After getting the loan from a friend's parents that we'll pay back when John and his sister sell the house and contents, we sorta did an insane dance from the final tortures and pressures to tease and torment us with. It never ends smoothly, no matter how much we'd wish it. John was FINALLY told he could call his truck assigner and get back to work, since we'd gone and jumped through all the hoops to get him back on the road. (he's been off work because of an imposed "medical leave" for 14 weeks). He was told the 3rd to call Monday the 6th, and I warned him I'd hafta kill him if he didn't return to work immediately. The loan we got covered ALL the behind bills but wouldn't cover March, and I knew already that his first check would be pathetic, and we'd be INTO March before he had a whole check for me to work with. So I'd be starting out late despite all my efforts.
Monday afternoon the 6th, he got hold of his truck assigner who informed him that they wouldn't put him into a Freightliner ( they tend to break down a lot, and all his gear now is sized to fit a Kenworth), but he was going to have to ride up with another driver from Kingsport's terminal to pick up his new truck in Chester, Virginia......sooooooo, that meant he would have had to left half his stuff at the house and gotten the rest whenever he returned home. I could see the stress building, and suggested that why didn't I follow themup with all his stuff........and HE said that if I felt that way, we could drive up there ourselves if we had the gas money, and called his dispatcher who told him they'd give him an extra $100 to drive there himself (on the paycheck, of course, NEVER just given.........sigh). But the old lady has always got something up her sleeve............................... :)
Then he asked the $100,000 question.......where would I stay if we drove up there, as he knew how I was....and I told him the dogs would ride with us, (no leaving them behind like we did when his mom died in November.....I put my foot down, and we coulda stayed in her house with the dogs like always, but he was sorta strange that week and I didn't push it then) and I'd just stay in a little cheap motel, and I'd get Mike a ride to work and home, and proceeded to make arraignments for Tuesday. Then came back and informed Squire that my arraignments were made, and I'd had another idea....how far from Chester was Suffolk?? Because I bet that I could call Pottingshed (Beverly Brown) and stay over at HER house and I could kinda make it an adventure and the best of it. Once we got on the same page, I called Bev, missed her the first time, but then got her on the second attempt, and she was WILD for it!
Everything was ready to go on his end, I only had to gather up some minor things, snag a few gardener's gifts to take with me, work out a plan for dog bowls and water for the road, and wash my blue jeans. I'm easy to travel with. I'm not one of those women who have bags and bags of clothing for every moment, I pack with extra undies, the fang brush, a night shirt, a Ziploc baggie with Mysore soap, and an extra shirt. I carry my wallet in my right back pocket, with my pocket watch hanging off a belt loop and in the right pocket, with the belt that now keeps the cell phone near me and not in my carpenter's side pocket, I don't usually carry a purse, but thanks to younger son, I have one that has five pockets and a long strap that I like, that I can put odd things like phone charger, camera, battery charger with extra batteries for camera to plug in somewhere, the address book that has all ya'll's names and addresses and numbers if I have them, an extra hair brush and socks. The other odd stuff is put into this neat old lady's HUGE pocket book that more resembles a small soft carry on with another huge strap.
I wear what I travel in, dress appropriately to weather and climate, as my coat pockets always have gloves,knitted hat and extra gloves just in case. Bev said it was damp and cold so I took my colorful mufflers which never got used, but hung in the car, and I always wear a garden hat on my little head because it keeps the sun and rain out of my eyes and off my glasses. I never care what people think of me in them, I wear them for myself.
The dawgs were easy too, we had an old Rubbermaid container that had no lid that both dog bowls fit into, and I poured the dry kibbles into a gallon Ziploc and topped it off and it fit perfectly on top of the bowls, and decided to spoil them this once and took two cans of Alpo because Sméagol is gaunt looking due to Sugar hogging the food and playing Alpha with him when he eats. The only thing I really needed to get was nylon collars at the Dollar store for the leashes I knew they'd be on at rest stops and outside at Bev's house.
