What a fantastic day! We were up at six for no good reason I can think of other than that seemed to be the right time to get up. After coffee and our customary breakfasts – B has a banana, I eat a bowl of granola – we changed into our yard work clothes and went at it.

B spent all day in the garden, of course, where she is even as I type these words. I doubt she’ll come in for good until the sun is down and the dew begins to settle on the grass, at which point I expect she will be ready only to change into her pajamas and hit the hay. And I wouldn’t expect her to be up at six tomorrow morning, but who knows? She’s surprised me before.

I spent the day at various and sundry tasks, mostly: Weeding, if you consider dandelions weeds. I know most people do, regardless of how they manifest themselves, but I’ve long had a live and let live attitude toward dandelions. I like them. They’re pretty. And for the most part they’ve decorated our yard without being overly enthusiastic about it. This year, however, our dandelion crop has been extraordinarily exuberant, to the point that it looks like a takeover, and I’ve had to ask them nicely to scale back their attendance a notch or two. I asked them by cranking up the mower and cutting them, repeatedly, about once every three days. I’m really sick of cutting the lawn already.

I’m so sick of it that today I cut a large swath through the densest ranks of dandelions with a weed eater (or, for you Texans, a string trimmer), which was really much easier to use on them than a lawn mower. Got more immediate, satisfying results, anyway, but I had to wear safety glasses to do it, something I don’t have to do pushing a lawn mower. Just can’t use a weed eater without catching chunks of flower stems with my eyeballs, for some reason.

That took up a huge part of my day, just because there are so many dandelions in so many different parts of our yard. I ended up getting the mower out to finish off the front yard because it looked a little lopsided after I was done with the weed eater. I was at that so long that I had to take several breaks, one of them so long that I manged to catch forty winks, the best part of having a day off from work. I understand there are a few civilized countries where they actually take a nap at mid-day. Sounds like Paradise.

When I was awake and refreshed again I joined My Darling B in the garden for a while, shredding leaves. She covets compost in a way that almost makes me feel as though I shouldn’t be looking, and in the hopes of making lots of compost over the winter season she gathered up leaves from the yard last fall and piled them in the garden where they sat, not composting at all, until today when I raked them up and ran them through the wood chipper. They came out the other end finely shredded, which My Darling B oooh and ahhhh in much the same way that other women ooooh and ahhhh over shoes or ice cream or I don’t know what. Really, just don’t look.

My Darling B heard that a friend of hers gets orioles to visit her yard by hanging orange halves from their feeder, so B got some oranges and bought a feeder from Ace Hardware specially made for orange halves, and she hung it out for the birds this morning. I have personally witnessed my dad do something like this and get maybe two orioles to show up over a ten-year period, so I had some serious doubts that B would get any of this particularly shy bird to show up in our yard. Well, this evening as I was setting the table for dinner I realized that I was hearing a birdsong from the yard that I hadn’t heard before, and when I turned to look there were a pair of orioles at the feeder! B was still out in the garden and managed to catch sight of them when I called her name. I sure hope this isn’t the only time all summer they’ll show up, but at least she got to see them.


My Darling B doesn’t quite have the hang of this “beck and call” thing. I told her, I’m at your beck and call to help in the garden all day long, and she starts off, “Here’s what you can do to help … you don’t have to do this right now, just whenever you feel like it…” That’s not really calling the shots, that’s just making a suggestion. “No, honey, here’s what you do,” I said, “You say: Grab that weeder and cut all those dandelions down right now!” But she couldn’t do it. I think she seriously underestimates the power of her beck.


B spent all day yesterday in her garden, getting the crops planted – onions, potatoes, peas, lettuce, if memory serves. It’s the only mother’s day present she asks for. My part of the bargain is to do the worrying about dinner so she won’t have to. I solved that problem by running out to Fraboni’s to bring home some guy food: sausages and a pail of potato salad.

The place was empty when I walked in, just two guys in aprons behind the cash register playing a video game on a smart phone and a gal behind the deli counter. She seemed a tad grumpy when I started asking her about the sausages, but I took her attitude to be directed at the guys playing Angry Birds while she did the work; she seemed to lighten up a bit while we talked about how many links to a pound and how many pounds to a pail.

