Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fun with Saran Wrap

Yesterday I was looking at blue sky and sunshine, why I even had to wear my shades. I was basking in the warm sunshine while I sipped my morning latte by the pond. Sigh…

It was a good day to do little seed harvesting for next year's garden. I clipped some seed pods for the Cupids Dart. I just love this plant. It was the most wonderful royal blue flush of flowers and then the seed pods looked so cool afterward. I kind of hated clipping them. I also collected some Candy Tuft seeds. Those little babies have been blooming all summer long. As a matter of fact even though we had excessive heat and drought everything in the garden really bloomed like gangbusters all summer. I will never use anything other than manure and leaf mulch. Best stuff ever!
I also clipped the last of the lavender and swooned. Now don't laugh at me. O.K. you can laugh at me, just do it so I can't hear you. I have never understood the attraction people have to lavender. I didn’t like it in the least. Apparently I have never actually smelled lavender. Nor have I been anywhere near real live lavender. I had only smelled it in those chemical cream factories with the wispy feminine labels they call lotion; when in fact it is more like French fries calling themselves French cuisine because they're French fries. There is absolutely zero resemblance. The fact that I did not know this tells you just how new to the plant world I am. I’m a tad embarrassed. Say, did I mention that I grew these little scent angels from seed? No? Yes!

Then we decided that it was time to cruise up the road a bit to our favorite “tractor with a wagon full of corn for sale on the side of the road” market for some fresh and I mean fresh, corn. We have one more week of corn from these guys for the year. I plan to buy enough to fill up the trunk and the back seat. I love how diverse the regulars are that come to this place every year. I also get a big kick out of seeing the new people because I know that when they get their fresh off the farm corn back home and take their first bite they are not going to know what hit them. We all buy corn in the grocery. I buy corn in the grocery and usually it’s pretty good. This is different. This corn bursts in your mouth like sweet summer sunshine in a delicious candy coating. You can smell the earth in the kernels, taste the sun sugars in the juice and smell the summer heat coming off the husks. I know those new people will never look at grocery store corn the same way again.

Next we decided to visit one of our local wild apple trees. The apples on these trees are not the best. Well they really aren’t good at all. The GOOD ones are coming up here pretty soon and we'll make our trip out for those but, we these for the horses and they love them. Tucker, the brown one, he starts to drool and lick his lips when he sees me with the apples. He gets very exicted. I have learned to step back a bit when I feed him these so I don’t get horse slimed. It can be quite disgusting. Jack has a little more dignity but you gotta watch your fingers.

I then decided that the new side deck was finally ready to be scrubbed and stained. Of course it had only been build last summer but you know, you can ever be too quick to take care of your new and unprotected deck wood I always say. It had been a lovely day all in all. All except that little business with the scrub brush and bucket of course.

While we frolicked in the summer sun there was a dark and ominous cloud lurking nearby that would soon spoil our fun. No, really. There was a dark ominous cloud nearby. It was coming from Alaska and it was freaking cold and wet. We did a 30 degree spread from last week to this one. My last and final act of the day was one of defiance. Of course my husband laughed so hard he almost fell over when he saw me. Why you ask? Well, because I did this:

Yes, that is Saran Wrap. So what? Haven’t you ever seen roses in Saran Wrap before?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Survivor - Extreme Home Edition

I have been thinking of this post for some time now. Not that much time of course since my blog is only three months old but that can seem like a long time when you’re thinking about sharing your deep dark ugly secrets. Well, it’s not that deep of a secret but it is certainly dark and ugly, though mostly ugly.

As I began writing this I realized that it needed to be done as a mini series. I sometimes regret that I didn’t have a blog when we were doing it or a film crew for that matter. It could have been a reality show called Survivor- Extreme Home Edition! There was drama, injury, near death experiences, and feats of utter idiocy. I will tell you this now, my husband and I did this on our own. We didn't ask any friends for help (we're idiots) We do not have deep pockets, hell we didn’t have two dimes to rub together so there was no hired help either. There was however one neighbor with a track hoe, poor timing and a wicked sense of humor. He has a cameo.

Now before I show you this I want to show you why. Why in the world we moved here and why we did what we did. Now a view like that will make you do stupid things, right?

