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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

First, how about a spot of color?

This is my prairie cup-flower. Cheery thing, isn’t it?

They’re native to central and western Missourah and other parts of the Plains. However, this one was a present from Mrs. R’s brother-in-law, a cutting from one he spotted it in a roadside ditch in the Boston area, dug up, and put in his own garden. (How it got to Eastern Massachusetts I can’t imagine, but I bet its arms were tired!) It’s been happy enough here in Virginny over the years but even at about 6 1/2 feet it seems somewhat short this season, prolly because of the lack of rain.

And yes, it continues quite dry here. So much so, in fact, that I even made a start at trying to grub out some of the moss that plagues my front yard. The stuff comes out, but even dead and dry it’s a mug’s game to try and remove. Plus I can’t help thinking I’m only spreading spores all over the place anyway. I gave up after about twenty minutes. (Even as I type this, however, the sky is starting to turn somewhat ominous. Who knows? Perhaps we’ll catch a break. UPDATE: In fact, we got about a forty-five minute downpour out of it. Not as beneficial as a good, slow soaker, but every little helps, right?)

I’ve mentioned here from time to time my next-door neighbors’ adventure in putting in a vegetable garden this year. Well yesterday Mrs. Neighbor appeared at our front door bearing a bowl full of cucumbers and tomaters from said garden. It was a lovely thing to do. We got chatting and I asked her about Little Bunny Foo-Foo and his pals that I often see cavorting near their crop. She said the rabbits weren’t a problem, but the woodchucks have been playing merry hell. They’ve recently had to strengthen their defensive fortifications so much that the plots resemble not so much gardens as redoubts. I confessed that was why I pretty much confine myself to flower species the critters don’t much care about.

On a completely different subject, I see where teh Cleveland sports-ball team has announced it’s renaming itself after a leftist British newspaper. (I confess I don’t much see the connection.) Ol’ Robbo is old enough to remember being reassured when Chief Wahoo was disappeared that this was as far as the club planned to go. Good thing I already have my “Wild Thing” edition DVD of “Major League”. Mayhaps I’ll watch it this evening just because.

Finally, a forewarning that blogging may be pretty light round here the next week or two, as a looming court hearing for work likely will kybosh already is kyboshing Ol’ Robbo’s leisure time and turning him into Busy Bee. And not Commodus from “Gladiator” murmuring “busy…little…bees”, but instead Hamilton Swan from “Best In Show” shouting, “Where is Busy Bee? Where is Busy BEE!! Whaddaya mean it’s not here?!! You go find Busy Bee RIGHT NOW!!!”

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo didn’t put up his usual Saturday Garden Post this weekend because after three hours working in the boiling heat, he staggered back in to Port Swiller Manor with all the traditional symptoms of heat-exhaustion and spent the rest of the day lounging with a damp cloth on his head.

Although still a bit woozy yesterday, after Mass I went out to pick up some branches and limbs that fell out of one of the trees during Saturday night’s non-storm storm. It was somewhat cooler and cloudier so I thought I’d be okay.


Five minutes in, I was literally dripping with sweat (a condition called hyperhidrosis), aching in all my limbs, and dizzy.

I’m still feeling it today and have already cancelled my plans to exercise later.

In my defense, I started early on Saturday specifically to try and dodge the heat but the temperature cranked up much more quickly than I anticipated and I got caught out before I realized it. Maybe saving lawnmowing for the evening now is not such a bad idea after all.

Yes, I can be taught!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!


Ol’ Robbo thought he was going to get some relief from the doldrums yesterday afternoon. The sky went black to the west, thunder started coming down the wind, the air started to smell of rain, and then…..nothing. The storm lifted its skirts and slid by to the south of Port Swiller Manor.


I’m not saying we’re in a drought just yet, but this summah has definitely been warmer and drier than the last few we’ve had in these parts. The trees and shrubbery are starting to get cranky about it.

Also getting cranky is my work computer. I had a time of it yesterday getting thrown off both the work network and my wifi connection. But when I unplugged the laptop from its docking station, it seemed to work just fine. Ol’ Robbo knows nothing of these things. There’s never been an issue before. Is this change significant? And what is the root cause, the office, Verizon, or, as Eldest assures me, Mrs. R’s recent efforts to upgrade her wireless teevee viewing?

