God Is Good

Passing train on tracks along 104 in Sodus
Passing train on tracks along 104 in Sodus

We agreed to engage in a rather unusual video conference in Sodus New York. Once we were inside of our friends’ storage locker we called Bill, a shipping company representative, and waved our front-facing camera around so he could provide an estimate for the cost of shipping the contents to Hawaii. The cell coverage was spotty and we kept losing our connection so we shot still photos and texted them to the representative. I used the wide angle lens to make the contents look small. Someone was struggling with a washing machine in the locker across from us so I helped him load it into his truck. He thanked me and added, “God is good.”

The ride out along the lake was beautiful. The apple trees, pruned to maximize yield while growing close to the ground, looked ever so sculptural. Up on 104 we stopped for gas and I took a photo of a train on the other side of the road. I can’t see the train in the photo but I like it. On the way home we stopped at Abarrotes Mexicano, a store that caters to the migrant workers, and we bought some peppers and hominy.

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Number Nine

Sutton Park Apartments on East Avenue in Rochester
Sutton Park Apartments on East Avenue in Rochester

US News & World Report ranked Rochester as number 9 on their “Best Places to Live for Quality of Life” list. Aren’t they the same organization whose list of Best Colleges was found to be suspect for some reason? I have always liked the fact that the city is under the radar. It’s small enough to get most places in fifteen minutes and big enough to not run into the same people all the time. It still holds surprises for me.

We stopped into Canaltown this morning to pick up a few bags of coffee beans and while they were bagging the coffee we walked up East Avenue toward downtown. Past the apartment building Anne and Stewart used to live in, the one Frank and MaryAnn lived in, the one Bernie lived in when he was in Personal Effects, the one we considered for Peggi’s mom when she moved up here and the one Jeff’s parents lived in at the end of their life. Peggi and I joked that we’ll be looking at that place again for ourselves. We walked by the Frank Lloyd Wright house, stopped at Wegmans and came back to Canaltown for a latte.

Employees at East Avenue Wegman's
Employees at East Avenue Wegman’s
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Copa Del Rey

Trail off Pine Valley in Durand Eastman
Trail off Pine Valley in Durand Eastman

We can sometimes walk through the park and get all the way to the lake without seeing anyone but the sixty degree weather brought a lot of strangers out. We ran into two couples on the trails who both asked us how to get back to the parking lot. Our response was the same. “Which parking lot.” The roads are closed in the winter and you can park at any of about ten entrances. Oddly, neither of the couples had the patience to sort it out.

Young Peggi
Young Peggi

We’re celebrating Peggi’s birthday all weekend. Dined at Lucano’s last night and picking up Mexican to go from Atlas tonight. We’ll watch Atletico Madrid play Athletic Club (Bilbao) tonight in the first their two home and away semi finals for the Copa Del Rey. We determined this the fiftieth of Peggi’s birthdays that we have celebrated together.

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Not An Easy Life

My cousin, Greg, playing guitar with Peggi on Hall Street in Rochester
My cousin, Greg, playing guitar with Peggi on Hall Street in Rochester

Tidied up my desk this morning. I still have one with a desktop computer. I have a drawing table too from my mechanical art days. All old school. I sorted the piles of oddball items that cover the entire surface and found a small piece of paper with my cousin’s last phone number on it. It wasn’t his direct line. He was living in a home out west and a monitor would answer the phone and pass it to him. I’m throwing this number away because Greg passed away over the summer.

Greg was the same age as me. We are always pictured together in the extended family photos. He was abused by a soon to be priest at our summer camp. His family (my mother’s sister) lived behind us on the next block. We double-dated in high school and even went out with the same girl twice (two different girls, two different times). He went to McQuaid, the Jesuit high school,  and his parents threw a graduation party for him with all the aunts and uncles. Alone in the kitchen Greg said “Don’t tell anyone but I didn’t graduate. This is my parents’ idea – a sham.”

