Tag Archives: Home and Garden

Father, daughter place bets on who will see the first hummingbird

At first, it seemed like a fairly passive competition. Two of four family members declared a bet on who would see the first hummingbird of the season. Things were pretty quiet until a week later and neither one had yet had a visit from said hummingbird. The tension began to build.

While these two hummingbird-crazed competitors shared daily phone calls and e-mails to see whether the other had yet won the bet, the other two of four  watched from the sidelines, sharing eye rolls and refusing to play the game.

You have to understand these two. Both are accomplished photographers and will spend hours outside sitting completely still, eyes glued to the hummingbird feeders. Yep. You read that right. Feeders. And not just two….multiples strategically placed around the respective back yards.

Until this afternoon, not a single tiny Trochilida had bared its fluttering wing to either watcher. Sadly, the camera was not at the ready when it should have been.

Backtrack a moment…apparently, the camera had been around earlier in the week, because the Bluffton photographer captured the family pet, a tiny chipmunk who lives under the A-frame. Dubbed Mr. Monk, the little guy had ventured out to inspect one of the hummingbird feeders.

chip 1 chip 2 chip 3

Isn’t he adorable? Ah, but apparently that only fueled the fire. Until today. The e-mail from hummingbirdwatcher number 1 came as follows:

Here are my past records of first sightings:
June 7, 2003, female (I probably saw one earlier but didn’t write it down)
June 7, 2004, male (I probably saw one earlier but didn’t write it down)
May 29, 2008, female
May 13, 2009, female
May 15, 2010, female
May 17, 2013, female – at 12:30 p.m. in the backyard
*I never started watching seriously until 2008.

Response from hummingbirdwatcher number 2?

RUB IT IN. I have yet to see any, but be assured, will report when I do.
I did see baby chipmunks (many of them) running and hiding in tunnels on campus today. They were cute.

Personally, from a spectator’s perspective, it seems to be a bit of a draw. After all, chipmunks are awfully cute. Still, I told them both: Pics or it didn’t happen.

Both claimed that the bird/animals were too fast and that the other photographer was too slow.

Eye roll.

Long silent cuckoo frees itself from its trap door and sings again

We’re having a Miss Clavel moment in our house. Or actually, it’s a Miss Clavel day. The Madeline ditty keeps playing over and over in my mind…”Something is not right. Something is quite wrong. Something is not right, and so… I sing this song.”

Here’s the thing. In 1990, my parents returned from Switzerland with five cuckoo clocks — one for each of their children. These are the typical carved clocks that are pendulum-regulated and (supposedly) strike the hours with a sound like a cuckoo’s call and has a miniature cuckoo that pops out from his little door with each note.

“Supposedly” is the key word here. Ours hasn’t worked for years and I’m pretty sure that’s true of my brothers’ clocks. In fact, one of them put it back  in the box when it stopped working. We’ve taken ours to two competent clock repair shops. The word is that cuckoo clocks are very difficult (read: expensive) to repair.

So for years, our has just hung in the living room for decorative purposes. A few years ago..one day…out of nowhere…the little bird popped out and said “cuckoo.”  I was so stunned I just stared at it for a long time before calling my husband. It did the same thing months later but until today has been silent.

Today, my husband and I were telling a friend the saga of the cuckoo clock. At the same time, I’d been dusting the clock when suddenly the little bird popped out and chirped his little tune. In stunned silence, we watched it pop right back inside its little hole, pulling the door shut.

Suddenly, we realized it was also ticking — a first in a long time despite the fact that we pull the chains regularly. But today it wasn’t finished.

Fifteen minutes later, at the top of the hour, the little guy popped out again and chirped four times to indicate the hour. Of course, it was really only 1:30 p.m., but the clock was off and how would the cuckoo know that? Later in the day, we reset it and hours later, it is still chirping away every 15 minutes.

To prove to our daughters and my brothers that the clock is working again, we videotaped it. Shortest video on record, but you get the idea. The question is…what happened? Did I actually remove a piece of dust that was in the way of the clock mechanism?

I do know this much. Miss Clavel was right.

Out with the world’s ugliest vanity….and the toilet…

It was the ugly vanity to end all ugly vanities, and after more than 20 years of gracing the tiny downstairs bathroom, it had to go. So there we were, finally attacking the floor in the bathroom. We’d ripped out the two layers of vinyl and paper-thin plywood to expose the wood floors hidden underneath. All that remained was whatever existed underneath the toilet and the vanity.

So…taking a deep breath, the hubs and I attempted to turn off the water under the sink to see if we could remove the single most offensive piece of furniture in our house. I’m not making this up. If there were a competition for ugly vanities, this one would win…hands down.

