Category Archives: Country Life

Hiking Update

Icy reservior
Icy reservoir at West Branch State Park

Happy New Year, my friends! As you can see, we have been keeping up with the hiking. We missed three days when the temperature was below zero and there were high winds, plus a couple for rain. Other than that, we continued hiking every day right through the holiday season!

I love this picture of the frozen reservoir with the frozen ice mounds created where the waves crash into the shoreline. I like winter scenery. This photo amuses me because if you look closely, you can see that someone built a seat from some large rocks and big sticks that were detritus on the beach. The chair even has a stone back. It looks like a throne to me.

West Branch Dam House
Outlet control house at West Branch State Park Reservoir

For those of you who are not the winter afficionados that I am, here is a hike from a sunnier day last week. This is the opposite side of the reservoir from the first picture a few days later. Still no boaters. Believe it or not, we saw boaters out fishing just a couple days before the icy photo was taken. Apparently, this is where serious fishermen go! We sometimes see them unloading or loading their boats and they often say hello and comment on the five dogs we are walking. Yesterday, we walked past the boat ramp and saw someone unloading fishing supplies from their car. There was a cold wind blowing and he commented, “We’re both crazy,” and laughed. My husband and I told him, “Yes, we are!” We have walked just over 57 miles in the past 30 days, and we are happy with that.

We hike in the afternoons during the winter. My husband jokes that the bus leaves at 1:30 pm. The dogs know when it is nearing 1:30. They start milling around the living room where we are doing our after-lunch reading. They become peskier as the hand on the clock nears departure time. If we are late, they stand in front of us and stare. Or they may prance around to get our attention. Claire may lay on the floor and roll around on her back, snorting. She is the resident clown and hands down our happiest dog.

In the spring and fall when it is warm, we hike at 10:30 am before it gets too hot. Not only is it too hot for me by afternoon, but the pavement gets too hot for doggy feet on days we hike on pavement. Dogless walkers probably wonder what we are doing when we bend over to feel the asphalt with our hands for a few seconds. I’m sure other dog walkers know. At least I hope so.

The past couple of years we have not walked in the summertime because it is too hot by the time, we are ready. This summer we hope to do better. Our goal is to get up early leave by 7:30. We’ll see how that goes.

Zekie on the patio in warmer months.

It is always a tossup, what we do in the mornings around here. The nicest time to sit on the patio to relax is during the morning. Most of it is in shade until noon. But that is also the coolest time of day to work in the vegetable garden or do other outdoor chores and projects. Quite the dilemma. Maybe this summer we will walk in the mornings and enjoy the patio when we get back from our hikes. We’ll have to see how that plays out!

Hiking with 5 Dogs

Hiking scenery
Zekie enjoys the hike.

I’ve been enjoying hiking again now that fall is here. I even hiked when my husband and daughter went on vacation, and I was hiking with the dogs by myself. The photos in this post are from hikes I took back in October while my family was away. That’s why there are still leaves on the trees in these pictures. The leaves here in Ohio have been down for a while now.

At the water's edge.
At the water’s edge.

I was quite proud of myself on these hikes. I took all five dogs by myself! I had to choose carefully where I was going to go each time so there would be enough room for that many dogs. I tried to pick trails that were very wide and little used. I also have coupler that allowed me to hook Zekie and Claire to one leash. This helped immensely. When Claire stopped to sniff something, Zekie pulled her along. This kept each dog in their allotted position and helped to limit tangled leads.

Shelties
Zekie and Claire on their coupler and leash.

Each of my dogs knows where I expect them to walk. Baxter, Shelby, and Claire always walk to my right with Shelby sometimes behind me if she is tired or the trail is narrow. Cassius and Zekie always walk on my left-hand side. I am not usually alone to walk all five at once, but with some minor modifications and communications, we figured it out.

Any time I walk dogs on my own, usually three of them, and they get out of their assigned position, I correct them and send them back to the expected spot. This saves on rearranging leashed on normal walks and was a great help when I took on five dogs!

Cherry Blossom Trail at West Brach State Park

I even tried a new trail that I had never been on before. That wasn’t in my plans, but when I got to the trail I intended to walk, someone was unloading a horse from a trailer, getting ready to go for a ride. I didn’t want to deal with all the dogs AND a horse and rider. I don’t think the rider wanted that either. So, we drove a little farther and went on a nearby trail called the Wild Black Cherry Loop at West Branch State Park. It was a very nice trail. There was woods and shoreline both to be enjoyed. There was a bit more up and down hills than I preferred when handling extra dogs, but we made it work.

