I see I have not posted anything since Hurricane Ida. I had fallen waaaaaay behind even before that – lots of fun adventures out in Arizona in June, my birthday trip to NYC in July, hiking and sight-seeing in NJ in September – yep way behind. Add to that Sukkot, a trip to NYC in September, again in October, gardening, walking, the theater, and another all-day NYC experience, I may never catch up. I was loading photos from my phone to my laptop today and realized that I MUST share some of these pictures with you.
I LOVE architecture. My son learned this when we were touring in Italy together several years ago. All those paintings of dukes riding out to meet so-and-so. Endless. Boring. Even the Sistine Chapel was only “cool”, not breath-taking. (Yes, I know I am sadly deficient. It happens.) The REALLY cool pictures at the Vatican Museum were in the Gallery of Maps. OMG!!!! LOVED the Map Room! Loved the palaces, the plazas, the buildings. Architecture and maps.
I have several photos from my NYC trips earlier this year, but I’ll save them for when (if) I write up those adventures. In the meantime I’m sharing the pics from this past weekend.
I LOVE architecture. 🙂 I even really like road cloverleafs and the ramp structures. If you build it, I will admire. 🙂
This week was Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish new year (actually one of the 4 Jewish new years, but that’s a different post). Traditionally in the afternoon of the first day Jews will go down to a body of flowing water and perform the Tashlich ceremony. This is one of those fascinating customs that (most likely) grew out of superstition and pagan beliefs but became adopted and clothed in religious ceremony over time. There are many very interesting and, in my opinion, satisfying explanations for why we throw bread, why it should be running water, why there should be fish, but basically that’s all it is: we throw bread crumbs into the flowing water, symbolically casting off our sins. If only it were that easy, right?
Our congregation typically meets at one of the 2 parks in town, at the boat dock. This year that park was trashed by Ida and was still closed to the public by Rosh Hashanah. The congregational gathering was moved to a different town, different park, different water. Tashlich does not require a minyan – a specified number of participants – so I decided to walk down to the brook to do Tashlich. The brook is about 3 blocks from my house – and DOWN the hill thankfully.
I grew up in this town and have seen many many changes. I used to walk down to the brook with a friend and we would go exploring. We could walk for blocks along the brook – ducking through the culverts under bridges, looking at the little fish, and in general having a good youthful time. Then more and more lots got developed, people got crankier and more possessive, and not only was access to the brook getting harder (my classmate Bobby’s family built their house on OUR access way) but the people who lived along the brook got hostile and nasty about kids walking on by. In short, it is much harder these days to get down to the brook to meander. There are still a few paths and the brook is usually only a matter of inches deep, not treacherous at all.
My good friends live in a house next to the brook. Either they or the previous owners – also friends of ours – sued Amtrak and NJ Transit because they owned the culverts and were NOT keeping them clear. That meant a heavy rain would back up the brook and flood the houses on both sides along the brook. The lawsuit was successful and the culverts ARE kept clear. They didn’t really help this storm, however. There was so much water that it was not necessarily a matter of the brook flooding. It was the river of rainwater flowing down the hill into the low lying houses. It was the underground streams so saturated that no more water could be absorbed. It was the rain pouring through windows and floors and walls into everyone’s basements. It was 30″+ of water on the FIRST floor of their house. That means not only do you lose your rugs, your furniture, your food (the refrigerator has less than 30″ clearance) but your electrical system is gone (water pouring through your outlets). Probably your plumbing is damaged severely as well, plus your hot water, furnace, laundry.
After Tashlich I walked about, unburdened for the moment by sins, but carrying a load of regret for all of my neighbors whose lives were left out on the curb, soggy, sodden messes. I’m very thankful that we had almost no water in our basement. Thankful that although my friends may have lost so much of their home and belongings, they are alive and well. The brook looks so peaceful and calm today. It’s so hard to imagine the raging merciless torrents of water of last week.
The weather conditions this year have been extremely beneficial to my tall plants. Perhaps too beneficial The rudbeckia was sooooo tall, that it far outstripped the meager supports I had in place. When the heavy rains came in the beginning of August, many of those plants bent and snapped – there was simply too much plant, too much wind, too much rain, and supports that were much too low. The supports did more damage during those rains than if there had been no supports at all. Some of the rudbeckia survived but many were destroyed. Note for next spring: put in tall stakes in the corners of the garden to string supporting twine higher.
The Bolton’s Aster is taller than than the previous 2 years. Side note: I was out gardening one day and was chatting with a passer-by. She actually asked me if the Bolton’s Aster was a weed. Really????? We’re discussing my flowers and garden and you really think I’d be growing a huge weed in the front garden? Anyway, the aster is huge. It was staying upright, with a little help from some supports, until the last week or so. Then the winds and rains from Henri & Ida proved to be a bit much.
