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

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I don’t know about you, but Ol’ Robbo is still trying to shake off the effects of Thanksgiving Weekend, about which I updated below. So just a few things:

Regarding our travels, I don’t know if it was just a function of our departure times, but there was virtually no traffic on the roads either down-bound to North Carolina Thursday morning, nor on the return Saturday. Has anybody put out any figgahs on holiday traffic this year as compared to others? Not that I’m complaining, mind. It was pure bliss to sail through so quietly and I believe I beat my own best time going both ways.

Similarly, Mrs. R and teh Gels, gluttons for punishment, sallied forth to the local malls on “Black Friday” and report the crowds were very small, indeed.


And now here we are in Advent. I discovered yesterday, much to my surprise, that I had no candles for my table wreath (I thought I had) so had to make a hasty order. I’m also in a quandary about the greens with which to decorate it. The one fir tree in my yard is now devoid of needled branches within reach from the top of my ladder and I’m getting too old to climb up higher. On the other hand, it’s ridiculous to buy yards of garland or an extra door wreath just to pirate the doings. I’m considering just using laurel and holly cuttings this year, although those dry out pretty fast and have to be replaced continually. Heigh-ho.


On a completely different note, Ol’ Robbo has been watching a teevee program recently called “Pivotal Battles of American History” (or something like that), hosted by Kelsey Grammer, of all people. I’ve seen episodes about Brooklyn, Bunker Hill, and Yorktown, and also most recently one about First Bull Run. Generally, although overly-condensed in some places, I find the history to be reasonably good. However, I see that there’s going to be one about Little Big Horn. Ol’ Robbo won’t watch this one on the grounds that it was not a “pivotal battle” and is only in the series to get eyeballs. Little Big Horn was, at best, a heavy skirmish. And although it was very important to the men actually involved and to their families, it played no significant part in the overall course of events, either in the Sioux Campaign specifically or in western history in general. So there. (One of these days I’m going to post on the uncanny similarities between that battle and the British disaster at Isandlwana in 1879.)


Well, that’s enough to go on for now. I suppose I’d better get on with digging out all the bumf that stacked up on my desk during my absense.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

For some months now, Ol’ Robbo’s FacePlant feed has been peppered by ads from the Nelson County, Virginny** Visitor Center inviting me to enjoy a “Dark Skies” vacation there. The ads are meant to trumpet the joys and importance of a pristine night sky, but they feature dimly-lit cabins and make me think mostly of axe-murders.

And just this morning I got an email from the local Park Authority touting its own “Dark Skies” event “to celebrate and learn about the importance of dark skies in our community.” The event promises the “opportunity to participate in hands-on activities.” The imagination boggles.

Look, I get that a dark night sky is aesthetically pleasing and good for nocturnal animals and all the rest of it. But “light pollution” is a cost of civilization and that’s all there is to it. No amount of harumphing about it will change this. Want a really dark sky? Move to North Korea:

They’ve got it figured out.

** Nelson County is the home of the real-life family which became teevee’s “The Waltons” – and here I’ve just dated myself. Ol’ Robbo also heard long ago that in its time it was a bootlegging hotbed. It was said that in Nelson County, when the moon came over the mountain it did so in quart jars. (I snark about these things because the Nelson County cops are vicious about speeding and over the years I have had several very close calls there running up and down U.S. 29.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Veterans’ Day!

Ol’ Robbo is not going to comment on the events from earlier this week, in part because this isn’t really a politickal blog, in part because we don’t even actually know for sure what happened, and in part because if I paid any attention to all the spin being furiously spun my neck would snap. We shall see. We shall see.

In the meanwhile, we’re getting a good bit of rain today from what’s left of Hurricane Nicole, soaking all the leaves that are down and guaranteeing that Ol’ Robbo is going to have a bad time cleaning them up tomorrow. (And I need to make major gains tomorrow because starting Sunday the temperature is going to drop right off, making yardwork that much more unpleasant.) Heigh-ho.

Last evening Ol’ Robbo re-watched “The Shop Around the Corner” (1940), the delightful little romantic comedy with Jimmy Stewart, Margaret Sullivan, and the Great and Powerful Oz (aka Frank Morgan). I’d only seen it once before and remembered there was something or other about it that I had bookmarked in my brain, but was surprised when Morgan turned up. “Oh, that’s what it was!” I said to myself. Fortunately, I said it internally. I’m one of those people who love to cross-reference actors while watching a movie. (“Oh, yes, he was so-and-so in such-and-such.”) Mrs. R is one of many who can’t stand people like me when it comes to this habit, so I do my best to suppress it when she’s around. It can be hard sometimes.

