MY CLEAN DIRT WAS NOT SO CLEAN

Sometimes our clean dirt is not so clean. I mix purchased potting/garden soil and purchased peat to make new, clean potting soil that is ready to use. In other words, it all came out of a bag. No worms. My container of choice is a recycle bin the City no longer wants us to use. Of course, it has no lid but I never gave that a thought because it was in my greenhouse.

My failure to think about a lid resulted in an incident in the greenhouse. I was attempting a quickie potting of a Torenia plant I found growing behind the greenhouse. My garden gloves were in the house but I had a small, metal trowel for spooning some of that clean dirt into a ceramic planter. It was going too slow. I tossed the trowel aside and reached in for handfuls at a time. This was great for a few handfuls. Then, as I reached deeper to pull up a new handful, I felt something round and more solid than potting soil. I screamed when a blue striped skink flew out of my hands. I screamed some more when it started clawing the slick side of the bin. More unintelligible sounds filled the air as I wrestled with the heavy blue bin trying to tip it so the skink could get out. Finally, the skink was on the floor of the greenhouse looking at me. That’s when I heard “Aack!”, “Aack!”  I’m really not sure which one of us was making that noise. Me, or the skink, as he realized my bare hands had been on him.

Skink
Photo by James DeMer/Pixabay

Needless to say, I wasted no time in ordering myself a big, honking trowel. No way was I ever again reaching into a pile of dirt, even clean dirt, with my bare hands.  Despite my best efforts with a ruler, this photo simply does not convey the sheer size of this thing. My entire hand will fit inside the silver trowel.

 

Fiskars Big Grip trowel
Big, honking trowel

PUNXSUTAWANEY PHIL

Down here in the South, we need our own weather-predicting critter. That Pennsylvania rodent, Punxsutawney Phil, has nary a clue when spring is going to show up down here.

The town of Punxsutawaney is in northern Pennsylvania, a mere 335 miles from the Great Lakes. Even your average half-brain knows its freezing-assed cold that far north. Yet the whole United States is using a rodent from the coldest region of the U.S. to predict the length of our winters.

I have already seen two different swallowtail butterflies, a sure sign spring has begun in the south. I offer the following additional proof:

redbud tree blooms

 

new growth on maple tree

 

azalea blooms hither and yon

 

wild violets

With this much proof of spring, I have a suggestion. Can we let the northern half of the United States use the rodents while the South uses the American Robin (Turdus migratorius)? Red-breasted robins have shown up en masse on our property every spring as they return to their summer range. This makes the American Robin a much more reliable weather predictor.

the only robin who cooperated with my photo shoot

 

OTHER NONSENSE

I had a lot of full moon moments in February. Either that or my friends are right — I’m a whack job. I’ll admit I can do stupid Real Good all by myself. However, I suspect the act of orbiting the Crooked Moon magnetizes oddities into my orbit. Worse, my confidence in my ability to navigate life is constantly eroded when no one else ever mentions these kinds of things happening to them. So I run around thinking, “What if I am a whack job?”

This month, it started with the shorts. It’s 80 degrees down here, people. We need our shorts. I have two soft denim pairs purchased last summer that I like to keep handy because they aren’t fashionably shredded like all my other denim shorts. I looked in all the usual places and then the unusual places. The shorts remain hidden. I just hope I didn’t throw them in the trash when I meant to throw them in the hamper.

Then there was that problem at the gas station on the other side of town. I gave $30 to the cashier and proceeded back to the pump. Noticed that I had failed to open the fuel filler lid (this is an official term). I unlocked the car door and reached down to pull the lever for the fuel filler lid. Nothing. I pulled it several times without any response from the fuel filler lid. At this point, I’m thinking it’s broke so I went back in to get a refund on my $30.

Back at the car, I can’t resist trying it one more time. This is when I notice I’ve been pulling the trunk lever instead of the fuel filler lever. Major smack to the forehead.