I always have cranberry juice gallon containers with handles to put water into for the dogs to drink while on the road, and the huge dog non tippable dish for the water (and munchies if I can't finish something we've stopped and grabbed a snack for). I had half gallon containers filled with sweet iced tea to take along, as well as my infamous "madgardener's tea jug" that is part of my hand most times. It holds about a liter with ice and has a thick, rubbery straw sticking out which makes life easier when I'm thirsty. The van was packed tight with all of Squires stuff, and John made a sorta bed for one of the dogs to lie on during the trip out of his body pillow he uses in his sleeper as extra support, he'd thrown all his fried rice we'd made on the weekend into the freezer so it wouldn't thaw or spoil until he could get his fridge hooked up and turned on and packed.
I ran to the Dollar store for the dawg collars while he did some downloading, I also went and got an oil change for the van for the trip (it needed it) topped the tank up at the local Wally because gas was $1.98!! and loaded up my Wally card so if there was one with a service station up there, I could save some money on gas for the trip back (there was). I tend to eat fruit and cheese on trips (I don't know why) so I snagged grapes and some Granny Smith's, a box of Wheat Thins and of course I'd have me sweet iced tea.
When I got home, I knew what I was bringing Bev up with me as gifts. A book I'd gotten at the used book store of one I have myself that I enjoyed reading, "The Gardener's Gripe Book", and something special since she sends me neat things occasionally, a shorty watering wand by Dramm, a spring shower Dramm rose to screw onto the end, and a brass shut off valve that will last forever for the handle portion for her garden hose. Cuttings of plants would be done at the last minute, in a gallon Ziploc baggie and placed in the cat bag with the goodies. I was set except for washing my hairs...
The trip was great, Sméagol took the rigged chaise lounge during the trip, Sugar hogged the back bench. He refused to eat OR drink the whole trip, as did Sugar, (I suspect the cold kept them from really overheating despite our having the heat on and John smoking) but Smeag showed me he had sensory overload at the rest stops when we gave them a bathroom break. He took the leash alright, but was so wild about all the smells and people and such, he never peed...........And Sugar freaked out and barked inside the van the whole time I tried to walk him (they're very close). When I got her on her leash, she came right out, we walked over towards the dog designated area and she had to pee, NOW. No messing about for mama dawg. I made a mental note to take them both at once so he'd get the idea later on. Having Rose for nine years spoiled me as she traveled a LOT and was quite a lady and would go when I asked her to at rest stops.
The only SNAFU was Mike's boss wouldn't bring him home Tuesday morning so we didn't get the advantage of leaving at the butt crack of o dark thirty and had to wait and pick him up at the truckstop where Robert drops him off (saves me 300 miles a week, and yes, soon, he'll have his license reinstated) I took the cuttings of the plants I was bringing her, Swiss cheese philodendron, 'Brasil' variegated philodendron, the spiderwort that makes "pipes" that I always forget the name of, packed up my stuff and let John arrange it,made sure I had MY pillow (another necessity as I always take my pillow and sometimes a quilt to throw over me if I chill when Squire opens windows to smoke) and installed the dogs, and we left at a late 8:30 a.m.
Despite that we now have an Xm to listen to over a radio station and the music would be really good, I brought along three of my nine music cd books for a bit of my own music when I was driving by myself. The trip would take about eight or nine hours once I started homewards. Good thing I love to drive...
He was going to drive the whole way up I-81 and we'd also printed out great directions for me to use coming back and getting to Beverly's in Suffolk. Beverly kept calling me all excited the night before and I had to assure her I was really coming, but that I was only staying over for a night. (or so I thought).
Squire got a brand new semi- truck, we got there just at the start of rush hour, (Virginia tends to be a bit crowded)once we unloaded his stuff, and we tried once to let the dawgs check their water fence where the trucks were parked despite the woods just behind the fence line) installed them once again, only this time there was massive amounts of room, and Sméagol took point and shotgun.
I was actually tearing up because after all, Squire HAD been home up underneath me for 14 weeks,I sniffed and straightened up, gave him a good Marilyn hug, but with good directions, and unable to reach Beverly on my cell phone, I headed out towards Suffolk. I did good too......the drive from Chester to Suffolk is about, but not quite, 2 hours. I was still unable to reach Bev and only when following the directions (it was dark at this point near 6:30) and making a turn and not seeing what I hoped to see even in the dark, I pulled over about three miles down where I'd turned at the sign, I pulled out the address book and decided to call the other number under her name. And got her immediately. Apparently I'd been trying to call her husband's old phone number which was disconnected...........had to turn around and go back to where I had turned wrong, and turn left which would have been going straight had I not taken the directions literally, and got to their house within 10 minutes.