Well I suppose this turned out to be a pretty random post after all. My apologies. I’ve been wicked busy with work lately and haven’t had much time or energy to focus on anything else.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was pleased to see this story pop up on his FacePlant feed – “Fall color is peaking in D.C.’s suburbs. Many say it’s the best in years.” It’s behind a paywall and damme if I’m giving a single dime to Pravda on the Potomac, but the headline speaks for itself and supports what I’ve been saying for a few weeks now. The colors definitely are better this year than they have been for a long while.

Why this might be I don’t know, but I continue to suspect that rainfall has something to do with it. The past few years we’ve been in a pattern of something near drought starting in late summah and early fall. That didn’t happen this year, as we continue to receive the needfull on a regular basis. Whether this is the determining factor I can’t say, but I’ll bet credits to navy beans it’s a contributing one.

At any event, the trees have been lovely.

But now the leaves are coming down fast and furious and Ol’ Robbo unexpectedly found himself starting his first major clearing late yesterday. The truth is that I also found myself enjoying it: the weather is fantastic at the moment, the leaves are nice and dry, and all is well. But as somebody pointed out, it’s not the first pick-up that’s the bad one, it’s the next. And the next. And the next.…..

Whelp, no matter. I must needs get out and finish clearing the ditch out front and then take the mower to the ones on the lawn. And keep trying to enjoy it before I get heartily sick of it.

Later, gators.

UPDATE: Okay, the part that’s never enjoyable? Finish out front, go out back, finish out back, come back around front only to see that it already looks like I didn’t do much of anything. In some corners of the blogsphere, that would be known as almost Chuy-level cruelty. I just remind myself that the already sizeable pile of leaves in the woods is that many more that I won’t have to deal with later on. One tries to be philosophical. The only other path is madness.

And speaking of which, a reminder to U.S. readers to turn your clocks back tonight. By now I suppose you’ve heard or read that the promise of our lords and masters in Congress to do away with this nonsensical chopping and changing made earlier this year has come to nothing? It would seem so. Well, you know how it is: What with money-laundering, influence-peddling, and holding kangaroo courts on politickal bogeymen, these utilitarian measures that would have some actual benefit to the publick tend to get lost. The first priority of Power is keeping Power. Everything (and everyone) else is an also-ran.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, it’s that time of year when every Saturday starts to include multiple trips out into the woods behind Port Swiller Manor with a tarp full of leaves (from the driveway, sidewalks, and front ditch) over my shoulder and the heavier footwear is indicated. As regular friends of the decanter will already know, I’ll be griping about this steadily well into January.

In the meantime, mowing the lawn is as much about mulching (other) leaves as it is cutting grass. Ol’ Robbo actually loves this. There is a very pleasing sense of order from chaos when I behold the sharp line between the bright, green grass over which I’ve already passed and the jumbled yellows, reds, and browns of the way in front of me.

Of course, this is only a fleeting illusion since the leaves continue to come down. One of our first blog friends back in the earlies was a site called TexasBestGrok. His tag line read, “Like cutting water with a knife”. I often think about that this time of year.

But isn’t that the story of Civilization anyway?

By the bye, the word is doubtlessly flying about the decanter: Where are Ol’ Robbo’s Bean boots? Well, I generally save those for the colder, wetter weather. This pair of Timberlands actually has a bit of a history. Something over ten years ago I had to go out to the Quad Cities to take some depositions. I swear that I checked the weather prior to the trip and nothing was in the forecast. However, when we got to Chicago we learned that a blizzard was inbound in the next day or so. I’d brought nothing but regular shoes with me. Fortunately, my colleague was from the western burbs and knew of an outlet mall right along the highway we were taking, so I stopped in and bought these. As it turned out, I certainly needed them. (I tried to expense them as a biznay necessity when I got back but was indignantly declined.) Anyhoo, they’ve held up very well ever since.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A lovely autumnal day here in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor, cool and bright.

Ol’ Robbo got a real treat this morning. I had to drag myself out of bed at oh-dark-thirty to take Mrs. R to the airport. (She flew out to see the elder Gels for a couple nights. I gather they’re going to a local wine festival tomorrow. “Indiana” and “wine” are not two words I would normally associate with each other. I’ll be interested in the report.)

Ol’ Robbo dislikes airport drops, especially in the dark, as I don’t see very well (especially when still half asleep) and people are idjits, but eventually I managed to maneuver through, send off the Missus, and break back out.

And then came the treat. Coming back east on the highway I had a huge, clear sky in front of me. From pitch dark at its top, it shaded steadily lighter down to the horizon where, just above the tree-line, it held the slightest suggestion of an almost salmon color. And the crescent moon rode above it all.

Heavenly. In every meaning of the word.

Of course, it was still dark when I got home so I went back to bed. (Another treat.)

