Snookered by an 8-year-old.

September 30, 2006

I have GOT to learn to quit answering the door when I’m half-asleep.

I’ve just gotten up from a nap and am trying to regain consciousness this afternoon when the doorbell rings.

I open the door, and this chubby, exhausted-looking little guy in shorts and a T-shirt mumbles, “Would you like to buy some popcorn?”

As I am looking at the brochure, this rugrat’s mom and dad make some chitchat about how they live over on Such-and-Such Street, while Junior fidgets uncomfortably, groans about how he’s been walking all day, and finally cuts to the chase by announcing to his mother, in a stage whisper you could have heard in Sapulpa:

“I gotta PEE!”

His mom tells him to calm down, because they’re going to their friend’s house next, and he can use the bathroom there. So I hurry up and mark something on the order form and send them on their way.

It isn’t until I get back inside and think about who Junior is shilling for that I realize that I have been HAD.

I have gone out of my way for years to avoid supporting the Boy Scouts. Not that I have anything against munchkins going camping and doing good deeds, mind you … but I have a lot of gay friends, and the Boy Scouts’ membership requirements are just a wee bit too exclusive for my tastes. I think everybody ought to be able to go camping in the woods in a silly-looking uniform if they want, regardless of race, creed, color, or sexual orientation. (The Girl Scouts, incidentally, agree with me. Which is good, because it would probably kill me to try to survive a year without a case of Caramel DeLites.)

But this afternoon, by the time I figured out I was being solicited by a plainclothes Cub Scout, I’d already agreed to look at his brochure.

There is an unwritten law of human decency that says that if you look at a rugrat’s sales brochure, you must buy something, whether you want it or not. I don’t care if he’s raising funds for al-Qaeda. If you take the kid’s order form, you’ve gotten his hopes up, and it’s just not right to dash them, no matter what you think of his cause.

Besides … I felt sort of sorry for Junior, who reminded me of the Red Fork Hippie Chick at age 6, trudging around her neighborhood in a beanie and sash, dancing up and down on her neighbor’s porch and trying not to wet her pants while she waited for him to quit making small talk and hurry up and order his @#$% Thin Mints.

How could I fight that?

I feel so used.

Caramel corn comes in Nov. 12.


Convolvulus

September 29, 2006

Convolvulus

After much wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’ and plannin’ and dreamin’ on my part, one of my poor little rootbound convolvulus plants on the patio has decided to bloom.

The plant itself looks a little awkward and leggy — presumably because it’s outgrown the hanging basket to which I’ve confined it — but the blossom was absolutely worth the wait.

Convolvulus is a member of the morning glory family, except it has a growth habit more like a petunia. Next year, I’m devoting an entire flower bed to nothing but convolvulus, because it’s just beyond gorgeous. This picture doesn’t do it justice. For some reason, when I optimize photos for Web use, the color washes out. The actual color of this blossom is closer to a midnight blue.

Emily


Rugosa dreams

September 27, 2006

I had an interesting conversation this afternoon.

I stopped by Southwood Nursery to see if they had any scarlet begonias like the ones I didn’t have time to stop and buy at a nursery I passed somewhere between Norman and Ardmore last week.

They didn’t have the begonias I wanted, but they had lots of other goodies, including some azaleas I wanted but don’t have time to plant this week. Maybe I’ll go back Saturday and pick those up.

While I was there, I inquired about rugosas. When we lived in Belleville, we had these fabulous rugosas — also known as fruiting roses — in front of the house. They had huge, deep fuschia blossoms with big yellow centers, and they smelled heavenly. When we put the house up for sale, the rugosas were blooming, and the buyers’ path was literally strewn with rose petals as they came up the porch steps. No joke. It was stunning. Even better than the blossoms were the rosehips: big around as quarters, and intensely flavorful. Lovely things.

Besides being gorgeous and productive, those rugosas were low-maintenance. We never did anything to them (except pruning back the dead parts now and then when the mood struck), but they seemed to thrive on neglect. It was great.

