Monday, May 31, 2010

An Abundance of Mountain Laurel & the Value of a Friend

I counted 17 mountain laurel shrubs on my property today. Yup. Seventeen. It was easy to count them now, because they're in bloom. I never realized there were so many. I can't claim responsibility for planting them because they were all here when I moved  in 15 years ago.  There used to be 18, but, sadly, one died due to being completely shaded out by evergreens.

There are mountain laurels to the north...

...and to the south... the east...

...and west...

This one is my favorite. Its flowers remind me up frosting on a pink cupcake. It has become dome-shaped, like many of my rhododendrons, due to deer grazing.

I asked an old friend of mine if he would help me change the battery in my lawnmower. It's a rechargeable Black & Decker with a battery that's lost its ability to hold a charge in this, its fourth mowing season. I really can't complain since I mow about an acre of my acre-and-a-half here.

My friend R. had indicated he might be able to come tonight. Instead, I received a phone call mid-day from F., an old friend of his, offering to come over and help with the mower. Though both F. and I have been friends with R. for over 20 years now, I never really knew F. and had only met him once or twice, years ago. Now he's living in my hometown, quite close by.

This is actually the second time he's been to my house. A month or so ago, I had a sudden, complete clog of my kitchen sink. While trying to loosen the pipe below the sink to clear the trap, a section of copper pipe came off in my hand, totally rusted through.

It all happened on a Friday, and I suffered through the inconvenience of washing dishes in the bathroom sink (and breaking a glass on the tile floor in the process) so I wouldn't have to pay top dollar for a plumber to come out on the weekend. Actually, since I've been out of work for months, I didn't relish paying a plumber at all, so I called my friend R. to see if he could help. He and his dad came over and spent some time on it, but the pipe replacement he attached still leaked. He left, but next day guessed it.... F.over to see if he could improve on R.'s work and still help me avoid a plumber. He did get the pipe replaced and installed properly, but the clog remained.

So I caved and called a plumber. I figured that while he was here, I might as well have him fix a leaky toilet that had been out of commission for over a year too, so the whole deal cost me $300 ($80 for the clogged sink). Most plumbers around here charge $100 an hour. And why did I get a college education?

So, back to the mower. After a few minor issues and a bleeding cut on his hand, F. got the battery in there and it's working fine. As before, he refused to let me pay him something for all his trouble. But R. must have told him I was a big gardener, because he asked me if I might have any bee balm. He enjoys watching the hummingbirds. I don't have bee balm, but I did have an extra hummingbird feeder, which I offered to him with instructions for sugar water-making. He accepted it as "payment," though Ron had a great idea that I plan to follow up on. I'll share some produce from my garden with him. My only concern is that F. won't be conscientious enough to change the sugar water every 3 or 4 days to prevent mold and possible sickness to any hummingbirds who drank it. I tried to impress upon him the importance of keeping that water clean.

I've been enjoying huge salads from my garden in the last few weeks. I imagine it will bolt soon. Tonight for dinner I had greens with toasted sunflower seeds and walnuts, cherry tomatoes, a sliced hard-boiled egg and teriyaki chicken slices from the most incredibly tender chicken breasts I discovered at Costco. They're pre-cooked, frozen, and take just 4 minutes in the microwave to heat up in the teriyaki sauce. Mmm, really good salad.

I usually add feta cheese or chopped cheddar, but I figured I had enough protein here. But guess what? I'm still hungry! Time for peanut brittle ice cream!


  1. I love the architectural shapes of your mountain laurels, and the stone walls and steps you have are beautiful structures (And I liked the yummy salad too!)

    What a property you have. As soon as I get enough shade in about 15 years, I'm planting mountain laurels.

  2. Hi, Laurrie. I've heard mountain laurel is not only hard to find in a nursery, but also hard to grow from seedling.

    I used to work for a county Conservation District and I remember one year, as I was scouting for suppliers for the tree seedlings we sold each spring as a fundraiser, I was asked to look for a mountain laurel supplier but was ultimately unable to find any.

    I have several that get full sun and they appear to be doing fine, though maybe they can better tolerate sun being fully established.

    Lately, I've begun to wonder if these weren't intentionally planted but were just growing wild, as they do in Connecticut. Because, you'd really have to be laurel-crazy to plant so many, don't you think?