As regular readers will know, a crew was here working on the basement all week. Ol’ Robbo was concerned that their constant tramping back and forth across the front yard was going to do bad things to the grass, but when I went out to mow today, it seemed this wasn’t the case. Trampled a bit, yes, but not torn up. (They’ve got about a half day’s worth of work left and things are looking really good. I suppose it says something about Ol’ Robbo’s age and station that I am genuinely excited to see a new sump pump installed.)

Friends of the decanter may recall the great maple downing of last year. After I cleaned up all the lesser branches myself, I had a crew cut up the larger ones and the trunk into logs, which are still sitting in a pile outside my back gate. They’re all at least a foot and a half or better in diameter. Perhaps a bit overly-ambitious, a week or two after they were cut up I took a wedge and a sledge-hammer and tried to split one of them. I don’t pretend to be the strongest guy in the world but I’m no weakling, either. That said, it was like trying to split iron. I was looking them over again this morning, thinking of having another go. Now that they’ve had better than a year to season, I’m hoping for more positive results.

Well, that’s that and Ol’ Robbo must be off to seek out his din-dins. Weiner schnitzel and potato pancakes for me tonight! (Yet another treat. A meal I only make when Mrs. R is not around in deference to her sensibilities. I try to explain that if God didn’t want us to eat the veals He wouldn’t have made them so tasty, but she isn’t persuaded.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A lovely day here in teh neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor. The trees are definitely turning now and it seems to Ol’ Robbo that there is more color this year than for some time past.*** As I’ve mentioned here, we’ve had quite a bit of rain pretty consistent throughout the year, so perhaps this does, indeed, have something to do with it. We’re in for a cold snap this coming week, so that ought to really bring things along, too.

Certainly the leaves are starting to come down, too, and Ol’ Robbo had his first bout of genuine raking this morning, although all I did was clear the wet ones off the driveway. We live downhill from the street and what with the traffic, have need of making jack-rabbit starts when leaving. Wet leaves can be as slippery as ice, so I never let them build up if I can help it. The only other outdoor chore was giving the grass another liming.

It’s as well that my yard list was short and sweet. Yesterday evening, Ol’ Robbo casually asked Mrs. R, “Do we know when they’re coming to start working on the basement?”

“Oh, yes,” she said, “They’re starting Monday. I told you already.”

For the record, I don’t believe she did, but I can’t prove it and I didn’t want to push the point for fear of being accused of fogeyism.

Still, grrrrrrrrr……

That meant Ol’ Robbo had to get everything out of the way so that the fellahs have unobstructed access to two of the walls. This entailed a good bit of pushing around furniture and stacking things up in corners. It is entirely too much like moving for my taste.

It also entailed emptying numerous bookcases. Mrs. R has been after me for years to simply throw most of the books in these cases away, arguing that they’re dusty and moldy, and that I never read them anyway. I’m not saying she’s wrong, necessarily – the basement library consists mainly of my old law school texts, duplicates, and the “Shelves of Shame” to which I’ve banished all those Establishment Republican authors I used to believe in good faith. But I’m a packrat by nature and ten times so when it comes to books, and I just can’t bring myself to do what Mrs. R wants.

We have a loo in the basement, the walls of which being among those subject to repair, which also meant that fixtures had to be moved (except the tub, fortunately). The project manager had suggested that I hire an electrician and a plumber to do so. I definitely took his advice regarding the former, a cardinal rule of Ol’ Robbo’s handy-man activities being that I don’t fool with electricity. But the latter? Even I’m not so dim that I don’t know how to disconnect water and drain lines, and as to detaching the vanity from the wall, it was simply a matter of brute force.

It’s estimated the project will take two weeks. The implications of having people banging around in the basement and Decanter Dog going ballistic non-stop while I’m trying to concentrate on work during that time are really just now beginning to sink in on me.

***I understand the colors are at or near their peak out in the Blue Ridge. The thought of a relaxed spin along Skyline Drive to take them in is, in itself, lovely. The problem is that it occurs to so many people at the same time that one would spend the entire drive with his eyes locked on the cars in front and behind , thus squashing flat any urge Ol’ Robbo would have to take such a trip.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope you all had an enjoyable Columbus Day weekend.

For Ol’ Robbo’s part, I have little to report. Per my post below about Mrs. R’s nesting activities, I spent a goodish bit of time moving some furniture out and other furniture in, thoroughly whacking my shins in the process.

I over-seeded the yard. Whether this has any effect is up to Ma Nature now. I’ve done my part.

The Former Llama Military Correspondent (remember him, anybody?) was in town for the annual Army Ten-Miler on Sunday, so of course we put him up at Port Swiller Manor. It’s probably not the best race prep to stay up way late the night before jawing, but the LMC was a good sport about it.

