Patsy Porco

Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Plant Sex

In Humor, Sex on August 5, 2017 at 5:43 pm

Sex confuses me. Not human sex. My husband and I have a son, so we figured out the basics on that.

Not animal sex, either … except for those species that reproduce without a mate, through parthenogenesis, also known as virgin birth. That’s just crazy.

Plant sex, however, is beyond my understanding, even though I took a botany course in college. What I mainly remember from that class is getting accused of smoking pot with other students during our break. We were smoking a plant, but it was the tobacco plant, not the marijuana plant. (This was in the 1980s when smoking was allowed in the hallways. Ashtrays were outside of every classroom.  Oh, the good old days, when everyone wasn’t so uptight.)

I also recall learning that there are female and male plants. There are also some plants that have both male and female flowers. Then there are plants with perfect, or bisexual, flowers (perfect = bisexual? There’s food for thought), containing both male and female organs. Bees, insects, birds, bats, or the wind take pollen from the male and deposit it in the female. Regardless of what kind of flowers a plant has, in order for a vegetable (called fruit) to grow from the flower, plant sex must occur.

I have a friend whose asparagus plants weren’t producing vegetables. She researched the subject and discovered that the male plants and female plants weren’t getting together. She then instructed her husband to take a Q-Tip and rub it inside all of the plants’ flowers. His hand-pollination worked. She got asparagus. The irony is that she couldn’t pick the vegetables that her husband helped create because you have to let those plants mature for a few years before harvesting them. The bottom line was that they bought their asparagus that year.

I once heard a priest tell us that his mother always wanted peony bushes along both sides of her front walkway. His father dutifully planted peonies. While the plants flourished, no flowers appeared. His mother figured out that the males and females weren’t mixing it up, so his father dug up every other plant on each side of the walk and moved them each to the opposite side. The next year, there were flowers. (I think the lack of flowers had to do with how they were planted, but I kept mum when I saw him.)

This year, I’m faced with a similar situation with my eggplant plant. It has lovely purple flowers, but no fruit (vegetable, actually). I looked up eggplants and found that they have perfect (bisexual) flowers, containing both male and female organs. Even though they have all they need to produce fruit, there’s still a chance that they could use a little help. (Really? You just know that the male part won’t put down the remote for even one second.) Therefore, humans need to use a fine brush, a Q-Tip, or his/her breath to get things stirring … but sex is most fruitful between 6 a.m. and 11 a.m. Occasionally, afternoon nookie works, too.

So, if I want to grow eggplants, I’m going to have to get up early and assist in eggplant sex. Apparently, even bisexuals don’t have sex all the time.

eggplant 1


Existential Gardening and Body Paint

In gardening, Humor on June 26, 2017 at 6:58 pm

I spent the last four days gardening. Gardening doesn’t involve a lot of mental work so I had lots of time to think as I dug holes, stuck plants into the ground, plucked weeds, and battled termites that were living in a bag of mulch.

One of the things I contemplated was: Who decides what’s attractive and not attractive, desirable or undesirable? Why are weeds things to be destroyed when there are some flowers, which we pay money for and plant in our gardens, that aren’t as pretty as some flowering weeds?

This subject has crossed my mind many times. I’ve often wondered why hamsters and gerbils are kept as pets, but rats and mice are not welcome in our homes.

I once had a really intelligent boyfriend but, according to society (my best friend at the time), he wasn’t attractive. I waffled on whether or not I was higher-minded than society and could like him just for his brains. It turns out it didn’t matter, because he dumped me.

Today, after a few hours of weeding, I called my mother. She told me that my brother had gone to Comfest 2017, a community festival in Columbus, Ohio. My mother said that she never would have gone because women were encouraged to go topless.

“Do women have to go topless?” I asked.

“No, of course not,” she said. “But, women are welcome there without shirts.”

“Where did you hear this?” I asked.

“In the newspaper,” she said. “The article didn’t show the topless women, but it did show pictures of women who went wearing only body paint.”

Just hearing the words “body paint” made my brain groan. That was another conundrum I’ve pondered over the years.

“But, if you’re wearing body paint, are you really naked?” I asked.

“What are you talking about?” she asked.

“I’ve seen some really intricate body painting that covers people really well. I’ve often wondered if people whose bodies were covered in paint were really naked.”

“Of course they’re naked!” she replied.

“Why?” I asked. “They’re more covered up than some people are who are wearing clothes.”

“This is ridiculous,” my mother said. “Body paint is not clothing.”

“But if it provides the same coverage as clothes, then ––”

“Let’s talk about something else,” my mother suggested.

“Okay,” I said. “But before we do, I have just one more question about the women in body paint.”

“I have to go now,” my mother said in an annoyed tone. “I’ll talk to you later.” Then she hung up.

