Friday, December 7, 2012

A Roble Orange and Other Good Stuff

Early morning in the front yard

Last weekend went so smoothly it seemed sort of enchanted. Rob and I got so much done. And yet somehow, magically, we still found time to baby the cats and savor our homegrown citrus and have lots of dorky domestic fun.

I’ll tell you about our accomplishments first. We finally, finally finished mulching the gigantic bed on the south side of the front yard. We’ve been trying to get this project done for literally a couple of years. In order to kill the grass and weeds, we put down layers of newspaper then covered them with wood mulch. We went through boxes and boxes of newspaper and used up our whole pile of mulch. We got the whole bed done, so now, at last, it’s pretty much ready for planting. I’m planning on filling it with native sumac, palmettos, woodland sunflowers, and rosinweed, and I’m already picturing how it will be someday—wild and shaggy, full of hiding places for birds and lizards and other small creatures.

Here’s another project we completed: We finally found the right spots for all our garden furniture. You see, for years I’ve been collecting pieces of old cast-iron garden furniture, pieces I find at various junk stores. They’re usually quite a mess when I bring them home—rusty, or covered in thick, bumpy, peeling layers of paint. So Rob and I scrape them down with our metal brushes, and we sand them, which is very boring. (As we’re sanding, I might talk about how I’m planning to take my little cat Carl to see The Nutcracker. I might mention that Carl will be wearing a tweed cap and his new saddle shoes to the performance. I try to make sanding extra painful for Rob.) After sanding, we usually apply some Rust-Oleum Rusty Metal Primer, and then we paint. We paint every piece a glossy, tidy, elegant black.

Anyway, on Saturday we finally found a home for some of the latest pieces, two tiny chairs with a pattern of grapes and grape leaves, and a tiny matching table. I don’t know why antique garden furniture is so small, but it is. Rob and I look like giants if we ever actually use it; it’s a much better size for cats and teddy bears. But back to the point: We found a perfect spot for the tiny chairs and tiny table. Well, actually we created it. We made a little "patio" of river pebbles for them to sit on right next to our vegetable garden. First we pulled out a big, messy bed of mint (the soil was luscious black and earthworm-riddled). Then we found some old bricks in the woods (a brick mine!) and we used those to make an edge. Next we rode up to Walmart and bought 20 bags of river pebbles and spread them, and in the end we had a pebble path leading from the back steps to our new pebble patio and on past the vegetable garden to the Meiwa kumquat tree.

We arranged the furniture and tidied up the surrounding beds. Then I picked a bouquet of camellias for the table. The camellias were the crowning touch, I thought--even though I'd run out of proper vases and had to stick them in a weird old pickle jar. The flowers were dark, tempting pink and white and made me think of big scoops of cherry swirl ice cream.

The new pebbly place by the vegetable garden

Now a little bit about the purely fun stuff we did: We picked our first Roble orange and found it to be almost unbelievably delicious. So intense. There's a passage in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead that I particularly love, and tasting the Roble orange made me think about it again. In it, an elderly preacher is trying to imagine what heaven might be like. He says, “Mainly I just think about the splendors of the world and multiply by two. I’d multiply by 10 or 12 if I had the energy. But two is much more than sufficient for my purposes.” Well, if the grass is two times as green in heaven, and the sky is twice as blue, then the Roble orange is a little taste--a little preview--of what's to come, because it's twice as good, twice as flavorful as most ordinary, earthly oranges.

A citrus sampler platter: Nagami and Meiwa kumquats, a satsuma, a Roble orange, a Cara Cara orange, a Rangpur lime, and a Meyer lemon

The cats played a large role in the weekend, I'm glad to say. On Saturday afternoon, for example, we sat on the warm driveway and showered Maggie with catnip and compliments:

“Oh, isn’t Maggie pretty with all her silver stripes?” I said. “Her stripes make her look like a little slice of layer cake.”

“She’s so soft,” Rob said, stroking her.

“She’s got bunny fur.”

“And she keeps it so clean.”

“She’s nice and plump too. Pleasantly plump. I’ve taken to calling her ‘Maggie Ball’ lately.”

"She is rather round," Rob said.

"It's because she's a hog," I said fondly. "She always steals the whole serving of Fancy Feast and runs away with it. She steals from her very own sons."

I don't have a picture of Maggie (she's scared of my camera), but I do have this shot of hammy little Frankie sitting on Rob's knee.

Just thought I'd show you some of my wacky little "treasures."

An old stirrup cup. Most of my knickknacks have an animal theme.

Christmas dorkiness

Just a little bit more


  1. Your photos are beautiful and have such a unique quality - as always. I'm glad you confirmed the cast-iron furniture was tiny . . . I was beginning to think you live in "tiny-ville". Even the angle of the photo of your home gives it a dollhouse look. Quite amazing to me. Unless of course you live in a dollhouse. Which you just might because everything, down to your beautiful cats, looks so perfect!

  2. I love your house. Agree with Eli, your photos are beautiful!

  3. Thank you, Sharon, Eli, and Sweetbay. I really appreciate your sweet comments. You all are so nice.

  4. I like your little garden chairs.

  5. Hi Leslie...Your kitty has such a sweet face. I've never heard of a roble orange before. It must be an old-time variety. Love your garden furniture. I have a weakness for black metal furniture and have also collected more pieces than I need over time...most very cheap while others were free. They're so easy to refresh. A coat of paint and they're like new again.