You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘A Stroll In The Gardens’ category.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Some time back Ol’ Robbo was lamenting the fact that, although the fireflies were out in force at Port Swiller Manor, he still hadn’t seen bats wheedling about in the dusk. Whelp, we’re good now.

On the bat-food front, my new back porch bug-zapper, after great initial success, crapped out on me in that the fluorescent light went dark, and when I tried to fix it, broke under my hand. I’ve had to order another that specifically touts the replaceability of its light. Grrr.

On the Busman’s Holiday Front, Evening Entertainment Division, Ol’ Robbo has had from Netflix and been meaning to watch for some days now “1984” with John Hurt as Winston Smith. Yet, when I come to consider shoving it into the player, I realize that I’ve been monitoring this sort of thing in real time all day on the innerwebz, so why would I possibly want to see it again in fictional version?

Tonight, instead, I watched TCM’s airing of “The Spoilers” (1942), which I hadn’t seen before. Alaska Gold Rush. Randolph Scott and the young Duke Wayne beating the crap out of each other. Good times. And why fool with Marlene Dietrich when Margaret Lindsey is on deck? (Insider Baseball for the Ka-Boom and Valu-Rite friends of the decanter, if our late, lamented friend, Oregon Muse hadn’t made the latter a Who Dis? Girl, he otter have done.)

Anyhoo, there you are.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As mentioned below, Ol’ Robbo had planned to take advantage of the latest gratuitous fed’ral holiday to give the Port Swiller Manor back porch its annual washing. The fact is, however, that it’s actually a wee bit on the cool side to do so today in these parts, so I am postponing operations. And yes, I blame glowball enwarmening.

It needs a fine, hot day for this sort of thing. Not only do I manage to get my own self pretty durn wet through the course of spraying all that water all over the place, I also count on each patch of floor I’ve scrubbed to dry fairly quickly in the heat so that I can move all the furniture over to it and get to other parts.

While today promises to be extremely pleasant for, say, lolling in the hammock, splashing about with mop, bucket, and hose would be chilly and uncomfortable, and the whole process slow and tedious. It can wait.

Second Cuppa Kawfee UPDATE: Whoops, forgot that I’d wanted to highlight a few things today!

First, Happy Summah Solstice (one day early)! Ol’ Robbo is rayther amazed at how time is flying, but since this is such a truly annus horribilis for our nation (which I sure as hell didn’t vote for), that it’s going so quickly is, in fact, a Good Thing.

Second, Happy Fathers’ Day (one day late)! Ol’ Robbo really should champion this holiday more than he does. I recently read some updated statistics about fatherless families and they were absolutely appalling. If you wonder why psychotic yoots are shooting up schools, it’s not because the evil bang-sticks are jumping into their hands and making them, but instead almost invariably because there’s no Dad around. (Of course, this is an unfashionable view amongst Our Betters, as an intact family unit represents a politickal power center independent of and therefore at odds with the Collectivist State.)

Third, speaking of such things, this weekend saw the 29th anniversary of Ol’ Robbo and the Missus being spliced together. Huzzay, huzzah! I really don’t remember all that much about the details of our wedding anymore, but I do remember that the temperature in Central Virginny hit triple digits that afternoon. Would have been a perfect day for washing the porch!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A cool, dry, and very breezy day in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor today after a bit of a scorcher yesterday. I’d almost call it “blustery”, except that word seems to be associated only with cold weather. I wonder why. Bottom line is no bugglies when I go to mow the grass in just a bit.

I may have mentioned that I have a couple of hibiscus in pots on the patio this year, just by way of trying something new. Well, after this year, never again: they’re water hogs. Not only that, they go pathetically limp and wilty the instant they think they’re too dry. Ol’ Robbo already lives with a rayther high-maintenance family. He has no patience for high-maintenance porch plants on top of that.

