Rainy Days and Sundays

Wrath of God rain whooshed and beat down all of Saturday. From my desk, early morning, I watched the trees whip around in a frenzy and thought, surely that can’t last for long.
 
Wrong.
 
But the deluge meant I had no excuse not to do a mini-purge of my closet and organize all my pretty new things from last weekend’s shopping trip. Or procrastinate tidying the One More Room and gathering the items to go into my Fall Into The Story Brunch raffle basket.
 
Or come up with reasons not to shovel out my poor, neglected house that collected clutter in the last week as I pushed down the path of finishing a book.
 
None of those things are nearly as much fun as being outside in the sunshine gardening on a Saturday in June.
 
BW spent the crazy rain day inside the redone shed, putting in the shelves, organizing it. When I finally get out there to look, I did a happy dance. And enjoyed the really pretty whiskey barrel of impatiens Kayla planted in April.
photo 1 (4) photo 2 (6)
 
The dogs spent part of the day in the mobile groomer’s truck. It was Parker’s first time, and he did very well. Grooming was timely as all three dogs decided to sprawl outside my little gym while I worked out–instead of in the many places outside that have cover. I had to stop and put them inside before they drowned.
 
The dogs smell nice–that won’t last–and my house looks like adults live here. That probably won’t last either.
 
Today there’s no the natives-have-snorted-a-whole-buncha-cocaine jungle drumbeat of rain, but it’s coolish and overcast. Still, I got the workout in early so I could get outside and weed. And pick up sticks, haul branches–BW had a photo shoot today, so this is solo–pull those sticks, branches and many leaves out of my beds. The sun came out for about forty seconds, and that was nice.photo 4 (4)
 
In my circuit, I checked the vegetable bags–why Parker dug at a pepper plant inside a bag is a mystery, but I saved it, and the little pepper on the plant. I find lots of little tomatoes, including the very cool purple cherry tomatoes we’re trying this year.
 
And I find lots of deer damage. BW told me yesterday when he was in his office–front left corner of the house, lower level–he looked straight out at a deer munching away. Not a foot from the house, with dead nettle hanging out of its mouth. In all the years I’ve lived here I’ve never known the deer to eat dead nettle.
 
Fortunately I found blood meal that had been buried in the garden shed, now sitting tidily on the new shelves.
 
I see the mimosa trees blooming. BW and I started these beauties from seen years ago. I love the delicacy of those feathery pink blossoms.
 
The storm brought down a small branch from one of the mimosas, so I brought it in, cut some other flowers, made a little arrangement. Gotta look for that silver lining.
 photo 5 (1)
Now I’ve got a weeded garden and clean-enough house, and a free afternoon. I think it’s time to read a book somebody else sweated over.
Nora

Fun with Girls

Now that school’s out my granddaughter likes to hang out up here. She’ll be thirteen next month, and entertains herself very well while I’m working. We have little conversations when she wants lunch or a snack–for a kid who’s a size 00, she can eat. Since she’s an HGTV addict, she usually ends her afternoon watching that while I end mine with a workout. Then I watch with her until it’s time for her to go home.
 
It’s sweet and rewarding that an almost teenager likes hanging at Nana’s house. She does some chores, too, saving me that time. And a couple times a week, she goes into TTP with BW and works there.
 
On Friday, she was bookstore girl while Laura and I headed down the road to meet more girls for Kat’s birthday spree. This year we decided to make it a shopping/slumber party. We spend the day trying on clothes–total girl stuff. I must now do another closet purge, but I’m totally outfitted for upcoming events, including RWA in NY.
AND our annual Fall Into The Story Brunch–still have to put my raffle basket together for that. More fun with girls in July! I hope to see some of you there. While TTP’s anniversary signings are fun in their busy and bustling way, the brunch is relaxed, casual, with plenty of time to just hang out together.
 
Plus raffle baskets–and a chance to win a night at Inn BoonsBoro!
 
But back to shopping. I had to tell my beloved Kat it’s irritating everything looks good on her. (Laura’s note: it is!) Everything. At one point she put on what she considered a terrible outfit, and sorry, even the terrible looked good on her. (Laura’s note: it did!!) But I had to forgive her, as she was the birthday girl. (Laura’s note:  ok, fine.) And we’re both also well outfitted for our vacation late this summer in Montana. (Laura’s note:  I’m well outfitted for moving in late summer.)
 
