Monday, October 29, 2007

Garden redesign on the cards

My back garden is a good ¼ of an acre of beds with paths of stone, nuggets and grass crisscrossing the area. A few weeks ago I decided to redesign my back garden. Changing circumstances, increased travel commitments, and the natural process of aging is preventing me from spending the required time in the garden.

10 years ago when I laid out the garden I had at least an hour a day and more on the weekends to spend in the garden. I also had a lot more energy then. But after all these years I realized I am not a gardener…yet…but only a planterman. Gardening with mostly perennials is one of the most difficult gardening concepts. A perfect perennial garden is nearly always in bloom or in foliage and one should never see any soil. This was not always the case in my garden. Hardly ever! Hence my decision to redesign the garden from a “wild”, Grandma’s English garden style to a more controlled, central lawn surrounded by borders of manicured scrubs interspersed with well-planned perennials. I don’t want it formal, nor do I want it boring, but it must be neat, and well-planted in appearance. The borders will still be big enough to allow for several rooms of which some already exists and others can be easily created.Luckily most of the trees, scrubs and architectural structures for a good garden are already in place.

I will use the winter months to design the new garden and next spring will be the big replanting time. I will have to remove a few small trees and larger scrubs, I’m really sad about that, but the rest is replanting of perennials, removing some paths, and then the preparation for the planting of the new lawn. Although much hard work is ahead, I must say, I am looking forward to the new garden. It’s maybe the right thing at the right time to make the garden interesting again for me. It was becoming a chore instead of a pleasure these days.

One problem I must still think about is moles. Every spring and fall when the clay soil is softer, moles wreck the back portion of my garden with their tunnels just below the ground surface. Up to now it was more an irritation than a massive problem, but with plans for a manicured lawn in those areas any moles will be unwanted and unwelcome.

This Year in Gardening

It’s fall y’all. And that means pre-winter cleanup in the garden is underway.

This year has been a rather strange year in the garden. Spring started early. In March we had very good sunny weather resulting in early growth and bloom in some perennials, but in the last weeks of April disaster struck. Mid-winter-like temperatures descended from Canada across all of North America as far south as Florida and southern California, ruining crops and causing millions of Dollars of damage.

In my garden the Viburnums, Plum trees and several other plants were in full spring bloom, but the cold cause not just all blooms and new growth to die, but all the trees and scrubs also lost their leaves. Tender plants like the Asian Lilies never fully recovered and produced only limited blooms later during summer.

Then in August we experienced one of out hottest summers to date. Nearly every day temperatures in the shade were in the 90’s and out in the sun, plants had to endure plus 100 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures. And no rain! Usually Kentucky gets rain at least once or twice a month right through the year, but no rain fell in my garden for several months. We had to water just to keep the plants alive, but municipal water is never as good as good soaking of natural rain.

Nevertheless, most of the garden repaired itself in some form or fashion, but it never ‘shined’ as it should have.

Coneflowers along a path in the backyard.

Table for two in a shady corner.

Daylilies with gayfeathers and Beebalms in the background.

A portion of the backyard garden.

Blackeye Susans, Balloonflowers and daylilies along the path in the front yard.

Monica always put a few windowboxes in the front.

* Heading photo of river and trees in fall colors courtesy of Chuck Hagen of WGNTV and previously posted by Jeff Ragovin from

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Another Homecoming Friday

The darkness of an early Monterrey morning still lies thick upon the cool land as I walked into Wings at the aeropuerto for a quick pan tostados y los huevos revueltos para el desayuno. I have an hour before boarding time. I was not very hungry, it was 5:50 am, still to early to eat for me, and ate only half the toast and the scrambled eggs were tasteless. I am sure it was Egg Beaters or some other egg substitute. But I had to eat something, during lunch I will be in the air and the next stop for my stomach is dinner.

The heavy rains that fell over most of the Eastern United States earlier this week moved north into New England and Canada, and no flight delays are forecasted for my return journey home. Although these drought stricken areas needed the rains, it was probably more needed at this moment in Southern California where raging wildfires are consuming land, veldt and neighborhood by the miles.

