I’ve Learned My Lesson

I’ve always loved gardening, planting plants and seeds then watching them grow. Playing in the dirt is relaxing and hard work at the same time. Dirt and plants don’t talk out loud to you, don’t ask questions or care how you look and are just content to have you pay attention to them. Since moving to the Pacific Northwest from the Midwest, I’ve learned a lot about the way plants grow here. I’ve read books and talked to Master Gardeners. I’ve paid attention to the weather patterns, discovering that while everyone believes it rains every day here, it doesn’t. Our late falls, winters and springs are wet and rainy, but come summer and the tap turns off, this year with a vengeance. At present counting, we are at fifty-six days with no rain, a new record. I decided to plant a huge raised bed garden for vegetables and fruits.

I drew up plan for a large garden area with eight raised beds, four – five foot by ten foot raised beds and four – five-foot square raised beds and Mitch built them. Pretty ambitious I know, but I hadn’t had a garden in two years and was itching to play in the dirt. Well I got my wish and boy did I ever get things to grow. I was warned by experienced gardeners to be very careful when planting, because everything grows well here.

I planted one of the small beds with cucumber seeds and at first, I was disappointed at the small spindly little plants. Silly me, I just needed to be patient. The raised bed is overflowing with a tangled web of cucumber vines, hiding cucumbers that seem to grow over night.

I planted one of the large beds with strawberry plants, almost all came from my neighbor, and now I must go out every day and stick the runners back in the bed, because they’ve covered the bed and are trying to colonize my other beds. I planted three rows of green bean seeds and have already picked four buckets full of green beans and more are growing.

I bought a seed packet of zucchini seeds and a packet of summer squash seeds. Growing success is a gross understatement, because I have one five foot by ten foot raised bed covered from end to end with three and a half foot tall plants and am picking five and six zucchini a day, that doesn’t include the six to eight squash I find hiding under the giant leaves every day.

I have been scouring Pinterest and Facebook for zucchini recipes. I have been thinking of writing a cookbook and now I can write a whole chapter on just zucchini and squash recipes. I’ve frozen six bags of zucchini and squash, have learned to make zucchini spaghetti, zucchini tots and zucchini fries. I swear my hair is getting a green tint to it.

I’ve given so much zucchini and squash away to my neighbors that now if they see me coming with or without anything in my hands, they run inside and close the curtains, until I go by.

I’ve learned my lesson, next year I will buy two zucchini plants and maybe one squash plant. You don’t have to hit me over the head with a zucchini.

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Sacred Ground

I’ve come to the conclusion we live on sacred ground. For real, our house is on hallowed ground. I’m surprised the builder was even allowed to build here and it must have been a real challenge to lay the foundation and not disturb the buried. Our house sits on an ancient rock burial ground. That has to be the only explanation. Our property is where they brought the rocks, large and small when they died to be buried for thousands of years.

Sounds goofy right, but that has to be it, because no matter where I try to dig a hole, I dig more rock than dirt. Smooth glacier rocks that come in all sizes, from the size of a quarter to the size of a football. Imagine putting the shovel point in the dirt and stepping down on the edge of the shovel to slice into the dirt and the shovel slams into a rock or group of rocks, the shovel twists, the handle follows the twist and whacks you in the chin, then your foot slips off of the shovel, scrapes your foot and you twist your knee. This is followed by a very descriptive diatribe that sends the birds flying. Now imagine doing this over and over again to fish out a multitude of rocks, so you can get a hole wide enough and deep enough to plant something, anything. It’s a good thing I bought a truck load of dirt earlier in the spring, just to fill in the holes.

All of our neighbors have these really nice landscaped yards and we have rocks. Lots and lots of rocks, hidden just under surface of our yard. Maybe that’s why there was no landscaping done when we bought the house. Either they knew it was sacred land and didn’t want to disturb the rock spirits or all of the other builders dumped their rocks here and left us to deal with the little buggers. I would like to think our land is special, that sounds more fun, but in reality, it’s probably the latter. We got dumped on, literally.

Oh Come on Now – Enough is Enough!

