Tomato Update

A bit ago I posted about transplanting tomato plants from small to large pots.  One of them in particular was not doing well.  It sagged.  It hung low.  It looked poorly.  I thought it would kick it.  But check this out:


Limp No Longer

Limp No Longer

The plant on the left is the same one that was all droopy before.  A little water, a little sun and bam!  Healthy(ish) plant.

I still am not ready quite yet to pop them in the ground.  Rain showers are forecast for the next four days.  And it is cool.  These puppies like it hot.  Some time this week, hopefully, I will start exposing them to the outside air.  They need to get some experience before they get to the work of growing tomatoes.

I am hopeful that we will get some fruit off these bad boys.  If only it didn’t take so long.  I suppose, however, that that is part of the joy of it–watching fruit burst from a tiny seed.  So I can be patient, even though I can almost taste what will come.  A juicy red slice on a hot summer day?  Now we’re talking.

Rain Situation

It isn’t raining at the moment.  Well, maybe it is raining a little, but barely.  The sun is setting and we have that rare light when the bright sun shines under the clouds, coloring them steel gray and blasting the green hills with brightness.  It won’t last long.  The distant mountain tops are bright and I can see that rain falls there, and the shadows are creeping.

It has rained for a couple of days straight.  I planted flower seeds with the children on Tuesday afternoon, before dinner.  Then it rained.  And rained.  It is Friday now, about the same hour we planted the seeds.  Three days of wet.  I think they have gotten enough water to germinate.

I have not needed to uncoil the hose to water the garden.  In fact, I have been afraid that the garden has been getting too much water.  Last summer we had a wet spell that ruined some of our crops, including carrots.  They rotted in the ground.  Nothing I planted is so advanced that it will rot but this rain might keep some seeds from starting as I would like.  We’ll have to see what happens.

A hermit thrush tosses out its flutey voice over the wet trees behind the house.   It is an unassuming bird, what you might call an LBJ, a Little Brown Jobber, so similar to so many other bland birds.  Its voice, however, stops me at times.  Milton and Shakespeare and all those other dead English bards wrote about the nightingale, another thrush, whose voice trilled through the woods with sweetness.  I am sure they would have written their odes to the hermit thrush had they lived in Vermont.

We will likely get more rain showers over the next couple of days, but I am hoping the sun will come out to feed the new leaves on our squash plants and to warm the soil so the flowers will grow.  But that won’t happen until tomorrow.  Right now the land quiets.  The air is still, filled with moisture, heavy.  A robin adds to the thrush’s song.  Spring peepers and wood frogs sing out from the pond over the hill.  The light grows grayer.

It is not raining, but the rain has set the scene for a perfect early evening in spring.  Time to slide on some boots and head out there to smell it and feel it.

Flags Along the Way

As I was driving through Milton this morning I noticed a United States flag.   It stood out because it was faded and tangled in the cross post on the pole.  It looked like it had been there a long time.  Someone had cared to put it up but then what happened?  Had it been forgotten?  Did they just leave it up all the time?  How long had it been tangled there?

Then I noticed other U.S. flags.  There was a flag on a pole part way up a utility pole, and another on the next pole.  I wondered if there would be many on many poles, but the next few utility poles were bare of flags.  Then, around the bend, there was flag after flag, all of them hanging toward the road, red, white and blue stretching down Route 7.  It was a lot of flagness there in Milton.

I realized that I just don’t notice U.S. flags anymore.  They are everywhere.  Had these flags been there a long time?  Or had they been hung recently, for Memorial Day?  They might have been there for months and I hadn’t noticed them on my many travels through town.  Or maybe they had only been there a few days.  I certainly hadn’t noticed them yesterday, or last week.

I then noticed the flag at the post office.  You can count on that one.  And there was a flag at the bank.  And others scattered about.  I thought that maybe I would count them on the way home, but I forgot.

I remember as a kid hanging a flag.  I don’t know how long we did that but I do remember raising it the morning and lowering it at night.  We weren’t always good about it.  Sometimes we left it up all night, or for several days straight.  According to the U.S. Code on such matters, one should not fly the flag at night unless it is fully lit.  We blew it on that one.  We always folded it properly and stored it well but the lighting thing didn’t happen.  Moreover, one shouldn’t fly the flag in inclement weather.  Oops.

I recently read an article in Grist about whether one can ignore the flag codes and fly the flag at night without lighting it, to save energy.  Wouldn’t that be patriotic?  Use less energy but still fly the flag?  The article suggested simply not flying the flag at night, or using a motion sensor light so if someone passes by they flag would be lit and thus be visible.  Sounded good to me.

