Adventures with Lisa, Frank & Daisy Dewdrop


I Can’t Be Allergic to Fog. . .
September 8, 2006, 12:08 pm
Filed under: Our Yard & Garden

The past few mornings, the fog has been thick in the valleys of Central West Virginia. It is a sign of summer’s end, and a trademark of weed season in our region.

I wake up each morning sneezing.

I’m one of those stubborn people who won’t get on regular allergy medicine. I can barely remember to take my vitamins every day. So, I have little capsules of Benadryl allergy pills that float around in my purse, camping gear, glove box, office drawers, all year round. You know, just in case.

Rarely, do I need them. And I will suffer a bit before taking one, just because I hated that medicated feeling. But for about four weeks at summer’s end, I wish someone would feed me one about 5 a.m. in the mornings, so when I wake up I’m not immediately rattled by a bout of sneezes that literally take the breath from me.



Backyard Visit
September 1, 2006, 4:10 pm
Filed under: My Weekly Column, Our Yard & Garden

A reader told me I should give updates on topics covered in this column in previous weeks. She was especially interested in my Aqua Blue Iris, and if they bloomed. Others have commented on the ducks on the lake, the geese, heron, and other critters I see daily. Well, the Iris bloomed, not quite as rich in color as I had hoped, but they got darker the longer they were in bloom. Each morning, I take my coffee to the porch and sit and watch the lake. So, as for the rest of the back yard and garden–come sit with me on the back porch and see.

This past spring, after a few days arguing over the number of goslings (“Six,” I said. “Five,” said Frank), we realized there were actually two sets – one set of six and one of five.

Gosling number six was odd. The “runt,” I suppose, he held up the crowd every time. By the third week, both parents ran their children together, from the pond to the lake, to the mud bog puddle–the runt always lagging behind. He didn’t want to go under things (fence) or over things (pipe) and often took the extra time to go around while four parents and 10 other goslings waited.

The situation was aggravated when a snapping turtle took a chunk out of the runt’s leg. The flock of 14 began to just leave him behind. Within a few days, we saw him no more. Assumption tells us coyote or bobcat brought his end. So, there are 15 geese–the parents and children–and Crip’s mate.

Crip was a goose born on the farm who couldn’t fly. His wings were deformed; the tips of them pointing down into the water instead of tucking neatly at his side. I suppose his name is not politically correct, but it stuck nevertheless, and in the afternoons I would feed him croutons. Eventually, he ate from my hand.

Each year we watched him call to the other geese as they flew off for the winter; Crip flapping and flapping his wings, but getting no lift. When the lake froze over, he would disappear–only to return when an opening in the ice appeared. In his third summer, he found a mate, and twice he watched her fly off with the others in the fall as he again faced winter alone. In his fifth winter, he did not return (coyote or bobcat again). His mate still returns each summer though, and that’s her, alone, over there.

Our surprise this year was baby wood ducks. Our first spring here, I watched in shock as baby ducks simply vanished from the water. The snappers would come up from below, and in the blink of an eye, take them down. There would be no fuss, no ripples, no squawking, no feathers. The duckling was simply there–then gone. All baby ducks came to the same fate that year, and for three years since, we’ve had no ducklings.

This year, the ducks tried again, and so far, so good. They’re very skittish, and keep to the shallows. Frank and I need only to step out on the porch, and off they paddle to the far end of the lake or under the willow tree to hide. See them go? Quickly look, or you’ll miss them.

The herons had a young one this year as well, and all three strut back and forth in the shallows across the water. They never come close, and Frank often claps his hands hard and loud to spook them away. “They can eat gallons of fish in a day,” he said, as they fly, slow and smooth, to another location. Clap your hands too, and you’ll see them fly. Don’t worry, they’ll come back.

Kingfishers seem to love us this year, as we have gone from the usual two to five. I don’t know if some are youngins–they all look the same to me–but their high-pitched squawk and fishing antics are entertaining. See them there on the edge of the bank?

Yes, in the morning I first watch the show, then I take a look at the plants that grow.

The back porch flower bed has established day lilies, gladiola, columbine and comfrey. The weed I didn’t pull for two years turned out to be foxglove. I swear, they are ugly until they bloom. The new perennial I planted this spring is doing well, but now I’ve forgotten the name or what it is supposed to look like when blooming. I let the Queen Ann’s Lace grow this year, and added two tomato plants and two pepper plants. One tomato plant is doing well. The others? Well, I think there is a little too much shade.

