skipping seasons

Well it’s happened again. Winter ends abruptly in summer. We never really had a winter here, this year. Four, maybe five days with early morning frost. No ice or snow when generally we see a couple of flurries. But what happened to spring?

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A couple of mornings started out with a chill only to melt it off in a few short hours. The petunias I planted were perky with bright, full blooms. By afternoon the heat wilt had melted them into a vegetative heap. The cultivated spring flowers have burst through the soil and daffodils (they are first) stand cheerfully announcing tulip’s arrival. Before they are gone the azaleas bloom. Tree leaves are just now budding, the mighty oak leaves are tender, tiny and baby soft and seem so vulnerable for such a formidable tree.

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I think I enjoy the wildflowers most. This comes up each year at a nearby park and it colonizes. This plant was on its own but next year will likely be a family. I have collected a seed pod or two but it does not grow for me.

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There is another park where pathways are well-defined in winter months, and rescue dogs Lily and Lulu love pioneering through the trails. In summer the undergrowth and smaller trees make the paths undefinable so we stick to the paved walkway. Also we miss out on surprising an occasional snake which works for me.

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Yesterday we sat on the riverbank before the day was too hot and were treated to this sailboat venturing out to sea. I often wonder where people go.

So we still enjoy watching trees wake up and giving cool shade. Anoles are thawing and can move faster than Lily and Lulu already. The carpenter bees (bumble bees when I was little) are busy in what flowers we have and finding some wood to lay their eggs. I have seen butterflies emerge from cocoons, even baby earthworms warming up, but I never saw a carpenter bee hatch.

5EE0C213-CBBC-4888-B9DE-53B8EED77293Robert Louis Stevenson, “XXIV Happy Thoughts” from A Child’s Garden of Verses

 

seasons change

The house my brother and I grew up in was a big brick kind of rambling, drafty old house in central North Carolina. Back then we had cast iron radiators for winter and an attic fan for summer. It never seemed to get hot enough to need that fan often. We kept all our windows open, up and downstairs, and when my father turned the fan on it clicked several times before revving itself up to begin drawing in the cooler outside night air.

Central heat and air is a godsend when it works. Not long ago I came home from a morning volunteering at a local public garden with other avid gardeners, some master, some amateur, all compatible and happy. In our element. Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu greeted me with robust enthusiasm and joy and after a shower we settled in to a quiet afternoon.

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Noticing I had become restless, Lily was incessantly panting,  I realized it was quite warm, so wandered over to the hall thermostat.

Blank. Just lines on the screen. No numbers. I randomly pushed some buttons. Nothing.

I have lived here for two years. The central air unit was a year old when I moved here so I pretty much figured it had not died. That first summer I was still unpacking and storing things in the very small attic floor space when I noticed water in the pan under the unit. I retrieved my little carpet cleaner vacuum and suctioned it out. Probably between 2-3 gallons of water. Then I called the air conditioning repair people. They came and suctioned out more water, flushed the system for clogs. This happened two more times that summer.

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Last summer nothing happened. Refreshing cool air, ran fine all summer long. No trouble at all. So after the storm the service person came out in the fall to inspect and service the system. All clear, all systems go.

But the blank screen again this summer. After the service call visit where they checked the system, cleaned out the pan of water, cleared the lines, flushed for clogs I climbed those rickety steps and poked my head into the stifling hot attic to check that pan every couple of days. Dry as dust.

Until today.

So though I’d love to blame things on anything else I will never really know. I do not know anything about air conditioning units. I understand something about condensation but nothing much about why a system develops a clog. My dogs are long-haired but they would never go up those rickety pull-down attic stairs. I am told we have here on the coast a chlorine-resistant algae that is fond of growing in air conditioning units. I regularly change the filters in the ceiling. That is all I know to do. So when something goes wrong I do what I can but it is only alleviating the symptom. I need the root cause eradicated.

Maybe I could start a new career….

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And so for now I am heading back up into the suffocating attic to suction out that pan. But I have a repair call in for this week.

 

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Flowers

This was a week of catch-up reading. So many books I’d been wanting to read while involved in the Master Gardening program piled up and I have still got 5 or 6 left to read. At one point I wandered around my yard and potted plants and found many beginning to bloom, so here are a few —

DSCN0171.JPG geranium     DSCN0167.JPG  lily

 

DSCN0164.JPG  phalaenopsis DSCN0165.JPG  more phalaenopsis

 

DSCN0168.JPG knockout rose  DSCN0169.JPG tomato

 

DSCN0172.JPG blurry lizard  DSCN0174.JPG  Lulu hoping to catch blurry lizard

 

DSCN0135.JPG                                                    Lily and Lulu enjoying a backyard stroll

So this was our week and weekend. Next week we will have the yard enclosed so I can keep Lulu out of the neighbor’s yards and the street. A couple of days’ volunteering at the plant clinic at the Arboretum to knock off a few service hours. More books read, more books on hold at the library coming in, I hope.