Unlike the rudbeckia, the aster had room and flexibility to bend all the way to the ground. Unfortunately, both the aster and I have great difficulty springing back gracefully to upright positions. 🙂 While the aster looked okay as a bush, I really prefer it tall, swaying in the breeze (like Mary’s dress). As a bush it was also killing everything under it – grass, flowers, peony. I bought three 6′ stakes. Yesterday I got my husband to pound the stakes into the ground for me. There was a time when I’d have struggled valiantly to do the stake-pounding myself. My husband is 6′ tall and I’m only 5’1″, he’s strong, and I’m not as strong as he is, so despite the fact that I do NOT let him help me up from the floor when I’m weak as a kitten (this part is for YOU, Honour), I did ask him to help me with the stakes. I held, he pounded. I also had him do the twine tying. After all, he IS the structural engineer. 🙂 I think the asters look much better this way. And NO, they are NOT weeds.
PLURAL!!! There were TWO butterflies in the garden this afternoon. I was backing the car out when I saw a butterfly swooping about. I am that crazy that I pulled back into the driveway and grabbed my new phone so I could get a picture! PROOF! I love that my new phone allows me to access the camera without unlocking the phone. As I clicked away at the butterfly on the Mexican Sunflower Torch, another monarch flew by, heading for the garden that borders the street.
While the first butterfly was deep into Torch nectar, the 2nd butterfly was much more flittery 🙂 Yes, that’s a word. It finally came to rest on the zinnia. Obviously the first butterfly sent the word out, however, and the 2nd butterfly came over to enjoy the Mexican Sunflower. TWO butterflies!!!! I’m so excited. About 2 weeks ago I saw a red spotted purple butterfly (I think) around the garage, and then the next day I saw a humming bird checking out the front porch hanging planters. I didn’t have a camera either time so you’ll have to take my word for it. 🙂 But today – TWO butterflies!!! I even took a video so I could watch the wings fluttering. 🙂 What a joyous way to start the new year! L’shana tovah u’metukah
This weekend was my weekend to try once more with the path between our deck and our neighbors’ fence. On Friday I had what has now become my yearly biopsy on my tongue (major ugh and unhappiness). That means that until I can no longer feel the stitches and any and all side effects have vanished, I can’t really talk or eat or do much of anything. It’s Labor Day weekend so 3 days off from work and then Rosh Hashanah on Tuesday and Wednesday. No one expecting much of anything from me. No family holiday dinner as there is no family in town at the moment and, as noted, I couldn’t be sure I could talk or eat in time for holiday dinner. The good news is that (1) I can actually chew some food today and (2) the weather cooperated wonderfully for garden work and (3) my husband was kind enough to go lift, buy, and lift the lumber I wanted.
We already know the burlap failed to slow rapid growth of the weeds. It did function beautifully for my other 2 criteria: water permeable and bio-degradable. I don’t think I realized how much water collects in that area. You can see from the photos that there is one section there where it is WET. I don’t think you can tell from the pictures but under 3 of the stones the burlap actually tore, it was that wet and frayed. The new plan was again something that sounded as if it should be easy but ended up having nuances I’d not anticipated. This is why you should really hire professionals, or do a LOT of research beforehand (not my forte) or figure it’s going to take much longer than you expected or have a very low threshold for satisfaction with work done. I chose the last option. The plan was to pick up the stepping stones, line the path with nylon screening, then secure that screening with the bricks lining the mulch, with the stepping stones themselves, and with 4×4 poles along the fence. I’d used the metal U-staples on the burlap. I needed a zillion of them and I wasn’t sure how well they’d work on the nylon.
My first surprise came when I picked up the stones and saw how quickly the burlap was deteriorating. I begin to understand the popularity of that revolting black weed block. My next surprise came with the screening. I’d ordered a roll of 100′ x 60″, enough for 2 layers of screen mesh. I hadn’t realized how SLIPPERY screen mesh can be. This is where the “easily satisfied” aspect of the job manifested. Besides the screen slithering around and bunching up, it’s late summer. Leaves were falling the whole time I was working. Despite using a leaf blower to clear the burlap before beginning work, and after putting down the first layer of screening, leaves were falling faster than I worked. There are leaves between the screen and the burlap, and leaves between the 2 screen layers. Oh well – they are biodegradable. 🙂
My other miscalculation was my lack of energy. My last solid food was dinner Thursday night. Biopsy on Friday, only water and tylenol with codeine. Water on Saturday. Late Saturday afternoon I was able to – oh, what’s a polite word for what I did? – ingest some pretzels. Little pieces of pretzel. That I could hold in the non-cut side of my mouth until I could swallow. If you don’t eat protein, and have experienced trauma to your body, you aren’t in very good shape to do physical labor. I’ve never let that stop me before and didn’t take it into consideration on Saturday afternoon either.
