Archive for the ‘Garden Notes’ Category

Plan your work… work your plan.

Monday, September 7th, 2020

Along The East Fence

We’ve left the trimming of the rhododendrons along our east fence until now.  The last chore of summer.  They are definitely out of control and require some sawing in additon to the use of several types of clippers.  But… we have a plan.


It goes something like this: when I go out to feed the chickens and let them out of jail (but only if someone laid an egg on the previous day!), I take my clippers with me.  I begin on the “next rhodendron to the south” from where I left off the day before.  I clip as much as my arthritic hands will allow, tossing my clippings onto the lawn for later collection and bagging.  Later in the morning (or, perhaps right after lunch) Nyel and I will go out with saw and clippers and “fine tune” what I have done.  Then we bag all the debris in heavy-duty “outdoor” garbage bags and haul them into the garage.


There are at least two dozen rhodies along the fence.  Our goal is to cut them down so that the top of the fence can be seen.  Left to their own devices, those rhodies would soon be obliterating our view of the bay and, unfortunately, we haven’t done our due diligence for several years.  Now there are Dorothy Perkins roses and Morning Glory in the mix and it is a real drag.

The only glitch in the ointment is getting rid of the trash bags.  We can fit two at a time in the dumpster and our guess it that we will have 36 to 48 bags in all.  That’s a lot of weeks to wait to return the car to the garage… but Nyel has a plan for that, too.

We do keep in mind Robbie Burns’ admonishment about best laid plans, however.  We hope ours aren’t among those that “gang aft a-gley.”  After all, our view of the bay is one of the best parts of all!

Plums! Plums! Plums! — Plum Delicious!

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020


Last year we didn’t get any plums.  I think we were otherwise occupied with Nyel’s recovery from his hip removal.  (Yes… not replacement.  Removal.)  So the plums went to the birds, or perhaps to bright-eyed visitors as they walked by.  At least we hope so.  The whole picking season went by without a thought from us.

This year, though, Nyel had been out on an “orchard” inspection (if one apple tree, one pear tree and one plum tree constitute an orchard) in his wheelchair and saw that those plums were ready.  “The first good crop since we planted the tree,” he said.  That was about ten years ago.  Actually, they are Italian prunes, not really plums, and they are probably my all-time favorite fruit.

Amelia and Tucker at Work

So Nyel called Tucker and, before you could repeat the title of Judy Eron’s song, “I Picked His Plum Tree Bare,” he and his granddaughter Amelia had done just that.  They gave us half (maybe more!) — certainly enough to eat and eat and eat.

Nyel is looking up recipes, too.  He found one for plum cake which sounds really good.  And also for plum tarts, plum cobbler, and plum turnovers.  What’s more, he thinks we have enough plums to make each recipe with plenty left over for fresh fruit snacks!  And that’s plum perfect by my way of thinking.  Yes!  Plum Perfect!



Just a matter of teamwork!

Thursday, August 13th, 2020

Nyel is ever patient; I’m more impulsive.  Nyel tends to be cautious in his judgements; I’m more decisive.  Nyel is reasoned; I’m intuitive.  Both of us are persistent and usually we have the same goals in mind.  We make a good team.  Almost always.

Right now we are spending our afternoons trimming the rhododendrons that form a sort of hedge along the west side of our house.  It’s something Nyel used to take care of each summer when he had two good legs.  Now that he is wheelchair-bound, he can do most of it but I get to do the back parts that he can’t reach.  It’s definitely a team effort and sometimes generates a bit of “discussion” between us.

We began the project day before yesterday and are prepared for it to take four or five days in all.  Partly that’s because my legs tell me to quit after an hour or two and partly it’s because we have only so much space to store yard debris before it can be hauled away.  Two gigantic outdoor garbage bags full and we stop for the day.

