Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chalet Shenanigan - Chapter 7

It is blizzarding tonight in the mountains and Mr. Big is outside playing with his new snow blower so I am going to sit inside, drink some wine and write to y’all.  I would light a fire, but the fireplace is one of those things on the demolition list and it is laying in about 12 pieces on the floor next to the Christmas tree, so I’m just picturing a fire.  Which is not really working for me, but one does what one can in times of difficulty.
I am getting ahead of myself.  I can’t talk about snow until I tell you about my geranium adventure.  Mountain gardening is quite different than gardening in, say, South Carolina.  In South Carolina, where it gets so hot and humid in the summer that my children used to come inside from playing and walk directly into the fridge to cool off, (we have a walk-in fridge in the SC house because I used to cater a lot when I was a real working person and not just a Trailing Spouse), you have to worry about your plants burning up and you have to water them every, single day or they will die overnight.

Here, you have to worry about your plants freezing.  In October.  It snowed here in Chatel three days after we moved in.  It was October 3rd.  The previous owner had left me all of her geraniums which were growing in planters along the balconies.  This is a very typical chalet thing.  You line your balcony railings with geraniums in the summer.  She also left me about 20 potted plants and bushes on the two patios.  In the garage, there were about 10 empty burlap bags.  These were the only clues I had about alpine gardening.

Well, when the first snow flake hit the first tender geranium leaf, I freaked.  I quickly got on Google to see what one is supposed to do with geraniums over the winter.  Because I was definitely not throwing these suckers away.  I counted my geraniums and there were 80.  80!!!  The cheapest you can buy geraniums around here in the spring is 15 bucks for a little guy.  My overwrought brain was multiplying a mile a minute and once I reached a thousand dollars, I was in serious panic mode.  Save the Geraniums!  Save the Geraniums!  Where’s That Stupid Burlap?!
I was hoping, when I Googled “overwintering geraniums” that the answer would be something simple like, “bring them inside, you idiot”.  No.  Well, okay, you can bring them inside if YOUR HUSBAND WILL BUY YOU A GREENHOUSE, which mine will not.  I asked.  He laughed.  He is such a tightwad.

For us non-greenhouse-owning peons, we have to manage our geraniums the old fashioned way.  First, you have to take them out of their planters, shake all the excess dirt off of the roots and hang them upside down inside a burlap bag.  Then, once a month, you soak the roots in water and hang them back up.  You keep doing this until spring.  I would rather give birth without an epidural than commit to this archaic and painful process for the next six months, but visions of a thousand-dollar-bill kept flashing in front of my eyes.

Y’all, it took for-e-ver.  Day after day, shake, bag, hang, shake, bag, hang.   I did do the scheduled root-watering routine in November.  I was good.  I was following the rules.  But now it is December and there are two feet of snow on the ground and it is freezing.  Would you want to trudge out the garage, take down a million burlap sacks, spread them out on the snow, water them and hang them all back up?  Neither do I.  It’s a dilemma, I tell you.
These durned geraniums are going to be the death of me.  About two weeks ago, when I first started getting in the Christmas spirit, I was eyeing all of the lovely, empty planters in which the geraniums had recently resided.  Hmmm, I said to myself.  I could make some really alpine-y Christmas decorations out of those planters for the balconies.  So, I spent two days cutting down evergreen branches from my yard, filling the planters and attaching big red bows on the front.  Awesome!  Look how pretty!  I’m like a Swiss Martha Stewart!  I even made Mr. Big install four spotlights in the yard to shine up upon all that loveliness.

Yeah.  That didn’t work out so well.  During snow storms, the winds whip through this charming valley with surprising fury and the entire planter boxes, the jaunty bows and the carefully placed hanging pine boughs were strewn from the house to the Swiss border.  The first morning that I woke up to this mayhem, I thought, “huh, fluke occurrence”.  I chased down my errant decor and painstakingly reconstructed all my prettiness.  BY THE THIRD TIME, (yes, I give new meaning to the term “exercise in futility”), after rounding up my bows, which now look like they’ve been through a Cuisinart, hurling the stupid greenery any-which-way back into the planter boxes and drinking large quantities of wine, I got out the rope.  The planters are now TIED to the balcony with rope and they are not going anywhere.  It looks like shit but they are in place.  (You thought I was going to hang myself with the rope, didn’t you?)

The neighbors must think I’m right out of an asylum.  Oh, wait.  No, they must think WE are right out of the asylum.  It is pitch dark outside, it is pouring down snow, it is about 5 below (C) and my husband is blowing snow off the driveway.  The snow is piling up behind him faster than he can blow it off BUT THAT IS IRRELEVANT.  He is Man With Large Machine v. Nature and he is losing but he is having so much fun, I can’t tell you.  I did ask him how he could even see because it was so dark and he looked at me with no small amount of manly contempt and said, “Woman, it has a headlight.”  Well, of course it does.  Silly me.  I’ll just go back inside, dear, and bake some cookies or something.

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