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.”

 

 

 

 

OLD CROWITIS

The young cashier at the butcher’s shop made a remark about my shiny penny collection as I dug in my wallet. It prompted the guy in line behind me to give me his shiny penny. I tried to demur, of course, but he was insistent. It was so seldom he could make someone happy for a penny.

Outside in my car, I sat for a moment. I needed to let my brain slow down before I tried to drive off. I was amazed that the cashier remembered that shiny pennies make me happy. It meant that I had dug in my wallet for ugly pennies enough times for her to associate me with shiny pennies.

Why would this make my brain spin? Simple. My penchant for bright, shiny things was becoming memorable. How long before someone gave it a name like Old Crowitis and assigned the disorder to senior citizens? My fellow senior citizens have a lot to worry about – body parts going bad, outliving their money – without me adding weirdness to the list of things attributed to old folks.

Old Crowitis creeped up on me slowly. It started with shiny, copper pennies and my sister’s bling. Not being hip, I don’t think I knew what bling meant when Priss started showing up in t-shirts and sandals adorned with metal brads, rhinestones, and sequins. Priss was already afflicted with Old Crowitis. I, on the other hand, kind of wanted a bling shirt but not if I had to go shopping for it. My shopping occurred when I was with a friend who wanted to “just pop into” some store we were near. If it weren’t for my friends, I’d never get into any serious shopping trouble. My Hawaiian shirt with magenta sequin flowers was acquired during one of these friendly shopping trips. It didn’t cost a lot of money and I was bling-happy for several years.

At the beginning of 2014, my Old Crowitis sped up when I acquired this handbag with lots of metal brads and fringe. Oh my stars, the fringe! I was beside myself. I was in love. Once again, I was with friends but I was suffering through some lean years and they bought the handbag for me. Truth be told, I would have eaten cat food for a month to acquire that handbag.

2014's fringe handbag
2014’s fringe purse

The fringe handbag was made of “PETA-approved cruelty-free vegan” fabric. This probably means imitation leather made from polyurethane. I absolutely hated it. The shoulder strap deteriorated and by the Fall of 2015, Priss and I were out shopping for a new handbag I had seen in a magazine. It had beaded fringe and better quality imitation leather.

2015's beaded handbag
2015’s beaded handbag

I still couldn’t part with the original fringe handbag and its tattered strap. The new, beaded handbag went in the closet. This probably wasn’t a good idea because I think it was emitting Old Crowitis signals that ate into my brain. By 2016, my fascination with bright, shiny things went off the rails.

I began to buy beads, charms, and beading tools with the idea of sewing bling onto clothes since I couldn’t find any to buy that were already blinged-out. In craft stores, rhinestones and sequins literally stopped me in my tracks.

This was followed by cheap rings and watches with dazzling cubic zirconia. Lunch dates with other old crows were made for the express purpose of wearing all our “jools.”  The other old crows always had real jools but I was fine with my fake jools until the gold-plating wore off the ring in the first two weeks. This was so unacceptable to my Crowitis, I ended my online purchases of costume jewelry coming out of China. In short order, better jewelry was purchased and, once again, only because I was out with a friend who was shopping. This purchase fired up the “outliving my money” thoughts and, finally, the shiny penny incident at the butcher set off clanging alarms in my brain. Alarms that whispered  — you might have a problem.

Please understand that I have not confessed all of 2016’s bling events but I’m starting to wonder. Is there a 12-step program for old crows?

 

TOO MANY CROCKPOTS?

crockpots
These are my crockpots

 

How many of you are afraid to turn on a slowcooker or crockpot and leave the house? I was always afraid the crockpot might burn my house to the ground while I was at work because stuff happens to me. I don’t volunteer for stuff; it jumps on me with glee.

Once I left the 9-to-5 life, I had time to monitor bad crockpot behavior and searched the back of my pantry for a one-quart crockpot I had purchased many years before. It must have been many, many years ago because the metal body had rotted away to nothing while I wasn’t looking. On the bad crockpot behavior list, such action should be right behind torching my house. A crockpot sitting on a dry pantry shelf should not rot away. Even if it sits there for 30 years. I was going to use it someday!

This freak rust incident prompted the purchase of an oval-shaped crockpot by Hamilton Beach. I have cooked all manner of meals in this crockpot although I can’t recommend Crockpot Lasagna.

After a while, I was overcome with the desire for a programmable crockpot. I purchased a 6-quart, shiny stainless steel slow cooker by Crockpot. I can’t remember using it more than once or twice but I’ve got it if I need to feed the village.

Several years passed before temptation placed a third crockpot before me. It was a 2-quart crockpot for less than nine dollars. A bargain! I envisioned using it for side dishes. I could see black-eyed peas in my future.

The 2-quart crockpot went home with me. Rather than open the box, I went to my computer to look for recipes specific to a 2-quart crockpot. I was amazed. There were several websites but Pinterest had the most recipes.

The next day, problems with the new crockpot came to mind.

  • I had nowhere to store it.
  • I had a buzzing in my brain that there might be something wrong with me. Three crockpots? How was I ever going to explain this to Miss Priss on our weekly telephone chat? From time to time, her end of the telephone line goes silent after I have spoken. What if a third crockpot brought on the silent treatment? What if Priss began to think I was making too many Crooked Moon orbits (this is defined at Chicken News)?

In the end, I lost the courage to keep the 2-quart crockpot and returned it to the store. Do any of you have more than two crockpots? It’s time for you to confess.

