Thursday, December 25, 2014

I'm Dreaming....

...that Christmas was white this morning instead of the golden but ubiquitous brown of the
Kansas prairie in winter.  Our White Christmas came a week ago in the form of 5 inches of heavy wet snow that melted within a day of it's arrival.  However fleeting, it made for a glorious morning while it was present.  How I getting out onto the pristine earth after a snowfall; the feeling of solitude and rebirth in a hushed landscape.

The local winter drabness is mitigated when the dried remnants of Fall are reduced to abstract ornaments on a white canvas.  My front landscaping bed might abound with color and texture in early summer, but I would argue that there is no more visual interest at that time than seen in this photo from last week. Remnants of phlox and yellow twigs of euonymous and a golden vase of dried grass contrast exquisitely with the frozen green pot and dark green hollies.   The mad sniffing dog, Bella, can be seen at mid-right, one long soft ear flipped over her head while she tracks some small, helpless, and probably long-gone creature around the hollies and burning bushes.

Bella and I were happy about the snowfall, but, thank you Winter, that's enough.  Leave us now and bring Spring in your wake.  It's hard for a proud dog to track when most of the interesting scents are buried beneath new snow, and it is hard for the gardener to siphon energy from a frozen landscape.  Today, Christmas 2014, is bright and sunny here in Kansas, but not a creature or green leaf yet stirs from winter slumber.  And I in my jammies, and Mrs. ProfessorRoush cooking madly over the stove, will just have to wait, yet, through a long winter's nap.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

They're Inside the Perimeter!

In my ongoing series of skirmishes with the fluffy-tailed, cloven-hoofed denizens of my local prairie, ProfessorRoush must admit that some strategic and tactical setbacks have occurred recently.  To be more frank, in less carefully-chosen phrases, I'm losing the battles AND the war.

After my earlier discovery that the local antlered vermin had been feasting each night on my prized strawberry patch, I responded with efforts to fortify the electric fence and increase the nightly watch.  I recently discovered, however, that my trail camera surveillance system had been mysteriously rendered inoperative for the past month.  I've hypothesized that it might have been hacked, in like manner to the recent Sony incursion by the North Koreans.  I don't believe it is too far-fetched, based on current evidence, to imagine a command center of hacker white-tailed deer, sneering behind their computer scenes as they erase any digital evidence of their glutinous feasts and plan further raids.  Regardless of the exact cause of camera failure, I have no recent intelligence of the number and distribution of enemy forces who form nightly incursions into my garden.

Further, early today when I accompanied Bella on her morning duties, I saw, in the melting remains of yesterday's snowfall, evidence that the brazen venison-carriers are now venturing right up to the castle drawbridge.  The first picture, above, is evidence of a hoof print approximately 10 feet from the sidewalk in the front of the house.  The second picture, at left, shows a print mere inches from the front sidewalk, and illustrates that this enemy soldier is probably within range of sampling my infant Japanese maple.

That is suicide bomber range, folks.  I mean DefCon 1, Emergency Alert status, zombie herd is coming, range.   Strap a little C4 to these fleet garden terrorists and they could take out command post and gardener in a single strike.  What am I to do?  I'm afraid the fallout from nuclear strikes in the scrub brush of the draw where they sleep would drift back over home.  I would just cry havoc and release the dogs of war, but my personal "dog of war," Bella the beagle, is a great alarm system but a coward at heart, and that won't work either.  I need a new plan.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Basil Indicator

ProfessorRoush is, at times, an incredibly bad gardener of houseplants.  I am usually able to keep them alive, but, with the exception of an occasional Pothos sp., they don't often thrive under my care.  There is, for example, an infamous episode some years ago during a period when I had approximately 20 thriving orchids and 10 Christmas cacti, all of which would even occasionally bloom.  I adjusted the thermostat when we left for a Christmas vacation and we came home a week later to find that I'd accidentally shut the heat off and the house was hovering at 33ºF.  Not a single orchid survived the episode.  The Christmas cacti sulked for a bit, but eventually decided to give me a second chance. 

