Tuesday, April 30, 2013

This and That

The weather is expected to rise into the high 80s starting tomorrow, possibly reaching 90* by Saturday.  I can't tell you, dear readers, how that upsets me.  I am not a 90s kind of woman in the first place, but it's much, much too early for that kind of heat.

Because of the imminent apocalypse nuclear meltdown scorching, I have been feverishly trying to get the backyard sorted.  It will be way too hot to be out in the blazing sun working on the slope after today, so it's definitely been a now-or-never scenario this week.

But finally, this afternoon, I think I see the light--no, not that light, though compared to endless work, weeding and digging, I might be ready for that one.  I hope to get the last of the wildflowers planted tomorrow morning, then I'm taking a break.  Which just means I'll be switching from outside work to the inside chores that I have neglected for...um, never mind, forget I even brought it up.


I'm looking forward to May tomorrow.  I've always liked May.  It's such a...I don't know, new beginnings kind of month, with Winter pretty much a distant memory and warm, sunny weather ahead.

On May 1st, when I was a really little kid, we used to make these small cones out of construction paper, glue on paper handles, pick any kind of flowers we could find--mostly dandelion and other weeds, I'm sure--then we would run around the neighborhood, hang them on front doorknobs, ring the bell...and run like mad.  It was wildly fun.

In the UK they still do May Pole dances and there will be many celebrations for Beltane tomorrow. In Edinburgh, crowds of people climb Arthur's Seat before dawn, waiting to be bathed in the first light of morning.  It's a very wonderful pagan ceremony.


Here's a peculiar, though totally cool thing as it turns out.

A few weeks ago I was talking to the BFF and mentioned to her that I thought I had suddenly developed hay fever or an allergy because lately, when I wake up in the mornings, my nose is stuffy and my throat is dry.  She laughs and tells me I'm snoring.  Huh.  As far as I know, only the dogs snore, but I have no way to argue the point since snoring is like that tree in the forest analogy, isn't it.

After we laugh about the various ways I can attempt to hear myself snore, she says I should try those breathing strips you stick on your nose.  More laughter as I add the strips to my growing list of reasons why I will have to remain alone for the rest of my days.

Fast forward a bit.  I'm grocery shopping and by pure happenstance, end up walking down the aisle with the nose things.  I stop, ponder, read the box, then decide to try it.  Why not, right?  I toss a little box of ten into my cart.  Later, I get home and put the box in a drawer in the bathroom and promptly forget all about them.

Until one night I wake up and my nose is so stuffy, I can barely breathe.  Light bulb moment.  I dig out the strips.  And let me say, wow, just totally wow.  Instant gratification.  I stuck that puppy across the bridge of my nose and immediately I can breathe.  It's like I have a brand new nose.  One that actually works.

The next morning, not only did I wake up without a clogged nose, but I actually slept really well, which is a miracle in itself since I suffer from evil twin syndrome insomnia.

The only defect I've found with this amazing invention:  It rips off the top twelve layers of epidermis when it's removed.  Still.  All things considered?  A small price to pay to breathe...

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Week 17 of the 52s...Wildflowers

This morning I got up really early, especially for a Sunday when I would prefer to sleep in a little--though the dogs rarely get on board with that bit of wishful thinking, no matter what day it is.  


I was up early because I wanted to drive to the Glide Wildflower Show, a nationally recognized event with over 600 native species--a huge number of wildflowers for just one state if you ask me--and I wanted to get there before the crowds so I could freely take photos.  It seems odd that such a noteworthy annual event would take place in Blink-And-You've-Missed-It Glide, Oregon, but what do I know; I'm just glad it's within striking distance.

Since my new plan scheme is to cover the wretched slope in the backyard with wildflowers in the hope they will kill off the weeds, and/or overtake the bank so weeds can't grow, I very much wanted to see the show, and find out what plants might survive the blazing Summer sun and near-drought conditions up here on the mountain. 

Plus, I just love wildflowers.

So, quick breakfast, toss the boys in the car, go for our Sunday walk at the VA, then off we go, east on the Oregon Scenic Highway, which is truly aptly named.

The poster which caught my eye immediately a few weeks back and brought about this morning's adventure...

Just walking into the show itself, held at the Glide Community Center...

I didn't get the name of this one.  It was the first photo I took, but before I could read the name card, I got sidetracked by this very interesting (and extremely chatty) woman who was part of the Native Plant Society of Oregon.  This group sponsors several expeditions throughout the year to remote parts of the state to see unique species in their natural environment.  I was intrigued, for sure.

