Tag Archives: Country Life

Hiking Update

Icy reservior
Icy reservoir at West Branch State Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zekie on the patio in warmer months.

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

Books I Read in October 2022

Home Library

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

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

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

  1. The Wind Through the Keyhole-Stephen King

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

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

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

3. Maggie Moves On-Lucy Score

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

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

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

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

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

6. Sugar and Salt-Susan Wiggs

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

7. The Secret Supper-Javier Sierra

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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.

Books I Read in June 2022

Our patio

Hello Readers,

I hope you are enjoying your summer. Mercifully, the area I live in, northeast Ohio, has been spared many of the storms and wildfires that have been taking place in the rest of the country. Our weather has had some hot spells, but nothing like in the south and southwest. It has been dry, dry, dry though! We spend an hour and a half watering every other day. This includes the vegetable garden, various shrubs and flowers, hanging baskets, wall planters, and all the raised sandstone flowerbeds in our patio garden. Even with the various gardening chores and other commitments, I have made time to read. Mostly because I refuse to go outside when it is over 90 degrees! So, read on to see what my selections for June were.

  1. More Mediterranean-America’s Test Kitchen (Non-Fiction)

A cookbook to inspire eating for wellness. Many of the recipes look delicious. I finally decided I was never likely to prepare any of them because most require an ingredient or spice that I am never likely to have. Things like Za’atar, fenugreek, and fresh fennel. If you’re looking for a healthy challenge though, this may well be the book for you.

2. Death by Chocolate Chip Cupcake-Sarah Graves

Jake and Ellie are back in this series featuring a chocolate themed bakery located in Eastport, Maine. The murders they solve this time are based on an old theme, who can get out of the haunted mansion alive, when the pair caters the desserts for a dinner for the new owner, a fading movie star. Jake manages to survive more mishaps and wounds than you would think possible. This series has Maine, the ocean, chocolate, and good friends. How can you go wrong? I think this is my favorite book in this series so far. It is enjoyable and amusing.

3. Rule Your Day-Joel Osteen (Non-fiction)

This is an inspirational book from the pastor of Lakewood Church, America’s largest church. The author tells us how to be successful in our lives, citing Bible stories and applying them to current times. Oddly enough, many of the suggestions are things I’ve read from business articles. Such goodies as, don’t hang around with people who pull you down. Although I am a Christian and familiar with the Biblical references, I think this book would be beneficial for everyone. It provides useful advice that can be applied to your own life.

4. Our Country Friends-Gary Shteyngart

A group of friends gathers at a country house and its surrounding cottages in upstate New York to ride out the pandemic. They learn a lot about each other as they try to stay safe. They learn things about each other that they never expected. A group of three life long friends, an adopted Asian child, an arrogant actor, and others make up the cast who isolate to stay safe from the Covid pandemic. This book was not my cup of tea. I am ready to move on to a more cheerful read. I may have appreciated it more if the pandemic was a thing of the past.

5. With Love from London-Sarah Jio

Valentina Baker is jilted by her boyfriend and then learns that her estranged mother has died and left her a bookshop in London. She hasn’t seen her mother since she left when Valentina was 12 years old. The book tells Valentina’s story as well as her mother’s. Things are not always as they seem. This is a book of friendship that explores roads not taken. This is a fun, feel-good book and I highly recommend it.

Magazines: Country Living, Yankee

My Helper

Zekie posing for the camera!

As much trouble as Zekie has been over the years, he is a great dog. Read about some of his antics at the following link. Zekie the Wonder Dog

His major problem is that he can’t stand to be away from me. At all. He starts to get worked up if I so much as go outside to get the mail. He is a little better since our vet put him on Prozac last year. Now when I go outside without him, he no longer jumps on the dining room table to watch me through the window. He just flings himself at me and jumps on me repeatedly upon my return, reveling in the joy of seeing me again. He is so ecstatic to see me that this often results in bruises for me, sometimes in the shape of a pawprint! It is hard to get too upset with him in the face of such adoration.

This brings me to today’s Zekie Tale. My husband has been hand digging a trench for a home maintenance project. He digs just a little each day and then goes on to another project. For the last week or so, the part he is digging crosses a corner of the dog pasture. The dogs are usually outside with my husband while he is digging. Hubby put up snow fence at my suggestion to keep the dogs, especially Cassius, a crazy greyhound prone to getting the zoomies, out of the construction site. I feared that in one of Cassius’ loops sprinting at top speed around the perimeter of the pasture, he would fall in the two-foot-deep trench and break a leg. Hence, the snow fence went up to prevent this. The dogs can still get to the trench area but have to go around the fence and past the piles of fill dirt to get there.

