NARCISSUS BY THE WOODS – Marilyn Armstrong

Narcissus – FOTD – 05/21/19

These flowers used to grow on the other side of the driveway. In the garden, in a grouping with the daffodils. I don’t know how they wound up on the opposite side of the tarmac.

Wind? Birds? Bees? The driveway is too wide for any kind of natural spreading, so something moved them.

I was really surprised to see them. I thought they had died. I thought a lot of things had died. Some things did.

The old Rhododendrons died, but new ones popped up and are blooming. We have to cut down the dead ones and are planning to on Wednesday. We also need to cut down the Holly which isn’t a bush and has become more of a  tree. A big, bushy tree.

We have about a thousand baby-sized maple trees trying to grow. And we have too many signs that the Gypsy moth caterpillars have come back.

NOW we need rain and a lot of it.  Maybe a solid week of rain would kill them before they get their tiny fangs into our trees.

It’s the only thing that will stop them. I get totally depressed even thinking about them. The last time they showed up, I hid in the house for weeks while they killed off all our trees. I’m trying to not see it, pretending it isn’t happening, but I’m terribly afraid that it is. And this time, I simply can’t afford to bring in the spraying people.

No money.

The irony of this is that these caterpillars BLEW HERE FROM A CITY MORE THAN 50  MILES AWAY. All that windy weather? It brought the monstrous bugs back. Again.

I’m not thinking about it because maybe it won’t happen. Talk about positive thinking, I actually think I’m more afraid of the caterpillars than Trump. That’s serious fear.

SPRING AND CACTUS FLOWERS – Marilyn Armstrong

Fresh forest leaves, a Chickadee, and cactus flowers – 05/12/19

Usually, I limit these posts to actual flowers, but it was such a glorious, lovely, warm, bright day and all the new leaves in the woods look like flowers. Even the birds look like flowers.

A flyaway Chickadee

We intended to go take pictures, but we wound up cleaning the house, which badly needed it. I had to clear the dead leaves off the deck and also clear off at least some of the millions of seeds. Then there was vacuuming and floor washing and sofa cover changing, and the vacuum cleaner bag exploded.

You know. A lovely weekend day at home.

I also have a little bird story.

Very red cactus flower

Yesterday I was in the bathroom about to do something I felt was somewhat urgent, but I made the mistake of looking out the window. “Holy Moly!” I cried. There was a Pileated Woodpecker on the flat-feeder. That’s the really big woodpecker who looks just like  Woody Woodpecker. He has a hammer-shaped head with a huge, heavy beak.  He’s a big guy, too. About as big as a medium-sized hawk.

My azalea

That beak that can break through a chunk of live oak in search of a bug and they have no objection to whacking some other bird over the head if he or she gets in the way.

So the Pileated Woodpecker who I have seen before, but never gotten a picture of him, was right there. There were also about a dozen Brown-headed Cowbirds lined up on the railing, waiting for him to leave. One Cowbird (they aren’t afraid of anything, probably because following herds of buffalo had its own perils) jumped up on the feeder and without a second thought, Mr. Pileated Woodpeckeder bonked him on the head.

Cowbird returned to the railing. Brave, but not stupid.

A crowd of cowbirds

I ran to the dining room, grabbed my camera, turned it on. And, of course, the woodpecker was gone. Vamoose.

Meanwhile, the cowbirds were jumping onto the feeder. I guess they felt they’d waited long enough.

Baby leaves

Me? I sighed, turned off the camera and went back to the bathroom. I’m getting used the disappearing act. So is Garry. He can’t understand how they completely vanish in literally the blink of an eye. But they do. Kind of amazing in a frustrating way.

Baby oak leaves and a very blue sky

So today, I took pictures. Mostly of plants and trees because they do not disappear. They sit still, roots firmly in the ground or in their pots. They let me take their pictures and do not fly away while I turn on the camera.

FLOWERS AND GETTING LOST – Marilyn Armstrong

Flowers, but lost – FOTD – May 9, 2019

It was a gorgeous, perfect spring day today. Warm and full of bright sunshine. As we left the house this morning (it’s a 2-hour drive into Boston), I noticed that we had squirrels glued to both feeders in the back.