Speaking of Mrs. R, she’s normally in charge of distributing treats to Decanter Dog. In her absence, I’m pretty sure I’m being hustled. (It’s funny how I am impervious to the cats’ attempts to pry treats out of me but I can’t resist DD’s big eyes. Alas, she knows it.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yep, the continued string of hot, sticky days here has got Ol’ Robbo firmly in its grip. I recognize the signs.

Mrs. R has gone off up to Connect-ti-cutt to visit her folks for a few days. She messaged me, “Got here safely – only one near-miss in the Bronx!” That’ll wake you up in a hurry.

(We’ve always taken the GW Bridge and teh Cross-Bronx when headed north. The Tappen-Zee may be safer and easer but I just can’t stand the idea of going all the way up and around like that.)

I mentioned cable yesterday. Apart from the odd TCM offering and AccuWeather, the only two channels I watch at all are H&I for “Star Trek” reruns and INSP for old westerns. I noticed that these channels seem to run an inordinate number of commercials for hair-restorers, testosterone boosters, and hearing aids. “Heh,” I said to myself, “Just what sort of person do they imagine is watching…….Hey! Wait a minute!!

Oh, I suppose it’s Bastille Day. Those who wish to wipe out the past and start over at Year One should keep in mind how that little drama eventually played out.

I dunno whether the falling of the big maple in our back yard has anything to do with it, perhaps shifting territories or something, but I now have a problem with pileated woodpeckers attacking the porch supports. I confess I don’t yet know quite what to do about this.

Well, that’s about all I’ve got at the moment.

UPDATE: Ol’ Robbo used to be able to put his head down and just power through when he didn’t have time to eat all day. I find I really just can’t do that anymore.

Also, I would like to find the person who invented “Track Changes” and cause them some harm.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo’s butterfly bushes are starting to flower nicely now, and the various flutteratti are beginning to attend upon them in growing numbers. Give it another week or two, and the garden will be chock-a-block with tiger swallowtails and those delicate little white ones that I don’t know the name of, coupled with various moths, the odd Monarch, and even some hummingbirds from time to time.

As I may have mentioned before, my garden is rectangular with a three-foot wide gravel path down the middle along the long axis. In those years when I’m lazy or distracted, the butterfly bush will eventually get so big that they block off the path all along its length. I’m determined not to let that happen this year, and so have already started pruning back stems which start to encroach. Funnily, I’ve taken to thinking of it as “keeping the pass open” and this imagery seems to be acting as a positive motivation.

Whatever works, amirite?

** As a former President about whom my opinion has vastly changed in hindsight might put it.

UPDATE: I meant to mention again that anybody who thinks butterflies just meander about aimlessly has never stopped to watch one closely. They know exactly what they’re doing. And when they’re dog-fighting with each other, their combat maneuverability is quite remarkable.

(And I made up that word ‘flutteratti’. Pretty pleased with myself for it.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A cool and damp morning gave Ol’ Robbo the opportunity to get out in the garden and do some badly-needed deadheading and weeding. You may be quite certain sure that he had his head on a swivel and both eyes wide open for any sign of the snake he encountered last weekend. Fortunately, I didn’t spot it. Perhaps it went home. I certainly hope so.

Happy Strong Vincent Day! Yes, today is the anniversary of the Battle of Little Round Top, the second day of Gettysburg. When Dan Sickles decided to go walkabouts with his Third Corp, leaving the hill wide open on the Union left flank, it was Vincent who spotted the danger and, off his own bat, pulled his brigade out of line to occupy it. Chamberlain and the 20th Maine get all the glory these days, but they wouldn’t have been there in the first place without Vincent’s foresight.

Which reminds Ol’ Robbo that he may well watch “Gettysburg” this weekend, as it’s been a while. Here’s the thing that always bothers me about that film: In his prologue to The Killer Angels, on which the film is based, Michael Shaara said very explicitly that the novel was not the story of Gettysburg, but instead of some of the men who fought there. But with its title, the movie seems to suggest it is about the entire battle, especially to audiences who wouldn’t know any better. So, for example, it depicts the fight at Little Round Top including the 20th’s bayonet charge, but virtually nothing about the desperate fighting that went on all along the line from Cemetery Ridge to Culp’s Hill all the rest of the day and on into the night. You’d think once Jeff Daniels goes hobbling back up the hill it was all over and done until Pickett’s Charge the next day. Irksome.

