In our little corner of the world, spring is definitely here, as noted with the lavender starting to bloom, for one. Most of the rest of the flowers blooming out on my veranda are spot colors I planted weekend before last, so those don’t really count (though they are very pretty).
Most of them don’t count, that is.Because in addition to my lavender plants which wintered out on the veranda, a couple of the spot color pansies from last fall survived, along with my tree. That’s right, I am growing a tree on our 5-foot wide deck. It wasn’t something I planned to be growing. See, a squirrel at our old neighborhood buried a filbert nut in one of the smallest flower pots I had, and it grew to just over 10 inches last year with a small cluster of leaves. Once I identified it (by the distinctive leaf shape), I posted pics of the little tree online and asked people’s opinions on what I should do. Everyone who replied agreed I should see how well the tree could do out there. One friend said, “Of course you keep the tree! Mustn’t anger the squirrel god.”
But, as I mentioned, the little tree was growing in the smallest flower pot that I had (there had been one smaller one at the old place, but it had a broken lip and large cracks, so I tossed it rather than move it to our new place). I was afraid the tree would quickly outgrow the pot. On the other hand, I didn’t want to damage its roots digging it up. So I left it in the pot over winter, intending to move the entire contents of the small pot into one of the big planters where I’m trying to keep my grandma’s irises alive. For whatever reason, the two pansies in the tiny pot had also survived the winter. Usually two or three of the fall pansies appear to make it through the winter, but usually in the spring when I start planting new flowers in the pots, a closer examination reveals that there are only a few green leaves visible above a decidedly sickly-yellow body of the pansy. Any time I tried to keep them, they usually died without blooming again. So I usually compost the over-winter pansies and replace them.
Since I was moving the entire pot, there was no point in pulling the two pansies loose. So they moved to the bigger planter along with the tree. It has been 9 days, and not only are they both much leafier and much greener than they were when I transplanted them, one has bloomed again! Which I’m going to take as a sign that the squirrel god is happy that I am trying to keep the tree alive. I know in the picture that the tree just looks like a stick, but just a few weeks ago it was a drab brown stick, whereas now there is clearly a lot of green in that bark. Plus there are a bunch of little buds all up and down the tree. So I expect it to be much leafier this summer.
I also moved my teeny wind chime from one of the medium pots to the bigger planter. My husband insists on calling wind chimes of all types “wind clunks” and gives me serious side eye whenever he catches me looking at them in stores. This little stained-glass butterfly and tiny chimes was a gift from a friend, and are so quiet that one has to be outside and fairly close to hear them, so my husband can ignore them.
I’ve been thinking about whether to move the bird feeder to a spot further down the veranda, away from the place where our chairs and table are. More of the birds might be brave enough to keep eating while I’m out there if it were further down. Also, most of the spilled hulls and seeds would be centered away from the section I walk on to get to the table. The down side is that the feeder would be harder to see from the living room window if I moved it down.
So, for now, I’m leaving the feeder where it is.
While some parts of the country were experiencing unseasonable warmth punctuated by intense winter storms in a weird whiplash effect, here in western Washington we were experiencing colder than usual temperatures. A lot colder for a while, there. And while we were getting rain, we were also having more dry days than usual. For most of my life the wet part of the year as been more about drizzly or non-raining but cool and overcast than intense rainstorms. Lately, thanks to climate change, our rainy season has been about more intense rain storms punctuating longer stretches of dry-but-overcast days. Then this weekend it was as if someone flipped a switch and turned on spring all at once. No rain, almost no clouds, and temperatures climbed from the forties into the 60s. Then Monday they soared (relatively speaking) into the low 70s!
Now the temps have dropped, but not all the way back to the 40s. Forecasts indicate that temps are going to be in the 50s all week, which is statistically more typical for this time of year. While that isn’t as cool as it was last week, it’s still a drop of about 20 degrees from Monday!
One of the things I accomplished this weekend was getting the veranda ready for spring. Which meant planting new flowers in my planters. And that meant a lot of cleaning, repotting, pouring off excess water, dumping of old potting soil and the dead remnants of last fall’s final flowers. My various lavender plants were already budding, so it is arguable that I should have started working on the other pots earlier. On the other hand, it was only a couple of weeks ago that overnight low temperatures were in the 20s, so this sudden temporary spring was a great opportunity to get things started out there.