Greg had Tourette Syndrome with a variety of facial ticks and sometimes full body contortions. For a while he felt compelled to do a full turn, like a figure skater, every few steps he took. And he suffered from bi-polar disease or whatever they call it today. Wild mood swings and notions that festered. He would remain hyper focused on a slight and torture his parents. But mostly, when we saw him he was up, observant of the finest details, inquisitive and sharp. He was one of the funniest people I ever knew when he was on a roll.

He worked at Gray Metal in Webster across the street from Maracle industrial Finishing where I worked for year. We’d meet at lunch and go out at night. He and his first wife bought a house near Peggi and me in the city. He had two Great Dane’s in his basement and I watched him scoop up the piles of dog business with a snow shovel. As a farrier he shoed the Rochester Police Department’s horses. I was working for the city at the time and I’d visit him there on my lunch hour.

He move to Delaware, horse country, got married again and had a daughter. And then he started to wander. He stayed at our house a few times, once with his camper and a new dog. He was spending most nights in Walmart parking lots. He came out to hear our band and left during the second set. We expected to find him in our driveway in his camper but he was gone.

Greg visited us in our new place before moving out west and that was the last time we saw him. He had shock therapy and tried to describe that to me and then more health problems. We’d talk on the phone but the spark was gone. He came down with Parkinson’s and then Covid did him in. His family hosted a memorial gathering at a hotel downtown and there was an overall sense of relief. Greg was finally at rest. I will miss him.

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Women Are Beautiful

Oteiza sculpture in San Sebastián.
Oteiza sculpturee in San Sebastián

We took a train up to San Sebastián yesterday and found it warmer than Madrid for some reason. Eighty degrees Fahrenheit  called for a walk along the beach. We found a Chillida sculpture overlooking the bathers and then had some calamari at an outdoor restaurant.

This morning we did some exercises in our room and had our coffee and yogurt then headed across the street to a café for more coffee. We walked to Monte Orgul, the park at the end of the peninsula that wraps around La Concha. It is a good climb with many paths to chose from and lots of steps, a cemetery and the remains of old forts.

There was a Oteiza sculpture at the base of the mount. We chatted with a couple from Vancouver and stopped for a beer at the “Secret Bar” near the summit. The park was gorgeous with plenty of stunning views of the bay, the city and the mountains beyond. We ended our hike in the old section of San Sebastián and we stopped at the first place we saw for lunch. It was so crowded we had to stand but it was fabulous. We split three tapas and had a glass of Rioja.

Just a few blocks away was the Garry Winogrand “Women Are Beautiful” show we had seen advertised at our hotel. But when we got to San Telmo Museoa they told us that show had ended in January. We went in anyway and saw their permanent collection, mostly historical in nature. I copied this passage from a wall tag, “In a Europe ever more intolerant and immersed in religious wars, the witch-hunting processes revealed the extent to which the social limelight of Basque women came up against the Official Church Rites that were pagan in nature, quarrels between neighbours, and even childhood fantasies, were interpreted as acts of the devil. The result: scores of people were either burned alive or hanged, and hundreds were jailed, exiled and humiliated. The most notorious witchcraft trials in the Basque Country took place from 1609 to 1612.” We picked up a bocadillo on the way back to our place and arrived as the sun was going down.

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Acorn Drop

Durand Eastman Beach in early October
Durand Eastman Beach in early October

It is still a mystery as to why oak trees yield a small acorn crop some years and then a bountiful one. This year the squirrels, chipmunks, birds and deer have struck gold. This bonanza is botanically referred to as a ‘mast’ year. We have had a long stretch of unusually warm dry weather and the slightest breeze releases the nuts. We’re still sleeping with the windows open and when the nut clusters hit the metal roof of our house we get a riotous cacophony and some crazy dreams.

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Perfective

Peggi Fournier, Jeff Munson and Nina Gaby at RL Thomas Reunion in 2023
Peggi Fournier, Jeff Munson and Nina Gaby at RL Thomas Reunion in 2023

I go on Facebook to post Margaret Explosion gigs and this time I found some photos from last weekend’s reunion of RL Thomas high school. I snatched these two of Peggi and Jeff Munson. They’re shown talking to Nina Gaby (in the foreground.) I was sitting to Nina’s right and am thankfully out of the frame.

