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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The latest Storm of the Century of the Week left a dusting of snow at Port Swiller Manor this morning, with more supposedly coming later on this afternoon.

It’s a very curious thing:  Decanter Dog positively loathes rain, and will almost literally cross her legs and hold herself in all day rather than going out into the wet.  But with snow?  She reverts to pure puppydom and demands to be let out every ten minutes just to run about in it.  Having had all my previous dog-ownership experience in the South Texas of my misspent yoot,  I’ve no idea if this is a kink particular to her or if it is a more general doggeh thing.

In anticipation of the snow, I filled up the bird feeders yesterday.  As I look out the window now, I count among others eight, that’s eight, pairs of cardinals.  “Let’s all go round to Robbo’s” is the catch-phrase of the local avian population.  Especially during winter, I have to fight myself sometimes about rationing the feed and sticking to my rule about only filling the feeders once a week.  If I caved in, the little welfare-cheats would bankrupt me.

On the vegetation front, I also notice buds on the camellia immediately outside the window, as well as buds on the maple nearest the house.  And the daffodils are already starting to come up. Too bad, I guess.  We haven’t really had any extended cold spells yet this year but we’re about to enter our first.

And it’s funny.  As I say, we haven’t had anything like a hard winter yet, but I can’t remember ever being this impatient this early in the year to get the whole damn thing over with and get on with spring.  That feeling doesn’t usually hit until some time toward the end of February.  (Now that I think on it, this might be because this is the first winter at my new office.  It’s a longer commute, which means I’m spending more time travelling in the dark.)

Oh, well.

Now if you’ll all excuse me, the dog wants to be let out again……

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Is there some kind of postal regulation that gives a mail carrier the discretion not to serve a box if, in his opinion, it doesn’t meet a given set of safety and anchoring requirements?  Ol’ Robbo is inclined to think there must be, as it’s the only reason that comes to mind to explain why Port Swiller Manor has been boycotted the past couple days by our mailman.  (The only other reason I could think of is that we’ve become victims of the “cancel culture”, but there’s nothing visible outside to give us away as potential targets, and I doubt if the USPS is organized or competent enough to carry out such a campaign on a systemic level.)

What happened was this:  A few weeks back, our box got clipped again for the umpteenth time since we’ve lived here.  The snowplows often get it, but we have our fair share of “clear conditions” hits, too.  One wouldn’t think this likely, since the road is quite straight with a modest uphill grade, but people manage it nonetheless.

This particular strike revealed that the wooden base that sits athwart the crossbars and on which the box is anchored has rotted out over time.  Not having the time to attend to it properly, I just wedged it all back together.  Since then, it’s been disintegrating steadily, and a couple days ago I was reduced to just setting the box atop the wreckage.

I suppose this was just too much for postie.  Not only has he not delivered our mail the past two days, he hasn’t picked up our outgoing stuff either.  (The neighbors confirm they haven’t had any issues.)  He might at least have told us, you know.  Or perhaps slapped a “condemned” sticker on the box.

Anyhoo, all this prompted Ol’ Robbo to get off his duff and fix the damn thing properly this morning.  This entailed ripping out all the rotten stuff, digging some fresh lumber out of the workshop, measuring, sawing, and hammering.  I must say that there is a certain keen enjoyment in successfully completing a job like this (and without getting hit by a car myself).  And, if I may say so, that mailbox ain’t going nowhere now.

At least until the next time somebody hits it.

UPDATE:  My surmise seems to have been correct.  The box was full of the usual bills, catalogues, and college solicitations this afternoon when I got home. Evidently, the postal gods have been appeased.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Per the post below, Ol’ Robbo finds himself loitering about awaiting the garage door repair guy this cold Saturday morning.  So let’s get to it.

