Dear Friends Make Life Worthwhile

Two friends, Acadia National Park
Becky (left) and Me (right), 1998, Acadia National Park, Maine

My dear friend Becky passed away in 2016 and I have missed her ever since. Recently, I have received some gifts from her, and from her sister Karen who mailed them to me.

In the first mailing, I received a Chestnut Burr yearbook, which was published annually until recently. It is the yearbook for Kent State University (KSU) where Becky and I met in our first year of college at the Tuscarawas Branch Campus of KSU way back in the fall of 1981. There was a group of us that met and developed friendships that lasted for many years. We went on to finish our degrees at the main campus. Becky and I eventually became best friends and had many adventures together over the years.

Also, in that first mailing from Karen was Becky’s photo album of our trip to Maine in September of 1998. I have many photos from that trip as well and looking through Becky’s album brought back so many cherished memories. We had so much fun, and I think that trip played a part in the people we were to become forever after.

A week later, a second mailing from Becky’s sister arrived on my doorstep. It contained three things. A charm for a friendship bracelet that Becky had started for each of us. A silver necklace with a looping pendant that has the engraving, “I am thankful that in God’s design, he planned it, so your path crossed mine”. Karen said that Becky had set the necklace aside for me to be my Christmas present the year that she died.

The third thing in the box is something that is even more dear to me. It is a ring that Becky bought for herself on our Maine trip. It has a sapphire tourmaline which is the state stone of Maine. I have one that is nearly identical except that the stone is rose tourmaline. We knew that Becky was going to die soon when I made what turned out to be my last visit to see her in May of 2016. I asked her if I could have her ring later on if she had no other plans for it. She responded, “I would be honored for you to have it”.

Becky’s family lives far away from me and life eventually goes on. That ring came “home” to me earlier this week. I am so thankful to Becky’s family for sharing it with me. If anything, it is even more meaningful to me now. I put the ring on as soon as I took it out of the shipping box. I have not taken it off and do not intend to any time soon. I feel a connection to Becky that I haven’t felt for a long time. We were the type of friends who became more like sisters over the years.

Rings of Friendship
Photo of Becky wearing the ring, 1998, and me wearing it today.

This ring is especially meaningful to me not only because we purchased them together in Maine, although there is that. Becky and I were both recently divorced when we went on that trip, and we were celebrating our independence as well as our friendship. We put the rings on and announced that we were married to ourselves, and the rings symbolized that we didn’t need any man to take care of us and make us whole! (I am happily remarried now because I want to be.)

I plan to eventually have the stones from each of our rings put into one setting that I can wear as a remembrance of two friends, one friendship come together. For now, I am content to wear Becky’s ring and think of her.

Best friends
Becky (left) and me near the end of our week of camping & hiking. Still sporting big smiles!

Becky and I had many other fun times over the years and spent many a weekend together. I don’t remember us ever having a fight or harsh words. I am blessed to have these renewed memories of my dear friend.

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!

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

Fostering is Rewarding

Shetland Sheepdog
This is Max!
Shetland Sheepdog
And this is Pitusa!

We have had foster dogs again! It has been a long time. Two and a half years to be exact. Our last foster dog was Claire, and you know how that went since she is the most recent addition to our pack.

We haven’t fostered much in recent years. Once we got Zekie, he was all we could handle with the other dogs. (Zekie the Wonder Dog) He has calmed some over the years he has been here, or maybe we are just used to him. There’s also the miracle of Prozac in his life. (Good News-A Somewhat Calmer Zekie Bear) After Zekie was with us for about two and a half years we fostered again when our rescue group received an influx of five dogs at one time. One of those was Claire, who came into rescue with the name of Topanga! She never left.

I want to say that she was here for so long because of Covid isolation that I couldn’t bear to give her up. In fact, I have claimed this for a long time. However, I fear that the truth is closer to…now that I am retired and home with the dogs all the time, I get too attached to them and can’t let them go. And so, between that and the fact that we had six dogs, we took a sabbatical from fostering dogs.

We lost our oldest pack member, Nikki, last autumn at 14 years of age. (Miss Nikki Pouncer Pants: A Tribute) That put us back down to only five dogs. We made the decision that we could do short-term fostering again if the need arose. And we got the call that there was a need last week. Next thing I knew, I was in my car on the way to pick up two shelties from our rescue’s intake coordinator. They are named Max and Pitusa. I know, I was surprised by the female’s name too. Apparently, Pitusa means “sweet, funny little girl” in Spanish. And as I discovered, she is aptly named.

