Archive for December, 2010

There was a lot of noise last night, I couldn’t sleep.   There were loud booming noises and I kept thinking that burglars were at the gate and I was just restless.   Then this morning it was so wet and the wind was wild and She didn’t really want to be out in it even though She walked around a bit outside.

She had to put that stuff from the bucket in the kitchen that smells so interesting onto the pile of old leaves at the back of the place.   She did a thing with a stick in a pot of water and said something about almost two inches of rain last night but I didn’t really catch it all because I was smelling a rabbit which turned out to be frozen at the top of the dill hill and so I had to chase it.   When I got back She was back inside with that ash bucket that makes me move away from the stove every morning.

I think this is the best.   Really.   Well, except I love to have my ears rubbed and lately there have been a lot of young people around who seem to think they have nothing better to do than rub my ears and I will say that I could do this all day.   Really.

So while I couldn’t sleep last night I started thinking about stuff — yes I DO think sometimes no matter how many times They say silly dog — and I remembered some stuff that happened since the last big dark night season.   Last time this year I got to play in the snow a lot.  It was very cold but it didn’t matter because after we were done having fun we could come back in and enjoy the stove.

It was great and She took me on very interesting walks at a spot pretty far from here.  I mean it involves a car ride where the wind gets so stiff it blows my eyelids back but out there there are ponds and lots of animals to sniff and piles of leaves and ticks too unfortunately but we must put up with some bad stuff to have the good stuff and that place is really good.  Anyway, we went there a lot and She spent a lot of time pointing that little box She carries around at the hard water.

Sometime back there right around the time the weather warmed up my cat friend went to sleep and got very cold — colder than usual.   I haven’t seen him around since then I’m not sure where he went but I miss him.

I guess She does too sometimes She sighs very hard.   Anyway I missed him so much at first it made me very worried when She went away for a long trip someplace They kept calling Costa Rica.   Oh yeah, He went too before her but I’m afraid I didn’t really notice it that bad because She was here and then when She went off I started wondering if She was ever coming back like that cat and then I just couldn’t eat I wasn’t hungry.

But then She came back.   It was great.

We went for lots of walks and every week my friends would come to pet my ears and then they’d go off into the forbidden room with Her and spend an hour there and then they’d come out and my friends would be all smiling and relaxed and they’d pet my ears some more and then they’d say “see you later, Ruby!”   When the weather turned hot the Boy Turned Man came to visit with a sweet smelling girl who liked to rub my ears too.   And that was great.

Around that same time things seemed to go all topsy turvy around here They started getting up before the sun which They never did much before.  It was very confusing They would go around doing stuff and then He would leave for a long time and come back in the afternoon.   This has been going on for a long time now even months and They don’t show any signs of changing back to the other way where They would sleep until the sun rose like any normal animal would do.  But every once in a while They kiss each other and say “It’s worth it, the finances are improving and we’ll get to go on a cruise” which I don’t really understand except for that last word which I remember last time involved them being gone ForEver and I didn’t like it.

Then They decided to move the furniture all around which was extremely confusing and boring.

Then all sorts of people came to visit there was a party or something with lots of food and then TBTM and the girl came again and a lot of other people, which was great because they petted my ears but for a while She was very busy doing something or other with a buzzing machine and lots of prickly things that you don’t want to accidentally eat because they hurt the inside of your mouth.

He seemed to think it was a good thing when She finally let him have it after a party that involved all the family people and a bunch of colored paper and ribbons.   I don’t understand why people have to put extra furs on themselves and they are never the same and beautiful and sleek like mine, but all different colors and smells.   It just takes them so long to get ready to go for a walk sometimes.   You know it hardly takes me any time my shoes are always on.

Anyway, here it is a whole cycle of seasons gone by.   I heard Her say that they couldn’t make the same resolution as they did last year, which was “no new projects” even though they were quite successful at keeping that resolution.   I don’t know what it means but I’m sure that it will involve digging dirt and moving rocks which I always think is a lot of fun.   So interesting smellwise, you know.

Anyway, She seems to be putting her shoes on so I think we are probably going to go for a walk now.

Gotta go, you all take care and I’ll talk to you later.

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It seems like this time of year it is obligatory to make some sort of summary that involves a top ten list.   I’ve been noticing this year that ten is not enough to list all the quaint happenings in the celebrisphere, or to enumerate the disasters and falls from grace in the sporting world.

Honestly, I have been going nuts all month trying to keep up with my commitment to post every day.   I don’t have time to make a top ten list, and besides my commentary on each listing would be way too extensive.  We’re talking book length here.

I have to talk about clothing, which I wear of necessity not because I like it.  The items I received this Christmas from various sources  are the perfect example of why it is dicey to give people clothes.   Sometimes you hit it exactly right, and sometimes you don’t.

