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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Re an item in the post immediately below, no fencing for Port Swiller Manor today after all:  It’s been raining steadily since last night, sometimes quite heavily.  (In fact, looking at the radar, it appears the last big burst of the storm is going to hit us in a little while.)

I had been thinking before today’s monsoon struck that this might have been a good weekend to cut back the forsythia.  Some years ago, I would have sallied forth to do so regardless of the weather.  More recently, I would have refrained but fumed about it all day.  Now?  I simply said meh and have spent most of the day reading Evelyn Waugh.

Progress, I like to think.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Mrs. Robbo left this morning to go visit her parents for a couple days, teh younger gels are off at summah camp and I hardly ever see the eldest anymore, so this weekend is effectively just your host and his menagerie.  Woo Hoo!

♦   Thanks to what was a pretty strong consensus here, I ordered a new set of headphones for my musickal evenings this morning.  Thankee muchly for your recommendations.  It only took me two months to get around to it.  Procrastinate we much?

♦    Speaking of electronics, I find myself hating smartphones more and more.   I especially despise the zombie-like way everyone seems to stare at them, oblivious to their surroundings.

♦    I see where Phil Austin, who played Nick Danger for Firesign Theater, died this week.  My college roommate first put me on to these guys and I wound up buying a couple of their albums.  True, it’s dirty hippy stream-of-consciousness drug humor, but it was still pretty durn funny.  (I say “was” because I had cassette tapes, now long gone, and it must be close to twenty years since I last listened to them.)

♦  I also see where the Vegas odds-makers are betting Robbo’s beloved Nationals are going to win it all this year.   I dunno, but since we just got done sweeping both the Bucs and the Braves, I’m starting to get excited.  [Insert obligatory “Great kid, but don’t get cocky” here.]  We’re supposed to start a series against the despicable Phillies this evening, but I don’t know if the weather is going to cooperate.

♦  Fence guy is coming tomorrow to slap up some wire on the fence in the Port Swiller backyard, thereby allowing us to literally let Daisy off the leash on occasion (under supervision, of course, in case she proves a digger).  We decided against the whole Invisible Fence thing because of the price and the complexity and because I’m unwilling to try training her on it when she’s already so skittish around me.  The squirrels and the woodchucks are in for a nasty surprise.

♦   Speaking of the back yard, ol’ Robbo demonstrated his apparent genius for stumbling across yellow jacket nests yet again the other evening.  I was throwing up a tarp against a corner of the house where we think water is getting into the basement again and thumped down a paving stone literally within two inches of one of their burrows.  Fortunately, a storm was rolling in and it was already quite dark, so even though I disturbed them, they only came out sluggishly and I got away without being stung this time.

Well, also speaking of the back yard, time to go mow it before the rain rolls in.  Whatever terrible nooz comes out today, I’m not going to let it ruin things for me.  Don’t you let it, either.

UPDATE: Done and done.  Everything’s mown, trimmed and blown so it can rain now ’til its eyes bubble for all I care.  And, Eldest Gel, who has been working all week at her church’s vacation bible school, is bringing me home an egg, cheese and bagel sammich.  FTW!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, the area around Port Swiller Manor has been under the dreaded “orange” air-quality alert the last few days – highs in the 90’s, heavy humidity, Lady Summah giving of her early best (or worst, depending on how you look at it).

♦   Yesterday afternoon, caught up in the ebullience of having got my hair cut and my oil changed (finally), I decided to get a hop on the weekend’s chores by going out and mowing the yard.  Yeah, maybe not such a good idea.  By the time I was done, my muscles were cramping up and I was feeling woozy.  When I woke up this morning, I at first had the odd idea that there was a small bale of hay stuck in my throat.  Evidently, I am not 30 anymore.

♦   We put up a couple of fuchsias in hanging baskets on the porch this year, just by way of variety.  For those of you who have not dealt with them before, I’m here to tell you that they take a whoooole lot of watering.  I’m not so sure I’d bother with them again.

♦    Saw a hummingbird zipping about last evening, so this afternoon I put up a feeder to see if I could get the little blighter to stick around.  Mucking about for something by which to hang it, I came across some chain from an old flower basket that must have been sitting in the back of its cabinet for a good ten years or so.  This reaffirms one of ol’ Robbo’s rules:  Never, ever throw anything away unless you absolutely have to.

♦  We have a lot of goldfinch around here and I have always set out a second feeder full of Wagner’s nyjer seed for them.  At peak times, it’s not at all uncommon to see ten or a dozen goldfinch flitting about the feeder.  However, a few weeks ago I had to substitute a generic thistle seed.  The result was that the birds promptly vanished.  After letting the substitute thistle sit around for a while, I recently went back to the Wagner’s.  The birds were back in within a day or two.  I guess they really like the stuff.

♦  And last, I finally got around to reseeding a bare patch of about 450 square feet in the back yard.  I dutifully spread potting soil, seed and fertilizer and covered it all up with straw (which, by the way, you can actually order from the devil’s website).  Of course, within 48 hours we had a torrential downpour, which carved large channels through the newly-seeded patch (which sits on a gentle slope).  The new grass is actually beginning to spring up (I seeded it a week ago), but the area is taking on the look of an archipelago.  I suppose the only thing to do is to let the surviving patches establish themselves, while having another go at the bare spots as they are defined.  Or just go with sod and be done with it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, ol’ Robbo hasn’t much postie material to work with this evening.  Historickally speaking, particularly for Royal Navy sharks, this is the anniversary both of the Glorious First of June in 1794 and of the celebrated frigate action between USS Chesapeake and HMS Shannon in 1813, but I’ve done those before and am not feeling ready to recycle them.