I fired up the grill when B finally came in from the garden at about six-thirty and barbecued the whole mess of sausages so we would have leftovers for lunch the next day, but B gobbled up just about all her portion, leaving behind half a sausage and just enough potato salad for lunch – a hungry girl after spending all day on the back forty.


As I watched My Darling B carefully arrange wedges of potato in a trench before covering them in dirt and straw, I asked her, “Why don’t you use a potato planter to do that?”

“Because I like playing in the dirt,” was the first part of her answer — and then she said the most amazing, blasphemous words I’ve ever heard anyone utter: “Besides, you don’t need a gadget for everything.”

The horror! The horror!


My Darling B woke up totally knackered this morning. Or, if she wasn’t completely tired out the minute she woke up, she felt like it just moments after finishing her shower and settling onto the sofa with her morning cuppa joe. After spending close to seven hours working her garden Sunday, and maybe six or seven on Saturday, she couldn’t feel any other way, not after spending all winter inside watching movies, reading books and surfing the internet.

But when the skies cleared and the sun shone and the temperatures climbed into the sixties all weekend long she could hardly be expected to do anything but start turning over clods in her garden with a great big fork and sticking seeds in the ground, and that’s just what she did. At least she had the good sense not to grind herself down completely to a little worn-out nub. She took a kitchen timer to the garden with her, set it for sixty minutes each time she went and, when it rang, came in to sit on the sofa for ten or fifteen minutes, however long it took to suck down a couple big glasses of cold water.

It didn’t keep her from feeling the burn, though. When she got up after dinner she was hobbled by stiff muscles in her legs, back arms, you name it. “Did you know you have muscles right here?” she asked me, pointing at the bony back of my wrist. “Well, you do.”

To generate some sympathy pain for her, I rode my bike to work this morning. It’s about three or four miles away, easily doable in a half-hour even with the flabby winter muscles I have. Took me forty minutes and my butt was sore enough to force me to walk funny. Luckily I only had to walk as far as my desk, where I could sit down for a couple hours and let the feeling come back to my legs.

Why Vegetables Are So Important To Your Diet

image of potato

It’s a people potato!

Or My Darling B thinks so, anyway. She was unloading a basket full of veggies she brought in from her garden yesterday morning and asked me if I wanted to see the potato that looked like a well-endowed woman.

Sure! I said. What red-blooded American man wouldn’t want to see that? Show me a well-endowed woman any time you want, you don’t even have to ask.

The photograph at left is the potato she produced from her basket. If you squint your eyes really hard and use a lot of imagination (and italics), I suppose it’s just possible you might see a figure similar to a woman in that potato. I’m not sure how “well-endowed” she is. A better description might be “freakishly enhanced by silicone implants,” and if that were the case, I’d sue the doctor that botched the job, were I in her shoes. Not that this particular woman could wear shoes.

Late Bloomer

image of lilac blossom

I’ve never seen the lilacs in our yard bloom more than once, early in the spring, but the bush against the front of the house has squeaked out two small blossoms. I was about to give it a good going-over with the hedge trimmers when I saw two bright splashes of violet at the ends of some new growth, and after that I didn’t have the heart to do it.

Probably a good thing, too. I got out the weed whacker to do a little trimming around the shrubs and when I pulled the trigger and started trimming, mosquitoes rose like a cloud from the undergrowth. Same thing happened when I uncoiled the hose to water the snapdragons in the planter by the stoop. I figured that would be absolutely safe, but from the first splash of water I was greeted by thousands of the bloodthirsty little bastards, which fell on me like high school kids mobbing a McDonald’s at lunch hour. And once they’ve been at you it’s like they never go away. Even after I retreated to the safety of the house I was slapping and scratching at what felt like mosquitoes all over me.

The snapdragons got a quick drink. I hate to tease them. I might go back after my afternoon nap, if the setting sun fries that side of the house to a crisp, as it usually does, and no mosquito would dare come out.


I so want to be out on the patio this evening, enjoying the cool, evening breeze that’s finally come along to reward us all from enduring the long, hot, muggy day, but going out there right now would be like diving into a swimming pool filled with Bowie knives packed together so tightly that the ends of their blades all point up. Why? Because we’ve had so much rain over the past three days it’s brought the mosquitoes out in swarms that settle on every square inch of exposed flesh as soon as you step into the open from the shelter of your back door.

