San Antonio marvelous gardens at The Botanical Gardens

Created Saturday, 31 July 2010 15:39

A Walk in the Gardens

I am now convinced that every large to medium-sized American city which possesses some history and a fair amount of local wealth, also possesses a botanical garden housed in a once-magnificent gated estate with a marvelous garden; San Antonio’s McNay Art Museum, for example – an old-family-estates-with-landscaped-grounds-now open for all to appreciate.

As a child growing up in suburban Southern California, my mother frequently took us to several such – Descanso Gardens, on the grounds of newspaper magnate Manchester Boddy’s estate, the Los Angeles County Arboretum, which was once part of E.J. “Lucky” Baldwin’s Santa Anita ranch, and the Huntington Library and Gardens, once the property of railway magnate Henry Huntingdon. (Mom had a weakness for extensive rose gardens, and also for dropping the three of us off for special kiddy summer education programs at Descanso. We just liked to feed the ducks, and explore the camellia wood.)

 

 

So, in wandering around the San Antonio Botanical Garden, I was quite surprised to discover that it was not, in fact, a relic of such an old estate, left in trust to the municipality by a public-spirited heir of a 19th century entrepreneur. The Botanical Garden was in fact only designed, constructed and planted over the last thirty to forty years in an old quarry and city waterworks, at what was once the far northern part of San Antonio and west of Fort Sam.

Amazing, actually – how speedily trees planted to fill in between whatever native oaks there may have been – have grown and adapted. From the general look of things, and from the age of the suburbs surrounding it, I would have guessed that garden must have been established long before 1970-1980. The area around Mahnke Park and North New Braunfels is stiff with 1920s Craftsman-style bungalows and rather charming Spanish Colonial Revival villas, all plaster and rust-red tile roofs. Within the garden itself, though, there are a couple of building relics of relatively greater age, like the Sullivan Carriage House and the Auld House, a Hill Country log cabin from the 1880s, which have been painstakingly removed from their original locations and established within the garden, among suitable plantings. And there are wonderful 360 degree views from the lookout pavilion, at the highest point of the garden – all the way to downtown San Antonio, actually.

Of the specialty gardens, my daughter and I appreciated the sensory garden – a series of outdoor rooms, with many raised beds and trimmings of statuary – such as an armadillo, and an enchanted castle in pottery. The Japanese garden will be splendid in the fall, though, when all the maples are in color. (Note to self- schedule a return trip in September or so . . .) And of course, the most wonderful thing about a garden like this is – that no matter how many people are there, the place is so large, and so carefully designed that it still offers a feeling of solitude, walking slowly between the trees and under the arbor.

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South Texas Heavy Rain and Thunderstorms

Created Tuesday, 27 July 2010 01:45

Rain and Thunder South Texas Style

Storms blew in again into San Antonio tonight, bringing welcome rain, something which – with luck – happens least once a month during a normal spring and summer. Thunderstorms in South Texas are as outsized as everything else is supposed to be in the west. Sometimes they appear as great creamy mounds of cloud, piling up and up and up in the clear blue sky, the bottom layer as flat and grey as a an iron, pressing down on the land.

A thunderstorm sweeping in from the mountains, or up from the Gulf will cover the entire sky; there is an odd, sepia or greenish cast to the air, until the last of the sunlight winks out. The clouds darken to leaden grey, and press closer, as if twilight is falling in the middle of the day. Lights that are activated by a sensor – streetlights and advertising signs and such – wink on. Sometimes the storm is announced by gusts of wind, but more usually by a distant grumble of thunder.

Storms that come in at night introduce themselves with lightening; one spectacular storm a couple of summers ago lit up the sky constantly for half an hour; nonstop flickering light, etching the trees and tall landmarks in harsh, blue white light; impossible to count the seconds between the flash and the noise, while gusts of wind lash the tree branches.

