There’s little I like better than saying goodbye to winter. I took the snow we had after Easter as a personal insult. But finally, it’s here!
BW and I hit our nursery—Sunny Meadows is one of my favorite places. Not only because this trip means SPRING, but everything is so beautiful, so well tended. Everyone there is friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. Can’t ask for better.
A truckload later, we’re home, and I get the fun job of setting plants out. What should go where, maybe move that over there instead. I went for a lot of hot colors this year in my annuals. I guess I wanted the vivid and bold. Up and down the garden wall, over to the shady spot.
I’m trying a few Aquapots this year—only water once a week or so. We’ll see how that works.
Now we dig and dig, and dig.
A couple weeks ago, we spent a day digging UP. I love Black-eyed Susans, but jeez! I’m tired of them taking over bed after bed, so up tons of them come. Give them away, transplant, stick some in bare spots, all fine, but now I have two full beds to fill with color.
No longer will the Susies sneak into my herb bed and crowd out my rosemary.
By the end of the day, I see gaps, and make a list. I know what I want, so the next morning after a workout, I head back and fill the back of my car with flats.
Another full day, feeling the sunshine, hearing the birds, watching the gardens and pots come to life.
One more day, just a couple hours, then I make myself a well-deserved Bellini, and walk all around. Ahhhh!
Now we get to watch things grow and spread and bloom.
We’re already fighting the deer, and on my walk to take pictures, I find a geranium pulled out on the patio. PARKER!! Those geranium-filled whiskey barrels are the only planters we don’t have on stands because of Parker’s desperate need to pull out a plant and leave it dying on the ground.
We’ll figure something. At least he’d apparently just done it, so no casualties. Yet.
I’ll go out and dump some cayenne pepper in there, though that doesn’t seem to discourage him very much.
But mostly, I’m just going to enjoy.
Hope everyone in this hemisphere enjoys the rebirth of spring.
I know I’m in the minority being sorry to say goodbye to summer heat. But I like September fine. My garden’s still blooming, and the sun’s finally shining again after a deluge of rain. We’re still seeing hummingbirds visiting their feeders or having a taste of my flowers.
I’ll miss all of that when winter blows in, so I’ll enjoy every minute of it I can while it lasts.
As all of us but the two youngest, not-yet-eligble grandkids are vaxxed, we were able to do some carefully selected traveling this summer. Not yet the long-promised trip to Italy for Kayla (hopefully next summer!) but fun family and/or friends time.
But mostly it’s been at-home, and the bright side—-because you have to find it—was more time for the gardens, for the work, more books to read and shows to watch.
My routine is just basically my always routine. Work, work-out, walk the gardens, cook, veg out. So it’s hard to complain when I have a house and grounds I love, work I love, and family and friends who are safe and well.
But, I can bitch a little!
More at-home time occasionally leads to a quick skim of social media where I find someone posting they’re looking forward to me and my 274 pseudonyms retiring. First, I have ONE pseudonym. One. About 40–count them, 40–years ago I used the name Jill March to sell one story to a long-defunct outlet. Used it once and never again. About 30-odd years ago I used the name Sarah Hardesty to publish ONE book in Great Britain because my publisher there insisted my readers would be confused as it was a historical. I pushed back, but I didn’t have the clout to push hard enough. And they soon realized I was right, then were wrong, and that was the end of Sarah Hardesty.
So one pseudonym with J.D. Robb, and that’s it. Other than you’re wrong to this idiot poster, I’d like to add: Bite me regarding retirement. You’re not in competition with me, nor me with you. The only person a writer should compete with is herself—trying to write a better book every time.
Or there’s the inevitable sad (or angry) demand that I stop using swear words in my books. It can be a religious thing: You have to stop taking the Lord’s name in vain! Or a prissy thing: It does your work no credit to use the F word. And usually followed by mini lecture, and often the claim that people don’t talk that way. To which I call bullshit. Yes, bullshit. And to these people I say, please don’t push your personal morals on me or my characters. Find someone else to read if it upsets you. There are lots and lots and lots of books to choose from.
