Category Archives: Gardens

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!

Books I Read in August 2022

Patio Garden Photo
Patio Garden

I sometimes read on the patio. In the spring and fall, I go there in the afternoons. During the heat of summer, I spend my time there in the mornings when there is shade. I don’t sit here every day, but I do make it two or three days a week.

I spent a fair amount of time in August picking vegetables-green beans, okra, tomatoes, zucchini, snow peas, and beets, etc. Then I started preparing them for the freezer. The tomatoes so far have been in the form of sauce. I plan to make a big pot of chili this afternoon with some of the tomatoes left.

The only fruit we had enough of to put up were a few blueberries which are in the freezer and some American plums that I boiled down into jam. I discovered this type of plum is naturally high in pectin, so you don’t have to add any for it to gel. I have six jars in the refrigerator. Three of them are plain plum jam and the other three are plum ginger. I grated some ginger root from the freezer into the second batch of jam for extra flavor complexity.

In between all this, I did a pretty good job on my reading list for August, so here is what I have for you.

  1. A Christmas by the Sea-Melody Carlson

Wendy Harper inherits a cottage in Seaside, Maine from her grandfather. She needs to sell it to pay off medical bills from her late husband and other bills. So, she and her son Jackson head to the cottage to get it ready to sell. Except Jackson thinks they are moving there. He loves everything about the place and Wendy does too, including a stray dog and a local bachelor. I thought the ending was rather sudden and unrealistic, but I enjoyed the book, nonetheless.

2. N’ice Cream-Mikkonen & Tallion (Cookbook)

These recipes are complex but may be worth the effort. I saved the one for vanilla ice cream to get me started. I can always add things to it to change the flavor. The recipe I saved has cashews. This will be my first time with a cashew-based ice cream, so it should be interesting!

3.The Blue Zones Kitchen, 100 Recipes to Live to 100-Dan Buettner (Cookbook)

I love the whole Blue Zones movement of studying cultures of the longest lived people! My favorite recipe is for the sweet potato and black bean burger. It is relatively easy and delicious. It holds together well when cooking unlike many other veggie burgers I have made. I make extra and put them in the freezer. I highly recommend this book!

4. Artisan Ice Cream-Van Leeuwen (Cookbook)

 Most of the recipes in this book are a little too fancy/ unusual for me, but very fun to peruse.

5. The Keepers-Jeffrey A. Burton

Mace Reid makes his living with his family. His family happens to be a pack of scent sniffing dogs. They specialize in cadaver searches. One of his dogs, Vira, has special abilities. She is able to identify the scent of the killer from the corpse and identify the murderer when she encounters him. Burton’s books are awesome. They combine two of my favorite subjects, dogs and mysteries.

6. The Midnight Library-Matthew Haig

Nora Seed decides she doesn’t want to live any more. Shortly thereafter she finds herself at the Midnight Library. This is a place that houses books of every version of Nora’s life. She just selects each one she wants to experience until she finds the one, she wants to stay in. This novel is a book that makes you think. I’ve had it on my reading list for some time but hadn’t run across it. Turns out it’s in the science fiction section. Not sure I agree with that but regardless it is an enjoyable book.

7. The Best Is Yet to Come-Debbie Macomber

Hope Goodwin is learning to navigate life without her twin brother after his death. Cade Lincoln Jr is learning to live his life even though his best friends lost theirs’ in Afghanistan. They both volunteer at the local animal shelter where Hope rehabilitates Shadow, a large dog who everyone else thought was a lost cause. Hope deals with trouble at her job as a high school counselor while Cade has his own conflicts to handle. Can they maintain a relationship through all these problems? You’ll enjoy finding out.

8. The Magnolia Bakery Handbook (Cookbook)

This is a gorgeous cookbook. The recipes aren’t overly difficult. They start with a base recipe and move on to other flavor variations. The best part of this book was all the handy tips including the how and why of how to employ them. With a little practice you too can make some of the famous Magnolia Bakery treats.

9. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home-Jenn Britton Bauer (Cookbook)

I have yet to try Jeni’s ice cream, but I will now. She’s from my home state-Ohio! I gained a lot of knowledge of the science of ice cream from this book. I’m not going to try these recipes right now because I’m focusing on dairy free ice creams for the time being. I will return to this book at some point. I am happy with the information I gained here about the process of ice cream making. Reading Jeni’s story was also fun.

10. Salad Freak-Jess Damuck (Cookbook)

I don’t know that I need the actual directions for the recipes, but the ideas for some of the combinations are quite different. Some novel and fun ideas. Check this book out for some unique meal or side ideas.

11. Kingdom of Bones-James Rollins

This is a high adventure book of the Indiana Jones type. Three different groups of people work together to try to find a cure for a natural giant virus and stop the bad guys while caring for those afflicted by disease. The story switches back and forth from the medical personnel to those trying to stop the bad guy in his fortress, to another party out in the jungle looking for a cure. There is even an impressive military canine involved. A fast paced and engaging read.

12. Vegan a la Mode-Hannah Kaminsky (Cookbook)

The ice cream flavors are unusual and require ingredients I don’t have on hand even after stocking up to make nondairy ice creams.

Magazines-Victoria Classics Tea Pleasures, Vintage Cottage Style, Better Homes & Gardens Flower Gardening, Mingle

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!

Morning Musings from the Patio

view from the patio garden
My view on the patio.

Good morning, readers! This is my view as I write from the patio. I usually work outside in the gardens during the mornings when it is cool, but today I am doing something different. The patio is shaded in the morning and gets sunny after noon when the sun crests. This makes it hot and much harder to find a shady spot. So, the dogs and I are taking advantage of the beautiful morning.

Not only are the flowers a beautiful sight, they smell good too. With the humidity, the air is heavy and in addition to the usual roses, I smell the gardenias! We have a full-size gardenia, and a button gardenia which gets lots of small flowers. Their scent is heady and divine!

Dog with flower.
Zekie being a good sport.

I rarely spend time on the patio without the dogs. Above,Zekie is patient with my attempts to get a photo op. As long as he can be my constant companion, he is content. His separation anxiety and behavior are improving with the aid of Prozac. I spend a lot of time outdoors gardening and sometimes it is just too hot for the dogs to be outside. I have begun leaving the dogs loose in the house when I go out to work, going in to check on them every half hour or so. Zekie is getting used to it and handling it well. He lays on the landing at the top of the steps and watches me out the back door. Sometimes, I go out of sight, but he seems to be doing ok with it. He is always at the door to greet me when I open it and gives me a sniffing over to determine what I have been up to.

Big smile on a happy dog on the patio.
Being outside gives Baxter a big smile.

Baxter doesn’t like to have his picture taken. If he knows you are taking it, he turns his head to the side. It works best to zoom in from a distance and snap the photo. He has a great smile, so it is well worth the effort. He loves the futons but sometimes they get too hot for him. His second favorite place in the patio garden is under the dawn redwood tree where the cool soil is exposed. This makes a fine napping spot for a 13 year old dog.

Smiling dog in the patio garden.
Claire pauses to give a smile.

Taking pictures of Claire is rather like photographing toddlers. You have to take a lot of pictures to get one that is usable. About half of them are blurry because she is moving. Many of the rest result in her looking anywhere besides at the camera. She just has a very short attention span and is constantly turning to watch a bird or bee or running after a chipmunk. I am convinced she wouldn’t hurt them. Yesterday, she walked up within two feet of a wren that was getting a caterpillar from the ground. She stood there and watched the wren until it flew to the top of the fence, smacked its caterpillar on the fence a few times and then flew to its nest box on the opposite fence and fed its young. Claire has a busy mind. This is why she’s not the most obedient dog. She has too many other things to think about.

Greyhound sleeping on a futon. Patio garden.
Cassius relaxing.

