Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thankful for My Sense of Humor

I have a history of falling into deep sadness at this time of year, every year. I don't know exactly why -- the falling light levels, a sense of mourning at the end of the gardening season, or maybe just my own dislike of the holidays in general. Maybe it's a combination of all three. The end of the year, from about September onward, makes me sad.

And lately, I spend even more time careening between deep sadness and all-consuming, white-hot fury, every time I read the news.

In my recent post Ode to a Nightingale I lamented the end of the gardening season, and one of the commenters, Hoover Boo, who blogs at Piece of Eden, commented with a link to a YouTube video of comedian Lewis Black ranting. It made me laugh, and lifted my spirits for a while, and ultimately sent me on a quest through YouTube for videos of favorite comedians.

Some of you may know that my husband Nigel is English, and I am an Anglophile, which means we spend a lot of time watching English comedy and TV shows on YouTube and Britbox. Here are a couple of my favorites, who are probably not exactly household names in the U.S., so you might not be familiar with them.

Sarah Millican

Sarah Millican Live at the Apollo

Sarah Millican on Her Pet Dog

Tom Allen

Tom Allen on Being at the Water Park

Tom Allen Live at the Apollo

So, if you've had a horrifying Thanksgiving with family, or a stressful time cooking (or eating too much), or just feel the need to also be thankful for your own sense of humor, I hope those clips made you laugh too.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Ode to a Nightingale

 Stephen Fry reading
Ode to a Nightingale

Ode to a Nightingale
     By John Keats

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
         My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
         One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
         But being too happy in thine happiness,—
                That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
                        In some melodious plot
         Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
                Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
         Cool'd a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
         Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
         Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
                With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
                        And purple-stained mouth;
         That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
                And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
         What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
         Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
         Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
                Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
                        And leaden-eyed despairs,
         Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
                Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
         Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
         Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
         And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
                Cluster'd around by all her starry Fays;
                        But here there is no light,
         Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
                Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
         Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
         Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
         White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
                Fast fading violets cover'd up in leaves;
                        And mid-May's eldest child,
         The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
                The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
         I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call'd him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
         To take into the air my quiet breath;
                Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
         To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
                While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
                        In such an ecstasy!
         Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
                   To thy high requiem become a sod.

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
         No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
         In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
         Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
                She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
                        The same that oft-times hath
         Charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam
                Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
         To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
         As she is fam'd to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
         Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
                Up the hill-side; and now 'tis buried deep
                        In the next valley-glades:
         Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
                Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?

It may have been a few years since you took a poetry class. Just in case you need a few clues to what John Keats was wittering on about, here's a link.

Although I welcome the rains that return to the garden here in the fall, the season always fills me with melancholy, so I thought I'd pass the melancholia on to you.

Thursday, October 31, 2019


Happy Halloween! Here are some spooky things in my garden.

This spider web has been abandoned for quite a while now. We've had quite a long string of cold, frosty nights lately, and I'm pretty sure all the cross spiders have long since laid their eggs and gone into hibernation.

I like putting masks and glasses on some of my pots in the greenhouse. I found these cheap cat-eye sunglasses at the thrift store a few weeks ago. I'm not convinced they're really right for Buddha.

The creepiest thing in my garden is this real possum skeleton, which has been sitting beside my shed near the compost bins for a few months now. I know it's a possum because when I first found it, probably a day or so after it had died, it still had flesh (and bugs) on its bones and reeked of decay. I haven't dared to go near it to clean it up, because possums can carry some of the same diseases, such as leptospirosus, that raccoons carry, even in their carcasses. It scares the bejesus out of me. The smell of rotten meat hung around in my nostrils for hours after I found it.
Ew, ew, ew

This seemed fitting, I am definitely abbey normal

Friday, October 25, 2019

A Recent Visit to Watson's Nursery

Nigel just got back from a train trip to California, a little vacation on his own. He had a rebate voucher from Amtrak that paid for a trip there and back on the Coast Starlight, so in between he spent a couple of nights (and one day) at Disneyland. While he was away, Watson's Nursery posted on Instagram that they were having a 40% off sale on houseplants, so I decided to take myself over there to check things out.

They had some interesting ferns.

Some lush staghorn ferns

Simply labeled Pteris sp.

Eyelash fern/Actiniopteris semiflabellata

I was tempted by this heart fern/Hemionitis arifolia, but I've heard it can be finicky to keep alive.

Button fern/Pellaea rotundifolia

Variegated brake fern/Pteris ensiformis

Technically not a fern, Cycas revoluta (Sago palm) looks a lot like a fern
I also considered the prayer plants.

And this remarkably colorful Cordyline.

Cordyline terminalis 'Cherry Cordial'

A couple of months ago, I was visiting Watson's when they had just started putting a green wall together. If you scroll down through their Instagram feed here, you'll find a couple of videos about the process of putting it together. It turned out fabulous.

The Bromelaids in the wall reminded me to check out their Bromeliad area, where I found some wonderfully lush specimens.

This flowering Vriesea had babies popping up already in the center

I found a small but interesting selection of Dyckias from Little Prince of Oregon on their succulent table.

'Grand Marnier'

'Grape Jelly'

'Burgundy Ice'

Most of these were simply labeled either Aloe or Gasteria, including that strip in the center, which I'm pretty sure are Aloe aristata.

Mangaves! 'Inkblot'

One Mangave 'Falling Waters'

Rows of fluffy Echevaria

Various tiny pots of cactus and succulents

I liked the look of that chocolatey, wavy Echeveria, but there weren't many to choose from

Crown of thorns/Euphorbia millii

Little knobbly, stripey Gasteria

They had some intriguing wooden containers and driftwood pieces, but of course, they weren't part of the sale.

I wasn't sure if these were included in the sale or not, but they gave me ideas.

Cool, but not $90 worth of cool, especially since I could get the plant for considerably less

I don't know if those fungi are real dried specimens, but it's an interesting use for them

Unfortunately, perusing the sale also meant having to endure this...

I'm old school, seeing Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving doesn't just make me shudder, I find it annoying

What did I bring home? One of those little chocolate Echevaria, a Crown of Thorns, a staghorn fern, two Aloe aristata, and a few Dyckia, two 'Grand Marnier' and one 'Burgundy Ice'.