Monday, July 25, 2011

Bent Stalks and Clear Wings

This stalk of Gladiolas grew horizontally along the ground, in and amongst the lily leaves. I didn't realize what was going on with it until the flowers started blooming. I staked it up but it never quite unfurled, lol. Still a pretty color, though. Next year I have to try to remember where I planted all of my flowers!

Dragonflies are everywhere this summer. I've never seen so many, of so many varieties. We have medium-sized ones with red bodies, above. We have large golden ones, small brown ones and one super-huge species with a white body. The red one in the photo, would not stop flying around me, and landing on me, as I was shooting my daily photos. I turned the camera around and snapped this photo of it happily camping on my shoulder. They seem quite tame and will gladly land on your hand if you hold it out for them.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

RIP Gentle Soul, Amy Winehouse

"Love is a Losing Game"
RIP, Amy Winehouse. I have no idea why some drug addicts die, and why others, like myself, reform and live to see another decade or three. We all have demons, we all cope with them the best we can. Some of us die young, others not so much. I'm never sure which is the better outcome. I could have died 5-6 times already, if not more. I've come "this" close...

Amy, if we had met in this world, I'm sure we would have laughed together more than we would have raised our voices in opposition! 

Talent is talent, and I thank you for sharing yours with us. You're in the next stage now—and I'm jealous—but then, you knew that already, didn't you? 

Tears Dry on their Own:

On the David Letterman show, 2007, with her hit "Rehab:"

Will You Still Love Me, Tomorrow?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Zinnia, 2011

One of two varieties of Zinnias I have this summer. Get used to this multi-hued beauty, lol! This photo enlarges nicely.

Playing Around with Vintage Items—July 2011

Pretty as a picture. My vintage, plaid-painted, Kennedy porch rocker, and three-year old pink geranium, wintered-over in the attic. Front porch, July 2011. Click to enlarge. This might be a good photo for a book cover. The natural, shaded area at the top is a great place for white type to overlay the Salmon clapboards. The floor is a great place for an author line. I could also see it as outside Miss Kitty's home in Dodge City, of Gunsmoke fame, with its Wild West wooden sidewalks and porches, lol.

And Now a Musical Interlude. Where is our Champagne Lady?

Not exactly a video, lol, but a nice recording of J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #1. I love all six of these works, and I've stood under Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, pictured below. Photo via Google Images, from a German travel site, watermark/website on image.

Repost: Man Walked on the Moon in 1969 and My Grandmother Reminisced about 1899

Note—I wrote this for last year's July 20th post. I'll repost it today for new readers. Another year has come and gone!

R E M E M B R A N C E — I have a mind for trivial facts. Well mostly useless trivia such as the phone numbers of most of my friends from childhood (when we only needed to use 5 numerals instead of the TEN we need now even for local calls) , almost every birthday of college friends I haven't seen in more than 30 years and dates of 'special' events. Don't ask me the title of the book I designed last month though. Some things stick in my head, and some things float in one ear and out the other. July 20, 1969 is a pretty famous day I'm sure most people recognize however—the day a human being first walked on the moon.

I was twelve years old and watching the live TV coverage at my grandmother's home, with Hoohoo (my mother's sister), her husband (my father's brother), and my mother and father. My grandmother was dying of cancer and was bedridden. Everyone was in the livingroom watching on the large color TV (well large for the day, I think it was a 27 inch screen, mostly picked out for it's handsome walnut cabinet almost 4 feet wide—remember when TVs were actually furniture, picked out for their woodwork?) I was in my grandmother's bedroom though, watching on a small black-and-white set (it wasn't for a long time afterward that I realized the actual footage of Neil Armstrong on the Moon WAS in black-and-white by the way, lol.) But I didn't care. I enjoyed my grandmother, Nanny, immensely, and would have gladly missed those first steps if it meant I could spend more time with her. But I didn't have to miss it, we watched together from her bed, chatting and laughing and chatting some more.

