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Last Of The Red-Hot Mamas

Last Scotch Bonnets Before The Freeze
It’s been several years since the mercury has dropped down to 20 degrees around here. After predicting for days that we’d have some cold weather but nothing nearly so severe, the weather service boys suddenly said wait a minute, you’re all going to freeze your asses off for the next two nights.

That sort of talk keeps the tropical gardener busy, in an irate sort of way.

First, I had to crawl under the house to set some shop lights up near washing machine and kitchen sink pipes most likely to freeze otherwise. I used to have some old Christmas lights under there, set up just for such a task, but it’s been so long since we had this hard a freeze that the old lights are tattered, frayed and useless. So, temporary shop lights. Check. (A few strategically placed light bulbs, you see, will generate enough heat that you don’t think much about permanently insulating the yards and yards of pipes weaving around under the house as if it belonged to Rube Goldberg.)

The shed out back is packed tight with plumeria already, so all I had to do was make sure extension cords were strung to a heater I keep out there. Check. That just left the job of hauling the more-sensitive hibiscus plants inside, where the Christmas tree was. Oh, wait, the Christmas tree still was there, so first I took that down, then hauled the plants in. Check.

All done. But wait, there were still some red and orange balls of hotness growing on the ends of the scotch bonnet chili plants in the garden. Can you ever have too many hot peppers? Not really. So I picked those bad boys and took a picture of them sitting on the cutting board, then fussed with it on the computer box to make it look artsy. Check.

But wait, we never harvested the last of the Meyer lemons out front. By the time I remembered the lemons, the north wind had moved in, temperatures had dropped from 60 to the mid-30s and a nice, cold drizzle had begun. There were more lemons than I remembered. After picking and dragging two large bagfuls into the house, my hands were freezing, so I left a couple dozen on the tree. Check. Then, yesterday, I grated the peel from 15 or so very large lemons, giving me about a year’s worth for various future cooking projects, and froze several pint jars of lemon juice for future lemonade. I still had more than 100 lemons, plus a couple dozen from an earlier harvesting. Lemons up the wazoo. Check.

So last night, to make sure the pipes didn’t freeze, I ran a hot load of towels through the washing machine just before I went to bed. Check. I woke up with my spider sense tingling around 4:30 a.m., noted that it was nearing 20 outside, tried to run the same load through the washer a second time just for fun and – nothing. No hot water came through the pipes, meaning they were starting to freeze. I have spent time under the house during a similarly cold pre-dawn morning, with an extension cord and a hair dryer, thawing pipes. It sucked, as you may imagine, and I was not keen for a replay. Luckily this time, I prayed to the appropriate Deity, turned the washing machine temperature to “warm,” waited a minute, then turned it to “hot” again. Hot water began flowing. Check.

Even if in a relatively cold way, life is good.

Majority Rule

I didn’t like Hillary Clinton as a candidate for president. Among other things, I felt that she and the national leaders in control of the Democratic Party considered her as practically entitled to be their nominee because it was her royal turn.

I voted for her anyway, though, because I didn’t think Donald Trump was at all qualified to be president, for a thousand reasons. Not the least of which involves the fact that my youngest son is Hispanic and Trump practically painted a target on the backs of Hispanic Americans almost from the day he announced his candidacy.

But now it’s President Trump, and he won decisively. It would be easy to give myself over to despair and blame and even anger, as I see some among the press punditry already are doing. But that’s not the American way, and I hope the Democrats and other independents will resist the temptation.

For the first time that I can remember, the national Republican elite lost control of the party to their rank-and-file, and in the process they won control of the presidency, the Senate and the Supreme Court, and retained control of the House. The national Democratic elite fought off a game attempt by their rank-and-file to take control of that party, and in maintaining elite control, the Democrats managed to lose every branch of government. Could it be there’s a lesson to be learned there somewhere?

So now the Republicans will have to end their strategy of working to defeat every idea the Democrats have. Now the Republicans are actually going to have the ability to come up with ideas of their own and pass them into law. And it will be up to President Trump and the rank-and-file who elected him to watch closely and make sure congressional Republicans’ ideas involve more than exempting wealthy donors from taxes.

For at least a time, I am setting aside my doubts and cynicism in order to allow Donald Trump the chance to prove me wrong and operate to the best of his ability for all Americans. After listening to his acceptance speech, I believe this is possible. To the extent that the United States has succeeded as a nation, this success is due in large part to the acceptance of the concept of majority rule, and the peaceful transition of power.