Blue wildflower with no name...

These always give me the creeps.  They're alien and sinister and eat things.  Eewww.  The Pitcher Plant...


In contrast to dark and deadly...the Frosted Paintbrush...

Blue-Eyed Mary...

Giant Horsetail...

One of my top two berries--it's a toss between the Marionberry or the Salmonberry.  I love them both though the Salmonberry is incredibly hard to find.  I would love to find one I could plant in the garden.  I thought it was interesting that the flowers are such a beautiful red, when the berries are truly salmon-colored. 

This little beauty only grows in three places in my part of Oregon...and nowhere else on earth. I find that astounding...and wonderful.  Meadowfoam.  And how cool is that name?

Redwood Oxalis.  So dainty and Shamrock-like.  The flower had purple-ish striations in the tiny petals; maybe visible if you click on the photo...

Crimson Clover...(and now I have that song suddenly filling my head...which has no bearing on anything, except to illustrate how convoluted the pathways are in my brain...)

And last, but totally not least...this one is so incredible, I stood for several moments just staring before I took this shot, and my photo doesn't do it justice.  What an extraordinary flower...The Cat's Ear...

So, I had a most excellent morning, even if I did have to get up at the crack of dawn.  The drive was so nice, the weather was perfect, the wildflowers a joy to behold.  Then, outside the Community Center there was a small area where you could buy local wildflowers.  When I explained what I needed--plants able to withstand scorching Summer sun and mountain bedrock--there were two recommendations:  a type of mountain mallow, and a lupine that grows in terrible soil, again on mountains.  I bought two of each and later today will pickaxe dig new homes for them.

A good Week of the 52s and possibly a great start toward developing my own native wildflower habitat, which makes me very happy.

Now, if I could just get that bugger song out of my head....

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Yesterday whilst toiling in the garden, I was contemplating twos. Not just the obvious: twins, couples, Noah's animals, or the fact that two is the first even number.

No, I was thinking more along the lines of...

...my two wee dogs, that love me unconditionally;

...the two and a half years I've lived on this mountain;

...the same period of time I've been achingly homesick for Scotland;

...that it has been two years since I became a widow. 

On one hand it's gone so fast, I can barely comprehend the speed of it; on the other, I can relive the defining moments in brutal, crystal-clear detail as if it were, in fact, just yesterday.

Time does heal wounds. Eventually.  It helps that I'm strong, mostly capable, and incongruously, in the midst of chaos theory I believe in an underlying method to the madness. 

The one immutable thing I pondered as I toiled in the garden, is that when all is said and done, two is the first number that is divisible.  And that will always leave just one...

Monday, April 22, 2013

Every Day Should Be Earth Day

As the weather is totally perfect this morning, I'm heading outside to the back garden for a few hours to take care of my little portion of Mother Earth.  That will be followed by a shower, a few cold beers in my lounge chair on the back deck, book in hand, for the remainder of the afternoon.  Works for me.

But, before I go...

We need to change so very many things:  How we treat our planet, our fellow human beings, and all the other creatures who share this blue dot in the universe with us. 

This amazing world, filled with abundance and possibilities and promise is all we have.  We can't stop the world and get off, go somewhere else, start over.  This is it people, and if we don't find a way--soon--it's truly going to be too late.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Week 16 of the 52s...A Bit of Solace

It's been a fraught week, weighted with incomprehensible horror.  I actually forgot about the 52s until this morning and honestly, at first I couldn't imagine what to do, even thinking that perhaps this was the week I would take a pass.

But as I stared out my windows, sipping my coffee, listening to the latest news unfold, I decided  I needed to dig, to smell the soil, feel the earth, encourage Life instead of contemplating Death.  I knew exactly what I wanted to do, so after walking the boys, I went to my local garden center and found first a tree, then a shrub; I already had the perfect spot picked out...

There was plenty of room around the gigantor pot, so...

...to the left of the pot I planted this, a new kind of dwarf Lilac that will only grow to about 3 feet and will stay wispy and elegant, and so wonderfully fragrant.

On the right, this dwarf Daphne will also stay within 2-3 feet.  I love the smell of Daphne, but this one?  Holy crap, it's like sticking your head in a bottle of perfume.  I nearly had an allergy attack in the car from the fumes and the dogs kept sneezing, which was pretty funny.

I tried to find a little humor, so added this Whirl-a-gig thing that I just love.  It spins wildly in the wind as the bird bobs from side to side...a bird with a jeweled tail...