I heard a story on NPR recently about a pastor who is flying his flag upside down in Chicago.  That usually, according to flag codes, should be reserved strictly as a signal of distress.  His point is that so many youth are being killed by firearms every year that his city faces an crisis.  He noted that within 48 hours we mobilized to inform and protect people from swine flu, a threat that was unclear at best, yet we can’t stop youth gun violence that has been happening for years?  I have no quibble with his approach, despite local veterans who might find it unpatriotic.  One does what one must.

I imagine I will be noticing flags a lot now.  Richmond used to post them on utility poles for July 4th.  I sometimes didn’t notice them at first but then saw them everywhere.  I imagine that will happen again.  I can’t imagine flying one myself any time soon, but I know that I will manage to see them, even when I am not looking.

Inspired by a Golfer

I am not a golfer.  I have played a few rounds, at the request of friends who understand that games, including golf, are for fun, and who are willing to laugh at themselves and, especially, at me.  I had a few decent shots and understand why others love the game.  Nailing it just right feels pretty good.  Nonetheless, I haven’t picked it up.  I think the idea of acquiring more equipment for yet another activity turned me off.

So I was surprised this afternoon to be inspired by a golfer.  I was listening to NPR’s Fresh Air.  The host was interviewing John Feinstein, author of the new book Are You Kidding Me?  The tale is about the 2008 US Open challenge to Tiger Woods by Rocco Mediate, a low-ranking golfer who almost beat the best golfer in the world.  He didn’t beat Tiger Woods in the end, but the story is pretty amazing.

Mediate was ranked 158th in the world and had to earn a spot in the US Open in a qualifier.  At the end of a 36-hole tournament he made it through an eleven-man tie to get into the Open, with only 156 others.  Then he stayed at or near the top until he and Tiger Woods were tied.  They had to play an 18-hole tie-breaker to determine the winner.  At the end of that it came down to the last hole.  Tiger Woods had to make a put to win.  Which he did.

The amazing part of all this is, of course, that someone so obscure in a professional sport could come so close to beating someone so well-known for being so good.  The really amazing part of this is that Rocco Mediate had battled injuries and health problems.  He was known as someone who was really good when he was healthy, that qualifer being pretty important.

Here is how I was inspired.  Last summer I trained for the Vermont 50.  I pulled a muscle and had to stop running.  This spring I started training again.  Then I busted my toe and had to stop running.  But Rocco Mediate lost to Tiger Woods by one stroke after being a good golfer sometimes for years and years.  He kept a good attitude, a sense of humor, and never gave up.  He kept playing.

So why should I give up?  I only decided to start training again for the 50 last spring.  I am just about ready to run again.  I will need to pick things up from the beginning again but so what?  Maybe I can’t run the 50 this fall but what about next year?  I just need to be persistent.  I just need to get back into it and keep at it.  I don’t need to win.  I don’t even need to come one stroke away from winning.  Heck, I would pleased to be ranked 158th.

So, thanks, Rocco.  I am hoping this weekend to get out for my first run in just over a month.  I appreciate your story.  I will think of it when I need to get out there on those cold and wet days.  And then I will get out there and run.

Danger! Frost Ahead!


Alert! Frost Protection!

Alert! Frost Protection!

We are looking to get frost again tonight.  The children and I went out to cover the pumpkins seedlings, plus one cucumber plant that has just busted though the soil.  It was too windy for the plastic buckets we used before–no way they would stay on all night.  We improvised.

The kids’ orange play cones did the trick.  They are a little heavier and more stable.  Hopefully they will protect our little guys.  We may not get a frost but why take chances?  

Notice the grass clippings on the bed.  I edged the beds with our electric trimmer this afternoon.  I had to use two extension cords to get that far, but it worked like a charm, I mean, except for the grass clippings everywhere. It worked so well I trimmed all over the place, even under the apple tree up on the hill.  And around the blueberry bushes.  I will do that again.

So the pumpkins have trimmed beds to sleep in.  A bit messy, but with those cozy cones to keep them warm, my guess it they won’t notice.

Camping Out Next to the Herbs

Freshly Planted Herbs Next to Established Herbs

Freshly Planted Herbs Next to Established Herbs

Memorial Day Weekend Lawn Campout

Memorial Day Weekend Lawn Campout

I planted a bunch of fresh herbs yesterday and the day before.  So far they are doing well.  I hope they grow like nuts, both to provide some tasty additions to dishes to be prepared and to offer some beauty in the garden bed next to the house.

Last night we slept in our big tent, on the grass next to that same herb garden.  My daughter slept well, turning in the night so she was sideways to the rest of us.  The rest of us slept less well than we might.  Despite that, we are planning to do that again.

We may not sleep well (then again, after one night of less than ideal sleep, we all might sleep like a charm) but at least we will be smelling the lilacs and the herbs.  We will, hopefully, drift off with fine fragrances and the sound of woodcocks and snipes in the field.  We had that last night, so two nights in a row?  Sounds right to me.