I got the best deal of the night, spending it with her. As we watched and listened to all the modern charts and graphs about the telemetry and science of the entire Apollo program on that small TV, Nanny told me about all the other modern things she had seen come in her lifetime: the telephone, electricity and electric light bulbs IN the home, the resultant electric toasters, irons, washing machines, radios, televisions, frozen foods, and of course, cars. She started by telling me about the first car she bought herself, a 1915 Model T Ford Runabout, the smallest version of that venerable car (besides having a difficult to 'put down' cloth top, it didn't even have an opening door on the driver's side—she had to enter the passenger side to drive, and that was only after she hand-cranked it.) She told me about the mid 1920s Buicks her second husband and his brothers owned that she drove after she married into his family. She spoke lovingly of the dark green and black Model A he bought her for their fifth wedding anniversary, the blue 'little Chevy coupe' she had after that ended up having to last all the way through the second world war, and so on and so on. I couldn't ask enough questions about her old cars, and she couldn't tell me enough about them. She loved cars as much as I did, and enjoyed my company as much as I did hers. Boy did we get along!

When it was just a few minutes, maybe even just a few seconds until Armstrong set foot on the Moon, Nanny told me about my great-great-grandfather's funeral she attended when she was only 4 years old in 1899. It was one of her earliest memories. He was lying 'in repose' in his big waterfront home (he owned a large granite quarry, and actually supplied much of the granite for Bedloe's Island—the base of the Statue of Liberty, but that's a story for another time.) Her family took their horse and buggy the short trip to his house where she remembered everyone standing around in black, women and children in scratchy dressed up clothing, the men smoking, spitting and not saying much. They stood outside waiting their turn to go inside the house to see him and pay their respects. 

All of a sudden, everyone heard strange noises coming from the circular drive—chugging and chuffing, clattering and clicking, hissing and squealing. The horses started fussing, which made the buggies start bumping into each other and the men that were still outside ran down to quiet the horses and see what was going on. Nanny remembered her stepmother saying "Why it's an Automobile, a horseless wagon!" and gripped my grandmother's hand tightly as if this new Automobile might snatch the little girl away. Long story short, apparently great-great-grandfather was married three times—divorced twice—and his first wife came all the way down from Newport, Rhode Island to make sure he was well and truly dead, lol—driven in her imposing automobile by a chauffeur and attended to by her two maids that spent a good five minutes just gathering up the lady's hoops and taffetas so she could step out of the back seat! Apparently the first Mrs. Beattie made as much of an impression on my then-four-year old grandmother as her car did.

In short, not only did my grandmother see what was probably the first car to come to Leete's Island Connecticut, she lived long enough to see a man walk on the Moon. Remember, 1899 was a full nine years before Henry Ford produced the Model T for the masses. It was even a couple of years before the Curved Dash Oldmobile. Can you imagine such a huge leap in technology in one lifetime? 

I suppose people will at some point date themselves before the personal computer came into use, or before the Internet, or before Botox or Liposuction, but I'm not sure there will be another 75 year period when such profound changes to our world will occur, and my grandmother was there for it all.

Impromptu Summer Afternoon Nosh

Last night June picked a couple of tomatoes from her garden and made this great summer dish for late afternoon cocktails: tomato slices with fresh mozzarella and basil and oregano, all drizzled with olive oil. She also picked a nice handful of her haricot verts, the very slender green beans, and sauteed them with slivers of almonds. My favorite beer-of-the-week is in the background, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, which stands for India Pale Ale.

It's very calming to sit outside in the early evening watching all of the "wildlife" in the yard: squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, birds, woodchucks, deer, turtles, you name it. There are never any chemicals used anywhere on the property, and I swear the animals and insects tend to gravitate here.

Barely visible in this long-lens shot, is a wren that has built a beautiful nest inside this birdhouse. This wren seems to enjoy sitting inside looking out of the entry hole. You can just barely see a glint in its eye if you look right, lol. Reminds me of my friends that used to sit on the stoops of their brownstone apartments in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, lol. It's a great way of watching the world go by, and this wren enjoys watching us eat and work in the gardens.

