Bella Rum

Life on the Pasture

The Neighbor from Hell

Crystal lives in a nice neighborhood (And friendly. I’ve met more of her neighbors than mine). Everyone takes care of their yards and the exterior of their homes. There is no HOA. There are smaller, one-story houses like Crystal’s house, and larger, two-story houses. An attractive, one-story brick house is next-door to Crystal’s house. At a cursory glance, other than having a few crepe myrtles in need of pruning, it looked fine the day Crystal first looked at her house and made an offer. The grass was a normal height, and it didn’t draw any particular attention to itself.

A few weeks later, you couldn’t say the same. Things started to grow, and grow… Thigh-high grass now covers the front yard, all kinds of weeds are growing around and into the crepe myrtles, and a huge vine is threatening to block a drainage culvert on Crystal’s property. As the church lady would say, “It’s disgraceful.” And it is vacant.

Crystal walked down to the neighbors on the other side of the offending house and introduced herself. She asked if they knew who owned it. Boy, did she get an earful. His frustration obvious, the husband gave especially colorful details of run-ins he and other neighbors had had with the woman who owns it. I loved Crystal’s description of the husband, “Down to earth.” LOL There were a series of “discussions” with the owner: first asking her to cut the grass, then more agitated and direct conversations, and finally, after she kicked one neighbor off her property, the man stood in the middle of the street and screamed, “Cut your grass.” She apparently hates and has problems with all her surrounding neighbors. So the house sits and slowly rots. I’m not a psychiatrist, but I’m pretty sure she’s enjoying this. Who would allow an investment like that to decay? My nonprofessional opinion? A nut case.

The story goes that she got married and abandoned the house. Well, not at first. She moved to another part of town after her marriage. Her new husband wanted her to sell it, but she wanted to keep it “just in case” she ever needed a “backup plan.” During the first year, someone came every couple of weeks during the summer to cut the grass. After that it was every month or two, and now someone comes about twice a year to check on things. This has continued for seven years.

Crystal called the county. An inspector came by on Thursday. Crystal was at work, but we just happened to be there. H was digging up an ugly crabapple tree in Crystal’s front yard. The inspector said that the County’s criterion for acceptable grass growth is one-foot. He put a “warning” on the front door to cut the grass, and told H to tell Crystal to call in one week, and they will cut it. He also said that she could call them anytime it reaches one foot and they will cut it. I know her. She will be out there measuring it with a ruler. I’m sure they will bill the homeowner for this maintenance. The neighbor on he other side of the house told Crystal that the county put a lean on her door once. He assumed it was because she hadn’t paid for pervious grass cuttings.

The neighbor told Crystal that a tree from her yard fell in their backyard and their Homeowner’s Ins. had to pay for the damage. He said there’s still a huge gap in her fence that she has never repaired, and the weeds are hip-deep back there. Nature is reclaiming it. The inspector said he was only allowed to go as far as the front yard. He could not look at or do anything about the backyard, which means Crystal will have to deal with the vines growing through her fence. We have a robust real estate market here. Houses in that price range are snapped up as soon as they hit the market. Crystal’s neighbor told her that the guy who owned her house went next-door and cut the grass before he put the house on the market.


Pot Gardening and Creepy Vines

I have to show you photos of my front door/steps. I know it’s boring, but just rush through. They are beautiful, or so I say.

Before photo. June 11. After only a few weeks of growth.
The rest of these were taken in the last week or two. I know it looks like there’s no space to walk up the steps, but there’s plenty on the left side, and another railing to hang on to when the sweet potato vine bites your ankles.~

In this one, you can see where I helped the variegated vinca climb the railing.

Those are SunPatiens peeking out from behind the sweet potato vine. First time for me. I like ’em.~

Notice that apron of green that overflows the bottom pot of white geraniums. Creeping Jenny is its name. H calls it creepy Jenny after one of Dad’s caregivers, the one we learned was stealing some of his meds.
Sweet potato vines could take over the world. This combination was a winner. It stood up to the brutal southern exposure, but only because I watered it every single day, except three times when I forgot, and they looked terrible, horrible, bad each time. You must get someone to water it when you go on vacation. An application of Miracle Gro about once a month helped a lot. And water, water, water!!!

I’m mostly into pot gardening these days, though H still loves gardening in a big way. For him, it starts with the first mowing of the lawn, a couple of loads of mulch and a trip to the garden center in spring. It ends with seeding, pulling up annuals, blowing leaves and putting everything to bed. We’re slowly sliding into the “putting everything to bed” period.