I would normally have gone back to the deck and chatted with the furry feeders, but I was wearing my good clothing.

And there was no time for one of those me versus squirrel conversations.

Pink tulips

I should mention these are pretty much one-way conversation. I talk. The squirrels give me the squirrel eyeball, so I talk some more, and they go back to eating. Eventually, I will open the door, step onto the deck, and stare at them. They then move a little bit — from the feeders to the railing. And stare back at me.

I can hear them thinking “And what are you gonna do about it, huh?”

Magnolias and new leaves along the Mumford River

I quite like squirrels, but I feel that by the time we are approaching midday, they should go back to being tree squirrels and stop being deck squirrels. Is that too much to ask?

We had to leave. It was going to be a long drive and traffic in and out of Boston is heavy. We were 100% sure to get lost, even though the directions appeared to be simple. There’s construction on 146, too. Of course, there has been construction on 146 for the past 19 years, but there’s more now that it has warmed up.

Snowballs along with the steps in the park

It took us almost 2 hours to get there — and we got totally lost in Boston. So did everyone else. As a result, the memorial began an hour late and ended even later. So it was a really long day.

Since we bought our GPS (maybe 2 years ago?), they’ve redesigned almost all the major roads in Boston and completely rebuilt the seaport area. The last time I was there, it was mostly vacant lots and empty warehouses and a few party cruise ships. So our GPS can’t find anything. Moreover, the directions which we got from the hotel (via Google) said to get off Route 93 at Exit 20, then follow the signs to the Seaport Cruise Terminal.

Snowballs and a wooden bench

Except there were NO signs. We wound up at the airport. We did a couple of loops at Logan, including a round trip through the “Return your rental car here,” except we were in our own car and we couldn’t find anyone who knew how to find the Seaport Hotel.

Massachusetts is infamous for NOT putting up signs. I don’t know whether we are just too cheap to pay for signs, or we assume if you don’t know where you are, you shouldn’t be there.

The park at the Mumford Dam

It turned out that not only did we get lost, everyone got lost. Since this is a big expensive hotel — and NOT brand new, either — the complete lack of signs was infuriating. We almost gave up and went home and might have, but we didn’t know how to get home, either.

Finally, we were stopped by a police detective. He had a gold badge but was in street clothing, so we assumed he was a detective. He pulled us over. Garry rolled down his window. Were we going to get a ticket too? Are the fates so against us?

“Are you guys lost?” he asked. Were we that obvious?

“YES,” we cried in unison. “We are SO lost.”

Flowers and the falls

He led us to the hotel and he recognized Garry — and knew we were going to the “Tom Ellis Memorial.” I was never more grateful to see a police officer.

We knew we had to be near it. We were at the docks, so how far could we be from the Seaport Hotel? It turned out to be about a mile. Make a right, take the Ted Williams Tunnel and when you can’t go any further, make another right.

Azaleas along the path

It was good to be there, though. Many people, including Garry, shared memories and since we are all — how shall I put this — an older group of folk?

We got to do a little crying, shared some laughter about stuff no one else remembers. We saw people we rarely see except at reunions and funerals. Remember when we used to meet at weddings? It was good to hug friends, notice that although everyone looks older, I look even older than they do.

We left Boston exactly at rush hour. Three and a half hours for the homeward journey. I spent a lot of time admiring trees.

Please enjoy the photographs. They are from Tuesday which was every bit as beautiful as today, but we were outside with cameras.

SPRING HAS SPRUNG – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I don’t love summer because I’m very sensitive to heat. I actually feel sick when I get hot because my sweat glands don’t work properly and I rarely sweat. Great savings on antiperspirant bills but it sucks when everyone else is happily sitting outside in the sun and I’m stuck inside with the air conditioning.

Apple Blossoms

So, summer is not my favorite time, even though I have a boat and summer is the prime boating season. I spend most of my boat days – you guessed it – sitting in the air-conditioned cabin, often by myself. Even my loyal dog, Lexi, who usually follows me everywhere, lays in the sun on the deck on a nice day and abandons me to the interior of the boat.