I posted these photos once before on the fantastic garden site www.gardenweb.com Everyone there was so nice to me about my garden and I just couldn't shake feeling like a fraud for it. No one knew the real dirty truth about my garden and well, my guilty soul is nagging at me again. I just thought that before our relationship goes any further you should know what’s lurking underneath this foundation makeup. OK, brace yourselves this is going to be ugly and uncomfortable for both of us.

Take a look at this photo below. Do you see the little red car and those two trees in the background? Now take a look at the gravel. This gravel will have a staring role in our little drama. Right past the red car and just under that thin looking “grass” is the bedrock of the mountain side. It is also where I once stood about three years ago and said “Say, why don’t we dig up this rock and see what it looks like.” Of course at the moment I was standing on top of it with my hand rubbing my chin as if I had a beard, a pipe and was by nature a very deep thinker. Had I actually been a deep thinker I would have packed my bags that instant and never set foot on the place again. The electrolysis technician and I are still working on the beard issues but I’m keeping the pipe.

This next picture was taken a bit later and exists only because a wise friend of mine told me to take pictures. She actually had to tell me several times because I had no idea that I was going to do anything at all, let alone what I was going to do when I did it. There was no master plan or minor plan for that matter in my mind. Ok, there was this one thought in my mind. “Good god, I can’t stand looking at this gravel!” Everything sort of followed that one thought. I can be pretty focused. You see while the back of the house looks out over an amazing sweetheart view of the rivers, farms and a quaint little town; the front of the house looked out onto a gravel pit! If you look closely- Not too closely- you will see that the gravel of the driveway, which unfortunately runs right past the front of the house, just keeps spreading outward. I like the country look of our long gravel driveway but it just didn’t stop. It ran right up to the front of the house and all the way out to the end of the “front yard.”

I used the words front yard very loosely because as you can see there is no yard. There is quite literally only gravel, bedrock and some weeds. If you will now direct your gaze toward the back of the long view photo you will see a light brown blob to the right. That is the little rock I so rashly decided to dig out. Only God himself was going to dig out that rock. That wasn't an interesting little rock. It was the freaking mountain! Ok, well that’s not going anywhere then.

The next bit of impossible information I discovered was that that rock/mountain didn’t just end there. No Sirree. That ROCK just kept on a’ coming because well, it’s the freaking mountain. Then one more bit of ridiculously impossible news...wait for it…that gravel was hard packed like cement and went all the way down until it hit the ROCK. So there you have it. There was more soil on the surface of the freeway than there was in my “front yard” and the freeway was quite possibly softer.

As you might discern from the photo this is a large area. You have to pack a lunch to walk to the top of the driveway. There was no way we could afford to haul in enough dirt if that much dirt could actually be found even. The delivery costs alone would bankrupt us. So now what am I going to do with a gravel pit on top of bedrock??

Tune in next time when…

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ticket to Ride

Earlier today I was performing the heavenly task of harvesting lavender seeds. My hands were filled with the scent as I spilled the tiny gems out into a bowl. In delicate drafts off the pond the perfume of roses mingled with the lavender and I began to think of all the scented plants that I have in the garden. That is when I decided to take a little sniffing tour.

Now I could list all the scented plants I have out there but then this would just be a laundry list of otherwise rather common plants. I have varieties of mint, sage, curry, lilies, scented tulips, and so on. I have a passionate weak spot for scents because it is the swiftest route through the haze of rational thinking and I simply can not resist the E ticket ride.

For those of you who were born after the “when things were really cool” period: an E ticket ride refers to the old ticket books you used to get at Disneyland. The ticket books were letter/color coded and came with a certain number of each. The E tickets were used for the very best rides. Sometimes if a ride cost more than one E ticket you could use other tickets plus an E ticket to make up the difference. The Es were quickly used up and therefore coveted by all. Many sibling battles were fought and future first born children traded for an extra E ticket back in the day.

As a child I loved the experience “rides” that Disneyland put together. It was all about the ride of being transported to another time and place. When you are young you can let yourself buy those fantasies. All you have to do is hand them your cotton candy coated sticky ticket and you take the ride with wide eyed acceptance. There are no adult pretenses of jaded sobriety to hinder your fun or keep you in check.