What a week it has been! Extremely busy! Again, I had no time to visit any of the exhibitions currently on show during the cultural Forum in Monterrey. But I will be back in 2 or 3 weeks and on my next visit I am going to make time for some cultural education. I will have to do some more Internet research. So far I have not found a good website explaining all the events and locations. Maybe they are only in Spanish. I have only found sites with a little information here and a little there. Just like scattered thundershowers.

* Photo is courtesy of I found the photo on the Internet and loved it. Several mornings I have seen this panorama but I never took a photo of it. Someone else did.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Stories about Cats and Dogs

Through the Valley of Death

What is a Cat?
- Cats do what they want.
- They rarely listen to you.
- They're totally unpredictable.
- When you want to play, they want to be alone.
- When you want to be alone, they want to play.
- They expect you to cater to their every whim.
- They're moody.
- They leave hair everywhere.

CONCLUSION: They're tiny women in little fur coats.

What is a Dog?
- Dogs spend all day sprawled on the most comfortable piece of furniture in the house.
- They can hear a package of food opening half a block away, but don't hear you when you're in the same room.
- They can look dumb and lovable all at the same time.
- They growl when they are not happy.
- When you want to play, they want to play.
- When you want to be alone, they want to play.
- They leave their toys everywhere.

CONCLUSION: They're tiny men in little fur coats.

How Many Dogs Does It Take to Change A Light Bulb?
Golden Retriever: The sun is shining, the day is young, we've got our whole lives ahead of us, and you're inside worrying about a stupid burned out bulb?
Border Collie: Just one. And then I'll replace any wiring that's not up to code.
Dachshund: You know I can't reach that stupid lamp!Rottweiler: Make me.
Boxer: Who cares? I can still play with my squeaky toys in the dark.
Lab: Oh, me, me!!!!! Pleeeeeeeeeze let me change the light bulb! Can I? Can I? Huh? Huh? Huh? Can I? Pleeeeeeeeeze, please, please, please!
German Shepherd: I'll change it as soon as I've led these people from the dark, check to make sure I haven't missed any, and make just one more perimeter patrol to see that no one has tried to take advantage of the situation.
Jack Russell Terrier: I'll just pop it in while I'm bouncing off the walls and furniture.
Old English Sheep Dog: Light bulb? I'm sorry, but I don't see a light bulb?
Cocker Spaniel: Why change it? I can still pee on the carpet in the dark.
Chihuahua: Yo quiero Taco Bulb.
Pointer: I see it, there it is, there it is, right there ...
Greyhound: It isn't moving. Who cares?
Australian Shepherd: First, I'll put all the light bulbs in a little circle ...
Poodle: I'll just blow in the Border Collie's ear and he'll do it. By the time he finishes rewiring the house, my nails will be dry.

The Cat's Answer:
"Dogs do not change light bulbs. People change light bulbs. So, the real question is: How long will it be before I can expect some light, some dinner, and a massage?"


Feline Situation Wanted Ads

Gourmet seeks position as chief food taster. Excellent taste in venison, salmon and other fine meats. Connoisseur of cream. Will indicate quality of all foods tasted with loud purring.

Young cat, suffering delusions of lion hood, requires easily scared family. Not yet able to dispatch wildebeest, will practice regularly on local wildlife.

Elderly tabby seeks employment as bed warmer. Will keep bed warm throughout day in return for daily salary of Whiskas and water. Gets along well with similarly inclined felines of all colors and willing to work as a team or will cover additional beds on shift rotation basis. Suitable replacement for hot water bottle, does not cool down during night.

Daredevil, enjoys living dangerously, seeks untamed wilderness to explore/subdue between breakfast and evening dinner. Will keep territory free of children, dogs, rabbits and other cats. Will contribute towards own meals.

Adagio dancer and operatic singer prepared to give exhibitions any time, need board and lodging together. Midnight performances a specialty.

Small conscientious cat willing to work hard in return for good home; will tackle and destroy any creature up to a fair-sized moth; will scare away flies; not afraid of spiders.

Sweet-natured, well-behaved cat, handicapped by enormous size, needs large country estate. Would make ideal companion/chaperone for single person with strong lap, good income and excellent taste in food.