Max and Pitusa were sent to a boarding kennel because their owners were no longer able to care for the dogs due to their own failing health. They are one male and one female Shetland Sheepdog. They are 10 years old and appear to have led good lives and been well cared for. I am unclear as to whether they are siblings, but they are a bonded pair. And they already had a new home awaiting them. They just needed somewhere to stay from Wednesday until today (Monday), when transport was arranged.

This was the perfect set up for me, and they turned out to be perfect house guests. They were well mannered, sweet, friendly, and a little playful. I picked them up last Wednesday and put them into crates in the back of my car for the trip home. We didn’t get far down the road before the whining and yipping started. I put a podcast on my cell phone and the dogs quieted down for the rest of the 40 minute trip home. When I got home all of our dogs were outside except for Shelby who doesn’t do the pasture anymore. I brought Max and Pitusa inside and they met Shelby and our three cats. The new dogs were perfectly behaved, briefly sniffing the other animals and then keeping to themselves. Shortly thereafter, I brought the rest of our dogs inside in groups of two to meet our guests. There were some brief bouts of sniffing and that was it. Dogs, okay, cats, okay. Oh, look, a soft bed to lay down on.

At bedtime, I put the two foster pups in crates side by side in the dining room. They did quite a bit of whining and woofing. It took me a number of times coming back downstairs to squirt them with a water filled squirt bottle for barking to get through the night. I discovered that the crates were the problem for these two. I don’t think they had ever been crated before judging from their reactions. As I got to know them, I discovered that they were so well behaved that the only thing we used the crates for were mealtimes. We crate dogs at mealtimes to ensure that everyone eats their own food and no one else’s. It also prevents food related scuffles between dogs. Max and Pitusa were fine at night without being crated and we even went away and left them loose in the house or while we were working outside. No trouble at all. Let me point out that this is NOT typical for foster dogs, or any new dogs, coming into an unfamiliar house. I don’t believe I have ever left any dogs uncrated until they have been at our house for some time, and I am confident that all will be well. It just goes to show that there is always an exception, or in this case, two.

Max and Pitusa acted like they had always lived here from the moment they walked in the door. They got along with everyone, showing absolutely no aggression. They were completely relaxed, drinking from the water bowl with the others, following the humans from room to room with the others, running down the back stairs and out the door to do their business when everyone else did. They blended right in.

Shetland Sheepdog
Pitusa snoozing on the couch.

From the first day, Pitusa would come up to either my husband or me and paw us so that we would pet her. She would also give us a big grin to let us know that she was happy to have our attention.

Shetland Sheepdog
Max giving me a Class A smile!

Max was also good at giving happy grins. His favorite thing to do in the evenings was to sleep with his head on my foot. I think I loved it as much as he did.

The only notable difference with having these two here was in trying to navigate the house when all the dogs were laying down. Seven dogs take up a bit more real estate than five. It was a bit of an obstacle course trying to move from room to room. As soon as Max realized that I was going somewhere, he got up to follow me anyway. And these pups are only around 25 pounds, so they didn’t take up a lot of room.

We greatly enjoyed their stay, and we got to show them off. We are a family of dog lovers. My mother-in-law came to meet them one day and my daughter came the next day to meet the new dogs. So, I anticipate that we will be doing short-term fostering again since it was such a success. I doubt that the next dog will be as easy as these two, but that is not necessary. We do what we can for the rewards of being able to make a difference. I even told our intake coordinator, if we get a dog that comes into rescue and has a home scheduled but just needs some work before they are ready for placement, I think we are up for it!

I dropped Max and Pitusa off this morning for the next leg of their transport and they are probably in their new, permanent home as I write this. I am sure they will be happy. We found a home where they can stay together with one of our previous adopters, so I know they will be well loved. Have a good life little ones! It was a joy having you here, and I even got to include you in my post for National Dog Day.

National Dog Day
Our resident dogs at the time of National Dog Day.

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!

Books I Read in July 2022

Patio view
I often read here!