The spring rain announces itself as a faint rustle in the grass and in the tree leaves, pattering in random wet splotches on the stone path. The first few fat drops resound like small pebbles on the fiberglass porch roof, and then the full force sweeps in, and the light pattering becomes a full-throated roar. The porch roof is fringed with silvery streamlets of water, everything beyond my garden are dim shapes in the veil of rain. The rainwater is cold, or maybe it only seems so, but it feels like the storm has brought a breath of coolness with it.

The rain sheets off my neighbor’s roof, overflowing the gutter and splashing into the flowerbed that I have mulched with gravel. My own downspouts are spilling water into my rain catchment and rain harvesting barrels then overflow into the area between our houses, the garden path is awash with it. The street in front of my San Antonio house runs nearly ankle deep in water after a downpour like this; somehow the this city has never quite got the hang of constructing roads with adequate coving; roads and drains mean pretty much the same thing. To our enormous civic embarrassment it is entirely possible to be swept away and drown within city limits, as the result of driving down certain streets in a heavy rain.

Ten, fifteen, twenty minutes, the downpour is relentless, but then it seems like it is not so dark, the twilight is lifting, and the roar on the patio roof dies away. A few birds chirp uncertainly from where they have taken shelter. A crack of blue sky widens between two clouds, a fan of sunbeams spreads open like the halo of a saint in an El Greco painting, and the storm is gone as swiftly as it arrived. And with luck, there’ll be another one in a couple of weeks, so I’ll not need to water my garden with the hose, and the little white wildflowers that people call rain-lilies will miraculously sprout in a day or so, nickel-sized white hexagons on a green stem, swaying among the uncut grass in the fields and roadsides.

 

 

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Day of Prayer in Texas Proclamation June 27

Created Thursday, 24 June 2010 15:21

Governor Perry Issues Proclamation for Day of Prayer in the State of Texas Sunday, June 27, 2010

News Release: Wednesday, June 23, 2010 | Austin, Texas

TO ALL TO WHOM THESE PRESENTS SHALL COME:

WHEREAS, the Gulf Coast has suffered an unfortunate loss of life due to the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which continues to threaten livelihoods, economies and precious coastal wildlife ecosystems with devastation and destruction; and

WHEREAS, throughout our history, both as a state and as individuals, Texans have been strengthened, assured and lifted up through prayer; and

WHEREAS, prayer provides peace and guidance in times of crisis and conflict, and reminds us of the comforting assurance of God’s love for us all; and

WHEREAS, it seems right and fitting that the people of Texas should join with their fellow Gulf Coast residents and others across the country and around the world to thank God, seek his wisdom for ourselves and our leaders, and ask him for his merciful intervention and healing in this time of crisis;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, RICK PERRY, Governor of Texas, under the authority vested in me by the Constitution and Statutes of the State of Texas, do hereby proclaim Sunday, June 27, 2010, as a Day of Prayer in the State of Texas. I urge Texans of all faiths and religious traditions to offer prayers on that day for the healing of individuals, the rebuilding of communities and the restoration of entire Gulf Coast environment in the wake of this disaster.

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereunto signed my name and have officially caused the Seal of State to be affixed at my Office in the City of Austin, Texas, this the 23rd day of June, 2010.

RICK PERRY
Governor of Texas

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Forward Thinking Companies Invest in the Future and in Texas

Created Friday, 23 July 2010 16:20

Texas – America’s Top State for Business

The Texas economy continues to receive national attention. This month, CNBC named Texas America’s Top State for Business for the second time. Texas was also recently named the “Best State to Do Business” by CEO Magazine for the sixth year in a row, and six of Texas’ metro areas were listed as “America’s Recovery Capitals” by Forbes and Moody’s Economy.

No other state is home to more Fortune 500 companies, and Texas is the nation’s leading exporting state for the eighth year in a row. Texas created more private sector jobs than any other state in the nation over the last 10 years. Additionally, Texas’ unemployment rate dropped to 8.2 percent in June, well below the national average.