West Branch State Park
View of the water at West Branch State Park.

The water views were beautiful. I can’t believe we never went on this trail before. It wasn’t very long at just a little over a mile, but we saw different types of terrain and woods and water views. There is another trail that splits off called the Club Moss Trail. It is less than a mile and if I hiked both of them, it would end up being about the distance we like to hike. So, that is an adventure for another day.

Hiking dogs
Baxter and Cassius

I stopped a few times for a photo op and Baxter and Cassius wanted to know what was up. There is no way I can walk five dogs and take pictures. I am good at multitasking, but not when traveling over tree roots and up and down hills.

West Branch
Evening view.

It’s turned out to be a good thing that it was a short walk. We went later than usual, and the sun started to go down about three quarters of the way through. This provided some lovely scenery, and I knew we weren’t far from the parking lot. The lateness did keep us moving at a good clip. Since we had never been on this trail before, I was relying on the trail blazes to chart our course. At certain points on the trail, I had to stop and look for blazes because I couldn’t tell which direction the trail took. This was of little concern to me because I knew we were less than a quarter mile from the car at any point since the trail was a loop. If it came to it, I could use the compass on my phone and find the campground road by walking due north. I did always manage to find that blue blaze and continue on.

Water view
View near sunset.

The angle of the sun as it began to set, gave the leaves a beautiful glow. I would highly recommend this trail. I think it does get a lot of use since it is within walking distance from the campground. Still, we only saw three people while we were there and two of them were hiking together.

We keep track and we managed to get in 22 hikes in each October and November. I am guessing we will not do as well in December. There are likely to be days when it is too cold or wet to walk. We are good to go down to about 15-20 degrees. Below that, you will find us at home with a cup of tea and a good book.

Books I Read in October 2022

Home Library

Hello Readers! The typical fall flurry of activity has been keeping me busy. This is a transition season. Lots of clean-up chores from summer, that must be completed before winter hits. I dug up three paper grocery bags worth of gladioli bulbs. The bags are covered with bulbs one layer deep across the bottom. This is to prevent crowding and allow for proper air flow. If there are too many bulbs in one bag, they will rot from the moisture retention. I still have to dig up the begonia and dahlia corms. They were still blooming, so I let them go. It snowed the past two days, so I will dig them up during the next warm spell we get.

Most of our outdoor time the past few weeks has been spent raking and hauling leaves. Some of the leaves went into our new compost bin. My husband built us a large compost bin from lumber and chicken wire. We are composting leaves, grass clippings, and kitchen scraps. Our first batch should be ready to add to the garden next year. I’ll let you know.

I was here by myself for a week in October while my husband and daughter went on a trip to New York and Massachusetts. I took a trip to the library the day they left, so I would have lots of reading material. I stayed home with the dogs and managed to have another foster dog by the time they returned from their vacation. Foster Puppy! Bodhi, Part I We had a fine time here at home! So, here are the books I read…

  1. The Wind Through the Keyhole-Stephen King

This book is one from King’s gunslinger novels. It is the prequel to the original series. It is a tale that seems like a cross of a past land and a futuristic fantasy world. I am not a Stephen King fanatic, but I do like to read an occasional one of his works. I found myself becoming invested in the main characters and rooting for them. An enjoyable read.

2. Write for Your Life-Anna Quindlen (Non-fiction)

A book about the importance of seemingly common writing to our everyday lives, and to the world. Sometimes, common makes all the difference, and proves not to be common after all. Well worth the read.

3. Maggie Moves On-Lucy Score

House flipper & You Tuber Maggie Nichols takes on her next project in Kinship, Idaho. She discovers a landscaper with lots to offer and discovers that you can build a family with something besides blood bonds. The house they are working on has a history involving a stagecoach robbery and lost treasure. A fun read.

4. Growing Wonder, a Flower Farmer’s Guide to Roses-Felicia Alvarez (Non-fiction)

Good information on choosing, growing, and harvesting roses. There is always more information to be gleaned and I appreciated the info on pruning. Alvarez is a third-generation farmer and has a degree in agricultural science. Good information to be had. Living life on a beautiful flower and vegetable farm in California sounds like an idyllic life until I think about the amount of work involved.

5. English Country-Julie Fowler (Non-fiction)

An interior decorating book in the style of the English countryside. I enjoyed perusing the page and got a few ideas. Sit down with a good cup of tea while you read it.