Of course, there’s always the: I KNOW she uses a ghost writer routine. I know this because—no way she’s written that many, because her last book didn’t sound like her to me, because somebody on-line said so, because, because. To those who make this aggravating and false claim, I suggest you spend more time writing your own book.
It bounces around regularly that I chose the name J.D. Robb to hide the fact I’m a woman. Wrong. Absolutely wrong. I chose it because I wanted to use my sons’ initials—and I thought it sounded cool. That’s it. It’s always amazing to me that people who don’t know me, at all, claim to know the workings of my mind.
There’s more, of course, but more would turn this blog into a rant. I’ve concluded that lots and lots of people simply have too much time on their hands—sometimes that includes me!
I’m using some of that time on this September Sunday to work out—already done—walk the garden and cut some flowers for inside—check!—write this blog—almost there—then settle down to some on-line Christmas shopping. Should be fun. Then this evening I’m roasting a pork loin currently marinating, some roasted potatoes, and we’ll have some of the fresh local corn on the cob with that.
That sounds like a happier use of my time than rolling my eyes over someone’s weird-ass social media post.
And Monday morning, I’ll be back at my keyboard—not retired—writing my own book—by myself—which will surely include swear words. Since it’s a Robb I’m working on, let me be clear. I’m a woman.
I love summer. I like the heat, the sun, the sudden wild storms, the bursting gardens. I love looking out my window and spotting a hummingbird at the feeder, or hovering over my flowers.
Just yesterday while I was deadheading roses, one of these little flying jewels hovered a foot away from me, watching—like: What’re you doing there? Then zipped over to the roses, fed on two or three before zipping up to a tree branch to rest a minute. Before doing it all again.
That’s a summer bright spot in so many ways to me.
I love being able to work all day, get my workout in, then pour myself a glass of wine and wander all around the gardens.
Too often on these happy journeys I rescue a plant Parker has inexplicably pulled out of a pot. And yes, I’ve tried everything. Hot sauce, cayenne, chili powder, dog repellent, etc, etc. He will not be deterred from this strange habit.
BW is building me benches so we can put the pots up higher on the back patio. I’ve already either done this, or tried to block off pots on the lower.
The deer got through all our efforts and munched on a good chunk of Black-Eyed Susans, but I can take it as I have multitudes—so many I plan to dig up twice as many next year as the massive amount I dug up and passed on or transferred this spring.
We’re also going to dig up a whole hell of a bunch of my yellow flags which have gone insane in the last couple of years. They’re crowding out one of my spirea, and blocking the water feature. I’ve got another place in mind for some, and am passing the rest to Jason and Kat who also have a place.
These babies like their feet wet, and since when I planted (a few!) of them a zillion years ago where we have an underground spring, they’ve grown to like it too much.
I’m also enjoying my new patio fountain. Several years ago we were given this great big white stone urn. It’s lovely, but we had no clue what to do with it. We’re just not great big white stone urn people. Then I discovered these solar powered disk things you can put in bird baths or other vessels.
So we did just that. Jason and BW hauled the big-ass (heavy!) urn out of the pool house and onto the lower patio. Filled it with water—and after we’d charged the solar thing, put it in.
We had our little gang up Friday night for pizza, and swimming after. It’s so great to be able to get together like this again, just spend an evening with family, watch the kids have fun.
Griffin also likes the gardens, and wandering (usually at warp speed) around. This weekend he discovered the bench under the huge Black Walnut tree, and spend a lot of time rolling the walnuts Kat would hand him off the bench. Then bouncing them off the end of the bench.
He makes his own fun.
I love spending time on Saturdays weeding my beds, talking to the flowers, deadheading faded blooms to encourage more. It’s not a chore for me, but a total Zen activity.
And I’m rewarded on those walks with wine most every evening.
I hope on this holiday weekend you’re able to—safely—gather with family and friends. And have something that offers you the easy joy my garden offers me.
I’m going to close with the ultimate in Random Katness. Those who followed the travelogue know BW found some buffalo fur in our yard (then Kat found more). Kat, in her Kat way devised a make-shift spinning wheel. (She actually has a real one at home.) She washed and dried the fur, spun it into yarn.
And she made this.
