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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This is a Public Service Announcement or You’re Doing It Wrong!

What is it with people today? Is everyone so self-absorbed that they don’t realize there is a world going on around them and they are not the center of the universe? Well news flash, the rest of the world doesn’t give two cents about your well-being. Today and only for today, I am climbing up on my soapbox to put this public service announcement out there for the general public.

Would you put yourself in harm’s way on purpose? Would you turn your back on a charging bull and believe that because you have opposable thumbs you are safe? Of course not! Who would turn their back on potential, impending danger and not do anything to keep themselves safe? So why is it every day I encounter some self-absorbed person walking, running or walking their dog on the wrong side of the road. These people are walking along with traffic, some with their nose in their phone, some not, but they are still oblivious to the fact that all it takes is one distracted driver or one trying to miss oncoming traffic to swerve a bit and they get slammed in the back. And I guarantee you that the person walking is going to lose in that moment.

I was taught a long time ago that walkers and runners go against traffic, which makes perfect sense, that way you at least have a fighting chance. If I can see danger coming at me, I have that split second to get out of the way or at the very least, if I live through being run down, I can give the police a description and license number.

So here it is, my public service announcement:

“You’re Doing It Wrong!” Cross the road and walk facing oncoming traffic, arrive alive!”

And as my mother used to say, “Don’t make me come other there and shake some sense into you!”

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.

I Need a Vacation

Mitch is in Seattle and I’m here getting the house ready to sell so I can load up the dogs and head west. It has been a long arduous month getting rid of a lot of stuff and packing up boxes after boxes of more stuff. What I really should do is after everything is packed up, go back through each box and throw away half of what’s in each one.

Saturday a week ago the house went on the market and I had promised myself that when it happened, I would go get a massage. Lord knows my back and feet needed some tender touches, so I decided to add in a pedicure along with the massage. I locked the dogs in crates and headed out for a little pampering.

I had my first showing almost immediately after getting home from my little bit of self-indulgence. I had just enough time to feed the dogs and load them up in the station wagon to escape. Of course this weekend was oppressively hot with temperatures over ninety eight and it felt like it was over a hundred. The station wagon struggled to pump out even moderately cool air. Sunday morning I ran a quick errand and came home to find Orso not in his crate but waiting at the top of the basement stairs. Somehow he escaped. To say I was not pleased was an understatement.

Sunday afternoon I had three showings scheduled and again it was in the high nineties and felt much hotter. I loaded up the dogs and headed out. This time I planned a little better and loaded the car with water for the dogs and me, leashes and car charger for my cell phone, just in case. We weren’t gone thirty minutes when an afternoon thunderstorm popped up causing us to sit in a ballfield parking lot watching as lightning flashed across the sky. I hoped that the car was lightning proof.

Monday morning I took the dogs to the basement to crate them up and neither one was having any of that. Charlie turned around and went back upstairs refusing to come down and Orso would not get in the crate. Can you imagine trying to push one hundred pounds of dog in one direction while he wants to go a different direction? The dogs hated the crates and I knew they wouldn’t be happy but I didn’t think I would be faced with outright anarchy. The treats I threw in the crates went untouched as both dogs refused to be bribed. I had to go to work and couldn’t leave them running loose because I had a showing scheduled for the morning and three more that evening.

I had to put the leash on Charlie to walk him down the stairs and into the crate. I grabbed Orso’s collar and shoved him in, latched the door and just to be safe I took tie downs and wrapped them around his crate cinching them tight. I then turned both crates to face each other so they could see each other and hopefully be reassured they weren’t alone. I came home for lunch to check on them and take them for a walk. Orso had been working on destroying the crate, pulling at the wire door and bending in two of the wires toward him which could poke him and make him bleed. I searched for a pair of pliers to bend the wires back and Orso pulled the door back toward him getting his head stuck between the door and the crate. I had to get his head unstuck then pull the door back to the outside of the crate and keep a very unhappy dog in the crate at the same time. Not an easy feat. This time after I finally got him secured in the crate and the door locked I used the tie downs again then turned his crate up against the wall in an effort to keep Orso contained until I got home.