6. Sugar and Salt-Susan Wiggs

Margot Salton started life as Margie Salinas. She made the change after suffering a rough start in life. She becomes a successful chef and has a new life, complete with a budding romance with Jerome Sugar who works in the bakery next door. Margot must deal with her past as it comes back to haunt her in her new life. Susan Wiggs books are always enjoyable.

7. The Secret Supper-Javier Sierra

The write up promises a historical thriller involving Leonardo da Vinci and the Catholic Church. After reading 125 pages, I decided to return this book to the library. It has too many details and little action, being told as a narrative by a friar years later. I cannot bring myself to contine reading.

8. Where Women Create-Jo Packham (Non-fiction)

I’ve had this book out of the library before and I love it! Has pictures of various women artists’ studios and creative spaces. I find it to be inspiring. I’m not sure how these artists pull off the creative, cluttered look and make it so appealing. My own area looks like someone just dumped a bunch of stuff and ran for it.

9. Hill House Living-Paula Sutton (Non-fiction)

This is a decorating and life style book. Hill House is in England. There are nice photographs and some cute ideas within.

Magazines-Cottages and Bungalows(2), Tuscan Home & Living, Forks Over Knives (2)

Dogs and the Country, Sex and the City, It’s Not!

We’ve been watching the television series Sex and the City which neither my husband nor I had ever seen before. We just started Season six and I got to thinking how this program is the polar opposite of my life. It’s not much like any of my friends lives either. The show is based in New York City. I live in the countryside, outside a relatively small town, in a sparsely populated, mostly rural county.

The group of best friends from Sex and the City are all svelte and stylishly dressed. They wear well fitted and often skimpy, slinky clothing on their jaunts around town. They love their shoes. The main character, Carrie Bradshaw, even has a shoe obsession. She spends hundreds of dollars on her Manolo Blaniks and such. In one episode, the girls calculate that Carrie has spent approximately $40,000 on shoes and that is why she has no down payment to buy her apartment.

The ladies frequent night clubs, swank parties, and upscale restaurants. The women focus mostly on looking for the perfect man for relationship material or deciding whether they are content to go it alone in life. Sights of the city abound, from the normal New York City Street scenes to images of the majestic skyline at night.

My life is quite different. I am… well…not so svelte. I once was but that has been a couple decades ago. I don’t know how someone who subsists on fancy restaurant fare and takeout and works on a computer in her apartment, like Carrie, can maintain a size 2. I guess because it’s television. I hike two to three miles most days, work in vegetable and multiple flower gardens, rake mountains of leaves, etc. and am nowhere near a size 2, or even a size with a single digit.

And their shoes! Most of their shoes I would ruin on my way to the mailbox. That is why my shoe collection consists of sneakers, hiking boots, athletic sandals, and plastic clogs that I can rinse off with the hose after a day of gardening. On a bad day I’m may even be rinsing dog poo off my shoes.

On to clothing comparisons. No shiny, high maintenance fabrics here. In the summertime, I wear tank tops made of serviceable fabric, no silk or dry clean only items! And shorts or capri pants. In the cooler months, it’s sweaters and jeans. For “fancy” times out, it’s usually a Lands End slip on dress with sandals or boots. One of my main considerations when purchasing new clothing is, “What will happen when a dog jumps on this?” I also prefer no-snag fabrics that cat toenails are not going to shred. Priorities, people!

The Sex and the City girls may have their outings at exciting events and locations, but I have some worthy experiences too. I don’t often go out to eat in restaurants and rarely get takeout. Mostly, this is because we can cook far better at home than most of prepared foods we can find around here. That and the fact that there are no exciting restaurants in our town. In the summertime, I go into the garden, see what is ready to harvest, and use it to prepare dinner. That is the peak of freshness. We are decent cooks from years of practice and are usually happier with what we cook at home. We make Indian, Mexican, Italian, Greek, and other assorted cuisines in addition to good old American selections.

We don’t have New York landmarks or a city skyline to gaze upon, but we do have lakes and beautiful sunsets to watch from our porch. I have the satisfaction of sitting on my patio with my dogs and taking in wonderful sights and scents of flowers that I have grown with my own hands. It used to be that I spent little time on our patio because it was not fenced in. Now it is entirely fenced, and our five dogs can be with me whether I am working or relaxing there. The only hitch in this set up is when we have a foster dog that has not been trained to stay out of the flowerbeds. It is a little more work, but a leash solves that problem.