After a full day of clothes and shoes . . . oooh, the shoes . . .

Many shoes.
Many shoes.

we could walk back to our hotel room instead of fighting traffic. A new tradition is born. So much more pleasant to have a slumber party, followed by a lazy morning and a drive home–where no one left empty-handed.

 
And when I got home, BW had my wonderful new birdbath fountain placed and running. I love it!photo 3 (4)
 
I also discovered the deer had an all-you-can-eat buffet while I was gone. Mowing down so many Black-Eyed-Susies–in one area they had to balance on a steep slope and lean over a wall to chomp them. And nearly all my lilies, which seriously breaks my heart. BW believes the deer repellent hype about three months. This will now be done weekly.
 
Yesterday I went out to weed, deadhead, got about three-quarters of the way down when I see the snake sunning itself on my garden wall. And that was the end of that. I tell BW, who says what kind of snake? It doesn’t matter!!!! But no, not a copperhead. When I see a copperhead I lead with COPPERHEAD rather than snake. But by the time he gets there, it’s gone.
 
I haul the bucket of weeds to the composter, hear a rustling–and my close encounter with the snake has my heart bumping. But I look up and see two deer moseying their way down out of the woods. They see me, too, and decide to bound away. I actually shout: Yeah, that’s right, bitches, run! And get the deer repellent. This took about one minute, and when I turn I see Parker is staring up in the woods, head cocked. I look. The deer are moseying right back. He barks at people when they drive up, but just gives the deer an interested look? (the other dogs don’t even bother with looking) So, in my way, I bark at them, and they run away again. And I spend the next half hour spraying stinky deer repellent on everything.
 
Gphoto 4 (3)ive an extra spray to the pretty purple coneflowers,just blooming, that I know deer so enjoy. The butterfly doesn’t seem bothered by it.
 
Due to snakes and deer, the gardening wasn’t nearly as much fun as shoes, shopping and girls, but I ended the day whipping up a batch of belinis. So it could be worse.  photo 2 (5)
Nora

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

I’m going to start with the bad and ugly, get it out of the way.
 
My guy’s away for a week–nearly over now. I opted not to go as our regular dog and house sitters are out of town, and you just can’t leave three dogs, much less a new one. And this is fine. I also had a lot of work and a deadline, so a week home alone is all good.
 
However.
 
Our Pancho (someone asked last time, and this is the name he came with when we rescued him at age two) decided about two years ago it was just too much trouble to go into the brush or the woods to poop, and chose to start pooping on the pavers. Nothing we’ve tried has discouraged this. Bad enough, but a couple of piles a day, which BW shoveled up routinely. It seems Parker decided: Oh, that’s how it’s done here. So now two dogs are using the pavers, and Parker’s taken it a step beyond. It’s like he thinks: I’ll go a little here, a little there, and gee, that looks like a fun spot, then there’s that one. So many, many little piles.
 
This week, I’ve been starting and ending my day shoveling poop. This does not make me happy. And also hosing down the pavers. Today, after shoveling NINE piles (and that’s just since yesterday evening) it occurred to me I should take the poop to a poop friendly area, lure the culprits and see if they latch on.
 
Next time.
 
Meanwhile, about half way through my week, I went out in the morning–pre-caffeine– to feed and water said dogs. And nearly stepped on what I took for a really big dead mouse–which explains why Homer wanted to sleep outside the door the night before. I hoped, very much, he’d take it off somewhere, but alas, by the next day, there it was. I had no choice, but shoveled, what I think was actually a mole, (so good boy on that) along with poop.
 
And this morning, I went down to see what the hell Parker was barking at like a maniac, and see the baby black snake right beside my back steps. I cannot handle snakes, seriously phobic there. I don’t care how little it is. I keep the door firmly shut, go workout–opposite side of the house. It’s still there when I get back, and I realize it’s a dead baby snake. This is somewhat better, but I’m still not touching it. I have a line.
 
This is my glamorous life.
 
And that’s the bad and the ugly.
 
The good is very good. If you read my previous Trouble Spots blog, you’ll have seen my worn old garden shed. In case not, and because it’s fun, I’m asking Laura to post the before and after pictures. I’m couldn’t be happier with how this turned out. And next weekend, BW and I will tackle organizing the interior.
 

