Lake View-Monet Vision-Durango Gold

It is pouring rain today, as it has been doing on and off for the past week. My wife called me to fix a TV which did not have a signal. I was pushing buttons to get the signal back when a very loud bang on top of a flash occurred right outside our window. I nearly jumped out of my skin. I thought the TV blew up, but it was thunder and lightening. It must have struck the trees behind our house. Being startled like that certainly woke me up.

I spent two and a half hours in the yard today pulling weeds and trimming shrubs. I came in soaking wet from sweat. The house was cool and I was cold. I like working in humidity but it wears me down quickly. After a shower and some clean clothes I’ve been spending time at my desk processing raffle ticket returns. My annual appeal letter is working and I am at ten percent of my goal to sell 200 tickets.

Why is it that gardeners must have flower beds that are as neat as a pin? We must attack any natural horticultural matter that we didn’t plant. Natives just don’t belong in a cultured garden. I must be careful for I will raise the ire of some radical group like Green Weeds Matter (GWM) who will demonstrate in front of my house carrying signs that say Stop Killing Natives, or Native Perennials are Flowers Too! I would love to dump the contents of my 90 cubic foot container of garden waste on them, but It won’t happen because I’m too weak to lift it.

I keep staring into the water of my pond searching for a glimpse of any of the twenty-five fish I dumped in there last week. To date, I have only spotted one small school of four cruising along the shore. I did spot a very large frog right under my nose as I savagely yanked the out of place natives from the ground. Froggy was out of the water and migrating into the Hosta bed to hunt for some delicious critter to eat. I slowly moved my gloved hand toward him to see if he would jump, he dd not. I had to gently touch his hind leg to get a reaction, and then he only moved about a foot before resuming his motionless posture. He does move fast when he moves, but mostly he plays dead until it is time to strike.

There is something soothing about a garden that has a manicured look, and neat flower beds surrounding a freshly mowed lawn, and a patio overlook from which to admire it all. I love summer! My garden does not look like that vision I just described. I have a scenic pond surrounded by flashy flowers backed up by a wall of fancy shrubs to add a colorful backdrop, and fresh cut lawns on either side. I sit on the patio and spend time thinking about how good life is as I listen to the birds singing from yard to yard. I have discovered that the loudest bird is one of the tiniest, a wren. If he sang in a choir he would be the one voice that rises above all the others. This is the fifth year the wren family has rented the middle bird house in the Bird-Tower apartments. The view from the entrance is Lake Joe. A low hanging branch from the huge poplar tree at the back of the yard affords them a hidden approach to the front door.

Just When I Thought I Was Out of the Woods

I set a goal this year, that if I were still living in the same house as I have for the past fifteen years that I would plant an award winning garden, I neglected the Monet Vision for two years and have been paying the price in tired muscles, weary joints and the latest, cellulitis. What I forgot over those twenty four months was that the same plot is loaded with sleeper cells that get angry when I don’t provide them with luscious annuals to feed on.

This year’s trip to the nursery to buy flowers was a joy, but very short. The instant I walked through the door into the green house I spotted a flash of color at the furthest point away from where I stood. It was the color I wanted in the Monet Vision. Before I knew what the flower was I saw the theme for a picture outside my kitchen window. The two colors were a flashy bright golden orange and a very deep bright sunny yellow, and they were marigolds. I will suffer looking at yellow just to deter the rabbits, I thought to myself. There is nothing I hate more than declaring war on rabbits. Rabbits look upon my annual plantings like I do looking at a box of Fannie May chocolate cremes.

To add spice to our lives, my beautiful wife planted a large pot with a spike, encircled by yellow marigolds encircled by moss roses. It sits boldly on our front porch next to our front door. A couple of nights ago, she called me out to see something. “Look,” she said, “what is digging in my pot?” I wanted to laugh, but knew better. What I saw was a trail of rich black dirt scattered all about the porch leading to a very round and pronounced hole at the base of our spike. “This not a rabbit,” I said, “it looks more like the work of a ground squirrel.”

“We have to put something around it,” we meaning me, she said. I took the watering can from her hand and poured the entire two gallons down the hole. Nothing came out. I expected to see a drowning stripped squirrel come out gasping for air. Nothing happened.