I’m not saying that the city is bad. It is not. It is just not for me. My priorities lead me in other directions. I have not lived “in town” in 35 years. Town is someplace I go when I have a specific task that must be completed. And my very favorite reason for going into town has never once been mentioned on Sex and the City. The library!!! I find this rather odd as Carrie makes her living as a writer. I never see her, or any of the characters, read. Granted her newspaper column is about sex and relationships. They must be too busy making experiences!

As this column comes to an end, it’s time for me to put on my raincoat and hat to take the dogs out in this heavy rain and pick up the soggy dog piles before coming in to dish up five bowls of kibble.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Fall Hiking Has Begun and a Few Words About Dahlias

Hiking with dogs.
On the trail.

We started hiking for the season on September 24th and have only missed a couple days. Since we started, we have hiked 35.1 miles in 14.5 hours. Not breaking any speed records but considering the terrain we are covering some days; I am happy with it.

Fall hike
Fall colors!

The trees are really starting to turn! There are beautiful colors everywhere we go. I was not happy with our lack of rain when I had to water plants everyday but now that we are out in the woods, I am glad that it is dry. We are exploring trails that we previously hadn’t spent a lot of time on because they were too wet. We are also seeing many beautiful asters along the trails and one day we saw a flock of five turkeys wandering through the woods.

Woodland stream
Stopping at the stream.

Above, we stopped by the stream at one of my favorite local parks, Shaw Woods. I like this park because we seem to be the only ones who know about it. The two times we went, there were no other cars in the parking lot! It’s not that I don’t want anyone else to use it, but when you’re walking a reactive dog, it’s nice to have the place to yourself. There was one couple starting out on the trail with their dog when we were leaving yesterday. This park allows horse riding. We see evidence that horses have been there (read, road apples!), but I haven’t seen a horse there since last year.

Three dogs
Zekie, Claire, and Shelby

And lest you think Shelby always has to stay home, I include this photo with my three walking companions ready to get started on the hike. My husband walks Cassius and Baxter. Shelby stays home once in a while if her limp is flaring up. The limp appears to be from arthritis. As grandma once told me, ” Getting old is hell.” Most days Shelby does go with us and is fine. One day I took her along and let her stay in the car while the rest of us went on the hike. No reason for her to miss out on the car ride. She was perfectly content to stay in the car while we were gone. The weather is cool enough that we can leave her without concern.

Dahlias
Dahlias

And I couldn’t close this post without sharing a picture of a couple of my dahlias. They are growing amazingly large. Especially the red and white ones. The smaller, yellow dahlias are six inches in diameter and the plant is covered with blooms. Probably a dozen of them. The red and white flowers are larger than my hand and there are several blooms on the plant. All of my dahlias are staked upright because the weight of the blooms pulls the plants over, and I don’t want the stalks to snap. I will definitely be digging up these tubers and planting them again next year!

Fall is Here!

Sheltie mix
Zekie, a happy boy!

Fall has arrived and with it, time for an update on things around here.

With the cooler weather, we have resumed hiking! This makes for happy dogs. We have hiked four days so far this week for a total of 9.35 miles and 3.5 hours. It is good to be back on the trails. I was afraid that Baxter and Shelby would have trouble keeping up as our senior dogs at 13 and 12. They have done pretty well. I did keep Shelby home today as she was limping a little. Yesterday’s walk was on hard surface, and she does better on dirt or grass trails. She can go with us next time. I gave her a dental chew as we were leaving, and she seemed happy enough to see us when we came home.

Hiking with dogs.
Hiking on the trail.

There aren’t many people on the trails as we’ve been hiking before lunch time. The few people Zekie has seen have been from a distance and he hasn’t barked at them! Is his reactivity better? I don’t know if it’s because they aren’t that close or if he is doing better after being on Prozac for over a year. After our last trip to the veterinarian, we decided to increase Zekie’s Prozac by 50% because he still tries to chew his way out of his crate when we have to leave him at home to go away. The vet warned me that some dogs’ behavior gets worse with a higher dosage, not better. After six weeks of the higher dosage, I decided that Zekie was not doing as well as he had been before. He still tried to chew his way out of the crate, no change there. What I didn’t like was that he had a perpetually wide-eyed and upset look on his face. He appeared to be continually surprised or like he was waiting for something unpleasant to happen. Not the effect I was going for. So, Zekie is back to his original dose of Prozac and seems to be more comfortable. We also left Zekie (and the other dogs) in the car while we stopped to get apples at a local orchard today. He was only without us for five minutes and he didn’t seem to have a separation anxiety attack. We didn’t want to push our luck. Once we chose our apples, my husband went back to the car while I waited to pay.