They live in the older neighborhood of Suffolk with incredibly old houses everywhere (including theirs). Poor George's stomach was gnawing his backbone at this point, and once we got some of my gear stowed inside their house, let the dogs tinkle (Sugar and Smeag on leashes at same time works, by the way, the boy figures out what he has to do quickly), give them both a little bit of water, and since George knew where we were going to eat, I handed him my key and asked if he'd mind driving. Of course not. I sat in back with dogs on the bench and we had a great meal.........I made our waitress laugh (I'm good for that) and when we returned, since George had to get up at the butt crack of o dark thirty to go to work, I said my goodnights, and she and I sat up and talked (she tends to stay up until 1, gets up with George and then cat naps a few hours after that, which is almost what I do since taking and picking up son).
At one point Mike called me and we made plans about his getting to work, I decided to stay one more day, but made sure I wasn't a hindrance to George. And the dogs were incredibly well behaved. Children should be so good! Then realizing that I was way more tired than I knew, we reluctantly went upstairs where she had decided I'd sleep in her granddaughter's room when she had lived with them for a brief period while her mama went to school and worked years past. It was a scene out of a comedy. Both dogs sleep with mama. And this was a twin bed. The dogs are clean and no extra friends on them (no fleas, ever) but it would prove interesting since I have bed fights with them and we have a King sized bed at home that they crowd and hog every night.
The dogs were so happy to not be riding, they settled almost immediately with me, Sméagol taking the feet and bottom of the bed like usual, draping his wrinkled head over my ankles and grunting like he does in sheer happiness. He sounds like the air is leaking outa him. I had the center of the twin bed, and I could hear Sugar's toenails on the hardwood floor as she shuffled around the bed trying to negotiate. Her first attempt was hilarious. She slipped and landed heavily on the area rug. The second attempt was better as she landed lightly on the bed just next to me, stepped daintly over me and flopped like she does, heavily, and snuffled and did her catchy inhaling sound and then ripped one, just for me.........to show me she was a bit put out.................lovely......., dog farts to deal with and me unable to turn over..............lol
As I started to feel the warmth seep into me from both dogs and my poor old body relax, I found myself listening to a clock that ticked somewhere in the room and caught my thoughts of "gee, I hope a dog doesn't bark, Sugar will go insane" about the time that a dog barked a few houses down, and I was able to quiet Sugar before she woke George up. Being out of her element was making her much more mindful and obedient. She'd loosen up as time went along. She's quite hardheaded and independent.
Now for giddy middle aged gardener adventures...............
The morning sunshine filled the room wonderfully and the dogs were dancing on tippy toes desperate for me to get UP because after their mush and kibbles and water last night, they DID have to go.......so I opened the door and they immediately ran down the beautiful staircase with the neat bannister and the cool window in the wall near the bottom landing, and went immediately to Bev who was having her morning coffee. When I finally got down to her myself, she already had slipped on her coat and hooked Sugar up and was about to hook Smeag to take them for a piddle outside in her side yard.
The house across from them was sitting on a huge corner lot, the house itself probably over a hundred years old, the yard had a natural ravine and was overgrown and in need of someone like me to clean and clear the ivy and such and plant things. At the back of the yard which was encircled in a wrought iron pointy fence were ancient magnolia's that hadn't been trimmed up. She suggested we take the dogs there to do other things as the yard was fenced and more laid out. (at LEAST an acre, probably two, not including the huge sprawling house above the yard). The element of unfamilarity was enough that when I unhooked the dawgs, they both immediately ran into the Boston ivy and did what we needed them to do, and they then returned immediately to me when I called them. I'd have troubles later with Sugar..............the boy ALWAYS returns to mama when I call him......
I put the dogs back in her house and grabbed my camera and proceeded to capture some of Bev's Hellebore who were blooming. Large white with freckles, I'd lift a face and talk quietly as I took pictures, next to the white, a stray pinkish one. Noticed a huge clump was growing underneath the fence onto the other side, and walked around to the sidewalk side where the fence fronted and took pictures of that Hellebore and her daughters. A bit down the raised bed was a dogwood loaded with tight buds just waiting for the right day in April. Beneath her arms were clumps of narcissus, and they were all heavy in bud, with one lone adventurer already bursting open.