Unequivocally, every garment I received is gorgeous.   One is a hand knitted scarf from outrageously beautiful multicolored yarn that is mostly purple.  I love it.  I now have about sixty-leven different ways to keep my neck warm, since I own so many methods (some of which date back to my days in Fairbanks, Alaska) none of them is in any danger of being worn out.  Another gift source arrayed me with a sweater and a wind/rain jacket with zip out lining and a matching purple sweater. I have almost lived in the sweater since, although I don’t have it on today  because the weather is quite windy, warm and humid and the garment is too warm for this weather.

I begin to think that people are afraid I might get cold and want to prevent that.

Serendipitously, the new scarf and the jacket are exactly right together, both in style and color.   You’d almost think those people conferred with each other when choosing for me, but I bet they just noticed what colors I like to wear.

The fabulous jacket, which is perfect in design and color and exactly what I wanted, is too small.   So I will have to exchange it.   The wise soul who purchased it for me kept the receipt, and that is now in the pocket of the jacket.    Too bad, Jim and I are going to have to go to Springfield to perform this transaction and might be forced to go out to lunch there.

I also received a skirt.   Oy.   It is beautiful in its own way, but I have to admit that it gave me “Present Face.”

I wish someone would invent a garment that automatically senses when a hot flash is starting and will disappear into another dimension momentarily while it is going on, to be retrieved gracefully once the event horizon has passed.   I didn’t get any of those, and I need them on a regular basis.

I also received books, surprise surprise.   One of them is a little too inspirational:   “Edible Landscaping” by Rosalind Creasy.   I am seeing it as the companion book to the other radical literature that is resting on my coffee table, which I succumbed to earlier in the year:  “The American Meadow Garden” by John Greenlee with photography by Saxon Holt.  (Mr. Holt has photos in Ms. Creasy’s opus, too.)  These books have been preying on my mind lately, calling into question the whole “being a gardener” thing.

I am preparing to rant about this rabble rousing literature, so I want to say before I go off on the rant that I absolutely love both of these books, they are well written, beautifully illustrated and full of excellent information about the way to make change in your landscape happen, and cultivation instructions for literally hundreds of plants.   I recommend them both highly.   But. . .

I alternate between having huge visions of what I want on the property and questioning my own sanity for entertaining such vast projects.  Earlier this year I had a brainstorm caused by the Greenlee book:  “Just rip out the whole front lawn and replace it with a meadow garden!”   That is a grand idea.   Since I had it I have learned that if I had someone do it for me it would cost around $7,000 just for the hardscape, no plants included.   Doing it ourselves will keep us busy for a couple of years, I figure.  This project seems to involve completely revamping the labyrinth at the same time.  At present, I have started a nursery project to grow plants for the space when it is ready.

I had just about decided that I knew exactly what I wanted out front when Santa Claus  dropped the fat, slick, gorgeously illustrated book on edible landscaping I referred to above in my lap.   My world is in a whirl, now.  This book can move me from sublime admiration to complete annoyance in the turn of a phrase.   Just as I did when I was reading and re-reading the Greenlee book, I wonder how much money the people this woman works for have.    I wonder how much money she thinks we have.    From every page, beautiful rock walls and pillars made of native stone by local artisans sport garlands of semi hardy vines.  Okay, I’m exaggerating here, not every page.  And sometimes there are no pillars.

We are told that it is easy to prepare a 5×20 foot garden bed, “It’s an easy weekend project that anyone can do.” (p.168)   I’d love to see her single-handedly work 100 square feet of my clay rock limestone bermuda grass lawn into a planting bed in a weekend.  She forgot the digging bar in her list of required materials, I’m afraid.   I’ll supply the beer and we can all have a party while we watch the drama unfold.

We are informed blithely that when choosing fruit trees to grow,  “Zone envy need not come into play.   You can always grow a less hardy plant, such as a pineapple guava or citrus, in a large container and move it outdoors for summer and indoors for winter.”  (p. 138)  I envision my 83 year old mother  dragging a large container with a lemon tree in it up the stairs of her 20’x24′  house and setting it by her arm chair as a coffee table for the winter.

Right.   Just move it in.   In a large container.    I guess everybody has a sun room with no threshhold and no steps up to it.    Or we should.   I’ll just run add one of those on to the house.  Actually, that is on my list of long term goals, under “Greenhouse.”

Creasy suggests that when we are assessing our yards preparatory to making a landscape plan, we should think about what would happen if we just put a door into the master bedroom or replaced the window in the family room with a door.   What would that do to the use of the outside space?   I’m thinking, “What would that do to my budget?   How much would that cost, anyway?   Last time I had a contractor change something we were getting new double paned windows that actually open and shut and keep the cold air at bay and that cost us several thousand dollars.   Punching a hole through the wall????”