Greyhound under a blanket
Cassius getting warm.

Although the cool weather makes Cassius chipper and eager to hike, he does get cold when laying around the house. We cover him up and he seems pretty happy. Does he have us trained or what?

Sheltie
Lilly!

And in other news, we have a new dog in the extended family! My mother-in-law got a sheltie through a seniors for seniors program. She felt her other dog Paisley needed a companion. After a week of settling in, the two dogs have begun playing and having a good time. The new dog’s name is Lilly. We have been over to visit twice with all five our dogs and Lilly has adjusted to them too. She is an adaptable little thing.

Dahlias
Dahlia blooms!

It took long enough but we have dahlias! I was late in planting them, so the blooms are just coming on. We should be having our first frost in a couple weeks. I will throw a sheet over the plants for the night when frost is forecast, and they will be fine. We generally have a couple more weeks of good weather after that first frost.

I planted a small crop of cold weather vegetables on the far end of our garden. They are where our zucchini, yellow squash, and cucumbers were. Those plants are long gone. In their place, I planted mixed lettuce, beets, turnips, green onions, baby bok choy, and Chinese cabbage. All of these places should survive multiple frosts. There are just a few seeds of each. What I think we can eat before winter sets in.

Take care and enjoy the crisp fall weather!

The Garden in Fall

Patio Garden
Zekie in the garden.

The garden takes on a different feel in the autumn months. I know, it’s technically not fall yet, but you can definitely tell a difference. The light has a sharper feel and the path of the sun over the course of the day has changed. There are more shady places to sit on the patio throughout the day with the angle of the sun on the move. I see this as prime patio time. I can load up a tote bag of books and magazines, grab a beverage and the dogs, without worrying that the blazing sun will drive us back indoors.

In this shot of the garden, you can see Zekie photo bombing all the plants. Actually, it was a fortunate accident. Who wouldn’t want to see a photo of Zekie Bear? The other dogs were with me but laying in out of the way places.

Dahlia
First dahlia!

We finally have dahlias! We have two blooms so far. It is my fault that we are just now getting them. I was late in planting. I find that I’m rather glad about it. So many of the other plants are winding down. It is nice to have dahlia blossoms coming on to look forward to. I learned this year that you are supposed to pinch off the top of the main stalk when the dahlia plant is 12-18 inches high. This forces more branches to grow, and more branches means more blooms. Yay! If you want large blooms, you need to pinch off a few of the buds too. I also learned that dahlias are heavy feeders and need lots of fertilizer. I won’t claim to have kept up with fertilizing them like I should have, but I did do it a couple times.

Gladioli
The Leaning Tower of…Gladioli?

This is one of the last spray of gladioli blossoms for the year. They have been so reliable for me. I follow the routine of digging them up in the fall, planting them in the spring, and they never disappoint. These days, most of them get planted in my rose bed. That is the only place I have in the garden that remains sunny enough for their tastes.

Mandevilla
Mandevilla

This is a mandevilla that I wintered over last year. The summer was half-way done before it produced many blossoms. Now it is putting on a show. The mandevilla is a Zone 10 plant. We live in Zone 5. During January we wondered if our upstairs hallway where the plant sat was even warm enough to keep it going, 55 degrees when it’s really cold out! Ah, the joys of an old farmhouse. It dropped a lot of leaves at the beginning of May, right before I moved it to the enclosed porch. I’m glad we toughed it out. It turned out to be worth it.

Butterfly bush
Butterfly bush

The butterfly bush is one of those plants that I wouldn’t grow just for the flowers. What makes it worth it, is the fact that it lives up to its name. Once it starts to bloom there are butterflies on it every day, throughout the day. The majority of butterflies we see are yellow swallowtails and monarchs, although many others visit too. Not to mention the hummingbirds and my personal favorite, the hummingbird moth. So many pollinators like this bush that it makes me wonder if bats feed on it at night? That would be awesome.

We bought a couple butterfly bushes many years ago and have not been without them since. They reseed prolifically. Ours prefer to grow in craggy, inopportune places. Between sandstones in the garden wall. Along the fence. In walkway screed. They are easy enough to move when small and always seem to survive. They are such good reproducers that we weed out lots each year. Definitely don’t let one take hold where you don’t want it. They develop massive roots that require my husband and the spud bar to remove them. We have had them in different locations over the years. The bushes bloom nicely for two or three years and then start to look straggly, and we take them out, wondering where the next generation will sprout.

Sedum
Fall sedum or stone crop.

