The Soapbox Papers

The Soapbox Papers is my two-cents worth.

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Location: Beloit, Wisconsin, United States

I am a cross between Tinkerbell and Calamity Jane.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


I got someone to cover my tutoring chores for a few days and told the folks there I was going on vacation. They asked me where, and I told them: Clearwater. Big deal, they told me -- so what! Clearwater is a stone's throw from St. Petersburg. What's the big deal?

The big deal is this: I am away from my apartment, my phone, my own chaos -- and I have entered into someone else's. My friend Doug will be visiting Ohio until Monday, and I am house/cat/garden/pool sitting. I brought along Liberty the Cat. My host, Doug, already has Dexter the Tabby. The cats are about the same age, but I was still apprehensive. When my last cat, Miss Daisy, was still with me, we were room mates of Doug and Dexter, Michele (Doug's Lady friend) and Courteney, Michele's daughter. Dexie was a cute kitten, but mean -- and he had claws. Miss Daisy didn't have front claws, she was quite old, and quite passive. Dexie hurt my Miss Daisy, and climbed the screened in porch to make friends with a squirrel. That's the only way I can figure the fleas got in the apartment, and the fleas always seem to go for the old and weak -- Miss Daisy. Because of her age and the other problems that go along with it, I had to put her down. It broke my heart. So you can imagine I carried, reasonable or not, a bit of a grudge toward Dexter, and I also carried a great deal of apprehension about introducing the timid, sweet loveable Liberty to this terrorist tabby. But I brought her. This is a big house, and there is a pocket door that separates the bedrooms and bath on one side from the rest of the house, and I figured that if necessary, I could keep Liberty, who is used to small spaces, apart from Dexter.

My cat is a tyrant.
Who would know to look at her? Dexter walked up to her carrier, as soon as we came into the house, he hissed at her. She hissed back. I let her out of her carrier in the bedroom in which we are staying, and Dexter, who had followed us in, was shooed out. Liberty ran under the bed. I finished getting our stuff in and settled, then settled down with Doug to talk. We heard the screaming and looked up just in time to see Dexter streak down the hall from one bedroom to another, Liberty hot in pursuit. Doug went into the battleground and broke up the fight, each contender going into his/her own corner: Liberty back under her bed, Dexter, across the house, under Doug's bed. Mostly, that's where they stayed, although Liberty wandered out now and then to explore.

Doug tells me that at 4:30 this morning Liberty explored herself into his bedroom and caught up with Dexter under Doug's bed -- and Dexter screamed and hissed and Liberty growled and fussed until Doug broke it up again. Me? I'm on vacation -- I didn't hear a thing.

Dexter hiding under Doug's bed .

I am hoping that before I go home again the cats will have learned to get along and actually play together. I am saving space on my memory card for that one.

I won't be entirely leisure-oriented here. I have a project in the side yard. "Do whatever you want with it," Doug said. Heh heh. I miss having a yard to play in, so this is really fun for me. It's a narrow strip of ground with a privacy fence as a backdrop. Along much of the fence, Doug is training his passion flower vine. His hasn't begun to bloom yet, but the flowers look like this one (left).

There is also a stand of Mexican Petunias, which like to grow in colonies. Doug's have gotten 'way too tall, and I am going to cut them back, which will thicken them. Since they make a good background plant, I am going to remove the ones closest to the yard entirely. Both the Passion Flower and Mexican Petunia attract butterflies.

Left: Doug's Mexican Petunia and Allamanda (before)

My favorite tropical plant, is Allamanda, growing up near the fence. Allmandas are supposed to be both a shrub and a vine, but after some scrutiny, I have to conclude that Doug's is mostly a shrub, and an ungainly one, at that. I will have to trim it back, and I hate the idea -- but maybe, if put into some rich soil and covered with a bunch of mulch, I can make babies from the cuttings. All parts of the plant are poisonous, so that means garden gloves (which I hate) -- but it is another of those plants butterflies like, so I will muddle through.

Doug is partial to dark red coleus, which is a plant with "insignificant" flowers, grown just for its foliage. I prefer the cream colored coleus with green, but this is what Doug wants, and it is his yard...!

He has a bunch of different colored impatiens (Busy Lizzie) in the front of his house, and I plan to move some of them (rather, cuttings of them ) to the back. Anywhere else, I would be afraid to start cuttings right in the soil, but this here is Florida, and we are in the midst of the summer humidity season, so all I will have to do is put the cuttings in some good moist potting soil in the ground and put a good layer of mulch around them. They'll root.

Lying on the ground, broken into chunks, are the remains of several pots of geraniums. I am not a big fan of these, but I can't bear to see them just lying there, so I will pot them up and put them somewhere where they can do well. They were not a good mix with the other plants of the side yard. They don't like a soil that is too rich, so they will probably do well anywhere ---else!

I have until Sunday evening to get it done, and that includes running out to get some mulch, and then there is another chore I promised to do, and the cats must be refereed -- but this is my vacation. I'm having fun.

Right: New plantings and mulch added. That huge thing on the fence is Doug's Passion Flower Vine - still has no blooms. The Mexican Petunias have been cut back, and some are in the corner far up by the fence (where you can't see them. Just behind the Mexiacn Petunias is the Allamanda- only slightly tamed. To be continued...

Doug (left) seemed to like it just fine!


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