Only because this gas was the cheapest I had seen in weeks did I tuck my pride away and go back inside. I told the SAME cashier that I was having a senior moment and now wanted to pump gas. She started laughing hilariously. I told her to go ahead and laugh but one day she would have senior moments, too. I don’t think she believed me but that’s probably because I was, in truth, having a stupid moment rather than a senior one.

My most recent orbit around the Crooked Moon involved the magnet mentioned above. I was not doing anything stupid. I promise.

I reached for the toilet paper and the spring in the spindle holding the toilet paper EXPLODED. Both pieces of the metal spindle and the inner metal spring crashed to the floor, a tile floor, and fell behind the toilet tank in a bathroom that might be 3 feet wide. And it was not my bathroom. It wasn’t even the bathroom of a close friend. Nosireebob, it was the bathroom of someone who probably heard the whole thing and wondered what I was doing.

Briefly, I thought about looking for an item with which I could commit suicide but that would have involved opening cabinets that would, no doubt, bang shut and prompt the homeowner to start knocking on the door.

I know Emily Post is long dead but I can’t help but wonder what explanation she would have offered the homeowner. It was probably more polite than “Your schizophrenic toilet paper holder suffered a breakdown when I happened to be in the bathroom with it.”

 

 

 

 

DIGGING OUT FROM HURRICANE IRMA

Down here in the Deep South, some of us have been spending the last month digging out from Hurricane Irma. The Mayor of Jacksonville has asked us to allow the City until November 8 (I think that was the date) to complete debris pickup with the “claw” trucks that are here from neighboring states. Debris is piled up in front of almost every yard. We are on our second pile from a huge limb that came down during the northeaster that followed Irma.

Bubba and Flip Flops’ house became the official Hurricane Refugee Camp on the Southern Rural Route where eight of us – family and friends – hunkered down for the worst.

Nancy and I slept in the dining room on what Bubba’s wife, Flip Flops, referred to as “roll-away beds.” Let me tell you, roll-away beds have become very futuristic.  You plug them into the wall switch and whoosh, instant blow-up mattress. I was in awe. I am not a “looker” when it comes to shopping so I’m usually ten years behind on modern conveniences. I was just as awed by the battery-operated lights and fans, both of which I will acquire before next year’s hurricane season.

My blow-up mattress looked fine until I crawled in. I quickly realized I had drawn the defective one. The long end slopped north to south. I tried hugging the higher north end but, eventually, gravity won. Yes, at some point during the darkest hours, while sound asleep, my blow-up mattress ejected me. I fell to the floor with a thundering crash that immediately had Nancy sitting up straight in her blow-up bed. Frankly, I don’t know how she did it because my blow-up was too limp for sitting.

Just as predicted by the weather experts, Irma came yowling into town around 2 a.m. According to Void, a local freebie magazine, average rainfall during Irma was 9.22 inches on top of an abnormally wet summer of 31.88 inches. The ground was saturated and Jacksonville experienced the worst flooding since Hurricane Dora in 1964. Only a hurricane in 1878 was worse than Dora and Irma.

Along with most of the City’s residents, we lost power. Jacksonville Electric Authority trucks rolled into our neighborhood four days later.  It was such a cause for celebration that most of the neighbors rolled up to the intersection in their golf carts to watch the linemen work. You should have seen us – three buggies lined up in a row. The only missing golf cart was Mr. Beekeeper’s but he’s still young enough to be a nine-to-fiver.

Other than yard debris and a few fence panels, we feel very blessed to have come through Hurricane Irma unscathed.

Irma created 4 widow-maker trees right over my mulch/dirt pile. One is deep in the woods. One came down during the northeaster and another is almost down.

 

 

 

I WANT A BROOM

As I approach my 65th birthday, there seems to be a conspiracy afoot to make me feel OLD.

 

As I approach my 65th birthday, a conspiracy is afoot to make me feel OLD.