We’re not plumbers. We’re not really even wanna-be plumbers, but we (I) sometimes think I can do things I really can’t. So we turned the water back on and decided to hold off until our favorite plumber was available.

So the next morning — Sunday, of course — and just 30 minutes before the church picnic was to begin, I hopped into the shower. That’s when all you-kn0w-what broke loose. There was — according to the hubs — a leak under the vanity and he was — unsuccessfully — trying to locate the place to turn off the main water line.

Leaving a message on our plumber’s emergency line, the hubs hightailed it across the street to fetch the neighborhood man of all trades. He who can fix all. Phil came running in, a grin on his face, and a huge toolkit at his side. He assured us we didn’t need the plumber, that he could do this. He was right. Within 10 minutes, they’d located the turn-off valve.

Then came the offer we couldn’t refuse. Did we want his help removing the vanity — which, by the way, he agreed was indeed quite ugly. In a few minutes they were carrying it to the garage.


In the meantime, I inspected the toilet, wondering if I could follow my sister-in-law’s instructions for removing it. Her directions had seemed SO easy two months earlier. I knew how to turn off the water supply and I knew I’d have to replace the seal. But getting that heavy thing out flummoxed me.

Re-enter Phil, the fixer. Did I want his help removing it? Okay, by this time, I’d lost all my pride. All I could do was grin like a goofball. Within minutes, he and the hubs had the toilet in the garage.

Lovely, eh?

As he packed up his tools, I asked what we owed him. The classic Phil response… “Nothing. I like to help my neighbors.” Someday, I’ll figure out how to repay him.

In the meantime, we’re gradually beginning to believe that this project may end. It’s a slow process but when we get the sander in place, it’ll move quickly. And someday…we’ll have a nice, smooth, wood floor on which to stand while we cook.

Lovage and basil and curly-leaf parsley…these are a few of my favorite herbs

Herbs have been a part of my culinary experience since childhood, but my parents never had a separate herb garden. Instead, herbs were interspersed throughout their massive vegetable garden. Parsley often sprouted randomly between flagstones on the patio, and dill….well, dill just grew wherever it wanted to.

About 30 years ago, I took an herb gardening class, which inspired me to design one at our first house. Since then, we’ve moved twice, and each time, the herb garden has grown larger. When we bought this house, we created the garden around a grape arbor. The grapes never did well despite my father’s attempts to school us in the fine art of grape growing.

Along the way, the arbor began to fall apart and we finally dismantled it and removed the grapevines. Don’t ask my husband about this. You’ll be sorry.

Anyway, the grapes left, but the herbs stayed. Some survive above ground throughout the winter, while others pop back up each spring.

Some years the parsley sees us through the winter and rejuvenates in the spring. This year, it is nowhere to be found, which means planting new seed — the same with basil. That means making do with the dried version until the new plants begin to produce.

But the old favorites are back in droves…lovage, oregano, thyme, lemon balm, chives, summer savory. Dill grows randomly throughout a separate perennial garden.

My all-time favorite is lovage, which is a tall plant with edible leaves and stalks, and resembles celery in flavor but is stronger. The plant in our garden has been moved three times (from one house to the next) and split up and shared with countless friends and family members. Each summer, I have to trim it back two or three times when it becomes too tall and the stalks too woody. New stalks are always ready to take over.

LovageLovage can be added to salads, soups, casseroles, and is easily frozen or dried for future use. It makes a great addition to one of our summer favorites: couscous salad with whatever veggies are available.

Lemon balm grows like crazy. In fact, a former neighbor and I once suggested to our husbands that we just let the lemon balm take over our yards so we wouldn’t have to mow. Let’s just say their enthusiasm didn’t match ours.

We eat a lot of salads in the summer and throw in whatever herbs are available — parsley, basil, lovage, chives. Oregano is a good addition to Italian dishes — anything with pasta.


Lemon balm

Lemon  balm has a gentle lemon smell and taste, and is good for flavoring fish like grilled or broiled salmon. My favorite use is to add it to mint iced tea (no caffeine) — good for settling an upset stomach.

Not everything in the herb garden is an herb and not everything is welcome there (e.g., horseradish).  Technically, this isn’t an herb but somehow it found its way into the herb garden. I don’t even like horseradish, but the hubs does. So does my mom…so much so that every summer, she and a friend dig up their horseradish roots to make pots and pots of horseradish sauce.

In a moment of ignorance, I agreed to let my husband transplant some horseradish from her garden into ours. This was before he created what he and our daughters have dubbed “the man’s garden”. And now it is time for the man to dig up his roots and move them to the man’s garden. In its place, I’ll plant a new herb.

Wonder what it’ll be?