You may notice lots of ice cream “cookbooks” this month and next month too. I bought an electric ice cream maker and am trying to perfect the art of dairy free ice cream. I can eat dairy products with no problem and the regular ice cream recipes I have tried turned out pretty well. Not everyone in my family is so lucky, so I am seeing if I can conquer the lactose or dairy free versions. I tried making the regular versions just substituting almond milk and coconut milk. It just didn’t work. The product had good flavor but was so hard, it was basically a block of ice milk. Back to the drawing board.

I did make time to read some other books in July too. Some days it was hot enough that I refused to go outside in the afternoons. Reading is always a better option when it’s more than 90 degrees outside!

  1. From Strength to Strength-Arthur C. Brooks (Non-Fiction)

I picked this book up because on the cover it says, “Finding success, happiness, and deep purpose in the second half of life”. Sounds perfect for someone (me) who retired a couple years ago, right? I am sorry I spent my time reading this book. The book spent a major portion of it telling me how people suffer a professional decline and lessening abilities as they age. Then it cited numerous examples of such. By the end, I was feeling pretty incompetent. The last couple of chapters do offer some good advice, but I did not find it to be worth the effort.

2. One Italian Summer-Rebecca Serle

I enjoyed this book. After the death of Katy’s mother, she takes the trip to Italy that they had planned to take together. Katy’s mother was her best friend, and she is lost without her. While she is there Katy becomes friends with…her mother who is 30 years younger. Katy gains insights into her mother’s life and actions that she never expected. She also learns a lot about herself. Normally, I don’t like books that bring fantasy into real life experiences, but I did enjoy this one. I do like books in the fantasy genre that occur in different worlds. Just my quirk.

3. The Heron’s Cry-Ann Cleeves

British Inspector Matthew Venn and his detectives have their hands full trying to solve this case before there are more murders. The book requires close attention to detail to keep up with the plot but is well worth it. Artist Eve keeps discovering bodies that have been killed with broken pieces of her glasswork. The first body is that of her father. They are also a few suicides that make us wonder just what is going on here. I couldn’t figure out who did it until very near the end.

4. Icebox Pies-Lauren Chatman (Cookbook)

Many delicious looking recipes but I am unlikely to make any of them. Most involve heavy cream or other sources of dairy and we have multiple lactose intolerant people in our family as noted above.

5. Vice Cream-Jeff Rogers (Cookbook)

This is a book of vegan ice cream recipes. I am not likely to make these. Nearly all use maple syrup or honey dates as a sweetener and I think they overpower the other flavors. Also, the fruit based recipes call for a juicer which I do not have.

6. The Year of Magical Thinking-Joan Didion (Non-Fiction)

Joan Didion and her husband John Dunne were successful writers. They were married for 40 years before John’s sudden death from a heart attack. Both worked from home so they were near constant features of each other’s lives. Their only child went into a 2 month coma 5 days before John’s death and then suffered from ongoing health problems.

7. The Heirloom Garden-Viola Shipman

Iris Maynard has been alone since her husband died in World War II and her daughter died from illness a few years later. After another traumatic event Iris walled in her yard hasn’t left for years. A troubled family rents the house that Iris owns next door to her own. The stipulation is they are to have no contact with Iris. Children have minds of their own, so this ends up being impossible. Iris is a retired botanist and the family loves flowers and gardening. A story of how we are better together than alone. A moving and enjoyable book with a bit of science thrown in.

8. The Southern Vegetarian-Burks & Lawrence (Cookbook)

Many of these recipes look delicious but they are more work than I am willing to put in and I am not a lazy cook. I did get some ideas for meals that I will put my own spin on to make them easier.

9. Melt, Ice Cream Sensations to Make at Home-Claire Kelsey (Cookbook)

The recipes in this book are complex and most use unusual ingredients. I am never likely to make them. That being said, check this book out! It is fun and the pictures are beautiful. I also enjoyed reading about how the author’s food truck that sells ice cream came into being.

10. The Friendship Pact-Jill Shalvis

Tae Holmes and her mother tell each other everything except for one very big secret her mother has kept hidden. The secret has the potential to change everything. Tae is also distracted by the sudden appearance of Riggs, her first fling way back in high school. Riggs turns out to have her back. Always.

Sorry for some less than positive reviews this time, but hey, you can’t like them all.

My recommendation from this list is The Friendship Pact if you want a good beach read type of book. You can never go wrong with Jill Shalvis. If I see her name on a book, I will pick it up. If you are looking for a book to make you think, go for The Heron’s Cry.

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!