The reunion was a two part affair and we went to the first half, in the dismal upstairs room of the American Legion on Ridge Road. There were plenty of complaints about the stairs during the cocktail hour but it was mostly joyous, “happy to be alive” conversation. It was another opportunity for Doug Click, one of the first friends I made when I moved to Webster in the middle of fifth grade, to remind me how we used to hit balls over the hedge in right field to catch a glimpse of Wendy Williams (eventually the vocalist for the Plasmatics) sunbathing in her back yard. According to Wikipedia “She had her first run-in with the law at the age of 15, when she was arrested for sunbathing nude. Williams attended R. L. Thomas High School in Webster at least partway through the 10th grade, but left school before graduating.”

When the food came out Peggi and I sat down with Nina and Lauri Bortle. I have reconnected with Nina because we run in the same art circles. As I vaguely remember Nina was one of those girls in high school who were too cool or self assured for me to approach. Come to find out she lived near and hung out with Charlie Coco, later one of my best friends. Charlie was always surrounded by girls, not because he was a ladies man or anything but because he sort of was one of the girls. I remember Lauri fondly from Mrs. Sweeney’s class but I was struggling to remember anything else about her. Back home I looked her up in my yearbook and found this note, written at a 45 degree angle across her senior picture, carefully avoiding her features.

“Paul, Only you could come into class late every day and always make the wrong comment and still remain so innocent. Your personality is so perfective, it’s darling. Best of everything, Lauri

When I transferred from Bishop Kearney to R.L. at the start of 11th grade a guidance counsoler told me if I took Senior English the next summer school I could graduate after my junior year. But no way. I was having too much fun. So many of the notes from my classmates were about “ball-busting” or soccer. I shudder to think what I wrote in their yearbooks. Of course, these are all revisionist memories but I found the notes from my teachers to be the most informative. An eye-opening glimpse of immaturity, something I am still working on.

From my Physics teacher – “Paul, It’s been a struggle, but we’ve almost made it. Here’s hoping. Best wishes and rots of ruck, G. Ross

From Mrs. Clapp, an English honors teacher – “You seem charming in your myopic way. I thought you were great in “Teahouse” (Teahouse of the August Moon play)

I wish I had asked all my teachers to sign my yearbook especially my favorite, Miss Gertrude Wilder (math). She was so quick and witty. She would outsmart the smart Alecs and she made an heroic effort, in a meeting after class, to get me to apply myself.

Our fortieth reunion was a blast. This one was as comfortable as an old shoe.

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Steve’s Bread Recipe

Steve Hoy at the Grand Canyon 1980
Steve Hoy at the Grand Canyon 1980

Today, if you are college bound and planning to live in the dorms, you provide the school with information about yourself that pretty much guarantees your roommate will share your interests. I feel lucky that some fifty years ago this decision was left to chance. There is so much more out there. As a freshman I arrived in Bloomington three days before my roommate. The name “Hoy” was on the door and in my first call home I told my mom, “I think my roommate is Asian.”

Steve was already a junior and he had this college thing down. I helped him unload his car, a white Barracuda with an eight track player and Led Zeplyn’s first. Our room had two desks and Steve asked if it would be ok to put one of his huge stereo speakers on my desk. The rest was academically downhill for me. My intentions, to turn a new leaf and apply myself, went out the window. But my priorities were set straight.

When we left the dorms we moved into a small, coal fueled house in town. Steve wrote a paper for me, a creative writing assignment, and chose a Sci-Fi theme. Entitled “The Fourth Dimension,” I got an “A” on it with a note from the professor that read “Very nice Mr. Dodd.” It was the best mark I got in that class.” The landlord kept the deposit because he said we had “painted the rooms hippie colors.” Who wouldn’t want a black ceiling?

Steve and Paul. Photo by Rich Stim.
Steve and Paul. Photo by Rich Stim.

