Lesson from the toilet

Yes, I know, that title can be a put off, but this self-deprecating story is about a toilet experience that I want all of you to avoid.

As many of you may know, as one ages one becomes more familiar with public restrooms. It is what it is and has to be acknowledged and accommodated.

So, on a weekday a couple of weeks ago, I headed to Home Depot to pick up some gardening supplies. I was attired in my usual gardening wardrobe – old, loose, comfy jeans. Jean pockets allow me to not have to carry a purse while lifting soil and compost bags.

Again, as a senior, one does a mental check as to whether or not a trip to the restroom would be advisable before lifting. On this particular day, the decision was made to make a stop.

Quick stop in a clean restroom shouldn’t be a problem. However, when the self-flushing toilet kicked in, I glanced over to realize my iPhone 12 was bobbing up and down in the flushing water.

I was quick to grab it, but then stood there in shock not knowing whether to scream or fall down laughing. I dropped my phone in the toilet?

I took the cover off, wiped off the water, and pressed to see if it would wake up. It appeared to be working. I put it back in my pocket to leave and could feel the water coming out of it as it made my pocket wet. Karma?

Rice, I used lots and lots of rice over the next couple of days. At first making a phone call was very scratchy, but eventually that leveled out. My iPhone made it through a waterfall and lived to tell the story.

This Public Service Announcement was provided so that you can make sure your back pockets are phone secure. I would not recommend writing this story for yourself even if you did enjoy a few hearty chuckles along the way. 🙂

Posted in Gardening, New England | Tagged , , , , , , , | 59 Comments

Outdoors

Happy Monday after Mother’s Day!

I hope everyone who comforts and loves others had a wonderful day.

I spent part of my day with Mother Nature which always puts a smile on my face.

There was also a decadent but welcome dessert to enjoy.

My gardening tools and I have gotten a workout lately including my Craftsman 20-Volt 10″ Chainsaw. It is lightweight and works great. I’ve taken down a couple of 15′ pine trees and cut up some trees that fell down on their own. It uses the same batteries as my other Craftsman so that is convenient.

We decided we wanted a small mower for those times when a light trim is needed. Craftsman was our first search so we could use the same batteries, but based upon reviews we went with a 20″ Ryobi 40V brushless self-propelled mower. It does a really decent job, the battery run time is around 40 minutes, and it folds up to store upright saving space.

The simple truth is I’ve aged out of pulling cords on outdoor equipment that sometimes fires up and a lot of the times doesn’t. Do the battery powered tools have the same power as gasoline, probably not, but it’s okay because that’s balanced out by the fact that they start every single time.

Even with all these tools, the one that probably is getting the most use is my shovel. I’ve been digging on behalf of Master Gardeners for our upcoming sale, and I’m always digging here at home. What have I learned these past couple of weeks that I can pass along? If you pay for the plant, it’s got a 50% chance of survival, while the multitude of weeds will prosper and multiply. 😎

I’ve read a couple of good mysteries including Ace Atkins’ “The Revelators” with his Quinn Colson character, Marc Cameron’s gritty “Cold Snap” with Arliss Cutter, and Ace Atkins’ witty “Bye Bye Baby” which is part of Robert Parker’s Spenser series.

I’ve got a small painting project this week. I like to paint so that is a good thing.

Covid numbers are climbing here so we’re playing it better safe than sorry. That makes things not too exciting but easier to live with.

Take care, hope you are having a good May, and by all means share what you’ve been doing or reading.

Posted in Gardening, New England | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 61 Comments

Spring

How’s the weather in New England? John Hric, our fellow blogger said it best. “It is a rollercoaster ride. Please remain seated until the ride comes to a full and complete stop. Keep your seat belt fastened and your crash helmet on. Enjoy your time here in the spring amusement park.” 🙂

The plants are coming to life but slowly. I’ve been moving, dividing, raking, spreading lime out near the road, and putting out solar lights, bird baths, and pots I use.

