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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No landscaping work for Ol’ Robbo this week.  I contrived to catch the flu the other day and am still feeling its effects, so am taking it easy today.  (It was a funny thing.  I cannot recall before such a definitive onslaught.  I was literally standing on the Metro Tuesday morning when all of a sudden I felt myself getting sick.  An hour later, I was coughing and sneezing to beat the band and my eyes were practically swollen shut.)

With fall O-ficially starting Monday, I suppose it’s time to plant chrysanthemums in the half-barrels in front of Port Swiller Manor.  Why, exactly, is there such an association between mums and fall?  In fact, I don’t even like the things very much. They don’t smell very nice and I’m no fan of that kind of heavy, multi-petalled flower.

But it’s fall, so it’s mums.  That’s just the way things are, I suppose.

UPDATE:  Okay, that was a stupid question, I admit, but as I say, I’m still getting over being sick and I also posed it before getting outside my second cup of covfefe, so I hope you’ll just let it pass without throwing derisive walnuts at me.  I maintain my point about not being fond of mums, however.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Another beautiful early fall morning on the grounds of Port Swiller Manor.  I didn’t need to bother with the lawn today, so spent most of it just pottering about.

Out in the butterfly garden, where the buddleia are all overgrown and still blooming pretty heavily, I’d say that this year’s war against the morning glories has been for the most part successful, as they only really managed to partially tangle up one bush without my noticing it.  It’s now late enough in the year that I won’t worry about fighting them any longer.

While poking around, I noticed today a number of young foxgloves suddenly coming up.  I used to have a fair patch of them at one end of the garden, but they had pretty much dwindled away a year or two ago, so I was surprised to see new ones appear now.  Ol’ Robbo loves him some foxglove.  Seeing these, it came back to my mind that I really ought to put a bed of them in under the cluster of maples we have in one corner of the back yard.  I can’t think why I haven’t done it before, except that I have a vague recollection Mrs. R was worried the Gels, when toddlers, might have tried to eat them.

Speaking of eating, the groundhog who lives in my yard has been raiding my raspberry bushes.  Dratted varmint.  Decanter Dog’s ruling passion is to some day catch him, but it’s probably just as well she’s unlikely ever to do so. I’d bet those things can be formidable when cornered.

I’ll be interested to see what happens with my hedge of forsythia next spring.  I razed it to the ground this year and gave it a good feed, and now it’s sprung back up, albeit a little on the spindly side.   If it flowers well, I can pat myself on the back.  If not, I’ll just have to admit finally that it has got too old, dig it all out, and plant new ones.

Ol’ Robbo has mentioned here from time to time the pachysandra we put in the ditch out by the street last summah.  I’m happy to report that, other than where the snow-pack from the plowing killed it off right by the road,  it has really started to take off this year.  Another year or two and I think it will have filled in quite nicely.  Ol’ Robbo was quite proud of the dodge he worked out last year of placing a soaker hose uphill of the bed in order to water it at need, but I’m even happier that I’ve had no occasion to do so this year, what with all the rain we’ve had.

Finally, watching a hummingbird at the feeder just now, I got to wondering how much longer I can expect to see them round here.  What is it in their brains that one day says, “Yup, time to pack it up and head for Mexico”?  Other birds do it too, of course, but the hummers’ migration has always been especially mind-boggling to me.

UPDATE:  Beautiful early fall morning? Meet beautiful early fall evening!  There are those what say one should give up G&T’s (like seersucker and white shoes) after Labor Day.  Ol’ Robbo isn’t quite so rigid about this but prefers to go by the weather:  Once it gets cool enough, one wants to switch over to the Laphroaig.  But we’re not really there just yet. (Not that I really touch the hard stuff much anymore, and you better not tell my doctor, but once in a way it certainly hits the spot.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Labor Day!

Ol’ Robbo is marking the day by basically loafing in his hammock.  Because after all,  in this age of Inclusiveness Uber Alles, surely it’s of the utmost importance that those who sit about on their duffs also be celebrated today every bit as much as those who work.  (And if you disagree, you’re a hater!)

As a matter of fact, I view this day simply as a marker of the end of Summah and return of Autumn.  The “Labor” in the title is too closely associated in my mind with Marxist economic theory and the misery its many forms have spread about the world over time.  It’s simply a collectivist monster.  And the “worker” at the root of such theory has no individual meaning, no individual value.  He’s merely a pawn, a cog in a greater machine, cannon-fodder for his political masters and easily eliminated when no longer needed.  Hardly something worth raising a glass about.

No, for a proper celebration of the worth and merit of an individual’s labors, I prefer to celebrate May 1, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker.