Later we lived into a trailer near the Monon Railroad tracks. Steve bought a guitar and I had my drums in the back room. The Chinaboise were born. Steve was our spiritual leader but Rich was the real leader. The band merged with MX-80 and moved to the Bay Area. Steve was the best man at our wedding. Peggi and I met him in New Orleans in 1980 and drove to San Francisco in his pickup. We slept in the back of the truck. Peggi brought her sax along and rehearsed Hi-Techs songs on the way. We stopped in the Grand Canyon and Steve crawled out on the ledge (pictured above.) Peggi and I were standing behind the fence while people around were pointing at Steve. “Look at that guy out there!”

Steve is inquisitive and he loves to talk, about anything. He is so much fun to listen to. His Hoosier accent is part of the fun but it is mostly the way he connects the dots. While we were talking to him a few months back Peggi had her phone on speaker and I recorded a snippet of the conversation on my iPad. I played it for Steve when he was up here last week. We laughed.

Steve Hoy’s bread recipe
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Go Roja!

Durand Eastman Beach August 2023
Durand Eastman Beach August 2023

Yesterday the beach was quiet (above). Today it is packed. We can hear the power boats from our house. Every picnic shelter in the park is full. Sound systems are cranked. Skunky weed is in the air. Groups, clustered by nationality, are picnicking along the lake and the beach itself is crowded. We found ourselves saying excuse me as walked along the shore.

It is already past four and Rick hasn’t asked if we’re going to play horseshoes today. I’m thankful for that. I’ve been carving out files for an upcoming cd. We had hoped to put both an lp and a cd out at the same time, each with different songs. The album has been at the pressing plant for five months and I’m just getting going on finalizing the songs for the cd.

We have a World Cup match to watch, Spain vs Switzerland, so we’re staying away from the news. Our red lights are on. I’m wearing my Spanish jersey. Peggi is making Shrimp Adobo and we’re chilling some Rioja.

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One Hundred Heads

Peggi with 100 heads of garlic
Peggi with 100 heads of garlic

We upped our garlic game this year. We planted one hundred cloves last October. We picked the scapes in July, roasted a few batches and made pesto with the rest. Today we picked the heads, one hundred of them. I built a rack in the garage, just two long skinny boards tacked to the rafters and the plants are drying upside down over my table saw.

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Back In The Saddle

Saint Martin DePorres wood statue from Animas Traders
Saint Martin DePorres wood statue from Animas Traders

After recommending it for years we rewatched “August, Osage County” and it was just as good as we remembered it being. Fantastic script, amazing cast, it feels real and maybe that’s why no one has thanked us for the recommendation.

Our friend, Pete, asked us to pick up some paper at Rochester Art Supply – Italian Bristol 100 lb., 14 x17″ sheet by Fabiano. While downtown we stopped at Fuego for a Cortado. Over at Pete’s we found him sitting at his drawing table and acting like he had turned the corner after seventy-three days on the sixth floor of Highland Hospital. Our next stop was Brad Fox’s on Royal View Drive. We had taken his stereo amp to Hi-Fi Lounge last year to have a short addressed. It worked for a while but the short came back, one of those intermittent problems that convince you the problem has been addressed when it starts working again. I would not want to be the technician trying to track that down.

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Another Notch

Boat houses along City Pier in Canandaigua
Boat houses along City Pier in Canandaigua

The first boathouses lined The Canandaigua City Pier that was built in 1848. By 1888, over eighty small wooden structures lined the pier. In 1903, the pier was enlarged to accommodate train and trolley tracks to service the steamboats transporting farm produce and passengers along the lake. As cozy as they look today the Boathouse Owners’ Association enforces the strict rules prohibiting people from living in them or using them as cottages. We were in Canandaigua to celebrate our anniversary. We walked up and down Main Street before having dinner in the Lake House and after dinner we explored the pier before driving home.