Inside there are 63 tomatoes of various sizes, cucumbers, watermelon, Mexican Sunflowers, and Zinnias. No, I haven’t lost my little mind, most of those 63 tomato plants will go to the MG plant sale. 🙂 I ran out of room under the lights so I’m using tables in front of our south facing windows on the porch.

In the shed, there are three more trays with the butterfly bush, a new viburnum, wisteria, sweet peas, passion flower, and my cuttings from the forsythia, winterberry, and hydrangea. I’m hardening them off by putting them outside for several hours each day. I hope to get them planted next week.

Under the row covers in the raised beds are the bulbs which so far are not showing any growth so I’m going to take the row covers off today and see if that makes a difference.

Gardening is a learning experience so what have I learned so far this season? Blueberries will not grow under my neighbor’s big, old, ugly pines so I moved six plants and four pieces of wild Maine blueberry sod to a full sun site and mulched them all. It’s not a perfect location to get water to, but once established, they are on their own. Tulips are not for me. There, I said it out loud, and now I need to remember it. If planted in the ground, the chipmunks and squirrels eat them, and if planted in containers and stored for the winter, they just don’t do well enough for the money and work involved. In more temperate climates, containers work well, just not here in cold climate.

I watched an interesting webinar from Cornell University on creating garden art last week. The appeal wasn’t so much that I wanted to create all those glass pieces that have to be stored, but the theory behind it of when to use tall, medium, short pieces to attract your eye in the garden. This week I’m checking out a hummingbird webinar. One of the few benefits of Covid is the opportunity to participate in webinars all across the country. I always learn something that I can put to use.

Have a good last week in April. I’m still trying to figure out where the month went. Are you busy working on a outdoor project? Or have you read a really good book? Do tell.

Posted in Gardening, New England | Tagged , , , , | 70 Comments

Bees

Respectful, fascinated, or afraid? Those three words probably cover most of us when the subject of bees is brought up. Many are able to live and let live while some are extremely allergic and an interaction requires medical attention quickly.

As a gardener, I’m lucky that I’m not allergic because I’m usually bitten each gardening season because I unintentionally ventured too close.

By now, you may be wondering why I’m going on about bees besides the basic fact of ‘no bees, no food.”

A talented local metal sculptor I know displayed a large bee in a town garden last summer. Every time I passed by I smiled at that bee.

Last fall, I asked him to make me a small version of his ‘Buzz.’

I picked her up last Friday, and I’ve already moved her a couple of times.

I’m waiting for the garden to come to life including large containers before I decide where she’ll reside for the summer.

Gardening is a passion for me, but it is also a lot of work so once in a while it’s fun to add something to the garden that doesn’t require maintenance or fertilizer and always brings a smile when you see it.

Speaking of work, I had to move in a garden bed after a survey showed I was over on the neighbor’s property. Whoops, I never could draw a straight line. 🙂 Pulling up 100′ of edging, landscape fabric, and wood chips, reinstalling, and shoveling soil and raking to level the space in her yard took me two days, and I was certainly glad to check that task off my spring to-do list.

It’s still too early to complete a lot of tasks outside, but I have planted some lettuce and carrots and kept mentally occupied with seedlings indoors.

I’ll leave you with a few photos and hope April is treating you well. From the bottom of my heart – Welcome Spring!

For those nerdy folks like myself who would like more information about bees, this article, Bee Basics by the USDA Forest Service, is quite comprehensive.

Posted in Gardening, New England | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 64 Comments

Butterfly bush

Attracting butterflies and other pollinators is a hot gardening topic right now and has been for a while. There are a lot of plants that attract them. You can find lists of plants coming from various points of view on line.

Butterfly bushes are one of them, but they also get bad press in some areas for being potentially invasive and not being native. I’ve had full size and dwarf bushes, and none of them have grown beyond their established area. I can’t, however, account for every seed that could have been disbursed by a bird or two.

If you want to read further about how they provide too much nectar and deter butterflies from seeking out only native plants, here is a good post from the University of Maryland. I have many ‘native’ plants in my garden including butterfly weed. In my zone, butterfly weed only grows to about 12″ high each year and never reaches a point that makes it large enough to attract more than one or two butterflies.