Impressionistic long-lens view of the baby bunny, lol. We seem to have one adult pair and just one baby this year. There is a healthy uptick in birds-of-prey this year due to climate and the vagaries of the eco-system. This little tyke is currently about half the size of an adult.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

summerColour—Tomatoes Progress, 2011

OK, in the interest of full disclosure, these are June's burgeoning crop of tomatoes. But they're less than ten feet away from mine, lol. I have little-to-medium fruit on all ten of my plants, but they're all green so far. For the most part I have normal round ones, a nice mix of heirloom and proven winner varieties, but I also have a cherry tomato plant, Sweet 100s, and a plum-shaped tomato plant, San Marzano. I'm not sure of the variety pictured above, but all of June's plants are full organic.

New Visitors in Herbville

Swallowtail butterfly's caterpillar stage. Click on image to enlarge and see my new flashy friend in detail!

In the Swallowtail Butterfly post below, I linked to a website containing the full life cycle of these creatures. There were well-detailed photos of the various stages, including its caterpillars. They're quite interestingly striped and brightly colored, and the text mentioned that they preferred carrot plants, including dill and parsley. On a whim, I went out to my veggie garden's herb section and found not one, but two Swallowtail caterpillars. The larger of the two is on one of my dill plants, above. There is a smaller one on a parsley stem next to it. I really hope they make it all the way through to butterfly! With all the chipmunks and birds we have around here, they might just be too out in the open to last... I'll keep up with the photos as long as they're gracing us with their presence.

Friday, July 15, 2011

First Swallowtail of 2011

The first swallowtail butterfly of the year showed up today on my purple coneflowers. I've been waiting for them to arrive! This particular one is fairly small, with a wingspan of perhaps three inches, and very brightly colored, I think it's freshly metamorphosed from its caterpillar stage. This cutie is a Black Swallowtail. I'm hoping the Tiger Swallowtails arrive soon, too. They're larger, and lighter in color, and it's so much fun to watch both types flittering around the gardens. Click here for a cool website explaining the life cycle of a Black Swallowtail.

This side view shows the polka-dotted body of the butterfly, almost matching the coloring on its wings. It has been outside today on these flowers all afternoon. Both photos are clickable thumbnails, so enlarge them for better viewing!

To see the butterflies from last summer, click here.

NOTE—  If my glasses weren't broken, there would be better photos. I really can't shoot photos with the contact lenses I'm wearing right now, they're at least 8-9 years old and I'm walking around in a bit of a blur.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ain't No Way It's Been So Long

R E M E M BR A N C E — I've loved Aretha Franklin since I was about 10 years old, which would have been 1967. I used to eat dinner and then go to my room and open up my little record player and spin Aretha and Motown 45-rpm records 'til it was time to put on my pajamas and brush my teeth. Much later, I shared this love for music with my late, best buddy, Andy. I loved Andy, as a kindred spirit and as the brother I should have had, from the minute I met him in 1978, a friend of a friend from Vassar. We ended up being roommates in West Hollywood for a short time, and remained best of best friends for the next 22 years. He bought us tickets for an Aretha show in Atlantic City for my 35th birthday, 1992, and Teddy Pendergrass was in the front row in his wheelchair. I can't believe it's been almost 20 years since that crazy, awesome, night. I can't believe Andy died more than 10 years ago, now. I can't believe his birthday would have been this month; we should have shared our "fabulous NOT Fifties," and our "seriously NOT Sixties," together. Ain't no way it's been that long. Ain't no way I'm the one left to meander this rocky Earth alone. Ain't no way.

It's not that much of a video, lol, but it's the best recording of the song by Aretha I found on YouTube.

