Friday, June 29, 2007

Gardenage, Pt. II

It's been exactly three weeks since my previous garden report, so we're due for an update.

My cucumber seedlings have been sitting on their mud hills like idiots, unwilling to grow, unwilling to send out tendrils and grasp their tomato-cage supports. It's taken all this time for them to grow a couple of permanent leaves on each seedling. The cucumbers' attitude reminds me of trying to get a teenaged child to clean his/her room.

The tomato plants, on the other hand, are big and bushy, with strong stalks and lush green healthy leaves. They keep making flowers, which get pinched off immediately; the plants need to grow about another foot before making fruit. There are two Roma plants and one cherry. I've never had much luck with the big, round tomatoes. Anyway, Daisy the Terrier used to go crazy every time we picked the round ones. She always thought they were red tennis balls, and she frantically demanded they be thrown across the yard for her to catch in her mouth.

I replanted some bush bean seeds, and this time they all came up. Some had to be discarded during thinning, but I tried transplanting some of them to various spots in the garden, and they seem to be taking root. There's always the horrifying prospect of a proximal bush bean plant mating with a tomato plant when no one is looking, yielding young beanmatoes (or togreenbeans). We would probably opt for a quick trip to the Home for Wayward Bush Beans in that event.

We have enough basil, thyme, dill and parsley to supply the neighborhood. There's something so wonderful about going out to the garden to get fresh herbs for cooking. We can pick the exact amount we need and not worry about wasting big wads of expensive, unused supermarket herbs.

Fresh herbs or not, the weather's been so hot and sticky that no one (me, in particular) has wanted to cook or eat much around here. We've been sluggish, hiding in the air conditioning and unable to summon up much enthusiasm for any outdoor activity. The heatwave is due to break tonight, just in time for Mr. Pseudonym's long-awaited vacation. He's had his nose to the grindstone for far too long, so I'll try to arrange some nice little day trips for this coming week.

There's a place in Pennsylvania I've always wanted to visit:
Longwood Gardens is a horticultural masterpiece--1,050 acres of indoor and outdoor gardens, conservatories, fountains, woodlands and meadows. It was a favorite day trip for my beloved late aunts, Shirley and Rose. Perhaps their spirits still stop in at Longwood to pick up fallen seeds from the ground and wrap them in Kleenex for planting at home.

My mother had a green thumb and at one time actually sold live plants she grew herself. She made window boxes and dish gardens, selling them at our local farmers' market back when my brothers and I were quite young. She moved on to more lucrative businesses over the years, but she always enjoyed her many plants at home.

My aunts, on the other hand, weren't really into growing green things. I can't recall ever seeing a houseplant in Shirley's house, although she did grow some flowering plants in a tiny outdoor garden when she lived on 26th Street in Philadelphia. When they were down visiting, Rose would sometimes snap off a stem from one of my mother's bushy houseplants and take it home for potting.

In her apartment, Rose had several glass jars in the kitchen windows containing masses of tangled, overgrown plant stems she had put in water to root. She never rotated these jars, nor did she rotate the pots she had in her bedroom windows. The plants were tall and spindly from seeking light, all of the leaves faced in the same direction and there was a constant showering of dead brown leaves on the window sills. Rose's little indoor displays were the most depressing use of houseplants I had ever seen. These haggard stems looked like prisoners hanging on to the metal bars of their cells--incarcerated, defeated, no hope, no future.

I'm so glad I've inherited my mother's green thumb, as has my middle daughter
Pixie. Pixie loves all living things, and she always has a garden in the back court of her apartment building. Pixie is also the daughter who looks the most like me and like her late Grandma. It's those Romanian genes, I tellya!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

What *WAS* I Thinking?

***Post Edited on Account of Depression***

Junket says I should not leave this post up as originally written. I think she's right, so this is the edited version, with most of the depressive parts excised. You kind folk don't need to hear that crap!


In a rare attempt at self-improvement, I flipped my credit card number so they would send me Learn Spanish Even If You've Never Learned Spanish Before, How To Ask Where The Commode Is In Spanish & Seven Other Languages and 1001 Absolute Must-Have Spanish Phrases You Will Need If You Wish To Escape Being Eaten By Natives In The Jungles Of Venezuela.

After a few false starts, I was ripping along admirably--learned my numbers in Spanish from cero to veinte, and the phrases "buenos dias," "buenos tardes" and "buenos noches." Junket had learned quite a bit of the language in high school, so she was helping me with pronunciation and beginning to conjugate verbs. We reached a stuck point, and Junket had to look something up online. She was kind enough to print out several sheets of Spanish grammar for me, the reading of which summoned back some malevolent ghosts from 40-odd years ago: I had never bothered to learn English grammar, so any attempt to learn another language would be...uh...somewhat compromised.

I couldn't locate Junket's mean-ass, pejorative, ¡Idiota Estúpidio! Online Guide to Spanish Grammar, so I'm printing out a neato English/Spanish grammar glossary I found on has a section on everything, and I mean everything. Need to find silver buttons with ceramic photo inserts of Pierre Charles LeSueur? Check out '! Need to sleep in a tree for a couple of nights? Visit 'Bout! Eye about to pop out? 'BOUT!!!

Which just goes to show, for every obscure, esoteric, seemingly-unanswerable question that can be asked, there's someone on Earth who knows the answer! Where did all these people with all of this enigmatic knowledge come from? The contributors to appear to be ordinary people, many without a higher education, who are contributing just for the fun of sharing their wisdom with others. When my brothers and I were growing up, our parents were fond of whipping out little bits of their own enlightenment from time to time, just to scare the hell out of us. We didn't understand the weight of knowledge and experience that can be gathered over a lifetime.