Before
Before
After
After
My birdbath fountain came Thursday, and that was an adventure. The delivery guys are only authorized to drop it at the door, but as it’s over 300 pounds, and was packed in an enormous box with wood framing, they couldn’t get it off the truck without unboxing it. Lucky for me. Even that was a job and a half for them, but they helpfully hand-trucked it to where I want it. Laid it down there as BW and I will have to level the spot, settle it in. But it’s so what I wanted, and I can’t wait to see it in use.
 
I have a huge box full of packing straw, and wood on the side of my driveway. BW will have to deal with it.
 
I did my weekend gardening. And the lavender is just beautiful this year. Played with dogs. And in a little while I’m going back to relax beside the completed Project.
 
When I first moved here, I needed to have a well dug.  Everyone recommended I hire this guy with a divining rod to tell us where to dig it. Okay. So he comes with the well diggers, looks around, and walks over to this spot–not using the rod. Right here, he tells me.
 
Okay, why?
 
Because there’s an underground spring–that’s where we had the still.
 
Still makes me laugh. And he was right. They hit it fast, and we actually set the record for gallons per minute in the county. While my neighbors were deciding whether to do a load of laundry or take a shower, I could do laundry, run the dishwasher, the washing machine AND shower.
 
The downside was the spring formed a little pool which was basically a mud pool. And I have dogs. Over the years I’ve planted the area around the well–yellow flags as they like their feet wet, hostas as there’s a lot of shade, some trees, some spirea and so on. This is where the jewelweed thrives, especially.
Before
Before
 
But behind it was a crappy little area I never knew what to do with. Until I saw my heart’s desire at the nursery. A water feature, stone, long and curving and with pretty little waterfalls. I contacted our landscape guy, the amazing Brian who tackles the big jobs around here–like the gorgeous stone terraces and walls he built for us.
 
It took some time–he’s exacting–and it was a whole bunch of work–laying pipe, electric–which meant digging trenches–and all that before starting to set the stone.
 
The day I walked back, heard the water, saw it, I did a happy dance. And also realized we didn’t want to put grass back in close to the waterfall. I needed plantings and mulch. Hey, Brian.
 
I told him I want a Rose of Sharon, have always wanted one and right there is a perfect spot. I want a dwarf weeper–a bloomer, and some flowering shrubs here and here, and something over there. I gave him basic choices, but as we’ve worked together for years, left a lot up to him. He knows my tastes.
After
After
 
When he was done (still have to deal with the ground behind the mulch, seed it) it was more fabulous than I imagined–and I image very well. I’ve ordered a stone bench as the wood one I had seems not quite right. And I found a little light for accent.
 
I feel like I have this new, pretty little world to enjoy.
 
My lovely new space almost makes up for poop on the pavers. But I’m about to hand over the shovel to BW, and retire from that field.
 
And the dead snake will be waiting for him.
 
I’m going to pour myself a glass of champagne, go out and enjoy my very, very good.
Nora

The NR Effect

Nearly three years after The Perfect Hope hit stores, a week still doesn’t go by in which a reader realizes that Inn BoonsBoro is a real place (Turn the Page and Vesta too).  A good many readers followed Nora and BW’s rehab of love that restored a broken down, tree-growing, pigeon-hosting old building to its current glory.  But there are plenty of others who read the Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy and thought they were fabulous works of fiction, only to be stunned when they saw the Inn on CBS Sunday Morning or read about it in a newspaper.

One of the best emails that ever came to my inbox was from a reader congratulating Nora on the fabulous marketing campaign for the trilogy that went the extra mile by creating a realistic website for the fictional Inn BoonsBoro.  I had a great laugh, then corrected the assumption.

Boonsboro is not the first place to feel what I call the NR Effect.  The Born In and the Gallaghers of Ardmore trilogies still draw readers to both County Clare and Ardmore.  In fact, I just heard from my Ardmore contact John Supple who wrote “we still have a number of people calling on a regular basis to Ardmore all because of Nora and some often find they would like to stay over in this beautiful village but would move on due to lack of accommodation.

“We now have a number of people within Ardmore who have accommodation — from houses to lovely cottages to Bed and Breakfasts and Hotels — to rent for people who want to spend an extra few days.” He said if any readers are planning a trip to Ardmore, to contact John at cottageardmore@gmail.com to arrange quality accommodation to suit any budget.