The first day was the hardest.  There was a lot of “discussion” as to height, width, spacing etc.  Tucker wandered over at one point and said something like “looking great” and I thought perhaps he had heard us clear over at his house.  Yikes!  But he said not.  But, he was not interested in my suggestion that he take my clippers and have a turn at it.  My Tom Sawyer generosity didn’t even tempt him!  I guess it didn’t look like that much fun…

Each day goes better than the day before.  We know there will be some fine tuning to be done eventually and we can only hope that by then our process will be going perfectly smoothly and that we will be happy with the results.  Teamwork!  It’s the name of the game.


Speaking of local color…

Monday, July 27th, 2020

Finally!  Those recalcitrant mastershalums are blooming!  And everything else is, too.  I love it!  Even though there’s always something to be done around the edges, the blossoms hither and thither take my mind off the needy spots!

September Dahlias in July!

The dahlias, bless their pointy little heads, are earlier than ever.  I wonder if it’s part of Mother Nature’s nourishment formula —  giving us something beautiful to carry us through these ugly times we are enduring.  I’m not one to think that there has been some grand plan afoot since the beginning of time, but it is interesting that in this bleakest and scariest of summers our gardens flourish and soothe our souls.

Tostada with Rice and Salsa

Tostada with Rice and Salsa

Our garden isn’t the only colorful location in this particular sheltering spot.  The kitchen table at any given mealtime is a sight to behold.  Usually, I’m so eager to tuck into whatever Nyel is offering, I don’t give a thought to the photo opportunities right in front of me.  Friday’s tostada dinner called out “photo op” just in time!

For all the worries and scary parts of right now, it’s reassuring to look a little more closely right here at home.  We count our blessings every day and pray that we all reach November intact.

What has happened to the mastershalums?

Tuesday, July 21st, 2020

View from My Front Doorway

“Christopher Robin gave me a mastershalum seed, and I planted it, and I’m going to have mastershalums all over the front door.”

“I thought they were called nasturtiums,” said Piglet timidly, as he went on jumping.

“No,” said Pooh. “Not these. These are called mastershalums.” A.A.Milne.

I’ve always adopted Pooh’s optimism about mastershalums and we, too, have had them all over the place.  In fact, for years they have crawled up over our porch and cheered our visitors along their way to the front door.  We have a few of those trailing nasturtiums again this year but our crop of new ones has generated all leaves and only one blossom so far.  Very disappointing.

Precarious Perch

On the other hand, our “crop” of swallows, at least on the front porch, is thriving.  As I stepped out there this morning, I was blasted by  squawking and scolding from both both mom and dad, or so I thought at first.  As I looked up at the nest over the windowsill, I thought perhaps the noise might be directed to the babies, not to me.

There are four of them, but this morning one was barely visible as the others crowded greedily up to nest’s edge, precariously balanced by my reckoning.  If I were their mom, I’d be screeching, too:  “Get back!  Be careful!  You’ll fall!”  That happened to one of the over-enthusiastic babes last year and we found him (or her) toes up on the porch.  If these are the same parents, no wonder they were frantic.

Lonely Mastershalum Blossom

Otherwise, all was peaceful in the garden.  The daisies are growing to beat their record.  I can almost hear them lording it over the reluctant mastershalums.  There are dahlias and snapdragons and hydrangeas in bloom and the roses are threatening to weight down the picket fence with their blossoms.  Nevermind that Portia’s gentle rain from heaven was droppething all around.  It was lovely — just as it should be on this 21st of July!

Before the sun crested the horizon…

Wednesday, July 15th, 2020

By Dawn’s Early Light

Back and forth, forth and back I walked yesterday morning.  8,000 steps and all before breakfast!  And all because our “lawn” to use the term loosely, is more buttercups and dandelions than grass.  “Weed and Feed” we were told by the experts.  Best time to spread it, while the dew is still heavy on the surface but not on a day when it’s likely to rain.

Around here, the day chooses you and not the other way around.  Yesterday was it.  I loaded the spreader, set the dial at 3½ as instructed, and started off.  I planned to do the worst area first — the east lawn.  If the both the lawn and I survived, I’d tackle the north lawn the next day (which is now today.)

Back? Or… forth?