There was a little coolness to the air yesterday morning. I felt like the horses must feel when they get frisky on crisp mornings. I blew the leaves off the patio, which needs doing every day this time of year. I watered my impatience. They are so beautiful in their last gasp. I pulled my herbs out of the pots, and H dumped the dirt for me. They did so well this year: dill, oregano, basil, rosemary. Then I sat and listened to my book for a while. Later, I came in and decorated my house for fall. However, Porch Pup is still waiting for his fall outfit.

My friend Pasty is coming for lunch today. We’re having BLTs and a homemade chocolate chip cookie. I’m going to freeze the rest and eat only one every night for dessert until they are all gone. How much you wanna bet I can do that.




So What’s Happening Around Here

It’s Monday again. That keeps happening. It seems to me that Monday arrives faster than it used to, and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday… The weeks are flying and time is passing, and I can’t stop it or even slow it. I can almost feel the wind as the days flap their wings on the way to the next day, and the next. Most of my days are good now. Solidly good. I just want it to go on forever like it is now. I’m a realist. So I know that things change, but I’m aware, I’m awake, I’m enjoying.

New Friends
We went to a wine tasting on Saturday. We’ve become friends with Brenda and Bob, the couple who gave Crystal a place to stay during her “homeless” period – between selling her house and closing on a new one. They have a membership at a local winery. For a fee, you get a couple of tastings a month, a percentage off when dining in their restaurant, and a “free” bottle of wine each month… or something like that. I may not have it exactly right. They invited us to be their guests. We tasted eight wines. It was interesting. I prefer dry wine, but I found myself liking their fruity wines, and thinking of friends who would like them. Good gift ideas. Brenda and Bob really wanted us to join. H is more interested in joining that I am. I think he’ll get a membership and I’ll go along. I enjoy the social aspect of it. I can also be H’s guest, and for a small fee, I can do the wine tasting if I want to.

Arts and Crafts
I took my summer wreath down this morning and removed all the flowers and leaves. I kept the grapevine base that I’ve had over a decade, and used it to make a new spring/summer wreath. It is so beautiful. I can’t believe I forgot to take pictures. I already put a black plastic bag over it, and H took it up to the attic. I replaced it – on the front door – with my fall wreath. I can’t wait any longer. I have to start the fall season. Porch Pup is ready to get on with it.

Results of my Fruit Fly Experiment
Earlier in the summer, I mentioned how I was going to experiment with trying to get rid of my fruit flies.  I went at it on two fronts. First front: I bought a veggie wash and started washing the fruit before putting it in the fruit bowl. Bananas were the worst offenders. I learned quickly to wash them gently. If you are not gentle, it leaves bruises. Second front: I bought a wire cover to place over the bowl. Did it work? I’m not sure which of these two things helped the most, but our fruit fly population dropped significantly. We only saw a couple of them all summer. I will do this next summer, too.


Who’s Cracking Me Up, Conversation with H, Step Away from the Arugula, Etcetera

Who’s Cracking Me Up?

Wednesday night, I saw only a bit of an interview on 360º with Hillary. I was too tired to watch and kept falling asleep. The only thing I remember is Anderson Cooper mentioning the comment former President George W. Bush reportedly made after Trump’s inauguration speech: “That was some weird shit.”

There’s a man who knows how to put a fine point on it.

Conversation with H

Me ~ (as we’re driving by a place called Wayne’s Feed Store) I used to date a guy named Wayne. He told me his father was a lawyer, but I found out that he worked in a feed store. Why would he lie about that?

H ~ To impress you.

Me ~ Once upon a time, I really was worth impressing.

H ~ You still are.

That’s the part where I swooned!

Step Away from the Arugula

I’ve fallen in love with arugula. Like most everyone, I’ve eaten it many times in salads, but I didn’t appreciate its full potential because of the thousands of other mixed greens it was associating with. I recently tried Panera Bread’s Tomato Mozzarella Flatbread Sandwich. It has arugula in it and it’s delicious. Everything would have been all well and good if I’d stopped at that.

Because I couldn’t get enough arugula, I then bought one of those big plastic boxes of it at Kroger, the size that would feed a small village, and I got some flat bread (fewer calories and carbs than regular bread). I pulled out the panini maker, and started making my version of Panera’s sandwich at home. Healthy. Right? Then I moved on to making arugula salads with tomatoes and a light vinaigrette dressing. Even healthier, right?

