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Need Joy? Come on Over!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020


Not that anyone needs color and light and joy right now...I thought I'd offer up a little virtual stroll through the greenhouse, just to stick our noses into a few flowers. This is what greets me when I open the greenhouse door. Needless to say I find excuses to go down there about five times a day. Hooked on it. It was a rough winter, all rain and no sun, but now that the plants are getting some sun and heat, they're exploding into blossom. 

I find this interesting. When my big hibs froze on Jan. 30, 2019 (heating failure due to frozen gas line), there were a few tiny shoots around the base of The Path's trunk that didn't die back. They have grown a little and are blooming like crazy now. I don't know if it's because they're so close to the fertilizer, but they are much the best blossoms this plant has put out. It's dopey looking but I LOVE IT.

Creole Lady is still bewitching, but she's decided to lay back to let The Path, with her dress around her ankles, take center stage. She'll kick it up a few notches when she finally gets outside in May. 

And there's a Lady in Waiting. Look at this tiny baby Creole Lady that I got in the summer of 2019! She's finally coming into her own. More flower than leaf...

Two blossoms at once is very unusual for a little cutting like this. But so gratifying. My huge Lady slumbers behind her. I absolutely love having an understudy that's small enough to carry into the house should the need arise. Like, drastically plunging temperatures, foretelling another disastrous greenhouse freeze.

This plant...I live for its blossoms.

The Thai Giant crown of thorns is just ridiculous, 3' tall and loaded with peppermint-striped flowers.

Started from a 2" long cutting taken in 2016. I have tried to take cuttings of this one but none have rooted for me. Sometimes it just works. Sometimes it doesn't. 

This little Gartenmeister was a tiny shoot that sulked all winter long, then sprang to life when it got sunny. I like to carry this plant over because I'm never sure if I'll be able to find it in the spring. 

Same for Trandshen Bonstet. That one, far as I know, you can't get anywhere but The Glasshouse Works in Stuart, Ohio. Mine is 4' tall now! Roots really well in plain water!

A volunteer impatiens peeking out from under the foliage of my willow-leaved fig. This is the magnificent tropical bonsai that froze last year, and has somehow come back. It looks like a hairy sea urchin right now, but I have faith it will make some decent branches in time.

The geraniums are just spectacular now.

Black Knight is a volcano of the darkest possible foliage and gleaming coals. 

Can't wait for Happy Thought to open its scarlet tanager-red single flowers.

Due to its interesting start in life, this Happy Thought plant has a ridiculous number of individual trunks. 

Both Happy Thought and Vancouver Centennial (shown below) have a really interesting habit of making baby plants amongst their flower heads, way up there on the end of a long stem. It's so weird. I have observed this for years and always wondered what's going on with it. Two years ago I started experimenting with trying to propagate more plants from these funny little leaf clusters. Vancouver's plantlets always got mildew and rotted away in my rooting chambers (just a clear plastic cup inverted over a pot of damp soil).  But two years ago I managed to root a tiny leaf cluster of Happy Thought, and that's the plant in the photo above. It grew painfully slowly, but it grew, and it's a fine, fine plant now.

Of course, I will keep trying because plant propagation is one of my vices.

Update from Indigo Hill

Monday, March 30, 2020

Refuge--a place to get away from it all. And there's so much "it all" out there right now. I cannot tell you how good it is to have both my kids here in Ohio with me, safe. To not be alone and worrying about them someplace other than here. To finish up Phoebe's two-week quarantine, mandatory because she flew not only through Madrid but also through JFK Airport in NYC to get home--and to finish it up with flying colors, all of us still healthy. We haven't had a proper hug and certainly not a kiss in almost two weeks, and she's been doing her own dishes and laundry, but we are beginning to relax, 13 days into it. Hoping we're in the clear. There has been some stress baking going on.

I initially wanted her to stay put in the Canary Islands, feeling it was safer than subjecting her to all that travel, but Fulbright insisted all its students come home. It was a very, very bad few days for Phoebe and Oscar and all concerned. It was a very bad time for students abroad all over the globe. Dreams shattered, plans scuttled...but what else is new? It was such agony. What was the right thing to do? Brave the airports and airplanes? Defy the order and hunker down? No course of action seemed to make sense. But to their credit, Fulbright got on it early and kicked all their students back across the Atlantic. Now I'm so very glad she did come home. And so is she. I've little doubt she'd have slowly lost her mind in her third-floor apartment, with Spain's strict shelter in place restrictions--and fines if anyone's caught on the street without a good reason to be there. Oscar is toughing it out with his beloved dog, Arafo, and he and Phoebe talk several times a day. Another miracle--being able to talk for free with a boyfriend who lives on a hunk of basalt in the middle of the Atlantic. All hail What's App.
It got warm for a couple days. We all ran around in our summer skivvies. Then it got really windy!

Here, she can go outside, hunt wildflowers, garden, watch birds, run, play with Curtis and Liam. We tried to fly a kite off the tower today and got it good and stuck in a treetop instead. Saw that coming.

As long as we don't go to town more than we need to, which is about every 7-9 days for food, we can go wherever we want. We never run into anyone out here anyway. It is a surreal feeling, to know that all this space is ours to inhabit, knowing how many people are confined to small apartments, even to cruise ship berths akkkkk!  afraid to leave for the contagion all around. Knowing this, and empathizing with people all around the globe, makes for a very unsettled state of mind, an agitation that never leaves you. I can feel the disturbance in the force. I can feel the panic, the unhappiness, the deprivation, the fear. It's a drumbeat under every breath we draw.