Mother Nature is having a huge laugh at our expense and I’ve had enough. It is the middle of May for god’s sake and I’m still wearing an insulated jacket when I walk the dogs. Oh and did I mention the jacket has a hood, because we are having the wettest spring on record. That matched our winter, which was the wettest on record, too. Yada, yada, yada. Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and in the Midwest, that is the date to plant your hot weather vegetables and tomatoes. Here, I’m still hardening off my tomatoes so they don’t wither and die at night when the temperatures dip into the forties.

Well enough is enough! I am so ready for some warmer weather, not asking for nineties, I don’t want that, but some seventy degree days are desperately needed and sunshine. I need some sunshine! I would even settle for the mid-sixties if I could have the sun out too. I have so much yardwork to do, but every time I get ready to head out, I look outside and it’s raining, again. All the native Washingtonians tell me that this is so unusual and they are getting tired of all the chilly wet weather too.

Well Mother Nature, enough is enough, come on, you’ve had a good laugh and have reminded us all you are in control, not us. It’s time to move on, go inland, go out to sea, I don’t care, just go play your pranks someplace else. I have eight raised beds and all I have planted so far is a bed of strawberries and a bed with three blueberry bushes. I have green beans, zucchini and cucumber seeds I need to get in the ground, not to mention the tomatoes.

And I’m haven’t even mentioned mowing yet. I could mow my yard twice a week, if I was so inclined. All my neighbors mow their lawns one to two times a week, but not me, I don’t care that much about it. I like my grass a bit taller than everyone else around here. If you were to compare our yards to a golf course, my neighbors’ yards look like the putting green and my yard looks like the rough. It hides the weeds.

It’s enough to make me drink, oh wait, I already drink.

One Month In

Royal has now been here for a month and it’s like he has been with us forever. He is completely ensconced in our home and lives. He and Orso get along almost like they had been litter mates. Both are consummate couch potatoes with short bursts of energy, running side by side full steam nipping at each other, then dropping on the grass rolling around on their backs settling on their stomachs to watch what I’m doing. There are no fights or tension, it is so pleasant, just two dogs that have the same temperament. A real breath of fresh air.

Not to pretend Royal is perfect, he is not. He has no sense of personal space, getting right in my face wanting to lick me all over (yuck). I’ve seen what they put in their mouths. Try putting your shoes on and playing dodge ball with your head in an attempt to avoid dog kisses. I can bob and weave like a pro boxer now. He walks crooked, partly because of his hip dysplasia, which is quite annoying on our walks. He must walk on my right, won’t walk on the left, so I’m left to walking in the middle of these two buffoons and Royal walks into my right leg pushing me into Orso. Then he crosses in front of me to go sniff and pee. After he is done sniffing and peeing, he crosses back to my right, but this time he crosses behind me. So I’m constantly circling the leash around my head like a lasso. I am pretty sure the neighbors think I’m nuts. What else is new?

We were told Royal gets along well with cats, but I’m not so sure about that. He has gone ballistic barking and growling at the neighbor’s cat walking across the back fence. He chased that cat the length of the yard along the fence line and I don’t think it was to introduce himself to the neighborhood. He also has no fondness for squirrels. He wants one badly and I fear the day he and Orso outsmart one. Not that I love squirrels, I just don’t want to watch the bloodletting and subsequent visit to the vet.

Bedtime means all of us in our bed. We lost that battle three dogs ago. Now we just accept the cramped sleeping space and constant dog hair. I keep the bed and pillows swathed in sheets to keep our faces free of dog hair and other dog parts. The top of the bed is no-man’s land, but under the comforter the sheets are dog free. Of course the added bodies make the bed hotter, so I keep a fan blowing on me year round. Poor Mitch has to sleep in his shorts, sweatpants, t-shirt and sweatshirt, plus in the winter he has two comforters on him, even with the dog body heat.

I’m glad we took the chance and brought him home, he is the perfect match for Orso. And I do get a kick out of walking two dogs that weigh right at a hundred pounds. You should see the faces of the people I walk by with their five pound dogs barking up a storm and mine are actually behaving. (Of course when they don’t I look like a boat anchor dragging behind them).

