectarian Gift Giving”.  I fear that same spirit has pretty much infected the general culture now.

Now I am sure there are many people of good will who go in for all the commercialism and consumerism and gaudiness of the “Holidays” with genuine good will.  And I have no wish to dampen their generosity and caring.  However, I increasingly see the thing itself as intrinsically evil, a mockery of and distraction from what Advent and Christmas are actually supposed to be about.  (Yes, I know – religious and social pluralism and all that.  Fine.  Then drop the Christina symbolism still attached and go appropriate your own markers.)  It doesn’t take much imagination to guess the source of such mockery and distraction.   So in my own, small way, I intend to take what steps I can to further isolate the “Holidays” from my mind, to ignore them or, when they get to be too much, mock them.  So when, in the next few weeks, you see posts here labeled “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Holiday, Dammit”, you’ll know what ol’ Robbo is about.

 

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