Saturday, January 22, 2011

Old Man Winter

Well, our Canadian neighbor has been sending us a lot of unnecessary cold weather. As I write this the weather is hovering around 9 degrees. I don't know how long it has been since it was this cold in Collingswood. I know I am getting older, but my memory is quite in place about this kind of weather. Just last week we had quite a snow fall. My new colleagues were all hopeful that we would be closed and have a snow day. Alas, the Federal government like the mail is pretty much always open.

As I looked down my street I kept thinking of my cousin Marylin in Tampa who has never seen snow. She has this wonderful childlike attitude towards snow that I still retain even though it is hard to be idyllic shoveling your sidewalk or driveway. Yet when all I have to do is photograph or read in my sun room I don't mind it either and imagine myself in that final scene from the film White Christmas. What could be better?

I parked my car in the garage and let the snow fall. I have been taking public transportation into Philadelphia so no need to shovel the driveway and the sun will eventually melt it.

We were lucky to have had a few warm days of 33 degrees enough to melt down some of the snow, but after that reprieve it got cold again. Now the remaining snow cracks like walking on glass. I know many northerners may find this information rather boring, but for my family and friends down in Florida in somewhat warmer climes I offer these thoughts and images

Even my rain barrel has almost frozen solid. I can't remember this ever happening before.

I don't think that there is much activity happening in my compost bins. The one without the lid I emptied to take down to get started in Florida, but I ran out of room in the Prius. The other bin's compost is pretty much frozen solid waiting for spring to be emptied into the garden.

I guess I could be doing some pruning. This is a perfect winter chore as there are no leaves, plants are dormant and you can see the shape you need to improve or shape. If you know what to prune where you can get ahead of the season doing this now; that is, if you can stand the cold. For me, I have the Collingswood garden where it needs to be so I will be in my sun room with a book and a cup of cocoa.

My Liquidambar ( Sweetgum) street tree is being the mess it always is. It many pronged ball seeds are falling by the hundreds if not thousands. It is a beautiful tree but it makes a great mess with all these seed balls that fall and get locked in with snow to create lovely traps for the walking public. I am always looking after the mess to keep the sidewalks clear of the booby traps. It makes no sense how thinking municipal officials allow this variety to be planted to line the streets given its hazardous seed pods, but who says that municipal officials know anything about planting street trees?

My boy Limo had his eight month birthday on January 12. To celebrate this milestone I took him to be fixed. He wore this collar for a week to keep him away from his stitches and he looked so cute in it; just like a Pierrot (even if he does not look very happy about wearing it. It is hard for men to do this to a male dog. I talked to many friends and all the men I spoke to seemed as bothered as I was. In contrast, all of my women friends seemed perfectly attune to the idea that it would make them live longer and remove some of that extra energy that pours out of puppies. I wonder if they had their druthers if they would do that to their husbands?

Finally, winter is the time of year I head into my sun room and read all the magazines that came during the year that I put off because I rather be gardening. I also get a chance to focus in on my recently acquired or gifted Christmas Books. It is also the time of year I start going through plant catalogues for seasonal interests or new garden tools and fun gadgets. This year my focus it out of shift. I had been designing my garden in Florida and laying out ideas on paper and even building a computer model of it. I got a great new book about Florida plants from my friends in North Carolina. It is a marvelous book by the University of Florida and boy am I going to have fun when I get back down there. Happy Gardening!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Back to Jersey

Happy New Year! Life is really one of the best roller coasters you will ever get a chance to ride. If you take life like an amusement ride you will never cease to amazed by the turns and the ups and downs that this ride has in store for you. I say all of this because I was minding my own business watching the tourists watch the Manatees in Tarpon Springs on a warm sunny day when a friend went to my house in Collingswood to check on my mail. His thoroughness got him to look at my phone answering machine which I had failed to turn off as I always do when I go away. Besides the few bits of nonsense left on the machine was a message from the Federal Government saying that I had a job waiting starting on January 3.
I will tell you that I had spoken with them a few weeks before heading down to Florida with no news except that all jobs had been cancelled and there was not anticipation of any potential start date. I told the human resources people that I was in Florida and could be reached at my cell number. Well, they called the house and thanks to my dear friend who is as thorough as he is scattered I was relayed the news of this job.

The Manatees would be there a while longer I said to myself and decided to accept the position and move back to my Collingswood home which had been closed for the winter as I expected to pass most of it in Florida. I had been cast at sea for too long a time and wanted the company of other working people and the benefit package of a Federal job before my real retirement came along a few years from now.
So I packed a crate of lemons from my garden told the news to my family who were not at all pleased as they thought I would have no problems in finding a good job in Florida. I told my Florida friends who were happy for me because jobs in Florida don't normally pay that well and because I told them that I hoped to get a transfer back to Florida as soon as I could request it.
I left beautiful Tarpon Springs on the 1st of January. The 31st I had gone to spend New Year's with my family and it had been a magical and balmy warm day. As I drove north the foliage of the trees soon disappeared and traces of snow were on the ground here and there. I had been in North Carolina for Christmas and we had gotten quite a bit of snow for the holidays. Jersey had been the recipient of about 6-8 inches of snow. As I entered my driveway patches of snow lay everywhere.
I accepted a job in a field totally unrelated to anything I have done before. My greatest skill for this job will be my ability to speak Spanish and help the public. It is a job with few responsibilities, no people to supervise, no special projects that require you to work late into the night or until you project is accomplished. This is, for better or worse, an 8-4:30 job. Nobody will look at me for leaving at 4:30 when there is work left to be done. Best of all it comes with some of the best medical coverage in the planet. I was given a 300 page book of medical options and varying benefits plans.
Limo has been the one to suffer the most from this affair, but that is probably overstating it. He has had me around him for almost every second since we entered each other's life. I feared that he would howl and miss me when I crated him the first day I went to work and left him for 9 hours. Like Taxi, who endured my working life, he adapted with similar ease. If he has separation anxiety you cannot tell. He is a well adjusted and loving animal. He goes crazy when I return from wherever regardless of whether I have been gone for 9 minutes or nine hours.
The weather has been frigid lately and walking him has been difficult so he has made due with a quick run in the garden to take care of his needs. We got another snow storm that made life all the more interesting. This weekend we went to the park I first introduced him to this Fall. We had not been there since leaving for Florida and as you can see from the images he was intrigued and exhilarated with the cold stuff on the ground. He ran like a banshee or posed pensively looking at the frozen lake. Florida is nice and warm but crawling with flees. No such problems in our Jersey winter.

So comes to an end 19 months of unemployment. For now, I will work and await Spring and the sale of my Collingswood house. While I am here I will have new working colleagues and a place to go to and leave the house regularly. Yes, this has put my Tarpon Springs home restoration on hold for the present, but this too shall pass and before too long I will be at it again. My Jersey friends are delighted the new job and that I will stay around longer. The next task will be to figure out how the transfer process works or how to get a similar job in Florida. Of course, now that I am employed finding another job will hopefully be less of a hassle. Somehow I will still manage to work designing gardens. This, after all, is just another turn in the roller coaster...Happy Gardening!