Tuesday, July 29, 2014

NIMBY-PIMBY


Score another point for the Corporations-Are-People-Too camp.  The town council voted to approve what I shall call a Wal-blart SuperDuperCenter not far from the Common Household, just off a two-lane road that travels through a major county park. 

Several times during the contentious evening at the town council meeting, the Wal-blart representative said, “We just want to be treated like everyone else.”  The procedure of a business applying to build a property was likened to someone wanting to build a house.  Town council can’t reject a house-building project just because they might not like the person who plans to live there.

My thought to Wal-blart’s plea is just this:  You aren’t everyone else.  You are not a homeowner.  You are not even a regular retail store.  Wal-blart is a big box store, only more so.   Bigger, boxier, and blartier.

I hate to think of myself as a person who wants to block progress, but I guess I am.  The property is zoned for mixed use, and for ten years has had empty commercial buildings sitting on it.  A long time ago, it was used as a motor oil tank farm.  I should be thinking the town is fortunate to have a company willing to build there, because it really is ugly and useless now.  Still, it is hard to think of Wal-blart as progress.  I guess I prefer the eyesore we have now to increase in traffic that Wal-blart will inevitably bring through the park.

The town gave approval for a huge new shopping area last year, and already several big box stores (sporting goods, home furnishings) are in operation there, with more to come. That property, however, is on a major six-lane road, and much further than half a mile from the park.   Two years ago, another local shopping area was developed on previously empty land, with a big-box home improvement store, and some smaller shops and restaurants.  Right across the street from where the Wal-blart will be, there is already a grocery store and a Target.  I’m not a retail analyst (I hope someone is), but that seems to me like too much retail already.  Some of these stores will be going out of business.

Thinking about this store’s proximity to the park makes me sad.  I fear that there will be a lot of extra traffic on the road through the park, which is a main connector road from a 4-lane road to the six-lane road.

I hope I’m wrong about all this.

The worst part is how the deal went down.  John Q. Public just found out about the plans two weeks ago, hardly enough time to digest the idea.  By the time last night’s meeting occurred, the town council had just one week left to issue its approval.  This, more than anything else, made most people very angry.  The town council is made up of educated citizens, most of whom have been on town council for 30+ years.  They have done such a fine job in the past that no one thought to be scrutinizing their work.  I think they did not realize that a project like this should have plenty of notice to the public.  Informing the citizenry is a good way of getting some buy-in from wary people, and allows strong objectors to be fully heard.  The way it all came out makes us feel that the whole thing is duplicitous. 

The reaction of the citizens was at times embarrassing in its rudeness.  There really was no need to shout down the two little old ladies who were brave enough to voice their support of the project.  People attending the meeting would have been a lot more polite if the town council had gone about things the right way.

I objected, but only put up a namby-pamby fight, in the form of attending two town council meetings. Since the property was already zoned for mixed use, I felt there was not much legal reason to prevent the plans from going forward.

I’m trying to keep this in perspective.  At least two little old ladies will be happy to get low-cost stuff. And there are several other worse things that could be installed on that property.  At least these will Not be In My Back Yard: a casino, an opium den, a missile silo, a nuclear waste disposal site.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Independent Einstein




Before July subsides into August, I want to update you on our Independence Day festivities.  We went to visit my brother in Maryland, where we spent the weekend celebrating both the nation’s independence and my niece’s 15th birthday (Quinceanos).  



First we had rehearsal for the elaborate quinceanos service.  Here is Einstein enjoying some Beethoven, played by the Common Household Son.



This is me wondering if I will get the music right.
The youths (the ‘court’ of the quinceanera) practiced the waltz that they all had to do at the beginning of the party.




Then we went to a fireworks display at the campus of the University of Maryland.  This was Einstein’s first fireworks show, and it was a doozy.   


Einstein enjoys a night of freedom.


A day prior, a hurricane had sideswiped DC, leaving behind strong winds on July 4.  They started the fireworks display early, before it was even dark.   



After a bit, we started noticing that fireworks embers were being carried swiftly by the wind so that they descended, still lit, over the crowd.   Activities planned by my brother are usually more exciting than we bargain for, and this time was no exception.  The live fireworks came more close and more live.  Spent casings fell on our heads.
Yikes!

Spent fireworks casings


Then, abruptly, with no finale, the fireworks display ended.  This probably saved our lives.  I think Einstein enjoyed it.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Prayers of the Common Household


Last Monday, it was pouring rain during rush hour and my husband was late coming home.  The kids and I finally sat down to eat without him.  I started to pray, sincerely asking, “Lord, please bring Dad home safely.” 

At that very second, he burst through the door.  The kids yelled and laughed. And there was much rejoicing.  I exclaimed, “Our prayer has been answered!” 

My husband simply saw that we were planning to start eating without him, and said, “I guess you guys were hungry.”  

Feeling somehow that I should act fast, as perhaps our prayers of that moment had more effect than usual, I thought of one item that really needs prayer, and said, “Quick!  Let’s pray some more. Lord, PLEEEEEASE bring peace to the Middle East.  And thanks for the food.”

That prayer may sound trite, but it was genuine – that’s just the way we pray around here.  Also, I have learned from Anne Lamott’s book Help, Thanks, Wow that sometimes the most sincere prayers are the ones that just say, “Help!”  

Perhaps I need to read her latest book, Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair.  The world is desperately in need of repair.  Tikkun olam is a Jewish concept that says that we humans are supposed to be partners with God in bringing about the healing of the world.  Christians have this concept, too – that God asks us to help in the plan to restore all of creation to a state of joy and peace.

After dinner that night, I was doing the dishes and talking to my son.  I said, “The problems in the Middle East are intractable,” with intractable here meaning ‘describing a problem that I cannot solve while I am in the shower, nor can anybody else in the world seem to solve it.’

