The Great Lettuce Experiment Continues

The lettuce kept growing in the bowl of water. I don’t know why but every time I looked at it I was enchanted. It seemed so magical. It had never occurred to me to take the base and regrow from it. I’d been turning the lettuce cores into compost. 🙂 Also a very fine use. I understand I can do this with leeks and celery as well. My next experiment!!!

We all decided, however, that sooner or later the lettuce was going to need additional nutrients. That meant either adding nutrients to the water or planting them. I opted for planting. This morning I took them outside, prepared two pots, and got them into the soil. This morning also revealed that I’d lost a skirmish in the great Deer Wars. Someone figured out how to remove the netting I’d place loosely over the echinacea along the driveway. It was chomped.

I got out the bamboo poles and the netting and fenced in that area. I figured that I’d better protect the lettuce as well. I needed to not only net them but raise them up to protect them from ground ‘critters’. I took two of my plant stands from my porch (used in the past for raising up palm trees) and put them in the ground, with the pots on top. Then I added netting. I have the aromatic herbs in front of that, and they seemed to have protected the echinacea that’s in that bed, but I decided to stretch the netting over the echinacea as well.

echinacea got munched on the left. one budding flower remained on the right

I may have lost a skirmish last night, but I believe I’m winning the war. My neighbor across the street told me she watched a deer yesterday come around the side of the house. It walked along the front netting. Then it walked through the gap between the pots and the front netting and down the driveway. Which is where and when it undoubtedly munched the echinacea. But the very fact that my hibiscus and other yummies were untouched is proof that my strategy is effective!

you can see the netting at the top of the poles – it gets lost with the plants as a backdrop

Today’s Planned Activities

a very happy Brunnera macrophilla ‘Jack Frost’. thankfully the deer don’t appear to appreciate it

Isn’t that the way cruise ships and resorts talk about the day’s events? 🙂 Perhaps I should view retirement as one long cruise. *laughing* As If.

plants that wintered over – dianthus and something. i thought it was vinca. but maybe not.

I’m still transitioning from career-life to retirement-life. Still don’t miss the job at all. 🙂 Isn’t that wonderful? I really don’t think about the work or the people. And that IS a relief because despite my long, 3-month transitioning while employed, I was concerned that I’d miss it. Nope. Cross that one off the list.

happy chives, with lemon balm to the right, and probably lots of dianthus or maybe verbena as well

Yesterday was about getting new eye glasses and meeting with my financial advisor. I find it both interesting and comforting that the projected monthly cash flow we drew up in January is still fairly accurate here in May. Even with the unexpected expenses (car deductible for having the car hit at the concert, having to pay 4 months of CMS medicare payments to start, and other expenses like that) we’ve managed to modify our extravagant, thoughtless ways and stay on course. 🙂 Kudos to us!!!! I’m still not 100% sure that “this” is all going to “work out” but at least my inner 6-year old has stopped screaming daily. As a matter of fact, I treated myself to a gardening present.

first clematis and alium flowers, lots more buds

Last year I had to devise a see-through fence to keep my flowers safe from the deer. We have rabbits, ground hogs, skunks and possums as well, all of whom seem to think that my garden is the local buffet. To be fair, not just my garden but I only worry about mine. I had a very healthy pot of echinacea that wintered over wonderfully. I moved it to the side of the house in a sunny spot. Yesterday I noticed something had bitten the tops off of everything there. 😦 One of today’s activities will be to toss some netting over that pot.

once i was a real echinacea plant

I’d like to grow more vegetables and/or herbs without having to worry about spraying hot pepper or chili over them. The afternoon sun is on the driveway side of the house, which means I have nowhere to plant there. So I treated myself to a 2nd raised bed (2nd because a few years ago my brother-in-law built me one out of some leftover wood he had). I couldn’t resist Home Depot when I saw this raised bed. It was almost everything I wanted (it doesn’t have wheels) including a trellis back AND it was 20% off. That trellis back means I can attach netting or screening to it and drape it over the plants to protect them from the Hungries.

doesn’t this look great??? wonder what it will look like when I try to build it. 🙂

