Posts Tagged ‘garden’

Betwixt and Between

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020

So, now that the library is open, we are back to the waiting game.  Only worse.  The books that were on hold for us in March are again making their way through the list of waiting patrons, but the books we were reading to tide us over are long since finished and returned.  So, I’m still reading from our bookshelves here in Oysterville.

Right now, it’s Life In A Medieval Castle by Joseph & Frances Gies (1974) complete with many photographs and diagrams showing towers and guardhouses, baileys and barbicans and all that good stuff.  Probably my dad’s.  I’m interested in the construction methods and designs only because I’ve visited many of the castles and/or ruins that are described.

William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke
By Kjetilbjørnsrud, CC

What interests me more are the stories of those who lived in those castles.  Take John Marshal who, in the chronicles of 12th century England won mention as “a limb of hell and the root of all evil.”  Among his other ‘accomplishments:’ during a battle he hid out in the bell tower of a burning church and, despite the lead of the tower roof melting and a drop splashing on his face and putting out an eye, he refused to surrender.

Later, having made good his escape, he was prevailed upon to hand over his young son William to the king as a hostage against a possible act of treachery during a truce.  John went ahead, committed the treachery and when King Stephen threatened to hang young William unless John surrendered his castle, John cooly replied that he did not care if his son were hanged, since he had “the anvils and hammer with which to forge still better sons.”  Yikes!

Magna Carta, 1215

Luckily (probably for us all), young William’s “cheerful innocence” as he was led to the hanging grounds won the King’s heart and the child was spared.  He grew up with his father’s “soldierly prowess but without his rascally character” to become one of the most distinguished of all the lords of Chepstow Castle and the most renowned knight of his time.  According to the authors, “He served King Richard and then King John for many years and played a leading — perhaps the leading — role in negotiating the Magna Carta.”  And I’m only on page 36!

It’s always nice to know how really difficult periods of time turned out.  We can only hope that we are still around to see how our own siege is resolved.  Who will be the William Marshal of our time?


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…



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?

Undaunted… Well, maybe not quite.

Friday, April 3rd, 2020

Austrian Beauty

Our garden has been left to its own devices for a while, mostly due to the weather but partly because of the Sheltering Syndrome.  We are absolutely fine with sheltering in place until someone yells ollie-ollie-oxen-free but the problem might be that we are TOO fine with it.  That’s the “syndrome” part.  As in I’m starting to think of my world as confined within these four walls.

So, yesterday I forced (well almost) myself to do a walk-about in the garden.  Some of our rhodies have been blooming profusely and I apologized to them for not getting a picture when they were at their peak.  The deer people have been enjoying the camellias more than ever and that warranted another apology — I should have been giving the leaves a shot of deer repellent occasionally.

Windblown but Brave

The narcissuses (say it three times real fast) that Cousin Lina brought from Austria are still blooming and they are beautiful!  But… they are pretty crippled up from recent winds and rains.  I took their pictures, anyway, and commiserated with them.  “We’re all going through a bad patch right now.  Thanks for hangin’ in,” I told them.

I know that the only earthly reason not to get out there more frequently is inertia.  Who’da thunk that would be a side effect of sheltering in place?  And now that I know… will anything change?  We’ll see…

We picked our plum tree bare…

Monday, September 10th, 2018

…singing every stretch of the way!  (Well, I was; Nyel doesn’t sing.) If you are a “Double J and the Boys” fan, you know Judy Eron’s wonderful song of revenge, “I Picked His Plum Tree Bare.”  It can easily work its way into your head and become a serious earworm without any provocation at all.  But, when you are actually picking plums, singing that song becomes an unequivocal imperative.

This was a first-ever experience for us, even though that plum tree is more than a decade old.  We got it – a dwarf Italian Prune Plum – along with our two apple trees and planted them all on the south lawn.  I guess we were thinking “orchard” but soon realized, as did the trees, that it wasn’t a fruitful (ahem!) idea.  All three of the trees developed problems.

The plum tree seemed the healthiest and was definitely the most pleasing to the eye.  But, as the years went by and it was producing no fruit at all, Nyel got disgusted and moved it out into the back forty.  It has been one of those out-of-sight-out-of-mind things and it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that Nyel noticed a young plum.  No!  Wait!  Lotsa plums!