The sedum that we have, was transplanted from my husband’s grandmother’s house shortly before it was sold. I don’t find it to be a very showy flower. It has other merits. It is reliable and brings fond memories. Reason enough to grow any plant.

Cleome
Cleome

The first year after we planted a four pack of cleomes, we were inundated. I was ripping them out by the handfuls for two years. It must have been 10 years ago that we planted the first generation. We are down to one this year. Will I plant them again? I just might. They have shallow roots and are easy to pull out. It probably depends on which plants the garden centers have to offer when I am shopping.

Canna lily
Canna lily

This plant has been a pleasant surprise. We purchased it for $5 at Walmart thinking it was worth a try. It has done well, growing to about three and a half feet tall and blooming several times over the summer. We save our canna lily bulbs and replant them in the spring. They never do as well as that first year. The leaves don’t get as big, and the flowers are tiny. If anyone knows what we are doing wrong, speak up! It may just be our climate. They are a tropical plant. I see huge ones growing at the nearby university each summer. Perhaps they throw them out and buy new ones each year?

Hanging basket
Hanging basket

And last, I’ll leave you with our hanging basket on the grape pergola. I bought yet another basket and threw in leftover plants that we had purchased in multiples for various garden beds. They appear to like it there.

Incidentally, this is the first year that the grape leaves have provided enough shade that we can sit under them and escape from the sun. My husband did a heavy pruning on the grape vines in early spring, and they really grew after that. Incidentally, if you have dogs, I would not recommend planting grapes! Grapes are toxic to dogs in case you didn’t know. I did know that but did NOT know that grapes fall continually from the vines throughout their growing season (at least ours do) which seems to go on for months. Each time I want to sit on the patio with the dogs, I must pick up all the fallen grapes first and throw them over the fence. This gets old very quickly. Still, I do it religiously to keep my pups safe. I imagine you can guess which dog starts looking for grapes as soon as he gets out there. My problem child, Zekie, of course! Zekie the Wonder Dog

Take care, my friends!

A Busy Weekend

Sheltie mix
Zekie is a happy boy!

It seems like I have nothing going on for the longest time and then everything happens at once. Most of my days consist of watering, gardening and taking care of animals. Maybe picking some vegetables and cooking. And then suddenly I am a social butterfly. We had three things scheduled over the weekend!

Petting a dog
Shelby getting pats.

It started on Friday when my sister-in-law came with my nieces for lunch and a swim in the pool. This is an end of summer, pre-back to school tradition for all of us. I make a fancy lunch, lol…not! I make what I know the girls will like. We had peanut butter and jelly, cucumbers, and my older niece’s favorite, barbeque potato chips. I know the girls are growing up because this year they even ate cheese quesadillas that I made. We finished the meal off with homemade sundaes consisting of cookies and cream ice cream, brownie bits, Cool Whip, and chocolate sauce on top. Yum!

I caught my younger niece who claims to be afraid of dogs, leaning over to pet Shelby several times. Actually, she hasn’t been afraid of Shelby in a long time. Shelby has that effect on people. I have had more than one person who said they were afraid of dogs be okay around Shelby. She is so calm and reliable that people can sense it.

The girls also each got a chance to play the drums before they went home. The drums are a hit with all the kids that come over. I used the time to catch up with my sister-in-law. She is awesome. I love visiting with her. I wish everyone enjoyed their family as much as I enjoy mine!

On Saturday, I attended our annual sheltie rescue picnic at a member’s home. It is great to visit with other members in person, especially after so many Covid induced Zoom meetings. Dogs are also welcome at the picnic. I took Zekie, Shelby, and Baxter. Cassius and Claire had to stay home. I felt bad for them but three dogs is the limit of what I can handle by myself. The photo at the top is of Zekie at the picnic. He was so happy to go away with his momma. Any day that I am not out of his sight is a good day for him. Shelby went because she is never any trouble, and she is my right-hand girl. Although Baxter is not a sheltie, he has been to every sheltie rescue picnic that I have gone to, and he is the ranking senior dog of our pack. All three dogs were well behaved, and I was proud of them. Zekie even got along with all the other dogs that showed up. He wagged and sniffed every time there was a new arrival. Sometimes I see him watch Shelby and Baxter, to see what their reaction to new arrivals and unexpected things are.

The people in our rescue group are the best. They are a supportive, kind, thoughtful, caring group of people and I am honored to call many of them friend. This group of people really is in it for the dogs, not the glory.

