Friday, July 8, 2011

On Summer Surprises

JAN: As I often lament, I'm the world's worst gardener. This is possibly because I hate gardening so much. My husband insists the poor young plants I put in the earth can actually feel my hatred. That's why so many of them just don't thrive. (The not watering part, and just trying to get it over with part, may also play a role)

Anyway, years ago I planted a hydrangea that just wouldn't flower. I went back to the lawn and garden guy who told me it was probably where I had planted it, and suggested that I put burlap around it in the winter to protect it from the high winds. Of course, hating gardening as much as I do, I was not about to go out and buy burlap and stake it around the hydrangea, so I ignored the lawn and garden guy. The hydrangea grew to an unruly size and dominated my rock garden without a single flower. So I got even with the hydrangea, and told my husband to dig it up and get rid of it.

He dug the entire thing up by the root ball and moved it to the front yard. The next year, a small plant appeared where the old hydrangea had been. I was too lazy to weed it. This year, after the worst harshest winter, the hydrangea reappeared, fully size, beautiful and fully flowered.

So despite my hatred, my neglect, and my ultimate revenge, it returned to bloom like a bastard. For me, that's the best surprise of the summer.

What's your best seasonal surprise?

HANK: Well, you know about the ducks, but that's spring. This year, though, we have WONDERFUL BIRDS! We saw Baltimore Orioles, amazing. And a couple of nuthatches, catbirds, flickers, whole families of cardinals: flashy brilliant dads, dowdy moms, and doofus little ones. Hundreds, literally, of robins. (Bobbing along.) And the wrenny gray doves, all in pairs, skittering around and making that little noise when anything startles them. And everything does, of course.

Am I hopelessly old to care about birds? Should I be writing about my new, ah, I don't know, motorcycle or ball gown or something?

DEBS: I must be having the most boring summer imaginable . . . I'm with Hank on the birds--we've had FLOCKS of hummingbirds, which I absolutely love. (Do hummingbirds flock??) But I think perhaps my biggest surprise is re-discovering how much I love root beer floats, thanks to one of our rather rambling JR blogs. In fact, I think another trip to Whole Foods Market for the goodies may be in order this weekend . . .

Oh, and we got a new grill, and I am surprised by how much I LOVE it. I didn't know you could be in transports over a grill. You just turn the knob and push the button and it's lit. And everything cooks perfectly! (Well, expect for the pizza, but that's another story . . .)

JAN: Anyone else have any summer surprises you'd like to share?

ROBERTA/LUCY: There's a new fox in town. Oh we've had families of fox before but this guy appears to be an adolescent--completely fearless. One day we saw him on the beach where he'd stolen a large fish from a seagull, who circled overhead screaming. Other days he's trotted through our yard or up our lane as if he was part of the family. Tonka's chased him a couple of times but he comes right back to pick up whatever game he dropped. The bad part is now I worry about him as if he is family....

By the way, I love the hydrangea story Jan--don't think I ever knew that about you and gardening!

JULIA: Jan, you are a gardener after my own heart. Unless Ross takes care of it, any plant in the vicinity of our farmhouse has to fend for itself. Occasionally, when my conscience is touched by our neighbors' orderly flowerbeds, I refer to this neglect as "naturescaping."

My surprise this summer has to do with the Saco River. There's a wonderful town park with a narrow riverine beach that the children and I go to several times a week during the summer. In years past, I've stayed close to shore, intimidated by the challenge of going well into a river that's over thirty feet deep and has a decided current. But this summer, much to my surprise, all the laps I did at the YMCA over the winter have paid off! I can go half-way across and then back again several times. Someday soon, sisters, I'm going to cross to the opposite shore.


  1. I'm totally impressed Julia, I've never been the best swimmer either, but one summer, after a winter of Pilates, I, for the first time, enjoyed swimming and I realized it was because I finally had a few upper back muscles.

    I'm too chicken to ever try to cross a river myself, but think it would be totally cool.

    And I LOVE the fox, Roberta. I'd become obsessed with him if he were here.

    And after the torture of having a pet bird for nine years, A Quaker Parakeet -- looks like a small parrot and sounds like a LOUD ONE that one day took off- I now absolutely love all birds that are OUTSIDE.


  2. Well, I discovered that the boat launch in downtown Stamford (which I assumed would have me drifitng in toxic waste) s absolutely lovely. And we've never had a problem parking, even on July 4th, so we can launch our kayak and take off into the Long island Sound. Over here it's quiet, no big boats, and it's a sweet paddle. Whodathunkit?

  3. I have a lot of birds too...we're not far from a bird sanctuary and they visit sometimes. But I do have a few resident owls, they're my faves.

  4. Oh, I LOVE that song! Playing it now...thank you for such a treat! (Congratulations, Julia)

    Debs, maybe it's a "hover" of hummingbirds. ?? :-)

    So we decided that the liking of birds thing is okay and not pitiful?

  5. Well, I think I finally get Cape Cod. I last went almost ty years ago on a rainy blustery weekend. Just miserable. Quaint shops were nice, but meh. Picturesque seaside towns. Okayfine.

    A couple of weekends ago, I went to help a friend whose son will be getting married on the Cape next year. Our weekend turned out gorgeous, so when we went to Marconi Beach and stood on the fast-eroding bluff over the pounding surf under a True Blue sky, the power HIT me. Yeah. I GET it now.

  6. Rhonda,
    When I first moved here from New Jersey, I didn't get the Cape either. Used to the fine white sand in NJ (Yes, it's true), I thought the sand on the cape was like dirt. The whole dune thing was beyond me....

    I've changed since then..... and now can't watch Jersey Shore because it brings back too many, real memories. (I worked in one of the discos they go to. )


  7. Love the photos as much as the text and the comments.

  8. Thanks to Julia on the photos!! And I love the song, too.


  9. Hank, I will use any excuse to play Alison Kraus singing "Down to the River to Pray."

    And I want to assure everyone I NEVER swim in the river alone. My Y swimming buddy, who also lives in the bucolic Maine countryside, is a certified Red Cross life guard.

    In other words, trust in God, but bring a lifesaver!

  10. Julia, thanks for the Alison Kraus! What a lovely start to Friday. I have the recording but haven't played it for a while. One of my faves!

  11. Sorry, somehow I missed Summer Surprises and didn't add my share. My summer surprises are always how many baby deer have been born that winter. This year I have one set of twins in the back yard. Sometimes these twins are delightful, dancing around like Bambi. This year they just stand and eat my plants.
    My thoughts turn to venison....

  12. My wife and I visit the local beach a lot. It's a short drive, and on the way, we check the Osprey couple that arrives every spring to raise one or two new chicks. They live in a specially-built perch constructed by the beachtown. Two chicks this year, and the oldest seems ready to fly.

  13. My summer surprise is how much better the Maine strawberries have been this year. Plenty of spring rain makes for plump, juicy berries.

    For me, the sensation of biting into a fresh, locally-grown piece of fruit is something that gets better as I get older. There's nothing better to spoon into your breakfast yogurt or add to salads.

    The early season rain likely means the blueberries will be better than ever this year, too. Happily, I'll be vacationing Down East when the barrens turn purple this August.


  14. This summer's surprise is the total garden.

    Hydranga's have four times as many flowers as in the past.

    My herbs are huge and fluffy. I have 6 inch basil leaves and 4 1/2 inch mint leaves. My back porch is too small for my herbs pots this year. It looks like a jungle out there. No clue why. I'm just enjoying it. We didn't do anything different this year.

    And that surprise will continue when I eat my pasta wiht pesto sauce in January.

  15. You might like this Down In the River to Pray by Apollo's Fire