Around the east corner of the porch is the side garden which gets all the morning sun. Potted plants on the edge of the porch include two tomato plants, and another green pepper plant, which are doing well. Among the florals in the garden below, I have added a bush bean and a short-vined pumpkin. Both are now blooming. There are columbine (in three colors), day lilies, surprise lilies, perennial aster, forsythia, two Rose of Sharon, and bee’s balm. I managed to not pull some foxglove in this garden too, but they are weak, and short.

The pride of this side garden is my balloon flower. Buds look like little hot-air balloons before they pop open with a star-shaped flower. When I bought it, and for two summers since then, it bloomed in deep purple. This year, I added horse manure to the flower bed in the spring, and now my balloons bloom only in white. Oops.

These are my morning gardens, which I check barefoot in my PJ’s with coffee in hand. There are two more flower beds out front, and a veggie garden across the field–but I take pleasure in these in the evenings when I get home from work.

So, now you have shared my morning with me, and perhaps, some other time, I will bring you home for an evening visit.



Two Gates: A Poem
September 1, 2006, 3:56 pm
Filed under: Our Yard & Garden, Uncategorized

TWO GATES

There are two gates between the house and the road,
Two gates to open, two gates to close.
Two gates ‘round the horses, one on each side,
Two gates blocking my daily drive.

The inner gate’s held by a black bungee cord,
The outter’s propped open with a scrap piece of board.
Gate one is in the sunlight, gate two in the shade,
And often two horses will be in the way.

(And when the gate’s open, horses try to get through
So you have to hurry, before they do.)

I’ve opened and closed in the cold, wet and dry
Opened and closed as lightning flashed ‘cross the sky
I’ve opened and closed in sunshine, in rain,
When night was so dark my eyes had to strain.

And if I am running five minutes late,
I’m fifteen behind once I deal with the gates.
And if I forget something and have to go back,
I’ve dealt with six gates once I’m back on my track!

Open and close, open and close,
I get my hands wet, get mud on my clothes
Open! Close! Open! Twice a day – sometimes more!
Close! Open! Close! Also with the car door!

Two Gates! Two Gates! Not just one, count them, TWO!
Two gates in the way, and horse clods too!
Two Gates! Two Gates! They are racking my brain,
These two bloody gates will soon drive me INSANE!

There are two gates between the house and the road,
Two gates to open, two gates to close.



The Garden Piddle
September 1, 2006, 3:53 pm
Filed under: Our Yard & Garden

Yesterday was a perfect spring day. The sun was warm, almost hot, but the cool wind kept the heat down. I spent nearly all day outside.Having spent two days working on the WV description for Intelliguide.com, and still rather blocked on the whole trip writing and photos endeavor, I kept yesterday’s “work” goal limited.

First, we prepared all our rolls of film for developing, and sent them out to York. Here in the backwoods, we don’t have many choices for film developing. There’s Rite Aid, 30 minutes away in Glenville, or Walmart, 40 minutes away in Spencer. Plus, we want to keeps costs down, so we’re skipping the one-hour developing option – thus, requiring two trips.

With gas, the one-hour developing option might be cheaper.

Nevermind all that, we just mailed it to York. Four rolls of film and two disposable cameras. They should be back in a few days.

I’m hoping that will help break down the lull I have had for that project.

Also, true to form, I worked on a new t-shirt design to take my mind off what I wasn’t getting done. The new “Martyr Seeking Sainthood” items can be seen
HERE. .

I’m too lazy to take the steps needed to include a photo of it here, and that’s not the reason we’re all here anyway, so there’s the link – no photo. I think I’m going to make that part of my blog policy. No photos of items I’m selling. :o)

Those two things accomplished, I left the house.

First came the survey. You know, the whole walk around the yard, make note of what’s happening there, just checking the situation.

I brushed Jazzy, my fuzzy Norweigian Elkhound, who frankly, is looking a little shaggy in the current shedding process. I put “Flies Off” ointment on the tip of Zeus’ one good ear where the deer flies have already started their summer torture.

Then I began what I call, “The Garden Piddle”.

When we moved here, there were no flower beds. I basically began each of the five beds in places where it was tough to mow, and where Frank would approve the location.

Each year, I expand the beds. My process is simple. I spread plastic, junk carpet, or thick newspaper where I want the grass to die. Then I cover it with mulch.

If it’s plastic, I’ll cut a hole or two and add a flower. If it’s newspaper, it’s laid around a plant, then the area is left for about two years while the newspaper rots. If it’s carpet, It’s a location for a future garden gnome or something.

I’ve asked for a truckload of mulch as an anniversary present (May 25) and spent yesterday laying the base – covering it with dirt, rocks, branches, to keep it in place. Frank, the man that he is, asked, “How much paper are you going to plant this year?”

Smartass.

Over the weekend, Frank bought a tomato plant, some pepper plants and cabbage starts. So I put all those in pots which hang out on the porch. (Rabbits, deer. Need I say more?)