Well, I did survive and I see no evidence of anything dire (or otherwise) happening on the east lawn so I was ready to roll at 6:30 this morning.  But, the “dew” was falling enough to form droplets on my glasses and that’s not recommended for the best (or any) results.  “No active rain.”  So here I am.

Front Page Today

As I sat down to write this post, I saw the online front page headline in the ObserverCovid-19 came calling on July 4, test says.  I could actually feel my blood pressure rise.  If the test is accurate, at least 30 virus-infected people were in Long Beach over the weekend of the Fourth.  Suddenly, I couldn’t see.  The droplets on my hair and glasses had turned to steam…  What is the MATTER with our leadership? Encouraging thousands of people to come to the beach?  And without enforcement relative to mask-wearing?  Putting our residents at unnecessary risk?  Do they actually WANT Pacific County to become some sort of epicenter?  Maybe of stupidity?  But I digress…



Where’s our hedge fund when we need it?

Monday, June 29th, 2020

Nyel On The Attack

It was at least twenty-five years ago, but I remember it clear-as-clear.  My mother was still living in this house and we were a mile down the bay at our place.  She called early one Saturday morning and said that we had to “drop everything” and come tend to the rhododendrons outside her bedroom windows.  “They are completely blocking the view and pretty soon they’ll block out the light completely.”

We allowed as we could come over later and see what we could do.  We didn’t give her worries much credence.  She was always a bit of a drama queen, after all.  But, when we got there we found that her alarm was well-founded.  The rhodies seemed to have grown by leaps and bounds and just overnight — or at least within the last week when we had been there doing a bit of yard work.  We conceded as to how something had to be done.

No. I’m not sitting down!

I have no memory of our solution — mostly because I don’t think I was involved.  Nyel, bless him, got right on it and trimmed all of the rhodies in the garden — not just those around the house, but those along the east fence, as well.  As I remember, our burn pile grew to a burn hill and then to a burn mountain by the time he had things tidied up.  It must not have seemed too onerous, however, because one of the first things he did after we moved into the house in the late nineties was to plant a long row of Jean Marie Rhododendrons along our west fence — not quite double the trouble, but almost.

Trimming the rhodies has been one of the summer chores every year since that first call for help from mom.  Until last year (when Nyel began life in a wheelchair) I haven’t been involved.  Now, however, it has become a team effort — Nyel getting the front parts that he has access to and me wriggling ’round to the back between house or fence and plants to get the parts he can’t reach.  And now that we are old and impaired, it takes about four or five times as long for the two of us than it did for the one of him on both feet.

In the first five minutes…

There will come a day, of course, when we can no longer manage this yearly garden chore.  I was thinking about it as we got ready to have at it again today.  “What we’ll need,” I said to myself, “is a hedge fund.”  But… the really, truly, literal kind.  Not whatever the financial wizards were making headlines with a few decades back.  One more place to spend our hard-earned pennies… Or, we could just let ’em grow.  I wonder if anyone would even notice the house had gone missing.  And us with it.

Lollygagging and Schmoozing

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020

The King and Queen of Lollygagging!

We’ve been spending our afternoons (some, not all) visiting with friends in the sunshine — socially distanced and safe, BYO food/beverage if you wish.  It’s been so relaxed and enjoyable, I’ve neglected to even take a picture.  Lollygagging and schmoozing at its finest!

Yesterday, Erin came over for an hour or so.  We hadn’t seen her for almost a year!  The pandemic can only be blamed for part of it.  When you are a working mom whether from home or out in the world, time is at a premium and we are loathe to intrude.  Yesterday felt really special!  We are honored that she could come for a bit of catch-up time.  And afterwards, she sent a few photos!

Even The Flowers Were Lollygagging!

Plus, Erin left us (well, maybe just me) inspired to get a few things “done” around here!  She talked about all the “projects” she has accomplished despite teaching from home, helping son Diego with the new virtual learning curve, overseeing the farm (Cranguyma) and spending time with her mom.  The words “deep cleaning” were the ones that resonated with me — as in why haven’t I done any.

