Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Rain, Dogs, and a Comfortable Bed

We had rain last night.

It has been predicted, but for most of May, none came. I quit paying attention to the forcasts.
Last night, it came. The thunder only grumbled. The wind blew knife sharp.
At my west door, the dogs and I stood, sniffing, the perfume that long un-rained earth gives up. It smelled like dry grass, rich soil, and somehow, live oaks. Plants I , and probably they, didn't know. We are surrounded by hackberries and pecans, but live oaks have this piquant scent.

The rain blew under my 12-foot metal awning, spraying water to the back door.

Stepping out the front door on the east, spray blew in, but mostly, we were dry.
I stepped in,climbed into bed, finished my wine, found a stopping place in my book.
Because the unexpected rain was to be celebrated, and I was already relaxed. I could hear the drumming on the roof., the muted brumbling of the thunder, every now and then catch the flash of lightning, or sheet lightning.

I turned out the light, pulled the sheet over my shoulders, and smiled.

The dogs settled. We all relaxed and enjoyed a cosy, comfortable place out of the rain, but glad for the rain. They were comfort. My bed was too. So safe, so soft, so comfortable.

The world looked new again this morning.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Itching and getting outside

Lord, I itch.

The legs, I think, maybe even the belly, are chiggers.

The back is mosquitos. Probably.  Maybe all chiggers. Maybe all mosquitoes, except I have more bites on the ankles.

I know chiggers are indiginous to the South of the US. I don't know if they exist elsewhere and will google later. (pause. had to scratch.) Damn. just discovered the welt on my back. Right there in the middle, upper back.

My home state, the Land of Enchantment, New Mexico, has neither fire ants nor chiggers. This ranks it very high in my books.

Huh. I have new knees. That means more mobility. On grass. In Texas. in warm weather. I had my aerosol can of Off! with me. Didn't think to use it. (pause: I itch. had to scratch again.) Sigh.

I had hoped, with aging, my  delectability to insects might diminish. Some 35 years ago, my son, my husband and I, set out for an impromptu picnic in a nearby state park. I spread a tablecloth over the burgeoning grass and set out the food.   All three of us sat. We ate. We laughed and enjoyed.

The next day, my son and I itched. Chiggers, tiny,speck-sized bugs had  dug into skin and raised itchy places. My 5-year-old had to go to the doctor. I used some of the ointment prescribed  for him then.To his hundred bites, I had at least 40. His father had none. Snarl.  The man was usually impervious to mosquitos, too.

With more activity, I am on turf more often and outside more. After this, I will use the stinky insecticide. So much of my body has changed, I assumed my delectibility to insects would too.
Sigh. Not to be.

My grandchildren run around in shorts and barefoot, with nary a chomp.  Their parents are outside all the time with no chomps I know of. Maybe this is an initiation. After so many hours, no bites.

I need sulphur. I used to pat my ankles with it regularly to keep off the chiggers while I gardened. Worked great and washed off in the shower. Duh. I'm gardening again. Time to go back to old methods.

But if hair grows on my chin and not my shins, and I need yearly checks for skin cancer, why is the one consistent factor  that I still am susceptible to chiggers and mosquitoes?

Ah, at least I am not embarrassed much at my age by pink welts on legs, tummy, back and nether regions. If I were younger, probably so. In a few days, this  will pass. And I will remember to use  insect repellent when I go outside.  Because I itch.

I really do. Scratching doesn't help.

Damn chiggers.

 I'll never say I'm itching to do something again.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Laughing in the rain

I was wearing my souvenir T-shirt from Oregon.

"Nice shirt," the clerk said as I walked up to the counter.

"Thank you," I said, just as a deeper, male voice behind me said, "Thank you."

"Oh, yours is nice, too," she said, flustered.

I turned around to find a rather muscular young man wearing a U.S. Army T-shirt. I grinned.

"Looks like we're both wearing shirts that show where we've been," I chuckled.

He grinned.

"But I bet I had more fun," I added as the clerk sacked up my purchase.

We all laughed.

"I hear it's beautiful," he called as I turned away.

"It is," I called back. "Hope you can make it a destination sometime."


It's been a funny spring. We've never, ever planted in early March. I waited till almost April, but sure enough, neighbors and friends already have squash, tomatoes, onions, broccoli, spinach--some have green beans flowering. In May!

The fruit trees are loaded. Peaches missed that last, late spring freeze that sometimes comes. Right now, we are in abundance. Just got another inch of rain over the weekend, though it's slowing down. Although I watered, the pecan tree in my back yard lost its crown this year. Foliage only on the lower branches, so it will come down. We are still sawing down the trees that died last summer and will lose more, the experts tell us. My sweet gum lost several branches on the west side but is regenerating branches.

