Thursday, May 28, 2009

Garden Update

I've been such a bad blogger, leaving you postless for days at a time. But it's all for a good cause. I'm still working on reconstructing a wee oasis from the dust of what was once a backyard.

To see how much I've done, let's first take a look at where we started. Lots of piles and trenches.

Not the best pics, and maybe too many of them. I've been meaning to remember for days and finally did, at twilight, after fading light, sore backs, and six thousand mosquitoes ended tonight's efforts. This is the main veggie garden. Some of that green is carefully and newly planted, some is what's come up on it's own (even after the soil was dug and re-dug and dumped upside down several times - the power of nature to regenerate!) and will be "weeded" out or moved to a new location.

Here's the unpaved area that used to be mostly dog kennel and compost. I'm now calling it "the meadow". The kennel is a third of it's orginal size. The compost pile, seen midside right, will eventually have it's own wooden compost box (or something like that) along the end of the house on the left. You can't see the stepping stones well but they show up better in a later pic.

This is my new gargoyle. His name is Frank. Or rather, François, since he is a French gargoyle. Why is his name François? Because he told me so. I asked him and he told me. Duh. He's a very heavy gargoyle who happened to meet with a slight foot accident. The local nurserywoman sold him to me for about 10% of his original cost and said she was thrilled he'd found a home. Indeed, he also told me he wanted to come home with me. Now I have a gargoyle, Spike, to protect our front yard, and François here to guard the back.

There's still planting and some structures to build or move, but I'm starting to put some of the smaller details out, even if they might get moved around more. In fact, I'm sure they will get moved around. This old chippy white ladder will be a good plant holder.

Here you can see the stepping stones much better. The white arch was on the alley fence for some grapes but the grapes refused to grow on it, preferring to grow on the fence itself. The wee little pedestal used to hold a glass ball which broke. I thought my black and orange bowling ball looked cool on it, but the weight must have been too much as I found it broken in two shortly after this - the pedestal that is, not the bowling ball. All those bits of green are the start of flowers and ground cover I've started plugging into place. Lots more to go, plus seeds once I'm done stepping all over it.

I put Green Mary in charge of watching over the plants until I can get it all in the ground or pots.
She's very nuturing.

I ended up with leftover cement after all and here's what I built with it. It's sort of an combination of old ruins and urban garden. The middle is supposed to look sort of like an old well. It's filled with dirt so I can have plants growing out between the cracks. The rest is like a crumbling wall. Also with dirt behind it so things can grow out of it. I've got some more cement to play with, add to it. The "tubes" are old cement irrigation pipe Sam found in his backyard when he remodeled. He was going to throw them away. I made the boys help me load them all (several dozen) into our truck, I knew they'd be perfect for holding herbs and succulents. This corner will look much better when I add a climber to cover the fence, some bushy plants behind the cement, and ground cover in front of it. Oh yeah, and set stones around the birdbath instead of just having it balanced up there.

Here are two cement pipes in the veggie area holding different thymes. The larger one bottom center is old iron pipe I also rescued from someone who thought it was just junk.

Mr. Pest Control is back on duty keeping bad bugs away from the plants. He asks the bugs politely to leave the garden but as you can see, if they choose not to cooperate, he's got an alternate fate planned for them.

A bit more concrete leftover in a pile. And one of the local gnomes. He used to be under the apple tree but he seemed happy enough when I offered him this location near the smaller grape vine. Perhaps he'll be able to help it along for me a bit this season.

Some friends remodeled the front of their house and gifted us with the old metal scroll supports and accompanying porch railing. I'm working out a plan to turn the supports into a shady gazebo and the railings into arches or perhaps to help define a few different sections of the courtyard.

The compost pile, what's left of it. Lots of pumpkins and squash growing out it. I might just leave it where it is for now, level it and make it part of the "meadow" next year. Maybe not. Haven't decided yet.

More herbs growing in another cluster of cement pipes. They have a wonderful nubby stone quality to them. A couple different types of basil, a thyme, and something called Italian Oregano. I've always used Greek Oregano (which I discovered hubby had accidentally killed off this spring - grrrr). I bought some more of that but it's not in the ground yet, I'll have to have a taste off between the Italian and Greek varieties.