♦  Even as I type, I’m watching the wisteria on the porch stairs dropping its leaves, as we had our first really hard freeze this week.  Guess who forgot to pull the ferns off the porch before this happened.  **Whistles, shifts eyes hither and yon**

♦  Another thing I haven’t got round to yet is putting the back seat side panels back on La Wrangler.  I suppose I ought to do so, especially as there’s actually a chance of snow Tuesday, but cold canvas is such a pain to deal with.  Also, the increasing darkness reminds me that half my dashboard lights are out.  I can’t read my speedometer at all without them.  No, officer, I don’t know how fast I was going…..

♦  I had forgot, until I saw it again last evening, that Sally Kellerman was in one of the very first episodes of Star Trek: TOS.  I had to laugh, because I can only ever think of her in one other acting role, and the line, “G_d dammit, Hotlips! Resign your G_d-damned commission!” kept going through my head.  (Yes, Ol’ Robbo is easily amused.)

♦  Youngest has been in charge of closing at her kawfee shop the last day or two.  I asked her how that was.  She says that after working the kitchen crew at Bible-thumper camp and having to clean up the dining hall three times a day after a couple hundred campers go through, it’s a piece of cake.  Heh. (Oh, and she loves her that sweet, sweet paycheck.)

♦  Speaking of working yoots, last weekend when I dropped in our local hardware store, a voice said, “Hi, Mr. Robbo!” I looked up and saw that it was one of the cashiers.  She was a tall gel of about Youngest’s age.  I couldn’t place her at all.  Ol’ Robbo isn’t used to being called out like that and I was so flustered that I just managed to hem and haw enough for politeness sake.  It wasn’t until I got home that I remembered who she was: the pitcher on several little league softball teams I helped coach back in the day.  But she’s about twice as tall as she was the last time I talked to her, so I reckon I’m entitled to a bit of slack here.  Next time, I’ll be prepared.

Well, looking back out the window, I see that buzzards seem to be circling the yard.  I suppose I’d better go see what that’s all about.

And on that note, Epstein didn’t kill himself.

UPDATE:  Door fixed.  Whatever the buzzards were after was just inside the wood line behind the back fence.  That area is so covered with bramble and briar that I couldn’t get back in to it, so I can neither confirm nor deny that it’s Hunter Biden.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo’s porch thermometer indicates that we hit the freezing mark overnight, and there’s definitely frost on the grass this morning.

I recall one Halloween years ago when we went trick-or-treating with my semi-cousin’s family and it was this cold, but as a general matter, first frost seems a bit early this year.  I blame Glowbull Enwarmening.

In fact, we had a line of thunderstorms move through here on Halloween this year, followed by strong north winds for All Saints Day.  So you can guess what Ol’ Robbo has on his to-do list for today.  Looking out of window, I’d say the maples are now about 50% shed, and there’s certainly enough leaves down to warrant a clean-up.  At the moment I haven’t completely decided whether to attack the ones on the lawn with blower or mower, but I’m leaning toward the latter:  It produces a beneficial mulch, and there’s something aesthetically pleasing about cutting clean swaths of green through a blanket of dull browns and yellows.  Plus, I need an excuse to use up the rest of my gas.

For some reason, Mrs. R seems particularly solicitous in urging various sources of “help” for me this year.  First she suggested our yard guy, which would be a complete waste of money.  Then she suggested the son of a friend of ours.  I dunno why she’s doing this.  I’m not that decrepit, yet.  But it did give me the opportunity to say, “Stay off my lawn!”

UPDATE:  Mower it was.  The grass sort of needed it anyway.  Another thing I like about mowing leaves is when little bits of them get into the engine and start to smoke.  The smell is quite nice.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is going to be tied up with an event all weekend (one to which I have looked forward for quite some time and about which more anon), so I decided to take advantage of my day off to attend to some fall chores.

We’ve reached that point in the year where the fallen leaves begin to be an issue so I was out at first light late this morning raking the driveway.  As I’ve mentioned frequently, we live on a pretty busy street and our driveway slopes down away from it toward the garage.  A layer of leaves, especially a wet layer of leaves, can be as slippery as ice.  The thought of Mrs. Robbo or of Youngest Gel trying to make the necessary jack-rabbit left turn to get out, and then losing seconds fishtailing in the face of oncoming traffic, especially in the dark, regularly fills Ol’ Robbo with a sense of horror.  Thus, I am somewhat fanatical about trying to keep the drive clear.

