Deluges, Cactus blossoms,pears,critters and frogs (a little account from last weekend)

I was approaching the end of my eight day stint with work at Lowes and was looking forward to two days in a row off when I got the e-mail from sweet Gloria down in Alabama telling me her and her sweetie just "HAD TO SEE MOUNTAINS" and while they were up in Tennessee, they were gonna come by and meet the ol' madgardener.......I was sorta frantic at that point, but with the help of Squire, I would be able to sweep the house into a pile before they came by.
One of the things that bothered me was that Squire still hasn't sharpened my lawnmower blade and with my distractions of work and being on automatic pilot lately, the grass has grown to about two foot and fallen over. And the wild whatever's they are are about a foot up around the lawnmower where I discovered how dull the blade actually was after he finally got it cleaned and started it for me.........arrrggghhhhh. But Gloria had assured me she didn't expect things to be perfect and honey, around here it never is. Despite my best intentions I never stake up, cut back or thin out some things every year and it's always chaotic...............
So with the monsoons having moved in up here on the ridge for those last three days (I'm grateful because overcast days are easier on the hot concrete in the nursery than those blistery sunny days for six or seven hours watering), it was worse with the paths. I decided to make a run thru the paths and at least step on the grasses and encroaching weeds that had moved in behind my back and discovered not weeds, but perennials have seeded daughters all over the place. And yes, Bermuda and crab grasses are trying to take hold. No Johnson grass thankfully, but living next to a pasture I have more than the lion's share of Queen Anne's lace, two kinds of evil thistles, various pricklies that have those burr seeds, and other great chigger habitats.
As I tromped thru the paths, pushing the swaths of asters in full bloom leaning over the narrow pathway to clasp hands with the Helianthus Lemon Queen which is under the loaded fig tree, I realized this was worse than I realized. The last three days rain has unleashed the growth fury of every fairy. Sedums were lying prone at ground level, vinca had snaked itself from hidden pockets and were lying in wait to throw you to the ground as they tangled up your feet. Cleome were so thick you were stung by their hidden thorns when you pushed past them, and I even got a warning pop from a wasp as it was enjoying the bounty of the many blossoms at varying heights.
As I threaded my way into the pockets of standing room, shoving the great trunked sunflower trees aside as I peered down thru the fallen straps of the orange Montbretia's to see if the Crispa spirea has survived, I stepped in the first puppy pile.........oy vey..........but not one to punish her when she's actually putting it OUTSIDE, I noted the location and tryed to make note to come back with hose and pound it into the soil later with the rains.
I made paths thru the grass that was up to two foot in places obscurring the edges of the flowerbeds, and found four more gifts...........snaking my way thru all the beds as I anticipated the visit, I was agonizing over how on earth I would handle this. Well hopefully the massive blooming of all the different things would distract Gloria and her sweetie, Bobby and they would be able to laugh as the sheer chaos.
So on Wednesday morning as I headed out into the pre-dawn morning on my last day of my week, I passed all the pots along the railing and as I rounded the back end of the car, the smell of the Glory Bower tree which is now so loaded with blossoms it's heavy in the air and now especially now with the humidity slowed my rapid pace down, and something white caught my eye. Oh hell! The Cerius cactus bloomed last night!! I THOUGHT the bud looked like it was about to open up when I came home.........
I turned around, almost skidded and went back and in the porch light, the absolute blinding whiteness of the perfect blossoms jumped out at me in the darkness. Not one but two had opened, one facing southward, the other one facing north west and catching the light of the nook door. I went back inside, ran around to the den door and turned THAT light on to illuminate the other one facing south, and back to the nook to grab the digital camera. Two shots with no flash and then two shots with flash I then ran inside and put the camera on the computer desk, boogied back outside and slowing down, snapped off the southward facing flower. It would close up anyway and I wanted to share it with a few co-workers. My flowers always blow them away that I bring in.