Well, I suppose I ought to be aboot it……

Post-Chores UPDATE: Now that Ol’ Robbo thinks about it, I’m not so sure why only a cold wind should be blustery (am I showing my cultural biases here?), so I withdraw the limitation: It was, in fact, rayther blustery this morning (and, indeed, still is). I would also modify “no bugglies” to “somewhat fewer bugglies”. Like the poor, they’ll always be with us.

The upshot is that it was a lovely morning for the latter half of June here, one which didn’t leave me so hot and worn out after mowing and trimming that I couldn’t also spend some time pruning and deadheading, two tasks at which Ol’ Robbo admits he’s not nearly as diligent as he otter be.

Alas, my weed-whacker conked out on me in mid-trim. I have no idea why, but it’s probably Putin’s fault. As is my habit with most minor annoyances, I’m just going to let this one slide for a bit. (In effect, I’m tossing a S.E.P. field around it.) Perhaps it will fix itself.

News on the fruit front is that I was able to pick a handful of blueberries on which to snack, and also a couple of very early raspberries. The blueberries will max out in the next week or two, while the raspberries will go all the way until the first frost. I also noticed a goodly number of flowers on the wild blackberries behind my back gate. It would seem this will be a fairly prosperous year. The bad side of this is that the damned wild grape is getting into everything these days.

My next trick will be the annual scrubbing down of the porch and its contents, now that pollen and mud seasons are pretty much done. But that’s not until Monday.



Ol’ Robbo has always loved his oak-leaf. The hedge behind my back fence was just about the first thing I put in when we came to Port Swiller Manor 20-plus years ago and it’s been a booming success ever since. In full bloom, it practically looks like a snow bank from the porch.

Funny, I don’t much care for the other sort of hydrangea with the round balls of flower, particularly the baby-blue and pink ones. They remind me of…..poodles. Whereas my oak-leaf reminds me of, well, “Heart of Oak”. Steady, boys, steady!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Scanning the headlines, once again Ol’ Robbo finds himself presented with the choice of saying either too much or too little. Think I’ll go with little.

Happy Bloomsday to any James Joyce fans out there. (Personally, I could never fathom the fellah, but to each his own, I suppose.)

As Ol’ Robbo was listlessly watching his Nats lose yet another one last evening, the announcers got into a discussion of famous side-winder pitchers (because the reliever on the mound at the time is one) and the name of Joel Horlen came up. This made Ol’ Robbo smile because I lived round the corner from him in my misspent yoot and his son was a classmate of mine in school. Small world.

And speaking of throwing arms, I am informed that the vast majority of parrots** are left-handed. Scientists don’t know why.

And speaking of nature, I am now being informed rayther breathlessly by the local park authority to be on the lookout for an invasion of wayleaf basketgrass. Evidently, one of their ecologists was poking about in the parkland behind our fence and discovered some. Fortunately, a glance around the Port Swiller Manor demesne shows we’re still secure from this particular threat. I wish, however, the park authority would do something about the mystery invasive Asian vine I flagged two years ago, because that stuff is all over the place now.

** No word on whether this includes the famous Norwegian Blue.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention before but speaking of watching ball games, I don’t recall when all those sportsbook adverts started running on teevee but I wish they wouldn’t. I can’t really justify it philosophically, I suppose, except that I find gambling pernicious and especially apt to hurt those who can least afford it. (Ditto state lotteries and casinos running ads.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo spotted his first firefly of the season last evening, a very pleasurable annual occurrence despite the fact that their appearance is always a harbinger of nasty, hot, sticky summah nights here (and last night was just such a one).

While I only saw the singleton, operating in a detached way near the fence, soon enough the tree line will be full of them flashing away.

Loitering about on the porch, I was also hoping to spot my first bats of the season, but there was no joy on that front. (True, I didn’t hang about all that long.) Ol’ Robbo has always loved bats and takes almost as much pleasure watching them dodge, duck, dip, dive, and …*** as he does watching the fireflies flash in their little galaxies. Now and again I’ve even considered putting up a bat house, but alas, it would cause undue stress to Mrs. R, who hates the things. Oh, well.