So, thanks Erin for the visit, the inspirational thoughts and mostly just for lollygagging and schmoozing away a sunny few hours with us.    It was so fun!



Everything’s rosy at our house!

Saturday, June 13th, 2020

Dorothy Perkins – 2016

Just when I begin lamenting the end of the lilacs and rhododendrons in our garden, here come the roses!  They always take me by surprise — mostly because they come in June which isn’t a very rosy month here in Oysterville — nor weather-wise, anyway.  It’s usually misty-moisty or downright rainy, and could spoil my Oh-Boy-It’s-Almost-Summer attitude.  But, then… tah dah!  Here come the roses!

Hybrid Tea Rose, Maybe

We have four different kinds of roses in our garden.  Three of them are back behind the kitchen where they are seldom seen except by us.  Somehow, that pleases me.  One bush (or is it a tree?) grows against the house outside my office.  It can only be seen from the kitchen window and I think it knows that it blooms just for us.  I have no idea what kind it is — maybe a “hybrid tea rose” whatever that is.  It looks like it would make a perfect bud vase sort of rose — but it really doesn’t.  I’ve learned to leave it uncut if I want to enjoy it for a longer period of time.  Of the four roses in our garden, it’s the only one with a fragrance that my old nose can detect.

Old Fashioned Climber

Just beyond that lovely deep red rose are the delicate little pinky-white climbing roses that came out of nowhere and established themselves along the back wall of our garage.  For lack of a proper name, I just refer to them as “old-fashioned climbers.”   Cutting them for bouquets is always tempting but they told me long ago that they don’t like it.  They are happiest in situ.

And then there are the York Roses, or at least that’s what my dad called them.  They are a variegated rose, red and white, and are said to commemorate the Wars of the Roses (1455-85), a series of English civil wars fought between the houses of Lancaster and York.   The wars were named many years afterward from the badges of the contending parties: the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster.  Although my dad always called it the “York Rose” it is more properly known (of course) as the “York and Lancaster.”

York Roses

Our only roses that are up front for all the world to see are the sweet little Dorothy Perkins that climb along our west fence.  First planted here in the 1920s by my grandmother, they bloom all summer and fall but have yet to make their appearance this year.  Over the years, many people — visitors as well as locals — have asked for cuttings which we have willingly supplied.  It pleases me to think that Dorothy Perkins on other fences in town — at the church and near the schoolhouse — came originally from Helen Richardson Espy, my beloved “Granny.”

In A Garden Full of Reds and Lilacs

Friday, May 8th, 2020

Big Red Rhodie

The Reds are out in all their glory — the Jean Maries along the west and east fences, the huge no-name Red in front of the chicken coop and the smaller no-name Red near the cannon.  And, of course, Little Red Hen and Nyel-Who-Once-Was-A-Redhead, too.

It really is the BEST time of year in our garden.  Even though the reds dominate, there are other blossoms everywhere.  The lilacs by our east porch and over by the gazebo are in their glory.  Other rhodies — Mrs. G. W. Leak and those huge bushes with the purple blossoms along the north fence — are more glorious than ever.  It’s as if they are ssying, “We love to have you home!  Keep sheltering and stay safe with us!”

Nyel and Little Red Hen

For her part, Little Red Hen comes running whenever either of us is in the garden.  She loves to “help” me, scratching and pecking where I’ve been weeding to make room for nasturtium seeds.  I’ve told her that once I plant them, she’ll have to stay away, but she just gives me that cocky one-eyed look and I know I’ll have to confine her to the coop if I want those seeds to have a chance.

Lilacs In Profusion

She’s fickle, though, and easily distracted.  As soon as Nyel shows up, she abandons me and the tenuous promise of wriggly earthworms, much more interested in the here and now of dried meal worms in the Farmer’s hand.  Little Red is  about three now, the oldest of our three hens.  I wonder if she remembers Farmer Nyel from the days before his wheelchair and if that’s why she’s the friendliest of the girls.

All-in-all, we count our blessings during this 2020 Spring.  There is beauty wherever we look in the garden and entertainment, too!  Who could ask for more?