Ashford Castle and the town of Cong still see many Cousins O’Dwyer readers and we hear often from people who have gone on the falcon walks there.

There is a very clever In Death reader who has created her own personal tours of NYC that visit landmarks still standing in 2058.  And we get requests all the time for suggestions for places to travel.

A couple of weeks ago, Buddy MacLean, the owner of The Lodge at Buckberry Creek in Gaitlinburg TN called Inn BoonsBoro.   A guest that week visited because she’d read about the resort in The Liar.  Buddy was astonished when the guest showed him her copy of the book and went off to purchase one.  That same week a bus tour group stayed on the property and when Buddy mentioned The Liar, the women on the tour said they’d all purchase a copy before they headed home.

After looking it up on the internet, I asked Nora about choosing The Lodge (POTENTIAL SPOILER AHEAD:  this is the hotel where the woman who confronts Shelby about Richard stays when she comes to Rendezvous Ridge).  Nora said she was looking for a pretty, sort of out-of-the-way place. She used The Google, looked at a few and liked the look of The Lodge, and the name. It just worked.

Well, the team at The Lodge at Buckberry Creek is so pleased by their ties to The Liar, they wrote back and said they created a discount code for Nora’s readers.  Readers who wish to stay at The Lodge at Buckberry Creek can mention the promo code NORA2015 when booking and they will receive a 10% discount on their room rate and will receive a $50 voucher towards dinner.  The promo applies to guests who book prior to 10/2/15 and only valid on stays prior to 7/2/16.  Cannot be combined with other discounts.

If my husband and I weren’t building a home this summer I think we would be heading to the Smokies.

Laura

Introducing Parker

A few weeks ago, BW and I kicked around the idea of a back-up dog. Our boys are getting up there. Homer’s 11, Pancho 8–and we remember too well how sad and depressed Homer was when we lost Steinbeck–who’d been his boon companion since Homer was a puppy.

When we rescued Pancho, Homer–who’d done little but lie around grieving for a month, Homer did his doggie happy dance the instant Pancho got out of the truck. They’ve been the best of pals ever since.

So, we thought, maybe we should rescue another dog, so when the sad time comes, we won’t have a grieving pet. We didn’t talk very seriously about it, just we’d do a rescue, maybe go for a Chocolate Lab or mix this time. At least a couple years old.

Then a friend of mine posted about the rescue place she and her family had gone through to adopt their marvelous dog. I thought, well, I’ll just a look.

photo 3-1And there he was, almost immediately. Parker, a two-year old Chocolate Lab/ Wiemaraner mix. With a face I fell for in a blink. As did BW when I sent him the photo and info.

So Monday, Parker came home. Homer and Pancho were thrilled, and Parker seemed pretty happy himself. Lots of sniffing and running, and showing him the ropes. When Homer, who’s always been an old soul, tired of the excitement, he just wandered off to a quiet place to nap, out of the young guy’s way. Pancho had a sulk the next day–like: I thought it was a play date. He’s staying? But that didn’t last, and within another day, he was the one initiating play.

Pancho photobomb.
Pancho photobomb.

In the house, because it was raining all damn week. Normally, I’d move this sort of insanity outside, but I let it ride.

We also learned, fast, Parker had obviously been allowed, probably encouraged, to make himself at home on the bed, on the sofa. Not in this house. We have firm rules. Human bed, dog bed. This was a battle, several days worth. I won.

We also learned he’d only sit for a treat. I insist my dogs sit on command–hand command. I’m happy to report Parker sits like a champ now for pets and praise. Not bad for less than a week’s training.

He’s also been encouraged to jump on people. Another heated battle, but I’m close to winning that one, too. It may be adorable to have a puppy jump, but a full-grown dog, not so much. Especially when you have visitors. We don’t tolerate jumping on people, and while he wants to, so bad–you can see it in his eyes–he’s learned to stop himself when I hold my hand out in that stop gesture. So he’s smart as well as handsome. Loves dogs, kids, people. And my two oldest grandkids are delighted with our addition to the pack. Plus he didn’t jump on my little honorary grandson who turns five in August, and adores dogs. photo 1-2They get along just fine, and I didn’t have to worry about the little guy getting knocked down.