I also cut back my peonies today.  Regular friends of the decanter will know that Ol’ Robbo annually muses that he really ought to dig up and divide out his peony root balls, and, when the time comes, just as consistently decides to put it off till next year.  Well, things haven’t changed.

The hummingbird feeder is now emptied, washed, and put away.  I actually haven’t seen the critters for a couple of weeks now, so I think it’s safe to assume they’ve cleared out for the year.

It occurred to me as I was hauling leaves out into the woods behind our back gate that this is the time of year when it’s not a bad idea to start keeping a weather eye out for bears, as they do get into the neighborhood every so often.  Eldest actually spotted one four or five years ago as she was swinging on our rope swing out back.  She called me at work.  I called Animal Control.  They informed me that they “don’t do bears”.  The next day I read that this one (it must have been the same) killed somebody’s dog the next ‘burb over from us.  (I must remember to mention this to Mrs. R, as she takes Decanter Dog on walks around here almost daily.)

Other than moar leaves, I don’t see that there’s much else left to deal with this fall.  Barring a sudden heat wave, I doubt the lawn will need another cut, and all the garden pruning is a late winter/early spring thing.  One remaining issue is the four ferns on our porch.  We brought them inside and put them in our mawster bawth last year, but it turned out to be something of a squash.  They recently built a new greenhouse over at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method and Mrs. R is trying to find out if maybe we can drop them there for the winter.  For the Children, you know.

So that’s that.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Recently somebody gave Mrs. Robbo a sweet-briar rose cutting, one that actually came from one of the bushes on the Sweet Briar College campus.  (I’m not sure if this was some kind of alumnae thing or else just somebody being nice.  The original plants from which this cutting descended date back to about 1920.)

Ol’ Robbo loves it when plants come to Port Swiller Manor with some sort of association or history about them.  (Of our other five roses, three are former Mother’s Day presents from me to Mrs. R and two come from my parents’ old house up to Maine.)

The thing didn’t look like much when it arrived, but I set it on the porch and dully watered it anyway.  This past week I noticed it had thrown out new leaves, so I planted it out in the bed this morning.  (I figure it’s probably another three or four weeks before I need to worry about frost, which should be plenty of time for the thing to establish itself.)  We’ll see how it does.

It wasn’t until I looked it up that I realized just how large rubiginosa can get.  If this one thrives, I’m either going to have to be vigilant about pruning, or else move some things around.  But we can leave that until the spring.

And speaking of roses,, the one I planted out last week unprotected shows no sign so far of being eaten by beasties.  That’s very encouraging, although I’m not yet ready to take the wire off the other ones.  The deer ’round here are starting to fatten up for winter and I notice trees and bushes being stripped of leaves that are otherwise left alone over spring and summah.  Why give them any more temptation?  I also haven’t seen Mr. Groundhog lately and he’s always a wildcard in these matters.

BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES UPDATE:  Youngest is out working this evening at the snack bar of our local little league field.  The snack bar is supposed to be manned by parents of players on a volunteer (that is to say, non-paying) basis.  The Gel is being paid some serious coin by a pair of such parents who don’t want to have to blow their Saturday night.

I don’t mind that she’s bringing in the jimmy-o-goblins, but I must say that I can’t think much of the people who bought their way out of their league participation. (This is the second time the Gel has landed such a gig, and from a different family.)  Does that seem a bit strange to you, too?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yesterday, Ol’ Robbo dropped by the local hardware store to pick himself up a big bag of Holly-tone, with which to give the Port Swiller Manor shrubbery its annual fall feeding today.

As I hoisted the bag up on to the counter, the check-out lady said, “Oh! This stuff smells so bad!”

“Oh, yes,” I replied, raising an eyebrow, “it certainly does.  But at the same time, it kind of grows on you, doesn’t it?  Sort of ‘so bad, it’s good’?”