Great. Dumped again.

I went back to gardening, but this time I sang along to the radio as I worked. My singing didn’t seem to annoy the neighbors as much as my abstract thinking annoyed my mother.

I think.body paint



My husband just alerted me to a new shirt-replacement trend that’s all the rage at popular festivals. I will not be discussing this with my mother, however.

Peanuts and Concrete

In Humor on June 23, 2017 at 6:07 pm

whiskey barrelOne of the whiskey barrels on our deck had rotted and was falling apart. No, there wasn’t whiskey spilling out all over the deck. If that were the case, I wouldn’t be complaining, which is what I’m about to be doing.

What was spilling out between the rotten wooden planks was dirt … and Styrofoam peanuts. Hundreds, if not thousands of Styrofoam peanuts. Maybe millions. At least it seemed like millions to me while I separated the peanuts from the dirt they were embedded in.

I went inside the house for a break, and to malign the former owners of our home.

“You know those whiskey barrels on the deck?” I asked my husband.

“You mean the half-barrels?” he responded.

“Yes, whatever,” I said. “You know what I’m talking about.”

“You’re the one who’s always correcting people about the proper use of words and grammar,” he said.

I sighed. “You’re right. Okay, yes, the half-barrels.”

“What about them?”

“Well,” I said, “The one closest to the grill was falling apart, so I took out the slats and removed the metal rings around the barrel. Guess what was inside?”

“Styrofoam peanuts,” he said.

“How did you know that?” I asked, flabbergasted.

He looked at me in the way that signifies he’s going to leave the room and end the conversation. I grabbed his arm to make him stay.

“Let go of my arm!” he said.

“Not until you answer me,” I said.

“I saw some peanuts lying around the half-whiskey barrel.”

“Didn’t you wonder where they came from” I asked, as I released his arm.


I breathed deeply. “Well, the former owners of our house filled the bottom of the barrel — do not correct me and say half-barrel or I’ll kill you — with those damn peanuts instead of dirt or rocks. Then they threw in a bunch of wood to take up even more space before they added dirt. Now we’ve got mounds of dirt, peanuts, and wood on the deck that I have to clean up.”

“Nobody told you to take it apart.”

“It was an eyesore!” I kind of yelled.

“Are you asking for help?” my husband asked.

“No, I’m not,” I said. “I’m just letting off steam. Can you even believe that they took that shortcut, without thinking of the mess they were leaving us?”

“They probably weren’t thinking of future owners of their house when they did it,” he said. “Those half-barrels have been here for the 11 years we’ve lived here and probably for many years before then.”

“Don’t take up for those inconsiderate jerks,” I said. “We never would have done such a thing.”

“Sure we would have,” he said. “In fact, we did.”

“When?” I spluttered.

“When the former owners of our last house left piles of broken concrete next to the garage and, right after we moved in, you had me dig a giant hole in the backyard and bury the concrete.”

“That was different,” I said.

“How, exactly?”

“We had to bury it. The dump wouldn’t accept it and Norwalk forbids putting building materials in the trash.”

“But we still left a hole filled with concrete for the new owners. If they ever decide to plant something in that exact spot, they’re going to be very angry,” he said.

I thought about that for a minute.

“I’m going back outside,” I said. “The next time I want to complain, I’m going to tell someone else.”

“Oh, please don’t,” he said.

He didn’t sound very sincere.


Addendum: After this was published, my friend, Christine, an environmentalist and gardener extraordinaire, posted an explanation on my Facebook wall (where this story also appeared) for the use of peanuts and wood in planters. It turns out that the former owners of our house weren’t inconsiderate jerks after all. Only we were.

Christine’s Comments: Uses for Foam Packing Peanuts: Check out #10: “Pour peanuts into a large pot and add soil to boost drainage and make it easier to move.”

Use of Wood: It’s permaculture practice to bury old pieces of wood because they absorb water and, as they compost, they release lots of good stuff into the soil. I don’t do the peanuts but I do bury lots of wood and it works wonderfully. I don’t have to water as often. When I read your story, permaculture was the first thing I thought of. That and the fact that I’ve found several pits of buried concrete in the yard usually just where I want to plant a tree!

The First Weekend of Summer

In cookouts, Humor, Summer on June 27, 2016 at 1:34 am

If you recall, a few weeks ago, I tried to sell giant hosta plants from my garden on an online garage-sale site, but the site’s administrator asked me to take down my post because my plants were not hosta, but garden-variety weeds. Several people I know asked why the site’s administrator cared if I was selling weeds, as long as they weren’t illegal ones.