I saw a post from the Oregon State Ecology Lab about butterfly bush performance, it captivated my interest, and I wanted to try the #1 plant they recommended, Miss Violet.

I don’t know how plant prices are in your area, but around here, they have increased dramatically since the pandemic started and more people took up gardening. In my research, I found a very cost effective plant on line from Home Depot. I’ve never ordered a plant online from Home Depot so thought why not.

The cost was $16 for a quart sized Proven Winner plant, it was well packaged, and it took only four days to arrive. I trimmed off some broken pieces, watered, and set it in the garage window to get plenty of light until I can transition it to outside.

Of course, I’m probably not the typical gardener in that I’m always checking to see if I can divide a plant and make two. I also don’t get involved in the current gardening drama associated around the ‘native’ versus ‘non native’ plants. Life involves enough drama, I don’t go looking for it in my garden. 🙂

Have a good week as we get April going. We have rain in the forecast, which is okay, because we all know what comes next – May flowers.

Posted in Gardening, New England | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 70 Comments

Seeds

Those who count gardening as a hobby or a passion are itching to get going. Up here in the Northeast unless you have a greenhouse, there is still some wait time before you can start digging in the soil outdoors.

There are ways to get going though, and that includes starting seeds indoors. One of my goals was to start tomato plants for myself and to donate to our MG plant sale. I’ve always had good luck with seeds until this year. I planted one cherry and three regular type plants. The cherry tomatoes came up at a 50% rate, and the regular tomatoes did not come up at all. Hmm. Bad seeds or bad seed starting soil? I’ll never know, but I’ve replanted and will see how that goes.

After attending ‘another’ propagation webinar, I took some cuttings from winterberry, hydrangea, and forsythia plants. The results have been interesting, and the new leaves sprouting make me smile. It will be some time before I know whether they will actually develop into viable plants.

I also laid out my Yukon Gold seed potatoes to sprout. They must like their egg carton base and the sun from the window because they are sprouting.

A friend came by and helped me pot up dahlias, cannas, and crocosmia bulbs. The tables in the shed are full. I’m hoping this will provide them some time to wake up and be ready to take off when they do get planted outdoors. Regardless of their jumpstart, we had fun together getting dirty.

Seed starting isn’t for everyone. It takes a place to do it, table, lights, and it can get kind of messy. I don’t have a basement so I utilize my porch, but that involves plastic on the floor and the wall so that I don’t have to repaint and recarpet. It’s like anything else, some years I do it and some years I don’t. Life – it’s a journey.

Hope your journey is going well this last week in March. Stay well, stay happy, stay kind.

Posted in Gardening, New England | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 57 Comments

Driving

As I ‘mature,’ I admit I probably drive a little less aggressively, and I don’t drive at night unless I need to. I guess that naturally happens when you are in the third chapter of the three chapter book of life. 🙂

Two days of driving interstate from South Carolina to New Hampshire was enough long-distance driving for me for a while.

However, after I got home I was astounded at how aggressive some folks drive in town. Twice in the same day, I found myself in the merge lane waiting for the closest lane to clear. Both times, a vehicle (a pickup and a FedEx truck) that were behind me just went between me and the car in the right hand lane and sped up to pull in front of the other car.

I’ve given this considerable thought and even discussed it with a younger driver to see if things have changed that much, but it appears driving rules haven’t changed but driver patience has. I guess driving 20 mph over the speed limit on the interstate isn’t enough these days, you also have to do that on the entrance ramps as well.

Are you seeing more aggressive drivers in your area? Or, feel free to tell me I’m showing my age, I won’t take offense. 🙂

Posted in New England | Tagged , , , , , | 59 Comments

It’s been fun until it wasn’t

The beach weather was good with temps in the 60’s and 70’s – shirt-sleeve weather.

Lots of folks sitting and sunning on the beach which was made a lot easier as of March 1 when golf carts were not allowed.