Daffodils

But spring is great. The obvious joy of spring is watching the grass and the flowers and the leaves bloom, turning the world from grey to a rainbow of colors.

Spring!

Spring is when my waterfall is fully flowing. I can open the windows to hear that wonderful sound throughout the house. In the summer, the stream usually dries up since we have less rain and more heat. So the view from my window is glorious – a picturesque waterfall in the middle of a continually greening wood.

The stream

Another, more pedestrian plus of spring is putting away my darker and heavier winter clothes and pulling out the bright-colored clothes of this bright-colored season.

I pay particular attention to my spring/summer wardrobe because when I hang out on the boat, I schmooze with people every day, as opposed to winter when I can go days without seeing anyone other than Tom. And when I make my rounds to the Post Office and the local stores and coffee shop, people can see what I’m wearing because I’m not wearing a coat that covers up what is underneath.

Brighter colors of spring

Not wearing socks is another wardrobe benefit of spring and summer.

My socks bunch up all the time and I have to take my shoes or boots off regularly to adjust them so I can walk comfortably.

There’s also the problem of navy versus black socks. I can’t seem to tell the difference in my bedroom, but as soon as I get downstairs, I can tell immediately that I’ve picked the wrong one and have to go back upstairs and change. (Yes, I care!)

Sock drawer, abandoned in the spring

Not wearing a coat or a sweater is also a spring thing. Outside, the temperature is perfect (same in the early fall) so no outerwear is necessary.

I don’t have to wear a sweater inside because the air conditioning everywhere isn’t at full blast as it is in the summer. I always carry a sweater with me throughout the summer in case I am subjected to frigid A/C’s.

Sweaters necessary indoors in A/C weather

Spring also means that the many local farms in my town reopen their markets and I can get beautiful, fresh produce and other gourmet treats, right in my backyard. The freshly baked bread is awesome!

In the offseason, I have to drive 20 minutes each way to a supermarket to even get an onion or a potato. Now these staples, as well as the seasonal fruits and vegetables, are just a few minutes away.

Tom is happy in the spring because he can start working on the boat, preparing it to go back in the water in May. So spring has a lot going for it in my world. I don’t hate winter, like most people, and I love snow, but spring really is a lot better.

Except for the hordes of tiny black ants that invade my kitchen every spring. Here they come! Get out the ant traps!

THE BRIGHTEST DAFFODILS – Marilyn Armstrong

DAFFODILS!

I took these the last time we had sunshine, so it must have been Wednesday. Since then, it has been cold and rainy … but at least I got the daffodils when they were at the finest.

There may be some sunshine next week, but I’m beginning to think we are living in a rain forest. A bone-chillingly cold rain forest!

Bright Daffodils!
They grow right in front of the old tractor
I should have gone inside and gotten my macro lens, but I couldn’t do the stairs twice in a row!

THE GARDENER’S RESPITE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Respite

My right shoulder hurts. A lot.

At least half of that is an old injury from my riding days … and the rest is probably hauling heavy pots — with and without food — in the kitchen. Trying to find a position in which I can sleep with that shoulder wrapped in a heating pad is interesting. Because it’s my right shoulder and these days, I have to sleep on my back because that’s what my back wants, I can’t find anyplace to put the electric cord that is not underneath my head.

It is a lumpy cord and includes the piece for changing the settings, which is very lumpy. It makes sleeping a dicey affair.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Meanwhile, in theory, my son is coming over tomorrow to change the sink faucet — assuming his back isn’t out. I also asked him to come by (if it ever stops raining) with his big electric hedge clippers and cut down the rose bushes and rhododendrons.

Columbine

There’s no way I can maintain them anymore. The flowers will get the entire garden. While the bushes will eventually grow back — probably sooner rather than later — at least I don’t have to stare at all those dead rhododendrons.

I will get a respite from our barbed wire roses and dying rhododendrons.

Bright lilies

I find a garden full of dead bushes a bit depressing. I don’t even know WHY they died, although they sent up a bunch of new, young shoots too … so maybe this is just their way of saying goodbye to the old and hello to the new? Is that how these bushes usually work?