As far as the brain is concerned scent is the E ticket for experience rides in the garden. Roses can smell wonderful but where do yours take you? Some of my roses remind me of my mother. I can’t quite remember her though I do remember her scent and it breaks my heart a little every time I smell those roses. Catmint to me smells like sunlight coming through lace curtains in a farmhouse window. It’s like an amber glow across sepia toned photographs atop a worn wooden dresser. And lavender feels like smooth wooden floors and glycerin soap on a hot summer day.

The chocolate mint I brush by in the mornings as I feed the birds always makes me smile because it smells happy and safe. Rosemary transports me to the majesty of pine forests and lemon balm is like sunlight dancing on my skin. There are so many beautifully scented plants and flowers to choose from but if a scent is the equivalent of and E ticket ride I want to make my choices wisely.

I figure that life takes you on a lot of rides that you’d rather not go on so if given half a chance why not design your own amusement park where the rides are the ones you want to take? What does happy smell like to you?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Do Ya Think I'm Sexy

Well it's late September and I really should be getting back to school... no, that's not right. That's Rod Stewart. Then again I am beginning to think that if a garden could be Rod Stewart this might be what it would look like. Kind of wild and out of control, doesn't know it's getting late in his career so he just keeps belting them out like he was in the spring of his youth.
I had been feeling pretty low because my recent computer meltdown vaporized some important files. I lost things I had been working on and photographs that I will never get back. It hasn't been the best of times, it hasn't been the worst of times and thankfully it hasn't been the winter of my discontent...yet. Winter will come soon enough but for now it's Rod Stewart time in the garden.

You might think that late September would see the summer flowers fading into that golden glow of lowering sunlight. You might think that. You would apparently be wrong as far as my garden is concerned. I certainly was. I had planned on building up the compost pile with worn out old stems and thin wrinkled leaves. Instead I find my garden decked out in tight spandex pants with gold chains hanging down a much too open silk shirt belting out "Hot Legs" and "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy."

Seriously guys, what are you doing putting out poppies in September? And the roses? Not just one or two easy listening ballads but a whole show of spirited full body rockers. The honeysuckle is putting on an entire encore that rivals the original. The nasturtium is refusing to leave the stage and the monarda is acting like Mick Jagger at a groupie convention. Believe it or not I actually have forget-me-nots with tiny flowers and there is even an oriental lily coming up!

Like I said, I have been pretty bummed about the losses on my computer. I was upset about the time and work that was forever lost and photo memories of a great summer that had vanished like real time. (cue the tiny violins) Then I heard the music coming from the garden.

It wasn't a somber dirge or a sad song of lost love and betrayal. No, it was "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" and "Forever Young" belted out in the bold vibrant colors of youth that knows no limit. A youth that only knows the moment of now and that forever is today. I don't know if I am actually learning anything about gardening but I am sure learning something about living and soaking up the sun while it's shining. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some spandex pants to slip into.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Linda Blair and the sound of silence

Well it happened again. My partner and I had a blowout. It was a bad one this time. Worse than the one in August that sent him schlepping his hard drive and memory chips into the arms of another. Sure we got back together on August 19th and I talked with you about it then. I didn’t say anything more afterward because I wanted to move on with our lives but it was different. Things between us were strained ever since that little indiscretion but that was to be expected and we were making a go of things. He was moody. He hid things from me. He was unusually quiet. I thought he would come around, that he had just lost his drive. I probed and prodded looking deep into his mainframe but he remained silent.

I sought advice from others. I wondered what I had done or how we could make it right again. I wondered if I would ever hear his tinny awkward voice again. I dug deep, lurking around sleazy forums late at night surviving on coffee and cold pizza. Finally I found the torrid truth of what had gone on that week he was with another. He had given his driver to someone other than me. The sound driver was missing from his fun package and he didn’t want to talk about it.

I was crushed, lost and completely without sound. At first I didn’t mind the long silent hours we spent together. I thought I could wait, perhaps he would come around or we might find a new kind of communication. I bought new speakers but he refused my offer. I brought in skilled help but it was too late. I tried taking us back to the day he came back to me. Maybe “they” said I could go back to the time when he communicated his hopes and dreams to me, back to when the music played for us. The problem was deeper than I had ever imagined.

