Wednesday, May 28, 2008

UPDATED: These are the people in my neighborhood

Hardcore gardening post here. Serious, serious gardening. Oh my goodness is there a lot of gardening in this post. Heavens yes. With photographs of my plants taken while they were out growing in my garden (rather than out at WalMart shopping for canned salmon.) Gardening, gardening, gardening. Just dirt and plants and botanical latin laying all over the funka da funky.

...Gardening, and THIS LINK for all you Mythbuster fans out there.

deeply, profoundly and comprehensively NSFW, btw.

....because after all, gardening isn't everything. Ahem.

REMEMBER: Perennial means it comes back every year
Annual means that it only lives for one year.

perennial Iris pseudacorus, or yellow ditch iris. Just opened an hour before I took this picture.
Iris pseudacorus tends to be a very small flower on top of a very tall, very leafy plant, but what a lovely small flower it is. This is not something you ever plant unless you really like tall (5 ft!!) green, leafy clumps because thats what this does for most of the year.
It can grow in standing water, where it will spread and live happily for years without any attention whatsoever...freeze solid and come right back like a champ. Or, in other words, this sucker is a bitch to get rid of once it's in, so you want to put it someplace that you can easily get to, so you can stick a shovel in and chop it out when it begins to spread. Yes, CHOP. And yes, SPREAD.
In the garden it is perfectly happy with damp, heavy, neutral-acid soil in partial shade, though, which is where I have it.
Beneath a willow tree.
Which it is out-competing.

perennial Aquilegia 'Barlow' series columbine. This is a columbine that was bred to look up at you, instead of hang downward. The Barlows are doubled, which means that they have twice the number of petals that a columbine usually does. I know I have Nora Barlow, Black Barlow and a couple of others but I can never remember which name goes with which one. Anyway, they're pretty.
The Barlow aq's like partial shade, but will put up with full sun. They want a rich, damp, acid soil.

perennial Papaver orientale, oriental poppy. This is a dwarfed selection and I'll be damned if I can remember the cultivar name. It's like a Prince of Orange that stays short; it only gets about a foot and a half tall. Usually orientals are big, spready, wandy things about 3 feet +. It likes full sun and average soil-heavy, sandy, slightly to the left or right of neutral; it isn't picky. It is also highly invasive if you don't cut off the seedpod before it dries out-those seeds are REALLY lively. You want to underplant it with something that will grow up tall around it, because once the flowers finish the foliage just goes to hell and looks awful. It needs no care whatsoever, and will thrive on neglect for 90 YEARS.

perennial Lychnis flos cuculi Ragged Robin. The pink lacy stuff. Although it looks nice with all the crappy buttercup coming up through it, doesn't it? It gets about 12 inches tall. This is a completely carefree plant. It will seed itself around happily but is easy to take up. It isn't picky about soil, as long as it isn't completely waterlogged, and it's light requirements are pretty easygoing too. It makes a nice filler type flower, running around in between everything else.

flowering tree Cornus kousa in full mature blossom. This is over my Opie dog. The blossoms start small and greenish-white with a red line around the edge of the petals, and gradually change color and size over time, getting larger and darker. It changed to pink this morning (5-28) after the clouds burned off, Mr. C., and right after I took this picture I went inside and heard your sad news. My heart is with you right now. If there is such a place as heaven, then only dogs qualify to get in. Your guys and my Tater man are playing together. And more than likely eating cat crap.

perennial Aquilegia, an open - pollinated mutt. Some of these look upwards, some face down, like the ones in the background there. The solid blue ones that come up in my garden tend to pillar, and get anywhere from one to two feet tall, depending on what they happen to feel like doing or what song is playing on the radio or whatever. These grow in full sun. The spiky thing is its seedpod. The pink thing is my hand.

perennial, native to the northwestern americas Aquilegia canadensis. Years ago I ganked the seeds from out in the woods and threw them in my garden, and it's followed me around ever since. This columbine has a really nice habit; it doesn't pillar so much as it wands gracefully out, the long stems taking random gradual curves. When you run onto it in the shady woods, the effect is that of a small bright bird, like a hummingbird, standing motionless in midair. This can reach 2 1/2 feet tall, although its more common at the 1 ft height. It isn't very floriferous, but the flowers are incredibly striking and the plant itself is very elegant in all its parts. It likes at least half a day of shade, which is why it planted itself near the walls of my house where the afternoon shadow falls.