Worked my way past her front stoop and porch to the side and discovered another pure white Hellebore whose blossoms were so large they didn't look real. Lifted their faces and said "yogurt!" and got great photo's of them too. Found Bev's little shady alley between houses where her oil tank is and the new central air unit, and thought about places to put her unhappy Hellebore. And all those windows of hers! I couldn't stop my mind from thinking of everything I'd have enjoying those huge windows and cool temperatures. (the ceilings are 13 foot). Snapping out of my revere, I was back to her side yard behind the maple tree and near her porch stoop. The dogs were waiting for me...........both sat there, picture perfect just sitting and anticipating......it was so endearing and cute..<g>
Bev had an important appointment and we decided that we needed to grab a bite of brunch somewhere and after her appointment, we'd do whatever came up. It never goes the way you think....we loaded up the dogs into her car, and we headed out towards the local WalMart (good, I noticed they had a gas station and it wasn't bad in price. More than home, but still cheaper than along the interstate.) She whipped into the parking lot and parked next to the garden side and informed me we were stopping so she could pick up some pots to put the cuttings I'd brought her into. I was game. We were about to have a blast.
As we entered the garden center, the first thing that caught my eye was the display of newly arrived cacti and succulents. Always on the lookout for something different I don't normally see, I immediately spotted a hairy Hawortia. uh oh.........and another Hawortia that had spots along the outer leaves and smooth green inside. Never seen one like that........and crap.....there was a spiney Euphorbia. All these were inexpensive and as I stood there picking up 3 inch pots, I saw Bev was picking out a hairy jade for her sister. This might be a bad idea. I am highly contageous! lol
We decided not to get a cart (to cut down on what we got) and we spotted the seeds. By now it was hopeless. She went and got a shopping cart, then she was picking out seeds she was going to start, I was finding seeds of Heirloom flowers, a very fragrant one, a sweet pea called Captain of the Blues, then several different kinds of sunflowers with names like Strawberry Blond, Autumn Beauty, Lemon Queen and Velvet Queen. I could get these to grow. I have to go easy with seeds. The ones you can shove in and they do well without you from there, and the ones you scatter, like Cleome and poppy and such. but no somniferum poppy seeds here...only oriental. I settled for California poppy seeds, and knew I could sow them when I got home so they'd chill and stratify and germinate for me this year. And I had the perfect spot for them. My madgardener alter ego was awake and insane............idea's were popping out of me like shoots of young bulbs were poking up thru the weeds and debris in the gardens I'd seen in the neighborhood.
But having a gardening friend back home who had GREAT luck in starting perennials from seed was my undoing. I got several packages that were priced at just a quarter and a dime and knew we were hopelessly immeshed in sticky hands. Celosia, double gaillardia, sweet peas of her own. We went to the pots aisle and Bev picked up four pots with watering lips which is rather neat, and we decided we'd better stop, not to mention time was rushing past us and her appointment was drawing closer.
As we stood in line with all our booty, there were other ladies standing waiting for the little old lady who was the cashier to get finished with the woman in front of us with the check, and they were kinda looking at my smiling face and the big ol' orange with white flowers garden hat. I told them not to stand too closely as I was highly contageous with gardening madness and we all laughed. It was great to meet nice people who weren't all grumbly. Beverly kept telling people I was her gardening friend from Tennessee and we all compared the accents. I was having a ball.
She wanted me to run into the grocery store and snag her a cup of coffee while she waited in her car, and since I had my tea jug with me, I agreed to run in for her. Passed a soda machine that had a dollar sticking out of it like a green tongue, and thought this was a good sign (no one at the machines, so it was another example of me finding money, which I always seem to do) snagged it and as I entered the store, there before me were the most wonderful looking fresh muffins on display..........and decided a quick knosh was called for to tide us over until she had her appointment. Got her coffee, snagged us lemon poppy seed muffins with crunchy topping, and wild berry ones with crunchy tops and we had a quick little knosch in the parking lot as we sped towards her appointment.
