A begonia to love

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I am not a big begonia fan, but I have had this one, Begonia ‘Richardsiana’ growing in my kitchen for about a year. Not only is this an easy houseplant to grow (mine is in a northeast facing window) but check out those cutleaf maple-type leaves and the bulbous trunk, or caudex, which looks very bonsai-like.

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This plant, a semi-tuberous begonia native to South Africa, is almost always in bloom. I grow it on the kitchen table so I can enjoy its strangeness.  I keep it pinched back to maintain its  shape.

I bought this one at Logee’s for less than $20. The plant was in an attractive but totally useless bonsai pot. I had to re-pot it after just a few weeks, because it was drying out so fast.

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Annoyances

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Let me begin on a positive note, by thanking fellow blogger Laurie Eno of The Daily Corgi for cross posting my last entry about my corgi’s shedding. I had a HUGE spike in readership, all thanks to her. Please take a minute to check out her well-written, funny and informative blog.

Annoyance #1: This post was a long time in the writing, all because I was a good little Mac user and obediently downloaded the latest update. When I went to upload photos, iPhoto was gone and in its place, a completely different platform called “photos.”

It would be nice if Apple warned its users of these sorts of changes BEFORE they downloaded updates. At the very least, they could have warned me that I would have to change the way I store, sort and post photos. But they do not give a shit, so they didn’t, and I am still trying to figure out how everything works.

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Annoyance#2: Ugly lawn ornaments are appearing everywhere, all made in China and designed to eclipse any natural feature with their gaudy colors and kitschy messages.

Here’s another sample:

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Annoyance #3: Poisonous chemicals like this, which are mass marketed to people who are too lazy to dig out their weeds. A veritable plague.

IMG_4286Thanks. I needed to get that off my chest.

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A fluff piece

IMG_4271She looks innocent enough, but, like all corgis, at this time of year, Fidgit  goes through a shed of gargantuan proportions.

Corgis have very thick double coats, designed to repel mud and water when the dogs are gainfully employed doing what they were originally bred to do: herd cattle. This design is an absolute marvel in many ways. It is a great insulator, and it sheds dry mud and grit on its own.

BUT, in late March and early April, and, to a lesser extent in the fall, this marvelous coat renews itself and the old hair falls out.

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This is what I live with at this time of year. I get so accustomed to having hair in everything that I sometimes arrive at work and suddenly notice that my clothes are covered with it. It is extremely inadvisable to shave or clip corgis, because their coats, which, after all, are that way for a reason, never grow back the same.

So, I brush. Behold the result of just a couple of minutes’ work. And believe it or not, it could be worse! For those readers unfamiliar with the corgi breed, some of these dogs are born with extra-fluffy coats and are called, appropriately, fluffs. The extra-fluffy coat (which makes for a corgi of extreme cuteness) is considered a fault, so those corgis go to pet homes and are not seen in the show ring. I cannot imagine what their shedding seasons are like.

IMG_4278Of course, I would never let this wonderful, soft material go to waste, so I put it out for the birds, which are building nests now. I like to think of all the little nests in my neighborhood, lined with Fidgit’s hair.

Happy Easter, my friends.

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Seeds and snow

IMG_4243I awoke to a surprise this morning. Just when most of the snow had melted, we had a few more inches. Ironically, my seeds arrived the day before. I always end up buying more stuff locally as I plan the garden, but I do order a few, peas and beans mostly.

IMG_4244I grow pole beans, because my garden is too small for bush varieties. New for me this year are a yellow type, pictured above, and an interesting purple bean.

IMG_4249These purple-podded beans are very different-looking, but I like to try something new every year. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

IMG_4251I grow scarlet runner beans every year, but this variety is new to me. It promises to produce a mass of hummingbird-attracting red flowers, AND if picked early, the pods are said to be delicious eating. Plants that do double duty are always at the top of my list.

I also saved beans from last year. Cherokee Trail of Tears is one of my favorites.

Here in RI, they say we should be planting our snap peas around St. Patrick’s Day. Not this year, that’s for sure.

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Zeppole!

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Quirky little state that it is, Rhode Island celebrates St. Joseph’s Day on March 19 with more zeal than St. Patrick’s Day two days earlier, because people of Italian decent outnumber those of Irish decent here. The celebration of the husband of the Virgin Mary is marked by one dominant activity: lining up for, buying and eating zeppole.

Zeppole are cream-filled pastries. I have had a few since I moved here 17 years ago, and I was underwhelmed by the sweetness of the filling and the often soggy pastry. This time, after reading that the BEST ZEPPOLE IN THE WORLD were made at a bakery very near where I work, I decided to buy a couple. These were certainly superior to any I had eaten before. The pastry was crispy and the filling seemed to consist primarily of riccota so it was not overly sweet. And if you look at the cherry in the above photo, you will notice that it is not one of those vile candied things.