I want an edible landscape all right, I’ve started incorporating that idea into the stroll garden, and now I have a lot more ideas.   I especially want that ironwork cage that was built around the small orchard in that English garden to keep the birds off the fruit planted within it.    The concept is innocently presented in the text under Critter Control:   “Generally, fences, traps, or bird netting could be in order, especially for nuts and berries.   Or screen in the fruit to create a cage.”  (p.140)

The illustration at the top of that page appears innocent enough at first blush.    It is when you go in for a closer look that you see that the “cage” she is using as an example is about 15 feet tall at the peak, roughly 30 feet in diameter, and made of beautifully styled iron work.   The caption:   “Don’t forget critter control.   The focal point of this English garden is a formal fruit cage filled with blueberries, gooseberries, and currants underplanted with strawberries.   Black wire mesh on the sides and top keeps out critters such as deer, rodents, and birds, yet the mesh is large enough to let bees in to pollinate the flowers.” (p. 140)

Now I know what I have been doing wrong.   I haven’t been born into an English aristocratic house, or chosen a multimillionaire for my mate, or figured out how to build that better mousetrap so the world would beat a path to my door.

We just watched the animated film “Despicable Me” earlier this week, and it has provided us with another catch phrase.   “We need minions!”  This may replace “We need 1,000 coolies!” which was brought into our vernacular by Grace Boynton’s book, “The River Garden of Pure Repose.”

I guess I’m going to have to learn how to do ironwork.  And find some minions.

Finding a bunch of money would be good too.

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Empty nest at last

It has been quite the month here at The Havens.   We have enjoyed almost non-stop guests since December 10.   We had quite a long stint with visitors around Thanksgiving, too.

I enjoy having people visit, I really do.   It just seems ironic that all the visitors had to arrive during the same time period, and at the busiest time of the year.   I mean, we went pretty much all year without guests here, except for Jesse’s leave during late June to early July.   We did receive the occasional visit from our niece Alexandra, but she integrates with the household so well that it isn’t the same at all.   And besides, she often cooks wonderful things for us when she is here.   So it’s more like having a chef drop in rather than a “house guest.”

The last group made quite a house full.   I’m not sure what we would have done if we had had to find beds for them all.  That problem was alleviated by the two adults of the four people visiting staying at a nearby hotel.  We are looking into providing the back bed room (the box room) with some sort of convertible bed.  Right now we use a blow up air mattress, which is fine unless someone has mobility issues.   I am not really excited about buying a sofa bed, since my universal experience with those items of furniture has been very negative.   I can honestly say that I have never slept on a sofa bed that was truly comfortable, and some of them have been excruciatingly uncomfortable.

One such couch made me vow never to make a guest sleep on a bed that I had not spent the night on.  I have not really kept that vow,though.   This week I put my youngest niece in the massage room on the massage table.   But she reported it to be comfortable enough.   Of course, she is very young and flexible.  On the other hand, I have had lots of clients fall asleep on the table, so it can’t be all that bad.

Now, the futon couch, which folds out flat to a futon bed, I have found to be very comfortable.  In spite of that, I have had an older, male, guest inform me that the futon couch we had him on was “too hard” and he didn’t sleep very well.   So I guess it takes all kinds.

Anyway, after the last bunch left I spent some quality time cleaning the joint, not because my guests were so messy but because one of them was carrying an active cold virus along.   This young person was happy to sit in my living room coughing and sneezing without bothering to use a tissue to cover the spewing orificies.    But hey, we all want to stimulate our immune systems fighting off viruses, right?   The young person was doing us a favor by spreading them all over our abode, freely and un-selfishly.

It is interesting to note just exactly how quiet it is here when it is just Jim and me.   I’m not exactly sure why it seems so noisy when there are more people around.   Odd.   Perhaps the “psychic noise level” gets high.   I don’t know.

I just know I am enjoying the peace and quiet.  We certainly enjoyed having the house all to ourselves without any possibility of being walked in on this afternoon.   Something about having the space all to ourselves. . .

And I still have four days of my vacation left.

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My Mother’s Birthday

Today is my mother’s 83rd birthday.

I have spoken of her on this blog before.   She is, like every human, imperfect.  But that does not make her any less amazing and wonderful.  She makes the 25 mile trek into town twice a week to voluntarily teach illiterate adults to read and to help people who quit before they were done get their high school equivalency diplomas.   She was acknowledged by our community for this work last year, receiving the Hometown Heroes Award at their annual breakfast.

She volunteered during the last political campaign too, and canvassed more than any other volunteer.

I could brag some more, I suppose.   For example, in the last couple of years she has built four raised garden beds near her little house, piling concrete blocks for the walls, making concrete to fill the holes, composting, growing and harvesting quite a lot of vegetables.  Even though a lot of people would consider her approaching the end of her days, she does not look at the end, but rather at the process of living.   And because of that focus, she planted over 100 irises in the borders around her yard, to beautify it for the future.

Happy birthday, Mamma.

It’s a cold one, too.   The sun has been up for a couple of hours already, and it is only 20ºF (-6.6°C) out there.   I went out looking for images.

Jerusalem artichoke seed head:

Frost flowers on the pond:

Hoarfrost on top of a fence post:

Everybody try to stay warm, okay?   I’ve got guests arriving in a matter of hours and I must bestir myself to make ready.

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