If January 1 is a harbinger of the year to come, then 2005 is going to be good to me. I slept in, then had a nice lazy morning. In the afternoon it was so warm I sat outside for awhile with my dogs. After I had been sitting for a few minutes a few birds came back to the feeders, and I got a crappy photo of the red bellied woodpecker on the suet feeder. I really need to get that zoom lens. Last time I tried to buy it, I discovered that all the good internet camera stores are closed for the Jewish high holy days. And I don't want to order it now because all my money lately has gone into boots and hats and fabric. Maybe for my birthday present to myself.
It was too nice a day to go back inside so I did some yardwork too. The yard is pretty much dormant, but this warm spell has confused a lot of plants into sending out new growth. There are a bunch of little shoots in the hydrangea bed which could be monkey grass, which we dug out of that bed before planting the hydrangeas. I hate that stuff. So I will optimistically call these shoots early bulbs that are a little too early, until forced to admit otherwise.
The pansies are doing great. They love this warm weather. I wish I had planted them closer together. They haven't spread that much so the bed looks like a big brown patch with spots of color here and there. I followed the instructions on the label, but I've heard since that it's OK to give annuals much less room than the recommendation. They look more full and when they grow together, the plants act as their own mulch. Apparently that's how they do it in English gardens. They don't use much mulch, they just plant everything close enough to grow together.
Anyway, after admiring the pansies I got to work. Pulled up the sheets of black plastic from the side of the yard, which turned out to be a much nastier job than expected. Puddles of water had collected on the plastic, and then leaves had fallen into the water and started to rot. The whole thing smelled fetid, and so did I by the time I was done shaking the leaves off the plastic (10' × 40' sheets) and wrestling it into the wheelbarrow.
I moved the plastic to the top of the slope outside the fence, along the road. It's a colossal pain in the ass to get a lawnmower up there, so we decided to plant it over with something else. Not entirely sure what. Maybe daylilies, maybe dwarf sunflowers. Sunflower seeds are expensive, at least the interesting varieties, but I guess that once you get started you can collect seeds and plant them again the next year? That would be great. But anyway, whatever we end up planting out there we have to start by killing off all the grass and weeds.
After wrestling with the foul-smelling plastic I went back to digging out vines and forsythia in the long bed that will be the vegetable garden. Between yesterday and today I got almost done another 5' section. It's slow going; those vines are tenacious. I pulled out 6' lengths of root, many times. The forsythia was more of a problem though. There's one stump that completely kicked my ass. I hacked at it with the axe until I realized that I was doing more harm to myself than to the stump. It has a few tiny nicks but it's basically intact. I have no idea how we're going to get rid of it. There's supposedly some chemical you can put on a stump to disintegrate it. But I have no idea if it works, or if it's safe for a bed that will have other plants in a few months.
I worked on the yard until I was completely wiped out, then Georg and I watched some TV: a Monty Python marathon on BBC America, and a little bit of the Mummer's Parade! They were showing it on WGN I think. For those of y'all who've never been near the Philadelphia broadcast area on New Year's Day, the Mummer's Parade is this awesome, day-long affair featuring four categories: comics, fancies, string bands and fancy brigades. Everyone wears elaborate costumes made of lame and sequins and ostrich feathers. And lots of people wear back-boards or carry umbrellas. There's a special walk called the Mummer's Strut that they do with the umbrellas.
Apparently it has some kind of connection to the medieval tradition of mummers beyond just the name. The parade website has links to a bunch of British organizations that perform mummer's plays.
We only got to see about an hour of the string bands. Luckily I had asked my folks to tape it for me so I can watch, well not the whole thing, but from noon on. So I'll get to see some of the fancies, all the string bands and all the fancy brigades. My favorites are the string bands and the fancy brigades. Although it's been a long time since I've gotten to see the clowns or the fancies, so I might like them better now. The string bands play music and do a whole performance with dancing and big props. My favorite string band that we saw did a scarecrow theme, unfortunately I forget the name of the club. The captain had a giant backboard that looked like sunflowers growing up his back! Georg's favorite did a Cajun theme. All the performers were dressed up like animals you would see in in the bayou: frogs and turtles and lobsters and crawdads. The turtle guys carried little dollies, then lay down and rolled along the pavement like turtles walking! We also saw Quaker City, who apparently win almost every year. You can really tell who has the most money: their props are bigger and nicer, their costumes are glitzier, their choreography is more professional and their music clearances are better. This time they did a patriotic theme called "United We Stand" or something. Gee, hyper-patriotic jingoism in a parade. What a concept! I bet they won too.
They do all kinds of innovative things now, but I have to admit I have a certain nostalgia for the days when they all played the same music ("Oh Them Golden Slippers" and "Putting On the Ritz" were two of the most popular) and the dance routines were all similar. Also they didn't allow women in the parade back then, which sucked, but it did provide for a long tradition of cross-dressing. For me the quintissential image of the Mummers was a Teamster in a coconut bra and grass skirt doing the hula while a bunch of guys in sequin-encrusted lame suits play "Oh Them Golden Slippers" on banjos and saxaphones. Good clean fun, Philadelphia style.
After the Mummer's Parade we made a nice dinner: salmon filets with horseradish sauce, acorn squash, and broccoli. Then we watched the fourth Zatoichi movie and then I went to sleep. If every day in 2005 is as good as that, it will be a great year.