Unfortunately the garden bed does NOT come assembled. 😦 That is something I will have to do (unless by some miracle the person who is SUPPOSED to be replacing boards on the deck actually shows up this week). The box came yesterday. Today’s adventures will include unpacking it and seeing if it’s easy to assemble (pre-drilled holes and such) or if I’m going to need “Someone with Tools”. In either case I’m actually very excited to have this for this year. 🙂

my poor willow. 😦 i really loved this bush – white & pink & green

Other chores involve cutting down my poor willow bush. 😦 I don’t know what happened to it. It was fine last year. But this spring it’s dead. No question about it – I gave it a few weeks to see if it was merely ill or slow but no, it’s definitely not coming back. I don’t know what happened to it. We had such a mild winter. That might be the answer – maybe cold winters kill off whatever killed off my willow. I also lost a small Japanese maple tree in my back yard. That was a cutting from my tree in the front of the house, before it starting failing and we pulled it. Taking that down is much less pressing as it’s not as large and it’s in an out-of-the-way spot.

The plants I’m growing from seed are doing very well for the most part. You can see that there are a few empty containers. I wanted to move them outdoors last weekend, let them get used to real life and light. This past weekend was 3 days of rain and this week the temperature is 10 degrees below normal (in the 50s, not the 60s) so I’ve not moved them yet. I’m not 100% sure those containers would drain properly in heavy rain.

My rudebeckia laciniata hortensia is coming back, as is the anise hyssop. I don’t know why the rudbeckia does not spread more. I’ve dug up and pulled out everything that is not that, trying to leave it room to spread. RLH just wants to head towards the sidewalk. I also seem to be inundated with lots of white snake root, which is a weed I don’t want (you can see at least 2 of them in the photo below). I seem to only have 2 anise hyssops coming back and I’m fairly certain I had 3 originally (pushed up against the barrier at the bottom of the photo – again – why do they grow THAT direction???). I ordered 2 more this year from my favorite online garden shop – Heritage Flower Farm.

i had to undo the screen this morning and shove 2 health RLH plants back into the enclosure. look at all that empty room I’ve made for them. and they want the sidewalk.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about native NJ plants and invasive perennials. I went to a seminar at the library and they listed some nurseries that specialize in NJ plants. I’m hoping I can get to one of them this weekend. Every year I try to get more perennials planted. The reasoning is two-fold. I’d prefer not to keep spending hundreds of dollars every spring buying plants. I’d also like to minimize how much bending and clearing and planting I need to do. I will probably keep buying tropicals to put in the big planters I use to line my front walk, but it would be helpful if most of the permanent beds were perennials.

that maybe vinca, dusty miller, dianthus, curry plant (top), sage (far right)

Under the heading of “can’t beat ’em, join ’em”, I’ve given up on trying to have creeping thyme between the front bed and the lawn. It didn’t seem to work as I hoped. This year I am digging up the little violet plants from the beds and planting them in the lawn in front of the bed. I don’t care about grass. The only saving grace about grass is I don’t have to care for it the way I do flowers. 🙂 I also took one of the clover plants and stuck that there as well. That’s another “weed” that seems to have inundated one of my garden beds. Let’s see how well it thrives when I WANT it to grow and spread. 🙂

My Inner 6-Yr Old

“Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill someone else.”

Pink rose mallow

I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy in my life. I know it only harms me dwelling on hurts and grievances. I know that I need to recognize it, understand it, and move on. But very often my inner 6-year old takes over and refuses to let things go. Tonight is one of those nights.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail enjoying the zinnias

At my second professional corporate position, we had to do evaluations. This particular company had forms that were filled out by your peers, your clients, and your management. It was a way to get a more complete picture of how you worked and related to others. I was young. I was often emotional, defensive, wanting to be the best, never err, and win piles of praise. My father had talked to me about corporate life and appropriate behavior. I tried to live up to my daddy’s teachings. So you can imagine my absolute delight and astonishment when I got the results of my appraisal. “Takes criticism and feedback well.” Wow. Did I have them fooled. *grin* Because whenever I DID receive any “constructive criticism” while my demeanor stayed pleasant and professional inside my head I was screaming and raging. 🙂

Noticed this above my head one day as I put the top down on the convertible 🙂

I’m not all that much different all these years (decades) later. I attempt to be professional, gracious, considerate, calm. I don’t always manage the calm but I think I’m decent at the others. That means that I really really REALLY do NOT enjoy nor forget when I’m treated in ways that I feel are NOT professional nor courteous.