I carefully placed the huge stem in the visor on the passenger side and it hung there above me as I put the car into gear and almost hit Sugar. She'd heard me coming in and going back out and wanting to be with me, had opened up the bedroom door where I'd put her and Rose to stay with Squire until HE got up, and squeezed herself out the cat door to come join me. I parked the car, got her caught up and deposited her back in the bedroom, and ran back outside. And almost hit a possom that was picking up a fallen pear in the driveway from Miz Mary's. As I approached him he waddled off with pear in mouth (he/she wouldn't have been able to do that during the day as they're covered in bees, wasps, hornets, yellow jackets and butterflies) I got to the curve in the driveway where the rocks are and almost hit some polecats boogying across from their digs at Miz Mary's..........oy vey..........slow down, they don't lift their tail and skunk me, they waddle into the tall pasture grass and weeds just off the driveway and I start up again and just get onto the paved dead end road, past the mailboxes and almost hit a coyote. Holy shit.................. are ALL the critters out this morning??????
The drive got worse because as I watched the coyote haul balls across the pavement in front of my lights, I realized that I was seeing fuzzy coyote. Specifically the fog was so thick I hadn't noticed and the visibility was almost zero. I hadn't paid attention because it was dark. I now noticed that you couldn't see the road or the faded lines and I slowed down and made my way slowly up the hills and winding country back roads to work.
As I slowly crawled up the hill towards the first rise, I was now paranoid and was glancing to the edges of what I knew was the road towards the place where the woods ended, and sure enough........deer. Not one deer, but seven. This was going to be a trip in patience. I was almost whipped by the time I got to the more visible area's closer to Morristown, and trying to see in the dense fog had tired me out more than if I'd been working. I got to work with just a few minutes to spare. No biscuit today......
Work was a study in the 3 Stoogies minus one but it was fun, and when I got off at 11 and was soaked with fog and heavy mists, I was looking forward to getting home to do some picking up and straightening. Before I left, I succumbed to the urges to buy plants and purchaed four large pots of dahlia's we'd reduced to $1. I couldn't resist and they would be a good experiment in winter storage to see if I can hold them over for next year. If I lose them I won't lose much but it'll be fun to try them. As happy as they were in the pots they came in, I just placed them between the cactus on the railings. If I want to plant them I will have to think about where....
When I came home, there were more pears in the driveway and clouds of butterflies and stingers rose up as I slowly drove thru them. I Turned around and when I set out the dahlia's, turned cactus pots on their sides to drain that don't have holes and started picking up the house. Squire had already started as it was his day off and we cleaned up the den very nicely and got things straightened out.
Yesterday evening as he was doing the den, I went outside and picked up some pots and stuff from around the kitchen deck and side porch and sat down to listen to the fountain in the old BBQ pit. As I sat there, looking at Pottingshed's canna in the pot I had sunk into the deeper water on the north side, I noticed something dark on the lowest leaf. I looked closer and got up and as I slowly got to the edge of the pool Squire had built on the first level, I saw that the dark object on the canna leaf was a little frog. Sugar had discovered I was outside by this time and had squeezed herself thru the cat window to look for me and when she found me in the swing, she went around to the bricko block walls and as she stuck her face in the water, the frog jumped into the water.
She came back over with a wet puppy face smiling at me and before I knew it she was up in the swing beside me and letting me know she appreciated me, despite that I am now mad at her because she's a digger. And boy IS she a digger. She has dug a hole next to the stump of the previously known as "almost dead maple" tree I finally cut down one year and it's almost a foot deep. I discovered what she had been doing when I was tied to the phone on Monday. She had gotten into the NSSG and dug up perennials as well as leaving me a present in between the two beds where the Japanese anemone are now blooming and hanging over to the varigated Japanese knotweed.
We sat in the swing just hanging out and I glanced into the water and was surprised to see there were TWO frogs just hanging out with little heads barely above the water line near the pot of canna. I got up and Sugar followed me, I closed the door behind me and went and got the digital and caught a couple of good pictures of them before they spooked and went into the water for good.
The house got tidied up nicely, and this morning I woke to the rumblings of thunder and the sounds of massive rains coming down from outside the closed window. It was my day off and Gloria was coming over on her way home and I had a couple of things yet to do. A fresh gallon of sweet iced tea was making in the kitchen and I had a few dishes to put up. Rose and Sugar were lunatics as they ran thru the house growling and snapping and playing in the wierd way they play. Rose has never been around another dog to "play" since she was 4 weeks old and it's funny to hear how she does it now. Sugar is normal and hyper and adores her and aggrivates her until she wears her out.