I agreed with them, but I preferred not to look like a moron who thought giant weeds were hosta, so I took down the post and spent this Saturday ripping those plants up by the roots. Then today, my husband and I went to a backyard party hosted by our friends, a husband and wife we’ve known for years. While we were there, the husband showed me his very impressive vegetable garden. He was especially pleased with the progress that his rhubarb was making. I took a closer look at the rhubarb and realized that I might have just thrown out ten or fifteen of those plants. The rhubarb plants sure looked like my weeds. But then again, so did hosta. I’m glad that the plants are gone, though. This way, there’s no temptation to make a rhubarb pie that might turn out to be a weed pie.

After the garden tour, we went over to the screened-in deck, where a few of the younger guests were comparing their tattoos. Only one of the older people there had a tattoo — the rhubarb-growing husband. His tattoo was temporary, and was bought and applied by his wife. Temporary or not, his was the popular favorite.

Mike's tattoo

When we got home, I was inspired to check on my vegetable garden. I know that what I planted are actually vegetables because I bought seed packets and they were clearly marked with words and pictures. My vegetables aren’t showing any progress yet, but that’s to be expected since I just planted them a week ago.

The bird feeder, on the other hand, has seen lots of action. I have one of those square suet cages that you fill with a cake composed of congealed fat and seeds. There are small openings in the cage so that only birds can feed from it. Somebody didn’t tell the squirrels, though. For the past few mornings, they’ve been hanging upside down from the lattice fencing around our deck, grabbing the cage with their little squirrel hands, and demolishing the suet. I’ve refilled that cage three times so far this week.

Always the optimist, I also bought a cylindrical bird feeder that is guaranteed to attract finches, and a bag of bird seed. I don’t even know if Connecticut has finches, but since I wouldn’t recognize one anyway, any bird is welcome. Yesterday, I put the new feeder and the bag of seed on our picnic table out on the deck. Today, while we were at the party, my brother was at our house, and he said that he looked out the window and saw at least six squirrels romping on the table. The squirrels had poked holes in the bag and were gorging on the seeds and drunkenly tossing handfuls into the air. He politely told them to go away, and when they ignored him, he threw flip-flops at them until they left. Then he hid the seeds.

After relating this harrowing experience, he suggested that I consider washing down the table before our next cookout. I definitely will, with bleach. But things could have been worse. My next-door-neighbor regularly sees raccoons copulating in broad daylight on her picnic table. Washing that table wouldn’t be an option. I’d have to burn it.

My Brain Needs Pruning

In gardening, Humor on May 30, 2016 at 8:03 pm

Last night, my husband and I played board games at our friends’ house. I lost at Scrabble, but I sometimes win, so I was happy for the winner, sort of. When we played Trivial Pursuit (original edition), though, I was slaughtered. I knew some of the answers to the other players’ questions but rarely to my own. The two wedges I got in my pie were from answers that I pulled out of my … hat. I never even heard of the song, “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte,” so guessing Patti Page as the singer was sheer luck.

The thing is, at one point in my life I knew that Khartoum was the capital of the Sudan, and that pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth were called “the seven deadly sins,” but not now. Now, my mind is so cluttered that I have a difficult time recalling what I need until the day after I need it, if ever.

But brain jam isn’t my only problem. My always-present unknowledge (my word, feel free to use it) is getting worse. Here is just one example: My town and the surrounding towns all have Facebook virtual tag sale sites (aka virtual garage sale sites). Because our hosta has reseeded itself and the plants are overtaking our yard, I decided to sell them all. They’re extremely healthy and some of the plants are enormous. You can pay a lot for plants from the garden stores, so I offered them for much less: $5 for a regular plant and $10 for a giant plant (with leaves that make the plant at least two feet in diameter). Once sold, I would dig up the plants that were purchased and deliver them to the buyer.

The only problem was that the administrator posted this under my listing: “Take this post down right now. These are weeds!”

Hosta 1.jpgHosta 2.jpgHosta 3.jpg

Great. Not only does my brain need weeding, now my “garden” does too.



Eye, Eye, Eye

In Aging, Humor on April 24, 2016 at 4:33 pm

In the movies, the husband wakes up, rolls over, takes one look at his wife (who slept in full makeup), and makes mad passionate love to her, morning breath notwithstanding.

In real life, I roll over, my husband takes one look at me and says, “Oh my God! Do not go out in public today. People will think that I punched you.”

In all fairness, this is what my eyes looked like this morning, and still look like. Eye Eye Eye

On Friday, I undertook a spring cleanup in our yard. When I came into the house and passed a mirror, I noticed that there was swelling in the corner of my left eye. I figured it would go away, but the swelling got worse and now there is a big, swollen, red circle around my eye that leaks. The center of the circle is white. I self-diagnosed as having been bitten by a tick. I’ll probably go to the doctor tomorrow to see if I have Lyme Disease. I live in Connecticut, so the odds are good.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep my husband out of prison by hiding indoors. I’ll also wear sunglasses round-the-clock to spare my family’s sensibilities.