I’ll probably have to order my rugosas online, but in the meantime, I was relieved to learn that my hybrid tea roses’ complete and utter failure to produce decent blooms this year was not the result of any incompetence on my part. The guy at Southwood told me it’s been a terrible year for thrips. They must like the heat or something.

I told him I’d actually resorted to spraying my roses with neem oil to try to eradicate the thrips. He mentioned that he has some friends from Vancouver who can’t spray anything on their plants, because the city has outlawed pesticides.

I wasn’t surprised; Vancouver takes a pretty granolafied approach to urban agriculture. After all, it’s the home of City Farmer, a program so cool it could almost lure me off the Mother Road and into Canada.

My new friend wasn’t familiar with the City Farmer program, but he was intrigued to hear about it. We ended up having a nice conversation about organic gardening and dog-waste composting and the merits of various soil-testing services.

When I got home, I did a little homework and learned that Vancouver has, indeed, implemented a law reducing pesticide use. Certain pesticides and insect repellents (most of them natural, such as pyrethrins, diatomaceous earth, capsaicin, and Bt bacteria) are allowed, and stronger stuff is allowed if you’ve got termites or something … but indiscriminate poisoning of the environment is no longer permitted. You can read about it here. I personally think it’s brilliant.

I suspect our bees agree.

Emily


Inspiration

September 25, 2006

In case you missed the comments section of yesterday’s post, my sudden enthusiasm for dementia concretia has inspired a similar flurry of daydreaming by my mom and my sister, who are probably going to end up being next-door neighbors in the near future. They are now plotting all sorts of craziness, from an Indian medicine wheel to a faerie garden (CAUTION: Cutesy, twinkly music begins automatically) to a sort of enchanted bunny forest inspired by Kit Williams’ Masquerade.

To fuel their daydreams (and yours) this winter, I have assembled a little collection of links to various and sundry gardens, restaurants, museums, books, mythological beings, works of art, roadside attractions, and various other ephemera generated by some of the world’s most creative minds. Happy surfing!

The Lost Gardens of Heligan (includes sound effects, so keep that in mind if you’re trying to look busy)
The Venice Cafe
City Museum
Dave Dardis’ Secret Garden
Firefly Lights (CAUTION: Site features obnoxiously loud, automatic music.)
Fake fireflies, butterflies, infinity mirrors, fountains, and more
Faerie houses
Gnomes
Various mythical creatures
Jack O’ the Green
Sheela-Na-Gig (CAUTION: Images are a bit, um, “adult,” albeit in a weird-primitive-looking-stone-carvings-found-on-14th-century-Irish-churches sort of way)
Another Masquerade site
Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book
Griffin and Sabine: An Extraordinary Address Book
Maurice Sendak
Pippi Longstocking
Elmer Long’s famous Bottle Tree Forest
The Watts Towers
Labyrinths (the concept)
Labyrinth (the first reason your favorite Hippie Chick utterly adores and desperately misses Jim Henson)
The Dark Crystal (the second reason your favorite Hippie Chick utterly adores and desperately misses Jim Henson)

Feel free to add your own links in the comments section. These are just the ones I thought of off the top of my head. I’ll probably tack on more as I think of them.

Emily
Hippie, artist, gardener, and overgrown 4-year-old


Hummingbirds

September 24, 2006

I went down to Ardmore yesterday to take some Burma-Shave signs I’d made for a lady who bought them at a charity auction this summer. I didn’t get any sensational pictures on my trip, because I was running behind schedule on the way down, and I felt a migraine settling into the left side of my head and just couldn’t bring myself to take the slow, scenic route back.

I did, however, stop to move a turtle off the road on U.S. 77 a few miles north of Ardmore, and when I got home, Ron told me he’d seen something extra cool in the yard: He raised the blind in his office yesterday afternoon just in time to see a hummingbird zipping around the water hyacinths.

