A Garden to Die For

I am a most reluctant gardener which has been stated many times before. I am also a miser, and that must be the root of the problem. We inherited a nice little garden with this house. John said at the outset that he was not going to get caught up in it, so what choice did I have? I couldn’t let the previous owner’s investment of time and money go to waste, could I? Besides, I was surrounded by real gardeners – former neighbor Amy, across the street Shawn and Bob, and next door Joyce. They might have needed someone to look down on, and I was the perfect one. Instead, they were most helpful, willing to share advice whenever asked. I couldn’t let down the neighborhood.

I almost gardened myself silly this morning. All I went out for was to trim off the dead roses. Several times I had clipped around two areas with low-growing evergreens near the pergola. That’s where I started on the way to the roses.

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First clippings are near the stone wall.

Somehow I missed the big bed just outside the porch screened door. The former owners had the area carefully ringed in stones, and I let those bushes get way past their boundary. Despite having already put in my quota of pruning time, I whacked about 5 feet of that line. The butchering was done with a dull pair of clippers, the action being more twisting than cutting.

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Stones were exposed, and the gravel walk was strewn with branches.

Miles of evergreen later, I almost couldn’t walk back in the house. I came in thankful the garden didn’t kill me today. I really don’t want a garden that I WILL DIE FOR!!!!

Minty Juleps

Grandson Nathaniel (16) found a video showing how to make a mint julep. He showed it to me, knowing we had a healthy bed of mint plants near the back porch. The video showed a man pulverizing the leaves with a little sugar using a cocktail muddler. Not being drinkers, we didn’t have a muddler, but we did have my grandfather’s mortar and pestle.

Granddaddy was born about 1875. He was one of seven or eight children from a family not blessed with worldly goods. I have no idea what jobs he may have had until the prelude to this story. He was a tinsmith working with his uncle. I think he was in his late 20’s, certainly not a mere youth. He sold his part of the business and presented himself at Vanderbilt in Nashville, telling the dean he wanted to become a dentist.

The dean quickly set him straight, that it was impossible. Granddaddy said, “Please let me explain. I’ve sold my business, and I can’t go back.”

That old defender of standards said he couldn’t become a student just because he wanted to. For a starter, he needed pre-med courses. Granddaddy’s highest academic achievement was his graduation from the 8th grade. After much pleading on Granddaddy’s part, the dean told him, “I will let you enroll, but one wrong step and you are out.”

The only proof I have that he became a dentist is a scanned copy of the announcement of the partnership with my dad, probably from 1938, the year Dad graduated from dental school.

Announcement of Maclin dental partnership  [This did not show in the preview, but clicking on it brought it up.]

Margaret, my dad’s dental assistant, saved the mortar and pestle for me after the practice was sold. As you can understand, this is very precious to me. I can imagine Granddaddy using it in the lab. Way back then dentists did most, if not all, of their lab work themselves. Nathaniel used it to crush mint leaves.

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I called the drink a Minty Julep because it had no alcohol in it. We enjoyed our handcrafted drinks on the porch, sipping them slowly on a hot summer day. Ummmm!

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Till the Cows Come Home

How many times have you made a statement about something that is not likely to happen? It had been a long time since I stated, “That won’t happen till the cows come home.”

I am now wondering what unlikely event has or will happen to us. I looked toward the mountains and saw two black calves suspiciously close to neighbor Dawn’s pergola. Which side of the fence were they on? The wrong side! I called John and wondered what we should do. Cows had come onto that property only once since we moved here. As I began to text Shawn, Bob, and former neighbor Amy, the animals moved toward us. Son $ and grandson David joined us, one of them saying, “till the cows come home.”

The calves wandered into our yard, checking out the grass which does indeed seem greener on our side of the fence. They nosed about our burn pit, grazed up the hill, and seemed to be enjoying their vacation.

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Shawn and Bob were in Vermont on a mission trip, but I texted them, anyway. It would have been in their interest to get the animals back in the pasture. There was no immediate response, so I sent a text message to Amy, now living in Charlotte. As soon as they responded with the owner’s name, I went on line to look it up. Rats! I had forgotten that it is almost impossible to find a private person’s number. About that time, David told me the calves had snuck back into their pasture. He saw them rejoining the herd on the right side of the fence.