In Humor on August 21, 2012 at 2:35 am

Over the course of my mid-length and mostly unvaried life, I’ve occasionally been asked, “What the hell is wrong with you?” Until now, I didn’t have a response.

Today, while I was in my garden, staking tomato plants that should have been staked a month ago, the answer came to me: I can’t identify plants to save my life. That’s what’s wrong with me, and it’s been going on for a long time.

Because I can’t tell one plant from another, I only have tomatoes in my garden. Back in June, I planted cucumbers, beans, peppers, onions, lettuce, spinach, and God only knows what else. I even wrote what I planted on little plastic sticks and planted them alongside the plants. My dog, Rudy, decided the identifiers were toys, or food, so they were gone immediately.  I didn’t worry too much, reasoning that once the plants bore fruit, I’d know what they were.

I didn’t count on the damage I would wreak with my weeding, however. Even though I covered my garden with black plastic before planting, weeds and morning glories managed to sneak in. Weeds I can handle, but morning glories are the bane of my gardening existence. While they’re pretty, they’re a major nuisance. They grow on long vines and twist themselves all around every plant they can reach. I tried to pull them up as soon as I saw them, but their leaves are identical to the leaves of young cucumber and bean plants. Therefore, I must have torn up all of the cucumber and bean plants along with the morning glories. I also ripped up the peppers, onions, lettuce, and spinach in my haste. Somehow, though, the morning glories survived and are on a mission to strangle the remaining tomato plants.

I should know a little about plants. After all, I took a botany class in my last quarter at The Ohio State University. I learned all about the identifying qualities of leaves and how they indicated what plant they belonged to. My crowning achievement in that class was being able to identify a plant by looking up its leaf serration and flower attributes in my botany book. That was my final, and my correct identification probably meant the difference between my graduating or having to repeat the class.

The class met twice a week, in the summer quarter, from 8 a.m. to noon. During one break, I came back with several of my classmates and we were laughing about something or other. The teaching assistant, who was probably only a year or two older than I was, was not amused. He pulled me out into the hall and asked, “What the hell is wrong with you?” Unfortunately, stressful situations always make me laugh. I just looked at him while attempting to suppress my laughter. He turned a frightening purple color and said, “If you and your friends ever smoke on break again and come back in this state, you will all be automatically flunked.”

I was confused. This was, after all, a time when smoking was a college prerequisite. I just looked at him. “Why can’t we smoke on our break? There are ashtrays in the hallway.”

“You know that I’m not talking about cigarettes,” he yelled at me.

“What are you talking about?” I said between laughs.

“Pot,” he spit out.

“We weren’t smoking pot,” I said.

“Then why were you all giggling when you came back from break? And why do you stink of pot?” I didn’t answer him. I can’t recall, 28 years after the incident, why we were laughing, but chances were good that we were laughing at him.

“Get back in the class and tell your friends what I said,” he commanded. “This is your only warning. I would think that a graduating senior would not jeopardize her graduation by doing something so stupid.”  I didn’t say anything else, for fear of making the situation worse, and returned to my seat.

After the class, far from the classroom, I told my classmates what had happened and they laughed uproariously. “What kind of botany teacher thinks tobacco smells like marijuana?” they asked.

Anyway, that was the end of my botany career. I thought I’d never need it again in real life, like algebra, but it turns out I did.

Too bad I was smoking weed at the time, instead of paying attention. (I’m kidding.)

Rash Decisions

In Humor on March 24, 2012 at 12:53 pm

I remember hearing the comedian, Steven Wright, say that he got tired of walking his dog every day, so he walked him all at once. That reminded me of the time when my mother, brother and I were walking on the very busy Ocean City, NJ boardwalk. My brother, who hates crowds, was in a snit. Everytime he got jostled or someone walked too close to us, he’d get angrier and angrier. I stopped into a store and emerged carrying a very large box. I asked my brother to carry it for me. My mother sent a doubtful look my way. I remember telling her, “He’s already angry. He might as well be really angry.”

That’s pretty much my philosophy regarding life: shoot for the saturation point. Until you reach it, you might as well keep going. So, even though I awakened today with poison ivy blisters covering the majority of my arms and legs, I saw a few unmarked areas on my limbs and decided to get back out into my garden today and pull up the rest of the weeds. My BFF-CT suggested that I go to the doctor and get started on Prednisone to dry up the cysts. That was my intention all along. But not just yet. Why start the treatment when I still have more poison ivy blisters in my immediate future? I might as well get them all and then cure them. Otherwise, it’s like walking the dog all at once but forgetting to bring plastic bags with you. You’ll only have to go on the same walk again, but this time prepared.

The Little Mermaid



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