Tag Archives: Gardening

To Everything

20150710-To Everything

My daughter invited me over to have dinner with her and her family in the house she purchased from my wife and me in order to provide for her growing family. My grandchildren wanted me to follow them outside so that I could see what was new and to watch them play. While we were outside my daughter wanted me see what she had been doing with her vegetable gardening. She showed me several varieties of squash that had appeared and, as she didn’t plant them, wondered if they were some that I planted, which I hadn’t. My guess is they were seeds that sprouted from the last hybrids I planted because my understanding is the seed of hybrids do not grow true.

While I was outside I went to inspect the fruit trees that I had planted. As I toured the yard I was surprised to learn that the apricot tree, which was at its harvest time, had not even flowered this year. I also learned that the Anna apple tree had reached its harvest time a month ahead of schedule. These anomalies seemed very strange to me but not as strange as the Mexican lime tree I planted nearly a decade ago. When my daughter moved in about a year ago and asked for an inventory of the citrus trees I told her that I had planted, from left to right; an orange, tangerine, Myer lemon, Ruby Red grapefruit, and a Mexican lime. I further explained that in all the years of the lime’s existence it had never once fruited. I also told her that I had often thought about removing it and planting something else in its place. However, I never could bring myself to kill an otherwise healthy tree. With all this history I was certainly shocked when I stood before that Mexican lime tree and saw that it was covered with limes.

I wanted to share my surprise with my wife who had gone back to Iowa to visit her mother and other family members so I promptly took a picture phone and sent it along with a text describing what I found. Her response was: “OMG! We get to try some right?”

I was reminded of Pete Seeger’s setting of the Ecclesiastes verse: “To everything there is a season,” and this was the season for that Mexican lime tree. Well, maybe there is a season to everything but I have observed that the seasons are not constant. Change seems to be the order of business and although I am often surprised by the variations over time I suspect the early apple harvest is a result of our local weather dynamics, as for example, the patterns of frost. As for the apricot tree not flowering this year I noticed a dead branch that shouldn’t have been, which led me to conclude it had been infected by a virus or other type of infection.

Why did it take the Mexican lime tree nearly a decade to bear fruit? I certainly do not know the answer to this question nor did the people down at the nursery where I had purchased it. What I do know is there were two major reasons I had planted the Mexican lime tree in the first place; Mexican beer and fish tacos, and that is two things that are always in season.

The Smell of Christmas

Today was a day off for me, and I even took a break from my writing in order to do some yard work. My first item of business was to head to the local nursery and get a replacement for the apple tree that had previously adorned our patio, but unfortunately, gave in to old age. I also carted home eight bags of Bumper Crop in order to refresh the soil in our garden areas.

Well you might think that planting a 15-gallon apple tree is not to difficult an undertaking but the first thing I discovered was that the soil was as hard as concrete. Darn, should have remembered. While I let the hose run to loosen the soil I went and watered about the rest of the yard and then returned to tackle digging that hole with my shovel and post-hole digger. Well, things were going pretty well until I happened on one particularly difficult piece of baked earth. I studied it for no more than a second and then did something a younger man might have attempted. That was, I planted that shovel and then jumped up into the air and on my way down I thought: This is not going to end well. It didn’t, that stubborn bit of earth gave way and my shovel went north into the pit and I flew south. There was no abort button on that mission and, I landed on my tailbone as my back hit the edge of the planter and, an irrigation pipe struck somewhere in between. I don’t know how I avoided breaking anything or doing permanent damage but after about five minutes of listening to my smarter self berate the one who thought jumping on a shovel with both feet was a good idea – I struggled to my feet, sore but still in one piece.

The Anna Apple tree got planted and rather than calling it a day (as a smarter man might have done) I pruned our roses, and then the holly, and then shooed away the flies that were attracted by the blood that was let by the thorns and pointy leaves. Ouch.

By know you’re wondering what does all of this have to do with Christmas smells.

Our house was built in 1972 and the original occupants planted some evergreen trees along the south edge of the property. I’m not sure what they are but they are very slow growing and produce these tiny blue berries. Since they are slow growing I don’t need to attend to them very often but today I decided to prune some of the branches that had grow down into the walkway where we would either have to dodge them or be knocked in the head. With the first cutting the oil was released and I immediately thought of two things: Christmas, and our house in Running Springs.