“As Americans look for the best place to live, work and raise a family, more of them are heading to Texas all the time,” Gov. Perry said. “The root cause of our economic success is hardworking Texans, but pro-job policies, low taxes, predictable regulations and fair legal system have also helped Texas lead the nation in job creation.”

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Quick showers Fix leaky faucets Get new lowflow toilets Wash a full load saves water

Created Thursday, 22 July 2010 18:11

Where does all my water go?

We use water around our homes to cook and clean, bathe and shower, wash our hands, flush the toilets, wash the cars, water the garden and lawn and countless other things we may even take for granted.

How much water gets wasted? Think about water leaks in and around your house. Let’s look for visual or obvious leaks. First, walk around inside your house to make sure you aren’t using water somewhere. Check for dripping faucets and running toilets.Look for water dripping and ponding under the sinks and around the toilets. Then check your faucets outside to make sure they are shut off, too.

If you have a dripping faucet, try to turn the faucet to stop the drip. You shouldn’t have to torque the handle of the faucet to make the leak stop. If you have to over tighten the faucet handle or can’t stop the faucet from dripping, you’ve identified atleast one problem. Replacing the washers or the complete faucet set is not too difficult a task for most do-it-yourselfers. Home improvement and your old fashioned neighborhood hardware stores have very helpful people. If you aren’t up to tackling the repair, you may have to hire a plumber.

Once all the obvious leaks are fixed we are going to check the water meter to detect water leaks that may not be visible. (i.e. possibly an underground pipe)

While still not using any water inside the house or from the outside faucets, walk to the water meter and check to see if the meter is moving. My low flow indicator appears as small blue triangle that spins when small amounts of water is flowing through the meter. (See the picture, the small blue triangle between “25” and the red pointer.) If the small triangle or the red pointer is spinning, water is passing through the meter and you may have a leak somewhere. (The red pointer movement indicates a lot of water is flowing.) Beware that your ice-maker or water softener may activate automatically while you are watching your meter for leaks. Observe the meter readings over several minutes to a couple of hours to more accurately detect any leakage.

How much water we really use and maybe identify places that we can cut back on. Saving water generally means saving money. Even a small water leak is just like flushing money… well, down the toilet. Altering your landscaping can conserve water as well.

A leak of just 1 drop per second can easily waste over 3000 gallons per year. (That’s as much water as many families use in one month that gets wasted by a single drip.)

San Antonio acquires the vast majority of it’s water underground. Water bubles up from the Edwards Aquifer to form the San Antonio river and thus the San Antonio Riverwalk.

If you have standing water in your water meter box, contact your water company for advice. Checkout the San Antonio Water System website for a lot of water conservation resources and ideas.

Just how much water does it use?

Here are some ballpark averages of how much water each uses.

Shower

  • 5 to 8 gal/min for older standard shower heads
  • 2.5 gal/min for low-flow
  • Less than a gal/min for ultra-low flow

Toilet

  • 5 to 7 gal/flush for older standard models
  • 1.6 gal/flush for low-flush toilets
  • Dual flush toilets 1.6 gal/flush and .8 gal/flush

Laundry

  • 30 to 50 gal/load for standard top loaders
  • 15 to 24 gal/load for front loaders

Dishwasher

  • 13 to 25 gal/load for older models
  • 8 to 11 gal/load for high efficiency models
  • 6 gal/load for high end ultra effecient models

Sinks

  • 1.5 to 3 gallons for washing hands with faucet aerator
  • 4 to 10 gallons for washing hands without faucet aerator

Leaky faucet

  • 1 drip per second wastes about 300 gallons per month
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Farm to Market Fresh San Antonio Local Grown Produce