...another shot of the plant. Theres some blue columbine behind there, and the whitish stuff on the bottom left corner there is Lychnis coronaria Rose Campion, not in bloom yet obviously.

perennial Meconopsis cambrica, Welsh Poppy. Likes damp soil and partial shade, and at least here it seeds itself around happily. This is another plant that began as stolen seeds, this time from a planting in downtown Lynden. Ha!

perennial Aquilegia chrysantha, yellow columbine. This one likes to stay in the shade. It seeds itself rather far away from the parent plant, but once seeded in it lasts for years. It gets quite tall too; up to 3 1/2 feet for me in ideal locations. It has the most lovely, graceful long spurs, like a falling star.

perennial Clematis 'Niobe'. This selection is supposed to be much redder than this, but I suspect that given a different soil and warmer springtime temps the red tones would color up. As it is, it comes very dark for me some years; almost black. That makes me happy.
Clematis wants to have its roots in the shade, but the rest of the plant wants to grow in full sun. You can overplant with something that stays short to achieve this, or set the root mass in beneath a large flat rock with the growth tips just barely sticking out from under the sun side.

A bee's bottom through a Cornus sericea ssp. occidentalis Red Osier dogwood. Yup, I ganked it. Started it from a stolen cutting. This strikes quite readily from cuttings too, so go ahead; grab those shears and head for the creek!
It likes damp soil and shade. The online descriptions call it a shrub, but here at least it grows into a very spready small tree. If you stool it back at the end of the season it shoots back up in the Spring with bright red stems, and this is how it's usually used in a garden setting. I like the tree form better, although its kind of a pain to keep trimmed back. The honeybees are enraptured by this tree. They climb all over the umbels from morning until dark, their legs so full of pollen that they look like they're wearing mukluks, and the whole tree hums.

First rose of the season, opened this morning!
I have no idea what kind of a rose this is. I call it Jackie Kennedy for no particular reason other than I couldn't let it run around without a name, and Jackie Kennedy sounds like a good rosey name. I took it as a cutting from an abandoned homesite where it was holding it's own against a himalayan blackberry. So yes, it's a rampant climber. It grows on its own roots, though, and I've never had much of a problem with black spot, powdery mildew or aphis. Plus, you can ignore it completely-I have it out in the full sun right in the path of the northeaster and in six years its never noticed a thing. The new growth is dark bronze-red, and the flower has no scent, unfortunately. It will repeat in late July.

perennial Sisyrinchium montanum Blue eyed grass
It's really not worth the trouble...she says to herself every year, when it comes up everydamnplace and looks boring. Until the pretty, pretty little blue stars open up. Then it's great.

perennial Frangaria x Pink Panda strawberry. Bulletproof, evergreen, pretty most of the growing season, a great groundcover, not picky about conditions, AND it produces a really tasty, sweet little berry!

perennial Asphodel, Aarons Staff. I've grown this for 16 years, and nothing seems to bother it, except me. Each main crown sends up this one flower spike in May, then that fades and you're left with a nice blue-green spire of long wandy leaves. It pups from the base of the crown, and you can crack those off and stick them in a pot for next year, to start new mother plants. Otherwise you can let the offsets grow and have a clump with taller and shorter spires. It forms a cluster of berries after the flowers finish, and they're pretty lively if you let them mature on the plant and then drop off naturally. It wants moist soil, neutral, full sun.

Sandwort...? I am drawing a complete blank on this, and its really common too. It's a woody little sub-shrub guy used in rock gardens, and it likes dry conditions and full sun. Agh! Anyway, its pretty.

perennial Iris, German Iris, Bearded Iris. Just the plain old iris with the big knobby roots that your grandma grew. This one happens to be a lovely clear blue. Supposedly I have a black one too, 'Interpol', but in five years it's only given me three blossoms, and it isn't out yet anyway.

Again, drawing a blank on the foreground flower. Its the same variety as the other one that I drew a blank on; just a different selection. If someone can identify it, please do! This is driving me nuts. Still, doesn't it look nice in front of the thing with the broad leaves there, heuchera 'Fireglow'? Both of them are dry landers and want full sun; otherwise they arent picky. Off to the left there is a little white tuft of Quails Feather.

Orange: papaver orientale
Pink: centranthus ruber
blue: aquilegia
yellow: crappy buttercup that needs to die
My favorite 'cottage' color combination. The flower colors don't fight with the green of the leaves either; and after all, green IS the most predominant color in the garden, kids.

What a nice little tree! Hello little tree!
My son gave this to me. I have completely forgotten what kind of a little tree it is; but it's about eleven years old. And I could have that wrong.
Once "sittin out" season comes around though it's going to have to vacate that little table there so I have somewhere to set my beer.

UPDATED: Another non-gardening post!

UPDATE: new one up at UJ!

