02 January 2012

the voice of a dove calls from far away

I do not have many superstitions about New Year's Eve, or New Year's Day, despite the fact that I possess numerous irrational beliefs about any number of other things.

It's possibly because I find the calends of January to be an arbitrary date, or possibly because after solstice and Christmas festivities I'm celebrated-out and don't care very much.

I do like my glass of champagne in the evening and my plate of Hoppin' John the next day but that's about it. I don't ceremonially sweep out the old year's dust, nor do I shrink from washing dishes for fear I'll wash away a member of the family.

What I like about New Year's Day is the (baseless) assumption that everyone else is nursing a hangover and that the only decent and polite thing for me to do is to potter quietly around my house and leave them to their various miseries in peace.

So I pile up my slow cooker with black-eyed peas and greens, and various other vegetables and spices, and do a little desultory work in the garden if the weather permits -- rake leaves off the walk, stir the compost, things like that.

I use a compost aerator that I bought a few years ago and really like. I won't go quite so far as to say it makes stirring the compost a pleasure, but it works better than any other tool I've ever tried for that task.

Yesterday also I spent some time playing with the houseplants.  Many gardeners -- my own self included -- aren't much for houseplants, but do like to grow things that aren't quite hardy in their area.  These plants are coddled and petted, and of course must be brought indoors when the temperature drops.  My own collection includes a large shrub of French lavender, a gardenia, a dwarf sour orange, and a few succulents.

I like succulents.  I don't own any particularly exciting ones -- a jade plant and some assorted sedums -- but they have interesting colours and textures, and they're generally resilient so long as they get enough light and you remember to water them once a month.  They're also easy to propagate by division.  This little creature is an unmarked pachyphytum I picked up somewhere and have been gradually spreading into an accumulation of tiny pots.  Succulents prefer pebble mulches to organic ones; glass florist's marbles can be used to provide a bit of colour and shine.

Baby Succulent Thing

W.S. Merwin

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