Created Thursday, 22 July 2010 13:09

Farm to Market Fresh Local Grown Produce

Well, the Daughter Unit and I made a most excellent discovery, returning home last weekend with a trunk full of finds at the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society’s massive rummage-sale bash, in the parking lot at Rackspace Hosting. Here we were, doodling along the IH-35 access road, heading towards the on-ramp north of Walzem, and what should we see in the vast parking lot in front of the strip mall housing Michael’s and Cavender’s Boot City, but a promising cluster of pop-up canopies . . . of course, the Daughter Unit pulled a sharp right into the parking lot. The largest group of canopies was for a sale at Cavenders, but the smaller proved to be . . . a farmer’s market! And a fairly substantial row of them, too – tables and tables of fresh-out-of-the-field-just-ground-this-morning vegetables and fruits, a vendor with honey, and still another with fresh organic meat and free-range eggs. But the vegetables were drool-worthy; almost enough to make you think that becoming a strict vegan wouldn’t be that bad, really.

Still, although sufficient for current needs, the market itself wasn’t quite up to the weekly street market that I used to frequent when I lived in Greece – there, it was three blocks of a suburban street blocked off and two lines of little booths and tables, and the backs of trucks – but still, we’re getting there. Everything fresh as fresh can be, seasonal and local – and who can quarrel with that?

But – and this is a fairly substantial but – I couldn’t see so much of a break when it comes to prices on the eggs and meats – economy of scale and all of that. It’s not like these local farms can beat Wallyworld when it comes to that. However, buying at a local weekly farmer’s market does guarantee that what you are buying did not sit in a chilled warehouse or have been trucked half across the country . . . and in fact, might even endure sitting in your ‘fridge for a little longer than usual without becoming completely inedible. (Ancient rule of thumb from Phyllis Diller – “Check the produce in the refrigerator regularly; make sure they are an “on the way in” green, and not an “on the way out” green.)

And I want to experiment with making home-made mustang grape jelly – and lo and behold, one of the venders even has a source for mustang grapes. Really, it couldn’t get much better than this.

Well, this recipe for Greek cheese pie can. Enjoy.

Crumble ½ pound feta cheese to the consistency of coarse cornmeal. Make a béchamel sauce of ¼ c. butter, 3 Tbs. flour, and 1-cup milk, and allow to cool slightly. Mix the sauce with the crumbled cheese and add 3 eggs and ½ tsp dill. Allow half a package of Athenos phyllo dough to thaw thoroughly. (they package it with two individual rolls of phyllo dough) Unroll, and cover with a slightly damp towel. Melt ½ cup butter, and use a little to grease the bottom of a small, square baking dish. Layer sheets of phyllo in the dish staggering the layers, draping the half of each sheet over the side if the dish. Brush melted butter after every two layers, in the dish.. When all the sheets are used, pour the cheese/béchamel sauce into the center, and begin laying the layers over the cheese mixture, buttering every two layers. Sprinkle a little water on the top of the final layer of phyllo, and bake in a 350 deg. oven for 45 minutes.

How to find Farmer’s Markets:
Author Bio: Julia Hayden, who writes professionally as “Celia Hayes,” spent twenty years as a military broadcaster in the Air Force before retiring in San Antonio, Texas. She contributes to a variety of on-line magazines and websites including this San Antonio Real Estate website, and is also on the board of the Independent Authors Guild, a non-profit association of writers published by small or regional boutique publishers.She is the author of four novels set on the 19th century American frontier. She currently lives with her daughter and an assortment of dogs and cats. Her literary website is at www.celiahayes.com.
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Queen of All Yard Sales

Created Tuesday, 20 July 2010 12:57

The Queen of All Yard Sales

My Daughter Unit is currently a college student, busily engaged in picking up credits towards a degree in research biology, and therefore is on a strict budget as far as recreational shopping goes. Still, she enjoys the thrill of the chase, and the flush of victory at finding and locating the perfect object of desire for mere pennies on the dollar. Seriously, it’s much more fun, and feels like much more of an accomplishment finding a lovely, unique and tasteful accessory, item of clothing, or whatever – for practically nothing at all. Buying something at full retail now feels like . . . well, not that much fun at all. There’s no challenge, it’s all too easy, and the penny-pinching Puritan within us also murmurs disapprovingly about what a waste of money that is. And being a freelance writer on a military pension hardly allows me the opportunity to splurge either; so both of us are seriously into yard sales, estate sales, thrift shops, resale outlets, flea markets, and a serious devotee of both the American and British versions of the Antiques Roadshow.