Black swallowtail enjoying the zinnias

In the last 2+ years I have transitioned some of the systems I support to a different team. Our first experience got off on the wrong foot, in my opinion. I know why, and I’m not sure that at their age and relative (compared to me) experience that I would not have done the same. From my perspective they decided that since the work was moving from my system to theirs, since the primary client said the current system stunk and they shouldn’t even look at it, they never approached me to discuss the migration. After they’d built a system and were ready for data is when they approached me. They talked down to me, they dismissed what I said, they “knew better” and it went on like that through the whole process. It wasn’t very pleasant for me but I did what needed to be done on my part because that constituted being professional and doing what was best for my client and employer.

white rose mallow

Unfortunately I needed to deal with the same team yet again the following year. I’d inherited a system I did NOT want to support, and we were moving it to their system. I was delighted and told them that repeatedly. This situation could not in any way be construed as me feeling deprived or resentful for “losing” a system. I couldn’t wait to be rid of it. 🙂 I was named the business owner for the migration effort as I had experience with the process, the clients and the business objective. Yet again I was treated with contempt and rudeness. Lest you think in this case I’m being overly sensitive, my manager set in on one call and was appalled at how I was treated. Daddy would have been proud of me. I stayed calm, stayed on topic, refused to be bullied.

zinnias and rudbeckia hortensia laciniata

Ultimately it came time to cutover from the old system (which we all loathed) to the new one. Unfortunately I did not feel that the new system could do all that the clients needed. It lacked key functionality. The new team wanted to release anyway. We had to present to management why I thought we could not release and they thought we could. Management sided with me. We stayed in development and we put out a great new system because that team really does do excellent work in an excellent tool.

swallowtail enjoying the mandevilla. incipient goldenrod in the foreground

Well here we are, months later. They are working on a project and lo and behold – they want to brainstorm with me. They need information about the process and tool I support. Being a professional of course I will…..

caged tithonia (Mexican sunflower). but at least it’s not part of the deer buffet

My inner 6-year old has begun screaming in my head. The heck I’m going to help!!!! So all of a sudden I’m NOT an idiot????? Because I’m the only one who knows this information and you NEED me? Because it’s been such a JOY to work with you in the past? You think I’m going to sit there and calmly teach you everything you’ve scorned for the last 2 years? You’ve made a dozen decisions on this already and “oh I forgot to tell you” and suddenly I’m part of the process??????

grape tomatoes and herbs and flowers in the rain

You see what I’m up against? I cannot get the 6-yr old to let it go. She’s giving me a headache. She’s enraged. She’s vindictive. She’s gloating. And yet we both know she’s NOT going to get her way. So she’s mad at me, too. Sigh. She and I go through this periodically – this bit where she is determined that THIS time we WILL do it HER way. (Yes, she talks in caps a lot – she’s very emotional.) Maybe giving her air time here will help. Although I’m not sure I let her vent enough up there. *grin*

orange gardenia

Okay, Daddy, I’m taking a big breath. I’m going to make you proud. If it kills me.

echinacea and rose mallow

“What’s It Like?”

I am having top-notch nursing care

I can’t believe how many people have asked me that this week. What’s it like to have Covid? MISERABLE. No matter how much you want to be “in” with the “in crowd” – pass up the opportunity to get sick.

Not the usual counter-top picture I share with you, but neither of us is much into food or cooking this week.

My husband and I have the same symptoms. It’s like having a horrible, horrible head cold or, imagine this, a viral infection in the sinuses. We are both congested. He’s coughing every few minutes and I’m blowing my nose non-stop. We’re both trying desperately to keep it out of our chests, because once the congestion is in your chest you KNOW how disgustingly uncomfortable that gets. I have had a painful scratchy sore throat for days. One of my personal issues is that if I take too many Tylenol or Advil I tend to get an ulcer. Yeah, this is probably NOT one of the more pleasant weeks in my life.

thank goodness the grape tomatoes are healthier than i am

Fever, yep that’s present too. We are living on Tylenol and Sudafed during the day, and Nyquil and Afrin nose-spray at night. We are drinking oceans of liquids. Sleeping a lot. For me yesterday that meant most of the day. Not sure I was awake for even 10 hours. Brain fog. What’s brain fog? That’s when you can’t focus at all on any one thought. It’s too much effort to think, you can’t remember why you wanted to think, and it hurts too much to think. I have no idea what day it is.