It may be as hot this summer as last, though it is doubtful. The water makes all the difference. There was almost no local produce last summer. The town Farmer's Market had packed up by July because the heat and lack of rain burned everything. Produce we did have came from hundreds of miles away. Priced correspondingly. In the fall, we had some, but in a miserably hot summer, we had no bounty, no juice. We didn't really suffer physically. We had enough. Just no bounty. No extra gifts of the fruits of summer. It wore on us.

Townships around here are still regulating water usage. We need to. We have to.

I've gotten my first cherry tomatoes with three other bushes, all different varieties, making fruit. I've planted Anaheim and New Mexico chiles. Parsley, sweet basil, Thai basil, oregano. It is a fine start. This year, I've been fascinated with the varieties of basil. I could plant a whole garden of nothing but basil if I wanted.

I caught Gracie in the middle of the raised bed this morning, despite the fence. I knew she could jump it; I just thought it would inconvenience her, which it does. "Gracie!" I hollered. She waited a sweet, 'you're not the boss of me' moment, and jumped out, hurrying across the yard. She knew. Tsk, tsk.

We've had mostly a kind of Oregon summer--warm for Oregon, with lows in the low 60s, highs in the 80s. Soon we will get to the Texas summer. Here it comes.

Parts of Texas are still subject to wildfires. We won't forget so soon. Some caution will stay in place.

But my granddaughter's strawberry patch is producing berries, and I hear the blueberries are making this year. A friend offered me some of her tiny but sweet plums yesterday.

It's shaping up to be a fine summer.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Man's Best Friend Gets Short Shrift. So do cats.

Last night I saw another awful story about a dog hoarder. She had 56 dogs in terrible conditions. Her grandson, another issue, was 18 months and in the middle of the filth and half-starved dogs.

I shake my head and place it in the mental health colunn. She apparently has placed a lot of dogs in the past. Right now, people are giving up their pets in record numbers. At least they take them in. Others dump them in the countryside. That is just plain vicious.

But, hoping to help my local shelter get the Rachel Ray challenge money, I opened my Face Book to the shelter. And about half the time I want those dogs, but I have two. (I never want the cats, however sweet, which would enrage my youngest granddaughter. She wants a profession as an adult that is prosperous enough she can open a cattery.)

I keep wanting to disengage, but I can't. How could I do CPS and anguish over this? We continue to work to keep the humans alive. We euthanize the animals.And it hurts.

I just finished a ho-hum autobiography by Betty White, who has always been devoted to animals. She said, at her age, it is unfair for her to take younger dogs who will be left. But she can adopt older dogs, who otherwise wouldn't live, and they can live out their years together.

I have one-year and two-year old dogs. Both typically have 15-16 year lifespans. So I better take good care of me, or mine could be the old dogs bewildered and euthanized.

I'm not sure, but I think I should go to hell for that.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Feeling the Love While Gardening

I do like the flowers. I never had a big vegetable garden, but always tomatoes.

Today, I picked my first five cherry tomatoes. Not big ones, but ripe red. I see some more tomatoes on the other big bush. The other two plants are putting out blooms, and I am in a quandary. I should pinch and let the plants grow. But who knows when Mother Nature will suddenly turn up the furnace and it is so hot they won't produce?

This year, it is anyone's guess here in North Central Texas. The drought locally is at end, but cities are wisely keeping some conservation measures in place. It can happen again anytime.

The dogs love to be out when I am watering and pulling weeds. This week, they were taking turns at "chase" I have a utility shed, about 3 feet from the back fence. Brody was in the lead, with Gracie chasing. He tore around the back. She wheeled around to meet him in front when he came around. He wasn't expecting her and leaped over to avoid a collision. They tore around again.

And I stood there, watering my plants with the hose, and just belly-laughed.For the heck of it--you know how it is--I shook a snake of hose water at them as they raced by, and laughed harder. They sped up. I didn't think it was possible.

Finally they collapsed on the deck after a long slurp of water, just grinning at me.

Even before the dogs, I never gardened alone. I often remember my granddaddy taking me out to HIS garden and teaching a five year old how good it is to pick a green onion, skin it back, pinch off the root and eat it right there in the sun. He was from Tennessee and had green onions twice a day, trimmed and  in a short glass tumbler Nana filled for us all. He taught me about eating sun-ripe tomatoes still warm in the sun and eating them, too. So he is with me.

