A place for family and friends to see what I'm up to. Visitors welcome here.

Hail Guest, we ask not what thou art.
If Friend, we greet thee, hand and heart.
If Stranger, such no longer be.
If Foe, our love will conquer thee.
-Old Welsh Door Verse

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Thanks for coming by.

Last Days of Summer.

Yep, I'm keeping busy.  THIS CLOSE to having my physical environment under control for the first time in forever, and I want to keep on top of it.  It's a great feeling.

Just a quick update so you know I am taking time to find things to be grateful for every day.

I did a lot of reading - and growing - this summer.  One of my favorites was Tom Shadyac's new book, Life's Operating Manual.  Although Shadyac is most well known for producing or directing hit comedies like Ace Ventura and Bruce Almighty (or for my personal favorite of his films, Patch Adams), I believe that his ultimate contribution to our culture (to our humanity) will be through his documentary, I AM, and this book.  I've attended Sunday Mornings Coffee Talks and Conversation gatherings each month since they started.  Organized by Nicolle Pritchett (one of the I AM producers), they've been thought-provoking insights into how we, as part of the earthly community, can uphold our responsiblity to each other in personally meaningful ways.  This book is helping me get my teaching on a new, positive path into the future. Not sure if it's out, yet, but I can't recommend it highly enough when it does come out.

I was able to get a lot of long-neglected chores done in my gardening and, in the process, re-confirmed that I am happiest when I am with the flowers.  There is something about sinking my hands into a tub of potting soil that is like nothing else for raising my spirits.  Some of the best accomplishments of the summer:

The hardenbergia that I hacked back to bare vines is coming back and will be a much healthier (and certainly more attractive) plant this season.

 Just a couple of weeks ago this brugmansia, "Creamsicle" was covered with blooms.  In the twilight, as I walked in this small garden, the "Arabian Nights" theme from the Disney movie "Aladdin" would go through my mind.  The aroma from the brugs filled this space and brought visions of the Taj Majal.  Of course, I've never been to the Taj Majal, and I don't imagine Arab countries actually smell like this plant's flowers, but the fragrance is exotic.

Speaking of brugs, every one of the cuttings I potted from the one brug that I have growing in the ground (the rest are in pots)  has taken root.  This week I plan to pot up another couple of dozen as I cut back the branches that are blocking the path in the Fairy Garden.  For such an elegant and fragile looking plant, brugs are remarkably cooperative when it comes to propagation.

This is one of the brugs from inside my room.  Two of the three potted plants have grown outward, but this one, "Equador Pink," is growing up.  I want her to teach the others to do that.  She's making such a nice frame for my window.

I don't know how long it's been - certainly over a year - since my front yard has been groomed and weed-free, at least for a few moments.  I can already see the seedlings coming up in the front planter, which is always a challenging area, but I'm confident that with a few minutes a day in the rest of this part of the property I'll be able to keep it looking nice.  My son and I are already planning the gradual elimination of the lawn.  My first step will be to carve a place for a new Cara-Cara orange tree somewhere out there.  Grass is pretty much an environmental waste of resources here.

To the top left of the photo above is a fence that forms a courtyard entry in the front yard.  I did a lot of work in the courtyard this summer, and it's just a pleasure to walk into.   It's going to be a nice way to come home after a day of teaching.  Some of the highlights now include the milkweed (aesclepias tuberosa) that has germinated everywhere.  I'm still picking Monarch butterfly caterpillars off them - two today.  I bring them in to pupate in the house, then release the butterflies to the outdoors.  I ordered a half-dozen packets of California native varieties (tuberosa is a Mexican variety) and look forward to their cultivation.  (Especially since most of them have pink flowers which will go well in the Fairy Garden.)

This whole bed was filled with spring grass when I started clearing it out.  I had planted this dahlia a couple of years ago and thought it had died, choked out by the grass.  But as I pulled the grass I found a two-inch sprig of maroon leaves struggling for space among the grass.  Here it is, just a few weeks later.  It's been blooming like this all summer.
You can kind of see the courtyard to the right of this picture.  The fence (which isn't really leaning over, just my weird camera angle) forms this space between the courtyard and the property line.  When I started this project, this space was pretty much filled with all kinds of grasses, including some ornamentals that required a significant effort and some real digging to get out.  Now it has become the Ugly Stuff storage space.  Potting soil, empty pots, garden tools.  All the stuff that is necessary for maintaining the gardens but looks like 'ick' sitting around it all stashed here, now.  Very convenient and you can't see it, even from the courtyard until you turn the corner. 

This is at the end of that Ugly Stuff space and is the only part of it that is visible from the courtyard.  I think this may be my favorite accomplishment of the summer.  When I started it was filled with weeds and grass and empty pots and used bricks and old tools.  Really ugly.  Now when you see it from the courtyard (which I go through every time I come into the house) it beckons into the garden and leads the eye away from the Ugly Stuff space and into the Fairy Garden.  Once the pansies come into the nurseries I'm going to fill this space - Disneyland style - with traditional velvet pansies.
In the backyard my new lotus, Mrs. Percy Slocum, seems to be doing nicely.  She has LOVED the hot, humid weather of the last couple of weeks and now has three of these upright, out-of-the-water leaves.  I expect her go go dormant over the winter, but I'm hopeful that she'll come back, and maybe even bloom, next year.
My mom was asking me this week how I manage to stay to positive all the time.  Things can get really scary, that's for sure, especially with our governor threatening to cut yet another two weeks off my work year if his latest tax increase doesn't pass.  But I've lived in fear and anxiety and it doesn't help.  So, yeah, I choose to find things to smile over whenever possible.
The sky is always good.
I'm developing an obsession with clouds.  I've got mountains on two sides of me, and the other two sides lead to the sea, so I get a whole range of spectacular sky vistas through the course of the year.  Sunrises and sunsets are often stunning.
This made me smile one morning.  It's a tiny lavendar flower hanging from a tiny spider's web, but it looks like it's just hanging in mid-air.  Magical. 
A surprise clematis bloom.  It doesn't usually bloom this late in the summer.  I thought this variety was called Belle d'Lyon, but I looked for it online and there is no such plant so now I think it must be Ville De Lyon.  Which is making me feel rather like I'm torturing the poor thing because the images of this plant online show much more vigorous growth and many more flowers than I ever get.  I think next year she's going to get a a repotting and some serious feeding.  And maybe a buddy or two, as I love these plants.
 As the summer comes to a close, I look forward to meeting my 170 new best friends.  Our school is teaming this year, which will ensure that my students will all have the same English, Language Arts and Science teachers.  We will be able to collaborate and coordinate activities and lessons.  I'm hoping to encourage a group to walk the annual 5K that our district sponsors.  I'm also hoping to teach an afterschool enrichment class on popular dances through history (everything from the Virginia Reel through the Shim Sham Shimmy to the Fake ID country line dance).
I am especially excited to teach history by using Stanford's "Reading Like a Historian" program.  I learned about it last week.  Imagine!  Students start by analyzing their sources for prejudice and bias, then make their own conclusions about historical events based on evidence presented in primary documents.  No more academic bulimia where trivial information is binged and then regurgitated onto a test, providing absolutely no academic nutrients for future citizenship.  WOOHOO!
This is gonna be good.


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