She laughed…ever so slightly nervously.  (It’s moments like this, by the bye, when I find myself flirting with middle-aged women, that I realize I’ve become my own father.  You may get off my lawn.)

“It’s okay,” I smiled, “I know I’m a weirdo.”

She laughed again…..ever so slightly nervously.  And I casually strolled out the door.


(I was only half-joking.  I do like the smell, as awful as it is.)

Today’s second task has become another annual ritual.  For the past four or five years now, I’ve bought Mrs. R a double knock-out rose for Mother’s Day.  It spends the spring and summah in a big pot at the top of the porch stairs, and then I plant it out in the fall.  This year I’m doing a little experiment:  All my other roses are in wire cages to keep off the beasties.  I’ve never much liked this, as it gives that particular bed such a Teutonic look.  At the moment, I don’t have the fixin’s to fortify this one, so I’m just going to see what happens.  The deer don’t seem to come into the yard anymore since we got Decanter Dog, but I suspect the resident woodchuck might try and have a go at it.   If so, then more wire.  If not?  I might consider liberating the rest of them.

Finally, Ol’ Robbo recently bought himself a pole trimmer with which to deal with the riotous Virginia creeper on the backside of the house, as well as to tidy up the holly hedge out by the street.  It’s going to take every ounce of self-restraint to keep me from running amok with the thing, clipping everything within reach.  Bwahaha!!



Greetings, my fellow port swillers1

I don’t know about where you are, but fall has definitely arrived at Port Swiller Manor.  45 degrees this morning and in the low 60’s this afternoon.  It’s so nice, I even persuaded Decanter Dog to go for a walk.  (She’s got to the age where she doesn’t want to in hotter weather.)  Since Ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nats don’t play again until tomorrow night, an evening loitering in front of the fire pit may be very much in order.

Enough leaves are down already that I added a raking session to my morning mow and trim.  Also, I noticed quite a heavy acorn drop from our oak out front.

I didn’t use the “D” work to describe the recent lack of rain ’round here last Saturday, but I’ll go ahead and use it now Dodecahedron.  No, wait, I mean Drought.  The ground is now bone-hard and some of the less hearty foundation plants are beginning to wilt.  Fortunately, we have a rainy week forecast ahead, so hopefully the situation will take care of itself.  No doubt it’s still all my own fault somehow.

On a completely different note, Port Swiller Manor is experiencing a sudden infestation of fruit flies.  Ol’ Robbo detests fruit flies, in part because they’re so annoying, in part because they remind him of the lab work for the genetics class he bombed so badly in college, thus finally putting paid to any notion of med school.  So this morning I took myself over to the hardware store and picked up a couple fruit fly traps.  They’re shaped like large strawberries, and their bait works like a charm.  Further, the designers were thoughtful enough to put little windows in the base so you can see the drowned corpses floating about in the bait reservoir.  What a nice touch!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Michaelmas!

It’s quite disconcerting, especially on a beautiful morning like this one, to contemplate the fact of the endless war on the spiritual plane between St. Michael and all the hosts of the heavenly army on one side, and Satan and his evil minions on the other, with you and me and everyone else caught right in the middle.  But there it is.  Whether we like it or even acknowledge it or not.

By the bye, October 11, which was the old Michaelmas until the calendar got switched around, is also known as the Devil Spits Day and, according to folklore, one shouldn’t pick blackberries after this day.  (Yes, I’m writing about it two weeks early.)   The story is that the devil got kicked out of heaven on October 11 and landed in a blackberry bush, on which he vented his spleen, ruining the berries.

There’s a patch of wild blackberries out the back gate of Port Swiller Manor but you need not fear for Ol’ Robbo on this front because the things didn’t really give any fruit this year.  (Blackberries only fruit on mature stalks, not new growth.  Any winter we get any kind of reasonable snowfall usually breaks the stalks down, so the new ones coming up the following summah don’t produce.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo’s has been hard-pressed to find any bloggy inspiration this week, mostly because his allergies have been playing merry hob with him.  (I understand there’s a lot of ragweed in the air at the moment round here.)  But I’ll give it a try.