It now resides in our library, and will make me smile every time I see it.
I’m going to get on and off this part of the blog pretty quick. Laura’s been dealing with a surprising amount of negativity and–it must be said–rudeness–on the FB pages. A whole bunch of whining, complaining, even accusations. Just a world of negativity which I’ve certainly noticed has become so unfortunately prevalent over the last year or so.
It’s always been there, but now it’s grown and spread.
For some it’s never enough. What I write or don’t, my publication schedule, what Laura posts on the Robb and Roberts pages–and baffling to me–the fact that she does those posts and I don’t.
I’m going to say this, then move on. When Laura, who has more patience and diplomacy in one hand than I have in my entire body reaches her limit, it’s gone way too far.
So to those who want to use those forums to complain, to demand, to accuse and slap at her, or me, time’s up. I suggest you just grab some happy. Enjoy what we’re able to provide–or don’t and go elsewhere where you can find that happy.
And now I’d like to offer some happy–or at least what makes me happy.
Despite a–again RUDE–overnight drop into the low 30s last week, it’s here. Everything’s blooming and greening. And I can, finally, dig in the dirt again.
BW and I–vaxxed and masked–hit our favorite nursery. We not only filled the bed of the truck (okay, that’s really on me!) with plants, but needed to wedge a couple flats into the cab.
Then we spent an entire Saturday–and I mean eight straight hours–planting.
I love setting plants out, stepping back, considering, moving them. It’s a lot like writing for me. I see it this way, but . . . hmm, maybe change that little thing there, see how that works.
Then it’s dig, dig, dig.
And it all makes me happy.
I’m trying a canna lily this year (need to get a photo of that). My grandmother had a flood of them, and I’ve always loved them. But in my zone, I’ll need to lift the rhizome in the fall, store it properly, then divide it properly and replant every spring. I always hesitated, afraid, I’d fail.
Well, you can’t succeed if you don’t at least try. So this is the year I try.
The beds are so pretty with all their new inhabitants–and I planted the nasturtium seeds the wonderful Laura picked up for me.
BW left to spend a little time with guy pals at the beach (everyone’s vaxxed!) so I did the pots solo on Sunday. Many satisfying hours last Sunday.
And the result makes me happy.
Now begins the Deer War. I’m heading out to spray repellent when I finish the blog. We have more repellent hanging all over, and my trusty air horn.
In addition, Parker has already pulled three plants out of pots–I got there in time to save them. We’re solving most of this baffling problem by putting most of the pots up, and I add cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes to the pots he can reach. But in those he can easily reach he’s actually eaten off the top blooms of all the lantana. JUST the lantana. (This is a new deal with him.)
It just be tasty, but this will not stand!!
More happy came this weekend when Logan–who gets his first shot this week now that he’s eligible–brought up his new puppy. He turned 17 (!!!!) yesterday, and this was his much-desired birthday gift from his mom.
Alaska is a Malamute-Husky mix, a girl, a very, very pretty girl with one brown eye, one blue. She’s fun and sweet and VERY energetic. I only managed one picture when she wasn’t moving.
I walked her out to show her where good dogs go to do their business around here, and she discovered the water feature. It was like she discovered Disneyland.
She jumped, splashed, spun–face-planted in the mulch, and made me really happy.
She also made Parker and Atticus happy. And before the day was done, she ruled them both.
More happy when Jason, Kat and Griffin came up. Kat’s fully vaxxed, and Jason gets his second shot tomorrow. What a relief!
Griffin also loves the water feature. And loves walking all over the property. He stopped several times at my pots and had conversations with the flowers. Long, cheerful ones.
The boy also loves bubbles! One of the words he’ll regularly say is Bubbles! He has plenty of words, but picks and chooses when to use them. He latest is two words, delivered with the tone and look of a teenager to his mom. I KNOW!
Makes me laugh!
Bubbles make him incredibly happy. So they make me happy, too.
Logan’s mom–fully vaxxed!–came up, and she and Logan gave Alaska a bath (much needed) in my laundry room sink. It’s so sweet to see how Alaska and her human have bonded
We were able to do what we couldn’t last year, and have a little celebration–pizza and a cookie cake–Logan’s fave. It made me beyond happy to have two of my grandchilden, my son, my daughter-in-law, and my friend and former daughter-in-law safely together in my home again.