I didn’t know hummingbirds liked water hyacinths, but that cinches it: I’m expanding the pond next year to include a second, smaller pond with a waterfall and a biological filter involving a miniature marsh full of water hyacinths and rocks. I’ll have to dink around with pumps and tubes and plans this winter and figure out how to do it so it will work right and look pretty.

Theoretically, I could get the water regulated to the point where it’s clean enough for koi, although I probably won’t bother. Koi are notoriously expensive and temperamental — not exactly a good combination for the Darwin Garden of Red Fork.

The Darwin Garden is a place for hardy creatures and even hardier plants. Sunflowers and zinnias thrive; roses struggle. (The ones in the previous link were given to me by a friend whose husband has the patience to baby his plants a little bit.) Scissortails gorge themselves on the tiger mosquitoes in the garden, but purple martins think they’re too good for us. It’s survival of the fittest out there, and finicky, wilty, high-maintenance life forms need not apply.

I’m planning to introduce a low-maintenance addition to our garden next spring: When I build my Green Man sculpture, I’m going to brew up a batch of moss spores to slather over his face, and I’ll move some of the wild morning glories that are trying to take over my garden and let them climb around to form his hair. They don’t bloom very well (just tiny white blossoms — none of the big, showy, gorgeous blue and pink blooms like you see on the kind you cultivate), but they’re tough as nails and grow like kudzu. If they’re going to insist on taking over my garden, the least they can do is crawl all over a sculpture to make it look cool, don’t you think?

This is a continuation of that Darwin thing I was talking about. In Belleville, I pretty well mastered the fine art of zero-maintenance gardening: By the time we moved, I’d given up trying to grow anything that wasn’t a perennial, a self-seeding annual, or a tomato. (Homegrown tomatoes are worth the extra trouble, but just barely.)

Over time, I figured out what would grow well and what wouldn’t, and I had some very well-established perennials — mint, echinacea, Texas bluebonnets, Indian blankets, and some kind of mutant collard that thought it was a perennial and refused to die — and some highly enthusiastic self-seeding annuals, including California poppies (slow-loading link, but gorgeous photo!), dill, carrots, cilantro, lettuce, and spinach, which would grow and grow and grow. By the time we left, “spring planting” consisted of walking through the garden, grabbing dried seed heads as I passed, and sort of crumbling them in my hands and scattering the seeds back into the beds before turning a couple of rotten tomatoes into the compost pile to ensure a steady supply of compost tomatoes later in the summer.

It wasn’t the neatest garden on earth, but I suspect it was one of the healthiest, and there was something charming about walking out the back door with a pair of scissors to harvest herbs that had basically planted themselves next to the door.

We’ll reach that point here eventually. It’s just a learning process, and every garden is different. But I think I’m on the right track with the morning glories. If you can’t beat ‘em, train ‘em. :)

Emily


Gorgeous

September 21, 2006

I had three water hyacinths blooming in the pond when I came home from work this evening. We had a gorgeous sunset tonight, too. A friend and I had dinner in Stroud tonight, and the whole way over there, we kept interrupting ourselves mid-sentence to say, “There’s another Maxfield Parrish cloud!” or “Oh, my gosh, look at that light!” or “Don’t you just love it when the sky is that color?”

It’s good to have a friend who understands about sunsets and doesn’t get offended if you stop mid-sentence to stare at a particularly nice cloud.

I hung up my Green Man next to the back door. He looks cool there. I have about a million ideas for decorating the house, garage, and yard. I want to paint the house white and the trim brown so it looks like a Tudor cottage. I want to design some window boxes for the south-facing windows that will serve as mini-greenhouses for flats of seedlings in the early spring and then convert to standard window boxes full of potted herbs in the summer. I want to build a Green Man sculpture like the one at Heligan. I want to build a gnome cottage and tuck it into the garden somewhere just for fun. I want to build an earthen oven. I want to plant a hippie-themed flower bed. I want to paint little trompe l’oeisls all over the house and garage for visitors to find and enjoy. I want to install a flagstone path so I can walk barefoot from the house to the garden without stepping on an unseen doggie bomb, cow killer, or other unpleasant surprise.

