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Friday, January 6, 2017

A Gardener's Diary: "You'd be so lean, that blasts of January/Would blow you through and through."*

[W]hat a severe yet master artist old Winter is.... No longer the canvas and the pigments, but the marble and the chisel. 

~John Burroughs, "The Snow-Walkers," 1866

It was warm last week, pushing seventy.  But such times are fleeting. As Elizabeth Lawrence wrote in her classic 1942 book, The Southern Garden, "In winter, we cannot depend, as in the northern states, on cold and snow, nor, as in the Far South, warmth and sun. One day the air may be like spring, and the next the ground may be covered with ice."

So it is in Charlotte, Miss Lawrence's longtime home, this 6th of January. Tuesday I noticed my neighbor Mr Doug's forsythia up at the street corner- a promiscuous bush even by the standards of that branch of the olive family- had begun to burst into its vivid yellow blossoms.

And today, another neighbor from across the street ambled over to give me my mail and bring me two blossoms from a camellia that lives in almost perpetual shadow between her house and car shed, yet contrived to bloom this week:

I ventured out today, in shifts morning and afternoon, to get a bunch of stuff done in the yard. Housemate, the OTR driver, was home for two weeks around Christmas and undertook a number of big projects to stave off the fidgets. Among them was a complete makeover for the garden shed: Off came the shingles, the underlayment was replaced, ridge venting was installed, gutters put up, the sides repainted, and leftover shingles from the August house project applied.

Martha Stewart would approve the unity of roofing in the novel shade of Atlantic Blue:

It was a pretty forlorn affair three years ago, when Housemate was building new doors to return it to shed-dom after a neighbor (during the time the property was unoccupied) turned it into a chicken house:

But time ran out, and he vanished Monday, the siren call of the road being seductive as ever.  When my neighbor came over with the camellias and the mail, she surveyed the scene and deadpanned, "He sure is a hard worker, but he don't like cleanin' up at all, does he?"

Well, the cleaning-up got done. I got my potting bench, on the far side of the shed, put back together, then reassembled my compost bins, which were on this side of the shed.

I had to take those down when there was a Christmas decree from Caesar August that all the shed should be painted. I was never so glad as that afternoon that I found this pallet design instead of the fancy bespoke models the TV garden shows promote:

You just lash the corners with strapping tape, and Bob's your uncle! Easy to put up, easy to take down. 

Mind you, emptying the bins of almost 250 cubic feet of compacted, mulched leaves was a little harder. In the remake pic above, the pile rising behind the ladder on the ground doesn't do justice to just how much material there was, or how heavy.

But I was feeling my oats, and forgot to wear my facemask. Within a day or so I was wheezing around, short of breath. In old age, my allergies have morphed again. Leaf mold and dust irritates my airway, in a nasty cross between asthma and bronchitis. I limp around for a week, week and a half, then regain the ability to take deep breaths, and start trying to hack up a lung. That's when I know I am practically well again.

Today I got out the leaf blower and got most of the mulch corralled again in about forty minutes. Then I strapped on the front gates and shoveled the rest over the top. Now it can snow all Mother Nature feels like dishing out. It will pile up on top of the mulch and then slowly melt, trickling through the pile all through next week.

Order is restored.

So this event- "Snowmaggedon," City Council member and Republican mayoral candidate Kenny Smith- feeling folksy and outreach-y- calls it- will be somewhere between average and a little better than. Word is, with sunshiny days and cold nights, we are in for days of melt-and-freeze into ice before things get back to usual.

Suits me. I won't see my backyard full of snow-covered lumps marking all the stuff I didn't pick up and store. There's food in the pantry. I will wait it out. By the standard of the Cumberland County (Fayetteville) library system, I am all set:

*William Shakespeare, The Winter's Tale (Perdita, Act IV, Scene 4)

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