For my new readers unfamiliar with my work, this is a portrait I did of Andy from a photograph taken ca 1980. It measures 24" x 24" and is now hanging in Andy's mother's home. We used to do The New York Times' crossword puzzles for hours on end, and we spent a lot of time on NYC's subways. This is an homage to those checkerboard puzzles, the intricate tilework in original NYC subway stations, and to the multi-colored rainbow ways we viewed the world and led our lives.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Let's Try Again : )

My new purple petunia. This is the third plant I've tried in my new blue planter. The first, a bright orange marigold, withered and died. The second, a New Guinea impatiens also "failed to thrive." I'm hoping the third time is the charm. This part of the porch gets the brightest, and hottest, sun of the day, from about 11am to 2 pm, and it's in the shadows the rest of the time. It's a difficult place to keep annuals going, but I like planted containers near my front door.  I like this color combination, I hope it works!

A few of my gladiolas are blossoming now. They are absolutely not the Green with Envy variety as they were identified on the package. The bulbs must have been mismarked. I'm still quite thrilled by them. They're a very buttery yellow, almost like the canned creamed corn I require when I'm sick and can't keep food down, lol.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Gotta Move Those Old-Stock Tea Roses

Digital manipulation of the old-stock Tea Rose on the property. It's on the edge of the mown part of the lawn, the driveway and the woods. Every year I've been here I've told myself to dig it out of it's terribly crowded low-light home, and transplant it to a move favorable spot. Every year, something else needs my attention more until I forget. This is the year I'm finally going to move it. As soon as it stops flowering! I think I'll move it behind the granite bench in the backyard. It will get more sun and air. Each flower is no more than an inch wide, but they cluster in groups. I really prefer old-fashioned, old-stock flowers and plants whenever, and wherever, I can find them. I think they're healthier, stronger of "constitution," and fend off preying insects better.

Typical clusters of this old-fashioned rose.

The orange day lilies and lavender hostas look really nice together this weekend. I'm still hoping the hybrid day lilies and my Tiger lilies bloom. They're becoming the nightly salad bar for the local deer.

The wider view of the "tree garden." I spent two afternoons this week weeding and thinning out the perennials that have already bloomed. It's a bit more textural now. This photo looks nice enlarged, lol!

This Hydrangea has been in its location for two years now. It has 9-10 flowers forming on it. I think I only had three last year. They start out a pale green, almost exactly like an Annabel variety. Then they brighten to a nice, clean white. Then they begin to turn blue, lavender and pink, and will end this fall a deep burgundy with greenish accents. The three blooms above show three stages of coloration.

July Arrives on the Wrong Side of the Tracks

Pale blue porch container with who-knows-what growing in it, lol. There is a Marigold in the center, from a seed, but I'm not sure what is all around it. I would normally think "weed," since I don't recognize it, but it's so thick, and so obviously planted around the perimeter of the planter, that it must be something!

One of my several small groups of Feverfew. The white daisy-like flowers are only about 1/2-inch wide.

Dapples of sun against the 150 year old clapboards and shutters. Hostas and day lilies sway in the wind in this corner of the yard.

No matter what variety of tomato is in our garden, their flowers are yellow. They all look exactly the same. I like the sky and the shape of the wire cage in this photo.

June's tomatoes were planted a few weeks before mine. She has fruit growing already.

I have ten tomato plants this year, in eight varieties. I have two heirloom Brandywines, and two Celebrities. 

The planter in the backyard, on top of a square piece of granite. The mid-morning shadows of the granite bench can be seen on the right. Flowers include an oddly-colored Petunia, a Marigold grown from 10 year old seeds, a pink Verban and a bean plant. I have 5-6 green beans forming in the planter, lol. The Petunia is supposed to be "raspberry and lime," but it's more like grayish pink and grayish yellow. The flowers might have one stripe on them, maybe two, five or none. It's very healthy and unique, so it stays. We all can't be raving beauties, haha. 

Another Hosta and Day Lily combination, this time in the front "tree" garden. The bird bath and Hummingbird feeder can be seen in the upper right.

Neatly spaced rows of squash. The rows of beans begins in the upper right. We use a method of planting that includes laying down newspaper between plants and rows, and covering it with seed-free straw or hay, usually from a salt-water source.

Beans, beans, beans. I suspect we'll be having many bean dishes next week or the week after!

Yup, Hostas and Day Lilies in another part of the yard with the parking area in the background. The Amtrak train tracks are right beyond that.