I admit I went round the bend on this. I take blood thinners, and I knew arugula had vitamin K (K enhances clotting), but I figured I was fine. I mean it’s not as if I was eating tons of kale or spinach, which are very high in vitamin K. Yesterday, my INR (a laboratory measurement of how long it takes blood to form a clot) indicated that my blood was a little too thick. I confessed that I’d been bingeing on arugula. I felt like I was confessing to gargling with controlled substances, or eating a whole mixing bowl of brownie batter. They told me to back off the arugula, and get my INR checked again in a couple of weeks instead of the usual month.

It’s a good thing I found out before I went grocery shopping. Another big box of it would have found its way into my cart. Death by Arugula! That sounds like a great title for a book.


Yesterday, while Crystal was at work, we went to her house so H could assemble her new bar chairs. He did all the work while I listened to my book and tried to talk to him occasionally, but he pretty much ignored me. He doesn’t like for me to talk to him when he’s busy or concentrating. Imagine that.

Nice, huh?

The Canada geese are back. They make a pretty sight at dusk as they circle around the pasture in formation and come to earth just in time to tuck themselves in for the night. We were at Crystal’s – about a mile from here – the other night when they flew over her house on the way to our house. Cool. There’s a for sale sign on the horse farm. It’s only for six acres, but which six acres is what I’d like to know. Hope it isn’t the pasture. Nothing is forever. Don’t you hate that?

Do you think Canada geese can read?







Marinated Vegetable Salad

I think I posted this a long time ago, but I can’t find it. So here it is again, Shore. This marinated salad has a sweet & sour dressing, and it’s one of my favorites. It makes a large amount, but it will last about a week in the fridge, and it’s a great recipe for holidays, family gatherings and large parties. It transports easily. It is my go-to salad. It’s also very pretty and it’s easy to make.

Marinated Vegetable Salad

1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup green (I use red) bell pepper, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 can green peas (I use LeSeur Brand)
1 can white shoepeg corn
1 can French style green beans
1 4-ounce jar chopped pimentos

Directions for Marinade
Make this marinade first and allow it to cool while preparing the vegetables.

Bring following ingredients to a boil in small sauce pan, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves.
3/4 cup vinegar (white or cider)
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon water

Directions for Vegetables

Drain liquid off all canned vegetables in a colander. Chop celery, onion, green bell pepper (I use a red bell pepper because they’re sweeter and pretty in the salad). Place all vegetables (chopped and canned) in a large bowl. Pour marinade over vegetables and stir until mixed well. Place in refrigerator for at least 3 hours, better if longer, even overnight. This salad holds up well and is great for large groups.

Fall, Dream, Home Maintenance, Nice Person


The weather is getting nippy in the mornings and in the evenings after the sun sets. Is it too early to dig out the fall decorations? I love fall so much. I always try to push the season. I bought a beautiful witch a couple of weeks ago. I should say that her dress is beautiful. Her face? Not so much. A well-dressed witch is a fine thing.


I dreamed about bio-daughter. LOL I went looking for her, and I found her house. She was not home. I took my clothes off and went swimming in her pool. She came home and found me like that. I can’t remember anything else, but I can easily see how my subconscious self drummed this one up. Crystal’s next-door neighbor has a pool. They drained it a few days ago and the water ran into her yard. So that was on my mind, and of course, bio-daughter was on my brain for obvious reasons. Not sure about removing all my clothes.

No. Just No.

H is finally getting around to replacing the faucets in our bathroom. His faucet decided to break so we have to replace both of them. I first got these big, flashy, modern things. I don’t know what I was thinking. Every now and then I get it in my head that I’m fancy. It never works out. They looked like they belonged in a hotel bathroom or a space station. Talk about overkill: too big, too modern, too everything. They were so tall I would probably have knocked my two front teeth out when spitting.

Nice Person

My sister makes the best coleslaw in the world. Me? Not so much. I had some barbecue in the freezer that I made a few months ago. I wanted coleslaw to go with. While we were out, we went by KFC on the way home. We went through the drive-thru. When we got to the window, the lady had the wrong order. She quickly turned away, said something to someone, and our slaw appeared. She handed it to H and said, “Enjoy.” H said, “How much? ” She said, “Nothing. I got it mixed up. You had to wait.” We didn’t really have to wait more than two seconds, but she insisted. The world is (as Sarah Palin would say) frickin’ falling apart, but there are still nice people. You gotta love that about our planet.


I talked to my sister this morning. She was sitting in her garage with the door up, and trying to catch a breeze. They’ve lost power, of course. Who knows when they will flip a switch and see light or feel cool air again? But they are fine and have sustained only minimal damage to their house: part of the roof over the lanai was damaged. They did receive 100 MPH winds so they feel very lucky on that count. Their street is under water, but it stopped at the end of their driveway. How courteous of it.