We’ve never kept up with any of our attempts at a real vegetable garden, and I am not a practiced canner. I like hot pepper jelly, and always make a little, but doing a whole garden harvest? No way. I’d likely cut a finger off or blow up the kitchen.

Anyhoo, another annual ritual in the gardens is the relocation.

When this gets too big, it needs divided and moved. When the forsythia gets too big, everything around it needs moved. When this spreads from one garden into another, sprouts are taken back to the region where they belong. As this garden is expanded, plants from that one fill in the new space.

Throughout all of this, of course, there’s weeding to be done.

Anyway, it makes for a good day – doing The Garden Piddle.

I took three splinters out of my hands last night, and removed two more this morning. I now have a good start on a farmer’s tan, and am betting I have poison ivy break out somewhere on my body by tomorrow afternoon or the following morning.

Oh yes. Yesterday was a great day.



Did I Plant You?
September 1, 2006, 3:52 pm
Filed under: Our Yard & Garden

Flower gardens are strange and wonderful things. Although I have had many, this is the first time in my life I didn’t move after the second year, and thus, the first time I had a four, five, six year old plant of any kind.Also, each year, I mean to draw out my beds on paper, and mark the locations of my flowers. Several times I forgot to do it; once I did it, then couldn’t find the drawings come spring.

Thus, I spend every spring waiting anxiously for my favorites, or new additions, but also spend time looking at a green sprout thinking, “Did I plant that?”

Is it a flower? Or a weed?

Heck, I don’t know.

I know my Columbine, but thought this one was blue, and that one was yellow, and that one red – but they all seem to have traded places this year. (I swear!)

I know my Bearded Iris, which should be opening tomorrow or the next day.

I know the Glads, the other Iris, the Asiatic Lillies, the Day Lillies, but – are those four o’clocks? And are these the violets I planted or the wild ones? And I know those are tulips, but I’ve never planted tulips (Honest!) and what’s that?

I know I didn’t plant poison ivy.

I am quite familiar with the weed that came in the mulch I bought two years ago. It is everywhere. I can also easily identify the oriental grass I should have planted in a pot (also everywhere).

But I remember this thing bloomed late last year – a survivor after I pulled all the rest thinking they were weeds – but I don’t know what it is. And I think that’s a grape vine, although I didn’t put it there.

I see other people’s yards, where every bloom and bush is strategically placed, and I wonder – how do they do it?

My garden has never been, and never will be…
any more than an experiment out of control.



Hey, that’s My fish!
September 1, 2006, 3:51 pm
Filed under: Our Yard & Garden

After weeding, running the sweeper, and getting paperwork ready for work tomorrow, I meandered out to the lake with my fishing pole. It was a little early ~ I know the fish won’t bite until there is shade on the water. But half the point of fishing is sitting.I’m not one of those cast-and-reel cast-and-reel fisherpersons. I use a bobber. Even so, with cheddar cheese on the hook, the sunfish and bluegill will keep you pretty active.

Today, however, Mr. Hawk came by, and after circling overhead for about ten minutes, settled in a treetop across the water. It’s rather odd having a hawk fly 50 feet above you, looking down at you like you could be lunch. I suppose he decided I was too big though, and off to his tree top he went.

Now I know I’m supposed to watch my line, but have you ever watched a hawk fish?

The first time he did it, I actually thought he fell out of the tree.

Straight down, into the water – splash!

Then, with a flap of the wings and a fish in his talons, he rose slowly up from the lake and back to his tree to eat. On the way, he lost his grip, and the fish fell back into the water.

I watched him do this for about ten minutes. Treetop, splash, flap, treetop. It was beautiful.

That’s when I realized a fish had taken the bait on my line, and was off with it – bobber no where above water to be seen.

Even a good size sun fish will give you a fight, and with the head start I had given it, it took me a little while to reel it in.

The darn thing had gotten down around a bush at the water’s edge, and it took me forever to get it out.

I admit, I wasn’t ready. I didn’t have water in my fish bucket, and so I tossed the fish on the bank while I waded down to the water’s edge to fill the bucket.

I suppose that was my mistake, but I never would have imagined. . .

While I was down by the water, I’ll be damned if that hawk didn’t swoop down and steal my fish!

So I’m standing there, feet in the muck, bucket half full, body half way up the bank, mouth wide open, totally dumbfounded, watching a freaking bird fly off with my fish.

Unbelievable.

For one of the few times in my life, I was totally without words.

Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it.

In fact, I still don’t believe it.

Talk about the one that got away. . .



