Monday, June 24, 2013

Roses Survive

This year almost all of the roses my friend Quickbeam gave me bloomed, even after a year of drought followed by snow in early May. Bubblebath blossomed first; she makes great fiendish faces when she blooms, and she puts on a show for quite a while. Greenmantle had a hard winter, but she came back in late May and bloomed until the solstice.

Bleu Magenta bloomed in the first half of June; Quickbeam told me she might show more of her blue coloring this year. She made a little nook for herself alongside the lane, near a wild black raspberry patch. My neighbor helped me mow a clear path to show her off.

Alba Semi-Plena
Celestial and Alba, the white rose of York, both bloomed this year, probably because of the extra sunlight created by the local electric company when they chopped down a swath of trees to replace a power pole. Alba is the classic white rose. Celestial is one of her descendants.

Seafoam is almost a mini-rose, white and cream. She had a hard time in early May; some of her petals were nipped by frost. The potted mini-roses, Sweet Fairy and Cinderella, shed their leaves in late winter but came back quickly once they could finally go outside.

The wild roses and feral multifloras bloomed along the roadside in June this year, about the same time as the wild grapes and rough-leaf dogwood. The fragrance blows up from the woods south of the house at dawn. I wake up each morning breathing an unearthly perfume.

A couple of weeks after Beltane, Quickbeam loaded his van with roses and headed to a party in the country. I volunteered to help him ask people if they wanted rose bushes — free roses, folks, really. While I was roaming around offering roses to random people, our friend May, one of the party’s hostesses, told Quickbeam that she would take everything left in his van to start her own rose garden. I didn’t know about that when I asked May’s neighbor if he needed a rose bush. “My wife’s middle name is Rose,” he said, “and tomorrow is Mother’s Day.”

Bleu Magenta
We stood peering into Quickbeam’s van as May told her neighbor, “You can pick any rose you want for your wife, except this one, and — oh, I want that one, too — but please, choose any rose you like.” Eventually they worked it out. I’m getting to be quite proud of the trouble I cause.

Quickbeam is our local Johnny Rosebush, spreading the word and the blossoms to all and sundry. A week after the party he loaded up the van again and gave away a dozen rose bushes at the Really, Really Free Market in town. I’m honored by the survival of his gifts, even here in the shade of the wild wood.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Kitchen Dramas

I can’t watch the television shows where cooks scream at each other or swear vehemently at the food they’re preparing. I would not want to eat food that had been cursed. My kitchen has seen its share of drama, though. The time the kids were being careful with a candle resulted in impressive flames, a dishwater flood and an enduring scorch mark.

The week when two Sagittarians took the kitchen apart and put it back together again was fairly spectacular. They did a great renovation job, ultimately, but for a while it looked like a herd of wild horses had been let loose. I eventually located my pie plates a couple of months later.

Cider is safer.
Our friend Rowan gave us a bottle of mead from the first batch he had ever brewed. We put it away for a special occasion. The mead, however, chose its own holiday. It exploded in the kitchen on the Fourth of July.

The cats consider the kitchen prime hunting territory, with accompanying feline territorial disputes. The mouse hunts are not limited to the kitchen, of course. They ramp through the house, usually in the small hours of the night, with a tendency to end up in somebody’s slipper. The time I woke up with a cat offering me a live mouse in my bed was a definite low point, from the human-monkey point of view.

My daughter clipped one of Jim Davis’s Garfield comics for me. John wakes up appreciating nature, then wakes up a little more and wonders how it all got inside. Garfield is responsible, of course. This seems to happen regularly around here. My daughter and her cat once kept an opossum from coming through the screen door by means of a circus performance requiring claws, a broom and a long-handled duster.

The opossum I evicted was already inside. I first saw her in the living room, ambling down the stairs. The cats sat up attentively but made no move to intercept. Their postures expressed various levels of “I’m not touching that.” The possum sauntered across the floor into the kitchen, cruising for catfood dishes.
Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana).
I was too busy getting rid of her to take a photo.

When I was ten or so, my father rescued an opossum from the local dogs. He grabbed it by the tail and hoisted it up above his head. It wrapped its prehensile tail around his wrist and held on for dear life, all the while pretending to be dead. Accompanied by half the dogs in town, he walked out toward the timber. The neighborhood kids turned out to try to call off the pack. We yelled and threw things at the dogs. The dogs yelped and leapt at the possum. The possum opened one eye, then shut it again quickly: “I’m still dead.” Eventually our entourage reached the end of its territory. My father and the possum went on across a pasture into the woods and disappeared into the trees.

I had never caught a possum by the tail, but I knew it could be done. I opened the back door, put on my wood-hauling gloves and followed the interloper into the kitchen. She hissed and squirmed when I seized her tail. I lifted her as high as I could and flung her out the door. She landed several yards from the house, still hissing. I was certain she was female because of her righteous indignation: “Don’t you understand? I have babies to raise!”

“Sorry,” I told her. “Not in my kitchen.”

Kitchen witch, a little cracked but still flying.