Thursday, August 31, 2023

The Jungle in August

 Dateline: Cattaraugus County, western New York State

The woodland cottage garden look is just about reaching its peak.

Of course it wasn't originally going to be a wild woodland English cottage garden but a perfectly manicured American-style one with neat clumps of the same time of flower separated by lots of mulch. That strategy did not work.

Even if the garden shed always manages to look tidy.

I caught a few dastardly Japanese beetles but thankfully their friends appear to have taken fright and scarpered and we didn't have any more trouble. I think the majority opinion around here is that traps just attract more of the brutes. So it's a case of grabbing them and chucking them in the slug bucket.

Back in July, Jack Daniels, as I call him, was at his best.

Later came the obedient plants - spreading everywhere. They're almost as bad as what I call the yellow perils. But they are very pretty.

I've never seen so many bees on a small clump of flowers. There must be something in them they love. This chap couldn't get enough.

The trumpet vine is out of control. The gift from my master-gardener brother-in-law that just keeps on giving.

No more flower beds but meadow beds. A free-for-all but I' was heartened again by this year's Chelsea Flower Show which seemed to favour the untidy look.

In front the daisies are always good value though one morning I came outside and found something large had landed in the middle of them and left a trough. Maybe the same culprit that uprooted everything earlier in the year.

The hardy hydrangeas are getting massive. 

I have to say that, although I complained about the slugs earlier in the year and they devoured all the lupins, they don't seem to have waddled off to eat anything else. Perhaps the melon rinds I scattered around enticed them and they got indigestion.

Another foe, the deer, do seem to have repelled by the Irish spring soap, judiciously tied to bamboo poles and smelling like inside of a minicab.

Alas all the blueberries got eaten once again, whether by chipmunks or birds. One attacks from above and one from below. We'll have to think up a new strategy next year. But on balance I think I can claim some modest success.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

The Battle of Monmouth 2023

 Here's a bit of a flashback - in more ways than one! June found us in Monmouth County, New Jersey on the trail of hubby's ancestors. As it happened, they were re-enacting the Battle of Monmouth, which took place in 1778 (that's not the one that happened in Wales in 1233.) In this Battle of Monmouth, George Washington led the Continental Army - including one of the ancestors - against the British redcoats, seen here preparing for the fray. 

 And here some stalwart chaps are having a little break - they've all sleeping in those tents and have another night to go. Very authentic. No hotel comforts for them.

We asked these lads what the green uniform was. They replied curtly, "We are Jagers from Germany", as if we were clueless for asking.  In this case they were helping the British.

Re-enactments are tough work.

Everything the stalls sold was authentic too - sweets, tools, shoes... We bought some tea, as thrown overboard in Boston.

They didn't so selfies in 1778 - had to ask a friend.

George Washington chivvies his elegant officers along. The road does look a bit modern ....

But most other things were exactly as was. Including, campfires, cooking utensils

And the food

Though the clothes and uniforms...

may have been a little less pristine back in the day.

Just before the battle started there was an almighty clap of thunder and the rain poured down as we cowardly spectators rushed for cover, unlike the gallant combatants. But it was worth coming back as the sun soon returned.

And amid a lot of loud bangs of a different kind, the skirmish continued.

That was a good one!

It was all stirring stuff but, not following the commentary on the tannoy very well, I had to ask hubby  who won. "Well the British left the field,", he said, "but I suppose you could call it a draw. Though", he added, what matters is that WE won the war." OK ok, family pride, I get it!  There were plenty of dead bodies strewn across the field,  exhibiting remarkable self-discipline. None of them moved till the spectators started to disperse.

It was very impressive and I take my bonnet off to them. I'm always amazed at how fervently they do their history this side of the pond. Perhaps because they have somewhat less of it than the British, they preserve and cherish it more. The crowd was huge and enthusiastic, including a lot of children. Great that they were so interested in their heritage - or perhaps it was all the bangs and smoke.  I bought hubby a T shirt that said "Battle of Monmouth 1778". I made sure it was a red one though.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Meanwhile Back in the Jungle...

 An update:   after weeks of drought we've had days of torrential rain - yes, believe it or not this was yesterday ......

And the jungle is slowly creaking into bloom...

