Shawnee News-Star Sunday March 4 2018 Becky Emerson Carlberg The PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics have come and gone.   Eighteen days the world watched athletes ski, skate, slide stones in curling, snowboard, ride the bobsled, Luge, skeleton, and target shoot during the Biathlon.  The start was heralded by the opening ceremony with drones in the sky […]

Shawnee News-Star Sunday March 4 2018

My greenhouse festooned in red blossoms

Becky Emerson Carlberg

The PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics have come and gone.   Eighteen days the world watched athletes ski, skate, slide stones in curling, snowboard, ride the bobsled, Luge, skeleton, and target shoot during the Biathlon.  The start was heralded by the opening ceremony with drones in the sky and Korean pageantry.   At the closing the Olympic flag was handed to Beijing China, site of the 2022 Winter Olympics.   The light figures resembling giant Chinese Pandas skated out to welcome all to their country.   The Olympics brought people together during this unsettled time.

When any opportunity presented itself, I would catch what was currently being broadcast.   The Norwegians are powerhouses in cross country skiing, but American Jessie Diggins and her partner won gold during a ski sprint.   The figure skating had me moving from side to side in my chair as the skaters twirled, jumped, raced or went kaboom on the ice.   Scott Hamilton had been the primary commentator for over twenty years, but has had issues with his health.   The Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski team was new and fresh.   Each day figure skating was made even more interesting while those waited to see how Johnny styled his hair or what outrageous outfits he wore.

The USA Curling Team

My final Olympic moment swirls around Curling. The name comes from the way the stone curls on the flat sheet of ice.   Similar to shuffleboard, this sport began in the early 1500's in Scotland. The first USA Curling club was established in 1830.   Forty pound stones are made of granite from either Scotland or Wales. Our USA team showed their strength against Sweden, the world champs.   The Americans fought hard for their gold medal under John Shuster's guidance.   Shuster hales from Minnesota, works part time at Dick's Sporting Goods and is a stay-at-home dad.   Tyler George, one of his teammates, is the general manager of his family's liquor store in Duluth.   The Olympians are out there amongst us.

What a February.   The month began in drought and ended with intense rains.   Even more exciting is when I enter my greenhouse to water and check on plants.     I am assaulted by a phalanx of mosquitoes; perhaps a plethora of mosquitoes since I can't be sure they were flying in formation.   Phalanx and plethora were new words my mother and I drilled into our vocabulary.   We were watching Graham Kerr, the 'Galloping Gourmet' on television as he put together an intriguing entrée.   As he strategically arranged carrots on a plate, he referred to them as a phalanx of carrots.   He then piled on a plethora of potatoes.   Out came the Webster's dictionary.   This was   a time when words were still printed on actual pieces of paper bound into real books.   Our days were filled with phalanxes and plethoras of anything which always ended in a laugh. You tend to remember new words if you repeat them enough times.   Even now when I say phalanx or plethora, I grin and think of the time mom and I were sitting in the front room watching this sharp as a tack, witty English cook.

Last look at the Olympic Flame

Back to the mosquitoes: the crop of mosquitoes has been emerging from the large metal tray filled with plants I have not yet potted or cuttings that are supposed to be rooting.   This container is the only place where water stands.   My plan of attack is to take the tray outdoors when the temperatures have moderated and let the insects figure out they are free and no longer in a warm, moist environment decorated with green leaves and flowers.   The male mosquitoes will be quite uncomfortable since they rely on flower nectar.   They don't bite. Not many outdoor plants in bloom right now. The females need blood to help develop their eggs. These hussies do bite.   Not many people in tank tops and shorts running around the yard right now.   Next, potting soil will be added to the water until it turns into a thick slurry.   The plants should be fine with this, but mosquito larvae won't and the moms and dads will need to pack their bags and fly away.   That is the plan anyway.

The rest of the greenhouse occupants are ready for winter to cease.   Plants are becoming restless as the daylight increases and spring fast approaches.   Some plants froze and perished in early winter due to the greenhouse fuse that blew which cut electricity to the heaters and allowed the temperature to drop into the upper twenties during the night.   Most plants weathered the cold except the lemon trees.   They had to be moved inside the house.   The citrus orchard quite likes the sunporch. Every week I harvest a lemon while the trees produce creamy white fragrant blooms that fill the house with a lovely scent.   Not many leaves have dropped but the trees are now sending out small branches with little leaves.   Stop this I tell them.   You need to restrain yourselves and wait until you are back outside. It was difficult enough to move them through the front door even after they had been whacked back. I mean selectively pruned.

McDonald's coffee cups are piling up in the corner by the front door.   Seeds saved from last year await in envelopes.   The spring peepers are trilling from the ponds.   Nothing better announces spring is on the way than those little chorus frogs.

Chinese 2022 Winter Olympic Pandas

The tiny tan and brown amphibians (Pseudacris crucifer) range in size from 1 to 1.5 inches.   Many have an indistinct cross on their backs.   These little frogs live in the eastern half of the USA near wetlands.   They hunt at night, going after fleas, ticks, ants and spiders but need to be on the alert since skunks, snakes and bigger frogs find them tasty.

What a big voice that emerges from the vocal sack by the throat.   A chirping choral group of spring peepers has been said to sound like sleigh bells.   Yes, they do. Would you miss their peeps as winter wanes?   The species is threatened in both Iowa and Kansas.   Their habitats are being destroyed, may I add, for cheap food.   Apparently humans have become their biggest nemesis.

Listen to the spring peepers.   They are the canaries in the wetlands.