Monthly Archives: September 2012

Thursday is Resource Day

It’s been a while since the old Snail Mailbox was opened and cleared out, but oh the wonders therein. The periodical market may be coughing up blood after the demise of Borders, but I can still point to quite a few magazines that make the old model still worth paying for.

To start, yes, Facebook is now overloaded with single-subject obsessives with all of the depth and critical thought of a movie poster, and poking through a Timeline is a bit like being stuck in traffic behind that character with the station wagon held together with bumper stickers. However, sometimes you need to sift through a mountain to find gold. I can’t remember which friend turned me onto Florida Gardening magazine, but the first issue reminded me of everything that I loved from living in Tallahassee a decade ago. Of particular note is a cover story on the gardens of the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, which was still under construction when I came through the area in 2008.

I also can’t recommend highly enough Jay (Jake) Carter’s end column, “The Exterminator”, because his certainty about the intelligence of local vermin matches mine. To quote, “I am ill equipped o do any real damage to the world’s pest populations. However, the image I am presenting to them is one of a crazed killer who will go to ANY lengths to get rid of them, even if the effort ends in my accidental poisoning or I blow myself up.” Oh, I empathize. The rat trap atop the roof, apparently carried there by a hawk that snatched the rat inside for an early morning snack, is proof of that.

Likewise, the newest issue of Carnivorous Plant Newsletter arrived just today, and seemingly half of the issue is full of new carnivorous plant cultivars. That’s in addition to a study on bladderwort functions, and Nigel Hewitt-Cooper‘s guide to raising Drosera regia. The last is of particular note, considering my mistaking D. filliformis for D. regia, and it may be time to try raising this beauty under Texas conditions.

And then there’s vindication. My subscription to Gothic Beauty is nearing its end, but I still go through every issue from cover to cover. Of especial interest was a letter to the editor complimenting the “Gothic Gardening” columns in back issues: it’s just a real damn shame that the columnist was fired by the publisher in the most passive-aggressive manner possible, isn’t it?

Melanoma risk

Over the weekend, I accomplished the impossible. Well, I accomplished a whole lot, but the impossible was a side effect. Best of all, I didn’t even know I was doing it. In the process, I learned something very valuable.

First, the preamble. Traditionally, the Labor Day weekend in North Texas is a meteorological Schrodinger’s cat, in that the quantum potentialities will collapse the moment you make plans. Staying home to work on the garden? We’ll hit extreme and often record-setting heat, right about the time you figure the tomatoes need some judicious weeding. Going on one last vacation before the school season really gets into gear, or having to work? Three inches of rain every hour for the whole of Monday. Since I’d planned to stick around, our surprisingly mellow and wet August turned into a September more evocative of a cement kiln. Heat stress, shifting foundations, small birds and insects spontaneously exploding in midair…we had it all.

Essential information, numero two-o. I know I’m pale. Johnny and Edgar Winter express horror at my lack of melanin. It’s not just a matter of applying sunscreen, but needing to apply it with a concrete float. If I could garden in the dark, my skin would appreciate it, but I have to settle for soaking in the best sunblock I can find and hoping I don’t burst into flame more than ten minutes in.

And now the situation. Besides repotting a large batch of Bhut Jolokia and Trinidad Scorpion peppers, it was time to finish a set of storage shelves given to me by a friend. The shelves were made of rather weak fiberboard, so I made a quick command decision and planned to seal them with spar varnish. This also applied toward continuing the conversion of that Nineties-era television console: spar varnish offers both water and moisture resistance and UV resistance, and the only thing holding off a good painting was the funky weather every weekend in August. I discovered that a gallon of Cabot Stains spar varnish can cover the interior of a 28-inch television console and ten shelves with three coats and nothing left in the can. That was the good news.

The bad? The best option for painting the shelves was to lie them flat on the ground and paint them while kneeling. This kept the mess to a minimum, to be sure, but it opened up one vulnerability I’d never considered. Much like Achilles being dipped in the River Styx as an infant to give him invulnerability, I’d covered myself quite liberally with sunblock. Much like Achilles’s mother holding him by one heel, thereby leaving him with one fatal weakness, it had never occurred to me that kneeling while barefoot meant that I left two size-13-sized vulnerabilities exposed to our gentle and tender sun.

The rest of me? A bit of singing along my arms, but no actual burns anywhere. The soles of my feet? Well, you ever really look at a piece of pizza that’s short on cheese that’s been left in a refrigerator for a week? The skin moves the same way. This is compounded by the realization that sunburned feet have a completely different type of pain than any other. It doesn’t really hurt, but walking anywhere for any length of time is annoying. It’s just enough to make me wish I’d put a mesquite thorn or a rusty nail through my arch, just to give me something to complain about.

The really bad part is that all of this fussing is moot. According to the National Weather Service, the vicious heat of the rest of the week should be gone by Saturday, and we’ll be back to our normal end-of-summer temperatures and precipitation. About blasted time, if you ask me. Until then, I might as well take advantage of the skin tone and hair color and get prepped for Halloween. All I need right now is a sentient black Roto-Tiller, just so I can wave it over my head and scream “Sap and stolons for my lord Arioch!