We had our delayed dinner, grilled by grandson Nathaniel. That was followed by roasting marshmallows, something I hadn’t done in a Colonialist’s lifetime. I’m sure I last had a molten ‘mallow more than 30 years ago. What a divine treat! I’m not going to wait another 30 years, especially after Nathaniel read the label and said I’d eaten only 100 calories of sweets.

The other really unusual thing that happened that evening was a lightning storm. It began while we were playing with fire (and marshmallows). David found the best viewing was on the bedroom deck. He watched the silent show while I finished reading email for the day. I joined him outside to see streak after streak of lightning flash about the sky. Oddly, there was no thunder that we could hear. The show was still going on when I gave up and went to bed after 11 p.m. It had been a very satisfying day, the day the cows went home.

Hoedown to Low Down

I did a little gardening before we left on our weekend trip. I put the hoe down, and we headed off the mountain to Lowcountry. What a contrast! Instead of four, there were seven of us, and we TALKED. Not only did we talk, but we did sightseeing around Charleston. John’s sister Chris and husband Steve moved there about a year ago. Each time we visit them, they have suggestions of things to see and do. Our grandsons, David and Nathaniel, had not seen their house before. They loved the home tour which ended in the tree house at dusk.

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We met lots of new people at church and worshiped with a couple of old friends from our former church on Long Island. Chris and Steve go to the same service they do. More on this later.

I was excused from the Sunday excursion because of the heat and humidity, but Chris went with John and the boys to tour the Yorktown aircraft carrier and the Vietnam War memorial.

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I have no pictures of my pleasant afternoon. I chatted with Steve and their daughter Barbara, and Barbara took me on a tour of Summerville. My impression is that the town is now huge, but the old center of town is tiny. It has some vintage buildings with lots of character, but we didn’t brave the heat to explore. We did get out for the library. Barbara remembered that I’m a huge fan of libraries, and I enjoyed seeing theirs. People check in their own books at the door and check out others near the main desk, both streamlined operations. I was also impressed with the do-it-yourself reservation system. Books that had been put on hold were shelved near the front door, organized by the name on the reservee’s library card. I wondered if the system would block any other person from taking an item. That makes me seem underhanded! I wouldn’t STEAL anyone’s book!

Now, back to Nancy and Ken. They joined us for dinner, so we had lots of time to visit. I’ll post some photos, realizing that if you know them, you’ll want to see them. If you don’t know them, look anyway, because they are dear to us.

Chris pointed out the cut glass bowl in the center of the table. I was so glad David and Nathaniel were there to hear about it. The boys’ great-great grandfather used it for home baptisms. He was a Lutheran pastor and would use it if a baptism or christening were not held in the church.

072416 Pastor Ellertsen's bowl for home baptisms

The next day Chris took us on a harbor cruise in Charleston. The last time Chris and Barbara did that trip, there were scads of people crowding the boat. Being early, we could choose our seats before any of the other 13 people chose theirs. Fort Sumter would have been much closer if the tide had not been low. It was still impressive.

072516 Fort Sumter Charleston harbor cruise

We went right under Chris’ favorite bridge, the Ravenel. The name has three syllables, not that you would pronounce it the way I was tempted.

072516 Charleston Ravenel bridge

I have no photos, but I particularly enjoyed watching many pelicans and laughing gulls swoop about the boat. Pelicans were new to me, but I had seen a few laughing gulls on Long Island.

Charleston was not overcrowded with tourists before noon on a Monday. We found a metered parking space just feet from one of the good eating places for which the city is known. The Noisy Oyster was a fun place to eat, and we all enjoyed our choices. John had oysters, freeing the rest of us to choose anything we wanted. I had a lowcountry side, red rice. It had a good kick to it, so only two others tasted it. I had never seen a fillet of salmon served with a burger. David said it was delicious.

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We squeezed in a swim before heading home. David delighted in being in the water, but I suspect the dog Mia had the most fun. She tried to bite water when Chris flicked some toward her. All too soon it was time to drive back to the mountains. We took many good memories with us.