My hanging planter had to be converted to a regular pot. I had fuchsias in it last year. At the old place I used to take the hanging planters down as soon as the plants wilted then stuck them in the basement until the next spring. Since I have to use completely contained hanging planters here (don’t want to drip muddy water on my neighbors downstairs!) I only had the one. And every time I thought it was time to take it down, I would notice not just that one of the fuchsias was still green, but it had a new flower! All through December and January it kept putting out new flowers. And a local hummingbird kept visiting it to eat, so I felt guilty thinking of taking it down.
So one evening about a month ago I was outside refilling the birdfeeder with seed, and I banged my head into the hanging planter. As it was swinging I thought I should take it down, now, because the very cold weather seemed to have finally done in the last fuchsia. As I was raising my hands to take hold of the planter, its hanging mechanism broke.
I caught the pot. Barely! The super saturated soil made the whole thing a lot heavier than I expected, and I wound up dumping about half the potting soil onto the deck, but I didn’t drop either the pot or any of its contents over the side. I set the whole thing down and figured I’d sort out what to do about the hanging bit later. This weekend I cut of the reaming bits so the plastic suspension system, planted a couple of pansies in planter, and put it at the end of the row of pots next to the railing. A new plastic hanging pot just like this one is less than 5 bucks. In a few weeks fuchsias starters should be available, so I can set up another hanging planter then. I just need to remember that before the heavy rainy season begins next fall to take the planter down, no matter what state the flowers in it are in. If one of the plants is still blooming, I can put the planter agains the rail so the flower hangs out. The hummingbird will find it.
Another issue we had was the otter planter. The cute terra cotta planter survived about 8 years outside at the Ballard place with only a few cracks. But she didn’t do so well this winter. I think the problem was she isn’t shielded from the rain as much at this location and we had a lot more hard freezes this winter. The super-saturated potting soil froze, expanded and broke the terra cotta in a bunch of places.
But with she can still hold a flower!
The other thing I’ve been thinking about is whether to try to grow tomatoes or some other edibles out there. Last year, since we only signed the lease on this place in mid-April, and didn’t finish clearing out the old place until the end of May, I didn’t even try tomatoes. I’m still a little ambivalent in no small part because most years I’m not sure the number of tomatoes I managed to grow were worth the expense and effort. On the other hand, when they’re perfectly ripe right off the plant they do taste so, so, so much better than the ones bought at the store. And there are possibilities for growing things other than tomatoes. There’s certainly room for more planters on the veranda!
We’ll see. I still need to get more of grandma’s irises planted. And right now the pots just have a minimum of spot color flowers. Once everything is going, I may decide that what I have now is taking up all the time I have available to pseudo garden.
Oh! I ought to mention the tree. Last year a single stalk of something came up in one of the smallest flowerpots I had, and when leaves started growing, I realized that it was a Turkish Filbert (there were a couple of yards in our old neighborhood with Filbert trees). The squirrel at the old place must have put it in the pot, and when I posted about it last year, the consensus was that we should try to keep it alive, lest we anger the squirrel god. Anything, I’ve moved it to the larger planter with the irises. If it keeps growing, I may eventually be asking around whether anyone who has a yard wants a Filbert tree.
We’ll see what grows and what doesn’t!
There are a few things to note about this particular transition of the seasons at least where I live. First, we officially can enter summer 2017 into the weather record books for a couple of different things. It was officially the driest summer (going by solar summer: June 21-Sept 21). Seattle summers are usually relatively dry, particularly compared to our Novembers, but this year was exceptional. Only 0.52″ of rain total, and it is worth noting that 0.50″ of that rain came in the last six days! Which certainly contributed to many days that the city was blanketed in smoke from various wild fires in British Columbia, Eastern Washington, and Central Oregon.
Summer 2017 also tied for the hottest summer ever recorded (1967). Though it is worth noting that 2014 and 2013 are tied at second hottest only one-tenth of a degree cooler (and 2015 was two-tenths of a degree cooler, so we definitely have a trend going).
But that nightmare is over, at least until next year. The jet stream has shifted. We got light rain last weekend, the daytime highs have been in the high 50s to mid 60s all week. We may break 70 again late in the week, but that’s a considerable improvement over the temps just two weeks ago.
So, autumn is here! Time to start thinking about Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations. Time to break out the pumpkin spice (I actually started experimenting with pumpkin spick cocktail recipes the day we got the first rain last week).
Welcome to fall!
Despite Seattle’s reputation for rain, we don’t get a lot of the heavy rainstorms that people who live in other parts of the world are used to. We don’t actually get that many rainy days at all. What we have are lots of overcast days. Many, many days of cool, damp weather that may include a little drizzle or mist here and there. Yeah, during some months (November, for instance) we get some deluges. This year we had literally the wettest winter since we started keeping records here 122 years ago, and last year was the second-wettest ever, so the pattern may be changing. We’ll see. In any case, much of our reputation for rain comes from all those cool, damp overcast days where it feels as if it must have just rained a bit ago, even though it may not have for several days.