Funny enough, the Mothe’s father was some kind of union organizer back in the 30’s.  (I know no more specifics than that.)  In those days she told me, he swallowed Uncle Joe Stalin’s promise of a glorious worker’s paradise hook, line, and sinker.  However, after the War when the truth began to get out, he swung completely over to the other end of the spectrum.  Supposedly, he named his dog “Harry Truman” so that he could stand out on his front steps and yell, “Truman! Come here, you son of a bitch!”

Yes, Grampa Joe was a little nutz.  I only remember meeting him once, when I was six or seven, and even my tender mind noticed it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some important nothing to do…….


** Without looking it up, I’m pretty sure this (or something much like it) is a line from one of Wodehouse’s School Stories.

UPDATE:  Well, Ol’ Robbo was going to cook out this evening, but Ma Nature pawned me.  She sent down one thundershower early to get my attention, and then kept threatening a second one until past the point when I needed to fire up the coals.  In my younger, rasher days, I would have shaken my fist at the sky in defiance and gone all in.  This time?  I blinked and cooked everything on the stove top instead.  Of course, the second t-shower failed to materialize.  Well played, Ma.  Well played.

And speaking of such things, I gather we find out in the next 24 to 48 hours whether Middle Gel is going to be shooed out of the Tidewater because of Hurricane Dorian.  She got the boot this time last year because of Hurricane Florence, so she’d be batting two for two over her college career if she comes home again.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

So is Ol’ Robbo supposed to set his hair on fire about Hurricane Dorian or not?  Because this match is beginning to burn my fing……YOUCH!

Meanwhile, we’re reached that point in the year when the change in the light owing to the shift of the sun’s angle becomes definitely noticeable.  I’ve always loved that.

We’re also getting some change in leaf color.  They’re also beginning to fall in a thin yet constant stream.  Again, this is all a couple weeks early for round here.  We’re about due for a hard winter.  Wonder if this means we’ll get one?

Speaking of leaves, I notice that the ferns on my back porch have become extra-shaggy.  They always seem to go through a growth spurt right at the end of summah.  In a minor bit of gardening triumph, I may say that three of them are last year’s plants which we brought inside over the winter and put back out this spring.  The fourth is a replacement for one which we kept inside.  Even though the three were a bit scraggly at the beginning of the season, you cannot tell any difference between them and the new fourth one.  We’ll probably bring them all inside again this year and see if we can repeat that success in the spring.

The porch potted palm has not been such a success.  It survived the winter inside but really hasn’t grown much at all this year.

Gazing further afield.  I’ve been promising myself for years that come fall I was going to dig up and separate out the root balls of some or all of my peonies.  Well, I’m really going to do it this year.  Stop laughing.

I have two regular hummingbirds at my feeder this year.  They’re both female, one somewhat bigger than the other, and spend a lot of time fighting each other.  Ornery little critters, hummers are.

Whelp, suppose I’d better go mow the lawn……

UPDATE:  Speaking of hair on fire, I read somewhere this week that 16 y.o. climate “activist” Greta Thunberg said she “couldn’t tolerate” people who are skeptical about global warming.

By a curious coincidence, Ol’ Robbo can’t tolerate precocious, delusional teenagers.  So I guess we’re even.

(Actually, what I really can’t tolerate is the people using this poor kid as a prop to advance their politickal agenda.  That’s child abuse, that is.)



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ah…..First cool front of the season and an almost frighteningly beautiful morning here at Port Swiller Manor!  It’s going to be one of those days in which Ol’ Robbo looks for extra things to do just as an excuse to stay out in the yard that much longer.

This weather is about three weeks early this year, our first cool push usually coming around the second week of September.  (Remember 9/11?)  I guess that means that creepy Swedish child-prophetess of Mother Gaia can turn her boat around and go right back where she came from.  And if she cares to take Bernie Sandernista and his latest Green Nude Eel (which calls, I believe, for the beggaring of the entire population and the literal ritualistic sacrifice of anyone associated with energy production), well, I for one would not complain.

Whelp, time to go revel and frolic.

UPDATE:  When Ol’ Robbo was but a grade-schooler, one of his proudest achievements was learning the vocabulary word “serendipity”.  The grass this morning was tall and very wet from yesterday’s rain, and a hard slog for my mower.  That it ran out of gas just after I completed my final pass across the yard was truly serendipitous.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Today was Robbo’s work-from-home day and what a delightful one (to me) it turned out to be: cool and rainy and more like early October than late August.  My thermometer dropped down into the high 60’s late in the morning and hasn’t budged since.  Ol’ Robbo set up his work station out on the porch and even after a couple cups of kawfee was chilled enough to go get a sweatshirt.