Time Warp

I had hours of anguish after discovering I had lost photos from July through December. Heaven knows my pictures would never be classed as good photography, but they were precious to me. It all began in the afternoon when my brain was already in steep decline. I’ve chanted it so often that it’s almost a mantra – “I wake up instantly, and it’s downhill the rest of the day.”

John’s request was reasonable enough. I hadn’t copied photos to his computer, and he was missing two years. He remembered seeing a picture he wanted to share, and he didn’t have it. I had put water on to boil for pasta, the first step in assembling baked ziti for dinner. Thinking it would take only a few seconds, I went to my computer and copied the files to Dropbox. It was merely a matter of moving them onto his machine. When I checked to make sure everything was there, one folder had only two pictures. I must have hit something wrong. I went through the process again, saw there were many photos in place, and started back to the kitchen. John reclaimed his chair, looked for the picture, and came to tell me it wasn’t there. He explained, “It was taken in July.”

Can you see that I had set myself up for a colossal failure? By insisting on finishing the job when I was tired and had other things on my mind, I was stubbornly speeding the wrong way. I looked at the original folder and found the last date was the end of June. I was annoyed at that point, but I assumed all I had to do was copy another set from a flash drive. Looking at my main backup, the one I keep with me all the time, I saw with horror that only six month’s worth of photos were there. Hoping I hadn’t overwritten the folder on a secondary backup, I checked it. Golly Pete! What had I done? How could I have messed up that one, too? Then it occurred to me that the fault was on the hard drive. I had somehow erased half a year and carefully overwritten all my backups. Aaaauuuuggghhhh! I stopped and went back to the boiling water on the stove.

Speaking sternly to myself, I said, “Don’t think about it until after dinner.”

Not obeying, I thought, “What all is missing? Will anyone have copies they can share with me?”

“Stop it! You are in no state to think clearly.”

“I know I’m too tired to think. Still, various guests were with us for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I know I sent them photos.

“Good grief! Will you stop it? Nobody keeps email photos.”

“Wait! There is one last hope. Go get the external backup.”

By this time, the ziti was in the oven. I plugged in the external drive and couldn’t find the logs I wanted. There were so few files with recent dates. After bumbling around a bit, I told myself to put it all away and wait till the next day. No one should attempt to work in such a hopeless state. Again, not listening to myself, I looked at my master file. Understanding dawned slowly. I got up and put out the plates for dinner. As we sat down together on the porch, I told John and our grandsons what had happened.

I explained, “I had a really rough day, or at least one terrible hour. I was sure I had lost half my photos for a full year. You know what? I was dealing with 2015 and 2016, and you know I’m not good with numbers. I forgot 2016 was the present year. I was searching and trying to restore pictures I haven’t taken yet – photos from the future!!!!

The boys controlled their faces until I rolled my eyes and laughed at myself. A snicker escaped from David. He said, “You’re gonna write about it tomorrow, aren’t you?”

“It’s almost funny to me now,” I replied. “It will be after I sleep on it.”

Playing in the Mountains

Having people who are ready to play anytime, anywhere, keeps life from being dull. While John was gone, I asked Nathaniel to check the waterfall pool because we had had so much rain. He found it on the brink of overflowing. Grabbing the first vessel he could put his hands on, he was going to bail it out. The watering can wouldn’t work, but he removed water with a plastic container. Although that could have been classed as work, he made it fun.

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The boys and I enjoyed working a jigsaw puzzle I found at a thrift shop while browsing with former neighbor Amy. We plan to attack the puzzle she gave us, a 1,000-piece one of a steam engine. That’s one I wouldn’t tackle alone. How would you sit or stand to work a jigsaw puzzle? David had a novel perch. How he could sit like that AND find pieces was beyond me! In case you can’t see it well, his feet were on top of the stool.

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While unpacking some of his things, David put a stuffed creature on his head, which amused Nathaniel.

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Almost every day the fellows play Rail Baron, a board game that can last longer than Monopoly. They buy railroads and roll their way around the country for an hour or so. From the next room I could hear them declaring where they were headed. I thought it was a fun way to enhance the boys’ knowledge of geography.