We’d have all been happier with better weather last week–all that rain was great for the plants (and the weeds), but didn’t make it fun to go out and play fetch or race around. Still, the weekend’s been lovely. BW and I worked outside all day yesterday, which made for happy dogs–and happy plants.

My garden shed’s coming along–better weather, it’d be done. But I’m so happy with how it’s going to look.photo 2 I discovered the deer have had a good week, too, and are munching down on my day lilies, the Black-Eyed Susans I transplanted, and the false sunflowers just starting to bloom. Fresh deer repellent applied to all today.

So, despite days and days and DAYS of rain, a really good week here. A sweet, funny, happy dog to join our pack, and visits from grandkids. A garden that’s thriving, and a shed that’s on its way to being pretty again.photo 1-1

Time to take advantage of the sunshine, and go play fetch. Inside chores can wait.

Nora

 photo 4

Blooms, Boys and Ballgames

Those are three of my favorite things, and the weekend offered all. It seems a fair reward for a week focused on writing. 

While May (after a glitch or two) proved itself bonny indeed, exceptional flowers generally come with exceptional weeds. Roses are especially lush around here this spring, and so is our pesky jewel weed. It’s an easy pull, but when you’re dealing with millions–or so it seems when you’re dealing–it’s just annoying. photo 2 (3) photo 3 (3)

We have another area, mostly shady, and it thrives there. We’re nearly finished with The Project–pictures to come on completion–and this area needed serious dealing as it borders The Project. BW hit it hard Saturday morning during my workout, so since I was sweaty anyway, I waded in. I admit this is an area I often assign to him. Jewel weed can get thick and high and the wading through gives me snake willies. They like the thick and high, and I don’t like snakes. 

He’d already pulled a full wheelbarrow of the stuff, so in I went, picking through the yellow flags, lifting up spirea, yanking as I went. Easily another wheelbarrow–and four hostas uncovered. Just fyi, while jewel weed is a PITA, it’s also handy if you encounter poison ivy. Break the stem, run the liquid inside over the skin, and that usually handles that. But still. 

That kind of sweaty, monotonous, ache-in-the-back weeding isn’t the pleasure of tending beds, but it’s done. 

Our reward for what I think of as monkey work? A trip to Camden Yards for a ball game. While I have fond memories of watching games in Memorial Stadium, The Yard is a glorious place. A long haul for us, but as it happens we pull into our assigned lot right behind Jason and Kat. Excellent timing. We and several others are guests of our broker–an annual tradition. We even hit on a give-away. Score! I now have an Oriole orange Rock The Yard tee-shirt. Woo! 

photo (2)

We head up to our box, and there it is–that perfect baseball brown, green, white. And stands filling up with people and plenty of orange. The perfect lines of the infield, the green, green expanse of the outfield–and all the possibilities of the game played on it. Baseball is poetry to me. 

The O’s are having a good year, and beat Tampa Bay Friday, so we’ll soon see. While many of our group come more to socialize, the game’s the thing for me, and I get to share it with two of my favorite people. 

There’s little more fun than a ball game, a hot dog, and a couple of interesting, enthusiastic (and handsome!) boys. photo (3)I claim a seat next to our host’s sons (their mom is one of our Drunken Spa girls), and we talk baseball. Including the younger one’s Little League team, and how it compares to the O’s. The thrilling crack of the bat on a homer (unfortunately not ours), the balletic choreography of a perfectly executed double play (very fortunately ours), and conversation with boys. Doesn’t get better. 

The O’s didn’t do it for us Saturday–it seemed after the second inning they just couldn’t hit a ball out of the infield–but we had a great time. 

I figured Sunday for an easy day, but it doesn’t turn out that way. BW is doing his part on The Project–the man just has to have his hand in. But he’s, as requested, gotten me a big bucket of compost out of the compostor. That’s good, rich, heavy stuff–heavy enough I have to drag the tub rather than carry it while I side-dress about a quarter of the beds. As he’s still fiddling, I decide to wait for another bucket–shoveling it out would kill my wrist at this point. But I can weed the trouble spots I’m working on bringing back. 

Happily, everything I transplanted is holding–and I’m hoping for the promised rain so I don’t have to drag the hose. It’s been a hot week, and one good soak from the sprinklers aren’t enough for these newly relocated guys. 