While I waited in the car with the dawgs, I looked at all the neat old buildings and started looking for Spring sign. I'm sure I saw an old Quince in bloom in the yard behind the old hardware store across the street. Not too much traffic, and above me over the pines and magnolia's and other trees I didn't try and identify, I saw gulls and larger birds high up riding the thermals in the bright blue sky. The air was noticibly damper and despite tempertures that don't bother me, I could feel the chill. But the sun was warm, and the dogs were actually snoring in the back seat while I waited patiently. I caught myself thinking I could have brought my new issue of Fine Gardening to wile away the time, but I also knew it wouldn't be long.
And I was right. There was Bev's smiling face and her familiar "hello" that is unmistabably her, and when asked where to eat, my answer was normal Maddie......wherever there is good food. I am easy. We settled on a local Mexican restaurant. Afterwards she took me to wetlands that were close by and we saw commerants (sp?) and assorted ducks and some cranes in the grassy places. I was itching to get back to her neighborhood and just walk the dogs around and check out the Camelia's and whatever else was blooming.
There's nothing quite like two women the same age who are rabid about gardening and who both have the love of capturing pictures of flowers up close and in their faces. The houses were all awesome. Yards were nice, I was blown away by the sheer volumn of ancient magnolia's, the huge towering Camelia's in bloom and bud, even Mahonia's were impressive. The find of the day though was this one house an old queen had lived in for a large portion of his latter life, and making good money, he'd formally gardened. When he died, he'd not had anyone but a nephew in France somewhere and had willed the incredible home and gardens to the historical society.
Bev took me to his house and yard and carrage house so we could poke about and look into windows (they opened it up later in the season, and were slowly doing a few repairs) and see what was growing. I found an alcove just off a great room with all windows and an inner fireplace with marble mantle, and found his fern alley. The Autumn ferns were still lush and had already started making little new fiddles......as we rounded the corner, Bev informed me that there was an ancient old rose on a wisteria trellis that she suspected had been butchered, but hadn't had time to check it up closer. As we got to that corner of the house, we came upon it. Butchered wasn't the word. There was still lots of tendrils and canes reaching up 12 to 14 foot, and rose hips that were as large as a man's thumb. The canes were thick and gnarled, but they hadn't known how to prune it and we could see sad whackings.
The treasure, though was the full grown Daphne. A Carol Mackie, and variegated and loaded literally COVERED in buds at every intersection of twig. The whole bush was five foot wide and only four foot high and the fragrance is one I'll never forget or be able to describe. I had to have a piece. And I'd left my little snips back at her house. So I prayed my good thumbnail wouldn't let me down as I deep pinched an end that split into two opposite twigs with several leaves and lots of tight rosy buds and only two open flowers, and I was able to sever it without tearing. My eyes almost rolled back in their head from the heady fragrance the little flowers put out.
We'd ditched the dogs in her house so we'd be able to take pictures uninterrupted and in focas. As we worked our way back towards her part of the street, we came upon a totaly different colored Camelia. Now I had pictures of red tightly ruffled ones that grew on a bush that must have been 12 -14 foot tall, a pink and white blousy one, a pure white one that was so large I couldn't see how tall it was, and next to it, a clean pure pink one whose blossoms backed each other on more than half the branches. I made note that I had to get back when the Southern magnolia's were in blossom........
Since we had eaten so late, she decided I needed to meet some of her neighbor friends. Great ladies with full lives who each lived in houses with character, great windows, high ceilings and ancient mature trees and bushes. A neighborhood you could walk a dog or just stroll and admire. An old church rang bells every half hour and hour just a few streets over. An invitation to come have tea was taken up, and I met another dear friend and lady she'd worked at a home kindergarden for years just down a couple of houses.
I met a crusty older black woman who came out of her house like some scolding blackbird when she saw me thru her windows taking pictures of her blousy pink and white Camelia's (after I asked her grandson's permission to enter the yard, of course, and Bev had known this young man when he was a small child, now a teenager). When she spotted Bev, she laughed, as I explained I wasn't taking pictures of nothing but her beautiful flowers. And she accused me of being one of them nutty gardeners, but since I was with Bev, she KNEW I was one of them nutty gardeners and harmless.......later I'd speak a hello to her daughter as we went to have tea and her daughter invited me to come up next time and have a game of spades with her.............
