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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last week Ol’ Robbo mentioned the emerging fallout from his forsythia-pruning mistake of last summah. Well, I’m still waiting for the shoe to drop on another such mistake.

Regular friends of the decanter will recall that we put a bed of pachysandra along the Port Swiller Manor street-front a few years ago. Most of it is doing very well and is, in fact, in bloom at the moment.

However, last fall Ol’ Robbo got a bit carried away trying to clear the fallen maple leaves out of one section, taking his leaf-blower to it at full thrust. I got a few maple leaves, it is true, but I also managed to blow off the pachy leaves themselves, leaving a bunch of denuded stalks.**

So far this spring nothing has happened yet and I wait with some impatience to see if they managed to survive. You will know how anxious I am by the fact that I’m even clutching at that line of Chauncy Gardner’s in “Being There” to the effect that if the root is unharmed then all will be well. (And Ol’ Robbo loathed that movie.)

We shall see if I have to replant.

**In my defense, I was put up to the attempt by Mrs. R, who is of the belief that every last fallen leave Must Be Picked Up. I argued that this is unpossible when dealing with a pachy bed, in which all one can do is clear the fallen leaves off the top, not the ones that winkle their way down. If nothing else, I hope this episode proves my point.

UPDATE: Well, in my morning rounds I took a closer look and perhaps there’s more room for optimism than I had thought. Certainly at least some of them look kaput, but even many with naked, brown stalks are showing leaf buds closer to their base. As I say, we shall see.

On a completely different note, Mrs. R asked me to clean out the vacuum-cleaners this morning, a task which seems to me to have something of a quis custodiet air about it. I duly took apart hoses and pulled out filters and such, and must confess that by the time I was done not only was I covered in dust, but had also removed enough cat hair to make up a new one. Ah, what W.S. Gilbert called “the felicity of unbridled domesticity”!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

You know, there are some Saturday mornings when I’d swear the birds are deliberately loitering around the feeder, just waiting for me to fill it up.

Ol’ Robbo was able to get himself out into the garden today, finally finishing up his late-winter pruning back of the butterfly bush and the roses. The latter really should have been done three or four weeks ago, as they are already growing aggressively. I hope leaving it this late will not lead to any permanent damage. If it does, chalk them up as yet more casualties to a certain virus that absolutely didn’t come from a Chinese bioweapons lab except that (Oopsie!) it did.** Anyhoo, while there’s still plenty more raking and cleaning to do, those were my chief worries.

Meanwhile, things proceed apace. The peonies have all broken ground and I noticed the buds forming on the pear tree. I also noticed that the big hedge of oak-leaf hydrangea which lines the back of my garden has sent colonists to try and establish themselves in the interior. In some ways, Ol’ Robbo is too soft-hearted: Said OLH have no biznay whatsoever anywhere other than the hedge, and to leave their invasion alone would cause all sorts of problems. And yet, I just couldn’t bring myself to dig them out today. I must needs strengthen my resolve and think of the Greater Good. (Chorus: “The Greater Good!”)

I further noticed that a mistake I made last year is coming back to bite me. Long-time friends of the decanter will recall Ol’ Robbo’s ongoing and generally fruitless efforts to get his forsythia to bloom more heartily. Conventional wisdom says to cut them way back just after they’ve finished flowering each spring, as they only flower on new growth. But when I do that, the stalks grow so monstrously tall over the course of the year that they’re too stringy come the next bloom season. So I’ve been experimenting with delaying the pruning in order to leave more compact bushes. Whelp, last year I didn’t get around to it until Labor Day weekend, which proved far, far too late: Even with a gentle and wet fall, they put on barely a few inches of new growth. And now, of course, they look ridiculous. (Further, there’s no telling whether my campaign of liming them heavily has had any effect.) Oh, well.

Finally, as far as that clock-change thing goes, the most beneficial aspect in Ol’ Robbo’s opinion is that I will be able to grill out tomorrow evening in plenty of light as opposed to the Braille method I must use over the winter. Am I looking forward to it? Oh, you betcha!

**I was out about two hours and it was only light labor but I can still feel my lack of reserves. I continue to hope this goes away relatively soon.

UPDATE: Those of you keeping track at home will be pleased to learn that despite Ma Nature serving up an evening of drizzle and light rain, Ol’ Robbo got his Sunday leap forward grill in nonetheless.

I have said before but will say again because this is my blog that there is only one way to correctly cook a strip steak or ribeye. One must find a cut at least an inch thick (or more). One must cover it with garlic salt (or other seasoning of choice) and let it sit for an hour or two. One must build the hottest possible charcoal fire. And one must cook one’s steak for just a very few minutes on either side, so that it’s blackened on the outside but still kicking, as it were, on the inside. Pure bliss.

And those who would take away my grill and my meat, and instead have me eat bugs and think myself fortunate, are invited to go to the devil.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Judging from the frozen response to the post below, it appears Ol’ Robbo is very much in the minority in his views regarding Easter baskets. Eh.

So on to something completely different.