Just to show you I am not making it up, I have a picture of the two laying in the yard.

Goofball

That completely describes Orso in one word. Ten years old and still a big dope that acts like a two-year-old puppy. He is the one dog I didn’t want. I didn’t want to go see him, I didn’t want to add another dog to the mix. We had two dogs at the time, AJ, our black lab, a super sweet beautiful dog with a steamer trunk full of issues and Charlie, our half breed, half chocolate lab and half German shorthair, who was animal aggressive and a bit unstable.

We had just gotten the two dogs settled into a routine and everyday life was going along fairly smoothly without any episodes for a while which was all I wanted, quiet and boring. Then one day Mitch came home and said that a coworker had a son who had a dog that he needed to get rid of. The dog was a nine-month-old chocolate lab, purportedly with papers and he wanted to “just go take a look see”. I said absolutely not, we had just gotten to a point in our lives that things were settled and quiet, the dogs were happy and content. I didn’t want to upset any balance in our lives.

I knew what would happen if we went. I knew without a doubt once I set eyes on a puppy he would be in the back of the station wagon headed home with us. That was why I fought it so hard and still I lost. We drove up and as soon as our car pulled into the driveway and this ninety-five pound brown clumsy puppy came bounding out of the garage I knew that it was last time that dog would ever sleep in that garage. We loaded him up and took him home. His name was Rebar, which I thought was a stupid name for a dog and that it was getting changed right away. I liked the word orso, which is Italian for bear, and I think it suits him just perfectly.

Orso has always been a big dumb beau hunk, falling over his feet and mine, getting in the way, knocking me down and always sporting a big goofy smile on his face. We didn’t get any papers as they were reportedly lost, so we had to take it on faith that he is actually a Labrador Retriever, though at the time we suspected there was a Saint Bernard lurking around in there because Orso was and still is one giant drool machine. He can sling drool as high as seven feet and with enough velocity to knock a fly out of the air if it gets in the way. He wasn’t much of a hunting dog, preferring to walk behind me and let me knock down the brush to clear a path for him. And as far as the term “Water Dog” goes, Orso would rather ride in a boat feeling the wind on his face than get wet swimming.

He got interested in birds, but instead of pheasants Orso prefers to flush robins, sparrows and his arch nemesis, crows. Out here crows are proliferate, with large numbers banding together to swoop down and walk around searching for food. It’s not unusual to see three or four crows walking around together just a few yards away from us. This makes Orso crazy that these large birds would totally dismiss him as irrelevant and not fly away. He has taken to stalking them on leash then at the right moment Orso will stand up on his hind legs and give them a loud woof to try and make them fly. Because that is so effective the birds fly a short distance then shout back at him.

He’s the one dog I didn’t want, he’s totally devoted to me and now I’m just as devoted to him. Yes, he’s a goofball but he’s my goofball.

Hiking at Fort Steilacoom

Today we went on a quick hike at Fort Steilacoom. The place is a bit deceiving at first glance. As we pulled into the parking lot I was disappointed. There were baseball diamonds, soccer fields, a playground and a paved walking trail. I thought here we go again, another boring “unscenic” walking path. Where were the vistas?

We walked along on the path and noticed some people off in the distance that were not on the paved path. We cut across the field and found some dirt trails that led us off into the woods. The deeper we got into the woods, the more serene and beautiful it got.

We plan on going back in the future to do more extensive exploring.

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Mount Rainier

Saturday we drove up to Mount Rainier even though it was raining, because if you plan your day around the weather or what is forecast here, you’ll never go anywhere. It was misting rain with low clouds so we couldn’t see Mount Rainier from the Sunrise visitor center, but the drive was still beautiful.

I left my camera home but took these with my phone.

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Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

We’ve been on vacation this week and again we have gone exploring around the state going to places we haven’t been to yet and still have only scratched the surface. We drove down to Long Beach, Washington and went to Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. Cape Disappointment Lighthouse is at the mouth of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. The views were stunning, absolutely took my breath away.

It is named Cape Disappointment because in 1792 fur trader John Meares was sailing south in search of trade locations and turned around just short of the mouth of the Columbia River. Silly man, should have stopped and asked for directions.