Lilacs Blooming


Lilacs in Bloom

Lilacs in Bloom


More Lilacs in Bloom

More Lilacs in Bloom

We have several different types of lilacs that bloom at our house in May.  These are my favorite–the white rimmed purple.  We have some that are your typical lilac-colored lilacs, as well as white ones.  They are nice to look at, but better to smell.  If I could post their fragrance here, I would post it with no accompanying text or photos.  It would be enough.

Harry Potter and Popcorn

If I had a Twitter account this might be a good one for that forum.   The grown-ups in the house watched the first half of the fourth Harry Potter film last night.  It got too late to watch the rest.  It is in the works, queued up for part two.

My wife makes popcorn.  Usually that task falls to me.  But she is giving me time to write this.  So I write this because I am not making popcorn.  And I am not making popcorn because I am writing this.

OK Harry Potter.  I think I’m ready.

Herbs and Black Flies

I had a few minutes on my way home today to stop by the local nursery, Red Wagon Plants.  If you like plants it is hard not to like a nursery.  This place is a good one–lots to choose from, right around the corner, everything is healthy and bursting with greenness.  And the folks there are friendly.  I had been thinking about buying some herbs, plants this time.  Starting from seed takes longer and I have to admit I have been ready to get cracking.  So I picked out a few small plants.

The woman who swiped my debit card in exchange for these plants asked me with a laugh, “Are you a good cook or do you just shop like one?”  It was a most excellent question.  My answer:  “I suppose that depends on who is doing the dining.”  Eighteen bucks allowed me to truck home rosemary, thyme, chives, and two sage plants.

I planted the rosemary right away.  We had a plant that made it through our first winter and then kicked it after winter number two.  It put it in that same spot.  It worked last time, right?  Then I worked on the chives we already have.  I use lots of them when we have them but I am always afraid of cutting too much.  I split that clump and replanted the chunk I dug up.  Then I planted the new one near it.  The thyme, planted next door to the chives, will complement those visually when everything grows bigger.

I saved the sage for later.  I had to make dinner.  This was a good dinner, by the way–black beans with red peppers and onions, some of those chives, extra-sharp cheddar cheese (is there any point to using any other kind?) wrapped in tortillas and baked golden brown.  It was not as fresh as it might have been but it was a winner.  The sage scented the air in its four-inch pots while we ate on the deck.

Later in the day, after the sun ducked behind the knoll and shadows covered the garden, I took up the hose with my daughter and we watered.  The black flies were out.  I had conveniently forgotten how hard it is to stand with the hose and water the garden when the small biting insects are hungry for the blood flowing through my bare legs. The kid didn’t stick around too long.  The price one pays for fresh food…

I watered the new herbs as well.  The sage still waits for tomorrow.  In a couple of days I will add to what I have planted so far.  The garden needs to be filled with seeds–too much empty dirt at the moment.  The onion and leek seedlings are waiting to stretch out in the sun.  And the melons will need lots of time to produce fruit.  Memorial Day weekend is the traditional time to plant hereabouts.  I’ll be taking advantage of that extra day.

Luck? Or Hard Work?

I was chatting with a coworker today and she noted that I must be looking forward to having some time off this summer.  My job allows me a couple of mostly-free-of-work months over those warm days.  She said at first that I was lucky, then said, “No you’re not lucky. You made it happen.”  That got me thinking.

I think we tend to attribute far too little of our success or fortune to luck.  I think back on the key moments in my life and there were some lucky moments.  If I didn’t have a particular teacher or supervisor or friend I might have taken the path I took.  I had not seen the newspaper on the right day or if a housemate hadn’t taken a class on the right date, I might not have found this way in life.  Luck had a lot to do with it.

Sure, hard work matters.  In fact, it is what one does with the lucky moments that makes the difference.  Get lucky and land a good job?  That matters a lot less if you are a slacker, or if the people with whom you work hate you.  You need to make it happen, as my coworker said.  To clarify, hard work matters a lot, but luck matters too.

Think of the big ones.  How about where you were born?  That kind of makes a difference in the opportunities one has.  How about other members of your family?  Whether one has abusive parents or the most loving on the block makes a difference, and that has nothing to do with hard work.  Yes, with some struggle one can overcome these tricks of fortune, but that is my point.  It takes more work for one born into more challenging circumstances.  

One can be successful if one is mostly lucky and one can be successful if one works terribly hard.  I believe it is when one takes full advantage of the circumstances that simply happen to him or her that one can be most successful.  Sure, chalk it up to hard work.  I just don’t buy it.  Everybody gets lucky, whether he or she acknowledges it or not.  

Here’s Thomas Jefferson:  I’m a great believer in luck, and I find that the harder I work, the more I have of it.

I’m with that.