On the non-irksome front, La Wrangler started showing a check-engine light last Sunday, making Ol’ Robbo apprehensive that he might be about to be bit for some major repair. Fortunately, I know the trick for using the ignition to get the warning code to display on the speedometer: turns out it’s detecting a small leak in the EVAP system, which might be nothing more than a loose gas tank cap (and it does seem a little shaky). But the bottom line is that whatever the issue is, it’s small, I can still drive, and I don’t need to worry about it until inspection time, which isn’t until October.


What else? The first of Ol’ Robbo’s termaters are now nearly ripe. Time for me to start looking around for a home-made salsa recipe. (I can just hear it now: “Says here this salsa was made in Northern Virginia. Northern Virginia??!! Get a rope!)

Whelp, the afternoon is still young and those chores aren’t going to do themselves….P’raps some more nonsense later..

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Lynx-eyed friends of the decanter (but I repeat myself) will no doubt be not the slightest bit surprised that Ol’ Robbo’s entire Saturday was devoted to cleaning up the remains of the big maple brought down by storm this week. (I had mentioned its termite infestation before but closer study of the spot where the trunk actually snapped sure doesn’t reveal any compromised wood to Ol’ Robbo. We did have a storm come through Monday night, and as the tree is both big and top-heavy, I think this is what must have got it after all.)

The thing must have been 60 or 70 feet tall. Two of its three main trunks snapped, bringing down a plethora of lesser sub-trunks, boughs, limbs, and branches. That’s a lot of tree.

Ol’ Robbo made it his task to saw off and remove all the lessor branches, so that when his handyman and crew appear (on Wednesday I now hear), they can cut up all the main parts for firewood (of which I will not lack this winter). Ol’ Robbo doesn’t own a chainsaw but has a nifty little hand-saw that is good for anything up to a three or four inch diameter, so I set that as my benchmark.

As I worked away this morning (fortunately a cool one) I thought about all sorts of things I might write here about how it’s good to take on this kind of job oneself: the exercise is a plus, of course, but there’s something else about getting one’s own hands dirty and not being too proud or spoiled to do it. Besides, whenever I have my handyman do a job like this, he never throws the branches where I want him to, stacking them next to the brush pile instead of on top of it. (That’s why I don’t have him do the leaves in the fall anymore, too.)

By this afternoon, I was ready to pay just about anyone any amount to take the damn job off my hands and finish it.

You might be saying to yourself, “Self, doesn’t Robbo have at least two young, healthy, and strong daughters home at the moment? Why didn’t he get them to help?” To which I reply, “Yeah, right.” For better or for worse, Mrs. R has inculcated the Gels with the idea that there are certain jobs that are simply left to the menfolk (meaning me). Yardwork is definitely one of them. (This brings to mind a memory of my brother and myself slaving away for the Old Gentleman in the hot Texas sun of my misspent yoot while our sister skulked in her room listening to her Adam Ant records. Some things don’t change.)

Anyhoo, at last the thing is done, and I’m sunburned, worn out, and too tired to go to the store for dinner supplies. (Well, Eldest volunteered to do that, so at least that’s something.)

Oh, the other bit of excitement: I was coming up the hill from the back gate after a brush pile trip when I looked up and suddenly saw on the lawn ahead of me…….a snake! I hate snakes! Why did it have to be a snake? No step on snek!

It was a big thing, at least four feet long, glossy black with a white underside, a thick torso and a small head. The innerwebz tell me this was an Eastern ratsnake. I’d never seen one before. (You can tell me all about how harmless and beneficial they are, but I don’t care. Did I mention I hate snakes?)

The thing was gliding slowly toward the house. Ol’ Robbo did not wish it to proceed in that direction any farther, so after my initial interjection of something like “Ergblethrubububah!!!“, I tried to get its attention with word and gesture (which it ignored) and eventually by judiciously-aimed sticks (which it did not). Finally, I headed the thing and persuaded it to go back down the hill. It disappeared in the ivy patch in front of my garden fence. I’ll never set foot in that patch ever again.

