Tuesday, August 26, 2014

National Dog Day

At my house it may seem that every day is Dog Day, but this town opens their pool for a dog party before they close for the season:

Richard, does this make up for the chicken video?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Out on the Water

Today the weather was perfect, and my kayaking friends were available for a kayaking afternoon. At last we took our new kayaks out for a spin. Shana and I have had them for a couple of months but were a little nervous about loading them up and actually going for a paddle. We wanted to get out with a couple of experienced paddlers for our first time out so we would be prevented from looking too stupid.

We went down to Mashpee Neck and put in there. From there we were able to take a paddle through a marsh where we could enjoy a bit of nature and a bit of peeking at the backsides of the summer houses of the 1% , then out to Thatch Island where Sue, Shana and I had a nice walk on the beach and Sue and Dea were able to have a little swim. In contrast with the crowded public beaches, the beach on the south side of Thatch Island was deserted and beautiful. Shana was in love! The water was reasonably warm today, but the air temperature was pleasant; it was a perfect day to be out on the water. I was pleased to note that my new kayak and paddle were comfortable to use, and my flotation jacket was very suitable for the sport. I kept my old iPhone to use as a kayak camera that I could upload from later because I already have a waterproof case for it. I didn't take my new one with me because I was not sure about my waterproof storage, but the things I carried in there were just fine. Since I was overturned in a matter of minutes the last time I kayaked I did not want to take any camera that was not protected out with me. We had a great time, topped off with a delicious fried fish dinner from Cooke's Seafood before we went our separate ways. Shana and I will definitely go back there to kayak, especially after Labor Day when parking is less of a problem. There are just a few pictures here, as usual I will upload more to my Flickr gallery.

What I learned today: 1. put your paddles in the car so you don't have to go back to get them. 2. quick dry clothing is really only effective if you have quick dry underwear. 3. take a snack bar or something out with you because if you don't you will be starving. 4. We know how to load up and put in well enough to enjoy a kayaking afternoon. This is valuable information because Cape Cod is a kayaking paradise. There are dozens of nice places to paddle accessible to us with a very short drive. The place where we went today is probably about 15 minutes from our house. Now that we feel confident about our skills we can go out any afternoon for a couple of hours without thinking twice about it.

 Holiday knitting is proceeding slowly. I have run into a classic problem of the pattern I want to use and the yarn I want to use not matching up. I'll know better in about 37 rows (!) if it's possible to make the yarn bend to my will. Something tells me I will do better to scale the pattern a bit to use the needle size the yarn wants instead of knitting on when I know I will not be happy with the fabric the needles that will get me gauge will make. Hard lessons, and ones I seem to have to learn afresh every single year. I'm hard headed. I should really look for a pattern that suits the gauge this yarn wants to be knit to.

And Just for you, Richard, a chicken video borrowed from Karen at The Art of Doing Stuff!

Friday, August 15, 2014

At the Mashpee B&B

We recently had the pleasure of having a house guest at our little house. Shana's aunt came to visit for a week for a change of scene and a little rest. Shana misses her family, so any who can come to visit are more than welcome.  It gave me an opportunity to show off my garden, and gave us an excuse to go back to Newport and tour another "cottage".

This time we visited Doris Duke's Rough Point. It's a smaller house than The Breakers (but every house is) and more interesting because Ms. Duke's art collection was more interesting to me, and her house less of a crazy golden mishmash. It was occupied by Ms. Duke until her death in 1993, and remains furnished as it was at that time, making it less of a stiff museum and more of a family home tour. We also explored the grounds while we were there - the flower gardens are very pretty and rather informal within a formal structure. I got loads of ideas for my own gardens which will necessarily be of more modest dimensions but which will feature many of the same plants in similarly constituted beds. Sadly, I will have to do without the manicured gigantic boxwood hedges, finding myself without a proper staff.

On the way home we stopped in Providence to have a meal at an Italian restaurant in the Federal Hill neighborhood. We had hoped to stop at a grocer in the area to purchase some pasta & other Italian delicacies but got delayed by a much needed coffee stop in Newport. Also our GPS took us to Providence by way of the outer planets. Shana and I had been planning a trip for dinner; I'm glad we made it during the summer because we were able to eat outdoors in a plaza which not only had a lot of restaurants but also featured live entertainment. We ate delicious dishes while enjoying a singer who makes his living sounding like Frank Sinatra. This was even better than it sounds.