A couple of days have passed during which time I spotted a rabbit in the middle of the Monet Vision. I jumped out of my easy chair and chased him out of the yard. Upon returning from the chase I saw what he was coming for. I planted a single Black Eyed Susan almost ready to bloom next to our new rose bush. I had pictured this one plant seeding into a large mass of yellow with dark brown centers backing up my Stella Dora lilly patch. This is not to be because the mature plant had become a stub poking out of the ground. Now I am mad, I said to myself. I have two different adversaries to fight at the same time, as well as a very unhappy wife.

In past years I posted a series of garden stories titled “Wabbit Wars.” In these stories I picture myself as Elmer Fudd of long ago cartoon days. Elmer constantly battled with Bugs Bunny who raided his carrot patch often. Elmer had a lisp and couldn’t say “rabbit”, he said “wabbit.” Therein the title “Wabbit Wars”. I try to use my wits to outsmart the rabbits, while Elmer used his shotgun, but he always missed the mark.

My mind will go crazy in the next few weeks as I begin the battle on two fronts. One against Osama Bin Wabbit, and the other against Mohammad Squirelsalam. Two sleeper cells who have been awakened to the odor of newly planted fresh delicious cuisine that I have named squirrel-rabbit food.

It is not fair that I should finally open my wallet to a rush of moths flying out to pay for plant materials that are the dashes of color on my garden palette to form the “2021 Monet Vision- Durango Gold,” only to find rabbit scat in place of my beautiful Black Eyed Susan. Perhaps if I catch and kill these terrorists and place their heads on a spike at the entrance to my yard they will hop around the perimeter and not invade the heart of the scene.

Butt Up Time

Over the years I have passed many yard ornaments consisting of ladies with very large derrières facing the street while in front of their flower garden. They always brought back memories of my own mother bent over at the hips pulling weeds. II wondered why do they do that? Wouldn’t it be easier to kneel down and pull weeds that way? Today I realized the answer to my question. I attacked our small vegetable patch with a vengeance removing two seasons worth of wild growth. My advice to gardeners is this, never, never, never, never allow a garden to go wild for two years. Nature has a rule which is to recover from man’s attempt to over rule it in any way shape or form as quickly as is possible.

I thought I had the problem solved when I first initiated the garden plots. I boxed them off from the lawn to slow the growth of grass and weeds into the valuable vegetable space. Slowed is putting it mildly. Within one season the grass had grown under the wooden framing and was taking over the interior. To make matters worse there were a few trees that had started from seed that had roots nearly to China, and in between patches of bluegrass were tough wild specimens of thistle. In the middle of it all stood three clumps of green onions the last reminder of anything edible within the borders of our meager vegetable patch.

Digging and pulling weeds firied up the neurons within the nervous system through my back, knees, hips, and neck. A reminder to never, never, never, never allow a garden to go to weed for two years. It took me about an hour of said exercise to remember why my mother bent at the hips to pull weeds. I chose to go down on my knees, but getting back up became more strenuous and my knees screamed at me for doing so.

By the end of the pull, I too was bent at the hip with my butt pointing toward the sky reaching to tear the grass from the ground. It is time to fill the jacuzzi with TBD oil and to jump in for an hour.

And, that is my story of how the term “butt up time” originated, and I’m sticking to it.

Broken Promise

Back in 2011 I made a promise that I couldn’t keep. My daughter-in-law asked me to make her an intarsia hummingbird. Like always, I dove into the project only to learn that I was not skilled enough to make a hummingbird out of wood. Hummingbirds are tiny. This month I searched the internet for the smallest bird on the planet, only to find out that the Ruby Throat hummingbird is not the smallest. There is a species that is found only in Cuba called the Bee Hummingbird. It is almost half the size of a ruby throated humming bird. Nature just raised the bar on me.

Over the years, I have acquired more skill in Intarsia, and some better equipment too. I decided to give the bird a try. I began by finding the old pattern I had from 2011. The bird on the pattern is huge I thought. Not a realistic hummingbird but one that would be relatively easy to cut. I searched for more patterns only to learn that most intarsia artists make the birds large, almost like I am looking at the bird through a microscope.

I never found a pattern that I liked so I set out to make my own. Google images has pictures galore of humming birds and I found one that was in the correct pose for my piece. I matched the bird against a hibiscus flower which is one of its favorites to feed from. I made a pattern for the flower, a single bloom, and another for the bird, in scale or as close as I could eyeball the true size.