At first I couldn’t figure out what on earth the thing was doing right out in the open on short grass. It later occurred to me that it probably lives in the brush pile and that my constant throwing of debris on the pile flushed it out.

All in all, a very full day.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yesterday, Mrs. R approached me at my desk and asked if I could drop her and her friends off at the airport this morning.

“Airport?” I said, “Er, are you going somewhere?”

“Yes, the Cape. Remember?”

“I thought I remembered you decided not to go.”

“Well, I changed my mind again.”


So I duly donned my chauffer cap, collected the henfest, and ran them out. Mrs. R’s suitcase was twice as big and heavy as the other two’s were. Only the fact that Decanter Dog is, in fact, asleep on the sofa near me allays my suspicion that Mrs. R was trying to smuggle her on to the trip. Lawd knows what she’s actually got in there – you wouldn’t think four or five days’ worth of clothes would weigh that much.

I’m not sure what the policy is now for air travel but there were still plenty of sheeple masked up at the drop-off. My theory that mask-wearing cuts off oxygen to the brain and makes people stupider was buttressed by the unusually idiotic behavior of the traffic pulling up to and away from the curb. I know this is a pretty high bar anyway, but it suddenly seemed as if everybody there was a Murrland driver.

We took Mrs. R’s Honda Juggernaut. The Sirius happened to be tuned to the 80’s channel. On the way home, I heard “Rock Me, Amadeus” for the first time in I don’t know how long. Gawd.

So here we are. I’m still adjusting my braim to this unforeseen change in circumstance, although the reality is that it probably won’t have that much impact on my plans: That fallen tree in the yard (which see below) isn’t going to trim itself up, and most evenings I just read or watch old movies anyway.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Lynx-eyed friends of the decanter will know that Ol’ Robbo has written a couple times over the past few days about the status of the timber on the Port Swiller Manor demesne.

Whelp, Ma Nature must have been reading here too, because Ol’ Robbo, in letting Decanter Dog out this morning after a dark and stormy night, discovered this:

I’ve posted about this tree before. It’s the one in which I discovered a good bit of termite damage last year, and I’ve been more or less expecting it to come down sooner or later, so while I was startled, I wasn’t surprised.

The good news is that it missed the house and porch altogether and seems to have done only minor damage to the fence. Also, it doesn’t seem that our neighbor’s shrubs were affected much. However, it hit the patio fair and square. The birdbath looks trashed and I can’t see some of the flowerpots for all the debris yet, but they might have got whacked.

All in all, though, a lucky break and also a relief. As I say, I’ve been expecting the thing to come down, and all this winter and spring it’s haunted the fringes of my conscience as a sort of Maple of Damocles. It’s also a bit sad, though, because this was the tree from which the Gels’ swing was hung. Eldest, in particular, spent many hours meditatively pushing herself off against the trunk and thinking about whatever it is teenaged gels think of. I’d even from time to time fancied the idea of grandchildren getting to use it.

Anyhoo, our handyman is coming out this afternoon to give me a quote for cutting up the larger bits, chainsaw use being beyond my skillset.


**Spot the reference.

UPDATE: Spoke to the handyman. Youch! I’m not a lumber-jack and that’s okay, but maybe I oughta be one!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and “happy” summah!

Yes, far and away Ol’ Robbo’s least favorite season. I suppose the best that can be said is that the days are now going to start getting shorter so there’s hope for the future.

I’ve mentioned here previously how counterintuitive it always seems to me that the hottest part of the year occurs after the solstice rayther than at the solstice. (Yes, yes, I know the meteorological explanation. I’m just saying it doesn’t seem right.)

Another seasonal mind hurdle for me is the fact that cold air is actually denser and heavier than warm air. Again, I get the science, but it just seems wrong. I always think of this while watching jet traffic approaching the local airport. When it’s cold out, they seem to zip right through the air almost as if it doesn’t exist. But when it’s really hot and humid? I sometimes swear they could just turn the engines off and float along in the soup. (Not that I would recommend this.)

Well, here we are.

On a completely different note, I woke myself up laughing from a dream this morning. This happens to me not often, but every now and again. It’s a truly delightful feeling.


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July 2021