You can see the smoke filled air in the photo above. The Air Quality Index has improved considerably since yesterday but the Canadian fires are still burning so it will probably be back. Our niece and her boyfriend came up from the NYC area and spent the weekend with us. We were sort of afraid our lifestyle would be too low key for them but it turned out that was just what they were looking for. We took walks around Durand Lake and the beach to the north and then the following day, east down Seneca Road to the bay. If they were here for a third day we could have walked west to the river. We swam in the pool, family stopped by, beer cans piled up and they left for the week’s work.

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Uneeda Tire

Tires dumped in the park on Zoo Road. Photo by Merrypad.
Tires dumped in the park on Zoo Road. Photo by Merrypad.

Pete and Emily were out walking before Peggi and I this morning and they sent us this picture of tires that someone had dumped in the park. The two piles had been cleaned up by the time we got there and we spent some time trying to figure out how they got into the park because the yellow gates are locked at dark. We talked to a dog walker and he speculated that they came in early in the morning just after the park workers opened the gate and before all the park goers arrived. That would make them pretty bold on top of really rude.

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Modern Lovers

70's t-shirts on clothesline at Dartmouth Street apartment
70’s t-shirts on clothesline at Dartmouth Street apartment

In January of 1975 Peggi and I left Bloomington and moved to Rochester, where I grew up. We lived in an apartment in Tim Schapp‘s house on Dartmouth Street. Peggi worked in my uncle‘s supermarket when not working as a substitute teacher. She monitored a study hall in my brother Francis’s class. He had lived with us for a summer in Bloomington because my parent’s were having a hard time with him. I got a carpentry job and mowed lawns for a bunch of the neighbors on Dartmouth. I mowed Mr. Cohen’s lawn next door. You can see his house in the picture above.

I took a photo class at UR and wound up with a lot of black and white shots of mundane stuff around the house, like our laundry in the picture above. Interesting to see the entities we were willing to advertise for. These days I wear plain white Fruit of the Loom t-shirts all summer. I get them in six packs from Amazon.

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A Lot To Think About

Man with clean laundry, Merida
Man with clean laundry, Merida

I’ve decided to show photos instead of paintings at the Little Theatre Café in September. Everybody takes photos and there are probably more photos in the world than at any other time you can think of. So how do you tell a good photo, one you might print large, put in a frame and then hang in a show, from just another? It is not easy.

I’m thinking I’ll choose twenty from the twenty thousand I have in the cloud. I considered the one above because I like it. I like the dramatic lighting, the symmetry in the composition, the factory behind the street front, the two grey boxes on the that gate, the service gate lettering and why is that guy holding a back pack and clean shirt up like that?

I have a sense of what photos other people might like but does that mean I should put those photos in the show?And I have some no brainers. Should I put them in? And then how will my group of twenty hold up thematically? It’s a lot to think about.

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And The Days Go By

Fresh green from the garden, initial rinse
Fresh green from the garden, initial rinse

Peggi’s reading Chris Frantz’s book about his time with the Talking Heads. She was telling me about an issue with songwriting credits for an early song of theirs. I went to look at how it was settled on their lp and found that we don’t have any Talking Heads albums anymore. Kept the singles of course. I loved their first single when they were still a trio and we saw them at the Village Gate before their lp came out. But I found I liked them less with each record.

We spent the last few days taking care of a friend with some health issues and then today we spent a good bit of the afternoon in the hospital with our friend Pete and I feel I get more out of helping them than they get from me. I’ve fallen behind with all my usual activities but they don’t seem so important at the moment.

We’ve had salad greens coming out our ears for over a month now. I packaged up a few bags for friends from this batch. We put our Pimiento de Padrón pepper seedings in this morning. We had to kill the first batch we grew from seeds after we learned the tomato seeds that were sprouting next to the peppers were contaminated with a virus. We bought tomato plants to make up for the lost batch but with the pepper plants we decided to start over. The peppers get too hot when they’re big so we’re counting on getting a good batch of small peppers before the snow flies again.

We FaceTimed with Duane this evening and he spotted the camera on my iPad following me around as I got up to do the dishes. The iPad was propped up against a candle and the lens is certainly not moving. We decided it must an AI feature selectively deciding how to zoom and crop the moving subject.