Another reasons we have such a reputation is the sneaky prank Mother Nature likes to play on newcomers every spring. Every year, at some point in the month of May, we get a week or two of weather that seems like summer. It usually only gets into the low or middle seventies (Farenheit), but the thing is that after months of overcast days, drizzly days, and occasional rainstorms, a week or two of sunny weather with no rain at all and warm temperatures in the daytime fools people who think that summer is here. Never mind that most of those nights the temperatures drop back down to the 50s or 40s, in the middle of the day it was warm and sunny and dry, so summer must be here.
And then the June Gloom hits.
An upper atmosphere trough settles in causing almost constant on-shore flow. Cool, moist air from the ocean keeps coming inland. So every night we get overcast/foggy cool weather, and the clouds and fog may or may not burn off at all during the day time. And we get drizzles and light showers. Temperatures may get up into the low 70s for a little bit each day, but between the lack of sun, the damp, and the rain, it doesn’t feel that warm. Statistically, we have mostly June Gloom instead of summer until about July 12. And particularly in contrast to those couple of weeks of what seemed like summer, that long cool period breaks the spirit of people who aren’t from around here.
This last weekend was the end of our faux summer. And it was a lot warmer than our usual May foray into warmth. The temperatures got up into the 80s. But then the drizzle and rain came back. I happen to love the rain and the cooler days, but it this time it was a bit of a shock even to me. I couldn’t figure out last night—after I got home from work and ran my two errands, then peeled off my office drag and switched to shorts—why I was so cold! I actually had to pull a pair of sweat pants out of the drawer!
I’ve also heard a theory that the reason people who don’t live here long think it rains a lot is precisely because common English doesn’t have a single word that means “cool, overcast, with the impending feeling of rain.” Since the categories we sort things into are at least someone dictated by the language(s) we speak, the argument goes, people actually mentally perceive those days without rain as rainy. A friend once told me about the time she admonished her husband and son to go outside and get some activity in while the sun was out… it was late winter/early spring and the sun was not out at all, the sky was very overcast. But it wasn’t raining and it had been the day before. She said, “You live enough years in Seattle, and you start seeing any time when it isn’t raining and it isn’t so dark you need artificial light as sunny!”
We’d had enough warm days that I was starting to think that making a pot of ice tea might be a good idea. Of course, we tossed out a lot of redundant dishes and such during the packing, and when I looked in the cupboards, I couldn’t find a proper pitcher. We haven’t completely unpacked, yet, so I may well have something that would work in one of the boxes. So I didn’t want to run out and buy a pitcher. The other problem is that Michael will only drink tea if it is so saturated with sugar that you can’t get more to dissolve in. Ordinary sweet tea like my grandma’s used to make (where you dissolve several cups of sugar into the tea when the water is still boiling, because once you’ve iced it you can’t get them much sugar to dissolve into it) isn’t quite sweet enough for him. Meanwhile, I can’t drink that much sugar anymore, so I drink all my tea (hot or cold) or coffee without any sweetener.
If we had had one more day of hot weather, I would have broken down, made a mug of hot unsweetened tea with my electric kettle, then poured it into a big glass full of ice cubes. Which isn’t quite as good as having a whole pitcher of tea you can refill from, but tastes good. And now we’re going to cool weather for a while. So I’ve pulled my collection of tea bags out of the pantry. The tea bags had been out of sight since sometimes early in the move, so I haven’t been making tea at night. On days that I’m home all day, I wind up making a second pot of coffee and drinking coffee into the evening. Which is fine, except I think that tea in the afternoon and evening changes the way my brain works.
Maybe that’s why I haven’t been able to get back into the writing zone. Or maybe I’m just too tired from all the packing and unpacking. And it isn’t as if there isn’t still a lot of unpacking to do!
Maybe I should have a nice cup of tea before I tackle the next box.
I love autumn. I love the leaves changing colors, the final blooms on lots of flowers, fruit forming on trees, cool drizzly mornings… not to mention decorating for Halloween, planning for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and other fun things.
I don’t like hot weather. Most anyone who knows me knows that. And I also really dislike snow: specifically having to slog through snow, deal with the way many drivers behave in snow (and how some seem to think that snow and ice give them permission to ignore pedestrians altogether), ice-slippery walkways, and so forth. And twice every year, when one of the other of those disliked kinds of weather are happening, and I say something about it, someone (whether it be a reader of my blog, some random twitter commenter, or even a long time friend), will exclaim in utter disbelief. “How can you not love winter? I thought you hated hot weather!?” Or, “How can you complain about this warm weather when you were bitching about snow six months ago?”