We were snapped out of our gardening and visiting thoughts when we realized we'd left the mutts inside her house and we both said it at the same time......poor George!! Apparently they were VERY happy to see him come home while we were out taking pictures and getting into yards and trouble.......he'd not found anything destroyed, but noticed once he sat down at his computer, they laid close to him and were just fine.
I knew I would be leaving the next morning some time, and we started back to the house, saved her husband from the watchful eye of two needy dawgs, and started gathering things. Then I got out my snips and we proceeded to cut and root everything. I'd cut, pass them across her sink and counter to her in the dining room on the opposite side and she'd stick. Two pots of Swiss cheese phil, one pot of Brasil phil, one pot of spiderwort, variety unknown until I find the entry in my gardening journal at home later and e-mail it to her.
We wound up talking into the wee hours, and reluctlantly crawled off after the dogs let us both know they wanted to go to bed......breakfast would be on me, as George had the day off and they both were sleeping in. I'd fill up, we'd have a good brunch and then I'd head homewards to Tennessee. I'll say it again, there's nothing like good people and being able to sit and have a meal and laughs and share things and be civil. I caught myself wishing Squire was with me enjoying this little man. Earlier in the morning, he'd shown me his copper iris he'd made, which I'd been looking at for two days and didn't realize he'd done it with his own hands.
He'd shown me he was etching glass, and was working on another project. Beverly apparently is quite an artist as well, and I discovered an incredible drawing of a calla lily that was enviable. As we hurried back to their house to make sure everything was packed, the gathering began. A roaster because they didn't have room for it, Bev's sister has this thing about buying nice women's socks when they're on sale, and they're not cheap socks either, but since Bev doesn't LIKE them........I wound up taking home almost 100 pair of very expensive nice womans socks. We had a good laugh about them, but I'll not have to buy socks for a few years! LOL
Get pictures of her and George, she got pictures of me and the mutts with my camera so I could send it back to her in her e-mail. She printed out a few pictures she'd taken when we'd done the digital thing. Lots of hugs and protests of "don't leave, stay another day or two" and then we were off. I made it three blocks and as I passed the Wally store, I realized I'd left the cactus......so I pulled in across the street and called her and yes, she'd just remembered she'd moved the bag of them last night. So I turned around and made it back and she had two bulbs of lycoris red spider lily in a bag for me. Earlier we'd tried to dig up a clump of her Hellebore, but I'd hit a root or something and promised that next time I'd bring my Fiskar's shovel and we'd do some serious damage and I'd move them for her in no time. She teased me with the next time I came, she knew where there were some RED ONES that needed dividing at a friend's house down the street.............besides the snow storm was coming and I wanted to beat it and get home....
Before your eyes all bleed from all these words........the drive thru the Blue Ridge Mountains was as perfect as it could get. My only regrets was that it's in high winter and the colors of all those trees almost knock you out with their somber tones. Two stops for the dogs, and they weren't budging. Home at 10 at night, I could feel the impending storm in the air, my fingers were aching and as I opened the van, the dogs burst out and ran up the driveway delirious that they were HOME.......unloaded the music, everything I had brought home and last the cactus and bare root plants I'd gotten and gave the dogs some time to just run and stretch and play and grovel and growl and do what they love and adore to do with each other.
The nippy air was enough, though that Smeagol came back in just a short time, but the smile on his face was enough. Sugar wasn't far behind him, and we went inside a brightly lit house. Apparently son was lonely. EVERY LIGHT WAS ON IN THE HOUSE.........................good thing they are energy efficient lights. As I entered the livingroom, I saw the nails hadn't been fed. And the light on the cactus underneath the aquarium beside the front door was STILL on.......sigh. Get some much deserved rest, poor plants. I'll kill son later.
Put the kettle on to make a couple of gallons of sweet tea, make a sandwhich and kick off my shoes, take off the leg warmers and find a pair of those cool socks for me feets. Put things up in their place, and stretch out, then call Bev and tell her I'm home.
I'll take you outside in the impending snow andthe occurances and thoughts later. My eyes are crossing and I don't want to mess that one up. I appreciate your being patient with me. Tomorrow will be shrubs full of Cardinals and the scent of snow and all those magical things in Fairy Holler. For now, good night.... madgardener up on the ridge, back in Fairy Holler, overlooking English Mountain in Eastern Tennessee