Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What I Did on My Christmas Vacation

The Best Present This Year
We are home again, landing back in Hobart on a glorious warm, sunny Christmas Day.

We had been cruising in New Zealand for almost two weeks and arrived in Sydney on Christmas Eve just in time to have lunch with Shirley and then a very special dinner at Rachael's with Lily, Matt, Jason and Lora.

We haven't Seen Lil in months and she and her mother are heading north for a six-month assignment Rach has drawn, so being able to get together with her these holidays was very special.

In fact we haven't celebrated Christmas with any of the Oz family since 2008, having spent the last two with the US families.  So it was a really great evening all around and was the highlight of what has been a very good month.

I know the families are eager for some photos, and it has taken me a couple of days to set up my new laptop and edit the photos, so I will make this a short post and write more about our journeys later this week.

Let's just say, we left our garden untended for two weeks, hoping for the first time that Hobart would have regular rain. Our wishes, however, must have been garbled because we had very regular rain once we got to New Zealand. That literally put a damper on some of our Kiwi ports of call, and our big concern became whether we would be blessed with magnificent weather on the only day that really mattered when we cruised the three beautiful sounds - Dusky, Doubtful and Milford.

Throughout the whole trip we also felt vaguely like neglectful parents (admittedly plant parents) as we kept wondering if all our gardening work leading up to the trip would have been for nought or if the vegetable gods would smile upon us.

Here are a couple of pictorial clues:

Leaving Dusky Sound

The zucchini is flowering

So, for more pictures of our month, go to .  By the way, the flash wasn't working properly during Christmas dinner so the pictures are a bit grainy and dark. But I know you all share my view - any picture of Lily is better than no picture of Lily.

More later. Promise.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Farm Report

Linda the Herb Lady and her elevated herb garden

I am becoming concerned that this gardening thing is becoming a little bit more than a hobby for the two of us. Those who know LK will probably not be surprised to learn that once she embraced it, she began giving it 110%. Two days ago she spent hours tying bamboo sticks together and creating a crazy Tinker Toy city where her tomatoes can live when they grow up.

By the way, those who know me will be quite surprised that I am still sticking with it even though three weeks have passed. I find myself resenting rain showers now. Not because they ruin a nice day, but because they take away my quality watering time with the plants.

We are both spending far too much time looking at leaves and stems. Every morning LK visits her babies and reports back on who is looking good and who needs attention. Excuse me, they're not really babies, they're peas and turnips and carrots. And when I say "who" is looking good, I mean "what" is looking good.

We have undoubtedly invested waaaaay too much emotion into growing our own but I think the award in this category is LK's hands down. She seems to treat each new chute and leaf as a cause for rejoicing. Conversely, when one of our seedlings didn't thrive when transplanted, I had to convince her there was no need to change into mourning clothes.

That tomato seedling (one of about 70 ot 80, by the way) has done poorly since leaving the seed tray to live in the garden. While all about it thrived, this one failed to grow and its leaves drooped and curled. That's OK, there are plenty more so throw it away, right? Not with the new Florence Nightingale of the Veggie Patch.

LK is a gardening equivalent of the Marines and lives by the motto "No plant left behind." She is quite sure we can still save that seedling. So we will move it to its own pot and give it plenty of TLC. You know, kind of like an Intensive Care Ward for sad little tomatoes.

I am not so sure. When I checked it out, I could see only slight signs of life;  its roots were sparse and on the Tomato of Life Meter it is tilting more to Dead than Alive. But we will try. Of course, as I told LK, even if we do manage to save it, it is still going to end up a vegetable for the rest of its life.

Here's some pix:

3 1/2 weeks - everything's looking good

Zucchini and squash looking happy

The bean and pea jungle gym

Strawberries - the birds love 'em

Apparently the tomatoes love living in places built like this

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Head Over Heels

Scabrous:  Having or covered with scales and rough to the touch

Scabrous is one of my game words, meaning I know it's a word and can play it in Scrabble or Words with Friends, but I have to look it up in the dictionary to know what it means. Which is what I had to do yesterday.

I was pretty sure it was a nasty word and more or less suspected it meant what it sounded like - full of scabs. But I needed to be certain in this instance. Because the night before, for the first time in my life, someone had actually called me "scabrous".

The fact that it was my darling wife and it happened in bed should in no way be seen as a reflection on the state of our marriage.

No, in fact we were back to one of my old topics - cracked heels. LK expressed such disappointment as her foot rubbed against one of my dried, rough-to-the-touch heels. "What's happened to your heels? You had them so smooth, but now they're . . . they're . . . well, now they're scabrous," she said.

If I had known what that word literally meant, I would have pointed out that, yes, my heels were a bit rough to touch, but technically they weren't covered with scabs. Unfortunately I did not learn the definition until it was far too late to reprise the brief discussion that followed being called "scabrous".

("Scabrous! Thanks a lot!"
"Well, maybe they're not that bad, but I really wanted to use that word.")

Anyhow, it's now back to pumice stones and Eulactol cream. That stuff is made from urea, which seems to prove that it is better to soak your feet in a byproduct of urine than have them seem scabrous to your wife.

Backsliding on the condition of my heels is probably just one more manifestation of my general trend in retirement. I had heard that a certain class of men tend to, shall we say, lower their standards of personal care once they no longer have to answer the starting bell at a job. Or, in my instance, perhaps the standards were always lower, but having to report to work kept them in check. In either instance, I have to acknowledge that I haven't been all that good on the dapper front since I retired.

Bill Belichick - Hoodie Master
You could point to my dressing in slavish emulation of my sports hero, Bill Belichick, but the point was driven home even more strongly last week when LK insisted it was time for my semi-annual haircut. "Either get it cut or I am putting it in a ponytail," she said. Which is another instance of things that happen when you retire.

Perhaps the best way to make you understand this is to ask you to imagine the reverse -- me telling LK that she had to get her hair cut or I would force her to wear a ponytail. Nope, we all know that men are not about to start bossing their wives around about their appearance - or at least not if they want to ensure they wake up every morning with all of their bits still attached.

But women seem to fall so easily into the notion that the old guy is in his second childhood. And we all know how well they play the role of Mother.

Hillary Wins This Contest
Or perhaps it is not that psychologically complex, for when I expressed these thoughts to my beloved, she just shrugged and said, "Look, it's as easy as this - I have to look at you and you don't." I tried to argue that I was just trying to see if I could outlast Hillary Clinton when it came to getting a haircut that was desperately needed. Obviously, with LK pressuring me I wasn't going to win this particular contest with Hillary.

So back to Whitey's Shearing Shed I went. Despite its name, they really don't tie up your hands and legs and run an electric razor back and forth across your head. They're very friendly there and in a matter of minutes I was presentable again - or at least as presentable as I am likely to get.

Presentable, like scabrous, might not be the precise word to use. Perhaps I can come up with a new phrase. Does "Retirement Casual" work for you?


Garden pix tomorrow for the thousands clamoring to see how our peas and carrots are doing.