My Darling B went out to her garden just before dinner, determined to bring in some leafy greens for our table and as many pea pods as she could pick and take to work for lunch tomorrow. She lasted about ten minutes. Safely watching her from the inside of our screened-over dining room window as she did the happy slappy dance, I was truly impressed that she lasted so long. She must have collected at least fifty bites in that short time, five every minute, or I’m a lying bastard.

So there’ll be no kicking back in the yard this evening, no matter how much I’d like to slouch down into one of our camp chairs with a tall, cool mojito in hand and watch the evening sky fade from blue to indigo to black. I’d be bled dry so quickly that the most accomplished medical team on earth, armed with a bottomless blood supply, would be powerless to revive me.

I probably bring this up every time I start talking about mosquitoes, but here I go again: Are you old enough to remember the days when the city crew would drive a truck through your neighborhood with an industrial-strength fogger mounted on the back, spewing a thick, white cloud of insecticide over all the yards and houses, and all the children would drop whatever they were doing to chase the truck and dance through the lethal cloud as if it were the most benign plaything ever? I still haven’t developed any malignancies that I know of from doing that, have you?

And another thing: When a mosquito gets into my bedroom at night, why’s he so fascinated by my ears? He’s got the whole, great big house to fly around in, and yet the one place he wants to be more than any other is in my left ear, and sometimes in my right ear. He’s not trying to bite me, because guy mosquitoes don’t do that, so it’s not like I should even be on his radar. Does he think my ear is the way out?


Among the leafy greens My Darling B is growing in her fantastical garden is the leafy, lettuce-like plant known to the frou-frou organic crowd as arugula. Everybody makes fun of it, probably because you sound like an old-timey car horn when you say it. Ah ROO gyue lah!

In England the same plant is known as rocket. I don’t know why. It doesn’t give me gas and make smoke and fire come out my exhaust. Now, why would you call it arugula if you could call it rocket instead? Rocket is a much cooler name. Granted, it’s a lot more fun to say ah ROO gyue lah if you’re into sound effects, but that only works if you get to ask your grocer for it from time to time. If you’re just growing it in your garden you don’t get many chances to say it out loud, so it would be way cooler to have some rocket in your garden. That’s what we’re calling it from now on.


The first crop of thistles is in! After cleaning up the dinner dishes, I spent the evening hours in the garden with My Darling B, pulling weeds. Now, every keystroke sends a pulsing bolt of pain through my fingertips. Got a pair of tweezers I can borrow?

I started in the lettuce patch because it was easiest to weed. Even a doofus like me can tell the difference between a thistle and a head of lettuce. I pulled up quite a bit of dill, too, but only because I couldn’t pull up the thistles without getting some dill, and they were all voluteer plants anyway. There are plenty more, all over the yard. It’s not like we’re going to be hurting for dill any time soon.

After I cleared out the lettuce patch of all the thistles (and some dill) I moved on to the bean patch. That wasn’t so easy. Well, pulling up the thistles was. They’re big and ugly as hell and they don’t look remotely like a bean sprout. Tomatilla sprouts, on the other hand, do look sort of like bean sprouts, and there were a milion zillion quadrillion of them growing in the bean patch. Tomatillas are the rabbits of the plant world.

We like tomatillas; they make great salsa, but they’re not supposed to be growing in the bean patch. The thing about tomatillas is, once you plant a bunch of them, you never want for tomatillas ever again. They grow like weeds, prolifically, everywhere. They grow in your hair if you scratch your head while you’re pulling them up. Don’t even think about rubbing your nose.

To weed them out, I had to slowly pick through the thick mat of tomatilla leaves to find a bean plant, then pull up tomatillas all around the bean until I could see dirt. After that, I could pull them out of the ground by the handful and toss them aside after shaking the dirt out of their roots before I had to slow down and pick through the leaves, looking for another bean plant.

Once the beans were free and clear I moved over to the corn patch where some monster thistles were rearing their ugly heads. All the rain we had this weekend made them easy to pull out. If I was careful I could get six or eight inches of root to come out with one long, steady pull.

After a couple hours of that my knees and lower back were stiff enough to warrent knocking off before the sun went down so I could stretch out my stiffened legs and imbibe some muscle relaxant.