  Though, unfortunately, with the rain have come the slugs, munching on the tender lupin leaves and stripping half the buds before they even have a chance to open. I studied the excellent book, "Fifty Ways to Kill a Slug", by Sarah Ford, which gave the family a lot of laughs, the remedies including sawdust, cat hair, grapefruit and running over the slugs with your car. Sadly none of them have worked so far. Then I read somewhere else that melon rind can be a decoy. I tried it one evening - the next morning the melon rind had gone and not a slug in sight. Perhaps one of our furry friends had made off with both. But it only works with canteloupe. Watermelon is no good. Visiting family brought one the size of the Dam Busters bomb and assiduously pared off the peel but the brutes weren't interested, so now I have a bucket of watermelon peelings for the compost heap. Oh and the canteloupe has to be sweet and ripe, so now I'm waiting for another one to mature, as it were.

  Meanwhile the hardy hydrangea is starting to bloom, though a little less than in previous years. Perhaps it's getting tired. I know the feeling.

  After last year's tragedy, I've gone all out to keep the deer away from the lily buds - Bobbex spray, Irish spring soap suspended on sticks (but might the respective revolting aromas cancel each other out?) nets, the works and so far there have been some good results ...

..but I'm not holding my breath. On the other hand, the window boxes on the garden shed are, for some reason,  an optimum growth environment - even though a few slugs still manage to shin up there. (Sarah recommends copious application of Vaseline but you'd need a shipping container of it). 

And peeping from around the corner ....

Yes! Jack's just getting into gear.

So it could be worse. Not so much a losing battle against the predators but a sort of precarious stalemate.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

A Hazing from Canada

 Dateline: Cattaraugus County, western New York State

...and apologies for the long absence, necessitated by the arduous business of packing, travelling and unpacking to come back up north, plus family visits.  We left hot and sunny Florida (small digression - here's the first turtle nest identified on Golden Beach....

 ....., not that you can see anything.) And now we're in foggy western New York. Herewith the view from the Baptist Church car park at the bottom of our lane:

  We were wondering over the last couple of days what was causing the haze and then suddenly last night the news media caught up with the story. It's all being caused by smoke from forest fires in Canada blowing southwards. Today you can certainly smell the smoke. In New York City, apparently, they are digging out their masks again and everyone is being urged to stay indoors. I certainly haven't seen anything like it in all the time I've been here. Plus it's made everything chilly and the temperatures are going down to the 30sF tonight, playing havoc with my gardening plans in the Jungle. We hope for some rain in the next couple of days.

  Strange that the Canadians export their Canadair firefighting planes all over the world but seem powerless to help themselves.

 I have nothing against Canadians but they do cause us a lot of trouble - the lake effect snow in winter being a prime example. Cold Canadian air travelling over the warm waters of Lake Erie causes huge dumps of snow. Thankfully we're not here to see it any more. And now they're hazing us!

Friday, May 12, 2023

Stunning Houses! Dream Homes!

 Dateline: Golden Beach, Venice, Florida

A major conversation topic when I set off on my early morning power walk with my neighbours is house sales and house prices. Which makes Golden Beach no different from London. Despite rising interest rates, house sales here show no sign yet of calming down. The pretty cottage up the road has just sold and I hope the new owners will be of the Small is Beautiful persuasion and not want to pull it down and build their own version of Mar a Lago - which is happening all too often around here. 

 There are some transatlantic differences in the way estate agents/realtors conduct their business. Here they don't sell "houses", they sell "homes". Once you've got that linguistic nuance out of the way, there are other, far more pronounced differences. Just read the blurb on the online house ads, which I'm far too fond of browsing. In Britain it'll tell you stuff like how many bedrooms and how close to the railway station. In short it's about the house. Here in the US it's all about how you will live your life once you're lucky enough to buy the house, sorry, home. Well, for a start you're going to be doing a lot of "cozying" [sic].  As in "Cozy up in front of the wonderful stone fireplace in the great room. Play a game of cards in the dining room while you’re cooking a crockpot of chili in the kitchen. "

   Like it or not, you're going to be the host/ess with the most/est, "Picture Sunday brunches with friends and family! You'll love the extra-large kitchen that opens to the spacious laundry room with ample shelving for your canned goods and supplies! The formal dining room is wonderful for those sit down, holiday dinners! And while the chefs are busy whipping up their gourmet dishes, your guests will have plenty of room to roam between the parlor and formal living room - each displaying a beautiful fireplace!"  Presumably keeping their sticky fingers away from the family silver.

