Saturday, March 31, 2012

Tulips—Part Deux

          Red tulips today—a grundle of 'em. Harlequin coming up next post.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tulip Studies

          The tulips I picked for the house were looking particularly Georgia O'Keeffe-ish today, so I took some arty photos. Yellow today, with red and harlequin to follow:

Saturday, March 24, 2012


          I am not, alas, a particularly good Midwesterner, even though I've now had years and years of practice at it. The climate makes me grumpy. The ABYSMAL clay soil we have here that, if you started adding organic matter regularly to it now, you could attain actual fertility and tilth just slightly before the sun goes supernova and sucks our little solar system into its flaming maw, makes me suicidal.
          However, the Midwest does do trees well—a point very much in its favor—and one of the ones it does superlatively well is the redbud. I first saw redbuds growing wild in Indiana forests, and I thought they dressed the place up nicely.

          The redbud is native in this part of the world, which is a bonus to those of us with a grudge against the local soil profile, as redbuds not only tolerate it, but put on the loveliest springtime show of etherial, fucshia-pink buds all over themselves, followed by pretty heart-shaped blue-green leaves for the summer. They are unintersting come fall, but their breathtaking spring show more than makes up for lack of fall color. Redbuds are beautiful as specimen trees, or as an understory planting. They have a pretty open habit that often becomes more and more visually interesting as they age. They tolerate a fair amount of abuse.

          And they make a peevish misplaced Westerner very happy every spring.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Splendid Word O' the Week

          I ran across this word the other day, and I was completely ensorceled:

©Nancy E. Banks

          It sounds like what it means, which is to rummage. According to Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, it comes from Australia, where it specifically means "to search for gold typically by picking over abandoned workings." Rummaging, in other words.
          An added bonus is the etymology, where one learns that it's a dialect irregular form of "fuss."
          So, rummaging with a side of fussing while looking for something valuable.
          This is a Word I Can Use. Because it turns out that I spend a lot of time fossicking. For example: I was fossicking in the junk drawer this morning for the AA batteries that I just put in there, but I couldn't find them. Could be it's time to clean that drawer out. Or: No amount of fossicking in the "Sent Mail" folder will turn up the itinerary I was supposed to forward to my sister if I failed to actually forward it in the first place.
          Happy Fossicking.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Crazy Mad Skillz I Didn't Even Know I Had

          The local newspaper is a constant source of wonderment to me. Consider this quote from a recent article in the Fluff section on tools to keep your wardrobe looking spiffy: "Nothing ruins a put-together look more than wrinkled clothing, but ironing takes a certain amount of skill."
          I snorted coffee right out my nose upon reading those words, thereby ruining my put-together morning look.
          Lordy, how the bar has been lowered if ironing is a skill that may only be mastered, as the article implies, by advanced study with ironing Jedi masters and possibly a pilgrimage to the Dalai Laundry.
          I suppose the Life Coaches for ironing are even now printing up business cards. But truly, ironing is simple. If you can smooth out a ball of crumpled paper, and you are blessed with at least one opposable thumb, ironing is not beyond your abilities. Not even if you posses a Y chromosome.

©Nancy E. Banks

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Training the Trainer

          Any Obedience instructor worth his bait bag will tell you that it's easy to train dogs. Dogs are smart. Even the "dumb" ones. The hard part is training the trainers.
          Oh my is that true. I've been battling certain behaviors of Casey's from the moment K brought her home. Charming and lovable, she is also an exceptionally manic dog, and especially when she was a puppy, she surged from one naughty behavior to the next so quickly that it was impossible to intercept and redirect those behaviors; by the time I'd reacted to one, she was three ahead of me.

Casey in one of her quiet moments. Quiet, but not un-naughty.
She's not actually allowed on the couch.

          Age has mellowed her ever so slightly, but she's still a crazy barker and a lead-puller who never seems to calm down, and I had despaired of finding a successful way to control or at the very least take the edge off those behaviors. Not that I hadn't tried. The amount of our bookshelf space devoted to dog-training books has quadrupled since we got her. I read the books; I try the suggestions, but I just can't seem to get her to focus on anything but squirrels. And bait. She likes bait.
          And then I was looking at the J and J Dog Supplies catalog and noticed a book called Understanding and Teaching Self Control, by Suzanne Clothier. It was $4.85, and I had to order a new leash from them anyway, so I added the book to the order.
          Changed. My. Life. Clothier's premise is that some dogs don't know how to control themselves, and she has a very simple, effective way to teach self-control. You learn how to do it in basic Obedience class, and this is just a targeted application.
          I tried it the afternoon I got the book and by evening, Casey had gone from whirling, barking dervish to astonishingly well-controlled dog who would give a warning bark when she saw passers-by, and then come to get me. Calmly. She knew exactly what to do, once I knew what to tell her to do, and she seemed relieved to be able to do it*.
          I also tried it with Pooka, because I finally realized that his guardy behavior was one of the triggers for her excess, and that he needed a dose of self-control, too.
          Best $4.85 I ever spent. It turns out that training the trainer—even a dumb one—is pretty cheap. And very effective.

*Yes, it really is that simple. And no, I'm not going to tell you what it is. Support the trainer who figured it out—buy the book.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lo The Spring is Come

          The early-season daffodils started blooming on February 29 this year, well ahead of time, beating out all but one of the crocuses. And so the best part of the year in Kansas City starts.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Sum of a Life

          I swear I'm still too young to be doing this. But it's a habit I picked up years ago, back when I still had enough free time to read The Economist. Quite by accident, I started reading that magazine's obituary page. And then I kept reading it. I looked forward to reading it. The obituary page! Because it is instructive. And so very well-written. Every issue, the magazine memorializes someone recently dead who had some impact on the world. Famous, infamous, unknown—The Economist always picks someone whose life made a difference, for good or ill. It was from the June 2, 2001 obituary for Malcolm McLean (the inventor of container shipping), for instance, that I learned why container shipping revolutionized trade and paved the way for today's global trade. Such a simple idea—I assumed it had always been around, but The Economist taught me differently.
          So now I skim the national and international obits from time to time. Just to see who died and what they did and what it meant and how we will be the less for their loss.
          And Sunday, in the local paper,  I read these lines in memoriam: "Andrew Breitbart was a Hollywood-hating, mainstream media-loathing commentator and website publisher who once helped edit the Drudge Report and launch the Huffington Post."
          I didn't know him; I didn't follow his work, and it's not my place to comment on his politics or his ideology. He died at 43, which is too young. What struck me so strongly was that the things he hated were apparently such a large part of his persona that his life could be summed up by listing his hatreds.
          I do not want be remembered when I'm dead for the things I hated, legion though they may be. I don't want the sum of my life to be a list of my hatreds. I don't want anyone reading my obit to pity my life.

I don't hate peas.

Or spotted Cows.

Or cats.

I don't hate big ugly fish heads.

Or kids and dogs and beaches.

Or blizzards.

I don't hate old monasteries.

Or lunch.