Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bloomin' Cacti

When I first started growing Prickly Pear in the garden years ago, it was because they were given to me by a one of the mental health clients I worked with.  He told me they would winter over.  I can't say that I believed him.  I certainly had some degree of skepticism.  I was amazed that they survived and further amazed when they blossomed.
For years they inspired my annual "Cactus Blossom Party" where friends, neighbors and co-workers gathered for dogs and burgers, Tequila Sunrises and marvelous deserts.

We thought about a party this year, but just can't seem to muster the enthusiasm.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

In A Funk or My New Car

I have been in a funk of late - at least since the Car Club Invitational event and its aftermath.  Maybe even before that, not sure.  As I'm melancholy by nature the change is subtle, and not easy to identify.   It is a strange depression, tinged with boredom, like something is missing.  Sometimes I want to crawl out of my skin; or cry; or be angry.  It seems there is no rest, like I'm spinning wheels and getting nowhere. I suspect there is a "spiritual" dimension to it (and I use the term for lack of a less loaded alternative).  It seems that there is no real spirituality left in religion of any brand; this is unsettling in itself; so I find no receptacle or conduit for that "spiritual" dimension.  Maybe it stems from the Great Oil Spill and what it symbolizes for me about our ultimate inability to control our destiny or to help ourselves, like watching a real live Greek tragedy.   The fact that we are somewhere in the delicate balance between poverty and comfort also causes anxiety - and the fact that we can spend money we don't yet have and very likely never will have is scary.  So this is where I'm at as we were still looking at cars last week.

As I stated before, I despised the Prius I took over from  Leon after I wrecked my Mazda.  I was resigned to driving it for the rest of my life, but swore at the car and its designers every time I drove it.  So Leon made me look at alternatives.  We decided to check out the Honda Fit.

To make a story short, I liked it.  It felt like coming home. I dreaded the buying procedure.  After an hour and a half and still not getting close to our bottom line with a trade-in allowance (mainly telling us the Prius was in "good" rather than "excellent" condition but their definition was there in black and white  and the Prius was a hair away from "excellent"), the manager says "Let me check one more thing" and runs off to his office.  Why didn't he "check one more thing" an hour ago?  Well, that didn't get us to our price either. I reached my emotional limit and apologized for taking his time and said we are obviously looking at a car that's out of our budget (the Fit is one of the least expensive new cars) and we left.  When we got home and found a phone message from the turns out that he had met our bottom line.

So, a trade-in of the Prius and a small home equity loan got me a new Honda Fit Sport with manual transmission.  With a 3 year Honda warrantee plus a 1 year Dealer extension.  Plus some extras and options. Like floor mats, a hatch cover.  Like a "personal assistant" that I'm looking forward to using somehow.  It has real knobs, buttons and dials for the radio and heat/air condition.  It has a fuel gage I can see.  It has comfortable seats and great visibility.

Can we afford it?  I really don't know.  The price of this car is what some people make in a month, what others make in a day, what some make in an hour, what I make in 9 months, if I'm lucky.  The Prius was out of warranty and we know any potential repairs would be expensive.  The Fit should be good for 4 years under warranty and then another 10 after that.  Then Leon will be taking my keys away anyway.

Now, when I get into the driver's seat, instead of swearing at Toyota's stupid accouterments, I find myself whispering to myself, like Brick in the TV show "The Middle", sotto il voce: "It's so much nicer, it's so much nicer".

As the oil gushes into the sea, we are all gushing mini oil-spills and the products of combustion into the environment.  Every time we change our oil, fill our tanks, buy a plastic product, turn on a light, turn up the thermostat, crank up the air conditioning, throw trash into the dump, dispose of a computer, flush prescription drugs down the toilet or excrete their un-metabolized remnants into the sewer system, use Roundup or Weed and Feed, the list goes on.... So, here I am contributing to the problem, rather than being part of the solution.  Despite composting, recycling, drying clothes on the line, growing vegetables...I'm thinking there is no solution.  

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Veggies Ahead of Schedule

The Northeast has a relatively short growing season but this spring came early and hot so we were able to get a head start on the gardening.  As opposed to last summer which was cold and wet, with something like  10 sunny days from May through mid August.  So here we are toward the end of June and this is what the garden looks like:

First four rows: Hot Lemon Peppers, Sweet Peppers, Cubanelle Peppers, Egpant 'Money Maker", Long Italian Eggplant.

Next three rows: Heirloom Tomatoes: Costoluto Genovese (2), Brandywine, Stupice, Paul Robeson, Jaune Flamme, Yellow Jelly Bean, Box Car Willie, Oxheart Orange, Red Mortgage Lifter.
Three rows of Beans, two or three varieties
Swiss Chard, 2 varieties of Broccoli, dill
Squashes: Hybrid Zucchini, Green Zuchini, Yellow Summer
Parsley, green Genovese Basil, Purple Basil, Beets, red lettuce, Arugula, Swiss chard (Parsley, basil, lettuce are thinned and interplanted all through the garden)
Not sure what the correct name for these is -evening primrose?

