Saturday, April 19, 2008

Spring Fever

I think we can safely say spring really has sprung here in the mid-Atlantic states of the USA. All of the delights, all the headaches, and all the work attached thereto have presented themselves in one neat package, yesterday and today.

I did a careful check of all my weather report sources and saw that the temperatures will no longer be dipping below 50F in the forseeable future, so that gave me permission to get the plants out of the house and onto their summer home on the deck. Friends, we're talking plants. Some of them have been with me for nearly 30 years, before I even knew Steve, and have become specimens--huge Christmas and Easter cacti, a common mother-on-law's-tongue that must weigh around 40 lbs. and every summer treats us to spiky flowers with an incredible scent redolent of cloves and cinnamon, a jade that started with a few sticks stuck in dirt and is now a bush, and a tree from the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia whose name I don't know but whose seeds filled every crevice of our suitcases after a 2004 trip there, and I planted. It's about 5 feet tall now. (No, we did no illegal importations. We didn't even know the buggers were in there until we started unpacking.)

Most of these plants live in the only sunny room we have in the winter, the upstairs bathroom where the jacuzzi is. The day will come when I can no longer carry these mothers up and down the steps, and I dread it, because parting with them will be very hard. We had hoped this might be the last trip down before our move; in a new house they'd have their own dedicated sunroom, but things aren't looking too optimistic on that front these days, so....I guess I can keep carrying them for a year or two more. It's only two days out of a year, after all, a trip down and then a trip back up.

So the plants are out, which leads to cleaning the house. A phenomenon I forget every year is that it is exactly at this moment that the big oak next door starts releasing its pollen. No sooner is every surface in the house cleaned than it is covered with silver-yellow tree spunk. That'll go on for weeks.

(Just so I don't forget the "delight" category: Steve cut flowers from the lilacs and put them in vases all over the house, so the place is filled that indescribable but instantly recongnizable scent. Wonderful.)

And then back to work: this morning I planted red and yellow petunias on the terrace bed along the street, and then went to the back and weeded, raked, and generally cleaned up that part of the garden that will be grassed over. Steve painted (oh yes, that's still going on!) while all this was going on. When we were done, we had planned a trip to Homo Depot to get stuff we need for that new grass, but we called a halt. We'd never have got to that job today, and rain is promised for a good part of next week starting tomorrow, so we had an excuse to stop.

The picture at the top is the happy discovery of the day: my rhubarb is struggling to make a reappearance after all. That is what survived the heat and drought of last year. I'm amazed--this is very late for rhubarb--and I am coddling it like a sick child. We may have rhubarb pie from the garden yet!

Dinner tonight: Grilled chicken that's been marinated in lemon juice, salt, sugar and garlic. It's a Brazilian dish I learned in Cape Verde (a former Portuguese colony). I'll take pictures. Soon you'll be eating it, too!


michele said...

My routine is the same. Haul the plants outdoors in the spring and clean house. I'll wait a couple of weeks yet, but it is looking promising. We have heirloom plants as you have. We finally invested in a plant dolly to carry the plants up-and-down the indoor and outdoor stairs. Much easier on our old backs

Cuidado said...

Fear not. When you can't lift your plants anymore SOMEONE will take the hour and help you out I'm sure. If that doesn't work out let me tell you what a friend of mine did. She has huge plant/trees as she's a super green thumb and has worked in a nursery for years. When they got too much for her she donated them to a local nursing home. They were glad to get them and she visits people there so gets to visit her plants too.

Ralph said...

Michele, you always seem to have just the thing I need. A plant dolly. It'll definitely go on my list.

Ralph said...

That idea has crossed my mind, Cuidado, and actually, I sort of "loaned" another enormous jade and a couple of Christmas cacti to a friend's office. She asked about bringing them back and I said she didn't have to worry about it. That jade is so old it actually blooms, but the one I have now will reach that stage too soon enough, it's from the same plant. And the cacti are so easy to propagate there's no reason to hold on to them if they're getting too numerous. There's just more where they came from.

Anonymous said...

I think that is what I miss the most about living in Northern VA. Every Spring we would plant a veggie garden, plant flowers in all the boxes out in front, and then can our harvest in early September. I grew corn, tomatos, kale, cukes, everything I could think of. With gas prices pushing up the cost of food, maybe we will all be back to our farming ways. Down here it's almost impossible to get anything to grow in this sand cept Oranges. Mangos thrive. That's about it. And YAY, can't wait for the chicken recipe. Thanks.

Ralph said...

Z&M, I went through a very long canning and freezing phase myself. I still do make pickles: bread and butter and a special sweet dill that's great on burgers. I make tons of 'em and it takes us years to get through tehm so it's not a yearly ritural, but I love doing it.