It seemed that the digital demon from Satan’s horde had marked my baby and he would never be the same again. That evil tormenting creature that took his sweet blistering time returning my one and only to me last month had played fast and loose with his preferences and installed an evil I had never known before. I was more than annoyed with that blasted little icon that popped up every five fricking minutes telling me where to click so I could buy their cheesy little product or how it popped up every single time it diverted a hacker sneeze or drive by cyber attack so I could marvel at it’s animal prowess. I counted the days till that little slimy spawn of digital regret finally expired. I spent my time researching and selecting the best and the brightest replacement. Oh, we would be safe but it would be on our terms and not some stranger plying his wares from a cramped strip mall store front.

And this is where the real nightmare began. The slimy digital regret had finally expired and I promptly went to the install/uninstall programs and yanked that creep out of there. I then blissfully installed my shiny new knight of digital defense. Well that little creep was not uninstalled! He was still lurking in there deep in the crevices and when my new guy rode his white stallion onto the stage that rotten little sleaze attacked. There was a great battle. It was Armageddon in there. My keyboard was mortally wounded. The mouse lay useless on the battlefield and user accounts was lost to oblivion. The monitor had gone an eerie blue safety mode with the foreign user name “Owner.” There was no way to reach anything. No mouse, no keyboard and no idea what the pass code for “owner” was even if I could get anything to work. The battle was over. We had lost.

So there I was with no key board, no mouse and no user accounts. I managed to get the mouse working with a little retro fitting connection and activated the on screen keyboard but it was a hollow victory. Somehow actual programs had been deleted and there was no going back. Where there should have been files or programs, user accounts or system restore, there was nothing, it was just blank. I would like to say the shock wore off and I knew what to do but that wasn’t the case. I was on the phone talking to those nerdy heroes at the Geek Squad only to find they had never heard of this, I should bring it in.

I handed the poor possessed thing over to the Geek at the counter. It spun its DVD player around and spit pea soup up on his clean white shirt. I just smiled and shrugged. I had to get home to clean up the fly infestation and write a thank you note to Linda Blair.

I don’t know how many priests had to be called in or how many buckets of pea soup were ultimately expelled but eventually I got my little buddy back. A few –read “way too many”- dollars were sacrificed on the alter of modern technology and some irreplaceable files were forever lost. I certainly hope I have not lost any of you who have been so wonderful in following my little blog. We are back in the saddle here at Bluegate Gardens and looking forward to next posting.

Oh, and I believe that the strip mall dwelling digital demon who came between my little buddy and I, well he holds a very special place in hell where the only communication technology is smoke signal and banana leaf.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I will always remember you- 9/11

Today is 911. I have no pretty pictures to post, no flowers or waterfalls. No little adventures in quaint locales to chat about. Today is 911 and I still remember. I will always remember.

I can't imagine that I have anything to add that other far more eloquent and skilled writers have said already. I just wanted to say that I remember and that I will always remember. I will never forget the men and women who lost their lives that day in such a horrible and insensible way. I will never forget the shock wave of loss that tore the lives of their families apart forever. It may be eight years later and some may think that it is "time to move on", time to turn this date into some kind of national picnicking holiday. I do not. I do not think that one day in September is too much to ask of me.

This day is not a day for politics or personal agendas. It is not about the Right or Left, Presidents or wars. It is about the men and women we watched jump out of buildings to escape an unimaginable horror. They jumped in pairs and in groups holding hands. No one was holding a political placard. They joined in courageous defiance to fight their attackers on a plane giving their own lives to save others. They were Americans doing what Americans do. They were individuals enjoying the freedom to live their lives as they saw fit. They held wildly varying views on endless topics but at the core of each person was a testament to Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. They were Americans in action and in deed.

