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After a couple of false starts and a bit of stress, we finally made it up to visit my folks in the Panhandle and had the chance to go tubing down the Niobrara, since it’s still up for irrigation. For those of you who haven’t experienced the delights of going tubing, basically, all you need is a not-too-deep river that’s running fast and an old truck inner tube that doesn’t leak too much. If you’ve got both, plus a pair of raunchy old sneakers that you don’t mind submerging in river water for a couple of hours, you are golden. You tie a bit of twine around your tube, to make it easy to hang on to whenever you have to get out to climb over a fence, you sit your butt down in the tube (or if you are a total klutz like me, you lay on your stomach on your tube since every time you try to sit down on it, you tip the goddamn thing over) and let the river do the work.

It is gloriously relaxing, and you get to see every color of dragonfly, little birds dive-bombing deerflies out of the air, hundreds of blooming sunflowers, and a panorama of crispy prairie grasses, low-growing willows, and leathery-leaved cottonwoods as you drift along.

It’s a brief, seasonal treat, floating the river. Typically, they let the dam out for irrigation around Independence Day and the flow starts to taper off to where you’re dragging bottom by the time of the Sturgis Rally. (Or for those of you who don’t mark your time by holidays and local festivals, you can float the river in July). Due to poor vacation timing, we haven’t been out during river-floating season in ages. I think the last time I got to float the river was probably a good 8 or 9 years ago.

Besides floating the river, we managed a lot of visiting with my folks, and I got to meet up with the fellow who’s going to be bringing my old Volkswagen back from the brink. Joel squeezed in a pretty good gravel survey of southern Dawes County, and my mom hooked me up with more houseplants.

These little guys are relatives of Jade plants and blossom frequently. The one in the little square white pot will bloom red/pink, and the one in the terra-cotta should bloom yellow.

Potted Citronella
Mom also started a Citronella plant for me about a year ago. The last time I was out visiting (late August of last year) I forgot to take it back with me. Testament to Mom’s amazing green thumb, the plant is about triple the size it was last year. Quoth Mom, “are you sure you want that stinky thing?” I assured her that I think Citronella smells delightful and of course I would be tickled several shades to claim it. It smells delightful, and I am using it as a centerpiece on our picnic table for the time being, and will bring it inside before winter, of course. This citronella is actually in the geranium family. I’m planning on getting some different geraniums within this next year, and plan to make a bit of a feature of them on the porch next summer.

While I was playing in the dirt getting the little succulents potted, I figured it was about time to re-pot some of my other plants that had outgrown their homes.


Back row:  my small asparagus fern, Nancy’s asparagus fern.

Front row, left to right:  Jade tree, new succulent (yellow) new succulent (pink), Wandering Jew, Nancy’s new spider plant, my new spider plant.

I have a hugeaceous spider plant on my front porch, and it had made a zillion little spiders, so this morning, I filled a couple of pots with wet dirt, and went out front and snipped off every little spider and stuck it in the dirt.  This way, the big, old spider plant up front can fluff up a bit, without all the little spiders sapping its energy, and there will be two, new pots of fresh, young, vital spiders.  Nancy didn’t have any spider plants, so I thought I’d do up a small one for her.  She has a big Madagascar Dragon Tree, and it often looks pretty cute to have a spider plant or two down in the bottom of the Dragon Tree pot to keep it company.


If you didn’t guess it, the theme of my houseplants is “easy keepers.” I tend to have a lot of succulents and a lot of plants that will tolerate my care schedule, which is “water on Saturday, do not disturb unduly, re-pot when necessary.”

Two variations on the theme of Madagascar Dragon Tree
I’ve had these two Madagascar Dragon Trees since I lived in my second Kansas City apartment (circa 2002-3). The picture above dates back to February 2008, when I’d broken them out of their 5″ pots and combined them into this bigger tub.

Here they are today. They’re famously easy to grow, and I have always enjoyed their Dr. Seuss looks.

Their longtime neighbor is a “Swiss Cheese Plant,” which in the intervening years since this picture was taken, has been expanding to occupy all available space.
Again, this is an easy-to-grow-and-maintain plant. Mom gave me the start of this from hers. Her Monstera blossomed once about 20 years ago. It pitched up this enormous, phallic looking bud which opened out into something akin to a perverse, outsized jack-in-the-pulpit parody. Then, the branch that had sprouted the flower lost all of its leaves, grew some enormous air-roots, and looked like hell. Mom cut off that branch, stuck the roots in a pot of dirt, and let me have it as an experiment. For a good three years, I had a bare branch sticking out of a pot of dirt. This bare branch had one little green nubbin on its side. Then, one day, without any notice, the nubbin turned into a spike, which unfurled into a leaf. Soon after, more leaves emerged, and here we are, 10 years later, and I have a big, dang plant doing its best to outgrow the best window in the house.

I’m particularly partial to my Monstera because I consider it an heirloom. Mom got her Monstera at the grocery store, in the floral section, on a whim, some years before I was born. When she got it, it was a very small plant, and she expected it to turn into one of those heart-leaf vining philodendrons. My Mom still has her unexpected Monstera, which has at various points in time, taken up significant real-estate in her living room. It has grown to ceiling height and been pruned down countless times. If you’re into dramatic-looking, easy-care houseplants, and aren’t too concerned about the plant getting HUGE, then a Monstera is a pretty good choice.
more sweatshirt bershon
You can see it in the background of this photo from Christmas 1986 (I think). At that point, it lived in a 5-gallon-bucket and spread across half of a big, plate-glass picture window.

Between the Monstera and the Dragon trees, they getting so thick that you can hardly see my absolutely darling Jade Tree, which also got repotted today.

My friend Kim gave me this plant about three years ago, and it was just about the size of the small starter on the right-hand side. Since then, it has gotten rather large, and shot out two starters from the roots. It had gotten so top-heavy it couldn’t stay in its little 4.5″ terra-cotta flowerpot anymore. Since it was doing so well, I thought it should have an extra-pretty pot this time around, and also something with a broader base, since it is inclined to height and top-heaviness. I really like this little pot, and think it suits the character of the tree quite well. I really wanted one like this, but in red or orange, but couldn’t find anything in the right size and shape in either color. But I do think the blue is actually very pretty.

Anyway, I got to play in the dirt a bit today. Come fall, it will be a bit of a squeeze to get everything accommodated with sufficient light, but I’m sure I’ll manage somehow.

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