This portion of the project is nearing its end. I went outside today to help my husband with the last ten-foot section crossing the pasture. I was down in the trench, first doing a little shoveling of loose dirt out of the trench, and then just for fun, I tried picking with the mattock for a while to see what it was like. A lot of work, that’s what it was like!

The dogs have shown no interest in the project the entire time my husband has been out there working. Today, since I was out in the trench, things changed. Zekie watched me for a while. He got down in the end of the trench about 30 feet ahead of me. He looked around and then got out of the trench. A little while later Cassius came over to check out the trench. He looked at me a bit, hopped in the trench and soon jumped back out. Hubby and I looked up a bit later to see Zekie lying beside the trench with his head down in it. Shortly thereafter I checked on Zekie again. He was down in the trench, and he was using his front paws to dig. His efforts were making the trench longer. He looked up and saw us watching, so he kept digging. It was obvious he was helping us!

I told my husband, “Zekie is a people person”. My husband asserted that Zekie is not a person. I don’t think Zekie is aware of this. His mama was working on a project, so he joined right in. He wants to be a part of everything I do. If I could explain to him that if he kept control of himself, he could go more places with me, his would be a happier life. I have not given up hope. Zekie is eight years old now. That is the age my wonderful dog Duncan was when he went from being referred to as the sheltie from hell to my best friend.

Zekie gazing at is mama.

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.

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?

Spring Blooms at Sanctuary Acres

Dogwood tree in full bloom.

With the advent of some warmer weather, plants are really starting to take off around here. Finally! From my Facebook memories, I can see that the plants and trees are nearly a month behind where they normally are. But growth proceeds and I know it is only a matter of time before I will be complaining that it is too hot.

The dogwood in our front yard is at its peak right now. The picture of it in full bloom in front of the house is one of the things that drew me to this place when I was looking for a new home 19 years ago. The animals that have come and gone over the years have been hard on the place, but a home of such age, built in 1830, is up to the task. Lots of living goes on here.

Blueberry blossoms

This is one of the bushes from my blueberry patch. This particular one is in its third year. I am hoping for more than the handful of berries that it produced last year. Most of those were consumed one by one as we walked past on our way to or from the vegetable garden. None the less, they were appreciated. We have five blueberry bushes of varying ages, all young. A couple bushes did not thrive, and we replaced them rather than wait and hope for them to recover.

Redbud trees

Our redbud trees are also at peak bloom right now. They were such small sticks when we got them from the County Extension Office that we planted all five of them in a clump to wait and see which would survive. They all did. And they grew so beautifully that we left them in that original clump. These trees reseed so prolifically that we find them everywhere. We let the one that sprouted in my rose bed grow for a couple years and then gave it to our neighbor. We have a few others that we will transplant around our home.

Traditional lilac

Our old-fashioned lilac is blooming now. My husband transplanted it here as a shoot from one of his grandmother’s lilacs. It is getting old and doesn’t produce as many blooms as it once did. It is time to cut off the main trunk and let some of the newer ones take over. Then we will be awash in that lovely lilac scent once again. We also have a Miss Kim lilac and many Royal Lilacs. They bloom later in the season, so check back then.

White violets

We have violets growing throughout our yard. There is a patch under the huge pine tree near the house that grows densely with white flowers. We also have many of the purple violets and very rarely some that are white with the purple centers. When we hike at a nearby state park, I’ve seen a few with yellow blooms. I’m not sure exactly how they proliferate. They have transplanted themselves to my rose bed. For a time, I let them go. I enjoyed their delicate flowers and having color so early in the year. Now, I have begun weeding them out of the rose bed because they are taking over and encroaching on the roots of my roses. I tend to like plants that decide to grow in unusual place, but these have gotten out of control.

Azaelea bush

This bush was supposed to be an azalea but seems like it is crossed with a rhododendron. It is a nice little bush that always flowers but never seems to get any bigger. It doesn’t require pruning, just occasional weeding. It knows its place.

Viburnum bush

I passed one of these bushes on one of my many trips to the library years ago. I didn’t know what it was, but it smelled so heavenly that I had to have one. I researched until I discovered what it was and got my very own viburnum. It is an attractive shrub, not overly showy to look at, but it has other merits. I cut flowerheads from it every couple day and put them in a vase in the house where I can catch a whiff of the scent every time I walk past.