I thought about Boston as I planted, I wrestled with despair as I tried to make sense of innocent lives lost, damaged, changed forever.  And for what?  I don't understand what is wrong with us as a species.  Why do we do these things to each other?

In the end, all I could do was plant two small bits of beauty in an ugly world, and try to find hope in the midst of chaos and madness.  It's not enough, not nearly, but that's all I've got right now...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Worth It In The End...

The ongoing saga of my gardening chores continues, though I will be taking a slight break for the next day or two because I nearly nuked myself today.
When the front staircase and deck were rebuilt, I wanted to change the configuration.  The old stairs went straight out the front door barely missing the Birch trees and there was just a small porch.  I moved the staircase to run down the side of the house (away from the trees), and expanded the porch into a deck.  Everything worked perfectly.
Except for the area next to the driveway that clearly shows the underside of the stairs, fondly (not) called the mine shaft...

I had a large oak barrel with a climbing hydrangea covering that space, but last week I moved it into the back garden because it's too hot in the front during the blazing heat of Summer.  Now I have to find something else to cover the entrance to the mine shaft and I don't want another barrel this time.
While walking the boys this morning, I remembered seeing a really big pot in the garden center of my local grocery store so drove over to see if it was still available.  It was.  It also weighed as much as my Blazer.  I had this guy help me load it into the car--he looked like The Rock, and had the same muscle mass--while in the back of my mind I'm wondering how the hell I'm going to get it back out of the car when I get home.  I also bought a beautiful little tree that looked very zen-like, with graceful, lacy fronds.

I haul the tree out of the car, then stare at the mega pot for a minute while options swirl through my mind.  I decide to have lunch to fortify myself for the ordeal ahead. 
There's no one around to lend a hand, so it's up to me.  I decide to carefully roll the 2-ton pot out of the car and into my wheelbarrow, then I can easily roll it the 15 feet to the mine shaft.  Yeah, sure.  Easy.
Ever tried pushing a wheelbarrow with a huge weight in it?  Nearly impossible to roll, so I'm forced to nudge with my legs while both hands steady the pot, until after several thigh-burning lunges, I finally make it to the edge of the stairs.  At that point I tipped the wheelbarrow and rolled the pot onto its side, then more rolling and the pot was in position so I could hoist it upright.
Uh huh.
I won't go into the sounds a normal-sized woman makes whilst lifting a unwieldy object that weighs more than said woman, it would be too embarrassing, but there's no doubt whatsoever that I will be paying for those grunting and groaning maneuvers for days to come.  At the moment I'm just hoping the ER won't be involved later tonight when every muscle in my body twists into corkscrews.
Once the pot was in place, next I had to fill the blasted thing.  Four monumentally heavy bags of dirt later...
I planted two trailing yellow Sanvitalia plants in the pot, too.  By Summer they should fill in around the tree and trail down the pot which will look cool...
So, I am totally pleased.  The pot is perfect, the same color as the redwood stairs, it covers the mine shaft, and the little tree looks just right and can grow in the huge pot for years.

Though the best part?  I did it.  I might be crippled, I could be crawling by morning, but I'm smiling...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Flapjack By Any Other Name...

I've been working outside for most of the day, trying to make a dent in the yard work.  It's actually going fairly well, considering it's a large place and I'm only one person.  Still, I am woman hear me groan whinge moan curse roar.

I was clearing some major weeds along one side of the house, between my closest neighbor and me, when he came outside to chat, scaring the crap out of me because I thought he was still out of town.  He's British, and has been in England for the past three weeks or so.

[When Alan and I first moved into our house, it was such a funny thing to meet him, because really, what are the odds that two Brits would end up in this tiny little town in Oregon, let alone be neighbors up on this mountain?]

Anyway, we caught up on the news, then he smiled and said, "We brought you something.  Wait just a moment."  I keep pulling weeds until he comes back and hands me this...

My most favorite cookies of all time.  Marks & Spencer is a large chain of stores in the UK where we used to shop; it's like a department store with really good food.  Even though these delicious cookies are called Flapjacks--and go figure on that one because they're not in any way like a pancake--they taste like the most buttery, fruity, soft and chewy oatmeal cookies ever made.

I was talking to my neighbor before he and his partner left on their trip, and mentioned--just kidding really--that if they found themselves in M&S to please grab me a package of flapjacks.  How amazing that they actually did!

Just writing about these treats is making my mouth water.  I'm going to try to hold out for as long as I can because once I rip into that package, that's it, and who knows how long I'll have to wait for the next hit.  Last time I was in Edinburgh, I filled one whole side of my carry-on with several packages of these babies.  I ate some on the journey--there's a long layover in NY after all--but once I got home I managed to dole them out for ages until the last crumbs were gone.

