The Good, The Bad, and the Almost Downright Ugly

I am thrilled to report that the hummingbirds have come back to our feeders!  The two we have are attached with suction cups to the window in the morning room overlooking the deck, as you can probably tell in that photo on the left.  The larger one (a bottle feeder...not pictured) is glass and quite heavy when filled with sugar-water solution (which I make myself:  4 parts lukewarm water to 1 part sugar, with a few drops of red food coloring; stir to dissolve all the sugar; keep any leftover in the 'fridge until needed). 

The smaller one (shown in the photos) is glass, too, but with a fluted metallic top, in the shape of a flower.  A clever design by a Tennessee artist, Mr. T found it at the Apple Barn in Sevierville and gave it to N/M/E last Christmas.  The hummers seemed most interested in it at are the ants that have a constant trail up the window sill and panes, no matter how many times he has washed it off with either vinegar or Windex...or both.  Now, the hummers are paying more attention to the bottle feeder for some reason.  Same solution in both.  Guess the novelty has worn off.

That's my good news.  That, along with the fact that my SIL LaD has been discharged from the hospital today, heading home.  Not that I equate the two events.  No, I combine them both as my good news 'cause I know that LaD loves the birds...and especially much as we do.  She'd like being in the same paragraph, I think.

And, now for the bad news.  I have to report that I've not been in my garden since last Sunday.  And, we are all suffering for it.  You see, I was using my scuffle hoe (called an Action Hoe at Home Depot; marvelous invention, BTW) to weed the Left Garden (the one on the left of the center path...hence the name The Left Garden).  Mr. T and I had spent Saturday removing the damaged corn stalks (remember the windstorms of a couple weeks ago?) and weeding The Right Garden.  Got it looking good again...and planted some English peas in a couple of the resulting rows.  Anyway, I had worked my way down the first row of the Left Garden about mid-day on Sunday, turned the corner, and then it happened.

But first, a pause to paint you a picture.  At the beginning of this second row, I have a new bed I am preparing for next Spring's carrot crop.  After reading about a similar idea in one of my garden books from Jerry Baker, I tilled up and double-dug an area about 3 feet x 8 feet, creating a large trench about 8-10 inches deep; added a bottom layer of leaves; covered the leaves with newspaper, to aid in the composting process; covered the newspaper with a mixture of sand and garden soil, mounding up the soil on the "trench" to create a raised bed of sorts.  Then, to keep this area moist and attract earthworms...who are great composters in their own right...I topped the bed with two unopened bags of garden soil, laid end-to-end.  Neat, huh?  Will be a great place to grow carrots, which need much less compacted soil than our native clay.

Unfortunately, the same principal for keeping the earth moist (putting the unopened bags of garden soil on top of the bed) encourages the growth of a whole host of weeds.  I was scuffle-hoeing the beginning of the row, then started to edge under the bags to get the offending growth when...

Have I ever told you how much I hate snakes?  Fear them?  Am terrified of them?  Have nightmares about them?  Well, just in case I haven't mentioned that fact, I'm telling you now.  I. HATE. SNAKES.

My hoe touched the first bag of garden soil, and out from the gap between the bags slithered a black snake.  "Slithered."  That word just says it all, doesn't it?  Thankfully, he headed in the opposite direction, toward the wood pile in the back yard beyond the picket fence.  I stood, frozen in place.  I am pleased to say that I did not do what I have done in the past when encountering a snake in my space:  scream bloody murder.  My heart was racing, but I calmly made my way back to the garden tool rack on the far side of the garden to replace the hoe, stopped by my work-bench to pick up my gathering basket with the harvest of tomatoes, peppers, and peas I'd collected earlier, then slowly walked through the gate and back into the house.  No, no pictures of the event were taken.

I decided to spend the rest of my afternoon putting up my day's gatherings.  And, I watched my snake from the safety of the kitchen window over the sink where I was working.  He had made himself quite at home in the pine needle-mulched area around the wood pile.  Mr. T went out in the back yard a couple of times, to observe him a little closer.  He asked me if I wanted him to try and kill the snake, but I said no.  I know that a black snake is helpful in keeping the rodent population under control.  And, I know that he was probably more scared of me than I was of him.  I know, I know.

I have moved past "the only good snake is a dead snake" to "live and let live."  So, I have grown.  Still, I cannot seem to make myself go back into the garden.  You see, I am battling a life-long fear here.  When I once encountered a snake in the back yard of our house in Cordova, I tearfully (and, OK, a bit irrationally) told Mr. T to "sell it.  Sell the house.  I'm not going back in that yard ever again."  I know I need to get beyond this 'cause the weeding won't's only getting worse out there with all the rain and warm weather we've been having.  And there are probably tomatoes, peppers, and peas going past prime.  We are missing out on all that tasty produce.  Too bad.  I'm not ready to be a Big Girl yet.

And what about the "Almost Downright Ugly" mentioned in the Title today?  Well, that refers to my favorite shoes for the garden...or just about anywhere for that matter.  I found these babies called TerraSoles Echo Crossband Ballerinas at Sam's Club earlier this year.  I was more attracted to their ease of wearing and their origins than to their beauty. They are made by a company in Ohio, located in the same town we lived for a few years in the late 80's-early 90's.  It's not every day you see the place-name "Pickerington," so that instantly caught my eye when I spotted it on the shoebox.

Bought a pair of black ones and have since returned for a pair of cool blue suede ones.  They are not exactly the prettiest pair of shoes I've ever owned, but they are definitely the most comfortable ones.  The soles are like recycled tire treads (that sounds worse when I write it), the uppers are a combo of micro-suede and bamboo, and the innersoles are clouds.  Honestly, I could wear these things 24/7/365.  And, because they are washable (I kid you the washing machine, as well as under the garden hose...:), I can!  I keep them on the screened porch, at the ready for me to slip into to make a quick trip to the store, or to go get the paper in the morning, or to go work in the garden.  Then, when I'm done, I wash any dirt off with the garden hose.  Voila.  Clean again.  Every now and then, I add them to the wishy-washy with a load of towels.  You're supposed to take the innersoles out and hand-wash separately, but I keep forgetting to do that step.  No matter.  Just let'em air dry for a couple of days, and you are back in business.  Ahhhhhh.

It's not that the shoes are that ugly.  Well, you be the judge of that from the picture, above.  No, it's the tan lines I've acquired while wearing these darlings of garden that qualify for that designation.  Since we are going on vacation soon, I've become more conscious of how ridiculous my feet look.  No, really.  Check out that shot on the left.  Not only are the "big" tan lines visible...the little "holes" created by the criss-cross straps on the Terrasoles are quite prominent.  What'll I do when we head to the beach or the pool?  Wear 15 SPF on the upper part of my feet and 30 SPF on the toes?  For sure I'll have to do something, or you won't be able to tell the difference between the color of my toes and the color of my toenails (which is called Mango, Mango...:).  Ouch!

One thing I won't be doing.  I won't be going barefooted into the garden to even out my tan.  Not anytime soon.  Not by a long shot.  No way.  No how.


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