My man’s still fiddling. I switch to inside, do a couple of loads of hauling up fall and winter sweatshirts and sweaters, bringing down spring and summer tanks and tees. He’s moved onto the next task on his list, which isn’t my compost, but okay. I, too, have other chores. 

photo 4 (2)My last of the day (gardening day, anyway) is pleasure. I cut and arrange a little vase of flowers. And BW and I have ourselves a drink on the patio before dinner–and before the welcome rain. 

I’m hoping The Project, and the shed refacing will be done this week. That would be a really nice way to welcome June. 

Now a question. Does anyone know the name of this perennial? photo (1)I planted it years and years ago–have divided, transplanted, given away countless clumps. It spreads beautifully, grows pretty much where I plug it, and blooms in pretty yellow every June. But I can’t remember what it is–and have failed in my searches through books and on the internet. I hate not knowing the name of what blooms in my gardens. 

Note from Laura at 12:36 pm on Monday: Sheryl provided the answer in the comments — Yellow Loosestrife.  Thank you for all the suggestions!  I always knew Nora’s readers are the most interesting, well-rounded people and you all just proved that.

And lastly, as requested, here’s Homer. photo 2 (4)

Nora

Upcoming events

The information about the Fall into the Story brunch is up.  Click here to get all the details!

After the Turn the Page 20th Anniversary signing and the brunch, Nora and I head to New York for RWA.  Don’t forget the Readers for Life Literacy signing at the New York Marriott Marquis on Wednesday, July 22 from 5:30-7:30 pm.  You’ll find all the details here: Readers for Life

Nora’s fall schedule is set.  She will sign books at Turn the Page on September 19 (Devoted in Death and Down the Rabbit Hole), October 31 (Stars of Fortune) and December 5 (Holiday in Boonsboro).  Plus the fall edition of Girls Night out is November 19.

devoted cover ddtrh coverStars of Fortune cover

Laura

 

All’s Quiet

At least around here. BW and our younger son headed off to Indy for the race this weekend. Fun for them. And I freely admit I did a little happy dance. Come on, let’s be honest. We love our mates, but a little alone time is . . . ahhhh.

Especially for the solitary type. May has been insane for me. Derby, two weddings, Girls’ Night Out, and next weekend a ballgame. This was the only full weekend home, and I was home alone. Just me and the dogs and the quiet. Oh yeah, big ahhhh. 

I started the weekend with some in-the-house chores. I’m giving the commencement address for Boonsboro High School’s graduation, so wrote that, picked up around the house, did my workout, then hit the garden. While I’m weeding and deadheading, the mobile groomer (I LOVE this service) has the dogs in his big van. By the time they’re done, all clean and shiny and with fresh new bandannas, I’m back to dividing and transplanting since everything I did last weekend seems to be holding. 

There were some questions about fairy gardens, so here’s mine. The backstory here’s a sweet one. Years ago at the far, shadiest end of my garden wall butterflies nested (do they nest?) one spring. Whenever we’d walk by they’d fly out, dozens and dozens of them in a gorgeous cloud. My granddaughter was so charmed, I told her they were fairies. She was, I think, about six. So every year since, she and I have done a fairy garden in that area. 

Faerie garden first view
Faerie garden first view

I change it up–fairies can get bored–but we always plant the foxglove you see in the background, and azuratum and mini fuschia. We put in little statuary, and this year I hung a wind chime on a branch.

Faerie garden second view
Faerie garden second view

It’s also expanded so we have more foxglove, lobelia, red rocket begonias, lungwort, backed by yellow bells that’ll bloom in the summer. Between are the ubiquitous Susies. 

I ended my very satisfying day with a little movie marathon and popcorn. Good deal. 

Sunday, I decide to get my workout done first thing. Not so many chores today. While I’m working out, I hear a bird hit the window. Not the bump that tells me there’s a bird with a little headache, but the violent thump that says broken neck. It happens, sadly. And this, I tell myself as I sweat through crunches, is a job for BW when he gets back. I don’t deal with dead things. It’s in my contract. 

BW’s brought home a couple of plants from Vesta that need repotting. He was going to do it, but they’re still sitting there. It’s a simple little chore, and I don’t mind. After, I start a walk-around, spot a deer up on the ridge behind the house. We have a conversation. You’re beautiful, but stay beautiful up there and out of my garden. I think she’s the same I had this conversation with last week. The dogs see her, too, but aren’t interested. Not even a bark to give her second thoughts about coming down later and munching on my plants. I glance over as Homer walks up to me, tail wagging. And see he’s gently carrying the dead bird in his mouth. 