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David got out a toy his godparents, Tonja and Anders, gave him years ago. It had lost none of its charm. He knew I enjoyed his creations, so he set up a single row for me to play with. During the day he and Nathaniel changed it several times, and it even came to the dinner table. John helped with a revision, and they made a three-sided structure that I didn’t think would work. It did.

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From his porch, Logan may have seen me reading the newspaper on our porch. He approached quietly, holding a book in his arms. I wasn’t sure what he wanted, since I can’t always translate his quiet words, so I asked if he wanted to read to Grandpa John. I fetched him, and the two of them read the book from cover to cover.

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Logan’s mom gave permission for him to have breakfast with us, so we moved into the house. His eyes lit up when he saw David’s plastic structure on the table. He announced he had one, and so does his church. Soon there were rolling marbles everywhere! Amazingly, after he left, I found only one marble on the floor. He’s a neat kid in more ways than one.

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Nathaniel almost burned his tongue on hot coffee, which amused Logan. I asked for a repeat so you could see how much Logan enjoyed that.

Walking Diary, Four Days

The following was written to get John caught up on the days he missed walking while in NY:

7/14/16 I was walking perhaps a quarter of an hour earlier as you were leaving with Bob A. to go to NY. Two or three cars passed me, and all the drivers waved. Lately the red car has been the first one out of our neighborhood, but I was ahead of him. I love the way he greets us, holding his hand near his window. I think of it as a blessing. He didn’t go by me until I was out on Qualla, and I was far enough down the steep hill that I didn’t know if he came out of our street. I decided not to wave, and just then he went by. He had a verbal good morning as well as the blessing wave. I quickly called out and waved big so he could see me in his mirror if he looked.

Things were different across from the fire station. Four of the ten snow plow trucks were missing out of the lineup. The others seemed to be in their regular places. I wondered what on earth they were doing on a densely foggy morning.

7/15/16 The Park branches were inaudible on the way out and barely sounding on the opposite side. [We have two streams that go under the road and join together before they get to Shawn and Bob’s place. For some reason, they are called “branch” instead of stream or creek.]

Queen Anne’s lace is putting on an impressive display beside the cornfield on Qualla Road. Also, in that area, the junky red car has not moved. You noticed the tires were flat, and they were flat enough that I noticed them today.

7/16/16 Just after the big bend in the road, I heard a screech owl in the distance. It must have been in the woods behind the rental cabins.

There were not many hungry breakfast eaters at the cafe. I counted five cars, in contrast to ten the day before. Of course, on a Saturday there was far less traffic on the road, as well.

Fog/mist was quite heavy at our house, so I was surprised to find the highway on the floor of the valley fog-free. The valley was filled with mist overhead, but I could see the road clearly from one bend to the other. I didn’t have to go through the thud routine. [John walks much faster than I do, so if he starts across the highway with an on-coming car in view, I know I have to put on speed. Fog makes the crossing dangerous, because many people here do not have their headlights on. Once I scooted across and paused on the other side. I explained to John that a when speeding car made me feel uncomfortable, I would note the point of impact if I had not gotten off the road. At that time, I’d say “thud” to myself. Now I say it out loud, and he knows the crossing was a bit too tight for me.]

7/17/16   [Readers get a day off, because we don’t walk on Sundays.]

7/18/16 Three wild turkeys crossed the road in front of me just before Connie and Dave’s property. They must have been Mama, Papa, and Susie. Straggling behind was Sammy, running for his life.

Can’t you imagine what was being said? Mama squawks, “Hurry, Sammy! Come ON!!!! RUN!!!!”

There is one in every crowd.

“Don’t worry. I’m coming,” Sammy says slowly as he stops to look at a snail.

“SAMMY!!!!” bellows Papa.

“AWWWKKKK!” squeals Sammy as he runs helter-skelter across the road..

Mama scolds, “Naughty boy! She was reaching in her pocket to shoot you! It would serve you right to have your photo plastered all over Facebook! Next time you run when I call you!”