 In addition to our trip to Rhode Island we made the beach rounds and cooked up some lobsters at home while we had company.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Saying Goodbye to a Hero of Recycling

Milly Zantow has passed away is Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin at 91. I had never heard of her, and I'd be willing to bet most people have not either. She started a recycling company in Wisconsin and created the plastics recycling symbol you see on the bottom of everything to this day. Below is an interview with her, very interesting and not too long. What an inspiration - a single person who wanted to make a difference and did it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Instead of Raising Goats...

...I will amuse myself by posting screaming goats. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Little More July in the Garden

Even though the Very Long Terrible Horrible winter is long past the effects are still being felt in my garden. Some ordinarily very hardy plants succumbed to too long periods of intense cold and some expired from too much dampness due to prolonged snow cover in the already moister parts of the garden. Others liked the conditions and flourished.

The Nepenta I took from my mother in law's garden attempted to take over the earth this year because the limiting Gaura and four o' clocks left the area. The Gaura expired and the four o' clocks died out where they were last year but came up from seed somewhere else (to be carefully watched for dominating behavior).  A little more moisture over the winter was welcomed by my dwarf Monarda, which is twice as tall as last year, although still withing dwarf range. The hosta blooms I ordinarily care little for are luxuriant and beautiful this year. My Japanese Painted Fern has decided to shoot up to knee high. Many of my hydrangeas may not bloom this year, although none have died outright.

 My tall veronica is not only still over six feet tall but also has very full  and beautiful blooms. The plant has not only attracted masses of bees this year but unaccountable numbers of gigantic wasps. Kind of horrible. One thing I am thinking about this plant is that it is not veronica, although it was sold with that identification. I think it is Culvers Root (Veronicastum virginicum) and the other plant I have in my garden also sold as Veronica is truly Veronica (Veronica) also known as Speedwell. Close examination of images on Google would argue that one was incorrectly identified. No complaints, as I like both plants, but just as a point or correct identification, and a reminder of why Latin names are so important. That would explain why it is so gigantic compared to every other Veronica I own.

One thing that I found this year if that it seems that my plants are blooming slightly out of sequence. Part of that could be conditions in my particular garden where my blooms are arriving before or after those in other gardens I have seen. Part of it is just plain puzzling. My Phlox is just now coming into bloom although the Liatris has been in bloom for some time. Nothing shocking, exactly, but just a tiny bit out of whack. I suspect it is a combination of things. For plants that depend on temperature as a trigger Climate Change may be the culprit, whereas plants that depend on hours of daylight would not be as effected by warmer temperatures than expected. Plants that found the winter exceptionally stressful may have bloomed early as a result. In the case of my hydrangeas I may be getting late or no blooms because the flower buds on the old growth may have been killed leaving only new growth blooms which would be expected to be later.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

Yesterday I had the day off, and Shana was able to arrange her schedule to take the day off with me so we could take a day trip. We chose Newport RI, which I had wanted to visit during the summer when the gardens and beaches would be at their best. It's not too far from here for a nice day trip. We left home at 7:30 am and were back before 8 pm after an action packed day. Shana's mother was a travel agent, and Shana has picked up that baton. Any time we go on a trip however small she does her research so we can pack as much into our day as possible, down to which restaurants to visit.
First thing we had reserved a bicycle tour from Newport Bicycle, and were happy to have Janet as our tour guide. She was knowledgeable about the history of the area and asked many questions about what we wanted to see and how much time we had before we set out. She warned us about any traffic we might encounter in case we might not be willing to ride in traffic. She was safety conscious and  very informative during the tour. Since It was just Shana and I touring we were able to have a really custom tour with plenty of time to explore various areas along the way. We visited an old cemetery, Newport Harbor, Newport Shipyard (full of gorgeous yachts), the grounds at The Elms, Ochre Point, The Redwood Library (oldest continuously operating library in the USA), and many other landmarks. Well worth the price, and the best way I can think of the tour a smallish city, especially one where you are interested in the historic districts which are typically rather compact. You can see everything from street level much faster than on foot, you enjoy the sounds and smells of the town (Shana was transfixed by the smell of someone's home BBQ!) and it's easy to stop for a closer look at anything you fancy. Plus exercise!