He’s like George from Of Mice And Men. He really just wants to be friends, and he–as he’s done before–is bringing me his new friend. And is sad when I–as I’ve done before–let out a instinctive squeal, and order him to take that thing somewhere else. He lumbers away. Now and again he’s gotten past me with his friends, and I have to herd him and his pal out of the house. Laura will remember coming over one day, Homer coming in behind her. Is that a toy? she asked me. I glanced down, saw the long tail drooping out of Homer’s mouth. 

Definitely not a toy, but a pretty big dead mouse. The happy smile in his eyes dimmed when I turned him right around and ordered him out. 

He’s not quick enough to catch live ones–and is no more interested in that then barking at the deer. But a dead critter? He’ll pick in up and carry it around for hours. And in fact, hours later I see him lying in the shade, the dead bird snuggled between his paws. Oh well. 

That concluded the excitement of the day. The rest I spent walking around, putzing, watering pots, sweeping patios, walkways, steps, then sitting and admiring the results. With a glass of champagne. Really good deal. 

Shady spot to sit
Shady spot to sit
View from lower patio
View from lower patio
View from back patio
View from back patio

I love working outside with BW, and we’re both lucky to have a mate who’s passionate about gardens and yard work. But a little solo time? Yeah, big ahhhh.

Nora

A note from Laura:  Whenever someone comments to me about Nora’s glamorous life, I think of Homer and that mouse.  And just grin.

Trouble Spots

I woke up this morning wincing. Stiff shoulders, aching triceps, sore hamstrings. While I work out pretty much every day and consider myself in reasonably good shape, I earned the stiff, sore and aching. 

I had an agenda for the weekend, and most of it required hard, sweaty work. I have a few trouble spots around the yard, spaces that have defeated my attempts over the years to pretty them up. One is a steepish slope, shady, on the far side of the house. I’ve tried a rock garden, failed. Tried ground cover, not so pretty. I’ve tried saying the hell with it, let the damn wild strawberries have it. But that just doesn’t work for me. 

Another is a flat space, sun and shade. It’s behind a wall of forsythia, beyond the cherry trees. A spot no one really sees–except I do. Most of my attempts there have failed, too. 

Another is the space between the bird feeder and my side kitchen window. I’ve thought of it as The Bermuda Triangle for plants. The last attempt was a butterfly bush. You can’t kill a butterfly bush with napalm–and this one lasted one season, is now dead as Moses. 

And finally there’s our garden shed. BW build it decades ago. It served, and is now not only too small, but hasn’t aged well. 

The shed, I figure, is an easy fix. Tear it down, buy a new one, I say last weekend. BW is very sad–which I get–but can’t argue it’s ugly and inadequate. But then he has a brain storm. We tear out the front wall, come out three more feet, put in the double doors I want, reconfigure the interior with better shelving, and do new cedar siding on the exterior. 

Excellent solution, and our construction guy can make this so, put us on his schedule. I consider this checked off the list. 

I put my mind on the solution for the Bermuda Triangle–wonder why I haven’t thought of it before. Don’t plant anything. Find a cool birdbath fountain to fill that spot. Can’t do solar, which is a shame, as it’s north-facing. Just not enough sun. But after a search on the internet, I find just what I want. So in about three weeks, that trouble spot will become a spot that gives me and the birds a lot of pleasure. 

Check it off! 

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The shed, underway.

Saturday, after my workout, I go out to garden. I’ve already dug up some dead nettle (much nicer than its name) and have a couple places to transfer it. While I’m starting this, I see BW with lumber and tools. The carpenter’s still in him, and he insists he HAS to frame up the shed addition. Our John can do the rest, but he has to have a piece of it. My first thought is why, then I think: Why am I out here hauling a bucket of dirt and dead nettle when I could hire somebody to do it? Because it’s my garden–and it makes me happy. 

So BW and I make ourselves happy. While he demos, I do some of the basic chores I’ve set out for the day. Then I look down at that damn slope. A few years back I put in what I think is goat’s weed. A pretty ground cover, at least in theory. What it is, is the Mafia. It takes over the neighborhood, bullies everything else. I haven’t been able to push myself into ripping it out before this–a lot of hard, sweaty work there–and there’s no way to get it all. I’ll be yanking it for the rest of my life. 

