“Ladybug, Ladybug, Fly Away Home . . .”

Ladybug 2

Traditions.  We love them as much as we love ladybugs.  It’s one of the reasons we bake Christmas cookies.  At any other time of year, they seem out of place — but in December, they fit (and taste) just right.

Right now, traditions are everywhere in my day job, where I am not the Nitty Gritty Dirt Man.  I’m a social worker in a suburban high school, and as the school year comes to a close, the traditions are all lined up.  Junior Prom.  Senior Picnic.  Senior Cut Day.  Graduation Count Down.  Senior Banquet.  Senior Prank.

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The Spoils Of Suburbia


Snow has melted, fallen, and melted again — but winter’s debris is still there.  I don’t mean the fallen leaves and broken twigs that litter the beds and lawn.  I’m referring to actual litter.

Due to a combination of winter winds and my home’s location at the head of a T-shaped intersection, my yard is the final resting place for not only the leaves from the intersecting street, but also for my neighbors’ garbage.  Whether it’s been set free from cans on garbage pick-up days or dropped on the street by passers-by, trash loves my yard.

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And So This Is Christmas

Santa 2

This is not the post I planned for today.  I originally wanted to write something funny about one of my favorite holiday films, Christmas In Connecticut, or poke fun at myself for crying over Christmas carols, like Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home).”

Today, though, I have a need to write a long post (my apologies) about a very different Christmas in Connecticut, a very different Christmas in America — and the idea that I, and I think most of us, cannot stop crying — with or without Christmas carols.   For me, the overwhelming sadness is just below the skin.  It doesn’t take much — the news, a moment of silence, an overheard conversation — to unleash a flood of tears.

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When Holidays Collide

Thanksgiving is around the corner, and that can only mean one thing.  My PHSD is about to kick in.

Post-Holiday Stress Disorder, or PHSD, is the only way I can describe what happens to me once turkey day is done — and in less than a week, it’s about to come on full force.

Just the other night, while Joe and I were shopping in a local home improvement box store, I heard tinny, computerized notes weaving their way through the store’s general noise.  The song sounded familiar, and as soon as I realized it was a Christmas carol, my head ached, my stomach knotted, and my chest tightened.  Goodbye November and December, and hello PHSD.

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Not-So-Wordless Wednesday: Gardeners Beware!

An Open Letter To All Home & Garden Centers


Dear Home & Garden Centers:

I have come to the conclusion that you are deliberately misleading the plant-buying public for your own profit by selling plants while not fully disclosing  the plant’s specific needs and growing conditions. 

I first became suspicious of  your tactic years ago, when I purchased a beautiful climbing vine that was covered with deep pink trumpet flowers.  The plastic tag said Mandevilla, and when I asked the salesperson if this can grow on Long Island, he said yes.  Although I was suspicious, it wasn’t a complete lie.  This tropical beauty did grow on Long Island — until the first frost.  Then, it was kaput.

Imagine my surprise this year, when I saw countless Zone 6 and 7 shoppers picking up pots of Croton, pictured above.  I had only seen the plant in South Florida — because it is native to the tropics.  Actually, it’s one of my favorite plants in South Florida — the leaves come in a variety of shapes, from flat to crinkly, wide to elongated, and the colors are brilliant hues of greens and reds and golds.  With autumnal colors like that, it’s no wonder that so many northern gardeners stocked up on the plant, punching up their fall flower displays.  

What saddens me in all this is the amount of money that homeowners shelled out for a plant that really would only last until the first frost — which, in this area, could happen a day or a week after purchase.  There’s no guarantee when frost will arrive, just know that it will — and when it does, your tropical treat will be a droopy disaster.

Equally frustrating is the amount of money the garden centers pull in by selling tropical plants at the end of the growing season.  I really cannot blame the gardening public.  For starters, they may not have any knowledge of the plant.  It’s the garden centers, though, which not only count on the consumers’ impulses but also have their expert salesperson guide the novice gardener into making the purchase.

That’s a lot of brown matter, as well as green matter — financial and organic.  It’s also a waste.  And it’s irresponsible.  And it teeters awfully close to being a scam.  But, hey, that’s business.  Right?

From now on, I will speak up when I see a shopper wasting his or her money on a plant that has no chance of surviving because of the climate.  The buyer and the gardener should certainly be aware, but so should the home and garden center — we  gardeners know your game and we know how to plant seeds.


Nitty Gritty Dirt Man

Not-So-Wordless Wednesday: Occupy Thanksgiving

I’m not sure of the accuracy of this depiction of the first Thanksgiving, but it is the inspiration for this Not-So-Wordless Wednesday post.  While there may be a lot happening in the image, I’m not sure if it fully captures all that occurred during that first Thanksgiving.  Many of those lessons seem to have been lost over the centuries, crowded out by thoughts of food shopping and preparation, football, and Black Friday, which, in my opinion, is one of most vile displays of human behavior — so much so that my Mayflower ancestor, William Brewster, would cringe. 

Apparently, we could all use a bit of that first Thanksgiving.

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What Happened To The “G” In HGTV?

A few posts ago, I made a brief comment that the G in HGTV is noticeably lacking.  Personally, I long for the old days when the G, with shows like “A Gardener’s Diary” and “Gardening By The Yard,” far surpassed the number of H shows.

That comment, though, resulted in my fellow garden bloggers agreeing that there is a serious sink hole in the HGTV programming schedule.  One commenter, Erin from Urban Organic Farming In Sidney, wrote, “I’d love if you could write a blog about it, get the readers and writers to write to them and ask that that be rectified.”  So, Erin, I accept the challenge.

My first step was to visit the HGTV website.  Clearly, the opening page is the home page – because it’s all home, all the time.  Surely there must be a G somewhere.  Shouldn’t there?

The truth is that the G has been reduced to a single on-line tab that says “Outdoors.”  The editor is Marie Hofer, and I’m worried about her – especially if her office is proportionately equal to the amount of space HGTV has given to G.  It’s probably too small to fit a desk.

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The Tree

Damage from Hurricane Irene.

Around the corner from my house, a tree fell during Hurricane Irene, blocking the entire roadway.  By fortune, the tree did not land on a car or a house or power lines.  Had the wind shifted, had the break happened a little bit lower on the trunk, who knows what damage that tree could have caused.

Still, there is something sad about the loss of a tree.  As I looked at the site, I was taken by not only the enormity of the tree, but also by its age.  They say that by examining the rings of a tree, you can see the tree’s life, when it was a wet year or a dry year.  But the rings certainly can’t tell you what that tree came to mean to so many people; rings cannot tell you what any tree means to any person.

Staring at the tree, I thought about the trees in my own life.  There was the fir tree in the backyard, under which I would play with Matchbox cars and Tonka trucks, building roads so that a large root became an overpass.  There was the maple tree in the front yard, which would ignite with fiery leaves each autumn.  We would then rake the leaves into a huge pile and run and jump into the pile, or even have a leaf war with friends across the street.  My friend Thomas had a tree that was perfect for climbing, giving young minds a wh0le new view of life in suburbia.  My friend Bobby had a tree house, a simple platform high off the ground, a refuge from summer play and heat.

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