Kayla–also fully vaxxed–comes home from her first year in college in a couple weeks. I can’t wait to see her!
Get that shot in the arm if you haven’t yet. Protect yourself, your family, your friends, your neighbors, your community, your country and your planet.
Make yourself happy.
If flowers and gardening, if puppies and bubbles, if handsome teenage boys and adorable toddlers don’t make you happy, find what does and grab it.
There’s enough sad and sorry in the world. Instead of pushing that out there, push out that happy.
Quick note from Laura: For a little more happy, I thought I’d share a little little secret…there’s rumor (to yet be confirmed) that a Stupid Scoreboard may be in my future. Aaargh — you don’t see a pal for nearly a year and she think THAT’S a good way to reconnect? [insert eye roll here.] Stay tuned.
I imagine that’s what we’re all trying to do as we move into COVID fall.
Around here, we’ve got a routine going, and routines always keep me steadier. I’m writing away, and that always keeps me sane and steady. I recently finished next fall’s In Death—and no! We’re not telling you anything about it yet.
Now I’m working on Book Two of The Dragon Heart Legacy trilogy. Fantasy’s a fun place to go when reality is particularly hard.
Weekends are for cleaning, cooking, baking. Not much gardening recently as herds—and I mean herds—of deer gobbled up at last half my gardens. Nothing stopped them this year—not repellant, not dogs, not whirligigs, not nothing, not no how. Twice I went out and chased about ten away. And we have a good-sized fawn—still spotted—who has come right up to my kitchen window—three times—still chewing on one of my shrubs.
Despite them, I have some bright spots out there.
I’ve harvested, chopped and frozen in ice cube trays my oregano and my basil. I now have a couple of big freezer bags of both for all those soups, sauces and stews I’ll make through fall and winter. Rosemary yet to deal with.
Snipped a few flowers for the pretty vase Laura made me. The ones with the tiny orange flowers attract hummingbirds so I plant a good flow of them every spring. We have a couple of feeders which they frequent, but I watched one spend at least five full minutes going from one of these tiny flowers to the next the other day. He actually had to fly up to a tree branch to rest for a minute, then came back and did it all again.
They’ll migrate soon, and I’ll miss them over the winter.
We brought in my lemon tree—we’ve had a couple of very cool nights—and I picked the last three lemons of this crop. Sweet!
I also had some coleus volunteer in the river rock beside the pot where I plant it every spring. These volunteers must have popped up from seeds blown out from last year. I managed to dig them up and pot them. Am happy to report after a week in the pool house, they’re doing well. Nice houseplants, and a nice reminder of spring and summer.
And every couple weeks, Jason and Kat and Griffin visit. That’s the real bright spot. He’s such a little boy now, and full of energy and toddler babbling. One of his favorite games is to set up some barrier—a box, a laundry basket, whatever, then chase of be chased around it by one or both of his parents until he just flops down exhausted.
Kayla is staying safe in college, and it’s clear from our Face Times (at least once a week) and texting, college agrees with her.
BW stays busy, and this week finished a project I so much wanted. He added lights to the built-ins he built years and years ago. It’s exactly what I wanted, and makes me ridiculously happy.
Today, heavy sigh, it’s back to the dentist (other than the magical week at The Greenbrier, the only place I’ve gone since March) for two more crowns. My teeth are the nemesis in my mouth. I’ll stop on the way home for a flu shot, then expect to hunker in, once again, likely until spring.
We’ll vote by mail. And here’s your PSA for the day. Vote. Vote safely in person or by mail, vote early if you can, but VOTE. It’s both your right and your responsibility.
That’s really about it from my home front. I’m going to relax in my clean house for awhile!
That’s where I am today as I finished a book yesterday and will start another in a couple days. So today is In Between, and I’ll use it to do a few little chores, give more thought to that next book and . . . something. I’m sure I’ll find the something. [Note from Laura — title to come later.]