The barrel of mesclun was the first thing we planted this year and it's in serious need of being used. The mustard has already gone to flower - although the flowers are just as tasty as the leaves. Those big leaves in the front grew almost overnight and I did NOT plant it. I think it's a volunteer pumpkin from the compost. Can't decide whether I should pull it or see what grows. Problem with volunteer squash, pumpkins, cukes, and melons is that you never know if the seeds were cross pollinated. Over the years I've ended up with some very odd volunteers. A pumpaloupe, a squashkin, a pumpcumber, a zuchimelon, a watergourd. Who knows what most of them were. Some were edible. Most were not.

These pics don't really give you an idea of how much work I've been doing because it's all still "in process" and of course the plants haven't even begun to mature. But folks were clamoring to see, 'specially my mom. Gotta make the mom happy.

Tomorrow, assuming the 30% chance of thundershowers is happening somewhere else in the valley (today we could see it all happening up on the mountains but we only got spatters and wind), I'll be back out there planting. If I wanted, all my ideas, this could be an all summer project. Alas, it can't be. Other projects are lined up impatiently and deadlines or at least dates when other projects need to get started, move closer on the calender every day. So I'm concentrating on finishing up the basics, cleaning and storing what's still just sitting around, and leaving the details for ... perhaps the end of summer.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Snuck Up on Me Again

It's Memorial Day Weekend apparently. Just figured it out yesterday. It always happens to me. The rest of the world considers it the beginning of summer and plan barbeques and camping weekends around the date. Me, I'm always out of the loop as our family usually doesn't follow a typical work week or annual calendar.

For me summer begins .... well, I don't know. May 1 at Beltane? "We've been out in the woods all night, a' conjurin' summer in!" May 10? Our local Last Frost Date? (in theory anyway) Time to put out the tomato plants.

This year it's felt like summer to me for the last week or so. One moment we were bundled up against winter cold, making fires in the fireplace at night and the next moment I needed to take a couple quilts off the bed and open all the windows for sleeping.

I have never managed to completely replace my childhood idea that summer is a time for lazing in the shade and reading books, walking in the woods and watching wee faeries flitter about, jumping off the end of the dock to the sound of motorboats across the water. It's been decades, many decades, since that's been the case, but it's still my base on which I imagine my summer.

Since then there's been dozens of other experiences, moments, scents, sounds that I keep in the "this is summer" file in my head. Camping with the kids, car trips, sitting out under the stars, evenings in the garden, starlings and dragonflies swarming, fishing and swimming at the river, kiddie pools, summer television, garage sales, kids in maple tree...... so many moments.

I have so many expectations for this summer. I alternate between excitement at the possibility of fitting most of it in and wondering if such a busy schedule will push out the lazy pleasures of summer, regardless of whether they're real or mostly imagined.

Here in the high country, summer is short and fragile. Right now it's rolled out in front of me with all it's possibilities still sparkling. But in year's past the reality has sometimes been gobbled up by unexpected detours in my plans or forest fires and heat waves that kept me from doing anything but hiding. Not this year. Please. Knock on wood.

This last week I've been extra aware of all the small pleasures of the season. Perhaps by the end of the season I might take for them for granted, but now they're small treasures I'm stumbling upon almost moment by moment.

The smell of someone's barbeque wafting through the neighborhood.

The sound of a mower outside the bedroom window.

Cool sleeping breezes.

The first yellow butterfly of the year, the first blue butterfly, the first silver dragonfly, and then a red dragonfly.


A crop of dandelions in the side yard - or Joli calls them "wishing flowers".

Sun tea brewing on the front step.

Rhubarb peeking up through the weeds near the woodshed.

Winter wardrobe abandoned for capris and faery skirts, tank tops in every color, flip flops on my feet.


Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time. ~John Lubbock


Summer is the time when one sheds one's tensions with one's clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all's right with the world. ~Ada Louise Huxtable

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


At least, the path is completely laid. I guess it's as true about making your path as it is walking it - one step at a time.

The weird part was that each time I completed a section, I covered it with dirt, so my progress became invisible as soon as I finished it. I finally set in the last of the rocks Sunday and yesterday Joe (and William a bit too) helped me shovel all the dirt and dirt piles off the cement.

Some of it went here in this section, which still has to be cleared and leveled. It will become a bit of a herbal meadow. What didn't fit here, we spread out in the ruts in the alley. There's still a lot of work left to do, but I swept until I could at least see how it turned out...