But. 

I start yanking and digging. I yank, dig, curse, sweat. But I cleaned it out, uncovered the pretty winter creeper it tried to smother. Plug in more dead nettle, which spreads like mad, too, but is easily dealt with. I think how I have a million-zillion Black-Eyed Susans. They seed everywhere. They’ll probably take hold here, even with the shade. So I go dig some up, plug some in. It already looks better–far from pretty as yet–but now I see potential. 

Cleared of goatweed.  Solomon's Seal in the lower right.
Cleared of goatweed. Solomon’s Seal in the lower right.

Sunday, I think, will be less labor intensive. I do a pretty strenuous workout thinking that. However, BW is banging away with the nail gun. It looks like rain so I figure to tackle some of the inside the house chores. Then the sun comes out–and so do I. Basic gardening chores, and I remember how I’ve got some Black-Eyed Susans volunteering in that flat, dull area. Hmmm. Since they like it, why not dig up more, put more in, see how that goes? 

There’s a lot of digging, walking with buckets of dirt and divided flowers–opposite sides of the house, down slopes, up slopes. But again, I can see potential. We’ll just see if this works, if everything likes where they’re planted, then we can add more. 

Go check on BW, find he’s unearthed an old bird feeder–broken off ground spike–in the bowels of the shed. I’ve got a spot for that. It can now be a little feature. Haul it over, down, and dig the base into what I’m hoping will be Susie World. Cute! 

Bird feeder in Susie World
Bird feeder in Susie World

I think I’m done, but also think to help my man clear out some of the shed. Not only because I’m a good wife, but because I know I’ll pitch out a lot more than he would. He asks me to help him with these iron trellises we use for the tomatoes. He wants to take three, wire them together into a kind of tomato cage. Can do. But that leave the fourth trellis. Surely there’s a use. 

BW's tomato cage.
BW’s tomato cage.

 

I think of the morning glories, and how so many have seeded in spots we don’t really want them. Find a spot for the trellis–one that requires a lot of sweaty weeding. Take bucket, go around, down the slope, dig up morning glories, haul them back, plug them around the trellis. It could work–a potential of pretty. 

Trellis for Morning Glories
Trellis for Morning Glories

 

We’re done. Toasted. Both of us hobble back to the house, have a drink on the patio, admire the garden, the hummingbird that comes to feed. 

I know some of the work I did may fail–but it may not. And I’m going to focus on these trouble spots this season, bend them to my will one way or the other. I see more digging, dividing and hauling next weekend, but if so it means what I did has a chance to work. 

And when it works, and I walk by or look out and see pretty instead of ugly and bare, it’ll be worth the stiff, sore and aching.

Nora

Perfect Weekend

Yesterday I attended the wedding of my longest of long-time friend’s granddaughter. I was there when Kara was born–in fact, served as co-labor coach with tkarajoeyhe new daddy. I’ve watched her grow into a beautiful, loving and kind young woman. And yesterday on a beautiful May evening, I watched her marry the man she loves–and who absolutely adores every inch of her. 

Gorgeous flowers, a stunning bride, a love-struck groom, friends and family ready to celebrate what the bride had dubbed The Best Day Ever. And it was. 

I brought home a nasty head cold from Derby, and haven’t had the best week–and that’s putting it mildly. Yesterday I figured to just look at my garden in process–didn’t think I had the energy to do any planting before getting ready for the wedding. Well, maybe just these couple of things. (Note from Laura:  Just a couple…HA!)

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Two hours later, I had lots more done, and felt so much better. Gardening, for me, is as good as yoga for feeding the body, mind and spirit. There’s more to do–BW is assigned to pick up the special begonias now ready for me at the nursery (and a few other things) on Monday. I’ve got spots to fill yet, and I’ll enjoy doing just that. But what’s done gives me so much pleasure. Now I can sit back, enjoy–and weed and water and maintain–but a lot of pure enjoyment. How will things grow–how will they look filled in together, what will bloom next? 

A wedding is a celebration of love–and a garden is the same for me. A marriage is the work, the joy, the changes, the growth–like a garden you get what you put in, and if you maintain, if you love, you get back even more for years and years to come. 

So I wish my sweet Kara and her adorable Joey even more for years and years to come.

Nora

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