This is Cassius’ typical position when he is on the patio. He loves the futons. Greyhounds do like to relax. And who can blame them with those bony legs? Cassius comes to me for pets from time to time but mostly he lays around napping and watching life go by. Not a bad deal.

Napping sheltie in a patio garden.
Shelby having a nap.

And this brings us to the matriarch of our pack. Shelby often joins us on the patio. She almost never goes out to the pasture with the other dogs, but she will deign to join us when we sit on the patio. Shelby doesn’t like to hang out with dogs. She will join us when we retire to the patio because I am always there too. And spending time with mom is life’s goal for her. She is a good companion and a true working partner. I can always count on her for therapy dog work and public events with our dog club such as volunteering at the county fair. Reliable is her middle name. She is 12 years old and slowing down. Now I direct her with hand signals to assist with her failing hearing. She is happy to respond, and we continue our work with these minor adjustments. That’s what teamwork is all about.

As I write this post, on the patio surrounded by our five dogs and many flowers, listening to the morning sounds of birds, I realize that I am blessed. I wish blessings to you also, my friends.

Peace be with you.

Metamorphosis of a Garden

2013 vs. 2022

Hard work pays off! When I moved here in 2003, our current patio area was nothing but a side yard of grass. Shortly thereafter, my brother built me a small pond with a liner, some nice stones around the edge, and stocked it with goldfish. It was lovely. May you be blessed with such a brother. Some frogs moved in, and a blue heron occasionally stopped for a snack of goldfish (not the crackers!) before we could chase him off.

Fast forward 10 years. My husband changed the pond to photo number one above. It went through a few iterations before it got to this stage. At first, we had the fountain/pool, but it was not chlorinated. The water was a little green which the frogs were fine with. I would get in to cool off even with the frogs. We don’t have air conditioning and the frogs were willing to share. There was even one frog who became tame. He would sit on my shoulder as I walked around in the water. There were other frogs who would sit in my hand. I loved my frogs. I know, I’m a dang weirdo.

As the area was transitioning from grass to enclosed patio, my husband decided to start chlorinating the water, so it would be more hospitable to guests. Apparently, not everyone enjoys swimming with frogs. Any frogs that were left that spring were transitioned to our neighbor’s pond and our fountain/pool became a more maintained setting.

Baxter enjoying patio time this afternoon.

After the footers were poured, every year a new section of flagstone was installed by my husband to increase the patio area. New sandstone flowerbeds beds were added one by one. Sections of wall and fence went in over the years. I started spending significantly more time there the year the section of fence was added that made the enclosure complete. This meant that the dogs could join us and no longer had to stay in the house or their pasture. It’s true, everything’s better with dogs!

The pergola went up a few years ago, thanks to you know who. Thanks hubby! We are growing grapes on it in an attempt to provide some shade near the pool. People ask me whether this is a fountain or a pool or exactly what it is. I never know how to respond. It is a fountain. The centerpiece (designed, poured, and installed by my husband) splashes, mixes the water, prevents mosquitoes (which won’t hatch unless the water has been still for two weeks), and makes a nice noise. It is also a pool. The water is four feet deep. We get in and out via a ladder that we put in and take out when not in use. We swim. We have pool lounge chairs that we float around on. I drink iced tea and read books while I float around. I guess the only answer is, it is all of those things. It only depends what purpose we are using it for in the moment.

Last but not least, I will share a few flower photos that I took today when I was done swimming. Admittedly, I wasn’t actually swimming. I was standing the water while reading a book and cooling off. This was our first time in the water this year. I was so hot from running the mini tiller to weed the vegetable garden that I couldn’t resist. The water temperature was 75 degrees and it felt so refreshing after hauling the tiller around the garden.

Our patio and gardens have undergone a metamorphosis over the years as you can see from the two photos taken nine years apart. It is a labor of love, requiring dedication and hard work. We hope to be able to share it with more people as Covid slows down. It was an oasis for us during those rough times. I hope it can be an oasis for others as well.