I have nothing special or really interesting to report, so I’m sending Laura a crap-ton of photos. She can choose which are blog-worthy and how many to post.
We battle the deer. We’ve done it all, but they persist. Looks like the got most of my lilies again this year, and even nibbled on a couple deer-resistant plants. I hope Bambi got a belly ache.
When side-dressing with compost this past weekend–and as always when gardening, scanning the area well first–I spotted the last few inches of a slithering copperhead. Fortunately, BW was just around the side of the house, and rushed to the rescue as I managed my distress call.
Snake! Snake! Copperhead! SHIT!!!!
He dispatched said invader while I waited in the house. He said it was a 30″-er. (We’re going to need a bigger shovel!) I thereafter assigned BW to compost duty. I can handle spiders, I hope to find worms when I dig, I tell the bees just to back off as what I’m doing is good for them, too, but I have a visceral fear of snakes.
Parker continues to nose and poke into my pots–even with a variety of dog-away tricks I’ve put in with the flowers. He is the guilty party. Atticus has proven himself innocent. I had to completely redo a bed he destroyed early in the spring, but I like to think it looks like I meant it to look just the way it does now.
We cleaned the sunroom area of our pool house awhile back, repotted plants desperate for it. And my should also be re-potted bromiliad threw out three gorgeous blooms.
A bird decided the potting bench BW made me for mother’s day would be a fine place for her nest. She gets very cranky if we get too close, so I guess I won’t be using it any time soon.
Weekends continue to focus on serious house cleaning, cooking and gardening. I’m learning different vegetarian dishes to make for Kayla. This past weekend, Spanish beans and rice–which BW also enjoyed.
The writing, the domestic work, the flowers, help keep me relatively sane during this long period of global In Between. Even for a hermit like me, this wears. And I know just how lucky I am to have this place where I can work outside, or just walk outside, where we’re safe. And I know my family is staying safe.
I hope all of you are staying relatively sane, and very safe. I hope you’re finding ways to connect with family and friends during this long In Between.
Eventually we’ll come out the other side. So mask up, wash your hands, and find something in your In Between that brings you joy.
Came back in to add a photo since there have been a couple of comments on the dragon. I take shots in Nora’s garden most years — just not 2020. Took the dragon photo last July after the summer signing.
For those of us who aren’t essential workers, we’ve been doing a lot of at home this spring. Normally, that’s my favorite thing, but even for me this has become pretty surreal.
I know a lot of areas and businesses are opening. I hope everyone who does venture out is staying smart, staying safe, and doing everything possible to protect themselves, their families, and everyone else.
We really are all in this together.
I have my work, and am so lucky to be able to do work I love safely in my own house. I have lots of outdoor space–a huge boon–and the gardening.
Though I’m incredibly tired of all the rain!
But even with those blessings, I need distractions, activities, occupations outside the keyboard.
So I cook, and I bake, and BW and I clean like maniacs every Saturday. Having the house clean and ordered helps keep my stress level low.
I do some more serious cooking on weekends, too.
Soups–the latest, tortilla soup for me and BW, a veggie bean and pasta for Kayla. I made my pal Ruth’s Party Potatoes as Kayla and BW both especially love. So half went down the lane.
I made my mother’s pound cake, made cream puffs, because sweet and fun is a good antidote to worry.
I tried my hand at tomato/basil risotto for Kayla. It worked! Yesterday, it was lasagna.
I’ve baked bread, and learned Jason has taken up bread baking. BWscanned him my recipe for Italian bread–another for his new repertoire. I may do a focaccia later today.
The gardens give me incredible pleasure. However, a few days ago, I’m at my keyboard, BW is working outside. I hear him yelling. I assume one of the dogs has–despite our deterrents (soak coffee filters in vinegar or ammonia, let dry thoroughly, cut into strips, lay in the pots) dug in one of the planters.
He yells again, and a third time, which makes me think: Is he calling for help? Jeez! So out I go, hoping I don’t have to call 911.
BW’s fine, but furious. Parker hadn’t dug in a planter, he’d jumped up in one of the raised beds and gone mad. Just wild and crazy digging. Not just the plants, but dug so far down so fast he broke the underground sprinkler pipe, ripped out wires for the wall lights, and made a horrible mess of things.