Do bats eat fireflies? I wonder. Probably, at least when they can get them, I should think. Except, as I say, the fireflies around here generally stick to the tree line, while the bats are more open air types, so perhaps there’s not all that much interaction. The sentimentalist side of me rayther hopes that’s the case.

** Spot the reference

*** Spot the quote


Ol’ Robbo is reminded that today is Flag Day.

I fly mine 24/7 (properly lit at night, of course). I have considered once in a way the idea of taking it down in protest of the garbage times in which we live and the garbage people who are running things, but every time I do, I reach the resolution that I’ll be damned if they take this away from me, too.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Rains this morning in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor let Ol’ Robbo off from having to mow the lawn, although I may go do some trimming after I finish my kawfee, since the alternative is likely being dragooned into helping clean the house in advance of the in-laws’ decent later on. (At least the rain will be gone before I need to grill their din-dins.) Never a moment of peace around here.

Touching wood, it’s actually been a fairly cool and rainy late spring/early summah overall in the neighborhood, although I’m sure Our Betters, if consulted, would be quick to assert a) that Ol’ Robbo is mistaken, and b) that it doesn’t matter anyway since weather is not climate and we’re all gonna die. Nonetheless, the effect is noticeable enough that a neighbor remarked on it yesterday as I passed by on my lunchtime walk. So there.

And speaking of Our Betters, I read somewhere or other recently that there is a plan to bump the ethanol content in gasoline from 10% to 15% this summah. The same source states that such an increased ethanol content is incompatible with small engines such as lawnmowers (also with older cars). If this is all true and comes to pass, if my mower and weed-whacker conk as a result, and if the lawn goes to hell, I’m going to blow up one of those “I Did That!” Slow Joe stickers into a large sign and stick it in the front yard. See if I don’t. (And with gas around here now north of five bucks a gallon, I may suspend mowing and do that anyway.)

Well, time to go see what needs to be done.

UPDATE: A pleasant time whacking the weeds in the garden, mostly clover at this point. (And, incidentally, for once I put fresh line on the spool of my trimmer with the speed and efficiency of an Indy pit crew.) They really need a Round Up dosing, but razing them is an acceptable expedient for the moment. Meanwhile, looking about it, the hydrangea hedge is in full bloom while the foxgloves are now winding down. The butterfly bush will need their first pruning very soon and the Joe Pye weed will start blooming shortly.

As to the last, friends of the decanter have said before, “But, Tom, why would you want a weed in your plot? It’s even part of the name!” To which Robbo replies that it’s only a weed if you don’t want it. I happen to like Joe Pye – it produces lovely clumps of delicate little feathery, lavender flowers which the butterflies love, it takes no maintenance, and the critters leave it alone. What else could one ask? Meanwhile, as a contra-example, the same hydrangea hedge is forever trying to establish its progeny in the bed, much to my annoyance. So while I am proud of the hedge itself, I consider the babies it tries to foist on me to be weeds. You see? A very subjective label, indeed.

The only other note today is that I changed out the nectar in the hummingbird feeder. Even though I’ve had the thing hung up since mid-April, I still haven’t spotted any of the little brutes around it, which is too bad. I thought perhaps a fresh charge might entice any passer-by, of which there must be some, to remain. (I’m not actually concerned, as they do show up fairly late in the summah sometimes, but still.)

UPDATE DEUX: Speaking of birds, even as Ol’ Robbo was hitting the “update” button, he beheld a hawk having a very serious go at a mourning dove messing about under my patio feeder. (It missed and the dove did a quick bunk.) The wonder of nature, baybee!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo hasn’t much in him by way of profundity at the moment, but he did get to touch this weekend on two of the little things in life that he thoroughly enjoys: useless movie trivia and the weather.