So I was asked is it worth it. 'It' being all the years of work and crap you go through making a family. It threw me for a loop. I think I ended up talking about compost or something.
Let's give it another try.

'Worth' as it relates to life is a way of thinking that I associate with being a Catholic. We were taught that any particular event in life was a test (and usually sucked), and if you passed it, God rewarded you. Guaranteed. You pay, you get.

Now granted, you could look at parenthood as a trial of endurance and not be far off the beam. You're broke all the time, you spend three years stuck with a short crazy person going through puberty, and then of course there's all the unpaid overtime spent attending those interminable goddamn school programs (oh sweet fuck the CHRISTMAS programs especially; gaaaaaaah!!!) Not to mention losing jobs because your boss just doesn't seen to understand that you can't leave a sick 4-year-old at home by herself, or same being eligible for free school lunches and then finding out that the poor kid's been doing without because of the stigma attached to that; yeah.

Are we having fun yet?

Still, here's the way I see it: In and of itself, no. Parenthood isn't worth it because it isn't a price you pay for something and there is no exchange involved. You don't get a guaranteed reward if you do it well. Most of the time you don't even get noticed. The fact of the matter is, you can raise a kid and make a home and do those things perfectly, and truthfully it doesn't mean a whole fuck of a lot in the universal scheme of things, all that effort and sweat and all those good intentions. It really doesn't. It can, but chance doesn't exactly favor that outcome, either.
True fact.

If parenthood ends up being worth anything, then that will be the direct result of your values and how seriously you take it. In other words, you make it worth something.

So that explains why I fumbled the handoff. You can take the girl out of the church, but once she becomes a nihilist she ends up talking about compost. Or however that goes.

For me, at least, being a parent sucked about half the time. That's the simple unvarnished truth. It wasn't the kid, so much...aside from a few episodes of 'stupid' the kid was pretty excellent. It was the other stuff. Mostly it was the constant terror. I had no idea what I was doing.

The worst part of having a child was the baby years. Of course then it was simply a problem of a baby not being able to express itself in words that raised the frustration level. Once I survived that, the 'kid' part was actually kind of fun a lot of the time. Certainly tolerable if nothing else. And if, like me, you haven't really crossed over into adult mode yourself, it probably was a lot more fun than it would have been otherwise, so there was that too.

The bad part is all the bullshit you have to put up with and all the crap you have to be on your guard about. I know I went head to head with shit on behalf of my family that I would never have put up with for a friend. And you have to win those battles, too. You HAVE to win. You have to go in and risk looking like a hysterical bitch or an idiot, just put the fear and the ego to one side and go deal with the scary nurse or the condescending bank teller or complain to the manager.

It's dealing with incompetence and indifference on the part of teachers, sanctimoniousness on the part of doctors, freakjob parents, attitude from strangers, and worst of all, the people with weird agendas they wanted to foist off in the name of good parenting. (Boy, there's another post right there. ) Religious nuts of every possible stripe come out of the woodwork, and the first thing they target is the kids. Awana, Tiger Cubs, the fricken' Ba'hais for heavens sake, the fundies with their VBS...oh, it's just wonderful. Then there's the media you suddenly have to be hyperaware of...a media which is WAY better at sneaking in and pushing childrens' buttons than it was when we were growing up.

One of my favorite 'screw the parents' ploys is when the fucking PTA decides to have a fund drive and your poor little six year old kid shows up with a sheaf of tickets or overpriced candy they have to sell or they get in trouble, and they're crying, and you realize that the only way that shit ever gets sold is if the parents buy it all because there's no way in fucking hell that you're going to send a six-year-old girl out door to door in this day and age....and you realize that you're being conned.
Oh yeah, that's a barrel of laughs.

Of course there was that whole issue of me not being the most socially well-adjusted person who ever lived, in the beginning (I am of course the very soul of reason now.) Being a chambermaid, no matter how evil, simply does not prepare you to to take care of a little kid; forget that suddenly I also had to be a manager, an agent of the Spanish Inquisition*, a spy, a cop, a public relations officer, a prosecuting attorney, an ambassador, a hostess and a rampaging berserker at a moments notice.

OK fine. The rampaging berserker part came easily. The rest, not so much. **

So. How did I make it BE worth it? And will there be coffee and donuts afterwards?

I guess first of all, I took it seriously. Dead seriously.
Things were absolutely NOT going to fuck up on my watch.

That attitude right there is what got me through those 18 years.

Second of all, when we made a decision, we always chose quality of our family life over any other consideration; including financial gain. Always.

Thirdly, I got a lot out of being the person whose job it was to teach a new human being the ropes. I really, really liked that. And then seeing that person learn it, and use it? And having it work? That's....shit, that's a big relief if nothing else!

