Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Well. That was quick.

A faithful reader in the northwest USA gently berated yours truly for being so spotty about writing the blog lately. Duly chastened and slightly abashed, I disciplined myself to ponder pertinent Alaska gardening topics.  Just moments later I was done pondering and a sense of finality settled into my brain. We’re all done here.

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Of course I’m speaking of summer, and not of the mental state of Alaskans at large (though this might also be apt).  A few days ago some ominous-looking cloudy riff raff deposited dandruff on the lofty peaks to the east.  I suppose it must be snow but I’m not hiking up there to find out.  Curses!  The termination dust is here!

For those unfamiliar with the term, it has nothing to do with Arnold Schwarzenegger, nor unsightly accumulations of particles under your bed.  Opinions vary, and if I were one for research I would find out which is the most plausible (or on a good day, factual).  However, Camp A insists the term “termination dust” was coined by those souls who believed the first dusting of snow on the mountains signaled the end of an all too brief summer.  Camp B shrilly maintains that the reference actually comes from the practice of laying off (firing) seasonal workers at the end of the summer.

I’m with camp A.  Our summer is about ten days long.  OK, I’ll throw in that sunny day we had in May and make it eleven.  By the time my petunias, dahlias, and fuchsias are reaching their peak, it seems like a crime of nature that frost should take them.  (And yes, I had a banner year of growing sophisticated garden plants.  Have I mentioned I grew hot pink pelargoniums, too?)  So when the white stuff is sighted on yonder lofty peaks, a constriction of the airways is not uncommon in gardeners here.

Sadly, I have to announce I put my containers away for the year.  (Now, now, dry your eyes.)  It seemed only natural after mowing the lawn one final time last night.  There was perfectly good icy blue Lobelia growing in one particularly fine container.  Good (as opposed to ratty, rip it out posthaste) Lobelia in September is akin to a good hair day without using conditioner: good luck. 

This particular container was a study in texture, or at least, that’s what I told myself as I rammed different blue leaved plants into the dirt with little method and most likely a spot of madness this spring.  The lobelia was a surprise.  I don’t usually (OK, ever) use it as it’s been done to death in my city and can be fussy on sunny days with it’s watering requirements.  I picked it up at a nursery that was offering a free 6-pack for Mother’s Day.  What gardener can resist a pack of free plants?  Apparently, not I.  Heaven help me if they start offering some kind of weed for free.

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Anyone a fan of the children’s book “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown?  An homage in the spirit of the season, by the Last Frontier Gardener:

Goodnight grass Goodnight mower cutting the grass

Goodnight sunlight and the red afternoon

Goodnight grizzly bears

Goodnight lawn chairs

Goodnight outdoor sittin’ and hello mittens

Set back clocks and put on wool socks

Goodnight garden tool abuse and hello cranky, hungry moose

Goodnight fork and goodnight hoe

Goodnight nobody Goodnight grow

And hello to the cold wind whispering “snow”

Hello bright stars Goodnight warm air

Goodbye summer everywhere

No doubt Lord Byron looks down fondly on me now.  Or else he’s getting ready to hurl a lightening bolt.  I don’t often feel poetic so this is a rare treat for you all.  If I get any more complaints, gentle or otherwise, I may riff on “Back in Black” by AC/DC.  So there, you’ve been warned.  Bundle up, winter is coming.


Are you ready for the next season?  Or content and hoping it will never end?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Why do I curl up in the fetal position, you ask?

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If that particular pose isn’t your thing, a primal scream is a good equivalent.  On several occasions in the past month, I’ve caught myself in the midst of a fervent wish to be: 1. locked in a padded, dark room, 2. myself, about two seconds earlier, before I’d seen/heard the horror, or 3. shopping for expensive leather goods. 

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The only feasible choice at the moment is rather impractical.  The attic is somewhat padded (I should know, I spent my birthday loading a hopper with cellulose insulation whilst the husband used the long hose to blow it all around the bottom of the attic.  Happy birthday to me!) and certainly dark.  I don’t have the energy to procure a ladder, boost the ceiling hatch, and fling myself into the void up there.  Though no doubt that would be something to write about and very entertaining to watch.

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Things I would have rather not seen, in no particular order:

1. the giant, gaping hole in my floor. And wall. And ceiling. And in that chasm, a leaking pipe from the kitchen sink that has probably been leaking for 25 years. The moisture and decaying food bits were supporting their own little ecosystem.  Strange looking flies lifted off en masse, mold flourished, and spiders scuttled out of sight.  What with the bamboo flooring ripped out, carelessly tossed into a pile of long sheaves and the stink emanating from the darkness below, it was too much for me.  I walked back the way I came in a haze and resolved never to respond to “Honey, I think you need to see this” ever in the course of my whole life.

2. those yellow leaves on the wild cottonwood (Populus balsamifera) trees.  At first, such infrequent sightings were forcefully brushed off as disease or a result of all the rain we’ve had in August.  Now there is no denying it: vandals are spray painting all the leaves around town a bright gold!  The nerve of some people.  A simple soul in the home dared bring up the word “autumn” and the result was just shy of apoplexy.  “Mommy, why are you clenching your teeth and tearing your hair like that?”

3. a story and X-ray of a gardening mishap so horrifying that I must caution you of feeble stomach not to visit this link.  To prepare you, a quote from one of the surgeons, Dr. Lynn Polonski: “It was wedged in there so tightly, you could not move it.  It was part of his face.” I will never look at, much less carry my felco hand pruners in quite the same way.  I say, he’s lucky to be alive and if his lady friend and team of surgeons ever let him garden again, I recommend a pair of child-sized safety scissors, welder’s shield, and ten-foot tongs to carry any gardening paraphernalia.

So in the last 30 days, I’ve had thrown in my face the awful fact that my basement is a smelly man trap supporting new, unnamed lower life forms, winter is coming in a week or so, and gardening can kill you.  Does curling up into a ball on the floor sound so bad?

*Pictures taken at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer last week.


What scares the pants off of you?


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