It’s like they think it is a binary: you are allowed to hate either heat or cold, and if you dislike one you must love the other. That’s nonsense. What I hear when they decry my supposed inconsistency is, “Why are you objecting to being stabbed in the heart? I thought you despised poison!”
I grew up in the central Rocky Mountains, which is ski country, and where snow season runs from mid-October to mid-May. Every memory I have of going trick-or-treating on Halloween as a child involved wearing snow boots or galoshes, a heavy coat and gloves. Sometimes we skipped whole blocks of houses because the snowplow had been through to clear the street, and the sidewalk was completely blocked by an eight-foot-tall pile of snow, ice, and slush embedded with copious amounts of gravel and asphalt.
Those big plow-drifts were a favorite source of snowball-material for the kinds of bullies that I was always the target of. So while it would be an exaggeration to say that snowball fights are triggering for me, the imagery evoked by alluding to snowball fights is never pleasant for me.
My point is, I have experienced snow. I have literally, as a child, walked to school in minus-fifteen degree weather. If I never have to be in snow again I’ll be perfectly happy.
Yet, I love Christmas and specifically decorating for Christmas. You will see snow-speckled ornaments on many of my trees. I can sing more harmony parts to “Let It Snow” “Sleighride” and “Winter Wonderland” than you can shake a stick at. I’m able to separate my dislike of trudging through snow from actual fun activities one can have in such weather.
Similarly, with hot weather one problem I have is that I come from a long line of pale-pink-bluish freckled people. My skin does not know how to tan. It knows three hues: the pale pink with blue highlights, searing bright red covered with blisters, then when that peels off, pale pink-bluish with orange freckles. Also, I come from a long line of people who develop sun-induced skin cancers (and have even had a small one myself!), so I’m under doctor’s orders to stay out of the sun. Plus, my body just doesn’t deal with high temperatures. I just want to sleep through the hot parts of the day, but day jobs aren’t conducive to that, so I’m cranky, listless, and miserable when it gets hot.
Knowing about how much I hate heat waves and snow, it really should be no surprise how much I love autumn weather. That doesn’t mean that I don’t find some things about the transitions of autumn occasionally inconvenient, annoying, or just startling. Most years, for instance, I don’t switch from my medium-weight jacket to my coat when I ought. I’ll wear the medium jacket for a few weeks and everything is fine. Then one day during the walk home from work, it will be way colder than it had been in the morning, and I’ll wish I’d switched to my heavy coat.
A bit over a week ago I was walking home from work and turned a corner, and was startled at how dark the sidewalk was. When I’d left the office, it had seemed to still be full daylight. The sun was actually at the horizon, but since the first bit of my walk is between tall buildings, I didn’t actually see the sun setting. Yeah, I knew how late it was, and I know that sunset gets a minute or two earlier every day during the fall, but I was thinking about other things (listening to an audiobook, as I recall). Over the course of the walk the sun sank slowly, the light very gradually getting dimmer. By the time I was nearly home, it wasn’t really dark out, yet, but the sky was definitely closer to indigo than azure. And the particular section of street I was turning onto, just a few blocks from home, has a lot of trees on it plus to the west were a pair of taller condominium complexes, casting long shadows over the whole street. It still wasn’t dark, but it was a significant change walking into those shadows, particularly when my mind was in another time and place because of the audiobook.
I literally stopped for a moment, startled at the sudden dimness. It only took a millisecond to realize that I just hadn’t been paying attention to the deepening twilight and the shadows. But it was the starkest reminder I’d had that sunset was getting a lot earlier than it has been. Sometimes it only takes a well-timed turn to throw a gradual change into stark contrast.
When I mentioned to a friend how early sunset was getting, they responded with a bit of a shrug. They weren’t blowing me off, but it felt that way. To be fair, I didn’t give them all the context of how I hit that mark.
But it reminds me that we aren’t all paying attention to the same things. I’ve been watching the slow but very steady embrace of racist, xenophobic, sectarian bigotry by leaders of the Republican Party for the last 36 years. I have called out and warned about the consequences of encouraging voters to blame people with different accents, skin color, religious beliefs, et cetera for the real economic pain that people feel. I have been decrying the stagnation and then contraction of wages, while giving bigger and bigger tax cuts to the wealth. I’ve been pointing out the dangers of dismantling labor unions, giving corporations more and more legal rights. I’ve been watching the slow slide. I’ve been trying to tell friends and acquaintances that the Republican politicians are the very people picking their pockets while placing the blame on immigrants, brown people, queers asking for equal rights, and so forth.
