Category Archives: Seasons

Porch-Sittin’ Weather by Valerie J. Patterson

The county courthouse I work in is practically older than dirt.  It has a large front porch–for lack of a better term.  It has massive, aged columns and a huge bell tower upon which stands a statue of the man the county is named after–Revolutionary War Major General Nathanael Greene.  The original courtroom is big with high archways and walls lined with portraits of the judges who’ve administered justice through the courthouse’s existence.  It’s a pretty impressive courthouse.  But it’s the front porch I want to talk about.

Greene County Courthouse

The courthouse is at the heart of town.  Anyone going anywhere has to pass the front of the courthouse in order to get where they’re going.  There are park benches on the front porch inviting folks to sit a while.  This is where I’ve come to spend my lunch breaks the past two months or so.

It’s not always easy to get out of the office and go to a restaurant for lunch, but it does occur.  Usually, when that happens, my hubby picks me up and whisks me away for an hour of quiet conversation and a sandwich or a salad.  I love those hours.  I covet those hours because it’s a small bit of time we get together in an otherwise busy day.

If I can’t get away, I head for the front porch.  I take a bottle of water, some protein biscuits, a pen and a tablet.  I head for the park bench farthest from the main doors and–after stealing a glance at the clock on the bank across the street–I settle in and start working on my manuscript.  I usually get half a bottle of water and two biscuits down before my mind pulls away from my work and my eyes begin to take in the sights and sounds.

One afternoon I watched a man stopped at a traffic light watch a woman cross the street.  So intent was he on watching her that he turned down a one-way street and the man in the car he cut off yelled loud enough that he stopped and backed out of the one-way street and scurried on his way.

I watched a bride and groom come rushing out the front doors after one of the judges married them and instantly pose for photos,  I’ve seen families pose for photos with the child they just adopted.  And I’ve seen divorcing couples argue all the way down the front steps, stopping on the sidewalk to continue the heated exchange.  Mostly, I watch folks hurry from one end of town to the next and back again.  After all, that hour tends to fly when you fill it with errands.

It seems that no matter the heat of the day, there’s always a lovely breeze coming across the front porch.  I enjoy that breeze.  It relaxes me and refreshes me and energizes me to finish my day.  My Dad was an accomplished porch-sitter.  In the evenings after dinner and whatever chores he had to complete, he’d grab a tall glass of my Mom’s homemade iced tea and head for the front porch.  He’d chat with whomever passed in front of the house, but mostly he sat quietly just soaking up the evening.

There are days when I’m sitting on the park bench and I think of him.  I just know he’d enjoy sitting on that front porch with me.  I hope it remains porch-sittin’ weather for a long while!

Until next time, I hope there’s a porch in your life where you can sit and recharge.  May it always be perfect porch-sittin’ weather for you, too!

Gallery

Valerian

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I just went to post this and woke to the fact that it’s the 4th of July. Literally the 4th and not just celebrating it on the weekend as so often happens. So as usual, I never do the expected … Continue reading

Hummingbirds

imagesxI have a phobia of birds. Chickens are the worse. It’s their eyes. As soon as they get feathers their eyes turn mean. And, they’re big. To me they seem gigantic.

The kids had a parakeet; don’t all kids have at least one? You know, the ones they promise to take care of, and you end up doing it. I did, sweaty palms and all.

The exception to this fear thing is hummingbirds and little chickadees. No mean eyes and the feathers aren’t the same.

We had a hummingbird nest in the fuchsia basket on the patio one year. We haunted that nest being careful not to disturb it. When the babies hatched they looked like spiders.

I love to watch these tiny birds. The smallest species weight less than a penny. Each one is unique. Hummingbirds have high metabolism. Umm no wonder they don’t have weight problems. ☺

While they drink nectar, a sweet liquid inside some flowers (or from the feeders we put out), they also feed on insects and spiders. That’s a good thing, especially the spiders.

I was surprised to find that their average lifespan is from 3 to 5 years. As I write this I’m thinking it’s time to put up a feeder. I still haven’t gotten the covered patio done, it’s in process, so no hanging fuchsia to attract them. Ahhhh spring, and summer, a time to watch these amazing little creatures.

Goodbye, Winter!

A bloom from my husband's favorite rose-bush.

A bloom from my husband’s favorite rose-bush.

So Spring began last week. I’m certain there are a lot of folks really happy to see Winter leave. I have a sister in Philadelphia who is tired of shoveling snow. They’ve had something like 15 snow and ice storms blow through.

I live in the Pacific Northwest and our winter has been strange, but mild in comparison. We started the year 11 inches below normal for rainfall. That’s a LOT. It was the driest winter I think we’ve ever had. I don’t know that for sure, but it seemed like it. Until about a month ago.

The heavens opened up and we’ve gotten gully-washers for rainstorms. We generally get rain and drizzle, but not too many downpours. These were all day downpours. And we’ve almost caught up to the average rainfall for our area. In THREE weeks! It’s crazy. The more important thing for us is that the mountain snow-pack, which was seriously depleted, has also almost caught up to average. We need that snow this summer to feed crops.

So we’ve been super dry, then super wet. But overall, mild here. I feel like I need to apologize to the rest of the world for having an easy winter while others have struggled so. :)

This year was a neutral year. That generally means a more unstable weather pattern. El Nino years tend to be warmer for us, La Nina tends to be cooler. They are already saying that this next winter will have an El Nino pattern.

Personally, I don’t like El Nino warming. It generally means I don’t get to see any snow unless I drive to it. And I like a little snow in the winter. Not as much as some of you have gotten this year. My shoulders ache just thinking about how much snow some of you have been shoveling. I  only like enough for a nice walk or two.