We’re not above checking out what’s been put by the curb for semi-annual trash-pick up, either. We live in hope that some day, something that we picked up for pennies will turn out to be an Antiques Roadshow show-stopper, like the woman who brought in a collection of rhinestone costume jewelry for appraisal on the Roadshow. She had picked up every one of them at estate sales and thrift shops, never paying more than a few dollars – and a starburst broach in silver-colored metal and clear stones turned out to be platinum set with real diamonds, the size of jelly-beans. The holy grail of the thrift-shopper is something like that; an item of superb quality, jumbled together with the junk. And yes – to find it, you do have to paw through a lot of junk. We didn’t find anything like that last Saturday, but we did make out well.

Last Saturday was the day of the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society’s annual grand parking-lot rummage sale; a garage sale on steroids, as it were, set up in the parking lot of Rackspace Hosting on Walzem, formerly Windsor Park Mall. (They do this every year.) And of course, the Daughter Unit was so there, having planned and budgeted for weeks, and organized her priorities. A bit after nine, there we were, beating most of the rush – but not the heat of an asphalt parking lot. In July. In south Texas. Of course it’s going to be hot, although a few lucky people with tables at the sale had managed to get a spot shaded by the trees at the edge of the parking lot, or remembered to bring a pop-up awning for a spot of blessed shade. Other vendors were holding up parasols or umbrellas for relief from the sun, and as one woman remarked, “There’s not enough sunscreen in the world!” The Daughter Unit keeps a case of water in the back of her Montero, for which we were extraordinarily grateful, as we went back to it a couple of times to stash our gleanings, and to rehydrate.

As rummage sales and farmer’s markets go, this was well worth the effort: many vendors had collected fairly high-grade stuff from friends and neighbors as well as clearing out their own household of items extraneous to need. The Daughter Unit’s best finds were an Eddie Bauer leather carry-all bag (which looked at first glance like a Dooney & Burke) – with only a little wear along the bottom, and an Indiana Glass centerpiece bowl. The Daughter Unit collects antique pressed glass. For me, the prize was a barely-if-ever-used Zorjirushi breadmaker – the older version that does a 1 ½ -pound bread loaf – still in the original box and missing the measuring cups and instruction manual. We got it for 5$. We prefer home-made baked bread, and as soon as we got home, I fired it up. Yumm. Best 5$ spent, ever.


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Playhouses and Forts In the San Antonio Botanical Garden Funsten and Mahnke Park

Created Friday, 16 July 2010 15:07
By Julia Hayden

Playhouses and Forts In the San Antonio Botanical Gardens

Playhouse and Fort exhibit ends October 24, 2010

In the Botanical Garden that is – the San Antonio Botanical Garden, hidden up at the end of Funsten, at the top end of Mahnke Park . . . a series of artist-designed playhouses or forts or whatever you call something for children to hide away in for hours of self-directed play. We went to the Garden this week, motivated by curiosity about this. After all, both my daughter and I are former children, although I don’t think my daughter – a military dependent at various overseas airbases – had half the experience with tree-houses, play-houses and forts that I did, growing up as a relatively free-range child in a semi-rural suburb. But anyway – a collection of fantastical forts and play-houses in a big garden must be better and more interesting for the kidlets than a pile of brightly-colored plastic, gently bleaching in the Texas sun, eh? Or so one would think . . .

Of course, the first playhouse was more or less just that – not much different from the little wooden house with two unglazed windows that my brother and sister had as children – just large enough for a table and two chairs. The Plein Aire house, though – is brightly colored, and certainly the view out of it in any direction was much more pleasing than our old playhouse, with it’s plain stained wood walls and shingled roof. But a nice, unspecific play-house, move-in ready for any child’s game and fantasy.