I restrict myself these days to Zygocactus and Pothos.  Occasional gifted houseplants and the annual poinsettias are held prisoner and then offered as sacrificial lambs to the houseplant gods to curry their favor in the direction of my Christmas cacti.  In place of the ceremonial altar and a flint knife, I have substituted benign neglect and the arid, desert-like humidity of the natural Kansas environment, watering only when I see signs of wilt.

That practice has not been kind to the mandarin orange and lemon tree that Mrs. ProfessorRoush insisted I add to our floral menagerie.  Both trees spend their summers outdoors on the porch, where it is moderately humid and I frequently forget to water them. They spend their winters indoors where the humidity is very low and I frequently forget to water them. 

Recently, I noticed that my fairly spindly orange tree was wilting at the top (above).  "Wait a minute," I thought, "orange leaves don't wilt; they yellow and fall off."  And indeed, on a closer look, I recognized there was a second stem in the pot; a spindly sun-starved basil that presumably was an offspring from one of our herbs, which also spend summers in pots on the back porch.  You can see the second stem better here at the left.

I'm certainly not going to root up this volunteer.  If a weed is just a plant in the wrong place, this "weed" is in the right place.  Mrs. Basil has done me a favor by going to seed and placing an offspring here in this pot to be nurtured.  The rest of the winter, I think I'll just watch the basil as an indicator for watering this pot and the lemon tree next to it.  Maybe both trees will now have a better chance to live to see another spring.  Besides, the basil smells so good.   

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Things My Dog Has Taught Me

1.  There should always be time for play.  In the midst of busy days and hectic lives, everyone should find an outlet for release; a doorway to rested minds and exercised bodies.  Bella greets me at the door every night with excitement, her entire body dancing and quivering at the simple joy of the moment.  She demands attention and love, but she has recognized that I subsequently need a few moments to step across the threshold, put down the mail and paper and winter coat, and kick my shoes off.  A minute later, however she'll be at my feet, holding her favorite ball, ready to play with free abandonment of the daily boredom.  If you need a refresher course to remember to live in the moment, watch your dog.

2.  There should also always be time for rest, and our days should align with the Earth's. After spending my early years with dogs who weren't allowed into the house, it is sometimes still astonishing to me that a dog, however well-loved, has become the driver for our household schedule.  Bella makes sure I'm awake early every morning with singular mournful howls of increasing intensity that we will not hear again for 24 hours.   Her "clock" however, is tuned to the sun and this alarm is progressively late as winter rolls on, and reverses as summer approaches.  At night, usually shortly after sunset and sometimes long before I'm ready, she picks up this pillow and then follows us with an expectant look, seemingly surprised that you're not as sleepy as she is.  The switch back from Daylight Savings Time throws her for a loop, and, like me, she still hasn't recovered.

3.  A good morning stretch followed by skin to skin contact is one of the most important pleasures of life and, deserved or not, we should all be able to find a good belly rub whenever we need it.  Every morning, no matter how long I let the howling go on, Bella stretches when I appear; luxurious stretches like she is coming out of a 20-year snooze and just being reborn into the world.  I envy those stretches, that simple re-acquaintment of the mind with the marvelous machinery of muscle and bone.  Afterward, she demands a good vigorous belly rub, simultaneously expressing grateful submission and a plea for a loving touch and warm embrace.  The skin to skin contact with another living being always puts us both in a better mood.  I am less successful in my own attempts to receive a belly rub, however.   I've attempted this insistent pose a few times myself before a sleepy and uncooperative Mrs. ProfessorRoush, and it never seems to work for me.

4.  True love is truly  best defined by the happiness of every moment spent with your love, and the lingering sadness of every moment apart.  My energetic and playful companion mopes when we spontaneously leave, lingering at the doorways until the garage door announces our return.  I find it intriguing that Bella knows the difference between the normal schedule of my leaving for work in the morning and the more spontaneous shopping or errand trips at unexpected times.  The former seems no more than an expected part of her day, while the latter is mourned as time stolen from a lover, precious moments noted by their absence.   As for the readers of this blog, I know I've been away for some time while the wheels of daily life have stolen my attentions, but I promise that the doorway will open a little more frequently and at least a few times each month, until the days grow longer again and sunlight and warmth wake up the garden to be my muse.



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