I will weep this day. I will feel the tears well up from the deepest parts of my heart and soul, and I will not begrudge this pain. My tears will not have political sides or opinions on the war. They will not be for my lost illusions of national peace. No, my tears will be for all the men and women who have given their lives because they believed in Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

One day is not too much to ask of me on another beautiful September day. I will always remember you.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Gold in the dust of Winthrop

Winthrop is a small western town on the dry side of the Cascade Mountains in the Methow Valley. That there is a “dry side of the mountains” is just another amazing feature of Washington State. It is full of wildly varied climate islands. This plays perfectly into my personal brand of ADD existence. On the west it is ancient mossy rain forest and then just a few hours away you get arid high desert conditions. I’ll spare you the annoyance of listing each little micro climate in tedious travel brochure lingo. Not that there’s anything wrong with travel brochures. They make excellent coasters. Let me just say that if you are tired of Seattle’s notoriously wet grey skies all you have to do is drive an hour or so to find bright sunny blue ones.

Winthrop is one of those blue sky places. The town was founded in 1883 by men drawn out west during the gold rush. They thought they would find gold just drifting in the rivers but soon found that those dreams would have to be extracted from the hard mountain rock in what they call lode mines. Talk about a bait and switch. I suppose these men had come too long and hard a way to turn back. And so they stayed to beat out new lives from a rough and intolerant land.

Those men and women are long gone, lost to the dust of history. What remains is a charming resort town that boasts year round activities including a Rhythm and Blues festival, Wine festival, skiing and even hot air ballooning in winter. The town is alive with tourists who have replaced the miners. SUVs and motorcycles have taken the place of the horses and buggies the used to line the streets and board walks.

I look at this quaint little town dressed up in the finest of self caricatures and I long to look beneath the artisan rust and factory aged wood. I want to look into the dust that is now covered with asphalt to find the ghosts of Winthrop past, those hardy souls who were seduced by gold and all her promises of a better life. Did they ever find their seductress, did she deliver on her promises or did she string them along, sucking dry every last drop of hope? I wonder how many men sat on hastily made wooden bar stools only to ponder why they had come so far just to be alone? What grand dreams had they dreamed with the lure of easy money just waiting to be sifted out of those rivers?

The town seems to have taken root in those dreams and has survived over 126 years. In 1893 the town burned to a crisp and they rebuilt from those ashes. During the grueling recession of the 1970s construction of Hwy 20 gave the town yet another opportunity to rebuild and she seized it with greedy hands. Winthrop dug down and hammered out a new life from the rock and dust of its history. Today it is easy to get distracted by the quaintness of “history for tourists” especially when it is done well but, history isn’t a glossy travel brochure. It is lives and dreams hammered out against the rough rock of time. It is struggling through hard and difficult days not knowing that you are making history because you’re just making your way. It is long lonely moments waiting on a barstool for the courage to go on and seizing that courage when it finally comes. But most of all, history is made by those people who seize the courage to go on even when it doesn’t come.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Grace Period

September is an odd month if you think about it. Sure there is the whole going back to school thing and we all tend to think of September as the beginning of fall but it isn’t. Not really. Fall really doesn’t start till you feel that nip in the early morning air or when the dew seems like it might have really been frost just a few minutes ago. September on the other hand doesn’t have the crisp air or the quick silver frost. September is like that hollow place at the end of a relationship when you both know it’s over but you can’t figure out how to end it. Not sad or even melancholy, just sort of in between. There are brief flashes of generous maturity when you pat yourself on the back for letting go so calmly, for embracing the dark mystery of the months ahead.

In September the air is still soft and warm. Late summer flowers still smile toward the failing light of summer’s ghost. There are still plenty of days full of sunshine and forgotten sweaters on the backs of chairs. There will also be haunting days when the sun caresses your skin like a parting lover and you feel the shadow of winter nearby. It is so easy to get caught up in all the busy tasks of a new school year or the final vacations and the preparations for winter. We often overlook this sweet month of transition by tossing it in with autumn. I noticed myself doing it. I grieved that summer was over and worried about how long and dark the winter would be. I began to make plans for long months of indoor living. My imagination dwelled on how cold it might be or if it would be wet and dreary. In other words I looked at the calendar date and went into a resistance posture because summer was officially over.