My son said, “Are you sure you don’t mean retractable?  Or maybe it’s a distractable problem.”  Then he proceeded to name every English word with the root ‘tractable’ in it.  See why we are getting no closer to a peaceful solution?  In our kitchen we can’t even find the right words, much less finding the right words where the conflict is actually taking place. 

All I have to offer is prayer.  Words.  A paltry response, but it’s all I’ve got.

Oseh shalom bimromav, hu yaaseh shalom aleinu, v’al kol Yisrael, v’al kol yoshvei teiveil.
May the one who makes peace in the high heavens make peace for us, for all Israel and for all who inhabit the earth.

Our Father in heaven, may your name be holy.  May your kingdom come, and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

V’imru, Amein.
And let us say, Amen.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Welcome to the Virtual Garden Tour


Welcome to our Virtual Garden Tour.  Just click on each link to be botanically inspired!

Green Girl in Wisconsin grows in many formats:  prairie, raised bed, containers.  Take a look!

SmalltownMe promises a look at a local botanical garden.

Kristy of The Crislers fame shows us an Iowa garden in July, including blooms, veggies, spider webs, and more.

Cassi Renee at Bad at Being Mom has gorgeous flowers of many colors and shapes.

Angie does her gardening in Louisiana!

Karen at Spokalulu has something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue in her gardens.

And here is my own entry, featuring Struggle and Serendipity in the Common Household gardens.


Thanks to everyone for participating.  Garden on, dudes.

War and Peace in the Garden


This is part of the Virtual Garden Tour.  To take the whole tour, go here.

Please, at any time, click on the photos to embiggen.

The Garden at War
As my regular readers know, the Common Household gardens are plagued by fat Attack Rabbits, moles, chipmunks, and birds.  Also, the newspaper delivery person tends to throw the paper right on top of my little garden around the mailbox.  Why s/he can’t use the newspaper box that is right there, I don’t know. 

I decided to do battle using seeds.  Without doing any research, I decided that green onions would repel the rabbits, and forget-me-nots would repel the newspaper.  Well, it’s more that it won’t bother me so much if the plants that are destroyed cost me $1.50 for seeds rather than $20+ for plants.

I planted the forget-me-nots here, at the front of the mailbox garden, at the end of May.  



For the onions, I used a different war tactic.  I experimented by planting them in four different places.  I put some in the mailbox garden.  Then I put two rows in the strawberry patch, which is in the shade (not my decision to put a garden there) and has menacing amounts of weeds just next to it.
Strawberry-onion patch.  There is another row in front.


I put one row on the west side of the house, which seems to suffer from heat bouncing off the wall of the house and frying most plants I put there.


And one clump in the hillside, which is regularly beset by weeds, rabbits, moles, voles, snakes, birds, and gaboon vipers.


Here is how they are doing six weeks later:
Mailbox garden.
The onions are there, but poor and thin, like Oliver Twist.
The forget-me-nots are doing well.  I planned to
make a long row, but unfortunately dumped all the seeds
in one place.  I haven't thinned them out, because
they are on the Very Low Maintenance Plan.
Onions and strawbs doing well.
Except I keep stepping on that row of onions in front.

Onions and animal doorway.


Side of the house: NO ONIONS.  



On the hillside.  These are doing best, of the four locations.

So far, the war seems to be going mostly in my favor. Okay, so the onions are thin and unsubstantial.  Keep in mind they are still toddler onions.  It seems the rabbits are not eating them.  And the newspaper has landed squarely on the lawn ever since I planted them.

The Garden at Peace
While doing all this gardening, I made many serendipitous discoveries.

1, The strawberry patch is doing okay.


In mid-June we got two strawberries; at the end of June, 4 berries; last week, 11 berries.  The crop has doubled each time!


Tiny, sweet, and full of seeds.




2. One of my day lilies bloomed.  Usually the deerabbits eat the buds.
On the west side of the house.


Day lily mops (no blooms) at the top, forsythia, and weeds.


3. I found this:

See it?

There it is.


A raspberry!

4. Snapdragons seem to do well by the side of the house, unlike the onion seeds.  I also have a volunteer snapdragon up by the mailbox.
From the farmer's market, planted in
 the garden on the west side of the house.
More wildlife

Volunteer Snapdragon

5. The snow-in-summer is still alive. 

Snow-in-summer, in summer.


This is what snow-in-summer looks like in late May.  I love those delicate white flowers, and wish I could find more of this plant, but I never see it in the local garden stores.
Snow-in-summer, in late May.

6. This azalea did not bloom at all this spring, and I was pretty sure it was dead.  It isn’t.
Azalea in early May.  Looks dead as a doornail.

Azalea in July.  Alive, if surrounded by weeds.

7.  Our Kwanzan cherry tree also did not bloom this spring.  I was most disappointed, and guessed that  it was due to this winter's intense cold.  I am hoping that these are buds for next spring.
Buds (?) above the leaf growth

Buds (?) below the leaf growth


8. Despite being struck by early blight, I have two tiny tomatoes on my plants that are in the hanging planter.  No jalapeno peppers yet.
One of two tomatoes.  Not going to be the
bumper crop that we've had in the
strawberry patch


9. I also have these growing up by the corner rock.

The garden at the corner rock, also known
 as the Sewer Manhole Garden.

Yellow marigolds and purple petunias.

Unruly gladioli.  No matter how much I thin
them, they keep putting up new
foliage, but don't produce many flowers.

Hostas are blooming!
These usually are eaten down to the ground
by deerabbits or Daleks, so they never bloom.

Dianthus



10. And finally, my precious balloon flowers are going strong.



Thanks for taking this long, laborious walk around my gardens!

To return to the Virtual Garden Tour, click here.