So . . . He’s lucky we didn’t find a brick to bash him with!
Sprinkler guy was able to fix the pipe, BW was able to fix the light and is currently fixing the wires. We’ve piled in more dirt, and may save some of the plants. I’ll do what I can to transfer others.
And have googled home made dog repellent spray, and will make that up.
We can call Parker’s digging a very big distraction!
And no, it wasn’t moles. He wasn’t after some critter. He just decided to go for it. Such is the life of a gardener with dogs.
Other than that spot, everything looks amazing. It’s soothing and satisfying to walk around after a day of work. And we’ll fix what our canine ditch digger wrought.
Then there’s books to read, movies to watch, shows to binge. Good distractions all.
I’ve now colored my hair myself a second time. It’s ratty and shaggy and long enough to pull back in a tail. Coloring’s one thing–attempting to snip at it, a bit other thing. A line I won’t cross. *
I very much miss Harold!
I watch the videos or smile at the photos Jason and Kat send me of Griffin. I can’t find the words to express how I miss my kids, my grandchildren.
But I know they’re all safe and well, and that means everything right now.
I hope you’re all finding distractions, pleasures, maybe exploring a new interest or hobby as we go through this together/apart. I hope all of you, and all of yours, are safe and well and find blessings to count.
On behalf of me and mine, we send all our thanks on this Memorial Day to those who served, who have served, to their families for all they do, all they sacrifice so we’re safe at home.
Normally Nora spends the first weekend in May at The Kentucky Derby. This year, she added up 42,000 steps planting her garden. She’s spent THIS weekend on the edge of worry for the plants since Mother Nature decided to revisit winter temps and wind chills.
I’m happy to report the potted plants are safely inside and so far the outdoor plants are holding on.
Before all the cold worries set in, Nora took a video of everything in its place. I’ve edited a little and added some pretty music to accompany the walk Nora takes most spring and summer evenings. Consider this a Mother’s Day gift of sorts.
To everyone who celebrates today, to everyone who has experienced highs, lows, joys and sorrows of helping a young person grow, to mothers, daughters, aunts, nieces, beloved friends — we wish you nothing but the best in health and happiness. Stay well!
At least that’s what I’ve tried to do since getting home from a really lovely, fun, relaxing and adventurous holiday.
Because our summer schedule was packed, we found the only weekend we could manage our annual summer party was the weekend right after we got home.
But we pulled it off with Jason and BW doing the manly outdoor set up and Kat, Kayla and I doing our girl thing in the kitchen. As always Kayla made a pretty–and delicious trifle–and stuck with her nana all day. What can I say about Kat? She’d left her carving tools at home–mom brain will do that–and managed to create a fabulous butterfly (Kayla’s request) fruit salad bowl out of this year’s watermelon with whatever she could find.
A good day with perfect weather, lots of food, lots of friends and family. A really nice way to ease toward the end of summer.
We followed that up–bam-bam–with our September signing at Turn The Page. Scheduling conflicts had my pal JoAnne playing Jason, our wonderful Sarah standing in (and standing is required!) for Laura.
Griffin assisted his mom at the register.
BW left after the signing for his guy week at the beach. Me, I hit my late-summer-shabby garden for some much needed work. I lost count of the number of tubs I filled with weeds and bloomed off flowers.
Then I buckled down for a week of solitude and serious work.
My reward? Finishing the 51st In Death–and no, you don’t get the title yet!
Secondary reward–gobbling up King’s new book, The Institute.
And now, it’s flow back into routine, with Laura back from her adventure in the UK–what a wonderful and fascinating trip she and her dh had.
A new book to start for me while I watch the leaves start to turn and fall outside. I’m going to harvest at least some of my herbs today. That’s a process I find rewarding and sad. Rewarding that I grew those suckers and will now have cubes of them to pop into soups, stews and sauces all winter. Sad because it signals the end–or nearly–of my garden.
For now, we still pick tomatoes and peppers off the vine and bush, and I snip a few blooms to bring indoors. But it’s nearly over, nearly time to put the gardens to bed.