I keep having to pull back my frenzied close focus and remember these deep, deep blessings, this airspace we get to inhabit, cleaner now than ever before now that there are no jets going over; water everywhere clearing up, air getting sweeter. We must all look at this. We must be grateful for those suddenly thrust into the front lines of war---the health professionals. And the grocery stockers, cashiers, managers, whose jobs were always vital, but are now high-risk. People everywhere, keeping us supplied and fed, risking their own health and lives to do it. It's inconceivable, but it all happened in a matter of days. We must all reach within and dig deep for strength. We have it so easy out here right now. But everything could change in an instant, and that is the drumbeat we listen to, the one we can't not hear.

I ache for John Prine, who as of Monday, Mar. 30 is hospitalized, in critical condition. This incredible man fought his way back from cancer, twice. Got his voice back. Never lost his lyrical and music genius. Kept performing, kept writing, kept singing! And now this. His music is part of the fabric of our lives. His lyrics run through my head as I go through my days. Gonna be a long Monday.

One great and unexpected joy is the ability, with the Zoom app,for us to yak with my sisters and nieces and nephew from our respective bunkers around the country. It's an e-melee, a free for all, with us talking over each other and laughing a lot. We'll figure out how to better moderate the chaos when we meet again. After all that has happened to our little threesome in the last year and a half, to have this--our family!! is so sweet, like rainwater when you're parched. Here's a dopey little video with those of us who could attend signing off from our last cocktail hour. So much love, and so many blessings.

I wish the same to you. I wish you health, love and peace. All we can do is watch it roll out and take care of ourselves and our loved ones.

Into the Woods We Go

Saturday, March 28, 2020

When the sun came out on March 22, we knew what we had to do. We had to go look for hepatica. 
I have a couple of places. One, I found just last spring. It rocks so hard, and it's about 7 minutes from my house. 
I called Shila and told her to come out. We'd take our own cars and stay a ways apart, but we'd get to experience the woods together. 

First thing Liam found was some good coon prints. OK, so they're out and about. Batten down the bird feeders. 

Impudent hickory (or buckeye) buds were everywhere.

So was hepatica. It likes cold, north-facing slopes, so it wasn't getting much sun at all, and we had trouble finding any that were open. But I love this shot, with the golden sun and PawPaw Creek shining green behind the nodding flowers. They come in white, pale pink, pale lilac, and deep blue. All the same species (round-lobed hepatica).  My hepatica Grail is a deep blue individual. I think it's a bit early to find one. I will be back, and I will find one.

I saw a little bunch of likely looking leaves high up the slope and started climbing (well, crawling) toward it. 

There were wee buds on it. I couldn't decide if they were going to be Dutchman's britches or squirrel corn.

I got a nice slice of blue sky and more rocky slope in this shot. 

And then I climbed higher yet, where I found one--ONE!! gorgeous specimen of Dutchman's britches in full, unequivocal bloom. The leaves were identical, and the yellow cast on the buds confirmed the ID. It is devilishly hard to photograph these little ephemerals, because the camera wants to focus on everything BUT the blossom. 

Unbeknownst to me, Shila grabbed this shot with her 400 mm telephoto (because we were maintaining quite a respectful distance between each other).

I am grimacing because it's HARD to keep yourself more or less upright on a 45 degree slope with an 8 pound camera hanging off you, and slippery mud and exactly the WRONG boots with no tread because you thought it would be really muddy, and you can't see jack on your phone display because the sun is so bright, so you just grit your teeth and shoot away and hope. Then you throw 9 out of ten photos away. But you love every single minute of it!

After that, everyone had to climb up to find the perfect little britches too. I figure it was out when none of the others were, because it had this huge sandstone boulder to reflect heat and light on it.

The sun has been such a rare commodity this winter and spring that I look at these photos and marvel that it was ever this bright and beautiful--and that was only two days ago. 

One of the cool things about spring ephemerals is that most of them don't open unless there's warm sun. So it HAS to be beautiful out if you're going to go looking for them. It naturally follows that you're going to have a wonderful time.  These are spring beauties, lined in pink. Their bulbs can persist for hundreds of years deep in the soil. 

Just look at these little things! So dainty, but so persistant.

Speaking of persistant, here's a hackberry tree Liam found. Someone had tried to chop it down, and then tried to burn it. The tree responded by discarding the wounded trunk and making a new sort of bark skin over it. It looked perfectly healthy.

We clambered back down the slope and the kids stopped to gaze into PawPaw Creek. This is the spot where Liam found his "Flosaraphtor" (velociraptor) claw so many years ago.  If you want to time travel, you should probably read this one first. 

In a bit of perfect irony, the kids found a mystery for their mom, the Science Chimp. 

Who was utterly amazed that a tiny hominid had been walking in fresh mud on a cool spring day....must have been Homo habilis, or Lucy!
No knuckle prints, so it was truly bipedal...
I'm schtumped!!

Traffic was so sparse they just flopped down in the sun. That's my kind of country road. In case you're wondering, we did not bring Curtis because he had been out on a huge multi-hour hunt, and he's kind of a pain to keep on a lead when I'm scrambling on all fours up 45 degree slopes.

Phoebe gettin' down with the spring beauties.

Ah, it was so sweet to be out with my kids and our friend, in the burgeoning woods of March.

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