Ta da! So, whaddya think so far? I couldn't really see what it would look like as I did it, covering it up. I think it came out even nicer than I'd expected. Joe helped me put the barrels back, so now it's just sweep, sweep, sweep some more. Then I can start planting - YAY! I like it plain like this more then I expected. But the plan was to add moss and thyme and other green bits, as well as smaller stones, inbetween the larger pieces, both for decorative and practical (to better secure it all) reasons. I'll go ahead with the plan. I think it will look nice filled in too.

But other things I'd planned are shifting a bit in my head as the garden is speaking to me. An arbor frame that was going to go between the cement and the "meadow" now seems to want to be up against the fence. It's starting to come together.

Hubby thought we'd have a a lot of stone leftover but this pile and...

...this even smaller pile is all that's left. If there were more left I was going to make a small wall or grotto in one corner of the yard, but I think there's going to be barely enough left to use as stepping stones through the meadow area.

Part of me is relieved not to have extra, part of me sort of liked it laying about. Organized, I was starting to imagine as sort of urban garden look. But once it's all in the ground, the garden will have a much softer look.

So today - much sweeping. Then off to the nursery to see what sort of groundcovers are still available.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Spring Turns into Summer!

Didn't I just post about how spring has arrived? Well, regardless of what the calender says, the temperature is now screaming summer. The last few days have been HOT. Which is fine, 'specially since we get lovely cool sleeping weather up here at night. But it makes it hard to work in the garden and there's still so much to do. I don't even have much planted yet, because of all the chaos in the backyard, plus of course things happen at a more casual (but fun) pace with a two year old helper.

Speaking of chaos, Joli painted some lovely paintings for us yesterday in the shade of the maple tree. We hung them on Rosie's fence, an al fresco art gallery. (In case you can't tell, those are all paintings of faeries.)

I've been eyeing this little outfit every time I saw it at the store this spring and when it went on sale for $2, only two left and one in Joli's size, I grabbed it. Isn't it cute?

I like this pic, with the flowers matching her outfit. I was trying to get her to pose closer to them, but she wouldn't cooperate. It's either "take my picture, take my picture!" or flat out "No!"

Joli is often someone else. She's "faery Joli" or "monster Joli" or "princess Joli"... She grabbed my hat while we were in the car, put it on her head and said "I'm Grammy Joli!"

Today everyone is off at work or at a barbeque in Redding and it's just me and the pets at home. I've been working in short bursts on the stone work in the back yard. The sun is too hot to be out there beneath it for long but I didn't want to wait until tonight to get started. I'm sooooo ready to have it completely laid and move on to the next phase of putting things back together. I'm posting this during one of my shade and tea breaks.

I might be VERY sore by tomorrow. But if I get it finished, it'll be worth it. Sigh, I guess it's time to get back to it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

We are NOT Strange. Much.

Today was another lovely hanging out enjoying the family day.

Plus some more stone work.

Plus a nice two mile walk.

A great sleeper movie for movie night - Bottle Shock. Alan Rickman is always great. It takes place in the late 70's in the northern California wine country. I lived for over a decade in Sonoma in the late 70's and 80's, so it was fun to revisit that place and time.

A totally confusing season finale of Bones. Somehow I've missed a handful of episodes!

Joli was sitting on my lap and I was taking photos of her with my glass of tea. Little did I know she was quietly giving birth to her baby doll.

No, wait! It's twins!!

Joli appears to be embracing her new motherhood.

Standing on a bridge over a wee creek, I liked the Monet-ness of it. Two blue and green worlds reflecting each other.

TOTALLY a zombie tree!

What? Doesn't everyone's Hubby sleep with a faery monkey atop their head?!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Spring Haz Sprung

Up here in the mountains we wait a lot longer for green than down in the rest of California. But when it arrives, it arrives with great enthusiasm and perhaps folks appreciate it more for the long wait.

A neighbor's yard sported these cheerful tulips. I liked the mottled deep shadow.

Another neighbor's yard, I took this photo on one of my walks. I've had a lot of company on my walks this week, with Lisa and Joli and sometimes their dog Kota joining me. Today Lisa and I walked up around the old abandoned hospital (rather sad and spooky, photos another day) and I noticed a blooming lilac. Since no one goes up there to see them (we were trespassing by walking across the back of the property, shhhh, keep it to yourself), I gathered a big handful of them and brought them home for a vase. Lisa says the smell is overpowering. I love it.