I got most of the walk done – I gave up about 2/3 of the way replacing the bricks – the last step. My husband found me on the kitchen floor, conscious, but not very functional. I’d finally given up when the only thing I was aware of was a nearly overwhelming sense of nausea. I was close enough to the bathroom when I lay down that I figured I could get there in time. Other than that, I had no energy. I was drained. You know I must have seemed out of it when he asked me if he should call the ambulance. That’s the point when I figured maybe I should let him help me up so I could get to a chair. Of course being me, I refused to let him help me (he was moving too fast and strong) and I needed to take off my dirty gardening clothes (something he thought was unnecessary). I fell asleep in the chair wrapped in a sheet. Definitely a case of over-doing. I got up early Sunday morning, put on my dirty gardening clothes and went out to finish putting the bricks back into place. 🙂 I’m not loving the look – the burlap looked so much nicer – but I’m hoping this will keep the weeds growing at a slower pace. If not, I’ll think about it over the winter, and call in the professionals in the spring. 🙂
Unlike all too many of our fellow New Jerseyans, we were relatively unscathed by Ida. We had several moments of worry as we listened to the report of a possible tornado heading up the road towards us, but it evaporated about 8 miles south of town. Other than that all we had was a bit of water in one area of the basement.
The water in the basement was a bit surprising. After Irene in 2011, when we lost the carpeting, some furniture, and other ‘stuff’ that had been on the floor, I did some serious re-organizing down there. Anything that can be up on blocks is up on 2″ blocks. Anything that can be stored in plastic bins is stored in plastic bins. I try to be mindful of ‘flooding floor’ whenever I move anything to the basement. If it’s not waterproof, it needs to be up. The exceptions of course are all the major appliances down there: washer, dryer, refrigerator, treadmill. There are so many underground streams here that I know that I’ll never banish completely the threat of water inside.
When I went to check on the basement Wednesday night, and found the water, I noticed I’d gotten careless and there were non-waterproof items directly on the floor. I picked them up and checked the other parts of the basement. We have French drains in the basement AND a sump pump. After Irene we also have a generator to keep the sump pump going should the power fail. I’m not sure why we got water this time. Either the pump couldn’t keep up (we got 8 inches of rain) or there is a weak spot over there, but I won’t know until I go down there and start moving everything out of that corner. Nothing there should have any damage – all on blocks or in plastic or is waterproof itself. I’ve had 3 fans going down there since Wednesday night. I’ll need to schedule some time to do major furniture movement and disinfecting the floor.
I count myself extremely fortunate, however. My next-door neighbors had standing water in their basement. I saw they had plastic floor tiles out drying in the sun yesterday. Some of my neighbors made poor choices while driving Wednesday night. NEVER go through standing water ESPECIALLY when the water is on a bridge that spans a brook. People all over town reported flooded basements and damaged property. We were spared the tornadoes that ripped up other parts of the state. There was a sink hole at the apartments on the far side of the railroad tracks. I believe that many many years ago there was a pond there. Back in the spring I was caught in a major thunderstorm. The water pouring down that hill and across the road was intimidating. A sink hole opening up at the top of that hill does not surprise me.
The climate is changing and I’ll need to revisit my precautions. But all in all, a few road closures, some damp items, some flooded flower pots, are minor inconveniences. My friend Honour posted about the “roar” of the fish in the river. Here I share the roar of the river itself.
I love the Canna Lilies. Last year the plants were so stupendously gorgeous that I did something I never do. I dug up the bulbs and stored them in the basement to winter-over. The basement is not as cold nor as dark as I thought, even in the old coal bin. I noticed in January that there were plants sprouting. ??? In April I brought them upstairs. They were pale yellow and weak. I had to put them in a spot where they’d get light but not direct sun. I had to nurse them back to green strength. Finally in May I could put them outside. They are all doing wonderfully. They are gorgeous. Passersby stop to ask “what are those plants????” I love them. There is no other text or description needed. The Canna Lilies stand on their own. 🙂
Angelica Gigas – I went to elementary school with her, right? No that’s not it. Hmm – camp maybe? No, no, still not right. Ah!!!! A surprise gift from my friend Betty at Heritage Flower Farm!!!!
