Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mesmerized by a Little Devil

I pillaged my Orlando garden before we left, as my regular readers already know. I tried to keep it quiet, but the ever-growing cluster of plants in plastic pots started to give away the secret. By the time the neighbors started coming over to dig up a little bit of my garden for themselves, Turfman was getting a worried. He thought we might be openly flaunting the removal of plants, but I convinced myself that even though we had taken quite a lot, the holes were barely visible. In the last week, my decision to take and give away as much as I did has been vindicated. Horrified neighbors have been texting me photos of our former front garden. Nearly everything that was left behind was dug up and thrown away and replaced with low-maintenance (or, as Christopher Lloyd always called them, "low braintenance") plants.

Nearly everything that I took away with me is now thriving in the Georgia garden, but one cluster of plants, in particular, is putting on an amazing display right now. When I think of what the new owners of the former house don't get to enjoy, I am filled with wicked glee. I can sometimes be found these days bent over the flowers cackling and whispering, "Mine! They're all mine!"

And so I give you all the incredible process of a Crocosmia in bloom. This variety is called 'Lucifer,' and he makes me so very glad that I stole him. In fact, you can't make me feel guilty for my crime. Really, it was just a liberation. He was mine to begin with, and he would be dead now if not for my greed.

The flower spike initially looks a little like the head of wheat

The individual buds begins spreading away from one another

And then they just start showing off

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The State of the Pond

In the words of the band Garbage, these days, "I'm only happy when it rains." The problem is that since we moved, it really hasn't rained much at all, which means my happiness levels are draining quickly, a bit like a certain body of water on my property. Previously, when we found ourselves in the midst of a drought (and believe me, in Florida, one is frequently in the midst of drought), I would fret a bit about the dwindling water supply in my rain barrels, but I wouldn't work myself up into a nervous wreck. Now that I have a pond, it's a completely different story.

The water level in the pond is something I now monitor throughout the day. It has receded at least two feet from where it stood around the edges just two months ago, and it was already low then. If I hike around the pond, I can clearly see its former levels, and I can say with certainty that it has fallen by three feet of depth. The fish, turtles, and other creatures that call the pond their home are weighing on my mind.

That's a dock of sorts, now very far from the water's edge

I've become obsessed with the weather. I check the radar several times a day in desperate hope. When I hear of flooding in Detroit and Phoenix, I feel for the residents, and then I curse the skies. 

I would be capable of finding a silver lining in rain clouds. As it stands, I have to grasp at something positive in this situation. Here's all I've come up with: with the water level so low, I can focus on pond clean-up since the pond is yet another area that has been neglected for years. Now I have much easier access to the things growing out of control. All I lack is a punt to reach the center of the pond.

The jungle

One of many strange, plastic ducks is hidden in these weeds

I can clear out the wild growth in my wellies and a raincoat, though. I want some rain. I want "When it rains, it pours" to be more than silly, complaining sentiment. I want it to be literal. I want it now.

And wouldn't you know, it just started to rain here. It just needs to continue for several days.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Starting Over

Seven years ago, I stepped away from a full-time position as an Assistant Professor of English. The reason was quite simple. Turfman got promoted and relocated, and I preferred being with him. In addition, we both preferred his salary and likely always will. I had desperately hoped that I would quickly find a new tenure-track position near our new home. I did not. In fact, though I found a great part-time position at another university, it became pretty clear that my decision to walk away from my first job was a red flag for other institutions. I despaired for quite some time about my derailed career, but I eventually got over it and decided that I could make a new path for myself, and so I did.

Then we moved here, and I quickly got a full-time professor position. Sometimes, it seems, life is just a constant stream of revisions to the plans we make for ourselves. Tomorrow, after another major revision, I begin again. I've had to search frantically for electronic files of all my teaching materials, long ago set aside and nearly forgotten. I had to assess my wardrobe again after a long period of creating a new, decidedly more casual one since I've spent more time gardening and writing than ever before. The Wellies I recently purchased for mucking about the pond and the future veg patch will get less wear than I expected. But I'm looking forward to the challenges and the rewards that this new chapter will present. I'm looking forward to the potential of it all.

The front garden presents the need for similar revisions and the possibility of something beautiful. I had hoped we could salvage the unloved shrubs, but as you've seen in previous posts, they were far too gone. After I cut them all down, Turfman went to war with the extensive roots. I think he lost 10 pounds getting them out. But then we had a clean slate and thinner waistlines and could start fresh, which is exactly what we did this weekend, thanks to the help of a super sister-in-law.

The new "bones" for the garden

And the mirror image on the right. The speckles in the
photos are from photographing in the rain.

The view today is so different from the one we saw when we arrived here. The garden still requires a lot of work, a lot of perennials to fill in the gaps. The plants are small, but in time, they will grow and fill the space. Some elements of the plan will work, and others will require revision. There will be triumphs and disappointments. In the end, though, it should be all the better for the work put in, which is essentially true for just about everything in life.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

An Insider's View

Have you ever considered the outdoor views from within your own house? I never gave it much thought until I realized that our Orlando house really never afforded us a good view of the gardens I had created there. If I wanted to see the work I had done, I would have to walk straight up to a window and peer out, turning my back to all the furniture. It was an inward-looking house. I don't know what to think about the architect who designed such a space. Perhaps he didn't think at all about how furniture would have to be placed in that house, didn't realize that the windows were in bad positions. Or perhaps he was a hater of the outside world. I have no idea, but I'm inclined not to like him.

The new house is entirely different. Views figure prominently in every room. It makes me imagine the architect of this house as an outdoorsman, a lover of nature. I think he's a kindred spirit. I want a house that reminds me at every turn that the world outside is a magical place. I think houses should make us feel warm and safe but should also beckon us outside. That's what this place does. I cannot walk by a window without feeling the outdoors tug at me. I can barely sit down to watch television without being distracted by the view. It's an outward-looking house, which makes it more comfortable by far.

One of the family room views

The view from the bedroom

The view from my desk

What our guests see from one bedroom