Of the next two houses – a semi-enclosed ramble of straw walls, around a tank with a bicycle-water-wheel in it, and roofed with a frame of suspended plants in old Crocs and cut-down soda bottles, and a five-sided semi-enclosed pavilion with a wall made of recycled house-hold junk . . . they didn’t have quite the same charm. Children, left to themselves, will make a fort out of any old junk to hand – my brothers’ best friends, whose father was a plumbing contractor, made a fort out of up-ended sewer-pipe, bricks and metal manhole covers in their backyard. But these two displayed a grim statement, as artful as they were . . . they were deliberately, earnestly, pound-home-the-point-with-a-sledgehammer educational, which is kind of the kiss of death to kids who just want to play.

The woven passage house, of rope woven over rebar in sort of a zig-zag tunnel was refreshingly absent any of this. It could have been anything a kid wanted it to be, from a hobbit-hole to a giant bird’s nest. As something in the garden, not much to do for a visiting child escorted by an adult to look at and more on; it did remind me of some of our favorite ‘fort’ – the one made of two long refrigerator boxes, with an enormous pile of tall-grass hay piled up over it.

Two houses were placed down in the sub-surface courtyard connecting the various glass pavilions housing the specialty gardens. The Forte, which was made of hard-packed earth, housed a xylophone and an elaborate hanging noisemaker – all amusing enough for the children that we saw being brought through by their adults for a brief time, but would it really work as a long-term play-space? The second installation, the indoor-outdoor fort was at least clever: a gargantuan table and chair, with a tent-like covering on one side, and a stack of books, an enormous vase of flowers and a tea cup on top. Of course, we played, under a card-table with a couple of blankets laid tent-like over it to make a play-place.

The modern Swiss Family Robinson house was again, one of those grimly educational things – again, recycled building materials featured heavily, and a water recycling system to water the plants. Not a patch on the movie Swiss Family Robinson multi-level tree-house. The last house, the chrysalis house did remind me of the tree-house that we played in as children, a platform up in the middle of a tree, all but hidden by the branches, and just vague enough as to purpose as to open it up to any.

The Playhouses and Forts exhibit at the Botanical Gardens will be there through October 24. I believe that the real test of how they would work with real children though, would be just to turn the kids loose in the garden for a good few hours, and see which ones they gravitate towards, without their parents hanging over them and waiting to hustle them onto the next exhibit.

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Summer Recipe Revel Tomato Bread Salad

Created Monday, 05 July 2010 15:14
by Julia Hayden

Summer Recipe Revel – Tomato Bread Salad

This is one of my favorite recipes when I have an abundance of two things – super-ripe and juicy tomatoes, and slightly stale artisan-bakery bread. HEB ciabatta works very well in this recipe. The bread must be of this type, which will hold shape and form when dampened, as anything else will go all soggy and disgusting.

Cube approximately half a ciabatta loaf, to make about 2 cups of 1 to ¾ inch cubes. Lightly dry cubes in a warm oven, if desired.

Slice coarsely 1 lb fresh tomatoes. You can also use a pound of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half, or even go half red and half yellow tomatoes – but they must be fresh and full of juice.

Place the bread in the bottom of a container, and the fresh tomatoes on top of them, so that the juice from the tomatoes will percolate down through the bread.

Mash together to make a paste, using something like the mortar and pestle shown here:

1 large clove garlic, cut into pieces
pinch sea salt, and pepper to taste

Add to the garlic paste and wisk to a salad-dressing consistency:
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
¼ cup olive oil

Pour the garlic paste/olive oil dressing over the tomatoes and bread. Add
1 tsp fresh marjoram or chopped parsley
¼ cup chopped fresh basil

Optional: garnish with ¼ cup Nicoise or Kalamata olives. Allow to sit for about half an hour, to blend flavors. This is not so good when left over to the next day, unless you enjoy very soggy bread – but it is superb when eaten within an hour or so of being made.