Those friends of the decanter who keep track of the night sky will know that we’re now just past the full of the moon. At this time of year (and its correspondent in the fall), the angle of the moon’s orbit is such that, at the full, in the last of the night and the very early morning it shines directly on to Ol’ Robbo’s bed. As has been the case the last couple nights, on occasion I will wake up to this, and invariably find it both delightful and comforting.

But then, I’ve always enjoyed the moon in all its phases. (No, I don’t sprout claws, fangs, and fur.) It’s never felt all that cold or harsh to me, but really rayther more….companionable (although I do recall as a kid sometimes thinking that the crescent was laughing at me). It seems all the more so when, at 4:30 in the morning, I find it shining in my eyes.

That’s all, really. A simple pleasure.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is under siege this morning, as Mrs. R has a consultant out to Port Swiller Manor, come to see about replacing the blinds in the Gels’ bedrooms, which over the years had been more or less permanently damaged by little hands yanking on the pulls. Why they need to be replaced at this particular time is beyond me.

The first fruit of the consultant’s visit was that evidently Ol’ Robbo installed the original blinds All Wrong those many years ago. (I put them inside the frames rayther than on the front, slightly overlapping.) Eh, I was young. I was foolish. And while I worry about the imminent collapse of the Republic, I do not think this matter of installation will have anything to do with it.

Increasingly as I get older, I hate having strangers in the house, especially strangers trying to sell me things, and especially strangers trying to sell me things pertaining to the Manor itself and its fixtures. Not only do I feel it a violation of my privacy in general, but I particularly dislike the feeling of having my, as it were, weaknesses spied out. And then, of course, there’s the money aspect of it all: If I overheard aright, the initial proposed bloomin’ down payment was twice what I’d expected the whole thing to cost.

Ah, well. On that last point, I just now persuaded Mrs. R and the saleswoman that I can cut down the price somewhat by installing the damn things myself. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get it right this time.

In the meanwhile, off to clear the Port Swiller driveway of sticks and fallen maple buds.

UPDATE: Well, it turns out Ol’ Robbo even had occasion to fire up the weed-whacker for the first time this season. The earliest weeds in the lawn consist of low mounds of rounded leaves which send up very thin stalks of about eight inches crowned with clusters of little white flowers. When they go to seed later on, the slightest touch causes them to throw their seeds in all directions. For this reason, I’ve always called the stuff “pop-grass”. I don’t know its real name.

Anyhoo, not to whinge here, but I was only able to stick yardwork for about an hour today, coming in fatigued and achy (especially in my legs). I assume this is the continued after-effect of the WuFlu. (Indeed, I hope so, because if it’s something else then Ol’ Robbo may be in serious trouble.) I begin to grow aggravated that it hasn’t gone away yet, especially as the time of devoting the bulk of my Saturday mornings to laboring in the fields is fast approaching.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last night saw the first thunderstorm of the season here at Port Swiller Manor. A flash and a crash woke me up in the wee hours, but I think it was just the tail-end because there were only one or two more afterwards and I quickly dozed off again.

Still, it was pleasurable. Ol’ Robbo admits that he was rather afraid of thunder for a longer time than he probably should have been, and even after that I didn’t much like it, especially at night. But once I finally got past that, it became sweet, sweet musick to me, and rather than putting a pillow over my head, I just lie back and enjoy it.

UPDATE: This reminds Ol’ Robbo that having the Gels in school in southern Ohio and Indiana in the springtime is a source of faint concern as far as the weather goes. Youngest’s school already had a tornado warning earlier this week. Rayther than staying in her upstairs apartment, the Gel scuttled off to the basement of the campus library in order to wait it out. (Heck, at least she’s using the library for something!) It isn’t something I lose sleep over, just an extra item in the basket of Dad Worries.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

On his lunchtime walkies today, Ol’ Robbo was gratified to look up and spot a bald eagle circling about overhead.

They live along the river but that’s better than a mile from Port Swiller Manor in a straight line and they don’t come out this far as a rule. As a matter of fact, I’ve only ever seen one other in the neighborhood in the twenty-plus years we’ve lived here, and that was a good fifteen years ago. (I remember I was teaching Youngest to ride her bike on the sidewalk that day.)

So huzzay, huzzah!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

To follow up on the post below, Ol’ Robbo was able to spend about a couple hours cleaning up in the garden yesterday before deciding to call it quits. I managed to cut back maybe half of the butterfly bush before all that repetitive kneeling and standing caught up with me.

I also found that the pair of briar roses on the fence (my cuttings from Sweet Briar College) evidently never got the memo that we were having winter this year: Their stalks were long, twisted into everything, and already leafing out aggressively. Cutting them back and hauling them off proved almost comic in the way they managed to sink their briars into every single portion of Ol’ Robbo that they touched. It was like wrapping myself in a coil of barbed wire.