One problem I had with the bird pattern was to get a good photo of the wings. When a humming bird hovers and stands still his wings are beating at 200 strokes per second. Yep you read that right it is 200 hundred strokes per second not minute, they are a blur. For someone like me who is trying to copy the bird in wood that means I have to find some really slo-motion pictures to get an idea of what they look like while beating. I finally decided I can make the wings look like whatever, and no one can challenge me because no one will ever be able to see these wings standing still. That took some pressure off of my mind so I could proceed.

The next challenge was in trying to make something that tiny in two dimensions but looking like it is in three dimensions. I started out that way but changed my mind when I could not see the beauty of the bird in clunky two dimensional wood. I had to make the bird in three dimensions. the next challenge was to determine how to position the bird so it looked real against a flower. When a Hummer hovers up to the flower to suck the nectar out of its stamen he is virtually motionless and not touching the flower in any visible way. I could not see how to put the two forms together in a way that the final product would be believably real. The only way out was to make a flower, and a separate hummingbird and to design a way to make the bird seem like it was hovering in mid-air just microns away from the flower stamen. I won’t divulge my secret, but I made it look real.

When I finally began this work I was coming off a piece titled “Three Roses” which wore me down. The pieces were very tiny and delicate and there were too many of them. I thought the humming bird would be a vacation piece. My initial estimate was two to three weeks. I jumped into the pattern and made it quickly, then selected the woods and began cutting. In about a week I had the flower and the bird cut from the woods. I set it aside for what reason I do not recall, but it sat from May until November, and then I took it up again. And I spent three more weeks finishing the bird and flower.
As in all art work the frame is important in order to showcase the center piece. I decided on a rectangular frame with an elliptical opening for the art. I am an amateur wood worker even after seventy years of practicing. The damn frame almost broke me. The simplest of all cuts became a nightmare, the 45 degree corners. For the life of me I could not get the 45 degree cuts to match when put together. I think I was at 44. 85 degrees and not 45.00 degrees. The end result was a frame that had large openings between sides. I started with an 18 x 14 size frame and before I finished it was down to 17 x 13. I had to continue to trim the pieces until I could get the corners to match perfectly. Since I only make one or to frames a year I will never be able to afford the precision equipment I need to make forty-five degree cuts perfect. The result is in the photos below. I’m still deciding whether my daughter-in-law will get the work.

Enough talking it is time to unveil the masterpiece. “Hummer Breakfast”

Iris Cove

Just another day in paradise, this morning was glorious. I say was because it is already after noon. When one finishes breakfast at ten o’clock noon comes quickly. Thankfully, I haven’t kicked myself out of KETO this week, God knows I have tried. On Thursday I thoroughly enjoyed a sub sandwich from Jersey Mike’s bread included, then washed down with a sugar cookie. This morning I feasted on a mushroom-spinach omelet with thick sliced bacon.

Last evening I went for a bike ride with a friend and as usual I was way ahead and stopped to let us catch up with each other. I did something stupid on the start-up and wound up prone on the street. The last time I dumped on a bike was fifteen years ago when I hit a patch of wet leaves on the trail and found myself skidding on my side for twenty feet. It just goes to prove that if you ride long enough, you will have an ass dumping accident. At one block from home I stopped again to allow us to even up, and a white haired man stopped at the same corner. He shouted out “how are you doing?” “Fine” I relied. “God bless you,” he answered then drove off. Strange.

I was determined to find a new series on TV to watch and tuned into one called “Red Oaks.” The story revolves around a country club called of course “Red Oaks.” It takes place in the eighties and resembles “Mrs. Robinson.” Of course all the characters are filthy rich except the kids who work there parking cars, life-guarding, teaching tennis, or carrying golf bags. It is funny how all the staff sucks up to the rich membership. I would never do anything like that. I found it amusing and will continue to watch.

I spent another afternoon in the garden cleaning the other half of my pond which took a lot longer than I wanted to spend, but it was worth it. I cut back a huge bed of irises and the cattails for the first time in twelve years. I learned that one of the things drawing the pond water level is the irises. Another culprit is the cattail. I pulled a root that turned out to be two feet long and the diameter of a garden hose. If ever there was a pipe pulling water out it was that root.

Cattail Root–One Inch In diameter by two feet long
Iris Cove

The water level in the pond was down by six inches and I started the water to fill it. After half an hour the level was where it should be. It’ll be interesting to learn how the level changes now that two of the main culprits have been cut-off. At the end of the day I came in exhausted and sat at my computer staring at a screen fighting off sleep. I vowed that if I am still at this house next year that my garden will be as magnificent as it has been up until two years ago. The garden must be in my blood, just like bike riding is.

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