I went into a big box store for a broom. What I wanted wasn’t on the broom racks. I consulted two clerks who were nearby. When I asked for a “regular” broom I got blank looks as though I had asked them for a manual typewriter and really, just what was a typewriter? See what I mean? It was a conspiracy to make me feel old.

I couldn’t describe a regular broom to them.  I just knew I had always owned one and I sure hoped it hadn’t followed that manual typewriter into the black hole.

Finally, the guy said, “You mean like a straw broom?” He emphasized straw as though I had asked for a broom right out of the Middle Ages.

“Yes, yes, that’s it!” I exclaimed.

They looked over the broom rack and decided there MIGHT be such an antiquated broom somewhere in the dimmest reaches of the back room. The clerk who knew about straw brooms turned to the other one and they seemed to synchronize their walkie-talkies as though the One With Knowledge was about to begin a trek into the unknown and might need back-up.

My wrinkles were getting deeper by the minute and I was now fearful that if I hung around, a dinosaur might bust out of the stock room door from whatever black hole this guy disturbed.

“I’ll be in the paper towel aisle if you find it,” I told him and promptly took the remains of my shriveling self-esteem with me before I admitted to these youngsters that I still drove a car that required a key for the ignition.

I hadn’t been in the paper towels very long when the clerk reappeared with a big grin on his face while dragging a large cardboard box.

“I only want one,” I told him.  I also thanked him for his efforts but you know my heart wasn’t in it. He made me feel OLD and it was all I could do not to ask, “Slay any dinosaurs, did you?”

 

KILLER PINE CONES

WANNA CHUCKLE? Ginny and I have always joked, morbidly, about being killed by green, tightly closed...

Ginny and I have always joked, morbidly, about being killed by green, tightly closed pine cones falling from our pine trees. She dubbed them greenies.

There are several reasons that pine cones fall:

  • Over production by the tree
  • Damp conditions (closed scales)
  • Drought conditions (open scales)
  • Windy conditions
  • Stress (tree is dying)
  • Squirrel bombings

Don’t laugh at squirrel bombings. It happens. Whiskey, my cat, likes to keep me company while I work in the garden. A cat invasion of squirrel territory results in a warning ruckus. If ignored, one of the more militant of the bunch will heave a green pine cone larger than himself at my poor cat. At the same moment the pine cone hits the ground with a tremendous thud, mere inches from Whiskey, I see a blur of cat fur streak past my peripheral vision. I envy a cat’s speed and agility.

Not that speed and agility would do you much good when under attack by a greenie. They don’t exactly make those missile noises you hear on the Saturday cartoons. All is silent until that awful thud when it slams into the ground. If your head happens to be in the way, well, Ginny and I wonder about that.

It’s hard to determine what a greenie weighs. You can never get an accurate weight of something smaller than a human on the bathroom scale. In order to weigh a greenie, someone in my crowd, and I’m not saying it’s Ginny and I’m not saying it was me, took the greenie to the grocery store and surreptitiously weighed it on the produce scale. It was under a pound but we are still convinced it would be deadly when you add distance, velocity, and all that other scientific stuff. Think about what a 12-ounce jar of jam would do to you if it fell out of a tree and you can appreciate our concern about greenies.

In a quickie search of the web, I found no reported instances of Death by Greenie but in California, killer pine cones prompted loggers to nickname the Coulter pine cone “widow-makers.” A 10 pound, 16-inch long pine cone falling from 80 feet (or 30 feet if the tree is still growing), gives you the combination of height and size needed for a killer cone. Mention was also made of spiny claws encircling the pine cone to gouge you to death just in case the head impact failed to do the job. Nowadays, loggers wear hard hats in Coulter forests.

Australia has bunya pines that date back to the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods when dinosaurs roamed. Strangely, they are not pine trees but produce pine cones that are real head crushers at 22 pounds.

If you’ve got any tall tales about Greenies, I want to hear them.