Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Grown Any Good Books Lately?

Cymrot's Box

On Capitol Hill they're pushing up like weeds, the free book boxes. Some are organized under the umbrella of littlefreelibrary.org, a group I'd never heard of until yesterday but is apparently an international org with on-line maps showing people desperate for something to read where to find boxes in places like Turin and Detroit. They also sell labels and placards and brochures and suggest building plans and materials.

Other boxes are renegades, sprung up delightfully unregulated.

Self Explanatory
All have but one rule in common. Take a book, and leave one, hopefully in the same box. I'm not too good at this - at least the part about leaving books in the same box I took from -- I tend to wander with something half read, that I'm not about to dump (unless it's dreadful) for something new. But I know I'll require something else in an hour or a day and so rummage in the boxes and grab a book for the thirsty time to come.

The first book box I saw was a few years ago, in front of the junior Cymrots jack-o-lantern colored home on A Street, SE -- sitting there like a Lilliputian renegade branch of Riverby Books on East Capitol Street, which was founded by the senior Cymrots (One is reluctant to categorize Riverby as a used bookstore, since it is so tidily kept and carefully edited, and includes rarities).
Capitol Hill Books Window

Riverby is nothing like Capitol Hill Books, near Eastern Market, a 3-story warren of rooms and books stacked dustily in windows or heaving the shelves. The owner (miraculously) knows where what is but for the browser it's a challenge.

This is the granddaddy of the neighborhood's book free-for-all (if I'm wrong, do tell). 

The one around the Corner from Safeway
Outside Capitol Hill Books is a folding table that is frequently heaped with books, sometimes they're the store owner's rejects, a remaindered book's last chapter as it were. Other times, people dump books when they're moving or are simply done reading and don't like the clutter, bless them. The owner, if he's swift, creams the lot, but often they're wonderful finds (if you haven't discovered the mysteries of Francis Fyfield -- bet you can't read just one).

Those were three paragraphs of beside the point. The point being the book boxes,which can now be found scattered about the neighborhood.

Some are sadly utilitarian, like the one around the corner from Safeway. It's quite large, with a  hinged lid, and often filled with the good and the curious and only a rare bodice ripper.

Mid-Century Modern
It's in front of a (I think) commercial building that always looks to be becoming something -- it has looked that way for thirty some years. Except for the book box, it is the kind of shady place one would suspect is a front for some nefarious dealings. This is my favorite box for rummaging, even though one has to prop the hinged lid on ones head when poking about. But then, a bookie constructed it, I suppose. So what do you expect.

More satisfying for the "shopper" is a book box with a normal door that swings open and stays that way as you make your selection. While I'm not fond of the design of the mid-century modern ranch house number above right (it looks like it belongs to a house with an Edsel in the drive), it does it's job well.

More charming in this neighborhood of late 19th and early 20th century row houses are the boxes that play with their host's design, like this simple one on Lincoln Park, with a grey and white color scheme borrowed from the home:

On Lincoln Park

Right around the corner on Kentucky Avenue is this charmer, with leaded glass panes and a tin roof:

 And then there's this wonderful, multi-story construction on 13th Street, nestled in day lilies and zinnias and considerably grander than the home it belongs to -- no offense homeowner:

I should like one colored like our house: celadon, eggplant, and rose. I've long overflowed the living room bookcases, the hall bookcases, my office bookcases, the upstairs hall bookcases, and books are forever piled unsteadily on the floor and shoved under the bed and tossed around the bathroom floor. Occasionally in a fit of neatness, I pick a sunny day and pile a few armloads out by the curb, where the neighboring book vultures pick through them fast -- but I'd like to be able to leave them out in a downpour, instead of scurrying to bring them in or stashing them in the trunk of the car. 

Maybe for my birthday. Right. The only way that will happen is if My Prince sees that project as a fresh excuse for not cleaning out the garage. Please! Let's not get started again on the garage.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Oh Willow Weep for Me! A Gardening Trail of Tears.