So, a very nice surprise from an equally nice neighbor.  And a great incentive to spur me on to get the yard work done.  My reward at the end of it all?  What do you think...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Gloves and Hard Graft

Yesterday I bought some annuals to begin filling my pots and hanging baskets.  I know it's early, even here in southern Oregon, but the store was having a big sale and it's been warm and temperate for days now.  I set the little containers in the back to harden off, then got to work clearing the slope where I want to sprinkle packets of wildflowers in the--no doubt forlorn--hope that a profusion of flowers will overtake the Triffid weeds.

A small section of the bank.  To be fair, part of the greenery are self-seeding California Poppies, which I'm leaving.  They're really cheerful, bright orange and a wildflower.  Unfortunately, the other part of the green is firmly entrenched rubbish...

It's going to take days to make any headway here.  I worked and slaved and dug and yanked.  It wasn't until I took a break that I realized: here was irrefutable proof I was working my fingers to the bone...well, wearing out my gloves anyway.

Don't they look like gorilla hands?  These were my favorite gloves.  I've had them since Edinburgh.  They fit perfectly, tightened around my wrists to stay on no matter what chore I was doing, and used to be a brilliant red that I loved.

The tiny drops were from the rain that was just starting to fall, which actually saved me from carrying on.  I washed up and went back to the store and bought these...

I'm not a fan of pink, but these were the only gloves that tightened at the wrist and had leather fingers.  They'll do.  Besides, by the time I finish weeding that bugger slope, I'll probably need another pair anyway...


N.B.  Forgot to mention that, of course, after I decided it was safe, the temperature dropped into the low 30s last night.  There are now heavy frost warnings for the next several days.  It's all my fault.  I never should have bought those plants...

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sundays In My City...Flora and Faces

This morning I took my camera with me when the boys and I went down the mountain for our walk.  There are so many things blooming after the copious rains and warmer weather I can't resist the siren call of nature...

Remember this shot I took last week of that mysterious orchard across the valley below the house?

Once I sussed out where the road was, and ignored the No Trespassing sign, I found the orchard.  Course, many of the blossoms have fallen due to the winds and rains, and even though I was a bit late in my search, here it is...

I wasn't really sure what kind of orchard it was.  I thought maybe apples?  Then I had to wonder if I actually knew the difference between apple, pear, cherry blossoms.  The answer to what kind of fruit trees these might be was solved when I turned around and drove out of the orchard...

Then it was off to the VA for the usual weekend dog walk.  The main flower show on the grounds are the rhodies, but they're just starting to bud.  Still, there's other things to see--like this tree.  Not a clue what it is, but the little blossoms are lacy and delicate and very interesting...

Another lovely dangling blossom...on another tree I don't know.  And honestly, how ironic is it that I am a veteran tree hugger and yet don't know the names of the trees I see??  Anyway, until I buy a guide to trees, this exotic lime green bloom just captivated me, regardless that I don't know what it is...

This is so Washington, DC to me.  The building reminds me of one you would see in Georgetown, especially with the famous Cherry trees that bloom each Spring in our nation's Capitol...

Nature--or maybe it's just the Darwin need to survive--is so amazing.  Out of nowhere, this lone tulip has sprouted in a bed of iris and daffodil.  Where did it come from?  How did it manage to find a little niche in a cultivated landscape and dig in?


As the boys and I crossed the road from the large field where I let them run off-leash, we meandered along the sidewalk back to the car.  Passing this large tree, I happened to glance over and couldn't help smiling at the totally gnarly face in this tree.  Can you see it?  And man, are those some lips, or what...??

It's been a nice Sunday, though now the fun is over and I have to get outside to tackle the wretched backyard.  The never-ending, work till I drop, help me Rhonda, backyard.  


Guess it's a good thing I love grubbing about in the dirt...


Sundays In My City...brought to you by Mother Nature.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Week 15 of the 52s...Proof

Monday I stopped into the local used bookstore, as I am wont to do a couple times a month.  Since there isn't another bookstore in town for newer books, I usually order those with my Kindle, but I still love having real books.

Sorry.  Digressing.  This isn't about books.

As I'm paying for my paperbacks, I see this intriguing poster on the wall.  The local community theatre group is doing Proof by David Auburn.

I read the little blurb next to the poster about the plot, which sounds really interesting, and better yet, I can buy a ticket right there at the bookstore.  The 52s come to mind.  I love theatre.  I haven't been to a play since leaving Edinburgh, so without hesitation I buy a ticket for Friday night's performance.