Here’s a few of things I’ve seen and enjoyed over the past couple of weeks.

I wasn’t able to capture the first part where he throws the board like a frisbee, runs along side, and jumps on.

Nothing lasts forever, and our three months at the beach was cut a little short when reality knocked loudly on the door on Friday. On Saturday morning, we headed north to answer her call.

On the way home, we got another dose of life when we paid $4.55 per gallon for unleaded gas and the total for the trip started to creep towards $200. That’s a lot of plants and fabric, folks. 🙂

I’m backed up on reading posts, but I’ll eventually catch up. Have a good week whether you’re enjoying the sand or the snow.

Posted in South Carolina | Tagged , , , , , , | 55 Comments

Sewing and Gardening

The hummingbird wall hanging is finished, and for the past week a MI friend and I have been working on small bags utilizing lace zippers that are sewn on the outside. We have a list of recipients because some people go out of their way to share their personal skills with others and need to be thanked, and others just need a bag from friends because life is challenging right now.

One day, three of us sewed together. MI, who is by far the superior quilter, was in charge of cutting material, ME who has a good eye for fashion was tasked with coordinating two fabric colors from our combined stash with the lace zippers we had available, while I was at the sewing machine. We got a fair amount done, but mostly we just had a great time laughing and enjoying each other’s company. If we were all able to have a regular ‘dose’ of that, we’d be much healthier.

I brought two plants with me from home – Walking Iris and Passion Flower. The Walking Iris produced its twelfth blossom today, and the Passion Flower I had to divide into three plants. I’m probably the only snowbird with a bag of potting soil under the bed.

I always check the Walmart garden section down here because they sell different plants than at home. I found three Viburnums for $6.97 each and couldn’t pass that up. Viburnums are a nice shrub with beautiful white blossoms. This week I need to find three pots and get them in some soil, although I must say keeping their packing materials moist seems to be working okay because all three are developing leaves.

I went to Brookgreen last week with one destination in mind – their vegetable garden. They have an excellent display garden including handsome wooden fence, functional but decorative gates, and obelisks. Display gardens are wonderful because they give you ideas that can be adapted on a smaller scale.

I also took advantage of a gardening webinar for ‘maturing gardeners’ who want ‘workhorse plants’ with less maintenance. I think that had something to do with the purchase of the three Viburnum shrubs.

This week, I have a couple more bags, I’m finishing two computer projects for MGs, but mostly I’ll be enjoying the outdoors because it is going to be unseasonably warm in the 70-80’s. That needs to be savored.

Happy Monday and have a great week. Hope you are up to something fun. 😎

Posted in South Carolina | Tagged , , , , , , , | 70 Comments

History and Nature

Being a ‘northerner,’ rice fields were not something I ever spent much time thinking or learning about. My loss.

At Brookgreen Gardens, they are a large part of the gardens’ history. Brookgreen’s 9,100 acres was originally composed of four rice fields that date back to the 1800’s when rice was a very important cash crop.

On a nice day last week, a couple of us hiked the rice field paths.

We also saw some interesting lichens. I’m definitely not knowledgeable about lichens in South Carolina. I can share that lichens are composed of a fungus, algae, and most likely a yeast that need an undisturbed area, time, and fresh air to thrive.

When I was trying unsuccessfully to identify these lichens, I saw this comment: “Lichens are the Marines of the botanical world. They are the first organisms to go where nothing else dares.” 🙂

We are all captivated by a beautiful flower like this pretty magnolia blossom.

Most times there is also beauty to be found in the surrounding areas ‘if’ we look for it.

I need to remind myself of that periodically.

The first couple of years we came south in the winter, we saw Snowy White Egrets almost everywhere we looked. Now, we see very few. I’m guessing they have moved to other roosting sites.

On our rice field hike, we saw one, but my iPhone camera certainly didn’t do him justice.

Have a great week, and Happy Valentine’s day! ❤️ I’m thinking chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, then again I think that most days. 🙂

Posted in South Carolina | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 57 Comments