Fourth, I liked my husband. No, seriously, I know plenty of parents for whom that's simply laughable; liking one another. We were able to share responsibility pretty evenly without any ego or entitlement issues involved.

Fifth, I just like being part of a family. That's the way I'm wired. So parenthood didn't seem like this big, onerous imposition because I expected it to be what it was and just dealt with it. In fact, I expected it to be a hell of a lot worse than it turned out to be. When it wasn't, that was pretty cool too!

Sixth, when it did suck, it NEVER SUCKED ONE TENTH AS MUCH AS A TYPICAL DAY IN MY PARENTS HOUSE. And that's sheer circumstance there. Still, it was a huge source of pride for me every single day of those eighteen years. Not even on my worst day did it ever even OCCUR to me to pull any of the sick shit that went on as a matter of daily fact in my family of origin.

Seventh, I never had to make my kid be like me. I saw parents who did this and it was just creepy. When she did something cool, that was her doing it, and I was like 'Wow! That person lives with me!' and was all blown away and impressed. Still am, in fact.

Eighth, I had my own interests. I didn't let being a wife and parent engulf me. I might be having a shit day as a mom, but I could still learn something new or make something nice and at least reassure myself that I wasn't a complete failure.

Being a wife and parent has not been the most personally rewarding thing in my life-working with plants and pursuing my studies and and interests has been just as rewarding. A whole hell of a lot less frightening, at least. That it all turned out well is nice, of course. Still, it could have gone off the goddamn rails so many times, for so many different reasons that I had no control over...yeesh. How much credit can I take for that? None.

I spent eighteen years flying without a net, and I'm glad it's over

So. Here I am. And here's what I have, some of which is at least somewhat due to good choices having been made prior...

Once I no longer had that third person in the house, I methodically set out cleaning out the joint top to bottom...and that 'mommy' persona got cleaned out right along with it.
Mommy is done. Mommy is OVAH.

Now that I no longer have to be a good example, I don't even fucking pretend any more. Things that I quit doing or ramped way back on for the sake of being a responsible parent are once again part of my life, like taking recreational drugs and cranking up my music really loud and being really vocal politically and artistically. My kids know me as an adult woman. I'm no longer their boss-fuck that. I'll give you my perspective on things if you ask, but I could give a hoot in hell how you fold your laundry or clean your house or what kind of soap you wash the baby in. Wash it in ketchup. Wash it in ranch dressing.

The time we formerly spent riding herd on the kid we now put into our interests; which, thank God, we HAVE since we didn't play the 'my family is my WHOOOOOOLE LIFE' thing. Let me tell you, sweet, uninterrupted TIME to concentrate and really get into the kind of depth you want to with something, without feeling that your stealing time and attention from your family responsibilities, is EXCELLENT.

Furthermore the sex is so goddamn much better now I cannot tell you. I'm one of those people who gets all squicked out if the dog wanders into the room, right; so having a little kid in the house was really really inhibiting.

That is no longer a factor. At all.

So yeah. Life is good! We have a lot more free time now and money to play! Come over and party some time!

Just, you first.

*which, if you do it right, nobody will expect. their chief element is surprise.

*not that i didn't catch on fast; i did. oh FUCK yes. soon those who would subdue us found themselves consumed. MUAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAA

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Quaint vignettes from my charming rural idyll

-Aw shit, more stuff about plants? Because I know you're going to write more shit about your fucking garden and really, please Nations, enough already. I mean Jesus Christ on a red bicycle please stop with the goddamn gardening posts. Nobody cares. Most of us live in town. We think vegetables come from small steel cylinders, like Martians, and take over small towns in New Jersey. We like to sit on the copy machine at work and take pictures of our butts. That was fun until the glass broke. Then we got fired. But it's OK now, we have another job, and the buzzing sound in our heads is almost indistinguishable from the screaming of the gulls here at the county dump.

-Oh fine. Here. I hope you're happy now. Bitch, bitch bitch.


My husband has made it known that he won't be buying me a motorcycle anytime soon. Hell no, not after this incident.

Now here is the reason I love this man: Despite my ongoing love affair with excessive speed and disaster, apparently he sees no problem with buying me another utility.

The last time I had one of these vehicles I did STUPID shit in it. I broke the law. More accurately I stomped on it and set it on fire and buried it and then dug it up and set it on fire again. I think they actually made some new laws to cover the shit I got away with. How did I get away with it? For the simple reason that I looked like a nice little housewife (ramping over intervening watercourses Dukes of Hazzard stylee while lobbing Molotov cocktails out the side window) and the cops couldn't believe what they were seeing until it was too late to do anything about. That's my theory anyway.