Daylilies with red roses in the back

As for the roses, these cruel, barbed-wire bushes have been (ahem) a thorn in my arms, hands, arms, and clothing for about 17 years. I should never have planted them and they have totally taken over. They not only get tall, but they send out runners,

House in summer

Merciless and cruel, I can see how they were used to protect property. No one would try to dash through those bushes. I don’t think they could unless they were carrying a flame thrower and frankly, I’m not sure the bushes would care. They are very durable. They should be properly removed by an actual gardener, but I’d have to pay someone to do it and I can’t.

At least cutting them down will give me a season’s respite from their claws. I’m sorry about the rhododendrons, though.

We didn’t plant it sensibly. Didn’t leave pathways … or rather, we did, but they got eaten by the daylilies and roses. I never imagined a time when I wouldn’t be able to just hike up there and deal with the plants. Getting old is not only not fun, but it’s also a surprise.

You can count the years all you want, but you don’t really expect them to add up to “old.” No one plans to be old, even when we are planning for retirement. We think we will stay exactly as we are with maybe a few gray hairs.

I feel bad about it. It seems like murder. I’ve always encouraged plants to grow and cutting them down feels like a betrayal. I am comforted by knowing there will still be a few roses in the back and the daylilies will go into furious growth when they don’t have to battle with the thorn bushes.

You never imagine, when you plant a garden, that one day you won’t be able to care for it. It never crosses your mind. I was planning for an energetic old age that differed in no special way from being younger.

Oops.

OILING DOWN THE ANGRY – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Oil on the water

Oil is supposed to settle down rapidly boiling water.

It doesn’t.

The water keeps boiling at the same level only there’s oil on it. Patches of oil. In my house, oil is olive (usually) but out in the Real World, ocean water glistens with oil meant to run trucks, cars, and heat homes. A good thing insofar as it was warm a few days ago, so I turned down the thermostat … and now, it’s cold.

Not bitterly, miserably dead-winter cold. No, it’s wet and gets into your bones. It feels a lot colder than it is.

Garry and I have been trying to figure out if we are suffering from the pollen (it’s high) and it’s from trees. We’ve got trees). That or one of us made unintentional contact with a sick person.

Garry pointed out to me since I had (recently) pointed the same thing to him (recently), that it doesn’t matter if it’s a cold or allergies. You feel equally crappy regardless.


NOTE: Anyone who says “Oh, it’s JUST allergies,” has never had allergies. An allergy is a cold that only ends when the snow falls. If you get sick and feel better three days later, you were sick. If you feel like crap but are still feeling awful three months later when the trees are turning, it was an allergy.


It’s probably the best part of winter that unless I actually get sick, which I do very rarely now (I think I had everything when I was younger and am now resistant to everything), I stop sneezing until spring comes again. In case no one noticed, it IS (technically) spring. I know this because during the two sunny days this month, I took pictures of our bunch of daffodils.

Since we are apparently allergic to everything and we live in pollen central, we suffer. Even the dogs suffer. Our dogs have sneezing fits. To be fair, our pollen is so bad that sometimes — about a week from now is my best guess, assuming it stops raining by then — the air looks like it’s snowing, except the snow is green. Everything turns green. The car is covered in green pollen.

Goldfinch flock – Sneezing?

Do the birds sneeze? That could really ruin the hawks hunting time. And if the little birds sneeze, it could make it hard for them to hide in the branches. But if ALL of them sneeze …

“The wood would resound with the sound of sneezing …”

I have sneezing fits. Sometimes I just keep sneezing for so long I forget when I started. It makes Garry’s hearing implements go crazy, so eventually, he has to cover his ears. If I get loud enough, he has to leave the room. I am a hearty sneezer.

Back to the oil. If oil theoretically makes boiling water settle down (I think it just pollutes it), maybe we should pour oil on each other. We could then be sick and slimy simultaneously. The dogs would love it and would lick every inch of us.

Yummy olive oil! We could stick salad to our arms and legs and be really green. I could wear a tomato hat and Garry could arm himself with huge cucumbers.

I think I’m losing it.

All I want are THREE SUNNY DAYS so I can clean out the garden. Is that too much to ask?