In re current events, much of today’s nooz cycle was taken up with the Supremes’ decision in the case of the Muslim gel who was denied a job at Abercrombie because of her head-scarf.  Alas, although I have a very deep professional interest in that decision, I can’t possibly talk about it here.  (And my opinion might not be what you think.)

Additionally, the ball game scheduled for this evening between Robbo’s beloved Nats and the Blue Jays of Toronto was postponed due to the monsoon-like conditions that descended on the Dee Cee area this evening and resulted in a right drenching on my commute home.

HOWEVER, for the benefit of those of you stationed about the decanter, now that a dog has joined the strength of the Port Swiller Manor establishment, I have a terrific, automatic fallback whenever I need something about which to write.  I mean, who doesn’t like posts about dogs, amirite?

DaisyAnyhoo, an update about our dear Daisy, who really is a complete sweetheart.

First, she went to the vet this week for a check-up.  The vet thinks she’s actually younger than the seven years we were told by the rescue people.  Perhaps five or six.  Teeth good, ears good, eyes good, heart and lungs good, she’s in fine shape.

Second, she definitely has warmed up to me.  Indeed, I spent much of this evening rereading my McAuslan with Daisy flopped out on my lap.  I don’t know her actual weight but I would guess it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 to 30 lbs.  Thus, she’s on the heavy, but still plausible, end of lap-dogdom.  She certainly thinks so at any rate.

Third, from our walks together I have noticed that she has an interest in and  hatred of Jacobin squirrels that would receive the stamp of approval from Jonah Goldberg’s late, lamented Cosmo.  One needs to be careful to keep a firm grip on the leash whenever she gets the idea that these secular-Utopianist tree-rats might be in the immediate area.

Fourth, speaking of walks, in my yoot in the South Texas exurbs, the idea of picking up one’s dog’s, er, output would have been met with howls of derisive laughter.  (Of course, we didn’t really “walk” our dogs.  Our yard was a couple acres and they mostly did their biznay along the tree-line at the edge.  When they dropped closer in, well, you just remembered it and avoided the spot until Ma Nature had disposed of it.)  I have not yet got used to this task.

Fifth, the other morning I had my first dog-walking social encounter, spending ten minute chatting with a complete stranger as our pooches got to know each other.  I can well see why college boys keep dogs when they can.

Sixth, I am delighted at the way Mrs. R and Daisy have come together.  The whole reason I have been without doggy companionship since the early 90’s is that Mrs. Robbo insisted she was not a “dog person”.  Daisy has, I think, been an eye-opener for her.  Granted, starting from scratch with a puppy is a whole different ball-game, but I already can see that this “starter dog” biznay, i.e., dealing with one that has already been broken in, was the right initial step.

Either ol’ Robbo is getting more efficient in his yard work or else I’ve finally moved the goalposts sufficiently, but I find that I’m getting a heck of a lot done out in the grounds of Port Swiller Manor this year.  Here it is the end of May and I’ve got the garden thoroughly under control weed-wise and the lawn up to date, with time left over to get at some other projects that have hung fire for a while.

One of these is the lone pine tree in a yard otherwise given over to a fringe of maple and oak.  It’s something between fifty and sixty feet tall and has been the source of greens for my Advent and Christmas table wreaths for years.

Two or three years back, however, I noticed that the lower limbs of the thing were starting to look aged and worn out, losing their needles and starting to die off.  I don’t know if this is just a thing with pine trees, whether the ivy that was starting to work its way up the trunk was somehow choking them off, or if some other ailment was involved.

This weekend, deciding that the thing was getting decidedly ratty in the knickers, I determined to go out and do something about cleaning it up.  So I pulled out my trusty little hand saw and, starting low, proceeded to start lopping off dead limbs.  (I also yanked the ivy, just in case.)  For each, I left a short stump protruding from the trunk, in part because the diameters were a bit smaller several inches out and I’m not as young as I used to be, and in part because I recognized that they would make an excellent ladder by which to get myself to the ones higher up.  The top dead branches were maybe twelve to fifteen feet above the ground.

Now I must sidestep here for just a second.  For those of you who don’t know, ol’ Robbo’s chief physical defect is his very bad eyesight.  (We’ve no space to go into his mental defects here, which are Legion, and anyway they’re beside the point.)  I’ve worn corrective lenses since third grade.  My sight is so feeble now that my fingers go blurry five inches from my face.   Things farther than a few feet away are mere colored blobs.  It’s that bad.

Normally, I wear contacts.  But on the weekends, unless I’m corralled into some kind of social event or off to Mass, I usually give my eyes a rest and wear my glasses.  Despite all the sooper-modern lens-thinning technology, these are right coke bottle bottoms.  If they’d have been made the old-fashioned way, they’d probably break the bridge of my nose.

So any road, there I was, about fifteen feet up the tree, busily sawing away at a limb with one hand while clinging to another with the other hand, when my glasses, spotting an opportunity, decided to make a bolt for it and fell off my face.


I’ve had them fall off before, of course, but never in a situation quite like this one.  It’s wonderfully humbling, a gentle reminder of how frail and fragile we really are.

As I slowly made my way down, largely by the Braille method, all sorts of thoughts about Ma Nature’s ways of dealing with the old, the hurt and the sick wandered through my brain.  I had visions of being easy meat for a velociraptor or a sabre-toothed tiger, an Iroquois scalp-hunter or a mugger.  And this was just in a suburban yard.  I can’t imagine what it would have felt like had I been in some inner-city hell hole or on a cliff-face or in the middle of the Serengeti or at sea.

Anyhoo, I eventually got myself down in one piece and, after scrabbling about in the undergrowth for a bit, found the damned things.  Slapping them back on, I quickly looked round to make sure there were no inbound red toothes or claws and then got on with the job.

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.





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