I am writing exactly in between the two holidays. I have a couple of Christmas observations. For starters, my hellebores, a.k.a. Christmas rose, bloomed on Christmas day. Honestly, I wouldn’t be able to make that up. It’s tiny and pink and very close to the ground. If it was snowing, it wouldn’t be visible. I’m amazed I even noticed it on my way to open the hen house early that morning.
Also, Violet pointed out that the sun, which came out briefly Christmas afternoon, shone into our living room west window directly on the baby Jesus in the ancient nativity set.
Last summer I had a white elderly cochin hen who was determined to set on eggs. I finally separated her into a private pen with a few eggs. She hatched out one jet black baby. Remarkably, the youngster grew up to be a hen (this rarely happens). They are almost always roosters if they even make it out of childhood. With only one baby, the mother was able to protect it from barn cats and who knows what else.
The day the light changed the baby laid a sweet little olive-green egg. Will wonders never cease? The egg-donor mother must have been one of my araucanas who lay colored eggs. I had been getting no eggs for a few weeks as the days grew shorter. Now that we have made the seasonal change, production will begin again.
Big thanks go out to Angie Madison. She read my column a few weeks ago when I whined about losing my begonias to an unexpected freeze. She dropped off a few plants. I promise I’ll keep them alive.
I have become quite fond of the Ilex crenata or “sky pencil.” There are two lovely ones flanking the front entrance to the house next to Morrice the florist. I looked it up in Michael Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. He’s downright thorough in his work. Indulge me a direct quote.
“I thought I would hate this rather slender, densely branched, telephone pole-oriented selection, lustrous dark green leaves, slightly convex to 1 3/8 inches long 4/5 inches wide, grows 6 to 8 feet high, female. Bonnie and I utilized it in a large container where it makes a pleasant formal appearance, especially when under-planted with white impatiens, introduced in the United States in 1985 by U.S. National Arboretum, becoming more popular in the trade.”
My friend Phyllis and I heard him speak a number of years ago. He talks just like that — run-on sentences, a mile-a-minute and filled with information. We spent much of the lecture giggling and trying not to look at each other.
I did some wandering about in the vegetable garden over the weekend. I still have tons of sweet, delicious carrots, some leeks and small kale plants. There are baby bachelor button and nigella seedlings all over the place. Also, there seems to be an inordinate amount of young, vibrant, bright green weeds. What’s up with that?
All the news outlets have focused this week on the highlights of 2013: continued irritation by government, outrage over celebrity misbehaviors, endless unrest globally and constant new gadgets on which to spend our diminishing supply of money.
There is a hole in the human community with the loss of Nelson Mandela, Dear Abby, James Gandolfini, Peter O’Toole, Scott Carpenter, David Frost, Esther Williams, Helen Thomas and Lou Reed. I hate it when my peers start going. All I can leave you with at the start of another year is some advice from Garrison Keillor. Be well. Do good work. Keep in touch.