Bleeding hearts

The bleeding hearts we have are not the flashy domesticated ones. We have the good old woodland type. They grow under the very old, very large rhododendron near the side door and also under a pine tree near the woodworking shop. I enjoy the delicate lacey leaves and dusky pink flowers. They are one of the few flowers that can survive the battle with the bishop’s weed that was here when I moved in. I have been trying to eradicate it ever since. I suspect the previous owner spent their time in residence trying to eradicate the bishop’s weed too.

Trillium growing amongst the myrtle and trout lily.

Last, but not least is the majestic trillium. At one time it was endangered, so I am honored by its presence. I leave it alone since it is a fussy plant, and it graces us reliably with blooms year after year.

This is just the beginning of the growing and blooming season here, so click to follow along with the blog or sign up to receive emails. Not only will you see flowers and gardens, but also stories about our dogs and cats and general daily life here at Sanctuary Acres. Blessing to you.

Winter Storm Prep

4 dogs
(Claire, Cassius, Zekie, and Baxter)
This photo reminds me of the meme that says, “I have never wanted to belong to a gang as much as this one”. Lucky me, I do belong to this one!

We have been preparing for and waiting for winter storm Landon to hit as has most of the eastern half of our country. Living in the countryside in a house that is 192 years old poses its own challenges. My husband did most of the outdoor prep. This involves shoveling snow off the roof and removing ice. Clearing piles of snow away from paths and driveway, so there will be room for more snow. And hauling more wood to the house to feed the woodburning stove.

Two dogs
Zekie and Baxter waiting for the frisbee.

We knew that our daily walks were not likely to happen for a day or two, so we made sure to get the dogs some exercise as well. They went out to the fenced pasture and put in some frisbee and ball time. They made a few laps around the paths my husband made for them with the snowblower for good measure.

Greyhound
Cassius plays with his ball.

Cassius (and sometimes Baxter) wear a coat when we go for walks. For pasture time they aren’t out long enough to need them, plus they are running around like fools. Not to mention Baxter is prone to pulling coats off of other dogs when left on his own. He seems to get a chuckle out of us calling out “Baxter, now he’s naked”. I imagine the neighbors must get a laugh out of this too.

Sheltie
Claire enjoys the snow.

Claire never catches the frisbee. Not because she can’t, but she doesn’t seem to want to. She enjoys running after it and barking with the other dogs. She even reaches the frisbee first, many a time. She just doesn’t like to pick it up. She still gets in plenty of exercise, and we have other dogs to bring the frisbee back, so we don’t mind.

Sheltie
Shelby staying indoors.

Shelby goes on walks with us, but when I asked her if she wanted to go out to the pasture, she declined, giving me a look that said, “Surely you jest”. Shelby will be 12 years old in a couple of weeks. Since last summer she has decided that hanging out with “dogs” in the pasture is beneath her. She prefers to stay inside and guard the house. I don’t know how she explains the fact that Baxter will be 13 in the spring, and he is out there catching frisbees. We do restrict how long he plays and use lower tosses these days. If we stopped playing altogether it would break his heart.

wheat bread
Bread fresh from the oven!

I did some indoor storm prep too. The weather forecasters were calling for ice storms, so I made some foods to have on hand that could be eaten cold in case we lost power. Homemade pizza and some homemade bread for sandwiches. I also made sure all our electronic devices were charged up and that we had candles ready.

The storm began last night and the potential ice that was predicted appears to have missed us. We are getting snow, but so far it is only about four inches. Continued snow is predicted through tomorrow morning, so who knows how much will come down in total.

cat and dog
Jasper and Cassius.

After all that play, the dogs are tired out. Jasper kitten and Cassius sleep in what reminds me of a yin-yang symbol. Raising kittens from a young age does have its benefits. Jasper is a well-adjusted kitten. He does not mind any of the dogs coming up to him and sniffing him or barking or running near him. He does not mind the vacuum cleaner. He does not even move for it. He naps on one or the other of us every evening. He usually splits up his time so we both get to enjoy his company. He’s an equal opportunity napper. The Animal Protective League called yesterday. They put Jasper on the intake waiting list back in September to bring him into the shelter so they could find him a new home. They finally had room for him, and it was his turn. I told them “Thank you, but he is mine.” I shared a laugh with the shelter worker and then assured her that Jasper is now neutered.

Stay warm and safe my friends!