I vaccumed the back den and let them out, and remembered I needed to watch Sugar as she would dig up my plants and I had just poured good soil over them to cover them up again, so I stopped what I was doing and went outside. The air was like breathing under water almost. You could almost taste the storms that were coming. As I walked down the driveway to encourage Rose to go into the pasture next door, I noticed that it wasn't foggy today, but it was worse than that. There were literally CLOUDS just a few feet above me in all directions and it was spitting huge drops of water on and off. Rose wasn't having this, she despises water, but Sugar is all Lab and it doesn't phase her in the least. It made her happier and she got rhowdy with Rose.
As I walked I saw things at my feet that were moving and I glanced down and it was striped frogs. LOTS of them. Not sure if they are tree frogs, or what but I saw no less than 20 or more of them fleeing for their lives across the puddles of the driveway into the grasses on either side. Rose gave me a crappy look and went into the head high grasses and I could see Sugar bounding thru the wet stuff as she searched thru the tall stuff for Rose. They didn't need me now and I turned to go back and saw that the white crape myrtle is in total bloom, and rising above it is the orange sherbert colored trumpet vine. And the pile of forsythia branches I'd cut weeks ago that had finally turned brown that hadn't been hauled off.........oh well, one can only do so much, right? <g>
As I got to the sidewalk, the sky opened up and solid deluges of water hit me like a waterfall. I was soaked in seconds. Rose almost killed me slipping past me and hitting the open storm door like a rocket. Right behind her grinning like some crazed hound, Sugar was right on her heels, yapping and giving her hell as all Rose wanted to do was get past this nipping puppy and out of this instant bath. As she leaped up into the livingroom, she turned and gave me this look that I kid you not almost said out loud "YOU are the one who turned on the water, RIGHT???" I stopped, soaked as I was, and about that time, a hummingbird zipped past me and slammed into the blue Enigma salvia and seeing the burgandy magenta grape purple of the Ruby Slippers Lobelia, almost tore himself in half as he screeched on his little brakes and did a total turn about and dropped down to inspect these newest additions. With all the moisture, the Lobelia has flourished.
Then he focased on me about the time he was immerced in the upper tier of the largest spike of flowers and almost dropped dead as he realized this huge thing was way too close. I didn't have to give him time to get away, he was already up to the tops of the sunflower trees the chickadees left me, and I came inside to change clothes adn wash my hair. Nothing like a good fresh rain to soften the hair. <g>
Warm, dry and getting the knots outa my hair, I walked out onto the balcony to check the plants out there and there was a tree frog sitting on one of the huge leaves of my "Aunt Pearline" plant I'd bought in February. The giant leafed Spathphillium has done very well on the north eastern side of the house and even handles the strong western sunsets in the evenings. But the deluges of rains had filled up the bucket the pale sanseveria was living in until I find a worthy pot to plug it into. Pouring out several quarts of water, no signs of white rain lilies in the pot, I fear I've lost these, except there are thin straps of leaves rising out of the pot, maybe I need to move them into a sunnier spot.
Totally distracted now, I had gotten some of all this hair braided, and come back inside. What an incredible show of nature these last 24 hours. Massive rainfalls, cactus blooming in between these monsoon like rains, frogs, skunks, possoms,. It almost seemed unreal, but that's life up here on the ridge. Last year we'd had three months of drought, this year we're above 9 inches for the year in rains. And I have a feeling we've gotten more than that here, because yesterday's downpour hit us but missed everyone else one mile over.
Gloria and her sweetie got her after lunch just in time for another downpour and as she looked at all these flowers, I grabbed my rainjacket and put it on over my hat and proceeded to show her a few things she'd go home with. There were little Harlequin Glory Bower saplings, and a Sorbaria to dig, Bog Sage, Heliantus that apparently had jumped out of their beds. Zebrina malvacea of course as there were daughters of the oldsters I'd cut down to the ground that still grab at the hose when I DO water, and from seeds sown unnoticed of the first flowers I now have the thinner new crop of flowers.