So I am well aware that voting for Romney was voting for all the same bigotry and economic inequality that Trump embodies. Just as voting for McCain was, and voting for Bush, and so on. I have been watching the gradual shift, well aware that the exact same bigotry underlay the policies the Reagan espoused, just more subtle and coded before. So when lifelong Republicans are reacting with horror to Trump, yeah, I’ve been pretty dismissive, telling people they had to be blind or delusional not to have seen this coming; not to have seen that they have brought it on themselves (and the rest of us).
When in fact, they just weren’t paying attention to the same things I was.
It doesn’t change the fact that, yeah, they made this bed. But I shouldn’t be quite so mean that it has taken them longer to notice at least some of the hate and ignorance.
We’ve taken a turn into shadows and muck that that have been gathering and deepening for decades. Now that a few of you have seen it, would you mind grabbing a shovel, and helping those of use trying to clear a path back to the light?
Even as a little kid I did not sympathize with Goldilocks in the classic fairy tale. There you have the bear family with their neat little house: each family member has a favorite chair, their own bed, their own special bowl for food. And they’ve just taken a walk in the woods while they wait for their dinner to cool down, and this rude girl barges into their house, messes with all of their stuff, breaks a piece of furniture, eats a third of the food, and then decides to go to sleep in one of the beds of this house that she’s broken into.
That wasn’t all that annoyed me. I was also annoyed at how critical Goldilocks was of everything. “This chair is too hard!” “This chair is too soft!” et cetera, et cetera.
But while I can’t recall ever having barged into someone’s house and messed with their property, I do have something in common with Goldilocks: sometimes I want things exactly the way I want them, and I find myself grousing over things being inferior to what I want—sometimes in contradictory ways.
For instance, Read More…
I knew July was going to be a sparse blogging month, since I’m doing Camp NaNoWriMo again, this time to wrap up my previous novel to get it published. I didn’t take into account how unproductive I become when it’s hot.
Of course, I’m always hopeful that the hot weather will hold off a little while. Statistically, the jet streams and other large weather systems that directly impact Seattle don’t switch to the summer pattern until about July 12. Even though we have only experienced measurable precipitation on Independence Day about one out of every four years (and many of the years that precipitation is a very scant trace of only a tenth of an inch or less), that’s the reason that some people often joke that “the rain will end on July 5.”
And it’s not as if the weather we’re having constitutes a heat wave according to most people. But any time the temperatures get above 80°F I start melting. I just want to find some shade with a cold breeze and a cool drink. And if I do find a moderately cool spot, I usually just fall asleep.
I’m okay most of the day, since I’m in a nice, big air conditioned office building. I have energy, I work, I get things done. But the walk home in the sun and heat just wipes me out. And we don’t usually get enough of these days for it to make economic sense for most people to have a fully air conditioned house.
We bought a new small air conditioning unit for our bedroom. In the past we had one of those window units. It worked okay, we could have one room that was a comfortable temperature. We could hang out in the bedroom for a few hours in the evening until the sun went down. The temperature outside drops considerably at that point, and we can open the doors and windows, put a fan in the front door, and cool down most of the house to a reasonable temperature again. And of course, the bedroom is cool enough that we can both sleep.
But our windows aren’t really the kind those sort of air conditioners are designed for, and there were some issues. It started dying a few years ago, I think hastened by those issues. We got rid of it. We toughed it out two years without.
The new one is one of those units on wheels, with a large PCV hose that attaches to a vent we put in the window. It’s really only intended to cool one room, but we’ve made that work before.
Each night since we got it I’ve taken various writing project materials into the bedroom intending to get work done in the cool room. And each night I made it about a half hour before needing to take a nap.
It’s supposed to be a little bit cooler today and tomorrow. Maybe I’ll get some actual writing done.
Wish me luck!
Late Wednesday afternoon at the office I was looking out the window wistfully at the rain. I’d been out earlier in the day (a small group of us walked to a nearby restaurant to have lunch with a former co-worker). It had been really pleasant. No rain, overcast enough that I didn’t need sunglasses, and not cold or breezy. The rain that was coming down later just looked nice. Yes, I like the rain, so sue me.
So I totally understand why some of my long distance friends don’t understand just how much I despise snow. I hate snow. I have said many times that if I never have to walk in snow ever again—even if I live to be a million years old—I would be just fine.