♦  First, a glass of wine to Robbo’s beloved Washington Nationals who, despite digging themselves a horrible hole in the first two months of the season, managed to fight their way back and clinch a wildcard berth this week.  (I watched the clinch Tuesday night and was later severely rebuked for my, um, enthusiasm.  The ladies of Port Swiller Manor do not appreciate me yelling at the teevee late in the evening.  Sad.)  I’ll be perfectly honest:  I don’t believe we’ll get very far in the post-season simply because our bullpen is still so shaky.  But I’m nonetheless proud that we made it to October ball at all.  (And that includes kudos for Manager Dave Martinez, whose head I admit having called for during the early slump.)  And as for the future? What can one say except GO, NATS!!!

♦  One of the factors fueling the pollen issue I mention above is the fact that we really haven’t had any rain in several weeks now.  I don’t think anyone’s using the “D” word yet, but I did feel compelled to drag my soaker hose out to the pachysandra bed this week.  The lawn, on the other hand, can go to hell.

♦  Youngest Gel starts training for a side-gig over at Starbucks next week.  I generally avoid giving any money to Starbucks because, well, Starbucks.  But I’ve no qualms at all about taking money from them.  (The Gel took the initiative to get a job on her own, by the bye.  We’re very proud of her for that.)

♦  As for all the headlines?  Res ipsa loquitur.  I think what stops the Neo-Maoists from totally implementing their Great Leap Forward here at the moment is that we’re neither Chinese peasants nor Russian serfs, and cannot be so easily brainwashed or buffaloed.  Of course they’re trying to change that through the schools (and open boarders, and gun confiscation), but again, I don’t think they’re quite there.  Yet.  I’m not worried about my kids.  I am worried about my grandkids.

Well, perhaps that’s enough for now.  Ol’ Robbo has to get himself to the store, as I am cooking dinner for Mrs. R’s ‘rents, who are passing through town on their semi-annual migration along the Eastern Seaboard.  Fortunately, they really seem to like the way I grill salmon.

UPDATE:  The salmon was a success.  The In-laws heaped great praise upon it and, more to the point, they ate all of it.

It’s funny because I don’t do anything special.  I simply coat the filets with olive oil and cook them over charcoal in a Weber fish basket.  To the extent there’s any art involved, it consists of making sure they’re cooked all the way through (the thought of underdone fish revolts me) without scorching them.  It’s just a question of turning them about and flipping them from time to time and not getting them too close to the hottest part of the coals.

What’s even funnier is that I personally loathe fish unless it’s fried.  (And even then, it’s not my favorite.)  But in keeping with my mackeral snapper practices, I pulled a spicy shrimp BBQ recipe off the innertoobs at random which turned out to be pretty durn good.  I pass it along (with my personal modifications) for your consideration:

First, the coating:

Garlic – the recipe calls for one clove only, Vasili,** but this is nonsense.  I used the majority of a head.  In the Robbo lexicon, there is no such phrase as “too much garlic”.

1 teaspoon course salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons lemon juice (I used four – see my comment above re garlic)

Mash up the garlic (I used a press) and add all the other ingredients.  Beat into a paste.

The recipe says this is enough for 2 1/2 pounds of shrimp, which I think is wildly optimistic.  But then I like my coatings heavy.  I found these amounts just enough to cover half a pound.

Next, the preparation and cooking:

The recipe also says to “toss” the coating with the shrimp, but that’s messy.  Instead, I skewered the shrimp flat-wise and painted the paste on both sides with a brush.  I also let it all marinate for about two hours.

Then, grill on the barbie until cooked all the way through.  When I marinated the skewers, I did so in a disposable aluminum baking pan.  When ready to cook, I simply put the pan on the grill.  The heat is distributed very evenly, the shrimp stay moist, and clean-up is a breeze.

Serve on a bed of rice.

Enjoy!  But do not count on being kissed by your spouse afterwards.  (See my comment above re garlic.)


** Spot the reference




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