First we went to the Common Burying Ground and Island Cemetery. It's worth a visit all by itself. There are many prominent and/or famous people buried here, including a corner for slaves known as God's Little Acre. Worth a click on the Wikipedia link for more information. I love to visit old cemeteries and I plan to spend a lot more time here when we return for another visit.

We went to a park with a lovely view of the harbor where Janet gave us a perspective on Rhode Island's colonial history, then we headed over to the Newport Shipyard to gawk at the beautiful yachts. We saw Chevy Toy (view the interior here), available for charter at $165,000 per week (plus all expenses) , and the lovely sailing yacht Artemis (currently not available for charter) and many other gorgeous ships. Apparently these giant and luxuriously appointed creatures are now called Superyachts!

On we went to view (from the road) many of the lovely old mansions of Newport, including the wonderfully restful garden at The Elms. The garden at The Elms is a combination of formal beds and a restful walk through what amounts to a private arboretum. The trees have largely been in place for over 200 years and are just stunning. Shana fell in love with the lovely weeping beech, and the intoxicating and elusive scent of the linden trees. I wished I had room in my garden for a copper beech. It's a beauty, but even the mature size of the two beeches I have are a lot for my yard and I would not live to see anything like maturity of a new one. I will not live long enough to see the maturity of the two beeches I do have. There were some lovely fountains, too, all of which would completely fill the area of my veggie patch. I think a tiny bubbly water feature for my deck will be added very soon. 
Gate at The Breakers
We had  a nice lunch at the Fastnet Pub, named for the Fastnet Lighthouse off the coast of Cork, Ireland. The draft beer selection is excellent, the atmosphere is exceptional and the food is good. Shana was surprised at the size of the beers until I told her that is a pint. We sat near the window the enjoy people watching on the street. And had the pleasure of seeing a truly unique car drive by.

We went on from there to a tour of The Breakers, the erstwhile summer home of the Vanderbilts. It enjoys an exceptionally beautiful site with a stunning view. The Preservation Society of Newport County owns the property, along with several other of the old iconic summer houses. The houses are registered as historic landmarks and open for tours by the public. It's worthwhile to take a tour (self guided by headphones) to see at least one of the houses and how they functioned when they were family homes. At The Breakers the rooms are mostly furnished as they were when the house was occupied, which gives one a good idea of what it may have been like to live in them. Although the general style of the decor has fallen far out of fashion, appearing garish and ludicrous to the modern taste, the appreciation of the craftsmanship that went into it has not. The Breakers was built in only two years, with fabulous custom work of mosaic, plaster and wood, murals and stained glass windows, platinum leaf, excesses of all kinds. I'm embarrassed to think it took more than three months to replace floors and remodel the bathroom in our little house with the dishwasher and kitchen faucet still not properly secured at the end of it! There is no interior photography allowed at The Breakers; the twin fireplaces I photographed (that I can nearly stand up inside) are in the dining room at Ochre Point.

My feeling about the house tours is that maybe a little goes a long way. Admission is expensive. You can get a better deal by adding a second house tour on the same day, but personally I would find it too much to digest. Too much gold leaf, too much marble, too much of too much. Having paid the steep admission for The Breakers - $26.00, which is perspective is about the same as for Elvis' house at Graceland, I did want to see all of it but probably would have enjoyed looking through three or four rooms just as much. I am unlikely to pay for admission to the same house twice. That said, in dollars per hour it does compare favorably with a a first run movie with popcorn! 

There are other mansions whose tours are operated by the Newport Restoration Foundation. Doris Duke's Rough Point is one of those. If your thing is gilded age mansion tours you may never run out of choices. 

Camel Topiary at Doris Duke's Rough Point
A little dash down the beautiful Cliff Walk to see the houses from the sea side and the booming surf below, a quick visit to a local beach to relax and we were off for a Mexican dinner in Providence on our way back to our Cape Cod home. We are determined to add more day trips to our life. Though short, it was a refreshing getaway and a wonderful day together.

I have included a crazy number of links on this post, partly so I can easily find the information again but also because there is a lot of interest there that you might enjoy. Click away! And as always, to enlarge my photos just click on them. Close the new window or esc to return.