I have about a million ideas, and as soon as I clear my plate, I’m going to dive in and start working on them. Bit by bit, project by project, over the next three or four years, I want to turn my house and garden into a sort of living monument to unbridled creativity.

I’ll keep you posted on how that project goes. :)

Emily


Green Man

September 19, 2006

greenman.jpg

I taught mythology for a year and am quite fond of English folklore, so a Green Man seemed like an appropriate addition to my garden. Unfortunately, they tend to fall into two categories: A.) Ugly, and B.) Overpriced.

This evening, I was fortunate enough to wander into a store on 15th Street that had just gotten several Green Man items, including the plaque you see above, which came with a lovely little book about the Green Man and the legends that surround him.

The store was one of these places that likes to cover its bases: Crosses hang on the wall above a shelf of New Age books, and if you need a Tibetan prayer flag or a deck of tarot cards, you can get it here. One-stop shopping for all your religious needs, I suppose. It was just off-the-wall enough that I held out some small measure of hope that I might find the Holy Grail of Weird Crap to Hang on the Garden Gate: a Sheela-Na-Gig.

No such luck.

I’m not really surprised. I’ve never seen a Sheela for sale. I’m not sure there’d be much demand for them. They’re pretty grotesque, and rather risque. Strange figures, but the history behind them is fascinating — and mysterious. They’re often regarded as a sort of female counterpart to the Green Man. I think it would be awfully cool to have a Sheela hiding somewhere in my garden.

Ah, well. I’m just grateful to have a Green Man at last. And I have been inspired by the photograph on the cover of the book that came with my Green Man. The image shows a giant Green Man sculpture — sort of a topiary thing — that appears to be surfacing from the ground. The sculpture is found at the Gardens of Heligan in England. (Note: Heligan Web site contains chirping bird sound effects that start automatically, so turn down your volume if your boss thinks you’re working.)

Click here and scroll down to see a picture of the Green Man sculpture.

I have got to figure out how to build one of these in my garden, because this is the coolest thing ever. It looks like what you’d get if you commissioned Larry Baggett to design you a lawn ornament and then hired Edward Scissorhands as a subcontractor to actually build the thing.

Speaking of cool stuff in the garden, Ron had a little adventure today.

The bees had gotten a bit quiet lately, and Ron was afraid they might have been attacked by varroa mites. Wintergreen oil will get rid of mites, but you aren’t supposed to use it until later in the fall. In the meantime, I suggested that he look into the hive, check the bees’ condition, and sprinkle them with powdered sugar if necessary. (A dusting of powdered sugar will prompt the bees to groom themselves, removing any mites in the process.)

Ron opened the hive to find a colony of healthy, active bees. He went ahead and sifted some sugar over them anyway, just as a precaution. His report on the experience made me laugh out loud:

Note to self: If you ever need to p*ss off honeybees, sift powdered sugar over them.

Didn”t get stung, but my inspection of the beehive reveals that the girls are very much alive. They were behaving fairly well until I sifted powered sugar over the main brooder. Then that created a mess of angry, dusty honeybees buzzing my head. Now they know how Milton Berle felt when his sidekick yelled “Makeup!” and did the deed. Can’t blame them for being irritated, actually.

He went on to say that the super he added this summer is about three-fourths of the way full of honey. That’s pretty impressive, considering the drought and the fact that this is still a relatively young hive — we just got them in the spring of 2005, so this is only their second season.

Lousy year for tomatoes, but a good year for honey. I’m OK with that.

Emily


Scarlet begonias

September 18, 2006

I’ve gotten all caught up in my causes and my concerns and my career lately, and somehow in the midst of all that, I forgot I was a fun-loving hippie with an embarrassingly easy life.