Now, Christmas has meant different things to me at different times in my life. When I was a child, I received a years worth of socks and underwear every Christmas. But, when I had my first child I began to think of Christmas in a different light – as my daughter’s grandfather was one of those who insisted on having a 12-foot Christmas Tree every year by which, on either side, were pyramids of presents stacked nearly as high as the tree itself. Since those days my sense of Christmas has reinvented itself depending, I think, upon whether I was spending it alone – or – with a loved one, or as a consequence of other things that may have been going on at the time.

We live in an adequate house that is not designed in such a manner that a Christmas Tree is welcome. This means that some years our Christmas Tree might have been an 18-inch high faux symbol of the season. Some years we’ve tried the artificial tree that currently languishes on a shelf in the garage. Lately, however, we’ve resorted to moving the furniture out of the way and putting a live tree in front of the bay window and, frankly, despite the hassle, I’ve been getting more in the Christmas Spirit. Mostly, I think, because the smell of Christmas reminds me: of strings of cranberries and popcorn; of gift-wrapped socks and underwear; of pumpkin pies, mashed potatoes, gravy, turkey, yams, and black olives; and of a gaggle of under-nourished kids sitting around a tree on Christmas morning complaining of gift-wrapped socks and underwear.

Normally, I would edit this a time or two to make sure everything was hunky dory but there is a bruise on my backside that I suspect is the size of Montana (at least as it appears on my wall map), that is urging me to arise and get myself in the shower to wash away all the grimy traces of my garden. And so, as walk away, I pray that you too have your own Smell of Christmas and that it also brings back pleasant memories – even if they are only of gift-wrapped socks and underwear.


Human Beings have been fascinated by the idea of invisibility since, I would purport, our ancestors were somewhere below the top of the food chain.  I know the idea has been around for at least a few thousand years because it appears in Plato’s “Republic” and Hesiod’s “Theogony.”   Opera lovers know it from Richard Wagner’s “Das Reingold” and we children of the Twentieth Century are certainly familiar with H.G. Wells “The Invisible Man” and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth fantasies.  Of course, there is also Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man,” but that is a different kind of invisibility all together.

 In more recent times I’ve read about modern attempts by our military and scientists to create invisibility cloaks in my sons “Popular Mechanics” and “Popular Science” magazines.  The stories in these two periodicals report some success in cloaking soldiers using some chameleon type of camouflage.  It’s all kind of scary if you ask me.

 I suppose millions, perhaps billions, have and are being spent on research but if you really want to see invisibility in action a person doesn’t need to go further than their own front yard.  There are amazing examples to be had in that forever lawn and garden nuisance – the weed.  Yes, weeds.  Many years ago I took notice of how I can get down on my knees and weed from one side of the lawn to the other in a fairly narrow path no more than three feet wide, turn around and see half as many weeds where none should be.

 Time and time again I have witnessed this phenomenon with distressed amusement.  Following the rigors of the Scientific Principle I have postulated several hypotheses to test.  The first being that I just didn’t see them on the first pass.  The second being that they grew extremely fast.  And the third, that they have the power to create a limited aura of invisibility.

 So, know how does one test these hypotheses?  Well, for the first one I made sure I had my glasses on this morning and was slow and methodical.  For the second, I made sure I rechecked a patch of lawn as I crossed the yard from one side to the other.  Well, after I was sure I had them all I stood and walked back over the same area.  Darn, more weeds, some several inches tall.  Okay, I removed them and surveyed my handiwork and was satisfied.  I went into the house for a glass of water, looked out upon the lawn from my kitchen window and yes, you know it, more weeds. Aw shucks.

 Well, I simply had to conclude that these amazing plants must be capable of affecting some kind of invisibility.  Whether by bending light waves, generating some type of camouflage, clouding my mind, or hmmm, maybe even hypnosis?  Anyway, it is now time to formulate some different hypotheses and, oh yes, plant some more grass seed in all those bare spots. 🙂