Last year I’d ordered several perennials. I ordered my plants in March as I usually do. In 2020 I placed my order at the start of the first ‘lock down’ for Covid19. I don’t think that impacted what I ordered. I’ve been planting native perennials that attract pollinators and butterflies, with a few other fun items tossed in. The plants ship as bare-root plants. That means Betty doesn’t send them until the end of April at the earliest and I need to get them in the ground as soon as I can. I use May 15 as my “frost” date. I only need to keep those plants going for a few days.
I’d ordered a few new things – a bleeding heart vine and swamp milkweed. Imagine my delight to find tucked in with my order a gift from Betty – 2 Angelica Gigas plants! Her note said that the plants were looking so spectacular that she just had to share. 🙂 I’d never heard of these plants so began my research on the HFF site and then to Wikipedia and other garden sites. I confess that I still don’t quite understand “biennials”, but AG is a biennial. I planted them in the front, in a very sunny spot, at the end of my row of Rudbeckia Laciniata Hortensia. 🙂 They didn’t do much to impress me other than stay green and survive.
This year, however, was obviously their biennial year and their year to shine. I say “their” but I believe only one of the 2 survived. It’s a bit crowded in that corner so I’m not quite sure if there is another AG in there. First there was a whole crop of big green leaves. I had to keep tying them back to let sun shine on the other plants and seeds I had going there.
Then the buds started. The flower buds are so different than any other buds that I’ve seen. I’d look at them trying to figure out where/how there was going to be a flower. It looked like a leaf was sprouting from the bud and I was extremely confused (not an unusual condition for me with my garden). It was fascinating to watch them open. The plant is still going strong. It started putting out buds in July, and is still blooming here in late August. I’m not sure if it will flower again next year, or if I have to wait 2 years, but I know I’m going to be happy to see it when it blooms again!
If we were going to be in Tucson, we were going to Saguaro National Park, that was quite obvious. But there are TWO sides to the Park, which means decisions must be made! Okay, the truth is that some decisions are very easy to make. I was NOT up for hiking. It was late June. Hot. Sunny. Already past 10 am. We were going to do a drive-through tour, not a walking tour. That means the East side of the park – the Rincon Mountain District.
When my son moved out to Arizona 3 years ago, he and his friend stopped in Tucson. Adam, his friend, is a marathon hiker – totally fit, used to hiking high elevations, low elevations, acclimated to all types of trails. My son – not so much. They began hiking on the west side – the Tucson Mountain District. As it happens, I was “watching” them on my Life360 app on my phone at the time. I’d made them promise to have it on the whole trip from Orlando, FL to Tempe, AZ.
I saw the little dot moving in the middle of nothing. I zoomed in. Still just nothing. Zoomed, zoomed, zoomed – finally a skinny little white line indicating a path in the middle of NOTHING. It was July, it was mid-morning. My son turned back at his half-water mark. Adam made it all the way to whatever is at the end of that trail and back. 🙂 Adam rocks but we are NOT Adam. We drive.
It’s always fun to drive to the trails. Long before you get to the rangers’ welcome center you are always deep into the desert/park and surrounded by beauty. We did stop at the welcome center to make sure our water bottles were full. Even in an air-conditioned car it is dry dry dry. I knew I’d be bopping in and out for photos so enough water was a must.
Truth to tell, I don’t remember any individual WOW moment on the loop. While it is starkly beautiful, it did not move me the way the red & white rocks of Sedona do. What I did love were the flowers holding their own against the climate, the way the bushes twist and grow, the unexpected green in the midst of dust.
When we started the loop we were alone – no other cars entered just before or after us. Shortly after our first few pull-offs, however, a van from NC caught up to us. Two women and children in the car. We began by nodding and waving as we passed in the pull-offs, but did ultimately progress to chatting. We talked cameras, national parks, travel in general. 🙂 It was quite companionable and NOT intrusive. Of course, I LIKE chatting with people.
There was another car that came in shortly after we did but I think they either had different expectations or they’d taken a wrong turn. I don’t recall them pulling off and shortly after seeing them they sped off. I know there were not a lot of other vehicles nor did we see any wildlife, but even for this NJ gal who can really open up on the NJ Tpke, I think they were going a bit fast for the venue.
I’m so lucky I do these trips with my son. Either I’ve brow-beaten him into submission or he enjoys the stops as well as I do (unlike my husband and my friend Honour, both of whom seem incapable of slowing down or stopping when I call out -ooo THERE!!). He was doing the driving and he was very patient about pulling into the side spaces or stopping in the middle of the road. Maybe one day I’ll have a very good camera, some talent/instruction, and his forbearance will be rewarded by excellent photographs.