I have the butterfly weed but no butterflies 😦

I am so very grateful that we have our house, our garden, the deck, my sister & her husband, and that the contractors are NOT here this week working on the renovation. With the things we HAVE to help us survive, and the things we do NOT have to deal with, this week is less horrible than it could be. I tried to imagine the 2 of us feeling like this in a small apartment with no real space to separate and no way to go outside. I’m sorry that we had to cancel weekend plans, and maybe even next weekend plans, but we are very fortunate to have the support system we do. My sister and brother-in-law have run errands for us, replenishing the depleted medicine stock. I wonder if they’ll do a grocery run for us too? 🙂

the pink echinacea makes me happy

On the positive side we do seem to be getting a little better. My husband has a prescription for some meds that are supposed to help him not relapse as he recovers. Of course the list of potential side-effects sound almost worse than the current symptoms. I felt strong enough last night that before I went to bed (in the recliner, because he’s in our bed and I’m living in the recliner in our sun room) I Windex’d every surface and handle and knob I could reach. And I only slept 10.5 hours last night! Definitely on the road to recovery. I hope. Please.

I LOVE these very tall daisies. I thought I’d lost them – choked out by other plants. But I have this group and a small group on the other side of the house. They grow to 2-3′ tall

La La La La La

tall canna lily front garden

Isn’t that what you say when you cover your ears so you can’t hear what someone is saying to you? La la la la la la la. I do NOT have the energy today to deal with macro issues: return to school? presidential election? senatorial elections? college football? eating out? La la la la la la.

1st mushroom sighting
The first sighting of the mushrooms. They look harmless, don’t they?

Unfortunately for me, my little micro concerns were also difficult this week. Sigh. So no cat pictures today – still a little bit too sad about GC for that. Which leaves me only the garden and yard for an escape. Oh – and food. There is always food, right?

crustless quiche
crustless vegetable quiche

Let’s do food first. My husband has been cooking. His new obsession is making pot stickers from scratch. I can assure that yes, you CAN get bored with eating pot stickers. The last two times he suggested it I vetoed the idea. That got me homemade pasta with sauce (oh yum yum yum) and a delicious flatbread pizza. I also got a crustless quiche. You can tell from the photo that he LOVES cooking tomatoes. I’m not as fond of cooked tomatoes as he is but at the moment they are still preferred over yet more pot stickers. The night he made the pasta he made a tandori sauce to go on it. Out of this world delicious. Remember Snuffles, the treat loving dog from Quick Draw McGraw? That describes the 4 of us having dinner. My brother-in-law is usually the bread baker, as I’ve told you. His breads are beyond compare. He was busy all day, however, so baking the challah fell to me. It was good, but it convinced me to get myself a bread thermometer. I worried about it being under-baked so I gave it more time than I thought it probably needed. I’d rather have it that way, even though over-baking means leftovers dry out faster.

Ahuva's challah
That is a 5-strand braided challah. Haven’t done one in years and so my strands were not as evenly thick at the end of the braiding.

The local news reported today that July was the hottest month on record for New Jersey. As everyone commented – tell us something we DIDN’T know. When I was a young lass, maybe all the way up to my 30s, NJ summers were my favorite weather. Hazy hot & humid did not faze me. Now that I am older, I have more empathy for those who complain about NJ summers. The humidity wipes me out. I learned in Arizona that temperatures above 100 are probably more heat than I enjoy, but I can go up into the 90s and have no problem if it is dry. I finally understand the phrase “it’s not the heat it’s the humidity”. Yes, it’s the humidity. And the dratted no-see-ums that are eating me alive every time I water the plants. My legs are covered with scratched bites and scabs. My legs look like the legs of a grade schooler (if there were still such a thing as grade school – oh wait – do NOT go there). My wonderful husband heard me moaning every night after watering the plants and bought me mosquito netting pants!!!! They do work! The problem, I think, for me is that I sweat so heavily from the humidity, that it is still attracting them through the pants. The number of bites is greatly reduced but I still got bitten the other night. I think I’ll try spraying the pants with insect repellent and see if that makes any difference. I could try to get up early when there are fewer bugs about but mostly I get up that early to make sandwiches.