After watching my sister and brother-in-law trying to choose between evacuation and sheltering in place and finally choosing to stay in their home, I have more understanding of how difficult it is for people to make that decision. You are sometimes forced to choose between two bad choices. Determining which is the least bad is stressful and difficult. I wanted them to evacuate, and I was very concerned when they decided to stay. I’m just thankful they are okay and still in good spirits. I know their spirits will wane with the stress of each day without power, but they are remarkably sporting at the moment. I think a lot of that comes from awareness that they are more fortunate than many others. As we finished our conversation, she was going back into the house to put some of their food on ice.

Harbor Freight gives you a choice of several gifts when you make a purchase. My sister had chosen a small flashlight. When she went to bed last night, the wind was blowing, and the room was completely black because of the boards my brother-in-law had put over the windows. She put the flashlight on her nightstand. She said it was comforting. When she woke this morning, it was still going strong.

Wind and Rain

I’m listening to the television in the family room as I write this. It’s all about Irma. My sister lives on the west coast of Florida. I called her yesterday morning. As of then, she and her husband had decided not to evacuate. I’m concerned and I told her so, but her husband thinks they will be fine. They’ve boarded up, and filled the gas tank, but a full tank of gas won’t help if they wait too long. They probably already have. It takes a full tank of gas for them to even get out of FL. I’m going to call her in a little while to see if they’ve changed their plan. I  know it’s hard to leave your home, and her back is causing some pretty stiff pain. Evacuation would be awful, but I hope they’ve made the right decision.

Speaking of high winds and rain, our roof has a few leaks. We started with one leak, then another, then … H thought the problem was the ridge vent that was installed only a few months before we bought the house a little over two years ago. I, as always, went directly to the worst case scenario, and believed that the entire roof needed replacing. The house is 17 years old. I figured it was a 20-year roof that was going early. We got recommendations from several neighbors who were pleased with their new roofs. We called for estimates.

After looking at the roof and going up in the attic, the guy said, “Okay. Do you want a new roof? Cuz I can give you a new roof for $12,000 but this roof is a thirty-year roof and has 12 to 15 more years in it.” LOL He then told H that not only was the ridge vent the cheapest one on the market, but it was the wrong one for this roof, and that they used the wrong nails to install it. H had already seen the nails coming through the roof, but the guy showed him again.:) So it’s going to cost a little over $2,000. That’s to install a new ridge vent and to patch all the leaks. Still not cheap, but better than $12,000.

A Nice Evening

We’re trying to get back to normal. The out-of-town people have left my niece’s house, but my sister and her husband are still here. They are staying at Crystal’s house. My sister and I have had the strangest estrangement for years, neither of us ever talking about it, her trying to avoid me, and me trying to get her to see me, talk to me, etc. Picture her as the cat with the claws and me as the puppy that wants to play. I keep trying and she keeps swatting. She must think I can’t get the hint, but I do. I just won’t stop trying.

On Friday morning, Crystal told her that she wanted to have a cookout on Saturday night, and that she wanted us to be there. I was hesitant at first, but Crystal said that my sister had agreed to it. So. I said I’d make some potato salad and deviled eggs because who can remain irritated while eating potato salad and deviled eggs? My other niece who lost her husband came with her two adult sons.

It was perfect weather if I’ve ever seen it. It was in the seventies and a little cloudy so the sun wasn’t baking us. H grilled the best hamburgers he’s ever cooked in his life. They were delicious. Everyone was calm and relaxed. My sister even had a glass of wine. I got to talk to my niece’s sons. I haven’t seen them in a while. I told them they had spoken beautifully about their father at the funeral. The oldest one is closing on a new house tomorrow, but he and his wife are going to stay a couple of weeks with my niece until they paint and do a few other things in their new house. That will be great for my niece, and the new house is only five miles from her. She will have them for support.

I took a gift for my sister. When Dad was in the nursing home and I drove 140 miles roundtrip every day for about four months, Dad asked my brother to buy a watch for me. It was a beautiful, expensive, gold watch. Really, if you want someone to pick something out for you, you want it to be my brother. Mr. excess guy. I think the watch/gift annoyed my sister. I know it did because she talked about it… many times. The funny thing is that I don’t wear jewelry except costume on rare occasions. I’ve never worn the watch. Not once. It was still in the original box. I never even had the links removed to fit me. I bought a new battery for it, and put it in a gift bag and took it to her. She almost cried when she opened it. I told her that she loves gold jewelry and I never wear jewelry and that she should enjoy it in good health. That right there softened her up. Crystal says I’m a suck-up. LOL