I bought the wooden mortar and pestle for a few pesetas in the local grocery store when I lived in Spain. It is now very well seasoned, through being constantly used to make things with olive oil added. I like it because – unlike most of the other mortar and pestle sets on the market in gourmet cook-shops, it is deep, and with straight sides; excellent when it comes to keeping fairly hard items being mashed in it from leaping out – and because they can then be mixed to an emulsion, just using the pestle.

And this recipe does not call for kitten. He was just supervising.
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Natures Confetti Crepe Myrtles

Created Thursday, 01 July 2010 14:06
by Julia Hayden

Neighborhood Mysteries

The chief one upon my mind of course, is why this has turned out to be such a banner year for crepe myrtles – honestly, for the past month, it seems as if every crepe myrtle tree has been covered in blooms to the exclusion of leaves. Underneath each tree, the ground is covered with the confetti of dried blossoms; pink, lavender, red and white. (Another mystery – has anyone ever bred a crepe myrtle with yellow or blue blossoms? If not, why not?) My neighborhood has quite recovered, thank you, from that bitter, bitter frost in January, which decimated potted plants and tender tropical plants. Just about everything that wasn’t actually killed down to the roots has come back with a roar.

Continuing my contemplation of mysteries; the taste of a neighbor who decorated their garden with a huge variety of healthy flowering plants in a collection of containers which have absolutely nothing in common, aesthetically speaking. It is almost as if they hit every nursery and DIY store in town, impulsively buying every plant and pot that caught their eye, without consideration of all the stuff they had bought previously. About the only thing to hold plants that they haven’t bought so far is that nadir of low-rent taste, the automobile tire turned inside out, laid on the side, and the top edge cut into zig-zag shapes and gaudily painted. The assortment of pots would be striking of – but the statuary puts it painfully over the top.

Not gnomes, but all those elaborate, sentimental cast-plaster, or concrete statues of Victorian children, sitting on benches, or under umbrellas, or playing with the bunnies and duckies; dozens of them, and the Daughter Unit swears there are more of them, mysteriously appearing every day, as if they were replicating themselves in some revolting fashion, partaking in mysterious rituals performed during the darkest hours of the night. No, the thought of all those statues of creepy children coming alive at night, and throwing off their pinafores and trousers and tormenting the bunnies and ducks with – no, no, no. I’ll bet that when they smile, though, they have needle-sharp teeth, like the little gnomes on that planet in Galaxy Quest. During the day, the serried ranks of statuary make it look like a monumental graveyard for hobbits. We don’t like to think of what might already be in the backyard, because at some point, the statuary will overflow their yard entirely, and come marching down the road, and then where will we be?

The horrible marching army of statues will have to come by the house with the tree full of wind chimes, the place where they have ripped out the lawn, and covered it all pavers, and raised beds full of native flowering shrubs, whirligigs, painted sheet- metal flowers and crystals on metal poles; all very pleasant on a mild day, but what it must be like during a wind-storm, I shudder to imagine.

Probably no one can hear themselves think, for the clamor of wind chimes, let alone call City Code Compliance to complain: “Hello (bonnn-ggg! Bo-nnnn-g!) Code (Bonnnnnnggggg!) Compliance, how may we (BOOOONNNNNNGGG!) help you? (BONNNNNNNNGGGG!). I’m so sorry, ma’am, (BOOOONNNNNNGGG!) but I can’t hear you (BBBBBOOOOONNNNNG!) over the wind chimes!”(BBBBBBOOOOOOOONNNNNNNGGGGGGG!)

I love the look of the wind-chime place, but personally, I’m happy to be living a good distance away. I think it would drive my dogs and cats into nervous breakdowns. I blame global warming. Or global cooling. Or climate change, or Al Gore, or somebody. Maybe even Martha Stewart, whom I am happy to blame for anything.
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