A Stand of Lilies
This is what you call a stand of lilies. Oh, I suppose if you had acres to occupy you might do a lusher job, but here we're talking about a bitty border on a city street - so it's quite a sight. And there's no support or ties or whatnots. The stalks are proudly upright and massed with yellow trumpets.

Then there's THIS:

A Droop of Lily
THIS sorry display was in my back garden yesterday. This morning it is sadder still, as Someone managed to knock its support and step on the single flower -- which I've spent the last month waiting for. May I say, this lily whatever it's called has been taking up precious space for several years, growing taller and leggier every season -- but has never been more floriferous.

Massing of Mallow
Continuing on our early morning walk to and from the market to resupply my Prince with his bananas and juice we come across another curbside display, this a massing of mallow -- dinner plate sized relatives of the tropical hibiscus -- this example, growing in part shade, smothered in buds.

And to think of all the self-congratulatory yelping that went on as I left the house with a fond gaze into the trough of ivy, basking in its patch of part sun, and the f-ing spindle of fertilized and coddled mallow that has managed to poke its way up and put forth three buds (one a year I think that is). This will probably bloom while we're on vacation, as these things do.

Angel's Trumpet
Ah yes, there's more. Here we have something that really makes me puke, a largely untended curbside clump of angel's trumpet. Look, LOOK at the buds on this sucker!

And here we have -- why is the bare and anorexic stalk of my angel trumpet reaching for the heavens? And I was enjoying (another) self-congratulatory moment with it just before my hike -- thinking about the duPont Garden in Wilmington where angel's trumpet are trained in pots as standard trees and fantasizing that this is where this sorry (and entirely flowerless) specimen that I've been nursing for three summers is headed. Even my cunning under planting of moon flowers and pink morning glories is struggling. The god's laugh.

Pink Trumpet Vine
Yes, it looks like a bunch of dead sticks (though the cilantro seed I tossed in to remind me not to discard the pot IS flourishing. Ole', guacamole).  However! No one else in the neighborhood has one, so what you have here is area's premier example of a pink trumpet vine.  Exquisite, isn't it.

Monday, June 22, 2015

On Faking It ... Again

Margot Before

Observe my forlorn hydrangea Margot. She's eight or ten or who knows how old now with one lousy blossom.

This is all the flowering I can expect this summer as the hydrangea sets bud for the following season on the current season's woody stalks, which they more or less reliably do -- unless some Prince wanders by with loppers and in a fit of neatness (would that such a fit take hold in the garage) lops off the buds in September. 

Which is precisely what happened last fall.

I was unaware of this tragic happenstance until a sorry dawn in March when I took a somnambulistic perambulation (that was SUCH FUN to write) through my garden patch, sleepily observing the this and the that, and noticed the plant's sharply nipped tips.

Bracing myself, I approached the only possible source of this mishap, and asked if perhaps he'd exceeded the boundaries I'd imposed on his pruning - which was supposed to be confined to the (for me) unreachable. Well.  His Irish cheeks reddened and his bald patch began to mist and he insisted ... that it was the damn squirrels.

Squirrels, said I, do not have teeth like pruning shears, the branches would be nibbled not whacked. And he scurried away muttering something...

And so this year we have ONE flower, which is particularly tragic since we moved Margot last summer - or he did, while I supervised -- a terrifying feat in Washington's paralyzing heat. She'd grown so enormous that she could nearly shake hands with Phyllis across a path that one might (if one was of a mind to) call the ceremonial approach to the to the aforesaid garage. She'd spent last summer regaining her verve, and was fine and bushy until.... 

Margot After
Yesterday, in what will be will be fashion, we off and went to Michael's, purveyors of largely hideous fake flowers among other craft items, where I scored a coup of sorts: three reasonably realistic green hydrangea branches at a buck a piece that, when poked among the bush's branches, appear to have blossomed there.

Follow Me!

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter for odds and end (and bits and pieces) that don't add up to a post -- yet.