In the spirit of working to heal partisan wounds and give the guy a chance, I took the small step of removing my previous blog post, in which I expressed disdain for Mr. Trump. It’s not much, but it’s a sincere gesture. Regardless of the fact that congressional Republicans did just the opposite to our current president for the past eight years, I am wishing the coming President Trump achieves great things in office, on behalf of all of us.

Lord knows it won’t be easy.

It Rains

Torrential rain came down yesterday pretty much as advertised, leaving many of Houston’s major traffic arteries – and parked cars – covered in water. Here in the outback, runoff from the north-central part of the state poured into the Brazos River so that at our place it rose from 15 to 42 feet within about 24 hours and now flows past my tomato garden.

The fire marshal came by yesterday evening to make sure we were properly on-edge about the high water, as the river is supposed to rise another 6 or 7 feet, but the truth is that we can handle it without worry. The wild card involves whether the weather pattern sets up again to create slow-moving thunderstorms out of the moist clouds floating north from the Gulf of Mexico.

One would prefer this latter does not happen, if one were me.

Otherwise, it’s been a mere minor inconvenience for us. The fruit and milk trucks didn’t make it to the local grocery yesterday, so I bought no bananas but did manage to snag the last gallon of 2% milk, and the dogs made a mess of the kitchen floor every time they returned inside from a jaunt in the soggy yard. So it goes.

Also posted in Brazos River, Nature

When Life Gives You No Lemons, Make No Lemonade

Actually, life gave us quite a lot of lemons initially this year, and Satsuma oranges, too. It’s how they wound up being distributed that is, I think, noteworthy.


Maybe I shouldn’t bitch. I still have a couple dozen “ice cubes” of lemon juice in the freezer from last year’s crop – lemon zest, too. I have the biggest canning jar you’ve ever seen, crammed full of lemons preserved in salt, the peel from which will add zinging flavor to many salads, stews and soups to come.

We’ve been eating Satsumas since Thanksgiving, and this year they were juicy and sweet.

Really, both trees have finally hit their stride, and provided dozens, maybe even hundreds of fruit. So I used as much as I could, then started giving the fruit away – baskets to the neighbors, bags to relatives. Bags to people who came to the door.

First, two women from somewhere in the neighborhood, one asking in broken English if those were my oranges. Yes. “Would it be all right if I picked one?” she asked. No, I told her, you have to take several, and some for your friend. “What kind of oranges are those?” she asked, pointing to the lemons. “Those are lemons, would you like some of those, too?” “Could I,” she asked. “Sure,” I said, leave some for me, but take some.” “Can I come back sometime and pick the ones that are touching the ground?” she asked. “Otherwise they might go bad.”

Two days later, a man identifying himself as the first woman’s husband asked for some oranges “for him,” gesturing to an older gentleman who spoke only Spanish. And some lemons, too? “OK,” I said, “go ahead, but leave some for me.”

The next day, two more men were at the door. They had heard about the free oranges and lemons and wanted in on the action. “I used to mow your neighbor’s lawn when that other lady lived there,” one of the men told me. “Can I come back another time for some lemons?” Yes, I was still saying yes to everything. I glanced out the window to see him and his partner filling too plastic shopping bags full of Satsumas, then another with lemons.

Then the lawn mower came back and asked for lemons the following day. Yes, yes, OK.

Did I forget to say “leave me some”? Maybe word got around that it was open season on our trees. I took a day trip to the farm to put up a cable dog run for Boo the wonder pup, came home tired, went to bed early. The next morning, upon pulling out of the driveway to take the kids to school, I noticed the lemon and orange trees had been stripped bare. Despite all the recent pickings, there had been at least 100 lemons still on the tree, and probably almost that many Satsumas.

Kinda pissed me off and took some of the bloom off of my Christmas spirit.

I’m trying to get over it. Maybe one of the folks who stopped by earlier believed they’d been given permission to come back for more, pounded on the door, determined I wasn’t home and figured I wouldn’t mind if they helped themselves, since obviously I was just giving the fruit away anyhow. (And mostly, I was, although Meyer lemons reach their peak of flavor in January, and my intention was to let plenty of them ripen up on their own out there.) Maybe whoever hauled off all that citrus gave most of it away to their extended family and neighbors, and didn’t put it up for sale along the roadside.

Maybe the Universe saw that we had more of a thing than we could use ourselves, and the Universe saw some others with less, and did what the Universe does by balancing things out.

Maybe, but I have to confess it still kinda pisses me off.

Also posted in Communications, Food, Fruit, Nobody Gets It Like They Want It To Be