Going without schooling is a terribly depressing mistake that can haunt a person forever, so I would not recommend doing this to oneself. But maybe those of us who have never set foot inside any hallowed halls of learning have manged some edification after all, and maybe we can share some of what we know with others. Someone out there needs to know how to transfer baby ladybugs from trees to aphid-infested hydrangeas (a Priscilla specialty)! As for Spanish, well, all I can say is: ay dios mio!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Garden (and other wildlife) Update #1

Well, the garden is coming along a little slower than expected. Out of a skizillion bush bean seeds poked into an L-shaped row, only three brave little seedlings are pushing their way up. Where are the others? Just lazy, sleepy seeds or are they afraid of something out there?

The cucumber hills were rebuilt and more seeds poked in. They look something like lineman Roy Neary's first attempt to sculpt Devil's Tower out of shaving cream or mashed potatoes in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." That's OK...they can be ugly, as long as the seeds sprout and commence climbing.

The tomato plants are growing nicely, with strong stems and happy-looking leaves, the herbs are taking off like shoplifters and the zinnia and white marigold seedlings are standing proud at the edge of the garden. My dill seeds failed to sprout, but I found a couple of straggly pots of dill at the hardware store and brought them home to live a life of glory, nourished by the finest crap clods on the east coast.

A traumatic memory from the past paid a visit today. Daughter Junket and I, both stinging insect phobic, were terrorized last summer by not one but TWO giant wasp thingies who got into the house at sunset or a little past. When Junket and I were first menaced by The Wasp (or something) From Hell, the instinct to protect my offspring from giant stinging insects was the only thing that kept me from taking off in a fit of hysterics and running a three-minute mile. I mean, this thing was BIG and scary and creepy and LOUD. With Junket cheering me on from behind, I emptied about half a can of Raid on the looping intruder before it hit the wall with a final crunch. A couple of weeks later, the second incident once again found Junket and I clinging to each other and whimpering piteously while waving the can of Raid around for an hour or so.

So Mr. Pseudonym and I were talking tonight when his eyes drifted toward the patio door. I asked him what he was looking at, and he told me a very big insect had just flown by. I turned around, and there it was, The 2007 Edition Wasp (or something) From Hell. Junket came home from work at around 9:00pm and concurred with Mr. P's guess that we had been visited by a "Sphecius speciosus," or Eastern Cicada Killer wasp.

Reading up about this gentle giant did little to assuage my fears. I mean, this thing is HUGE (if I haven't already mentioned this). The males, one-half the size of the females, have no stinger at all and (much like human males) are only interested in finding females for mating purposes. The females have stingers, but they are not really aggressive toward humans; they just want to sip at some nectar or sap, belch and then go hunting for cicadas. The female Cicada Killer stings the cicada to paralyze it, then grabs it up with her feet and flies back to her underground burrow. The cicada is twice her size, but she's just nuts or something, yelling, "I GOT ONE! I GOT ONE!" while careening back to her burrow in a descending zigzag pattern. Once back underground, she plunks the cicada in a cell, lays an egg on it and seals up the cell. Two days later, the egg hatches out in larval form and eats the cicada! I mean, like, ICK!

I hope doing my homework will help me deal with Cicada Killers, though I doubt this will be the case. So, between the giant wasps flying around and giant spiders hanging out of the trees, Mr. Pseudonym will probably have me clinging to his arm and whining, "Kill it! Kill it! KILL IT!" all summer long. Our Raid bill is going to be steep!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Poor Lil' Unwanted Priscilla

Three days after telling ShinyStat to stop sending me weekly traffic reports, I received an e-mail from them informing me my ShinyStat FREE account has been terminated for lack of activity.

Now, a kinder interpretation of this notice would be that I have failed to click on the links in my weekly e-mail from ShinyStat to view my site activity. A more realistic interpretation, however, would be to admit that no one, not even my daughters, are visiting Pinelands Ponderings on anything like a regular basis.

I had noticed my traffic dwindling down over time from a number of early visitors linking through from my daughters' (
Julia, Pixie and Junket ) blogs. This was understandable, since my daughters' sites were raw, insanely funny personal chronicles that, over time, grew more and more addictive to an ever-expanding audience. There was bound to be some gradually-diminishing linkover from their readership.

After all, there just isn't the soap-opera adventure and intensity in my life that a 20-something beautiful young lady would have. I did, however, observe studiously on several areas of widespread interest over the past couple of years. Who could possibly forget my erudite observations on
Christmas, Parenting, Grandparenting, Cicadas, 9-11, Kids' Birthday Parties, Reading to Toddlers, Pet Rats, Expired Pet Rats and Insomnia? Uh...apparently, a lot of people forgot!

But that's OK. Looking back on these posts, I'm proud of setting down my viewpoints on these diverse subjects. I'll never be the emotion-wringing writer my firstborn is and will never have the acidic, hilarious take on the world of my secondborn. I'll never summon up the sweet retrospective of my thirdborn. But I'm not my children--I'm me. I'm not comfortable using...uh...unfortunate language or sexual commentary here. Instead, this blog will always contain an inordinate amount of emotion over my grandson, an account of my continuous struggle with health issues, admiration for my pets and plants and a scatological study of the connection bodily waste (from one species or another) has to my daily schedule.

In truth, there is no other Priscilla from the Pines. I'm a weirdly funny, 59-year-old lady who likes techno music and writing surreal, spiritual or science-fiction stories. I'm empathic, caring and unconditionally supportive to those around me, full of wonder at life and love and eternally grateful to have my friends and family beside me each day. I'll keep writing, whether or not there are visitors. ShinyStat is not a useful tool here, and their logo will come down. But I'll keep writing for as long as I'm aware and in love.

Gotta run--Sprinkles the Rat is ringing her bell. Time for milk and cookies.