And on Sunday, there was even more to look forward to. We went to my daughter’s house and hung out with her and her family. I love hanging out with my daughter. I understand where the saying “A daughter is someone who grows up to be your best friend” came from. We looked at flowers in her gardens, ate pizza, and talked and talked. A fine day. This time Baxter, Zekie, and Cassius got to go along. Baxter and my daughter have a mutual adoration, so he had to go. Zekie must be near me at all times, so he went too. And Cassius got to go because he had to stay home the day before. And don’t think he wasn’t mad at me for having to stay home from the picnic. When he got up on the couch that evening, he put his head in my husband’s lap and not mine which is highly unusual. You must pay, mummy!

Although the weekend was wonderful, life is now back to normal. Watering and gardening have resumed. Our efforts are beginning to pay off. Look at the size of this tomato! We tend to like the striped tomatoes best. They are juicy and sweet without all the acid of the red tomatoes. This one is a pineapple tomato and they do grow to be large. I believe this is the largest and most perfect one we have grown. I went to the garden looking for a tomato big enough to cover the bun for our sandwiches at dinner. This one was actually too big! No complaints here. We will enjoy it sliced with tomorrow’s lunch.

Peace to you, my friends.

Pineapple tomato
Pineapple tomato

Flowers of Summer

Hardy Amarillys
Hardy Amarillys

Our flowers and gardens are approaching their peak as the summer wears on. The hardy Amarillys is such a unique flower. The leaves come up early in the summer and are long and flat, similar to hyacinth leaves. I did not know about these flowers until I moved here twenty years ago and discovered them on the property. I thought they were not doing well or were not happy where they were planted. If you are familiar with this plant, you will know that part of its normal life cycle is that the leaves die back to the ground. Then after a week or so, you see a stalk sprouting in the center of where the leaves had been. And this stalk grows quickly. Within a few days it is over two feet tall and blooms with a few large trumpet shaped flowers!

I had to research on-line to discover that these flowers are the hardy Amarillys. They are also an interesting plant because they go by a couple of aliases. They are often referred to as Naked Ladies. Because they lose all their foliage before blooming. The flower stands alone.

Last month I discovered a third name for this flower when I was reading a fiction book, The Heirloom Garden by Viola Shipman. It was on my list of books read for last month. Books I Read in July 2022. Apparently, they are also called Surprise Lilies because you think the plant has died and then, surprise, you get the unexpected gift of a flower! I think this is my favorite name of all for them. A Surprise Lily sounds so magical.

Mand
Mandevilla

Many other flowers around the yard and gardens are taking off too. The red Mandevilla is one that I wintered over from last year. It took a long time to hit its stride after losing so many leaves over the winter but now it is in full bloom with more buds on the way. The root ball was large, and it has woody stalks, so I expect it to perform well for the rest of the season.

Hardy Hibiscus
Hardy Hibiscus

Another hardy version of plant that I am happy with is the Hardy Hibiscus. This perennial is only in its second year at our house. We discovered that it does not grow back from its stalks. You should cut it to the ground, and it will come back from the ground up. Ours was the last to bloom in the area, but this doesn’t seem like a problem to me since it is a young plant. If you live in a northern zone and want your hibiscus to come back year after year, make sure you get a hardy hibiscus and not a tropical one. We have a tropical hibiscus also but realize that it is just an annual for us. I tried to winter a tropical hibiscus over in the house a couple years ago, but it did not survive.

Pink gladiolus
Pink Gladiolus
Yellow gladiolus
Yellow Gladiolus
Fancy Pink Gladiolus
Fancy Pink Gladiolus

And then there are my ever-faithful gladioli. I dig the bulbs up each fall after frost and store them in paper bags in the basement. And each fall I wonder, is it worth it? One year I dug up 80 bulbs! I plant them again in the month of May and then we wait. They start blooming in late July and peak in August. It is then that I decide it is worth it. Come October, we get a hard frost, and the entire cycle starts again. Most years I get more bulbs out of the ground than I put in. This is good because there are always a few that I slice in half with the shovel. Oops!

Glads along the fence.
Glads growing in front of the patio fence.
Rose of Sharon and Phlox
Rose of Sharon and Phlox

I’ll leave you with one last photo of some old standbys that you couldn’t get rid of if you wanted to. The pink phlox on the right seems to end up everywhere and tries to take over. It grows by runners underground. I pulled out a couple bushels of it from the flowerbed next to the house this spring. I do this every other year. If I don’t, it outcompetes the other plants and you end up with nothing but phlox. One bonus is the hummingbirds love phlox. Sometimes I am bent over weeding, and I hear the hum from the beating of their wings and when I look up, there they are. I often hear the hummingbirds before I see them. Occasionally we stare at each other eye to eye for a while before they flit away.