Everything is blooming. I liked this old wheelbarrow left out under someone's apple trees. Hmmm, I suppose they could be pear trees. Speaking of apple trees, the stump of my cut down apple has some green shoots popping up. I doubt it can regrow into a tree, but hubby says it's fine to leave it to be a "bush".

I had to buy a shiny new red wheelbarrow today. One of the wooden handle supports on our old one busted clean through. It had seen a lot of use and abuse. We bought another cheap one that's probably not up to some of the heavier things we ask of it, but since we more often use it for lighter garden work, I can't really justify the cost and storage of a larger one. What I'm currently using it for is to cart sand from the pile in the far side of the front yard all the way around to the alley and into the backyard.

I'm trying to "refashion" these piles of broken cement into a stone pathway. It not only costs money to have it hauled away, and costs money to pour new cement, but it seems more environmental friendly to reuse it.

Here's the start of things. These aren't set, just placed in a potential pattern. What a mess. No spring green back here yet. Just piles of dirt and rocks and displaced garden stuff. This pic is actually from a week or so ago. I've been working about an hour or two every day - that's about all my scraped hands and aching muscles can handle - digging, laying sand, and setting the stones in place. It doesn't look much different now, still just piles of dirt and rocks, the finished work is sort of hidden under a layer of dirt until it settles.

It's hard to keep at it when you can't see any progress being made but there's no way to do it all in one full sweep. Fortunately, although invisible, progress IS being made. After the bones of it are finished - the fences (already moved and reset) and the stone work (in progress) - putting the rest of it together should go a lot faster.

It's hard, tiring work. So, why is it the slackers that are getting all the sleep?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

I had a very, very lovely Mother's Day. I talked to my mom on the phone, and all my kids talked to me, the ones near and the ones far away.

Joli liked my new green sandals. Notice she's wearing them on the wrong feet.

The highlight of the day was attending the Mother's Day Tea event at our local tea house. It no longer has regular hours but we're thrilled it now reopens for special events.

Here's Joli all dressed and waiting to go. Doesn't she look like the perfect Sunbonnet Sue!?

Two lovely ladies in their Sunday afternoon tea dresses.

We weren't the only ones dressed up. This little girl across the restaurant had obviously borrowed her grandmother's Red Hat Society hat for the occasion.

Joli's china cup lasted through several hours of Joli drinking tea from it. I was very impressed.

Napkin rings make great.... rings.

Along with pots and pots of tea, soup and quiche, we had this fantastical tiered display of tea sandwiches and cakes.

Oops, sideways. Too lazy to fix it. It looks like a poached egg in a cup but it was really delicious (and probably NOT on my cholesterol free diet!) panna cotta with lemon curd. The nibbled cookie next to it (or, from your point of view, on top of it) is a homemade lavender shortcake, those little bits are pieces of lavender. I will have to experiment and see if I can make something similar. YUM.

Of course the main event, the tea. I love to watch the milk swirl.

We all got carnations and baby's breath on our plates. Hubby insisted on wearing his as a boutonniere.

Lisa wore hers behind her ear...

...until Joli found it and took it apart. I think it looks pretty in this tea cup too, don't you?

Joli found a pink one that stayed in one piece.

William was supposed to get the day off work to join us but he forgot. I asked if he could try to get off early to join us. He called about twenty minutes after we had arrived to tell us his boss wouldn't let him off. I was dissappointed. But really he'd rushed home to shower (smelling like fast food in a tea room woulda been a bad combo) and surprised me a few minutes later! What a nice teen son!

Me and the two kids I had home for Mother's Day. I don't look dressed up but I was, honest. I had on a skirt.

Almost done, just relaxing with one last pot of tea. We were the last people to leave.

When the tea house was open for regular business hours, hubby and I had a weekly date and most of the time we sat outside on the porch. Sometimes there would be others at the other outside table, but a lot of time we had the spot and the view to ourself. Lisa took a photo of us sitting in "our spot".

Us girls walked to the tea room. Back in the stroller, Joli is holding the flowers she gathered up from the other tables before we left.

On the way home we stopped to visit some horses, cows, and cow dogs. This cow licked her feet several times or as Joli said "kissed her feet".

Just a cute shot of Lisa with the wind in her hair.

"Are we home yet?" "Almost!"

"Will you poosh me, Unca Williyum?"


"I found a wishing flower."

"Fly little seed fay-ries - Fly!"