EAT YOUR YARD JAX

Tuesday I went with some of the ladies from Mandarin Garden Club on a field trip to Eat Your Yard at 8220 Moncrief Road West, Jacksonville, FL. It’s a local, heavily wooded 40-acre farm run by Tim Armstrong to provide cactus and succulents to the wholesale market but he also has edible garden plants, a few farm-raised tilapia, chickens and rabbits. He was also affiliated with a garden project on the grounds of a school for handicapped children. I think it was Berry Good Farms. I wanted to read the brochures we were given but being a perpetual dingbat, I accidentally left them behind and the condition of my memory is beyond hope.

Tim Armstrong of Eat Your Yard
Tim Armstrong of Eat Your Yard

Eat Your Yard embraces organic farming, permaculture and any good ideas Tim encounters along the way.

Permaculture - plum trees overhead, pineapple sage, jack beans as understory, sweet potato as root crop
Permaculture – plum trees overhead, pineapple sage, jack beans as understory, sweet potato as root crop
Close-up of jack bean 14 inches long
Close-up of jack bean
14 inches long

Coincidentally for me, he mentioned something called hugelkultur which uses stumps, branches and twigs thrown in a mound and covered with soil to make a raised garden bed requiring little to no water or fertilizer. I almost missed this nugget because my mind had once again wandered off to orbit the Crooked Moon. It wandered back in just in time to catch the name and see the hugelkultur bed. Near the end of the tour, I saw a hugelkultur sign for another bed and I snapped a photo so I would have the spelling for further research. This was the most important thing I took away from Eat Your Yard. One of the old women in our neighborhood, long deceased, once told Momma that we have “seven years of dry and seven years of wet.” I never doubted the woman but also never paid much attention until I found myself unable to grow a vegetable garden the last two years. My garden sits in a low area that becomes a virtual flood plain when we have a lot of rain like we did this past summer. Just a few months before the Eat Your Yard tour, at another garden club function, I learned about adding pine bark chips to our sandy soil. This nugget of wisdom came from our local County Extension Agent, Terry delValle, who briefly mentioned it. That’s the problem with golden nuggets of wisdom. The people sharing them seldom ever raise their voice, tossing the nuggets out almost as an aside and I often need some hysteria to snap my wandering mind back to attention. Worse yet, these nuggets are usually what cause my mental crayons to start scribbling like a rabid left-handed dog and then I miss the next nugget. Thankfully, I caught both the pine bark chips and the hugelkultur nuggets and I will now be saving my 3 to 5 trashcans of limbs that usually hit the curb every week.

After our tour of his small farm, we were treated to freshly made Yard Soup and bread. He had collected the ingredients from food-producing perennials as he toured us around. He mentioned dozens of plants that can be made into teas, including a cranberry hibiscus and another hibiscus whose name I didn’t catch.

A hibiscus for tea
A hibiscus for tea (this was not the cranberry hibiscus which looks like a red Japanese maple)
Close-up of hibiscus pods which are dried for tea
Close-up of hibiscus pods which are dried for tea
Several ginger varieties
Several ginger varieties

For more information on Eat Your Yard, check out their website.

TOURING META’S YARD

Orbiting the Crooked Moon as I do, I’m always having these “adventures” I would just as soon not have. Yesterday was no different. I headed south to visit with one of my blog’s first subscribers, Meta. I ran into more than my share of T-stops that had so much signage I couldn’t see the name of the street or either the name of the T-stop was different than it was supposed to be. Then, of course, because everywhere I was driving was mostly rural, street signs required a magnifying glass. Plus, when you get far enough south, they number all their streets which can REALLY confound you when you are in the northwest teens and you need to be in the southwest teens. It doesn’t help when your visitee gives you the wrong area code for her phone number, either. This was nothing personal I learned. She regularly gives hapless fools like me the wrong area code.

Meta came to visit my gardens in July 2014 and I wanted to see hers but not in the heat of July again so I waited until now. Although it was a scheduled visit, it came at a really bad time as her daughter-in-law was in the hospital. The three of them – Meta, her son and daughter-in-law live in a family compound arrangement like I have done for the last 25 years.

I took a few photos of things I had not previously seen. To see previous photos, check these links: Garden Visitors, Meta’s Gardening Ideas, Meta’s Lion Tail.

A plant grouping in deep shade
A plant grouping in deep shade

 

Metas Easter Island head-6293
Meta had several pieces of yard art, including this Easter Island head, from Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville. The hosta is one for hot climates.

 

A pathway with Aztec Grass on either side.
A pathway with Aztec Grass on either side.

 

A very sturdy, fairly inexpensive support if you are handy.Coral Vine, Antigonon Leptopus (sounds like a disease!)
A fairly inexpensive support if you are handy.
Coral Vine, Antigonon Leptopus (sounds like a disease!)

 

I had just missed the blooms on these bromeliads.
I had just missed the blooms on these bromeliads.

 

Same bromeliads in bloom.Photo by Meta.
Same bromeliads in bloom.
Photo by Meta.

 

Clerodendrum paniculatum or Pagoda Plant (tends to be invasive)
Clerodendrum paniculatum or Pagoda Plant (tends to be invasive)

 

Small pink roses but the sun was too bright for a good photo
Small pink roses but the sun was too bright for a good photo

 

This is me in Meta's side yard with all the loot she gave me.
This is me in Meta’s side yard with all the loot she gave me.
Photo by Meta.

My worst adventure happened on the return trip. I was looking for 326 and came upon another one of those T-stops that was NOT labeled 326. At that point, I had no idea where I was. I turned around and headed back and saw a County Sheriff trying to leave a gas station. I rolled my window down and waved my Google Map pages at him. The Sheriff said he hoped I didn’t want directions because he was awful at them. I would have liked to have seen my expression because it most certainly radiated “Oh shit.” Not only was I lost but this dude didn’t have a clue, either. I think he was pulling my leg, though, because he said NE 70th and 326 were the same thing and I should take a left there, go through two lights and turn right. I could have kissed his badge because he saved me a lot of grief.