And speaking of aggressive, a year or two ago I posted about this interloper:

As I recall, we identified it as some sort of invasive Asian vine. (UPDATE: Found the post. It’s Euonymus fortunei, as flagged by long-time friend of the decanter Don. It’s extremely strong and the more mature stalks take on a woody quality. The stuff is all over the place now, not just in the Port Swiller Manor demesne, but around the neighborhood, too. Ol’ Robbo doesn’t much mind it winding around the fence or covering tree stumps, but it also sends horizontal runners along the ground that sneak into areas where they ought not to be. Poking around yesterday, I found that it, too, has not been idle.

So there’s still plenty of work to be done. And that’s even before spring begins.

It’s appreciably colder in these parts today (although the forecast of snow has been changed to rain) and Mrs. Robbo strongly advised that I shouldn’t overdo it by getting out again. For once, I agree with her. So instead, I will content myself with trimming back the porch ferns, which have been quite contently wintering over in the basement.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Those of you following along may be pleased to know that Ol’ Robbo begins to feel definitely better after his nearly month-long bout of the WuFlu. Yesterday I found myself suddenly lucid with respect to my work. I did a few rounds of pushups. I went for a brisk walk. (It didn’t hurt that it was sunny and near 80 degrees out, either.)

It’s always an interesting and pleasurable feeling to be finally on the mend. Didn’t even Tolkien mention it somewhere in The Lord of the Rings? (I think so, although I can’t remember the passage off the top of my head. UPDATE: It comes to me now that it was to do with Eowyn snapping out of it in the House O’ Healing.)

I intend to take advantage of the weather today (we go back to a chance of snow tomorrow) to go out and clean up my garden, a job that is more tedious than strenuous. I reckon the fresh air, sunshine, and light exertion will be beneficial.

Of course, I plan to keep my eyes open lest Eric Idle sneak up behind me and whack me on the back of my head. (And now that I reread this post, I probably should watch out for Bob from the NSA, too, since I’m sure my favorable mention of Tolkien will set off the anti-Right Wing Extremist klaxons at HQ.) We shall see.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is still suffering the lingering effects of his recent bout of the ‘vidz, so decided not to push his luck by trying to go out this morning in the chill air and start clearing out his garden. It can wait another week or two.

In the meantime, however, when I went to check the mail I found that the rain cap had blown off the roof-top HVAC exhaust in yesterday’s wind and been chucked down on to the driveway. I note this simply because it’s such a random thing, one of those little episodes of home-ownership that one doesn’t even think about until it happens.

On closer examination, it appears that the thing was suffering from old age and simply rusted out. Certainly we never replaced it before and for all I know it might have been original equipment.

Now Ol’ Robbo must look into replacing the cap before Port Swiller Manor gets rained on too many more times. In theory, at least, I suppose I could do it myself but I’m sure as heck not climbing all the way up to the top of the roof – from the backside where the exhaust pipe is, it’s three and a half stories up and even typing about it is causing my palms to sweat.

Now, off to find a pro….

UPDATE: On a completely different note, Ol’ Robbo is pleased to announce that some of the goldfinches at his feeder are juuuust starting to show some faint yellow about their bodies. Spring is definitely on its way.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No work outside for Ol’ Robbo today – I’m still feeling absolutely wiped out from my bout of the ‘vidz. So instead, I am contenting myself with just looking out the window.

Spring draws ever nearer, as the daffodils are shooting up out at the edge of the woods and, in some of the sunnier and more sheltered corners, starting to bloom. I never planted any myself but my old next-door neighbor had a large bed at the back of his yard and over the years they spread themselves in isolated patches downwind.

The robins are back. It’s always lovely first thing in the morning to find the back yard full of them. And I’ve said it before but I will say it here again: Even if it’s not true that when they cock their heads they are listening for worms, it ought to be.

A young hawk had a serious go at the birds round my feeder this morning, but so far as I can tell he didn’t catch anything.

Finally, Mrs. Fox has spent the past couple evenings out in the woods wailing for her demon lover (as the poet-wallah says). If you’ve never heard a vixen calling for her mate, it’s one of the most ungodly noises out there – a high-pitched screaming like a soul in torment. Quite unnerving if you don’t know what it is.

Well, that’s about it for now. Ol’ Robbo needs to go look into finding a replacement for his patio birdbath. When the tree fell on it a couple summahs ago now, it snapped the screw that attaches the bath to its base. I’ve tried various means to stick them back together but all my fixes has proved temporary only and I’m tired of it.

Speaking of birds, I will say here and now that I have no intention of watching the Sooper Bowl tomorrow. I detest the Iggles (and all other things Philadelphia) and although I don’t really follow things, it’s my impression that they’re pretty much unstoppable this year. Feh. (In fact, we were invited to a party and Mrs. R is still planning to go, but I just don’t have the energy. Besides, if our host got any whiff of the fact that I’m just getting over the ‘vidz, he’d have a full-scale panic attack. Not worth it.)

UPDATE: Okay, Ol’ Robbo turned on the teevee to catch the weather forecast and, out of curiosity, flipped over to Fox to see what had happened. There were about three minutes left to go in the game. Guess I missed a humdinger after all. Having a game decided by a last minute penalty isn’t the greatest thing in the world, but I guess those are the breaks. (Couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch. HA-ha!)


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March 2023