Yesterday, we decided it was time to harvest.  Both of us are beyond our ladder-climbing years, but it is a dwarf tree, after all…  So, between the two of us (and following the no-climbing-beyond-the-third-rung rule) we emulated our friend Judy.  We picked that plum tree bare!  Nine and a half pounds of gorgeous plums hidden among the foliage.  Hard to see.  Tricky to get to.  But apparently undisturbed by deer or birds or tourists. And, they are plum delicious!!

A Continuing Saga

Thursday, September 6th, 2018

Let The Work Begin

The final step (I hope to goodness) in the Great Septic Upgrade Saga began yesterday.  First, came Eugene, one of the Beach Time landscaping guys.  Next came three truckloads of dirt – yards and yards of it.  I don’t know how many.  It’s easier just to think of it as it appears – three big piles in the middle of our drain field.

Next, Eugene brought the skip loader that he had at-the-ready in the lane.  The plan, he said, is to feather out the dirt so that there it will blend gradually with the rest of the lawn.  He made a few passes at the east end and then, apparently, his workday was over and he disappeared, leaving his equipment neatly parked and at the ready for today.

Poised for Work

Eventually (I think) there will be a layer of topsoil and then the new lawn will be seeded and the watering will begin.  I hope the sprinklers will be set up to operate on some sort of a timer.  However it all works, I look forward to a healthy lawn before too many more months go by.  I should say a healthy lawn in that particular area of the yard.  The rest of our lawn will no doubt suffer mightily from the green grass envy syndrome.

In Pre-Saga Days

Not only is our existing lawn brown in many spots due to summer drought conditions (plus a healthy dose of benign neglect by the homeowners) but even the green parts are largely green-not-grass.  I’ve gradually come to terms with that green-not-grass.  With my ever-dimming eyesight, it looks pretty good from afar – very acceptable when one considers the alternative.

And then there are the totally bare spots.  Moles, the removal of a tree, and who knows what else have taken their toll.  I’ve been watering like crazy and Nyel has scattered a little grass seed in spots, but it is slow going (make that growing.)  I’ve trained myself not to look down when it comes to the local vista.

Hopefully, all will blend together seamlessly and (mostly) effortlessly on our part.  Probably wishful thinking but hope still springs eternal when it comes to such matters.  Also… we aren’t mentioning any of this to the girls.  They’ll no doubt wonder about being cooped up (so to speak) for the next few months but Farmer Nyel says there are priorities. Even when it comes to chickens.

Looking for time to just… sit.

Saturday, July 21st, 2018

A few years back…

Our friend Cate said that our place looked like “a home for old people.”  She was talking about our garden and the chairs that were lined up invitingly all in a row.  She said it jokingly, but still… That was a few years back – when we were a lot younger and I could laugh at her description.  Now?  I wish we still had those chairs!

Nyel never did like them much.  They were hard to get in and out of but, more than that, he had to sit with his head at a peculiar (and uncomfortable) angle because the high back of the chair was not compatible with his hat.  (Hats are imperative for old people in the summer, you know.)  He toughed it out, mostly for my sake, I think.  In line with my general philosophy, ‘appearances are everything,’ I loved those chairs.  They were colorful and inviting – to young and old, I thought!

The Hat Problem

We’ve had our eye out for suitable replacements but, mostly, we’ve only seen clones of those dangerous, collapsing chairs.  So, we’ve done without.  Then I had a bit of an epiphany.  We have in our back-forty, eight ancient (and very banged up) folding metal chairs – they went with the card tables that my folks had back in the seventies and eighties.  I think they got them second-hand.  They’ve been used and misused for half a century and are so ugly that I can hardly stand them.  If only they were pretty, bright colors thought I.

Cans of spray paint at Jack’s were my solution.  Yesterday Nyel painted the first four.  I love them!  They won’t be especially comfortable but they look terrific and will serve the purpose – sitting at the picnic table or just hanging out admiring the bay — without hat issues.  Or gazing at the the flowers.  Or schmoozing with Cate and the other old people that might be joining us… if we ever have time to just sit around!