Here's the deal: A utility vehicle is less a small truck than it is essentially half a car, so it's very, very light.
There is no weight on the rear axles to speak of. Even with an average engine it takes very little pressure on the gas from a standing stop to chirp the tires.

Now remove all the extraneous equipment and give that same vehicle a very LARGE engine and it's no longer a question of chirping the tires, it's giving the gas a little rap and sending a tsunami of gravel and chunks of pavement shotgunning out from beneath your smoking rear tires as little fragments of soot float around and the entire car torques 20 degrees out of true and people come out of their houses and


For the same reason the Utility Vehicle is unusually well suited to doing donuts.
Slow vehicles on the highway, like gravel trucks and police officers, are no longer an impediment. The concept of 'time' and 'distance' becomes real fluid. Drifting corners becomes possible. As does getting airborne. On rail crossings. Like the one down near Cherry Point.

And see, you'd think with a little extra weight in the car (say about 70 pounds...about the same as a grade school-aged kid yelling " Do that AGAIN, mom!!!" ) that this shit would be more difficult, but you'd be wrong.

My husband sold my Ranchero to a man who shipped it to Germany. This may have been connected to certain unsubstantiated rumors concerning my driving habits having been passed along by the aforementioned grade school-aged kid.
In any event, he made sure that once it was gone, it was REALLY gone.

I miss it. It was an awesome car. It was flat black and dechromed; had a rubber rake of about 3 1/2 or 4 inches, black tuck and roll upholstery, a tiny little handcuff steering wheel and an accelerator pedal shaped like a foot.
It had an El Toro gas cap.
It had red steels with chrome baby moons.

I still have that accelerator pedal, and I still have that steering wheel.
And now they'll have a new home.

Stay off the roads, folks. Trust me on this one.


We rolled into Bobs for their Sunday brunch last week and found there ahead of us about 15 Canadian HOG (Harley Owners Group) members, all decked out in their brand-new shiny leather, wearing their HOG rockers, strutting around like banty roosters.

It was...sad.

This is what I continually fail to comprehend:

See, there is nothing particularly 'cool' about being an outlaw biker. Being a biker in general; yes, ok, that's cool. But in general I don't see why, if you are genuinely bad-and I mean, righteous now, not evil- you still feel the overwhelming need to maintain all that constant advertising? "OO, See all my wings? See my spiderweb tattoo? Aren't I scary? Aren't I mean? See my 1% patch? See my pins? See my outlaw rocker? I'm bad, y'all, I mean it. Bad, bad bad. Really really bad. I am. "
Whenever I run onto that I am reminded of those people you see driving cars with about a thousand bumper stickers plastered all over them.
Someone needs a hug.

As far as needing to belong to a club goes; that, I do not get at all. I know plenty of genuinely bad people who did NOT agree to spend two years undergoing various types of ritualized**humiliation, only to earn the 'privilege' of living under someone elses' rules, wearing a brand, and answering to yet another leader in your free time. Do you really need that much supervision?
I mean yeah; I know I do...but I don't fucking volunteer for it.

Anyway, here we were monopolizing the hollandaise sauce looking over at this group of people who are probably the furthest thing from 'outlaw bikers' that one could imagine...happy, functioning Caucasian cogs in the system, all sporting these imitation outlaw patches and wearing leather and none of them with the vaguest clue as to what 'outlaw' means. They obviously think that they are automatically 'bad' because they're wearing this costume they've purchased, though, and this mistaken assumption is causing them to act like total morons.

It dawned on me what this was, finally... the direct, middle-class equivalent of 'Juggalo' . Not only were they not cool, they were trying desperately to be cool by imitating something that's not cool....only to come off even MORE uncool than they were originally.

Anyway, we calmly ate our brunch while they strutted and guffawed.

Then we got on our Victory and did 90 miles like maniacs with no religion.


*I have personally experienced 'Red shift'.

**Some of it more than a little abusively homoerotic. I mean come on... jizzing for distance? yeah, that's and you claim you're all straight men, huh? Straight, middle aged men all standing around...seeing how far you...yeah. OK then.

(not that i find anything wrong with that.)

(at all.)

(seriously. i mean it.)

(like, ok if you're one of those really hairy burly type guys, and particularly if you smoke a cigar, right? and you have a lot of friends who are also really hairy burly cigar smokers who wear leather and ride motorcycles, particularly if they have really BIG arms, and say they were all really sweaty because it was a hot day out and they all had to take off their shirts, and maybe even their pants? and one thing lead to another like how it does, and a chalk line got drawn on the pool table....I promise you i would be the LAST PERSON ON EARTH to judge you.)