This is Mr. Arizona with the first Prickly Pear Flower of the season - this is a potted "house" plant - not the native New England variety - they will blossom this week in my garden.  Our location and elevation still puts us about 2 weeks behind lower elevations and micro climates just miles down the road.
I can't help but be thankful for this garden and all of the earth's gifts.  And it makes me profoundly sad when I think about the devastation of the ocean and coastline, sealife and wildlife that continues at this moment in the Gulf waters and along the shores of our southern states.  Some flakey woman from Alaska wants us all to pray for a miracle.  I'm afraid it doesn't work that way.  If anything we should be praying for forgiveness.   

Friday, June 18, 2010

Bluff Point

Took a day hike to Bluff Point. Connecticut is not known for its beaches as we are not on the open ocean - Long Island Sound doesn't get the waves and hasn't always been the cleanest body of salt water. But, no disrespect intended, in light of the Gulf oil spill, I think our beaches moved up a notch. Having a beach spoiled is just sad and sickening - just to think of - I can't imagine actually being there. What can we, the "small people" all over this country, do to help?

It's a treck from the parking lot to the beach.
Typical Connecticut beach sign.  I've seen all of the following at one time or another: "No dogs, no horses, no glass bottles, no frisbees, no ball-playing, no coolers, no flotation devices, no alcohol, no swimming, and absolutely no nudity.  The piping plovers are nesting. So we couldn't use the beach.  Tell me that screaming little children don't frighten the piping plovers more than a well behaved dog.

Looks like a morning glory, but it was 2 in the afternoon.

Beach Rose
Rocky shore

Not typical on a New England beach
Hiked further to a nice little cove
Benni took his first swim - check out his blog
Nice view
The area was once private property - but the exclusive homes were wiped out in a hurricane back in the 1940's or 50's.  Stone walls are everywhere in New England with stone walls bordering the fields.  Connecticut was once practically clear cut of forest for ship building and homes and for farm land.  Now we have less than 200 small farms left.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hiking the Metacomet Trail and Looking at New and Used Cars

We went for a short hike on part of the Metacomet Trail today. Here are some prickly pear (Opuntia) that I scattered along the trail more than 10 years ago. They are well and happily blooming.
Then we went to look at new and used automobiles as most dealerships are closed and you can browse in peace without sharks circling about.  I despise the Prius that I bought from Leon after my Mazda got totaled.  

There is nothing about the Prius, except for the gas milage (and even that is mediocre) that I like about the car.  I'm talking aesthetics and creature comforts here because that is what matters to me most when I'm driving.  The dashboard is a monstrosity and the instruments are way way down into the front of the dash.  The information screen is the most ridiculous piece of useless gimmick I've ever encountered.  You cannot look over and see how the heating/cooling is set or change your radio station without pressing 2, 3, or 4 different buttons to get to the correct display.  Talk about distracting.  The compartment under your right armrest is impossible to open and access without being double-jointed and the stupid "toll-booth" window is totally out of control.  There is an annoying glare on the windshield at night from the reflection of the instrument panel.  The upholstery always looks dirty.  The brakes don't perform like regular brakes and when you think you're engaging them, you're not until you press just a bit more, then you practically stop on a dime.  The cruise control is often a mystery, especially when you want to kick it off by using the break.  The "key" is cumbersome and the car unlocks and goes just by having the key in your pocket, which confuses me no end, because I can't seem to develop a consistent pattern of use...and sometimes forget that I don't have the key in my pocket and wonder why the door isn't opening! 

So I'm looking at cars.  A used 2003 Mazda for $9,000 with a 30 day warrantee or a new Subaru Impreza for $19-20,000 with a full warrantee.  The Mazda is no bargain but I would actually get cash back for the Prius.  As I have no income to speak of, this would work.  However, the Subaru is a better value and might last me for ten to fifteen years.  But I can't seem to justify the expense.  I would have to cash in a good chunk of my 403(b), which is not enough to get me through my retirement years, provided I live that long.  But I suppose it won't matter much.  Destitution will come sooner or later.

I haven't had very much to blog about lately.  The news is depressing, whether about the oil spill, politics, anti-gay rhetoric or the Catholic Church.  Benedict Bentley has more to say and some cute pictures as well.  

Friday, June 4, 2010

Forgive Us, For We Know Not What We Have Done

This is beyond sad.  There are no words adequate to express the helplessness, the angst, the sorrow.  We are all to blame for this and even for those of us not practiced in prayer, a prayer of contrition is in order.

Credit: MSNBC and YouTube.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Peony Farm

Went to the Cricket Hill Garden Peony Farm today with Bob.  They specialize in Chinese Tree Peonies and have several varieties of those plus the regular bush type peonies.  Unfortunately the tree peonies had blossomed earlier than normal this season so we did not get to see them in bloom.  The regular peonies were still quite lovely and sat showing off their colors under little Chinese umbrellas.

I decided that since I have no work coming in right now, I had better use my time to do a few things as the opportunities arise.  Bluff Point is on my list.  The Cedar Hill Cemetery in Hartford is famous for it's arboretum-like grounds and is another place on my list.  But it would be nice if a little work came through in the meantime...


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