For now, though, I’m ready to see Spring. Soak up some sunshine, let the rain help our gardens grow, and air out the house (my favorite thing to do in the Spring).

So how about you? How was your winter? And are you glad for Spring to have sprung?

Oh, and a quick Happy Birthday to my pinochle partner and father. 87 years old, wheelchair bound, and still finding a lot of life to smile about. :)

March the Month of Spring

imagesSpring is one of my favorite months. It can be a cool even a cold month in the Pacific NW but it can also be a warm one and often mixes weather so that we appreciate the sunny days. It also means longer days and of course the first appearance of blooms. I noticed that there were a couple of flowers just peeking their heads out. Brave souls as it has been a bit cold and wet out.imageimagexx

March was named for The Roman god of war, Mars. In the northern hemisphere it is the beginning month for planting though here it can be a little early and I remember more than one year we had to replant. I haven’t gardened for a number of years but with the raised beds I’m planning to do a little this year. Will see how that goes as my thumb would be considered anything but green.

This year I’m also putting on a covered patio and doing some landscaping. I’m working with this fantastic architect. He hand draws the plans and they are framing quality. He came over last week to take an inventory of the plants in the yard so he can incorporate them into the plan. I can’t wait to start.

St. Patricks day is the 17th and in researching March facts I found this —- ready? Save A Spider day 14th. Okay, now I’m probably banned from hanging over the fence but couldn’t resist sharing.

Oh wait, this morning I read in the AARP magazine that with the dwindling days of winter, March is the month for spring house cleaning. The article comes complete with tips though, lucky for this blog I didn’t get that far.

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday also known as the first day of Lent. For the next 40 days, a number of people will be giving up something to take part in the lead up to Easter. I’m not a Catholic so I don’t go to the church to have ashes put on my forehead although I think that tradition is quite nice. I have a number of friends who will be walking around with this mark all day.

I also don’t usually give up anything for Lent but I do try to use the period to attempt to fix some habit or personality issue that I perceive I  have. Sadly, I haven’t been really successful in making life time changes – I have read somewhere that you can form a new habit in 30 days but I’m not sure I agree with that. I plan to test the theory yet again this year as I am going to try to not be so dang sensitive. I find as I get older that I’ve become someone who seems to wear her heart on her sleeve. I wasn’t this way before but for some reason, it’s been true for the last few years.

I tend to invest everything I am into every endeavor I undertake and that includes friendships. I’m finding as I age that this is not the norm for people and as a result, I’ve been in situations where I get hurt (feelings, not physical).

I’ve decided to try to change a little and not invest so deeply so fast. I’ve got a new mantra I’m going to try in this Lenten period and it’s “surface, surface, surface.” I am going to endeavor to keep things on a surface level. Once I master that and learn to take my time in diving in deep, I think I will be better off and my heart may hurt less.

What about you? Any ashes for your forehead? Any Lenten traditions?

 

Trying Not to Feel SAD

So, here we are already a week into 2014. Christmas has passed, the decorations and tree put away and life returning to normality. David has gone back to work after two weeks’ holiday, mother has been safely returned to Reading, and the house seems strangely quiet. Our Christmas was relaxed and enjoyable, unlike many in the UK who had theirs and their homes ruined by flood damage and electricity failures over the period. My heart goes out to them, it must have been awful. Flooded property is a nightmare and for many it will be months before they can get their lives back on track.

Many claim the flooding as part of global warming but there are other natural factors involved. This year’s flooding was caused by a combination of a full moon, a low depression and high winds causing storm surges and exceptionally high tides. Similar happened in England in 1952 and there are records of severe flooding in the West Country in the Middle Ages, with the Bristol Channel and River Severn flooding in 1607, wiping out complete villages with high loss of life. The River Severn has the second highest tidal rise in the world, so this sort of event is nothing new.

We live on high ground above the River Severn so we were safe, but living high up does have a few disadvantages, like the strong winds which blow direct off the Atlantic, and boy, have they blown lately. It’s invariably windy here, which is why we have high hedges, fences and walls surrounding the garden. Many of our plants lean permanently at an angle and much, including the vegetables, need to be staked or tied in. At this time of year hanging washing out is impossible – it would take off! Thank goodness for tumble driers.

We are only a few weeks into winter so there is a strong possibly the weather will turn much colder, with heavy frosts and perhaps snow. I hope not; I hate the snow and the cold. I’m a summer gal and long for the warmth of the sun, often laid low by SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), and sorely miss my early morning coffee taken in the garden. I used to get very depressed by the long dark nights and cold, dismal days of winter but a simple observation by my husband a few years ago helped me to see this time of year in a new light when he pointed out that once the shortest day had passed, the days increasingly get longer; and they are. Within a few weeks, the difference is obvious. So armed with this positive attitude I find I can handle winter a lot better.

This morning the sun was out, the rain stopped so when I went down the garden to refill the bird feeder, I took a walk around the garden, for the first time for several weeks, my boots squelching in the sodden grass. For the past two years, on New Year’s day we had crocus in flower on the lawn; this year not a sign of them, which is surprising as the weather although wet and windy has been remarkably mild – I even had roses in flower on Christmas day! But the snowdrops are up, their shoots, inching up above the grass, the daffodils in the lee of a south-facing wall are nearly a foot high, with buds forming, and some of the wallflowers are already in flower. The bluebells are also shooting, and my favourite hellebore is full of fat, dark purple flower buds, soon ready to open. The clematises have new shoots sprouting, although next month the plants will be pruned back in anticipation of summer. And whilst there are several months to go, spring is definitely on its way.

I might be a bit late in saying this, but I do wish you all a Very Good 2014 and hope all your dreams, hopes and aspirations are fulfilled this year.

Till next time…