As to the first, Eldest Gel and I ran off “Land of the Pharaohs**” (1955) Saturday evening, Howard Hawks’ lavish tale of Ye Olde Egypt, with a screenwriting credit to William Faulkner. I’ve seen it a number of times before and already knew that it was, if not the first, at least one of the very first roles of Joan Collins, and also that it holds some kind of record as to numbers of extras involved. What I did not realize before (until Eldest pointed it out) is that the part of the Captain vamped by Collins into betraying Jack Hawkins’ Pharaoh was played by Sydney Chaplin, Charlie’s son. Indeed, Ol’ Robbo knows little to nothing of Charlie Chaplin’s biography and didn’t even know he had children. Once seen, however, the resemblance is obvious. (It’s in the eyes.)

As to the second, regular friends of the decanter will recall Ol’ Robbo’s deep suspicion of modern communications technology, but I must confess that it assisted*** me in defying Ma Nature last evening. Keeping a close watch on the weather “app” on my iPhone thingy, I was able to perfectly time dashing outside to grill din-dins between two thunderstorms, getting the coals going just as the first rolled off (indeed, an afterthought of a lightning bolt came down pretty near me) and scurrying back in with the meats just as the next arrived. HA! (Of course, Bob at the NSA probably noticed, too, and I’m sure the incident will be brought up at my show-trial when the Truth and Reconciliation Board eventually gets its claws on me.)

So there you have it.

**For some mysterious reason, “Pharaoh” is one of those words Ol’ Robbo has the dickens of a time spelling correctly. After swearing at WordPress for repeatedly redlining me, I sheepishly had to go and look it up.

***Emphasis on “assisted” – my own eyes are still my primary information source.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, no doubt about it, we’re getting a preview here in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor this weekend, with highs in the mid-90’s today and tomorrow, although after Sunday evening boomers it’s supposed to drop off twenty degrees or so to start the week.

Roses, peonies, and wisteria (we have lots of wisteria) have all burst forth, which means that the air in the yard is saturated with fragrance at the moment. Alas, everything’s also still covered with pollen, which has been playing merry hell with my sinuses of late and keeping me from smelling all that much. Giveth and taketh away, as it were.

Contrary to all the hullubaloo a couple months back, Ol’ Robbo has seen no palm-sized parachute spiders around here yet. This is a great pity, as they supposedly will eat stinkbugs where nothing else does, and we’ve got a bumper crop of the latter this year.

Those of you following my bird-watching reports will be disappointed, as I was, that the indigo buntings I spotted a couple weeks back have proved transitory, as after hanging about a few days they seem to have vanished. Too bad. Also, I’ve still yet to see my first hummingbird of the year.

Whelp, it’s Round-Up day here at Port Swiller Manor, as Ol’ Robbo has to tackle the first major outbreak of unwanted grass and weed, particularly along the street front and in some of the beds. I suppose I had better be about it before it gets too darn hot.

UPDATE: Done and done. Ol’ Robbo’s approach to spraying is similar to that of pruning: Reluctant to start, once I’m in I tend to go berserker. The result is that there will be a few friendly-fire casualties plus I always manage to get the stuff on myself, but as far as the latter goes my teevee informs me that I may be entitled to compensation, so there is that.

And now for one of the few things that makes summah marginally tolerable, a tall glass of iced kawfee. Later, Ol’ Robbo is being compelled to travel rayther a distance for a graduation party being thrown by the parents of Middle Gel’s young man, from which we also have to transport home a hamster. (Don’t ask.)

UPDATE DEUX: On reflection, that “compelled” comes off a bit more churlish than I had meant. It was, in fact, thoughtful of them to invite us. As regular friends of the decanter know, Ol’ Robbo just doesn’t much care for parties in general, especially ones where I don’t know anybody.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As the title suggests, the rain continues to come down in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor. Nonetheless, Ol’ Robbo is going to have to go out and tie up his peonies this morning. They’re thick with buds that are about ready to pop and, having outgrown their cages, have many stems flopped out on the ground now. Heigh ho.

