From late September until early March, you can barely walk through our house because it's filled with pots of citrus trees, ferns and flowers wintering in our great room. It feels kind of like we are living in a terrarium.
One year we brought a chameleon in with the plants and we saw him from time to time lounging on the leaves of our avocado plant enjoying the morning sun. And once when our niece Samantha was young, we brought in a chipmunk. That resulted in a frenzied call to me at work from Jilda, who was standing on the kitchen table. Whenever plants that live outside most of the time are brought inside, there's what I call a critter-risk.
When the last chance of frost comes and goes, we start setting things out on the deck and patio for fresh air and sunshine. Once the days get warm and longer, everything comes alive, and they get ready for their summer work.
We began getting fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and strawberries this week. The squash are blooming, and it won't be long before we have a patch of yellow gold.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, my tiller has issues and would be of more service as a boat anchor than a garden implement.
So this year we got creative. I broke up the small garden plot behind the house by hand with a garden fork and then did raised beds. I wasn't sure how that would work, but the garden looks happy.
We tend to invite more company over in the spring and summer. If you want to win someone's heart, feed them fresh vegetables from the garden, along with a pone of hot buttered cornbread with a glass of ice-cold sweet tea, and soon they want to move into your spare bedroom.
Last year, we had our friends Charlie, Yvonne and Randy Watts come over for dinner. Jilda had picked bouquets of fresh flowers for the table and the living room. I put Mozart on the stereo, which in my opinion helps with digestion.
The conversation was lively, and almost as if on cue, two young deer scampered into the field under the apple tree. As we ate, we saw them through the garden doors, frolicking. Yes, I said frolicking.
Later when we told the Watts family we'd love to have them come back, Charlie said, “We'd love to, because y'all live in Shangri-La.”
When I worked for MaBell in Birmingham, my commute time was an hour each way. Many times I thought, “Why not sell the farm and move south of town?”
I know it would have made my life simpler. I did the math once, and I spent well over a year and a half in my car driving back and forth to work. But I listened to books on tape (and CDs) on the commute, so I would not have had the chance to enjoy hundreds of books.
This much I know, sitting here writing today on my screen porch with the breeze out of the west tinkling my wind chimes and delivering the sweet scent of gardenia blossoms, I know in my heart I made the right decision to stay here.