And soon I get to spend a week with Griffin and Company in New York. Our boy’s on the edge of walking, and remains the world’s happiest baby.
But now, it’s time to work out, then harvest those herbs.
Note from Laura: Our adventure was my husband’s dream trip with some wish list items of my own thrown in. Those of you who follow me on Instagram know that the hash tag probably shouldn’t have been #lauraandmarksbigadventure but #canthatsmilegetbigger
I did write out a trip long recap but mainly sent back daily photos as we traveled from Edinburgh — where we stayed at the other end of a much-less-crowded-than-Festival-month Royal Mile.
Then on to a town named Reeth (a familiar name) in the Yorkshire Dales.
Down to Windsor for a delightful visit with the lovely Sarah Morgan and her husband.
Sometimes the universe offers a perfect day just to see what you do with it. I think we did pretty well.
For myself, those blue skies call me out. Kat intends to take Griffin for a stroller walk, but the boy goes down for a long, hard nap. I think being a social, active, cheerful baby, he needed recovery time from all the socializing, activity and happy.
While his batteries recharge, I head out to the walled garden. It’s a favorite spot among many favorites for me here. It’s a lovely walk even before I get there with a kicky little breeze, happy skies.
I go through the stone tunnel that open up to magic. Another tunnel, this of vines, and lovely, lush gardens spreading, climbing, dancing a bit in the breeze. It’s quiet as a church but for birdsong with all those colors, textures, thick blooms. White benches sit here and there, an invitation I accept so I can just bask in company of the flowers and butterflies with the clouds above sailing along the blue, silent as ghosts.
For most of my visit, it’s mine alone. Others wander in now and again, to stroll along and snap pictures as I do. But for most of the interlude, it’s just me, birdsong, butterflies and busy bees.
There are vegetables and herbs, too. I see dill taller than BW. Cabbage and kale and leek along with the Black-Eyed Susan (a reminder of my own garden at home), astilbe, coneflowers, the fuzzy spread of lamb’s ear.
I know the work that goes on here to make this enchantment—I dig in the dirt, sweat and weed plenty. But it looks as if it just grows wild and wonderfully on its own.
There’s nothing like a garden for brightening the heart, body and spirit.
I want to take Griffin next time.
More strolling until a light drizzle falls (light and brief). Back out, as the boy (and now his dad) sleeps still. I walk over to Mrs. Tea’s gift shop to scout. I’m after two more gifts, and think I see them. But I want Kat’s opinion.
So back I walk in this gift of a day to find BW. After some discussion, we decide to have lunch back at Cullen’s and eat outside to take full advantage of this special day.
It’s warm, actually warm and sunny and blue. Kat joins us—so do some bees, and one gets a little too intimate with Kat, stings her hand.
Some vinegar for that.
She helps me decide on my gifts—a very satisfying purchase—and our boys finally surface to have some lunch with us on Cullen’s pretty patio.
We take our time with it all before going back to suit up for our much-anticipated Hawk Walk.
For this I want a jacket as we’ll walk through shady woods, and it’ll chill no doubt as the sun lowers.
Kat straps Griffin in the backpack—though I guess it’s a front pack. The birds, we’ve been warned, are terrified of strollers. We wouldn’t try maneuvering one through the woods, but just in case.
Griffin’s well rested, well fed and ready for an adventure.
Cullen at the Falconry School prepares to give us one.
I always love this part of our Ashford’s visit. Everyone at the school is so knowledgeable about the raptors, and their deep (and mutual) affection shows. BW generally stands as photographer on the walks, but this time Kat and Jason take that job so BW can have a chance to experience. He has Wilde, and I Mia.
Griffin is delighted with the birds, but behaves himself very well, studying them, watching them as we walk. I fall for Mia very quickly, and thrill to have a hawk on my arm again. Off they soar, just magnificent, to perch on branches and wait until our gloves are baited and raised.
And the sensation, the sight of having that gorgeous creature fly back to you, land so perfectly on your arm is indescribable.
We learn quickly that Wilde is clever. If BW inadvertently raises his glove arm a bit between flights, back he comes—and Cullen has to feed him as that’s how it works. Cullen explains Wilde is training BW.