I’m looking forward to the Personal Voice feature that will be incorporated in the new OS. The idea is that you spend 15 minutes reading text prompts aloud to your iPhone or iPad, which will then use this audio data and machine learning to create a digital voice that matches your own. Then, if speech becomes impossible in the future for whatever reason, you will be able to use the Live Speech function to make calls and send messages in a voice similar to your own.

Apple assures us the data will be kept private and secure to prevent the possibility of audio impersonation. Ha.

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Extra Warm Filter

Lake Ontario with smoke from Quebec fires
Lake Ontario with smoke from Quebec fires

It might as well be summer. It hasn’t rained in weeks. Our garden has been especially dry, many of our seeds never germinated. And wild fires, raging to the north in Quebec, have bathed our skies in a warm, smoke filled glow.

Hazardous Air Quality display on my watch
Hazardous Air Quality display on my watch

On our way to the beach we ran into Greg Prevost and Miss Carol, walking in the park. I asked about his book and he said it was sold out. He told me I was in it, along with everything else, and that I might still be able to get a copy at the HOG. They were concerned about the smoke and decided to turn around. We continued on.

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Sounds Of Summer

Marigolds and catkins on the table out back
Marigolds and catkins on the table out back

Try as we may to hang onto spring, May is behind us and we are already surrounded by the sounds of summer. From our house we can hear the motor boats on Lake Ontario to the north as well as the motorcycles on Kings Highway to the west. If we try we can hear the dull roar of tires on the Bay bridge to our east but that is louder in the winter when the trees are bare. We sleep with the windows open so besides the coyotes, we hear the sirens south of the Ridge.

A neighbor down in the valley called the cops on his neighbor because her gas powered leaf blower was too loud. She is a really sweet lady, I wish the guy had just tried to work it out with her. They are incredibly loud, and illegal in California because of the pollution, but my beef is the start/stop action. When it’s roaring, you eventually tune it out. Each time it stops you think, ahh, that’s it, and then it starts up again. The final matches of La Liga season are set to unfold tomorrow, most of them set to kickoff at the same time to cut down on the funny business. I will miss it, of course, but it will free up a considerable amount of time.

We have been eating an assortment of lettuces from our garden for the last week. The street pool is open and the solar cover has been especially productive so the water is warm. I’ve played horseshoes with my neighbor five times (and won four). I can boast because he manages a narrow edge on me most years. That is a welcome sound, the clang of the shoes when they hit each other or better yet the stake.

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Copper Top

Saint Stanislaus church on Hudson Avenue
Saint Stanislaus church on Hudson Avenue

Peggi sang in a choir for a few years and one of their performances was inside Saint Stanislaus on Hudson Avenue. The church was the epicenter of the Polish section of the city at one time. I don’t know how active the parish is anymore but the magnificent building is still standing. The clocks have stopped working, I can tell you that. Our Holy Trinity grade school basketball team played St. Stan’s back in the day and they were a formidable opponent.

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Us vs. Invasives

Plastic covered windows on South Clinton
Plastic covered windows on South Clinton

We spent most of the day on the hillside out back pulling garlic mustard, wisteria and barberry bushes, a threesome of invasives. We each had a big bag to put the stuff in and I was carrying a shovel. The wisteria roots go way down and they often connect to underground runners. We thought we rid our property of wisteria years ago but it keeps coming back.

The barberry is just plain nasty. They sell it at garden stores and it’s labeled “Invasive” but people plant it anyway. It’s covered with prickers and you have to remove the entire root system. If any is left in the soil, it will re-sprout. Barberry has denser foliage than most native species so the plants retain higher humidity levels which ticks love. Invasives love invasives.

The garlic mustard comes up easy, roots and all. If you miss one plant though you’ll have a patch of it next year. Shelley and Pete cook with it.

We have so many beautiful wildflowers this time of year and the invasives are just as pretty but once you know they don’t play nice, there is no going back. I’d like to think the next caretakers of our property will keep this fight up but I have my doubts.

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