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.
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.
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.
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. They 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. 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.
Time to take advantage of the sunshine, and go play fetch. Inside chores can wait.
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.
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!
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. 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.
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? 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A note from Laura: Whenever someone comments to me about Nora’s glamorous life, I think of Homer and that mouse. And just grin.
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.
My sister presented me with my choice of top rated bird feeders for my yard years ago, what I didn’t anticipate was the effect it would have on my plants, 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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 the 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!)
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.
T.S. Elliot hit the nail on that one. April teases us with warm breezes, climbing temperatures, pretty pink and yellow blossoms, tenderly greening trees–then slaps us silly with frosts and sudden plunges into winter.
Not sure what it says about me that I still love April. It holds out its sweet green hand, then yanks it away and blows cold white. You can just hear the snicker.
And still, it’s the promise, the knowing May’s coming. It’s looking out my dining room window–even though I have a fire going–and seeing my cherry trees brilliantly blooming.
On Monday afternoon, I walked around with my two oldest grandchildren, all of us in tee-shirts, checking out the blooms and buds. Today I put on boots, a sweatshirt, my warmest hoodie, a scarf, and was still cold as BW and I went to the nursery. It’s yet to hit 50 today.
While I loaded up carts with plants that will make me incredibly happy, I chatted with a couple who told me they drove through snow to get there. They’re only a half hour north, and had snow. That’s pretty damn cruel.
I can’t plant yet–who wants to garden when it’s 48 degrees anyway? It kills me, I admit, it kills me not to get out there and play. But I have a truckload of gorgeous plants that will, eventually, fill my beds, my pots with color and scent. I’ll enjoy every minute of digging in the dirt–when it doesn’t freeze my fingers off.
Since it’s my oldest grandson’s birthday (yesterday officially) he’s having a swim party here this afternoon (indoor pool, best thing I ever did), so the house will be full of happy–and a big-ass Call Of Duty cake, at his request.
As I can’t garden today, I think I’ll bake bread. I might as well make soup while I’m at it. They’re calling for a drop to 32 degrees tonight. But maybe tomorrow, if April decides to be kind, it’ll be warm enough to dig.
If not, well, May’s coming. And spring better be ready to bust out all over.
Though the wait can seem endless, good things do come around. Tomorrow I head out for a week with the best of girl pals for fun and serious relaxation at the spa.
Packing’s a lot, but pretty easy as it’s work-out gear, sweats and pjs. For seven lovely days, we don’t cook, we don’t clean, do laundry, work, and the biggest stressors tend to be what color to have our nails done and who’s moving onto the next round of Drunken Scrabble or Wii Bowling. We have a tournament. With prizes.
Yesterday was a mega, major signing at Turn The Page. Today is recover from that, pack, do a weather check to help with that packing, get in a workout, and since it’s gorgeous out, take a walk around outside.
After what honestly feels like the longest winter on record, spring’s starting to pop. I can’t decide whether to be delighted or annoyed my tulip magnolia’s on the edge of bursting.I’m going to miss most of it, and it’s my favorite April treat. But the forsythia’s bright and sunny yellow on one of my hills, and I see some of my perennials in the beds, like delphiniums and dianthus and columbine, pushing their way up.
So I’ll leave my daffs and hyacinths for a week. Then come home to serious work, and some serious gardening. I’ll be ready.
But starting tomorrow, it’s all girls all the time, and it’s a week worth waiting for.
Note from Laura: I’m going along for all the fun. Nora and I will take turns giving some updates. And on Tuesday morning I’ll open a thread to discuss The Liar. Stay tuned!
Dear Winter: How can we miss you if you don’t go away?
Yesterday I hosted my annual gathering/clothes swap for people in my local writing group. I used to do this mid-winter, but it proved so problematic with weather and travel, I’ve shifted it to early spring in the last several years.
When I sent out the invites a few weeks ago, I thought: This’ll be nice–end of March. Cool, but pleasant enough people could wander outside if they want.
A 28 degree high isn’t cool, it’s fricking cold. And morning snow flurries are not burgeoning daffodils.
Still, a fine time was had by all. It’s a total girl day with food and drink and talk, and the madness of a mountain of clothes–every style, shape and size–brought by dozens of women.
I’m ending the weekend making farmhouse bread, and a vast pot of chicken noodle soup as I had the chicken, and could take advantage of the leftover veggies from the party. And it had better be the last vat of soup I make this spring specifically because it’s so damn cold out.
I’ve got four tubs of books to sign, and when that’s done I believe I’m going to flop down horizontally and find some movie that won’t tax my tired brain cells.
It better be warm enough next weekend for me to at least plant my potatoes, or Mother Nature and I are going to have a serious conversation.