I point out purple loosestrife and tell Bobby to remember where the largest plant is and when we eventually make our way down to the next to last lower level, I point out the baby that is waaaaay further than you would have thought. We leave it in the ground. I find extra Dogbane Amsonia Montania to share, and give her fragrant clumps of Lemon verbena. she'll curse me later......<G>
I dragged their butts all the way to the last level in my woods to show them the "steps" boulder I had dug out when Squire was healing from his hernia operation a few years ago, then to the actual real level where the rock that clouded my mind when we first looked at this house in 1995 sits. I had instantly dubbed it the "fairy boulder" and one day will do to it what I immediately had in mind when I first saw it. I could see that they were quickly running outa steam, and as we threaded our way back UP the steep slope, we hooked to the east back of the house, ducked under the carport and came back out at the ledge of the NSSG.
Offerings of the inside outhouse and sweet iced tea was accepted as we walked over towards their vehicle to put the bags in the back. The pussy willow that never got planted leaped out at me and asked if it could go home with her, so I bestowed it on her too, completely and totally blowing her away as she explained how it was one of her most cherished and loved plants that she'd lost, and I then pulled up some more perennial begonia's to add to her booty. When they ripen, I will send her pods of the orange sherbert trumpet vine and a few seedlings.
We finally made our way back across the bowing mini deck that leads to the nook and east end of the house, and when you first walk in with all the humidity and heat, the coldness of the house wraps around you as the heat pump is working really well at the moment. As Gloria was hit with the coolness of the house, I showed Bobby the den where the bulk of Joyce's plant and mountain paintings still hang where we put them back and added our own to blend with the whole appearance of the house.
For those who don't know the quick story, the only other owner of this house was a native of this area, had been born in the little shabby house across the driveway and grown up on this ridge her whole life, and her daddy had built her this house across the entrance driveway as a wedding present. Later his son in law had enclosed the perimeter of the acreage with the chain link fence , leaving the bulk of the land unenclosed (that would have been a fence that would have spanned over 32 acres) which included the pastures that wraps around the north eastern backside of this house. Joyce was a self taught artist, drawing and painting things she saw in her land and home, putting down all these images only after she got back to the house from memory.
Joyce was a Wine(Miz Mary, my front neighbor I love so much was her Aunt). And this house sits off of Wine Road where all her relatives and ancestors live around her and just a short ways away and others rest just a stones throw in the cemetary down the road. The short time she was on this earth, her love for nature and plants and things around her were great teachers as she improved her artistry every time she put paint or pencil to paper or canvas. When her husband moved out after her death in 1990 up into the mountains with a girlfriend, he left everything in the house except for his stuff.
When we first came into the house to look at it that fateful day, all of Joyce's paintings where she'd hung them throughout the house, all the older furniture, her clothes, everything, was still here. Quietly waiting for either her return or someone's removal. I couldn't remove her paintings. They stirred deep within me and I decided they were mine. So when her husband kept putting off coming to remove all the remaining stuff out of the house, the art supplies downstairs that totaled probably in the thousands of dollars but useless to me (well I could have given them to my artist daughter in Nashville but at the time we were too poor to drive down there to give them to her) in the inside room that sits under the outer facing upstairs bedroom, all the clutter from their 22 years together before her death from brain cancer, I decided once and for all to get him to either come take his stuff, or we'd toss it out.
We had closed on this house on March 31st, in February of the next year after living around the clutter of two people who'd lived here the whole existance of the house, shed and two story out building for almost a year with our OWN collection of stuff Squire and I had accumulated over 17 years blending in and overflowing, I'd had enough. I called him, informed him that he had 30 days to remove the stuff and that was it. I then took all the pictures off all the walls of Joyce's paintings that I had grown fond of and loved and placed them in my bedroom closet. They belonged here with me to love them as much as Joyce had loved them enough to hang them through out this incredible whacky and wonderful house. A small amount stayed on the wall for him to take, including the garish and rather poor huge pink rose that hung on the living room wall over the white fold out naugahide couch.
By that time, Joyce had been gone for almost six years, he'd forgotten most of what was here and he loaded everything into a huge truck into the wee hours of the night from all over the house. Come 3 a.m. when he was about to drop from exhaustion he was asking me to keep this and that because he just didn't anticipate the hugeness of what he'd started. The man had literally just packed his clothes and a few things up and moved away when his wife died. He never thought about packing up a whole house when he left. This man had married, lived the whole time in this one house for 22 years and never gave a thought to one day moving away.