mosquito netting pants
You may laugh but everyone who has seen them or heard me talk about them has asked where they can get them (search on mosquito netting pants)

I came home from making sandwiches yesterday and went to pull into my driveway. And I stopped. There was a man from the utility company walking out of my driveway and 5 orange cones IN my driveway. I rolled down my window and looked at him, and asked “What are you doing?” He explained that he had cleared it with the man in the house (*grin* I said – my husband, he said – I didn’t want to presume, I said – wise approach these days). The apron of the driveway was damaged when we got the new gas and electric to the house back in February or whenever it was. They are finally getting around to repairing it. He said we couldn’t drive on it for 3 or 4 days. That means no convertible – it is in the garage. Too bad, because the temperatures are only supposed to be in the 80s for the rest of this week. Of course, the humidity is also supposed to be in the 80s. It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.
driveway before and after

Last year I mentioned that I should plant lots and lots of canna lilies because the butterflies seemed to really enjoy them. I have only seen 2 butterflies this year so far. I showed you the monarch butterfly on the butterfly weed. There has also been a black swallowtail I’ve seen periodically. The swallowtail seems to check out everything but the things I planted specifically to make butterflies happy. It seems to really like the echinacea. I saw it today checking out the herbs, tomatoes and superbells, but it flitted away before landing anywhere. Camera-shy I guess.

black swallowtail butterfly on echinacea
Black swallowtail butterfly

I planted 2 gardenias this year – one in a hanging pot and one in a pot along the front walk. I believe that the one in the hanging pot was burned out by the hot weather, after managing to produce 2 flowers in the late spring. The one along the walk has produced one full bloom. It does smell heavenly.


Not only has it been humid, we’ve gotten a lot of rain. The fun part is when it rains in the evening so I don’t have to brave the no-see-ums and can skip watering the plants. Apparently it has been even wetter than I realized. This week my neighbor’s lawn has sprouted mushrooms. Every day they have gotten larger and larger. There must be a good story to write there but at the moment I only have the illustrations. 🙂 If they get much larger they are going to cross the line from impressive to creepy.

mushrooms day 2
okay, a little wider, but still not too creepy

Then of course there are the canna lilies. The “rescued” cannas have been thriving in the pots along the walk. FINALLY one of the ones I planted has begun to bloom. I get very impatient in the spring. Even knowing things will grow, I don’t want a lot of empty space that needs weeding and looks neglected. I cram way too many plants into one area. I have this gorgeous stupendously tall canna right smack in the middle of the lawn garden. Beautiful. BUT – crammed in that spot are 2 Rose Mallows, perennials that are in the hibiscus family. One of them was doing quite well before the canna began shooting up. The other is nestled under a canna leaf. When I can brave the biting-bug-filled lawn to go there, I rearrange it to be in front of the leaf. But somehow it always resets to under and behind. I hope it is sufficiently rooted to survive.

Mushrooms day 3
There are actually 5 of these things in the yard. These 2 are about 6 inches across at a minimum.

I like so many flowers, and I’ve now got so many perennials. I want MORE rudbeckia laciniata hortensia, but I’m not sure where I can put them. I will have to pull out the firecrackers or chop down the variegated grass. Or pull out the rudbeckia laciniata (single bloom rudbeckia). That might work, except I also have the goose neck flowers there and I added the swamp milkweed as well. Sigh. Maybe I should put a border garden along the walk? That gets lots of sun.

rudbeckia after the rain
Rudbeckia laciniata hortensia after the rain. do you see the HUGE mushrooms?

Whatever it is that snuck into my planters now has flowers. I can’t wait to see what I’m growing. I thought that purple-edged leaf vine was a sweet pea vine – that’s what I was calling it in my head. But it’s not, according to my search. According to my search I have no idea what it is, other than beautiful. I also have no idea what to tell the lad who cuts my grass. I’m tired of moving pots and putting them back. I think I’ll tell him to just ignore the grass under the vines. *laughing* There isn’t really any grass, is there? My lawn is really nothing but weeds. 🙂
vines in the grass

tall canna lily and rose mallow
Rose mallow, canna lilies and dahlias