Gardens! Music! Art! Appetizers!

Thursday, July 19th, 2018

Music in the Gardens is coming right up!  Saturday, July 21st from ten to four.  We’ve have our tickets in hand.  We also have lists of musicians and artists, which gardens they will be in, and at what times. Trying to decide where to go first and in what order to proceed is a lot like putting together a life-sized three-dimensional puzzle.

Tickets, which include a map and the garden descriptions, are the crucial element.  They cost $20 and are available at the English Nursery in Seaview, the Basket Case Greenhouse in Long Beach, and at the Bay Avenue Gallery in Ocean Park.  Hurry!  Do not pass go!  They are your entrée to a day of enchantment.

If you are like me and want to see it all, musicians and artists schedules are available on the Water Music Tour Facebook page:   Rather than duplicate that information here, I’ll just give an overview to whet your appetite.

Garden #1 – Singer Songwriter Brian O’Connor with Ceramic/Garden Tile Artist Renee O’Connor.
Garden #2 – Jazz Musician Tom Grant with Basket-Maker Susan Spence.
Garden #3 – Tanz and Sea Strings (musical duo Judy Eron and Charlie Watkins) with Metalwork Artist Jacob Moore.
Garden #4 – Brad-n-Dave Acoustic Band with Watercolor Artist Betsy Toepher with Kent Toepher selling garden books.
Garden #5 – Jean-Pierre Garau and Al Perez of the Al Perez Band with Sculptor Constance Jones.
Garden #6 – Guitarist George Coleman with Potter David Campiche and Topiary Artist Nansen Malin.

Coordinating the times is the tricky part, especially if you want to catch all the musicians.  For those, checking the FaceBook page is really a must.  If it helps any, the artists in Gardens #1, #3, #4, and #6 will be there all day. Other artists and all musicians have two- to four-hour blocks of time.  As I said at the beginning — Trying to decide where to go first and in what order to proceed is a serious challenge – but a delightful one, even so!

The tour will truly be a feast for all the senses!  Oh… and did I mention food?  Many of the garden hosts will be offering appetizers – often being served on porch or deck. I hope to see you somewhere along the tour route on Saturday!

It Seems to be Snowing at Our House

Saturday, May 19th, 2018

Flakes of Paint, Not Snow

The lawns, the flower beds, even the porch – no matter where we look, there is “snow.”  Some of it is an improbably bright pink; some is a faded red; and some is stark white.  The rhododendrons are losing their blossoms!  But, even more distressing, the tired, old paint has been scraped from the house and the residue blows hither and thither, breaking into smaller and smaller flakes.  On the green leaves and on the grass and in the newly mulched beds – wherever it settles – it looks exactly like we’ve been visited by one of those winter flurries.

Snow Falling on Cedars

I remember this phenomenon from paintings past and I know I will be picking up bits and pieces for years to come.  However, when the walls are pristine and white again and the flowers are blooming to distract the eye, I probably won’t give it a thought.  And I console myself with all the other snowfall images that are brought to mind.

My first thought, on seeing those white flakes on the glossy leaves of the Jean Maries was “Snow Falling on Rhodies” which led immediately, of course, to Dave Guterson’s wonderful Snow Falling on Cedars. It’s a book I haven’t read since it’s publication in 1994.  Its subject matter – the racism and hatred of Japanese Americans during World War Two, their incarceration in “Relocation Camps” and their difficulties in returning to their communities after the war – has many implications for our world of today.  I think it’s time for a re-read.

That ‘snow’ also puts me in mind of one of my favorite children’s paintings, Done by a first, second, or third grader in one of my classes at Ocean Park School, it is the quintessential Snow Picture!  There is no question about how the painter felt about that all-too-rare occasion here when the snow really, really comes down fast and furiously.  I wish I could remember who painted it.

In truth, it’s only when I’m working out in the garden that I find those snowy paint flakes distressing.  But I’d better find a way to come to terms with them.  Like so many modern-day aftermaths and consequences, no matter how diligent we are in our clean-up attempts, the problems linger on.  Relentlessly.