UAct, Umpqua Actors Community Theatre.  It's in the Arts Center complex where I walk the dogs most mornings...

All week I'm looking forward to Friday night, then almost bail at the last minute, suddenly nervous about going by myself.  After a bit of waffling, I shrug off the nerves and forge ahead.  After all, the whole point of this exercise is to have new experiences.  Right?

The theatre was very small, only about 80 seats, configured in a U-shape around the stage, though there wasn't actually a stage as the set was built right on the floor: a back porch and a little patio with a table and two chairs.  The folks in the front rows were within ten feet of the actors; too close for me so I sat in a corner at the top of one tier, giving me a perfect place to not only see the performance, but also to watch the people in the audience.  I'd taken my camera, though realized from reading the playbill that cameras weren't allowed, a fact the director reiterated when he introduced the play.  So, no insider photos for this week's post.

The Pulitzer Prize winning drama is about love and family dynamics as the story unfolds on the back porch of an old house in Chicago.  There are only four characters: cryptic 25-year-old Catherine, her really manipulative sister, Claire, their mathematical genius father, Robert, and Hal, one of his ex-grad students from the University of Chicago.

In a nutshell:  The father was a brilliant mathematician until he went crazy.  Claire has moved to NY and left Catherine to take care of him, forcing her to drop out of school and put her life on hold.  The dad dies, and Hal comes to go through his books and papers. He has always had a thing for Catherine, but has never acted on his feelings...until now. They spend the night together, then Claire shows up for the funeral and over the course of her visit pretty much convinces Catherine that she has inherited their father's madness.  Then a proof is discovered that could change the mathematical world, but when Catherine says it's her work, no one believes her.  Heartbreak ensues, encouraged by horrid Claire, but in the final act, there is hope, and a chance at love.

The acting was really good, the set design was amazing for such a small space, and the story was laugh-out-loud funny at times, very poignant, and totally entertaining.  I loved it.

This was one of my favorite Weeks of the 52s, for sure.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Tripping In The Valley

I decided this morning to head out across the valley to the county park because in a few weeks it will be closed to dogs until September--a rule that annoys me no end, but whatever.  I also thought I might stop into Kruse Farms, a very well-known outdoor market in the area that reopened today.  Since they close each year right after Thanksgiving, it's sort of a "Yippee, it must be Spring because Kruse's is open again" big deal.

The walk along the river was really nice.  Hardly any people except fishermen, lots of birds, and just...quiet.  The river was rolling right along, no doubt due to the steady rains we've had for over a week now.

At this park, both the North and South forks of the river converge.  Oddly, the north side (above) is usually turbulent but the south side is calm and placid (below).  Nature is a mystery.

Trees.  I can't resist them...

So after a good long walk--it's a huge park--I drove to the other side of the valley to Kruse Farms.  Not only do they have fresh fruits and veg (though it's a bit early for the real market crops), but several greenhouses right now are filled with plants and flowers.

I wandered through the greenhouses...here are just two...

I really wanted a few of these wrought iron baskets.  I could just see them hanging off the front deck, out of reach of the voracious deer, and looking so cool all Summer.  Unfortunately, Kruse's does all the baskets for the town to hang on all the lamp posts and in front of the shops, City Hall, the Courthouse, the Library so these great baskets were not for sale.  This is just a small portion of the city's flowers; there were at least four times this amount behind where I was standing to take this photo.

Did I mention the bakery?  There is this most excellent bakery in the market building with an amazing selection of pies and candies.  Seriously, walking through those bakery doors is like stepping into Granny's kitchen the day before the church bake sale.  The heavenly aroma of pies fresh out of the oven, the variety of berries and apples, rhubarb and lemons, crumbles and turnovers.  (Oh, sorry, sorry, I'm drooling...)

The bakery was mobbed so I couldn't get any shots of the shelves filled with pies and candies.  Be thankful.  Drool isn't good for computers...

I wanted a pie so, so much, but there's only me after all, and though I could easily eat a whole pie, I honestly know better than to even give that a thought...for longer than a minute or two.  I bought this instead...a Cherry Rhubarb Turnover...

I also bought a jar of Marionberry jam, which is probably my most favorite berry in the world.  I have a recipe for these really great, healthy fruit bars and can't wait to make them with this jam.

You might have noticed from my photos that the weather has cleared up which means I must spend some time out in the jungle backyard this afternoon trying to wrestle some order from the chaos.  

Buggers.  I'd rather eat spoonsful of Marionberry jam...