I’ll take this kind of weather any day.

And since I know all you friends of the decanter are just itching to ask the question, no, I didn’t have a deviled ham sammich for lunch today, it being Friday and all.  Instead, I had a simple little toasted cheese snack that I like to make:  Take English muffin halves and place on a baking sheet.  Put a pat of butter on each and top off with liberal sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese.  Broil on high until muffins are toasted to taste, the butter having melted and helped to distribute the cheese more evenly.  Mrs. Robbo objects to this snack because she hates the smell of the cheese toasting, but I rather like it.  Fortunately, she was away at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method getting her classroom ready for the start of school, so I was able to feast in peace.

And now…..the weekend!

UPDATE:  As Ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nationals had a day game this afternoon (in which they thumped the Cubbies in fine style), I went back to my movie horde this evening for a little entertainment.

As I had mentioned somewhere or other recently, Eldest had recommended I give “The Brothers Grimm” a try because she knows I’m a fan of (some**) Terry Gilliam movies.  I had tossed it in my Netflix queue and jumped it to the front in the hope that we could watch it together before she went back to school.  Well, that didn’t work out.  And perhaps it was just as well.  I got through about 20 minutes of the thing before I gave up in disgust.  I can’t really articulate why I found no sympathy for it, it simply didn’t click for me.

Instead, I found that TCM is doing a Fred and Ginger marathon today, so I watched “Top Hat“, a movie I haven’t seen in donkeys’ years.  Good Lawd Almighty, was that man light on his feet!  (And a strident perfectionist.  Somewhere or other, I recall reading that he once said to Ginger Rogers in their early days, “Don’t be nervous.  But don’t screw up.”)  Anyhoo, it was pleasant to watch again, even if it is pure mid-30’s over-the-top spectacle.

So an evening’s entertainment salvaged.


** “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen” is one of my very favorite films.  I first saw it in a theatre with a young lady who was far more interested in me than in what was on the screen. (Shut up! It happened sometimes back in the day!)   I still feel rather a cad in that I was so captivated by the movie that I, er, declined her alternate entertainment suggestions.  “Time Bandits” is another favorite because it’s both goofy and weird.  “Brazil” I appreciate rather than enjoy, and I only watch it when in the darkest throes of cynicism.  (Why the hell would a hard leftie like Gilliam make such a dystopian flick and not understand that what he believes in leads exactly and invariably to that?)  Also, I will here again recommend “Lost In La Mancha” which is a “behind the scenes” extra which turned into a documentary on Gilliam’s failed attempt to do a Don Quixote movie.  A fascinating piece on the travails of film-making.

The rest of his stuff you can keep.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A nasty hot and humid day here at Port Swiller Manor and far too unpleasant for any heavy outdoor lifting.  Instead, after cutting back the wisteria on the porch stairs that was threatening to eat the bird-feeder whole, I just slapped down a layer of weed n’ feed on the lawn and called it a day.  A pro-tip about weed n’ feed:  If you’ve got some left in a bag and hope to use it in the future, make sure you clamp the bag shut very tightly.  I had some left over from this spring but moisture had somehow got in and it was like trying to spread used clumping kitty-litter.  (Fortunately, I had another unopened bag.)

Who else here finds a true pleasure in using a Scott’s rotary spreader?  To me there is something eminently satisfying about watching the thing cast its load about.  And it’s also satisfying to flip on the edging lever and dance in right up next to the garden beds, secure in the knowledge that they will remain unaffected.  (There’s no good reason one couldn’t use the thing to spread ice-melt on the driveway, right?)  Perhaps I’m just a weirdo.

By the bye, I take back my reservations about the kawfee-maker Eldest brought home.  Based on her recommendation, I stopped fooling about with the more  zipped up options and tried brewing just a regular cuppa.  It was actually quite good.  Also based on her recommendation, after getting done outside today I tried the “brew over ice” option which slows down the drip rate so as not to overwhelm the ice and melt it.  It made a very nice glass of iced kawfee, indeed, which I am sipping even as I type.  (For those of you interested, the Mayorga Café Cubano is the house kawfee at Port Swiller Manor.  It’s da bomb.)

UPDATE:  As I described the weather earlier as “nasty hot and humid”, a voice in the back of my head was saying, “Self, if this doesn’t gin up a thunderstorm later, then it’s just not fair.”  Well, Ma Nature teased all afternoon, but now in the gentle evenfall we’re getting just that.  And the really nice part is that the sun is almost down so there’s no chance of things hotting back up once it’s over.  The storm doesn’t seem to be moving very much at all, but rayther simply bubbled up right over us.  Sometimes one gets a bit o’ luck.