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He’s Going to be the Death of Me

If you find me dead alongside the road sometime it will be more than likely because of Orso. I walk him every day at least three times a day, the first at four am, and almost always it is in the dark. We also have more than our fair share of rabbits out and about along our route and Orso just has to lunge and bark at them in the dark. I try to be very vigilant on our walks watching out for any movement and Orso and his demeanor. If his ears are up and he gets stiff I know something is close by. I do this to avoid becoming a boat anchor or at the very least avoiding rotator cuff surgery.

This morning though I was a bit distracted and not fully on high alert when Orso decided to lunge and bark at something on the side of the road. He thought it was a small rabbit and was determined to scare it off. But it wouldn’t budge, just sitting on the side of the road daring him to cross the street and get closer. As we closed the distance, I saw that it was a rock, a round rock about four inches and not a rabbit. Dumb dog almost dragged me across the road to get to A Rock.

I should have taken that as a sign of what the rest of the walk would be like, but I didn’t. I just kept plodding along. The farthest point we walk to, is down a very dark section of road with no street lights and all of the homes on one side of the road are dark because all the sane people are sound asleep and nothing but dense woods on the other side of the road. As we turned around to head back home, Orso decided it was time to take his morning poop. I waited patiently for him to finish then fished out a poop bag and my flashlight so I could find it and not leave any behind.

After I picked his “elephant dump” and started tying a knot on the end of the bag, I stepped right in some other dog’s poop. Some thoughtless moron left his little dog’s poop on the side of the road and I stepped right in it. I should have shined my flashlight around the area before I took a step. I stood there cursing all little dogs and their owners, because at that moment I hated them all, (even though I know it’s not the dog’s fault, I grouped them all together). That was when Orso either heard or saw something moving in the woods and gave way to barking and lunging at the unseen phantom.

There I was standing on the side of the road trying to get the end of the poop bag tied off and wipe my shoe in the meager amount of grass and Orso was trying to get to some unseen monster in the woods. I’m lucky I only got poop on my shoe and not road rash from being dragged across the road.

The day is off to a bang, I can’t wait until our mid-morning walk and more opportunities to use my Aflac policy.

Death Wish

Though I’ve not seen any of our state’s predators, it is widely recognized that living in the State of Washington we have a large number of predators, Mountain Lions, Bobcats, Lynx, Bears, Wolves, Coyotes and Foxes. Each one of these predators have the ability to eat small and large animals. I am putting out an all call to any or all of these predators. If I send you my address would you send a couple of emissaries around? I promise you will be richly rewarded.

Sound totally insane right? Well I know that mountain lions and bears can’t read (maybe wolves can, they are pretty smart) but I do have a totally rational reason for the need. We have rabbits here. Brazen or stupid, I don’t know which and I don’t care, I just want them gone. The other day a rabbit ran into our backyard in the afternoon while Orso and I were out there. He ran straight at Orso then turned and ran at me with Orso in hot pursuit. I was almost run down by a charging hundred-pound brown locomotive that only had eyes on a one-pound fur ball. Good thing I was paying attention and jumped aside.

Yesterday morning on our early morning walk, yes I still walk Orso at the crack of dawn, when I noticed Orso was very intent on something ahead of us. Something small with tall ears, another rabbit was sitting in the road just waiting for us, not moving, just waiting. Stupid rabbit, or maybe he was suicidal having the curse of not knowing utter fear and was totally bored with the good life. I tightened my grip on the leash and told him no, for all the good that did. He still lunged at the rabbit and woofed quite loud at four in the morning. People are sleeping and don’t want to hear a very deep loud woof then the screams of a rabbit in the jaws of my menace.

Again this morning we ran across another rabbit with a death wish just sitting on the side of the road, watching us come toward him. Again with the woof and the lunge. The evil little creature jump meandered off with a couple of small hops. Not the wild jerking and sprinting I have seen on the nature shows with a fox or coyote in hot pursuit. I could see my fears of being a boat anchor coming true once again if I don’t get rid of these small suicidal marsupials.

Hence my plea to all predators, please come, I’ll send you my address and I promise you will feast handsomely.