The pink flowered tree-like plant on the left is a Rose of Sharon. They reseed themselves everywhere. We frequently weed them out. There are so many that sprout, most often in inconvenient places. We have transplanted several and given a few away as well.

If all plants were as easy to grow as phlox and the Rose of Sharon, there would be little challenge in gardening!

Views from the Patio, 7/23

View from the patio
My view from the patio this morning.

It’s a patio type of morning for me. The weather is predicted to be hot today, and for nearly the entire country, not just here. So, I am spending some time outdoors before things heat up. My trusty canine companions are with me, except for Shelby who opted to stay in the house.

Due to some recent rains, I have been able to skip watering for the past several days saving me hours of work. What a treat! Except for the container plants. They look droopy by afternoon and long for a splash of water on their roots. We oblige them because we do not want unhappy hibiscus, mandevillas, gardenias, and such. They make views from the patio so much better!

Patio view
Patio time!

I have been thinking about the nature of friends in current times. Relationships have changed. I’m not sure if this is for good or bad. Probably a little of each as most things are or maybe only different.

I ponder why they have changed. My first thought is, we live in an electronic age. My second thought is we live in the time of Covid. Both have certainly changed things. People have cell phones and computers. Even most television viewing is by streaming rather than a live broadcast so we don’t even all get our news at the same time. We no longer use face to face interactions for the majority of our communications unless you count Zoom meetings and Facetime. We text, we email, and occasionally call. I am a believer that texts and emails can make life easier, but they also cause problems. Some emails are lost, but the sender doesn’t know it. If the message does arrive, vocal nuances and facial expressions do not accompany it so the meaning may be mis-taken. Sending, “That’s great”, does not convey the sarcastic tone that may, or may not be implied. Irony and a questioning lilt that is implied with a tone of voice is lost. Misunderstandings occur and feelings get hurt. I imagine this must be something we have all experienced. I do believe that electronic communication is a beneficial and powerful tool. We just need to take care with how we use it.

Keeping in touch with friends electronically is the new norm. I don’t feel that I have as many close friends now because we are texting and Facebooking, but not really visiting. This is exacerbated by Covid protocols. I am just as guilty of this as anyone. But it does make for a different type of relationship. Or maybe part of it is the natural progression as we get older, we don’t have the same intensity of friendships because we all have our own families and lives to take care of.

When I was younger, I had friends that I frequently spent time with. Even entire weekends. We went places and did things and were a regular part of each other’s lives. Fast forward to today. Does this still hold true? Not so much. Admittedly, two of my closest friends of my adult life have both passed away. So, it’s beyond my, or their, control that we don’t hang out.

On the flip side, I have many more friends than I ever did. These friends are more of the acquaintance variety. I have made most of them virtually. Or I may have met them in person once and we became friends via Facebook. I have made friends through other friends, at parties, at animal rescue events, and through other activities I have been involved in. People that I would only have had contact with one time, have been converted into regular acquaintances.

Some of my friends, I have never met in person at all. We hooked up through different Facebook groups or maybe as friends of friends or we find we share common interests. I have even had some of these virtual friends for years. And these friendships are important to me. I care about these people, and I believe they care about me. We “like” each other’s posts and frequently have conversations about life experiences and day to day life. In times of trouble or sadness, we offer each other words of comfort and support. One of my Facebook friends that I have never met in person was recently diagnosed with an aggressive and rare form of cancer. (Don’t give up, sometimes the doctor’s prognosis is wrong and there is more time to be had!) I am saddened by my friend’s diagnosis and think of her several times a day. My point is these types of friendships can have great value and be meaningful too.

I am blessed to live in an age where I can have friendships with people that live far away from me in distance, but we are close in spirit. I have reconnected with childhood friends and classmates, relatives that live far away. People I wouldn’t have the chance to be in touch with otherwise.

Now don’t get me wrong. I still have some friends that I visit with in person. Even a few new ones since I retired. And family members that I hang out with regularly. In fact, one of the best things is being friends with your adult daughter and your considerably younger brother and all the extended families that now come with them. I also know I am blessed that I love my family members and love spending time with them.

So, what is a friendship? I think it means different things to different people. May your friends be as dear to you as mine are to me.

Peace be with you!

Garden Gate
Appreciate all your friends!