My father had me plant a patch of radishes because they grow fast, but I didn't LOVE radishes. He shoulda given me my own tomato. I don't know. I just remember how happy gardening made him, He had 50 rose bushes that bloomed and bloomed, peach and apricot trees, and a jujube tree. He had a whole garden for iris, and bush honeysuckle and a bush called Spanish--I need to remember. It was unusal, with virtually no leaves, and yellow flowers that smelled heavenly. He planted grapes, and baby's breath, and pansies, and violets that were huge and likewise beautiful. Pansies and columbine for Mother who loved them so. He planted about a half acre in vegetables, with several rows of green chiles.

I planted white impatiens under the Bradford pear because Catherine Gunn, a wonderful older friend, advised a white garden in the summers, in the heat, because the white and green was cooling to the eye, and she was right.

The advice of so many friends with me now, and my wonderful daughter-in-law, whose thumb is green, have played through my head. And I remember the Mother's Day when my oldest son had been living on his own for just a while, and he got this deal on some petunias, and I got up that morning to find my whole porch covered with flats of petunias. I'm sorry to say they didn't all get planted, but--the delight. I will always remember it, feel it.

This is no giant undertaking--an 8X8 raised bed, some squash outside, the flowers and plants in the already established front gardens, which are small.

I have high hopes for the two Knockout roses--deep pink,in my case--develped by Texas A&M University. A rose shrub, it is impervious to most disease and insects. The two bushes should get about four feet tall, four feet wide and four feet deep. They bloom from early spring through December and are mostly evergreen. My two are growing and blooming. Next year, they will be focus plants, the third year showoffs in my yard. They are among a series of roses Texas
A&M has developed, again for their resistence to disease and insects. They are all low maintenance. Roses. Really. They aren't my beloved tea roses, though, and I will have to plant a few of those.

When I garden, I really notice the birdsong, the sound of the leaves, the smells of dirt, grass and herbs, enjoy being in the real world for a bit. And all those memories in my head keep me company.

I still go to the gym. I need the predictable discipline. I really don't mind it, fortunately.

The  garden, though. Well, you know. You probably garden too, or you wouldn't have read this far.

This year, there is the special joy of doing it for the first time in many years. And knowing I will be doing it again...at least, that's my goal.

I hope I have enough to give away. That will be riches indeed.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Less really is More

Back in the early 1990 at the University of North Texas, I was privileged to participate in an experiential  seminar on diversity.  At that time, the group leaders had success working with Catholics and Protestants in Ulster. It was a seminal experience. 100 of us from the university where I worked were there, as well as others from other institutions. We spent the day. We seminared together, ate together, broke together, spoke together. and at the end of the day, I think it changed a great many of us. And we cried together.

Very few of us deserve to be hated, at least for what we believe. I guess the difference would be if you thought it was right to denigrate or hurt another person, of whatever age for any reason. I would not agree.  I have to add attacks  of different genders, faiths, skin colors....I guess, anyone different from me doesn't deserve to be hated. Or even misunderstood. I don't deserve it either.

I keep wishing somehow we could lock up Congress and give them the same training, make them find their similarities, vote as Americans. They won't. It is so sad.

I know about conflict, and pain, and betrayal, and abuse.  I know all of that. Maybe you need to know that. Because my blog only occasionally is about this stuff.

1) It is about love you can depend on, the good feeling you get from helping someone else, the joy
of love-driven hugs.
 2) a butterfly, a new tomato, new flowers, fresh knees, something to be grateful for. An old house, an old rowboat, an old tree. Hopefully with a treehouse. Good dogs. Even good cats.
3). People you care about, wherever they are from whatever their politics, when or if they vote.

My front porch is screened, but it gets a mite hot in mid-summer. It's a might cool in January So I'm looking for a warm, toasty, computer- happy understanding.  I may change how I write, but for now, most of the time I can give you a respite, a place with another intelligent person to rest and whew! notice the surroundings.I'll try to notice the encroachments as little as I can.

Because, honestly,I have a life  that's pretty good. And I bet yours is good, or better than you thought.
If not, start thinking!

How beatific of me. How perfect. How I ignore reality. No, I don'r. I just notice what you may skip.I'm retired. I have the time.
You know, whoever you are, I could like  you or find one thing to like.  Can you even picture me with a gun,? Because that is who I am  as well. Just as well I don't have one currently.
Deliberately, I have downsized to very few possessions. I don't have to protect much.
Thaat really improves the odds we won't have to dislike each other.