4

Quit Teasing Me!

Our weather has been pretty lousy this winter (yeah, I know, it’s been a lot worse other places). Friday it was sunny and close to 50 degrees. Yesterday it was overcast and in the low 30s. The next couple of days it’s supposed to be sunny and in the 40’s. Then on Wednesday we expect accumulating snow.

As the days get longer, cats’ fur is supposed to shed and the cooler (?) summer fur grows in. We’ve had plenty of shedding, but the cats have replaced the old fur with electric blankets (ours) and heating pads (ours).

There’s nothing quite like waking up in the morning and not being able to move because one cat is on one side and the second cat is on the other side, pressed tightly to you for warmth. Generally speaking, you wake up because sleeping between two cats is so warm that you feel like you’re melting.

Regardless of snow and cats, you can always rely on retail to tell you when the warm weather is/was supposed to arrive. The first thing out was the Easter candy. It had to be expected since it had been sitting in the back room since the week after Christmas. Besides, holiday things always have to be out early enough for the customers to be tired of them by the time the holiday actually arrives.

Next were the grills. I know people who start to grill as soon as they can run outside to check the meat without getting frostbite (it’s a northern thing – like wearing shorts as soon as it gets above 40 degrees). So the grills weren’t too depressing.

Same with the golf supplies. I once knew a guy who bought orange golf balls so he could practice putting in the snow. I also know people in golfing leagues who schedule their first matches at the beginning of April. They generally end up rescheduling that match. Golfers must be the most optimistic (or stubborn) people around.

I started to get depressed when I saw the first army of garden gnomes. Generally speaking, they do not like the snow. Besides, I really dislike garden gnomes. I think they’re creepy looking. I will admit that they are an improvement over the previous fad. There were (too) many houses with wooden cutouts of fat women bending over so you could see their underwear. I never understood why those replaced the concrete animals and dress-up geese. I admit to a reflecting ball and several concrete animals (the best is a large bear).

My son asked me to buy him a shirt in early February. He wanted green, some type of forest green. It seems forest green is not a spring/summer color. Spring and summer are when forests are green. He also prefers soft cotton. Apparently soft cotton only comes in heavier weights. Much heavier weights. Like flannel. We certainly didn’t have anything like that left (no discount, rats). So I looked around. The only thing I could find was cream and green. Soft medium-weight cotton. Worked out OK. Shortly after that, the temperature went below zero. Guess I could have bought close-out flannel – of course, the green was gone.

Next thing out were the tiki torches and citronella candles to keep away the mosquitoes. By the way, I’m told that the hard winter means fewer mosquitoes. I’m not sure I believe that. The Upper Peninsula gets lots of snow and cold every year. Not only do they have huge mosquitoes, they also have biting black flies. I can see it now – everyone spends extra time outside this summer to make up for the winter but has to go in before dusk to avoid being eaten alive.

The worst for me was when they put out the seeds and small bags of potting soil (with starter pots, of course). There are several things they recommend you don’t plant in Michigan until after Memorial Day.  I used to spend hours in the late winter looking at seed and plant catalogs. We had a very nice garden when we lived in the city. I expected great things when I moved out here. I forgot that most of the cute animals that live around us are herbivores or vegetarians.

We knew to put up a fence. We didn’t know that deer jump fences. We knew that woodchucks and bunnies would burrow under. We didn’t know that woodchucks can climb small trees. Taller fences. Deeper posts. Finer wire. Increasingly innovative animals. Food motivates.

We were going to put in decorative trees. Apparently very tasty. Put a fence around the bottom. Deer eat the top. Tree grows big enough to defend itself. Deer rubs itself against the bark and destroys it. Put in bushes. Bunnies eat bark during tough winter. We have oaks and pine trees. And a lilac bush that is probably older than any of us.

The final straw came last week. They put out the kayaks (the life jackets had been out for several weeks). I do not know anyone who kayaks before the risk of hypothermia disappears. Unlike a boat, there’s a fair chance you will tip over a kayak. Particularly if you don’t know what you are doing. If you do know what you are doing, you should not be buying a kayak at a big-box store.

There is one thing still sitting in the back room. It’s a display of starter bushes (roses, etc.). The display says “Plant Now”. At the rate we’re going, they will probably be able to put then out with the back-to-school supplies.

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2

Nothing Says Last Day of Summer Like Trim-a-Tree

According to my calculations (which should be double-checked), there are 95 days until Christmas. It’s almost time to start nagging my family for suggestions, so I get them by December15th if I’m lucky. Otherwise, it’s fall to me. Our burning bushes have just begun to burn, the weather’s getting cooler, and we have less roadkill because the genetic pool of the animal world has finally been downsized to those who understand why their parents told them not to play in the road.

Not so in the retail world. A point of pride at Ralph’s is that we are always the first with new merchandise for the season. I’m not sure how it’s tallied, so I’m guessing that’s like being the most famous. Statistics can be used to prove anything, but should be limited to those who know how to use them safely. For example, last year summer got an early start. So we opened our garden center two weeks early. (I know this because it was part of a presentation later in the year.) It’s that kind of thinking makes Ralph rich. Of course, this year summer decided to visit us on it’s vacation from other spots, so we had an end-of-season sale like you wouldn’t believe.

Halloween candy has been out for weeks. Of course, everyone knows that’s just a cover for us to buy it for ourselves now and buy the “real” Halloween candy on October 30. It’s the beginning of “The Holidays” when we’re allowed to eat what we want because it’s only once a year. The Holidays used to be between Christmas and New Year’s, then we pushed the start back to Thanksgiving. Now we’re moving in on Halloween. Maybe we could do like the bears – eat everything in sight for a couple of months then sleep it off til spring. It would beat slogging around in the ice and snow. I bet I’m not the only one who wished they could lose a couple of pounds overnight.

But everything pales in comparison with Christmas. I know some of you still associate Christmas with the Nativity, but you probably still give thanks on Thanksgiving too. It was over 80 degrees and humid yesterday, but as I walked through the back end of the store on my way out, there it was… the first Trim-a-Tree box (artificial tree with its own decorations). I had been expecting something since the big toy sale a couple of weeks ago. By Monday, there will be more. Pretty soon it will be an invasion waiting for Halloween.

The small stuff will start sneaking in soon. Things like cards and ribbon. Sparklely sweaters and Santa boxers. On November 1, the big stuff will make its appearance. We’ll have trees, door decorations, fake greenery, blow-up Santas, tinsel, and all that other stuff the Whos put up in Whoville. Part-time Christmas music between Halloween and Thanksgiving then All Christmas All the Time. People will complain it’s too early, but they’ll start looking and slowly start buying. Those people who have everything up by the middle of November must have bought it somewhere.

The big sales were traditionally the day after Thanksgiving. It’s still a big day, but unless you want to stand in line and fight for the 5 HDTVs that will be available at 4a, you might as well sleep in. December has become one huge rotating sale. Best of all, the stuff that we convinced you was must-have at the beginning of November is on sale in the middle of December. By a couple of days before Christmas, almost everything has been marked down. (No, this does not give you permission to wait until December 23 to remember you have to give your wife a present without a cord.)

My advice? Eat as much Halloween candy as possible. With a little luck, you’ll hibernate until the whole thing is over.