The Stink Plants
September 1, 2006, 3:47 pm
Filed under: Our Yard & Garden

The Stink Plants

Spring is full of surprises. I am still watching each day for crocus and daffodil to surprise me with their upshoots, but inside the house, we did have quite a surprise.

Last summer, Don and Willalea Kelley invited me to their home to view and do a story on what Don calls his “stinking plant.” The plant is commonly called “The Sacred Lily of India,” but is also known as “Rattlesnake Plant,” “Devil’s Tongue,” “VooDoo Lily” or “Stink Plant.” The scientific name is “Amorphophallus rivieri.”

I visited the Kelley’s home to view a five-foot tall, burgundy waxy funnel with a large stamen in the middle. It was outside, in the yard, and I could smell a slight odor, which seemed of little consequence to me. I thought the name “Sacred Lily of India” was most poetic, and in my mind, assigned that name to the plant.

Early last fall, Don asked me if I would like to have a few of these amazing plants. “Yes!” I said, and arrived at his house the same day. To say he had several to give away would be a huge understatement. For me, he had a whole box of them, with tubers ranging from an inch in diameter to nearly six inches.

Immediately, an excellent idea came to mind.

At Christmas, I am prone to give gift baskets. I fill them with home-canned jellies, relishes, etc., and then toss in some candy canes, or other things to personalize the basket. As a gift, the plant was unique and special! Something uncommon and long-lasting! So, this past year, all those I know who garden got a tissue paper wrapped Amorphophallus rivieri tuber in their basket, with a label card saying, “put in a cool, dry place until spring.”

I put mine under my kitchen sink.

At February’s town council meeting, Don Kelley asked me about my plants. I told him how I had shared them with others, still tickled at my resourcefulness–with the special gifts I shared. On the way home, I thought, “Why did Don ask me that? I won’t really be even thinking about those plants until late March or early April.”

At least that’s what I thought.

My neighbor Becky was the first to call.

“Uh, Lisa?”

“Yeah,”

“You know that plant-thing you gave me?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Well, we put it in the closet at Christmas, and, well, it’s growing.”

I assumed then that Becky’s closet simply wasn’t “cool and dry enough.” Then, I came home one day, and Frank was working under the kitchen sink.

“You might want to do something with these things,” he said.

I guess my sink cabinet isn’t “cool and dry” enough either. Five lilies had begun growing. One grew up to the bottom of the sink bowl, then turned at a right angle to the wall, then straight up along the wall. Another had grown sideways, through the handle-hole of the box I had them in. Another was cockeyed, and had grown among the plumbing.

I smelled them. Nothing.

So I put them in pots in the corner of a basement room where there’s a constant draft. They continued to grow–inches a day.

Then Judy called at work.

“Okay, so here’s the thing,” she said (she often starts her calls that way). “That plant-thing you gave me is growing.”

I advised she do what I had done. Put it in a pot–with or without dirt–in a cool place, and wait until spring.

That night, I came home from work and Frank was cleaning out one of the refrigerators. We have three.

“Something in here is rotten,” he said. Knowing our refrigerators, I assumed he was right.

When he was finished cleaning all three refrigerators, the smell was still there . . . And the little light bulb above my head came on.

“Hey, I bet it’s those plants,” I said, heading to the corner to sniff. I got about halfway across the room when the putrid scent hit me like a ball bat–and they weren’t even yet in full bloom.

“Oh! Ugh! Oh!”

“Put them outside!” Frank said.

“I can’t! It’s too cold!”

Gagging all the while, I moved them one by one into the laundry room–the least used room in the house. A room that is, by no means, cool or dry. Thus, the flowers flourished, and bloomed. Within a day, their aroma reached the neighboring bathroom.

Frank tried reason again, “Lisa, those plants! You can’t leave them in there. They have to go outside. How about in the out building?”

“I can’t. They’ll turn to mush,” I said. “Spring’s coming, I’ll spray some Lysol.” I made a mental note to contact those who I’d given plants, but couldn’t specifically recall them all.

Yesterday, the smell reached the kitchen, and Frank resorted to wandering around shaking his head and muttering four-letter words under his breath. I was thinking of my friends, searching their homes for the source of a putrid smell.

I said aloud, “Don said if you cut the middle stamen out, they won’t stink so bad,” finally admitting what had to be done–even though I didn’t want to mark the visual beauty of the bloom.

Frank had a knife in his hands within seconds.

That vicious act helped a little, but it has been too cold outside to air out the front room, bathroom and laundry room, so a scent still lingers.

This morning we had company. A long-standing, coffee-drinking friend, Kenny’s visits are often spent in the kitchen.

“Somethin’ die in here?” he asked.

Yes, Amorphophallus rivieri is known by many names, and this morning, Frank came up with a new one.

But it can’t be printed here.