Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Cats at the Window

I've been in New York at a conference which you can read about at Dryden Democrats.

But life at the window has been very busy for the cats.

It's not enough that the deer herd is up to thirteen. This is the view from the kitchen window.

Next there was this guy at the bird feeder and trying to help himself to the bird feed in the can.

And then there was a skunk. I didn't get a picture of that, but he's driving the cats nuts.

[ed. 2/17/07 I forgot to mention that beautiful, yellow stray cat that fought with Murphy last fall. He was here last night just before I took that picture of Murphy. I think it's the first time I've heard Murphy growl.]

Friday, February 16, 2007


I imagine these are the guys that ate the Holly. They were headed for the bird feeders.

It's hard to hate them when they're belly deep in snow. For a fleeting instant, I was tempted to put some hay out for them. Then I thought about the Holly.

Seriously, I don't wish them any harm. They have plenty to eat. A few days of snow won't be any more trouble for them than for me.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Winter Blues

I think I know how this Rhododendron feels. This is its way of protecting itself against the cold. But it looks so sad.

Most of us hunker down a bit for winter. It occurred to me lately that the reason I'm not getting much done is not just that it's dark, but also that I'm cold almost all the time. I'm way too miserly with the heat. So, I feel like the Rhododendron: just let me curl up and wait for spring.

Deer ate most of the Rhododendron's buds the past two years. This year it's fenced higher than in the past. I also left net over the blueberries. So, the deer retaliated by eating the Holly. They do this about once every five years. Don't believe the nursery catalogs that say Holly is deer proof.

We were, perhaps, a bit too smug about how mild the winter's been. We got the whole season's snow yesterday. Not the ten feet they have farther north, but enough to keep me home for the day and to work up a sweat shoveling.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


I spent quite a bit of time watching these two peach-faced lovebirds in the pet store. Eventually I started worrying that someone would buy just one of them. That led to wondering if Bill would like to have them. Bill raised hundreds of lovebirds in decades of research on the evolution of behavior at Cornell. But he abandoned the lab in the 1980s and the last of the lovebirds died of old age at home shortly thereafter.

He was like a kid at Christmas (in his own understated way) when I asked him if he'd like to have them. So, they're happily living with him now. I think they're lucky. He immediately made a nest box for them, something a less knowledgeable person might not have thought of. He's looking for branches to use for perches, knowing the uniform diameter of dowels is bad for their feet. And the branches will run crosswise in the cage to give them more flying room (rather than lengthwise as they are in the cage we bought) . He knows that contrary to the instructions the pet store gave us, they don't care about eating fruit.

Maggy, we'll be needing names.


Friday, February 09, 2007


As we move toward energy efficiency, there are some things we may miss. I have one hopelessly inefficient window. It was donated by a friend when I built the house. I was happy to use it, both for the memories and the hundreds of dollars I saved.

It's the only window in the house which allows frost to form. I'm a little nostalgic that my grandchildren may never wake up to this magic on the window.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

When Life Gives You Lemons...

Last summer I harvested this clay from the garden. I've been improving the soil for 30 years but, outside of the raised beds, I still sometimes encounter serious clay. It's been kicking around the kitchen waiting for me to do something creative. (This is the kind of thing that drives Belinda crazy - see clutter. It was only one jar and most of the time it was in a cupboard...)

So yesterday I tried to make something. And this is what I got. There are some beads, some stars and moons, and a ... um... a dish to put them in? Looks a lot like the ashtrays my kids made in first grade.

I baked them, but they're still pretty fragile. I should mention the glass dish... Even though it says "Pyrex" it wasn't oven proof.

I have to say, on the clutter front, this is not an improvement.
[2/10/07 - corrected typo in title. Thanks, B]

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Murphy Meets Snow

Yea! I have all the right photo hardware and software in one place.

You know Murphy doesn't go out very often and we haven't had snow 'til the last couple of weeks, so I've been waiting for this photo for a long time.