White mandevilla
First hibiscus bloom of the year!
Two drift roses with lavendar in front.
Urn with verbena and zinnia.

What’s Blooming Now?

Weigelia close-up
The Monet Weigelia

This post is full of photos that I took in our gardens last week. We have been so busy buying new plants, planting the new plants, and weeding and mulching that I am just now getting around to sharing.

The photo above is of my favorite weigelia. It is a variegated weigelia. I love all things variegated. I have also heard it called a Monet weigelia. I am going to use the Monet moniker for mine because it just sounds so cool! Who doesn’t want a Monet weigelia to make you think of a great artist with beautiful gardens? And the term really fits. The flowers are white and pastel pink and bright pink and dark rose. Not to mention the fact that the leaves are green and white with varying patterns. The complementary splashes of colors make for an impressive plant! I pruned it last year and the show it put on this year was my reward.

Clematis

I no longer remember what variety of clematis this is. We have two types and this one blooms first. It blooms heavily and for a long time. Then it rests a little while and gives another round of blooms. I recently learned that you are supposed to prune clematis. Before that I had no idea, so this one never had been. It is a monster in size, with roots growing up to a couple feet away from where the original roots where planted. I found one entirely new rootling and separated it to plant on my rose trellis since the rose is having an off year. I’m sure there are other rootlings in there to if I look for them amongst the jungle of stalks. I cut some dead stems from this plant late last fall. I don’t know that I will trim it anymore than that since this plant has always provided us hundreds of blooms. Why mess with a good thing?

Purple columbine
Pink columbine

We just got the fancy purple and white columbine this year. We hadn’t planned to buy one, but when we saw this at the box store, we had to have it. We have had the pink columbine for years. I don’t even know where it came from. It just showed up. Either the chipmunks brought the seed, or it was carried on the wind. And new seedlings continue to show up in unexpected places. Sometimes I leave them alone and just enjoy the flowers, like the one that planted itself in between a rock and some bricks at the base of my rose bed. It looks whimsical there. The pink columbine’s favorite place to reseed seems to be in the crack of the sidewalk leading up to our side door. These I gently pull out and transplant elsewhere. They are never happy the first year I move them, but they come back the following year in fine form. I’m sure they wouldn’t survive in the sidewalk with the dogs trampling them multiple times each day. This year I found one growing between the steps leading up to our side porch. It now resides in a flower bed beside some foxglove. I hope the new purple columbine reseeds as prolifically as the pink.

Lupine

This is another plant that is new to us this year. If I had realized the lupine was such a large, substantial plant, I would have gotten one years ago. The spike with the blooms must be 15 inches tall. A new row of little individual blossoms opens up every day or so. There are also two more flower stalks starting to show color. What an impressive plant! I read that they will reseed but revert to the natural blue color. If the flowers are half as big as this one, on reseeded specimens, I will be quite happy.

Irises

These purple irises had been growing on the far side of our house when I moved here. I had never seen them bloom. I think the pine tree on that side grew so big that there was too much shade. I moved a few puny root tubers a couple years ago and this is what we have now. I think they like the sunny end of this sandstone raised bed. In another year, I should be able to split them for even more irises.

Begonia

This pot of tuberous begonias was so impressive when we saw it at the store, we had to have it. It provides so much color that it is in a place of honor on one of the four corners of our patio fountain. We usually reserve those corners for hibiscus or mandevilla, but the begonia offered so much color, we decided to change it up and try something different. We will still do the tropical plants on the other corners.

Azalea

This little gem was my pick on the trip to a local nursery a few years ago. I couldn’t resist its beautiful pink, double blooms. I’m a sucker for anything that blooms in doubles. And it’s pink!

By now we have many more plants in bloom so I will have to do another garden post soon. We are still in the planting stage for the troughs on top of the enclosed garden wall and my hanging baskets that are suspended from the workshop porch. Also, my roses are ready to bloom! Unfortunately, the little red squirrels have decided that rosebuds are a tasty snack. Time for the live trap. I did not go to all the trimming, weeding, mulching, fertilizing, and transplanting to have no roses to show for it. Not to mention the scratches and holes in my fingers from the thorns.