What I really wanted to highlight today, however, is yet another remarkable bird-feeder sighting. Per yesterday’s post, the indigo bunting is back this morning, so perhaps he’s a keeper now. But as Ol’ Robbo contemplated the feeder over his first kawfee this morning, damme if I didn’t see yet another bird at it that I’ve never seen here before, a male rose-breasted grosbeak (sometimes called the “cut-throat” – I like that).

Ol’ Robbo is the most conservative, habitual, hobbit-like person you will ever meet in your life. I’ve been sitting in this same chair, looking out this same window at this same feeder for over two decades. After all these years, what are the odds of now spotting two brand-new species on two successive mornings? Inconceivable!

The map in my Peterson’s Field Guide doesn’t have the rose-breasted this far east, but instead staying in the mountains just to the west. Granted, my edition is forty years out of date now. Of course, you and I know what this can only mean: Glowbull Enwarmening. We’re all gonna die and it’s all our fault. (And all the birds are rightly going to blame us.)

Speaking of Peterson’s, it has this amusing entry concerning the cut-throat’s voice: “Song, rising and falling passages; resembles Robin’s song, but mellower, given with more feeling (as if a Robin had taken voice lessons).” Heh.

Whelp, the peonies await, so I’d better be about them.

UPDATE: Mission accomplished. (I again question why such heavy buds have such weak stems. Breeding gone amok, I suppose.) Fortunately, Ol’ Robbo caught a break in the weather wherein it was only drizzling. Unfortunately, some friends whom we haven’t seen in about ten years are dropping by this evening before we all go on to a Derby Party, so Mrs. R is at the high-doh about making Port Swiller Manor look its best and the heavy rain last night made more of a mess on the driveway than I had realized. Soaking wet holly leaves, pine straw and nugget mulch are a cast-iron beyotch to round up on asphalt.

On a related note, I’m afraid I have to report a failed attempt to patch a cracked flower pot with a piece of Flex-Tape. As much as I enjoy Phil Swift’s goofy Flex-Seal commercials, the stuff was useless. No adhesiveness whatsoever. Very sad.

Oh, and make that two male indigo buntings. Word must get around pretty fast.

UPDATE DEUX: I see it was just about a month ago that Ol’ Robbo predicted the peony-and-string thing. All is proceeding as I have foreseen. Also from that post, I can report happily that my separation and transplanting of a chunk of prairie cup-flower root ball appears to be a success, as the transplanted bit is definitely starting to grow. Also from that post, no hummingbird spottings yet, which is a bit disappointing, but the ant-moat has already drowned a goodish number of the little bastards, so I got that going for me.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The start of a very soggy weekend here in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor.

Ol’ Robbo was sitting over his first cuppa covfefe this morning, idly watching the bird-feeder, when much to his surprise he realized that what he at first thought to be a bluebird hopping about in the wisteria was, in fact, a male indigo bunting. Even though my Peterson’s Field Guide says they summah all over the East, in my nearly twenty-two years living in the Manor, I have never seen one here before. Huzzay!

Yes, I know this is a very, very small matter amidst all the Sturm und Drang engulfing the country, but maybe that makes my simple delight in spotting a new guest to the feeder all that more important. Lighting single candles and all that…..

At any rate, I at least thought it to be blog-worthy. Share and enjoy.

Incidentally, the sighting brought to mind memories of my parents. When the Old Gentleman first retired and was at the height of his golf phase, they lived for about ten years on the Carolina coast, where their feeder was frequented by painted buntings, a cousin of the indigo. “P-B’s” we used to call them, and they were far and away the House Favorite. We’re way too far north for P-B’s here, but the parallel immediately struck my mind.

Oh, I looked up from the keyboard just now and he’s back. Hopefully, he’ll stick around.


Blog Stats

  • 493,478 hits
July 2022