Until then, you get what you get. 🙂 Yes – getting a new camera IS still on my to-do list. The NC van tired before we did and soon disappeared in the distance. We continued along until even I had had enough of rocks and cacti. I’d expected a lot more cacti than we saw. One of the pull-outs had a sign by the viewpoint explaining that there HAD been many more cacti decades ago. Grazing and fires and invasive plants had killed off a lot of the saguaro cacti. The fires were actually a bonus because they killed off the invasive flora. Once the cattle were removed as well, the saguaro began to thrive.
One day I would like to go back and do some hiking on the western side. I’ve learned in the last 3 years, howev16er, that hiking in AZ is nothing like hiking in NJ. I need to get in better shape to deal with the altitude and I need to stop trying to hike in the hottest months of the year. 🙂 One of these days I’ll get out there in the cooler months.
Although we did take a LONG time to traverse the 8 miles, when we had finished we still had plenty of time left in the day. We checked to see what there might be to see in Tucson that was close, easy, and didn’t require preparation. We discovered we were not too far from John F. Kennedy Park, which had a LAKE! After the sere beauty of the cacti, a lake sounded perfect.
We got there with no trouble, but had to do a bit of circling to find the entrance. This is where relying solely on your phone for guidance can land you in the wrong spot. AFTER we extricated ourselves from the gravel behind the Pima County Public Library, we ignored our phones and relied on our inherited sense of direction (thank you, Ernie!). That was MUCH more successful. As you can see, JFK park is lovely. There is fishing, boating, swimming and ducks. 🙂 Not to mention a view of the mountains. Once we’d relaxed and cooled down in the shade of the tree, we headed out to Culinary Dropout for dinner!
I was wrong. Okay everyone? Happy now?? 🙂 I admitted it. You were all right and I was wrong. But my idea wasn’t wrong – it was my implementation. 🙂
I HATE that black weed block. In my initial days of homeownership, before I spent hours and hours planting flowers and herbs, I hired landscapers. We’d built a deck, and I wanted to safety-proof it for our new-born son. The service put down weed block and then a very thick layer of mulch all around the deck. For years we would add a fresh layer if the mulch bed was wearing down. That probably helped to kill our cherry tree – suffocating the root system.
Time goes by, children grow up, hobbies change, views from the house change, and ultimately, as I’ve recorded here, the time came to “do something” with the back yard. With the kitchen renovation I saw the backyard every day. The window had always been there, but I used to sit with my back to it, not sideways to the view. Now I see the back yard all the time. I began working my way from my viewpoint around the back to the compost bins and then this year to the side strip between the deck and my neighbors’ fence.
That strip gets very little sun, but all the rain that everyone else gets. We don’t usually walk there except to get to prune the ivy growing up the deck privacy screens or to get to the water spigot on that side of the house. All of this means that that side of the house tends to be nothing but weeds. I wouldn’t mind too much if the weeds were mowed, but that wasn’t getting done either. I decided to make a path. I wanted it to be ‘green’ – it should be permeable and it should NOT have that hated black weed blocker that lasts for generation after generation, and should you decide you WANT to plant, you need a machete to cut the weed blocker to get to soil. I wanted a semi-temporary solution until I figured out what should be done as a permanent solution.
First I weed-whacked all the weeds as low as I could get them. I pruned the weeds and the garbage out from the base of the ivy. Next I covered that area with fine burlap. I know that weeds CAN grow through burlap, but I’d picked a very fine mesh and I was hoping for slowing the growth, not obliterating the growth. I put down stepping stones so that we could use that path even after rain when the ground would be muddy. I put down mulch at the base of the plants to help slow weed growth and make it more attractive. I noticed that the mulch was higher than the other side of the path, which meant a heavy rain could wash the mulch right across the path into the fence. I put down bricks on the burlap to line the mulch and hold it back. It looked VERY nice, in my opinion.
My family complained that the stones were too far apart for a comfortable walk. I’d been thinking of a ‘working stride’ not a “stroll” so my initial spacing worked for that. They also pointed out that weeds could/would grow throw the burlap but I demonstrated how easy it now was for me to pluck the few daring plants. They were unimpressed. I went and bought more stones and made a comfortable path. The the rains came. With the rains came faster more abundant growth, and much more humidity. Perhaps I’d have weeded better without the humidity, maybe it would have always been too much, too fast.
I’m going to try one more “patch” this year and then let it go. The path is 54″ wide. I ordered a roll of fine mesh window screen material – 100′ x 60″. I’m going to pick up the stones, roll out the screen, put back the stones. If this does not sufficiently slow the weeds to a point where I can battle them successfully, I’ll admit complete defeat. Next year I’ll call in a landscape service. 🙂