UPDATE DEUX:  Stopped by AccuWeather on my way to catch the Nats’ game and my analysis was confirmed by radar.  One stationary cell right overhead and not another echo for a hundred miles.  Considering how many storms miss Port Swiller Manor, sometimes seemingly deliberately, I feel perfectly justified in gloating just a bit.  And no, I’m not a nerd.  Why do you ask?

UPDATE TROIS:  Sunday afternoon, I counted no fewer than forty butterflies – mostly, but by no means exclusively, Eastern Tiger Swallowtails – messing about in my Buddleia garden.  That’s got to be worth something.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The surprisingly cool weather I referred to in the post below last evening stuck around Port Swiller Manor today.  According to my porch thermometer, it’s only in the upper 70’s at the moment, the air is nice and dry, and there’s a lovely breeze.  I shall grill out in comfort this evening, oh, you betcha.

I was reading up on how to overseed one’s lawn this afternoon, something I really think I should do, as I haven’t done much more than mow it in nearly twenty years and it’s got quite elderly.  Alas, the steps one seems to need to take just to get the thing ready to receive new seed seem pretty daunting.  Mine is pretty overrun with weeds, which would need to be got rid of first.  Then there’s the biznay of hogging back the current grass and dethatching it.  Then there’s the biznay of going over the thing with an aerator (which I’d have to rent).  Only after that are you supposed to actually put the seed down.  Then you have to put down a thin layer of mulch and spend the next few weeks constantly watering it.

It’d be one thing if I didn’t have anything else to do with myself.  But there’s that whole “earning money so the wimminfolk can spend it” thing getting in the way.  I suppose I could call around to some local lawncare companies and price out the job.  But every time I start considering that, my Scots Presbyterian ancestry kicks in and tells me the yard is green enough as it is and I shouldn’t be throwing away money on vanities.

I guess Ol’ Robbo will just have to toss this idea back into the “pending” tray in his braim and perhaps revisit it another time.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, here we are, finally in the right Dog Days of Summah.  Although there seems to be no formal consensus as to when they technically begin and end, for Ol’ Robbo said pooch-time has always fallen from the beginning of August through the first week of September.  Not a whole lot needs doing outdoors except watering the various pots and half-whiskey barrels scattered about.

I’m sure I will be told otherwise by my Betters, but so far this seems to have been a pretty typical summah in my part of the Great Commonwealth of Virginny.  We’ve had a couple of upper-90’s surges, but at least at Port Swiller Manor we haven’t cracked triple digits that I can recall.  For the most part we’ve hovered in the upper-80’s/low-90’s range, and there have been very few evenings when it’s been just too damn hot to eat dinner out on the porch.  Hopefully, Ma Nature will continue to restrain herself for the next five to six weeks.

Which reminds me:  That the worst of the summah and wintah weather always occurs after the respective solstices, and that their effects can linger so far into the fall and spring, has always felt a bit counter-intuitive to Ol’ Robbo.  I’ve read up on the scientific explanation for this lag but still, it just doesn’t seem right.

But what do I know.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No gardening to report at Port Swiller Manor today because Ol’ Robbo cleverly got it all done yesterday and Thursday.

In fact, I did have one project planned for this morning.  As I have mentioned here from time to time, the Manor sits on a hillside, downhill from the street and sidewalk, and run-off has been an on-going issue ever since we got here.  When the rain gets heavy enough to overwhelm the field drains in the front, the water cuts across the yard and goes round the side of the house down a short, steep drop.  In order to limit the erosive effect of this, a few years back we cleared out the area and put in a bed of river stones.

The bed works well enough for any normal rainfall, but that insane downpour (three inches in an hour, I’m told) we had a couple weeks back actually made a mess of it.  A lot of the stones were rolled to the bottom while others were shoved in under seams in the underlying liner, which itself got pulled off its anchors at the top of the slope.  (It’s scary what waterpower can do when it wants to.)

So Ol’ Robbo has to fix it up again.  Unfortunately, the stones are of such a size that they can’t be raked or shoveled conveniently, so the job is going to involve literally tossing them about.  Also, I have to pick out the larger ones with which the bed is framed and put them back in their place, which will be a tedious biznay.

In fact, my plan was to hire a kid, a friend of the family looking to make a little extra pocket money, to help me out.  Unfortunately, he had to go to an unexpected funeral today, so understandably bailed on me.  Given that, and given that I’m still technically on hols until Monday, I just said the hell with it.




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