Tang wisely lounges in the indoor garden.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Clutter Party

My friend, Robin, is a professional organizer. Her idea of a fun afternoon, bless her heart, is helping me with the disaster area I call "the box room." It's one of two, maybe three (okay, four), cluttered spots in my house. It's where I put all stuff I can't decide what else to do with; or don't have time to do whatever it is I plan to do with it.

Yesterday Robin hosted a "Clutter Party." I carefully steered Belinda away from calling it the Rubbish Party. Whereupon she started referring to it as the Hazardous Waste Party. Today she's aptly calling it the Disaster Relief Party. It should be noted that Belinda has NO clutter in her life. She just wouldn't tolerate it. So, it was with some delight that she read my horoscope yesterday:
You're driven by the unobtainable. As soon as you discover exactly how to obtain this particular object of desire, it'll instantly be replaced by something even more unobtainable.

The idea of the Clutter Party is that we each bring a box of clutter to the party in hopes of finding new homes our treasures and junk. Judging each individual item on its own merits, it's really not surprising that things that have been cluttering up one person's space are just what someone else needs - or at least wants.

I can certainly see this Santa banner gracing some one's porch next holiday season.

And this copper Turkish coffee set... I think Turkish coffee may be the new espresso.

Incidentally, the black and white belt Susie's wearing in the picture, which I think really sets off the outfit, was someone else's clutter.

There were funny stories of how various things were acquired and why the owner is ready to part with them. One person's Mexican cookbook - in Spanish - a gift from her mother-in-law, who knew that she doesn't speak Spanish; another person's rings from former lovers.

Robin's pretty familiar with my clutter. So, I knew I didn't dare claim the most excellent basket I coveted. I have dozens of baskets. I only use a few of them, but I find baskets hard to resist. I did acquire a brass planter (of which I also have dozens), a Barenaked Ladies Christmas album and (wait for it) a fifth of Haig scotch.

So, everyone happily packed up their treasures and left things that didn't find a home for Robin to drop off at the Salvation Army. Many items of clothing which were just the wrong color or didn't fit the person who loved the color, will be donated to the Women's Opportunity Center.

It was a bit like Christmas, with the added advantage that everything was free and we could pick our own gifts.

Gardening Urge

The gardening urge is slowly awakening. Somehow when the weather was so mild I didn't think much about the garden. But now that it's snowy and freezing my mind has shifted to thoughts of spring.

I got my second copy of the Tomato Growers catalog. I'm not sure, but I think there may be such a thing as "too much of a good thing." The catalog pictures and describes 400 varieties of tomatoes with intriguing names like Opalka, Mule Team and Sweet Quartz. And if that's not enough, the index lists an additional 112 varieties whose descriptions are available only on the website.

So, I started out by folding down the corner of each page that included a variety I was interested in. The obvious result was that every page was turned down. I moved on to highlighting details of varieties I was interested in 'til I realized the neon yellow was dominating each page. Now I don't know how to proceed.

It's not enough that the varieties are divided into early, mid-season and late. There's also Oxhearts, Beefsteaks, paste and small fruited. And if that hasn't steered you to exactly the right variety yet, there's bi-color, yellow, green, orange, white and black. And there I'm hooked. Black? They're really more like dark purple but they'll make a nice visual touch in the mix of cherry tomatoes. And the descriptions all refer to the flavor: excellent, rich, complex, sweet, hint of saltiness.

I know we'll grow Sun Gold orange cherry tomatoes again. They've been favorites for years. And Snow White, a nearly white cherry tomato I got as a free sample last year and loved. But I still need a paste tomato, a beefsteak and a red cherry. And I still want to grow Green Zebra, recommended by the Barefoot Contessa and described by Tomato Growers as:
"A unique and delicious salad tomato. 3 oz green fruits ripen to amber-green with darker green stripes. The light green flesh is very flavorful, sweet yet zingy. This one is a real taste treat."
And there are many, many more I want to try. But I have to leave room in the garden for onions and beans and lettuce and squash and... Oh, dear.