So I showed the pictures on the wall to Bobby of the beloved things Joyce had painted and mounted and hung on the walls, and when Gloria joined us a few moments later, we made our way down the hallway Squire and his best friend had made for the house, opening it up easier to get from one end to the other and towards the livingroom and I got both of them sweet iced tea as we sat and got our breath. They'd gotten the $5 tour. I had dragged them from the NSSG, across the front, digging up pieces of this and that, thru the tangle of the side gardens thru asters and Heliopsis, around the BBQ pit fountain, down the slope, into the woods, digging and placing plants in grocery bags the whole time, back up, across and back. It probably took us two hours. I think I scared them.....<G> But we laughed alot along the way.
We sat and did some visiting and they realized the time had slipped by them faster than they'd figured and there were more storms moving in judging by the light outside and it was time to call it a day and come back later.
The rains were moving back in, fast, and I decided to at least show them the deck they'd missed just off the kitchen and they were distracted for another 15 minutes as they saw the incredible madness for all plants, spiney, or not. I think the image of an old iron BBQ grill covered in cactus and succulents and such will stick in their minds along with everything else I overloaded on them, and we made our way back thru the house and out the door towards their car, with Rose and Sugar underfoot the whole time. And as they packed up, I decided quickly to walk her down the driveway to show her where the mountains SHOULD be and open the door to future visits and we decided I'd show them another route back towards their home by them following me. I'd hook back home and they'd continue on towards Alabama, and we'd see each other at a later time.
She got into the car, and they waited for me and the dawgs to get in front of them at the top of the gravel driveway, and as we made our way westward off the ridge, the first sign of impending rains started smacking the car windshield. Huge drops.
The road along the lake thru town is impressive, and that was the way I was taking them as the back road out and towards Alabama eventually, and despite the heavy cloud coverage, they'd get to see the magnificence of Douglas Lake running along the hills and thru the land the French Broad river had cut thru over time. We hit torrential downpours with great gully washing rains creating red creeks across the road the whole way. Slowing us down to barely crawling as I saw for the first time in several months how many people have moved into the region and cut and built houses along this road.
I'd look behind me and see them quite a ways back, and I'd have to slow down because the rains were so heavy and the run off was so heavy and deep it would have flooded the car. I lost them at Douglas Dam road that cuts across the dam and comes out in Sevierville and hooks up with the road they were taking the larger portion of the way to avoid the interstate and rush hour traffic. They had also avoided all the wrecks on the interstate caused by the intensity of the storms we were driving thru at that moment.
I myself made a misjudgement and decided not to turn around and double back because of the creeks and high waters going across the road I'd just come one, and jumped on the interstate, only to find myself locked and unmoving for the next two hours. It took me two hours to drive home 13 miles. During that time, I discovered that we'd had a huge lightening strike somewhere that had knocked out the whole county and while I was inching home at 5 miles an hour, my son and Squire sat in total darkness because of no electricity. When I actually got to the next exit to get off and make time on the back road I had decided against, I could see there was no lights on inside the truckstop.
When I got back into town and was going to stop at the store for milk for Squire, the lights were still out, as I observed people sitting at the gas pump in front of the store having to wait until the power came back on. This was wierd. The rains had let up a little bit, and everywhere I looked people were frozen in the places they were at two hours earlier when Nature decided to remind them who really was in charge.
On a whim I stopped at the little old store at the edge of town that has been there for over 50 years, and sure enough, the swinging doors were unlocked and you could see candles inside. So I stopped in to grab milk and bread and some bologna for sandwiches and was told no milk because the cooler had a lock on it that went into play during a power outage as a safety to not let out the coldness on the perishables. Other people during the two hours previous had cleaned out what milk was on the shelf. Even his cash drawers worked because they are the old fashioned kind. Gotta love it.........
Now oldest son understands why there are over 30 gallon containers of water downstairs in the laundry room..............<G>
That is how last week went. And there's more......but that's for another time. Thanks for allowing me to share. I hope to see ya'll soon enough.........madgardener up on the soaked and still rainy ridge, back in Fairy Holler, overlooking a steel blue cloud enshrouded English Mountain in Eastern Tennessee, zone 7, Sunset zone 36
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