   Next, you're going to be doing a lot of coffee sipping (it's always "sipping", which sounds more genteel, I suppose, than slurping or chugging). This may happen on the patio, or the  balcony or, if you've dished out enough dosh, by the (always) sparkling pool. When it's time to watch the sunset, you'll change to a "cool drink". Intellectual pursuits aren't forgotten,  "The spacious master suite features a beautiful fireplace and sitting area, great for an evening in with a book." 

   And in case you don't know what to do with that "office/bedroom/flex room with closet", worry not - it'll be "perfect for those guests who come to dinner and never want to leave." 


 You'd better lock your guests up and get some rest because you'll be leading an adventurous life, "This active and social community hosts many events and gatherings, one is sure to peak [sic] your interest". But if you, "Take a spin on your golf cart and enjoy the beauty around you and your friendly neighbors", just don't run them over. They could turn nasty.

   And if you're risking buying  that partly-demolished beach house in a town devastated by Hurricane Ian, you can still enjoy "priceless pleasures only such an island location can provide; and be blown away (oops) by its renowned sunsets."

    A neighbourhood in Britain is merely "sought after" (or in some cases "sort after" - a weak grasp of grammar uniting estate agents on both sides of the pond); here you won't have to let your imagination run riot - they'll do it for you,  "No loading up the car, no walking across streets with your beach gear, no waiting in traffic looking for a parking spot. Just bring your friends and family and walk out to the beach to enjoy the blue waters and beautiful Sunsets of West Coast Florida! Enjoy live music while dining or (of course) having coffee. 

 The agents also offer dubious sartorial advice, "Pack your flip-flops, your Paradise is waiting!", or, scarily,  "No shirt! No shoes! No problem!"

  Unless they're actually falling down, houses for sale in Britain are invariably "stunning". Here, though, they're  always "your dream home", offering the "life you deserve". Amazing how they know.

Monday, April 24, 2023

The Dry

 Dateline: Golden Beach, Venice, Florida...

aka the Florida Sahara....

We came back from Britain to find ourselves in a desert. I've never seen it so dry here. My neighbours tell me it did rain once in the last few weeks but it seems to have made precious little difference. The soil, meagre at the best of times, is now just a fine powder. The poor orchid tree at the back which is usually a festival of white blooms at this time of year, is virtually bare. Though the one at the front, the Tree that Came Back from the Hurricane, is still hanging in there. Still more bush than tree but maybe that will change.

Sadly the passion flower vine - an indirect hurricane victim, having been butchered of necessity to make way for our restored garden fence - is just one plant that seems to have died completely. We expected rain today but nothing happened and the percentage chance went down, down, down.

There is, however always a bright spot. The frangipani branch I broke off from the parent tree and stuck in the ground appears none the worse - in fact you'd think it was actively relishing its environment.

The parent isn't doing too badly either.

And there's still water in the Gulf

Or there was at dawn on Saturday. Though, ominously, these patches of seaweed could be precursors of the gigantic blob of sargassum - all 13 million tons of it - that's allegedly heading purposefully for Florida.

We may be back up north when it hits, so won't need to hold our noses, but we'd better not get too smug.  It may still be there to welcome us when we get back.

Saturday, April 8, 2023

A Happy Easter from Across the Pond!

 Greetings from a London that's letting us have some sun for a few days (all change on Monday though). There are spring primroses ...

....and other flowers springing outside our building

and though the trees on Wimbledon Common are still bare, 

there's plenty of new life out there...

It seems that every time I come back, there's something new. Now we can't go more than twenty miles an hour on our road and we'll soon have to pay 12.50 just to drive my venerable car out of the gate, thanks to the Mayor of London's new Ultra Low Emission Zone, aka the Dreaded Ulez. 

But in the little park around the corner life goes on. You can just about see the moorhen sitting on her nest - the upside down buildings are a reflection. Spring sun on the water makes even the back end of the medical centre look sharp!

So, wherever you might be, enjoy the blessed message of Easter!