But really, I don’t care about the watch. It would only sit in the box forever. I like things like the old cuspidor H found in Dad’s basement, or the brass nameplate from the Chesapeake Bay deadrise Dad built back in the day, or my mother’s clock. That’s the stuff that gets my motor racing, and she’s not very interested in it. We’re all different. And that’s good. She doesn’t have to fight me for the jewels, and I don’t have to fight her for the junk. Believe me, there’s more junk than jewels. 🙂

Saturday night was one of the most pleasant nights I ever remember. Everyone was content; even my niece with her loss seemed calm and peaceful for the moment. At one point, she told me she didn’t think she could handle anymore love. She felt surrounded by it, and she was. We stopped by Crystal’s last night for a few minutes, and my sister told me that she had really enjoyed that evening, that it was perfect.

We’ll see how this goes, but it feels good.


I woke at 2:00 a.m. and started thinking of Jeff. The funeral was yesterday, and I’ve never been to a more inspiring one, or one with such an eclectic group. There were people from every walk of life, every background, and every economic level and every color.

It was standing room only, and when the pastor told those who were standing they could go to the overflow room and listen and watch comfortably through the windows, no one moved. I’ve never been to such a big funeral. You would have thought a famous person had died.

I’ve never seen so many motorcycles in one place either. The photo shows only a portion of them. It was really something when they roared into the cemetery. And I’ve never seen so many black bandanas on bald heads. The attire at this funeral was t-shirts, simple button-down shirts, and jeans. A lot of bikers and working people attended. When we went to the reception, I noticed that all the coat-and-tie set lost their coats and ties before going inside to eat. At the graveside service, the pastor assured the bikers that all pastors were not sissies, and some even admired a Harley once in a while.

It’s always interesting when you learn things about a person at their funeral that you didn’t know when they were alive. There were so many testimonials to Jeff’s life. So many people felt the need to speak, and all of them were eloquent and revelatory. The pastor even read a letter from one man who did not know Jeff. He wrote about how he had seen Jeff that morning at church, and had seen him before at church, but had never met him. I think Jeff’s bad-boy appearance was a little intimidating. I used to say that he didn’t look like the kind of guy you’d want to meet in a dark alley. This guy said he saw Jeff walk over to his elderly father, take both his hands and lift them up, and exclaim how happy he was to see him. When Jeff left, he asked his father who that man was. His dad said, “A nice man who always talks to me.” Then the man heard about a member of his church dying in an accident. He went on Facebook and was shocked that it was the same man who had spoken so animatedly that morning with his dad. He said he had to write the letter so Jeff’s family would know he had been kind to his father that morning and apparently many other times.

An elderly man with a long, white beard hobbled to the front. With difficulty, he made his way up the one or two steps to the lectern. He told us that he was homeless. He said that Jeff would pick him up every morning and take him to breakfast, and he gave him a job. He said that Jeff’s life was about purpose. He said he loved Jeff because he helped him, but didn’t pity him.

A former convict talked about how Jeff would pick him up at the jail and take him to work every morning. He said that when he was released, Jeff gave him a permanent job, and then he told how Jeff kicked him out into the world a few years later, telling him that it was time for him to start his own business, that he could do it now. When his business faltered at one point, Jeff told him that was how business was. You have lows and highs. Jeff’s construction business had faltered after the 2008 crash. This man said he loved him and his whole family for what they’d done for him.

An elegantly dressed, older woman talked about Jeff as her “carpenter” and how sweet he was to her, saying how much she would miss him.

Another conservatively dressed man who attended the same church talked about how Jeff was, ” by far, the coolest member” of their church. He talked about how he came to church on his Harley and how he rocked the bald-head look and the though-guy look, but he also said that Jeff gave him a man-hug (air in between and vigorous patting on the back) every time he saw him. He  talked about how excited Jeff got when he told him about a school that was being built in Columbia. Jeff told him that this kind of project was right up his alley. He said Jeff came back the next day and gave him $1000 dollars, and now the school has electricity. A thousand dollars was a lot for Jeff. They were not wealthy. They were not poor. They worked hard and lived within their means.

I was so impressed with how many people Jeff helped in his short life. His hand extended around the world to people who would never know this hammer-swinging, bald-headed, tattooed, muscle-bound man. I was even more impressed with how much he was loved. I’ve never seen so many weeping men. One speech after another revealed his kindness, awareness and mercy. We live in such a loud world now. It was reassuring to be reminded that in some quarters, the quiet, unheralded work for our fellow-man continues, and that you cannot judge who is doing this work by their appearance.

Note: Those motorcycle riders gave a bag of money to my niece because they heard that Jeff did not have life insurance.