I was sitting here sinking into a funk and feeling very sorry for myself Friday night when it occurred to me that all I really needed was to settle in with a cup of Red Zinger and some Grateful Dead tunes.

I made myself a cup of tea and realized abruptly that somehow my entire Dead collection consisted of a beat-up copy of Skeletons from the Closet on vinyl (which I’d bought for 99 cents last time I was at Vintage Vinyl in St. Louis) and an MP3 of “Truckin’” that I’d downloaded from iTunes.

Thanks to the magic of iTunes, I was able to remedy this situation pretty efficiently, and my instincts proved correct: It’s impossible to be depressed when you’re singing along with “Scarlet Begonias.”

I’ve been tentatively planning next year’s garden, and I’ve decided to turn at least one flowerbed into a sort of hippie garden. Now I’m trying to come up with a list of ’60s and ’70s songs that mention plants. So far, I’ve come up with:

Scarborough Fair (parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme)
Scarlet Begonias
Strawberry Fields Forever
Sugar Magnolia
Incense and Peppermints (my friend Mike’s suggestion; I think I’ll plant patchouli next to the peppermint)
China Cat Sunflower

And of course I’ll have to plant daisies in honor of the famous “Daisy” ad.

I’m sure there are a million more plants I haven’t thought of. Feel free to add any that occur to you. (And no, I will not be growing a separate garden under a special light in the closet….)

Emily


Mother Roading

September 16, 2006

Conoco sign standard

I had to go over to Vinita to get a picture of the endangered Lewis Motel for the Oklahoma Route 66 Association newsletter this afternoon. I got back into Tulsa just in time to catch the sun setting behind this Route 66 relic on East 11th Street. The shape of the sign standard indicates this was once a Conoco gas station. I’ve meant to shoot it for two years. The lighting conditions made me slam on the brakes and turn around to get it tonight.

Oasis Motel

I came upon the Oasis Motel at that magic time of evening that I am pretty sure God created for the express purpose of providing a backdrop for photos of neon signs. I couldn’t find an angle that showed the really amazing thing about the light behind the sign, which was that the sunset looked like something a child would draw with Crayolas — vivid colors, and there were big rays of light stretching from the horizon upward to infinity.

If you look closely, you can kind of see the effect in this shot, which I fired off quickly while I was at a stoplight. See the blue and orange streaks?

Sunset

While I was driving down 66 on my way back from Vinita, a huge heron flew across the road. It was beautiful. A monarch butterfly flew right over my head while I was running this morning. And I took a minute when I got home from my run this morning to get a picture of my cardinal climber in bloom:

cardinal climber

Hope your Saturday was full of unexpected beauty.

Emily


TGIF

September 15, 2006

I would be more excited about the fact that it’s Friday night if I didn’t have to get up and run 14 miles before breakfast tomorrow … but it will be a slow, flat run along the river, and the people in my training group are nice, so I don’t mind spending the better end of three hours on the trail with them.

My coach is after us to slow down and run our pace this week. We were about 30 seconds fast on the 10-mile hill course we ran last week.

I liked running those hills. I don’t think anybody else did, but I loved it. I don’t know why. Part of it probably has to do with the Hill from Hell down the road from me. I’ve run that beast twice, and it kicked my butt both times. Everything else seems easy by comparison.

If I have time this weekend, I’ll take a picture of that hill and post it here. I keep telling the other runners in my group about it, and they think I’m making it up. I wish I could borrow somebody’s Garmin and measure the actual grade. It’s a nasty thing, but I don’t know exactly how nasty.

Goes way up into the boonies, too. The first time I ran it, a big black tarantula scurried across the road about a quarter-mile from the top. It was so big and was moving so fast that I initially mistook it for a rodent. Creepy, but sort of cool. As long as they stay on the hill and out of my house, I’m fine with them.

Maybe instead of going to the gym, I should start getting up 45 minutes early and running a couple of hill repeats out there before work. After two months of running up that hill two or three times a day, a largely flat 26.2 would seem like a cakewalk….

Emily


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