Christmas is my favorite holiday. I guess I can blame it on my childhood from the time I began to remember my life. It wasn't a time filled with "glitzy" trees, decorations, bright lights and presents overflowing everywhere. My memories tell me the truth. Childhood taught me to understand reality. And the reality was we were a farm family in the countryside with six children at home. It also made me understand a nasty four letter word called W-O-R-K. I realize this does not sound like a "Christmas" story. But believe me it has everything to do with the holiday, the festivities and celebrations involved. Getting back to the WORK part; we were a family of never ending chores, jobs and challenges. Each child was assigned specific duties according to age and abilities. These ranged from cutting fire wood, feeding livestock, hoeing crops, weeding gardens, hand picking corn, mowing grass, shoveling snow, harvesting potatoes, onions and the list goes on without end. From the age of six I remember performing more than one of these jobs. This was in another era of American life. The time was a late part of the industrial revolution, and before the modernization of farm life. There were no TV's, internet, or many modern appliances. And smart phones were not even on the drawing board then. Forget about digital cameras!
Christmas was a big event. The biggest for me was the school program where each grade level put on a Christmas program for the parents and community. My first participation was in my kindergarten class when we sang "Silent Night". That was well over a half century ago; and to this day that night is still embedded in my psyche. The teachers gave each student a gift; the boys got small pocket knives and the girls got hair brushes or other girl things. (Yes, we knew what gender we were back then!) All were given a small bag of hard candies. (Lord knows that would be an act of terrorism in today's insane world!) I suppose it's a little nutty for an old man to write things like this. Some might see it as an act of senility. Others might say "he's gone off his rocker"! But I say, it is experience based on real lifetime events. And the best part of all are the memories of those long past days.
What is Christmas? How do others see Christmas? And how could anyone not believe in it? We are all of the human family and cherish certain traditions, beliefs and practices. I will grant that one's environment and culture could have a profound influence on certain beliefs, traditions and lifestyle. As I continue to age I am challenged to understand the enormous changes that have evolved on the world scene. And I feel some changes are less than good or beneficial to mankind! As a child I was drawn to Charles Dickens the English author and his work "A Christmas Carol". At the time the only film version that I can recall was available in 1953 as a young lad. (probably filmed in 1938?) This black & white version starred; Reginald Owen, Gene Lockhart, Kathleen Lockhart, (actual husband and wife) Terry Kilburn and Barry MacKay. Somehow when I first watched the film and after reading the novel, I was amazed at how an author in 1843 could transfer a message of hope, faith and charity to a world 100+ years later! His writings were quite simple and easily understood even to children such as myself at that time. His messages seem lost to many in the world of 2017.
As far back as I can remember as a child we've always had zinnias in the gardens about the house. These flowers have always been an attractant for insects like bees, and assorted butterflies. In recent years as I have grown older I've tried to recapture some of the memories that I once had as a young lad. These were memories of everyday life on the farm, and in the woodlands, creeks and meadows. Of all the experiences in my life none compare to the happy memories of my childhood. For me those were carefree days of freedom from adult life and the responsibilities associated with it. Plants, animals and all living things were an adventure to be cherished and explored. There was nothing dull or boring about them. These were my "classroom studies" long before the school room and written books. These were happy years when I learned things about nature; things like plants, animals, trees and birds. Each of them held a spell of interest and appeal to me that lasts to this day. Children today miss some of life's simplest pleasures because of lack of environment and encouragement from adults.
But I digress; this post is something to do about zinnias. Oh yes, I guess it's the memories of them from childhood. It is strange how things from a half century or more can enter into the memory of an aging body and bring about happiness. I guess that is the reason I still plant and grow a large assortment of flowers and vegetables each year in my gardens. And I must admit the memories don't help me to keep everything neat and clean and all the weeds pulled. There is so much work associated with my happy memories, not to mention the reality of "real-life" gardening and hard, sweaty, dirty fingernail, grubby WORK that is mandatory for success! Here are some present day pictures that contribute to my "memory file" of 50 years plus.
Tom's story of the Birds In A Bucket caught my attention today. The thread "Birds In A Bucket" in Gardening for Butterflies, Birds and Bees forum https://garden.org/forums/view...
It reminded me of another bird story a few years back. A storm had ravaged our gardens and trees that summer, and I had gone out to check for damages near dark. Suddenly this near naked little form appeared in front of me lying helplessly on the cold, wet grass. I looked all around and found no nest, and no parent birds. My thoughts were "Oh no, I can't save this tiny bird; it's too small!" With darkness and more storms coming on fast I cradled her in my hands and warmed her with my breath. Looking around for final hope of a nest I took her into the kitchen where I (we, wife now involved) made a nest of tissues and paper towels in a small pail and placed it on the kitchen counter in a warm spot.. She would surely not survive the night we thought.
We knew she was a Chipping Sparrow baby since the shrubs around the yard are a favorite habitat, and we've long encouraged them. They are migratory, going south in the winter, and return each spring for summer habitat and nesting. They are seed eaters meaning we had to find something for nourishment if she was to survive. So I headed out to the supermarket to get strained baby foods and a syringe. The next morning we carefully uncovered the "nest" to find this tiny head reaching for us with mouth open. A small amount from the syringe was immediately swallowed by short periods of rest and more faint "cheeps" with raised head and open mouth. To our surprise and relief she made improvements throughout the day and well into the following night. By next morning she was making faint cheeps which stopped only with small bits of food. It was encouraging to see, but never ending feedings and nest cleanings were mandatory.
May 29, 2017 It is Memorial Day week-end and things have been very busy. There is garden work of all kinds including, weeding, planting, tilling, de-bugging, etc. etc. This post is concerned with irises and likely will be the last one for 2017. The medians and dwarfs were a disaster this year because of up and down weather patterns. And now that the tall bearded ones are about done we get slammed by a series of storms with driving rain, hail and high winds. Long story short: Nasty, bad weather all spring! The last one was Sunday evening about 6:32 PM when everything cut loose; thunder, lightening, strong winds, hail and I don't know what else! I thought the west windows would break from the pounding hail. Needless to say, that put a stop to my iris season for 2017. Everything was either shredded, blown down, or snapped off.
I'll look for pre-storm pictures when time permits. Meanwhile I'll close out the iris season with this blog post. It will become a record of what happened and when. It just was not a good year, but we march on!