Reformed juvenile delinquent seeks position with understanding family. No longer bites unless meals are late. Suitable replacement for guard dog.

Retired rodent-control operative seeks position controlling slow or disabled rats, maintaining physical presence or willing to supervise younger cats.

Tortoiseshell sisters seek large cat basket, sleeps 2, in well appointed location with en-suite gas-fire. Fully qualified lap-warmers/purrers, willing to occupy laps on job-share basis. No mousing.

Trouble getting up in the morning? Enthusiastic feline alarm clock, preset to 5am seeks position after previous job fell through. Punctual, seven days/week.

**Excerpts from a Dog's Diary**
8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 pm - Lunch! My favorite thing!
1:00 pm - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 pm - Milk bones! My favorite thing!
7:00 pm - Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

**Excerpts from a Cat's Diary**
Day 183 of my captivity. My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength. The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape.

Day 189 of my captivity. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.

Day 194 of my captivity. Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a "good little hunter" I am. Bastards!

Day 204 of my captivity. There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of "allergies." I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage.

Day 217 of my captivity. Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow — but at the top of the stairs.

Day 232 of my captivity. I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released - and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded.

Day 241 of my captivity.The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicate with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now…

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ahhh, the smell of Mexico

Ahhh, the smell of Mexico! The now familiar smell of freshly made tortillas, cumin and chilly attack my senses as I walked passed the cafeteria into the office this morning. Another week of Mexican food! I can already envisage my oncoming heartburn and ass-burn.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Damn weather related delays again

I somehow knew after we boarded the airplane and still sitting at the gate, obviously refused to accept at that point in time, my chances to arrive on time to Monterrey tonight were dealt a severe blow when they asked for 3 volunteers to step of the airplane and stay behind in Lexington, KY, because the airplane was overweight. The pilot informed us that they had to take on additional fuel because we were to fly the long route via Dallas to Houston due to the inclement weather between Lexington and Houston.

I stepped into the Houston terminal at 8:35 pm, the exact time that we were suppose to board the flight to Monterrey. The flight schedule above the departure date still read 9:10 pm, on time, but one look at the chaotic state of the terminal told a different story. “Something was happening, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones”* There were too many people that had that pissed off look in the faces and were sitting around on the ground and where ever a seat could be found. Weather delays…again.

To make a long wait a short story, we eventually left Houston after midnight and I only arrived at my hotel at 2:15 in the morning. But as we were waiting the terminal got bitterly cold due to the low setting of the air-conditioning and I didn’t packed any sweater or jersey. Why? I didn’t plan to get stuck in a terminal and the weather in Monterrey is in the 80’s. I reminded me of the day we visited Siena, Italy earlier this year. It was a beautiful sunny day morning in Florence when we left to Siena, but while sightseeing the temperature dropped dramatically and it started to rain. We eventually had to hurriedly buy expensive Italia sweaters for all of us from a street vendor that catered for tourists. Well, Houston airport shops were all closed so I never had that luxury of buying an emergency sweater.

Monday, October 22, 2007

South Africa is World Champions…Again

Congratulations to the South African rugby team for becoming the 2007 Rugby World Champions.

In an unattractive, but hard-fought game the Springboks beat England 15 – 6 in Paris to win their second World Cup tournament. They were also World Champs in 1995.

In some ways the game was a real anti-climax. Maybe it was just personal preference, but I really thought, well, hoped, the Boks would run the ball a bit more because of their better back line, but conservative rugby won the day. This year’s tournament saw the re-emergence of the up and under as a major weapon in rugby, and the final was no different, a kicking dual. It was always going to be a case of the winner being the team that makes the least number of mistakes, thus not giving the opposition a chance to score points from penalties.

The moment of the game that will always be talked about is the Mark Cueto try that was not awarded. It was close and 9 out of 10 cases a try would have been awarded. But luck was with South Africa on Saturday. There were also one or two other moments where I thought South Africa was lucky not to be blown up for accidental obstruction.

Overall, although extremely boring, the game kept me at the edge of my seat because of the occasion and what was at stake.