It’s also not the best thing when one has to haul oneself out of bed for early Mass, but Robbo’s in-laws are in town on their annual snowbird migration to Flariduh and that meant Sunday Brunch, so there it was. As it happened, the padre’s homily focused on an issue that has been much on my mind recently, so it all worked out. (I love when that happens.)

And that’s about it other than the fact that I spent every spare moment I could with Parkman’s epic account of North American colonial history. Frontenac has faced down the Iroquois. Queen Anne’s War has passed, as has the War of the Austrian Succession. It’s now 1754 and France and England are about to square off for the final showdown. Stay tuned.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo unexpectedly finds himself at the front end of a four day weekend, having forgot all about Columbus Day until late yesterday afternoon. I do not complain.


It’s just as well because in the “slowly then all at once” category we’re now informed that all the permits have been granted and the engineers can start in on our basement next week. This will involve Ol’ Robbo moving a bunch of furniture out of the way and also disconnecting the sink and potty in the downstairs loo. (And me with my back still hurting from hauling Eldest’s dresser down the stairs earlier this week.)


Did you see where the USDA is launching a “People’s Garden” initiative? At present, participation is voluntary. At the next stage, it doubtless will be mandatory. Know what the term “People’s” always reminds Ol’ Robbo of? I’ve only sat all the way through “Dr. Zhivago” the one time because after the seven hundredth reprise of “Lara’s Theme”, my ears started to bleed. But I still recall the scene where the Doctor finds his house has been commandeered by the Bolshies in the name of the “People”. “But I am the People, too!” he exclaims.

Pro-tip: Wherever Collectivism rears its head, no you’re not.


And speaking of the Russians, they told me that if I voted for the Bad Orange Man we would find ourselves on the brink of nuclear war – and they were right!


Well, on a much more mundane note, Ol’ Robbo strung a new set of bistro lights around the Port Swiller Manor back porch this week, replacing the old strings of Christmas tree mini-lights which were aging and darkening in batches. With this move I am much pleased – not only are they neater looking, they throw just enough light for me to read by when it’s dark out. And as the days draw ever more in, this becomes all the more important. (And by the bye, yes, we are still “falling back” to Standard Time this year – on November 6. Bleh. I tried to do a bit of research on where the move to finally kill clock-changing stands, but as with most things gubmint-related, it seems to have become something of a muddle.)


And just what is Ol’ Robbo reading at the moment, you ask? Well, he’s deep into his Francis Parkman. It’s 1689, the Iroquois are posed to wipe New France off the map, and Count Frontenac is on his way back to Quebec to save its bacon. Exciting “skin of their teeth” stuff. Ol’ Robbo is reminded again of an old blog post somewhere touting Catholic halloween costumes, one of which was a Jesuit Missionary. “Just add Hurons!” read the caption. I larfed and larfed (and still do).


Well, with that I suppose I should be about things. Although, as I say, I have a long weekend, that’s only from my paying job.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

What with the remains of Hurricane Ian drifting through at the moment, Ol’ Robbo gets a bye on yardwork today. (We’re getting some much-appreciated rain and just a little -distinctly non-tropical – breeze, but that’s it.) About the only thing to note is that I am officially taking down the hummingbird feeder for the season and also replacing the aging strand of Christmas-tree lights on the back porch with a new set of outdoor “bistro” lights. Tres chic.

My old mother used to refer to me as a lucky idiot because although I have been in sticky situations, I usually manage to land on my feet. I believe this may just have happened again. Regular friends of the decanter will know that Youngest Gel is on spring break in New Zealand, she and her chums having set up shop in a hostel in Queenstown, a pretty little mountain resort on the South Island. From the pics and reports I’ve seen, the Gel is having a blast, but among the planned items on the agenda was a little matter of sky-diving. I need not elaborate on what I thought about that. Whelp, they had originally planned to do the jump last Saturday, but it got cancelled due to bad weather so they rescheduled to this weekend. However, if the report I got late last night (they’re seventeen hours ahead of us) is correct, Youngest scrubbed this time because of some kind of sinus issue. And I believe they head back to school very shortly, kyboshing any further attempts in the immediate future.

If being a lucky idiot is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

UPDATE: Ruh-roh, it would seem Ol’ Robbo typed a tad prematurely. Turns out she’s going to try again in the next day or so. I’d guess asking my Guardian Angel to step in and break it all up a third time would be a bit much. I suppose the next best thing is to pray for happy landings.

UPDATE DEUX: Second (and last) attempt scrubbed. The Gel’s ears were still bothering her too much. Robbo’s GA for the hat trick!


Blog Stats

  • 497,117 hits
December 2022