Please contact me if your state or country celebrates this occasion, and if so, if you also eat zeppole. I doubt I’ll hear a peep from anyone.

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Games retailers play

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This has absolutely nothing to do with gardening. It is a rant about how retailers sometimes feel the need to torment their customers with time-consuming nonsense such as surveys and games. Doesn’t it drive you crazy when you receive a “customer satisfaction survey” after you’ve placed an order? I’ve been getting a lot of those lately.

One particularly annoying time-waster is the current “Monopoly” game at Shaw’s supermarkets. I really like our local Shaw’s and shop there weekly, but my big mistake was getting started on Monopoly, which is a monumental time-suck and incredibly annoying.

Every time you shop at Shaw’s, they give you a little paper packet for each $10 you spend. When you first start “playing” they give you a paper game board, too (pictured above). I should have known I was headed for trouble when I opened the game board and saw all the niggly details on it.

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Back to the packets. First you must fold each end and carefully tear the ends so the packet opens. Then you carefully peel open the packet. Next, you carefully separate the four tiny game pieces from the coupon or whatever is on the other half – usually a number for those who are playing the online version, or a coupon for something I would never in a million years EVER buy, like air freshener.

The real fun starts when you try to find the right place to stick your little game pieces. The pieces have numbers and each also has a letter from A to Z. But the corresponding place for each sticker is not  intuitively placed on the game board, so each placement is a search for the proper spot. You must collect and stick all game pieces in a category to win the prize in that category.

Did some MBA at corporate headquarters think that by making us search all over the board to find the spot for a game piece we would subconsciously desire the products whose names we were seeing during the course of our search? That certainly didn’t work with me.

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I have been “playing” this for about three weeks, and I am now finding that after spending a half hour or more trying to place those little game pieces, the spots are almost all taken – except for the few remaining ones that I need to collect for the really good prizes like $1 million or a fabulous vacation home. I end up throwing away countless duplicate tickets.

I work full time. I have a life, with a family, a dog and hobbies. I do not have time to sit at my kitchen table looking for spots to place stickers on. WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?????

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Snow days

IMG_4153It’s been a rough week here in Rhode Island. We had two more significant snowfalls, and everyone is winter-weary. Meetings have been canceled, or even worse, they were held on snowy nights, meaning I had to make my way home late at night, on roads that had not been plowed. But enough about me.

The above photo was taken the morning after the latest storm. Everything was clean and white and glowing in the early sun, as if it had all been given a fresh coat of paint.

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The egret ornament in my neighbor’s garden looked nice in the snow.

IMG_4159The path to the driveway is getting deeper and narrower.

IMG_4146The man who plows our driveway told me he was having trouble finding places to put all the snow.

IMG_4164I do believe that even I, the great Snow-lover, have had enough of this. I’m tired of preparing for it, talking about it, dressing for it, driving in it, working around it, clearing it, and writing about it.

As if I have any say in the matter.

 

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It’s tough out there

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See the Canada goose in the center of the photo? It’s starving.

IMG_4100The migratory geese left long ago, and the resident population is now desperately searching for bare grass to eat. There isn’t much of that to be found, and they’re hanging out in people’s yards, many of them too weak to fly very far.

This is a tough time for many birds and animals. It’s also a beautiful time, if you make the effort to get outside. Mornings are particularly lovely.

IMG_4050This azalea, coated in fluffy snow, was stunning in the dawn sunlight.

IMG_4049As was Rudbeckia Henry Eilers.

IMG_4074The woods were bright and clean and quiet.

IMG_4059The rhododendrons were curled into themselves against the cold. Sometimes, I feel that way.

IMG_4066But not today.

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Why I grow orchids

IMG_4011Because during the darkest days of winter, they burst into flower.

IMG_3912Because they sit quietly on my desk while I’m working, and give me something beautiful to gaze at.

IMG_3998Because they add so much color to my living room, and they ask for so little.

IMG_3999That’s why I grow orchids.

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Looking at the bright side

 

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I do love winter, and spend as much of it as I can outdoors. This photo was taken while we were hiking the Francis Carter Preserve. The snow was packed down, so we didn’t need snowshoes. It was an uplifting couple of hours.

It has been a wearing few weeks for us here in RI, and even more so in neighboring MA. Storm after storm, with strong winds, snow, frigid temperatures and constant cancellations. This post will focus on the bright side, my attempt to remain positive.

IMG_3895Another shot taken at Francis Carter. The stone walls are gorgeous.

IMG_3832_2And the downhill skiing – well this says it all. Some of those tracks are mine.

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In recent years, the west has had all the snow, while we scraped by here in the east. Not so this year. The tables have turned.

IMG_3893Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody.

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