He’s also not one to let a bit of dropped chicken go to waste. He’ll jump down to get it, gobble it right up.
Into the magical woods we go, and those amazing birds wing through the trees, find their perch, wait to be called. Sometimes we leave them behind a bit, so Cullen’s whistle and the raised arms call them to longer, lovely, acrobatic flights.
Along the path, through the woods toward the lake as Cullen’s tells us of the birds’ personalities—ours and the others. He know them well, and they obviously know him, too. A few times Wilde chooses my arm, beating Mia, and once they nearly land together before she hops to BW’s glove.
At one point it seems they spot some sort of prey in the bushes and brambles, so in Cullen goes with a big stick to try to flush it for them. No luck, but the birds seemed entertained.
Then we cross to the pier by the beautiful lake, with the birds on the opposite shore. We’re to keep our arms down, the bait hidden in our fists, then call them so we can watch their flight over the water.
They fly back, perch, soar across the water again. That wingspan! The grace, and agility as they skim over the water.
It’s truly a soul-stirring sight.
A boat comes by, someone Cullen knows. We wave, then move on.
Through the woods again, enjoying every moment and back to the main path where Wilde and Mia are rewarded with bigger pieces of chicken for a job well done.
The birds decide Cullen’s taking too long to produce their reward and make impatient noises, almost growls. Hurry up, man!
But oh-oh! As we approach the school a family—with a baby in a stroller round the corner.
Both birds freak—they weren’t kidding about the fear. Luckily, Cullen had tied the jesseys before the sighting, so the birds flap, flap, try to fly away, but have to stay put.
I can actual see the alarm in their eyes.
To complicate things, the family is French, with little to no English. They’re understandably baffled about why Cullen seems to want them to go back. I can’t pull out the French for stroller (could maybe have used pram) or bird, but Kat uses pantomime very effectively flapping her arms like wings, making a scared face, pointing to the stroller.
Cullen tells us if the birds had been able to fly off, they probably wouldn’t have gotten them back until the next day. The fear’s real.
We’re given an extra treat when we get back to the school. A chance to fly Dingle—the gorgeous owl we met on our first trip here—maybe a dozen years ago.
He is so beautiful, so regal. About 20 now, he strikes me as the king of his castle.
Here Griffin is stunned into love. He really likes owls and to see one, a real one, so close brings out happy noises. Dingle gives a wary eye to this creature—who would appear to have two heads and four arms as the boy’s strapped to Kat.
Dingle has an indoor flight area, so we try it.
I can hardly believe I have this amazing creature on my arm, that I’m looking right into those stunning amber eyes.
He takes his flight—oh what a beauty—but decides: Hey, this beam looks good, and perches there. He’s not hungry, Cullen explains, so isn’t much interested in flying back to me for a snack. Still we try once more, same result, but it’s a thrill to have that spectacular bird on my arm, to watch his flight.
And Griffin gets a chance for closer look as Kat dons the glove—and Dingle consents to pose on her arm for a photo. (Laura’s note: This says owl, but I have no photographic evidence of such.)
Ashford sends us ice cream! Still one more treat we enjoy as we talk about the birds. There’s a kestrel, just a little guy—who the school took in after a farmer saved it from crows trying to have some lunch.
So sweet, and what a good home it has before it’s released into the wild again.
It’s been perfect, start to finish. Thank you, Cullen, again and again.
Wee head into Cong for dinner. Before it comes, Griffin, passes out, so naps on the bench between Nana and Mama.
He wakes to eat a bit, and we take the rest of his meal with us.
Revived, he finishes it at home, has some play time.
Then it’s time for bed after a wonderful day at and around the castle.
Soft and gray this morning, mists over the water, lacy and thin, quiet light, and some drips of rain while I work out.
Griffin came to visit while I did cardio, and I promised him a Shaun T session later. Off to breakfast, and now napping. Kat’s driving somewhere in Galway for the wool she covets.
I’m going to clean up, then hope the weather allows me to steal the boy from his daddy—or share him for a walk down to the walled garden.