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The View from My Window

View from my living room window.

This is the view from my window this morning. It is raining, so this is a day for indoor undertakings. I have laundry going. It is a light rain, so I am not worried about the extra water it adds for the sump pump. This also makes it blogging time.

The view out the living room window shows the top of the ancient azalea which is currently in peak bloom. At the far top of the photo are our burning bushes. We originally purchased six that were 10 inches high. The originals are now taller than me, a scant 5″4″. The oldest bushes are over 6 feet tall. All the other burning bushes in the line are offspring of the originals. They sprout in various places around our property. When they reach transplantable size, my husband moves them to the line of burning bushes along the edge of the road. This provides us a nice green screen from the passing cars and trucks in the warm months and once the leaves fall, they still act as a snow fence during the winter.

There is a new addition this year. We are in the process of fencing in our vegetable garden. If you look closely, you may see that the fence has three sides. We haven’t put up the fourth yet because we want to take the rototiller in one more time to mix in some new topsoil. Then we will install the last section. We are also going to have a gate. That is so shorties like me don’t have to hop over the fence!

We have had wild rabbits for years. They nibbled a few sprouts here and there but there was enough food for all of us. Last year the number of bunnies increased and some of them are huge. They did so much damage to the garden that we hardly had enough of several different types of vegetables to harvest. They especially liked the green beans. I replanted multiple times, but the tops got chewed off and we only had beans a few times. The sugar snap peas were a joke. Not surprisingly, bunnies love them. We only got a handful. So, this year, a fence it is! I also have to deal with crows eating the seeds I plant. Usually, replanting them once will take care of this. Since we will have the fence this year, I may hang some old CD’s or pie tins from the top wires and hope for the best.

I can tell you one thing. I have renewed respect for those who make their living as farmers. Putting up a little fence sounds so simple. Pound in some stakes, put up rolled fencing. Ha! It’s not cheap either. First you have to figure out which length of stakes you need and then how many. Same with the fencing. How high? What gauge? What spacing for the holes? Ok, you’re done with that. The rest is easy, right? Again, ha! You must measure and decide where to pound the stakes, so they are evenly spaced. And don’t forget to account for a gate. If you are off by two inches, you won’t have enough fence. Did you know you have to bury rabbit fencing, so they won’t dig under it? I didn’t. That means digging a trench for the fence and filling it in once the fence is up. Hanging the fence on the post will be easy now, I thought. Well, it still takes two people. One to hold the roll of fencing and keep it stretched tight. If you let it sag, it looks terrible and again, you won’t have enough fencing unless you bought extra. And those pesky little tabs on the stakes that are made to hold the wire? A lot of them are full of dried paint from the factory and you have to open them up with the flat blade of a screwdriver. Finally, we prevailed, hot, sweaty, and covered in dirt!

We are hoping for a good year in the vegetable garden. My husband took the Master Gardener course from the County Extension Office last year. We tested our soil and found that we were deficient in almost everything. Hubby has added nutrients, some topsoil, mulched leaves, and tilled them in. Time will tell how successful we were.

You can see in the photo that the near, right-hand side of the garden is grassy. That is where our asparagus patch is, so we can’t get the tiller in. I try to weed it in the spring, but it is hard to keep up with. Once we let the asparagus go for the season, it grows into beautiful, lacey fronds that outgrow any weeds. The garden is not exactly square anymore because the asparagus keeps moving farther out into the yard. I’m not quite sure what to do about this. If I dig it up and replant it back in the garden, I almost certainly will lose that portion of the asparagus crop for a year or two.

And so, on this rainy day I am happy to stay inside and work on other things. I am going for another cup of coffee, but I will leave you with this close up shot of our magnificent old azalea.

Our old azalea. Isn’t it glorious?