I truly wish you a grand and delightfully surprising coming week.

Spring surprises

So I would have pictures but the only camera I had with me when we saw the snakes was my phone. I have a stupid phone, flip phone actually, so I can’t get the pictures from the phone to here.

The first snake we saw I texted to my son and he swears it was a copperhead. Probably 4 feet long. I did not think this was what the snake was. My dogs didn’t even notice it. It had little diagonal boxes on its back with darker spots inside. Of course, it could have actually been the typical cross-hatched markings but my eyes chose to see it differently. Whatever. The snake just lay there. Eyes open, tongue flashing out. Even when I went back to take its picture, didn’t move.

The next snake really could have done damage. We were walking on the trail behind where I live and Lulu (now a part of our “pack” only 2 weeks) leaned over the side of the creek embankment, sniffing something. I saw the grass move quickly and heard a splash. Looked down, sure enough a water moccasin quickly squirming its way across the clear creek bed. That one gave me shivers. Those are deadly. I can remember my mother shrieking at my brother, probably about 10 or 11 when she learned he and his golfing friends were wading around the water hazards on the club golf course looking for lost golf balls. These guys didn’t sell them, they used them. They were the championship foursome in those days.

So the last snake was greenish and yellowish vertical-striped, probably around 5 feet long. Lily, stepping over it actually bumped it with her paw. It flinched but did not go after her. Doing a little research I turned up garter snake. These snakes usually eat fish, tadpoles, frogs, and carrion. This snake was nowhere near any body of water so it must have been either waking up out of its hibernation, lost, or eating something dead.  They also are non-poisonous.

One out of three is good I guess, since the first 2 basically ignored us.

One thing that has really bothered me since I moved here. I should point out this move was something of a dream come true for me. I have loved the wildness of North Carolina’s outer banks for many years. Though only near the lower barrier islands I am still closer to those islands than before and am quite happy to be here. I did not think, though, that there was anyplace on this planet that had no lightning bugs. Maybe you call them fireflies, but they’ve been something of  a harbinger of sultry, hot breeze summer nights for me as much as crickets and cicadas since I was a child and I cannot imagine life without them.

Last year I saw not a single lightning bug.

I canvassed neighbors, newly-made acquaintances. No one could recall seeing them, not in the recent past. No idea why. Salt air? No one knew. I refused to believe it.

So rescue dogs Lily, Lulu and I went for a walk, braving the early dusk since likely snakes were not sunning themselves on creek banks, on the little trail here in my neighborhood. I almost ignored the brilliant yellow flashing dots and mentally dismissed them. No… could it be?? It was!

Lightning bugs. Dozens. So maybe they aren’t in backyards but at least I know where I can find them.

Sans water moccasins, I hope.

The end of time

When I was little daylight savings time was such a gift. Hours of day stretched out before me through the summer. Days my friends and I played kick-the-can till everything was grainy-gray or till a parent yelled out the back screen door to come in, “Now!” Days we could watch lightning bugs twinkle in the evening shadows, soft summer winds playing with our hair.

I look forward now to the day each fall when I get that hour back. Somehow now, when that clock hand turns back in spring all I can think of is when I rise at 5 or 5:30 in the morning it’s really 4:30, and when I go to sleep it’s only 8. But the last night of dst brings a restful slumber, partly because I sleep much better in cold and by now our temps are playing with the 30 degree range. Also because I know that when I wake up next morning and look at the clock and I see 6 a.m. it really is 6 a.m., not 5.

Maybe it’s something to do with being honest about things and I really don’t like pretending, even about something as neutral as whatever hour it is or if it’s day or night. People who travel a lot must not be bothered at all by this because wherever they go the time is vastly different from wherever they left, depending on where they go or where they live. Say I went to Israel. Well, being on the US east coast, it’s 7 hours’ difference, ahead of me. Or Alaska? Four hours earlier, 5 in some parts. And Arizona does not observe daylight savings time at all. My business used to deal with a small company there, near Flagstaff and on one occasion I asked the young woman I spoke with over the phone about it. She laughed.

“Honey, we don’t need any more daylight out here!”