Then I noticed something. This rose was blooming. As a matter of fact there were buds on all the rose bushes. The fish had come out of hiding from the heron attack and there were two new baby fishes with them; “Chip” and “Nugget”. The light was angled just right to make the sunflowers glow like yellow angels and the blue fescue with the reseeded alyssum looked like fireworks in the morning sun. There were actually still a lot of flowers blooming and even re-blooming. They apparently hadn’t looked at the calendar. They were just eating up every last minute of daylight and they were making seeds for next year. Summer didn’t just end for them, it was winding down. They weren’t clenching up and calling it a day. They were transitioning. They were letting go calmly. September is a time of transition, not of sudden change. It is a time of gently turning our attention to the mystery of a new path and a new direction. September is a month of grace.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

This week on the Hunting Channel...

There I lay sound asleep, warm and cozy in my bed as shiny flaxen hair spilled across my face in gentle cascades. The soft linen sheets had been scented with rose water and hung out to dry the day before in a fading summer sun. An impish smile played along my lips suggesting pleasant dreams of a psychotic cat screaming its ever loving head off at an impossible pitch that would shatter metal!
What the ****!
Ok, first of all I don’t have flaxen hair whatever that is and secondly I’ve never even seen linen sheets let alone ones scented in rose water and hung out to dry in any kind of light. And we’re not going to talk about the impish smile. Not in public anyway. The screeching car wreck of a noise however was entirely real.
It was caused by this guy, the Sharp Shinned Hawk trying to kill this guy, the Stellar Jay.

They chose my bedroom garden for this display of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. Did I mention the window was wide open? In this Wild Kingdome episode there was no Marlin Perkins narrating the live action as Jim Fowler tried to fend off the vicious attack bird. Nope it was just Mr. Blue Jay flying for his feathered life and screaming like Ozzy Osborne in a blender. Of course I certainly can’t blame him. I would have been doing exactly the same thing in his situation.

The hawk showed up last fall and then again this spring to hunt the birds. He seems to spend a week or so here before moving on. I have not seen him catch any of the birds so far but that isn’t for his lack of trying. What I do see is one heck of an air show. It distresses me to see this sort of natural selection in action but I have to remember that this is where I live and this is how it rolls. I do secretly root for the Jays.

It is actually all my fault that this happens. You see when we moved here the place was ironically lifeless, just a couple of buildings and a whole lot of gravel. Over the past couple of years we have been working to create a little eco system situation. There are now plenty of plants and new trees. Two ponds with waterfalls and streams complete with fishes and frogs etc. I feed the birds every day and have attracted variety enough to make any Audubon member drool on their binoculars.

The down side of course is that we live where we live, in the country, in the mountains and it isn’t only the pretty little birdies that are attracted to the garden. There is a group of four bald eagles that frequent the garden at very low altitude. The other day I was taking that nap I talked about recently, in the hammock; one of the eagles was flying so low that his wing flaps actually woke me up. I tucked in my toes.

There is supposed to be a system here but it doesn’t seem to be as air tight as I had been led to believe. The eagles hunt the great blue herons which hunt my fishes which hunt the mosquitoes. So why with four eagles swooping around all day did I wake to find a great blue heron fishing in my pond? Where were those lazy dogs for that matter?

In the dogs defense they have run off the black bear several times. The first time I saw that big old guy he was trundling down my walkway heading for the bird feeder. The dogs were all puffed up with big dog bravado and went charging out the door. It took all of two seconds to realize that that was the biggest raccoon they had ever seen and they came tearing right back inside. They have since regained their composure if not their dignity and they keep the big guy moving along now when he does pass through.

We don’t walk around out there in the dark and I keep the dogs with me whenever I go hiking. I definitely do not want to see the resident cougar unless of course he's chasing off those clammering coyotes. I have to remember that the beasties and I are sharing turf together so I try not to be an idiot about it. I put some netting on the pond for the fish’s safety and I am not above throwing a rock at that damn bird. I don’t leave the trash out and I am resisting the coolness factor of feeding the eagles. I love all this wildlife and I can’t tell you how deeply satisfying it is for me to know that I was able to create an environment capable of attracting it. I can’t get to full of my own mastery of nature though because there is always some critter ready to let me know that “you just aint all that.” Now what the heck just crawled up my leg?!

(disclaimer: I clearly lifted the shots of the black bear, cougar and coyote from the internet.)