Monday evening I got home and thankfully both dogs were stilled in their crates, unhappy at me but still contained. I fed them and loaded them up for three showings, all back to back from five to five forty five. Another scorcher I drove the poor overworked station wagon down to the dam to let the dogs run a bit before sitting in the air conditioned car. When I finally was headed home I noticed a hot smell in the car. Thinking it might have been the car charger for my cell phone, I pulled it out hoping that was the cause. That’s when I noticed the smoke coming out of the vents, super. I looked at the front end of the car and saw smoke coming out of the hood. Getting better. I sped up hoping everyone was gone and I could get the car into the driveway before it died.

I backed in the driveway, got the dogs out and in the house then went back to the car to check on it. I turned it off and raised the hood. Smoke was coming out at the bottom of the air-conditioning compressor. Wonderful, the day just got even better. That was the only car I had to get the dogs chauffeured around. Where is Mitch when I need him?

At that moment all I wanted to do was walk back in the house open a bottle of wine and go sit in the corner and have a pity party. Why do I get all the fun stuff to do?

The End of Summer

The end of summer usually brings a sigh of relief. It means that the oppressive heat and humidity of summer is almost done and cooler brisker days are ahead. The long dry spells that normally stretch through July and August will be gone. Here in the Midwest we’ve had three summers in a row that have been hot and miserable, with a drought that started in 2011 and didn’t really end until this year. But not this year, 2014 started off with a long cold miserable winter that just wouldn’t quit. It dragged on for months, stomping on spring and kept its hold on Mother Nature forcing late blooms and delayed planting.

This year after winter finally withered away, leaving spring a mere shadow of its self, summer came waltzing in lightly warming the days. We had ample rain early on staving off the need for watering the garden vegetables I planted. The days were really quite pleasant with temperatures reaching the high eighties with a few days in the low nineties, not the normal high nineties with days creeping into the hundreds. This summer has been a very nice gift from Mother Nature. Maybe she felt bad about the miserable past winter.

The down side to a cooler summer meant a late start on the vegetables I planted. It was well into July before my cucumbers, zucchini and squash started bearing fruit. I had lots of blooms but no fruit. I was beginning to think nothing was getting pollinated. I wondered where the bees were. I learned that because of the long hard winter and the milder summer it was taking longer for the ground to warm up enough for hot weather vegetables and fruits, like peppers and tomatoes, to get started. My cantaloupe didn’t start making baby cantaloupes until almost September. I will probably have a ripe cantaloupe about the time of the first frost.

Normally I look forward to the changing colors of fall foliage, but not this year. I want more summer. I want more time outside in the garden. This year when I look out the window and see the leaves starting to turn color I feel a sense of loss and a little sad, like something inside me is shutting down and dying. This was a great summer, one that I spent almost every weekend outside working in the yard and I’m not looking forward to the bitter cold and biting winds. I am not ready for fall not this year.

Maybe I feel this way because I’m coming up on my one year anniversary of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Maybe that’s why I’m feeling a sense of loss I don’t know, because I try not to let myself dwell on depressing things. Maybe I feel this sadness because I feel great and am working out, getting back in shape and am afraid of the other shoe dropping. You know the feeling that if you are this happy then something bad is going to happen, just to balance out the happy. Crazy, huh?

Maybe I’m just overthinking it, I don’t know. I just wish that summer wasn’t over yet. I guess I need to move to the Caribbean, it stays pretty nice there all year long.

Late Summer Photos

Today started off with early morning storms and the afternoon was cloudy and humid. A perfect day to take my camera and the dogs for a walk. A few late summer wildflowers are blooming away.

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The neighbor’s car watched us go by without looking too concerned

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Another neighbor’s bumper crop of peppers, I never have this kind of luck with peppers

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Their tomatoes are doing even better, I am so jealous. They have a green thumb, I have an Orso.

Tis the Season

I should have seen it coming. It is that time of the year. Sudden intense storms that blow out of nowhere, with little warning and leave vast destruction in its wake. Yesterday was one of those days. Beautiful morning, cool temperature partly cloudy skies and a nice breeze, a perfect day for yard work and a DIY home improvement project. We had the whole day planned out. Mitch would go rent a jack hammer to dig out holes in the shelf rock under one of the bedrooms on the old side of the house and I would go to the grocery store then come home and mow.

First off I misunderstood where he was going to rent the jack hammer. I thought he said Lowe’s, so I figured he could drop me off at Sam’s Club across the street rent the jack hammer then come back and get me, killing an extra trip for me. But no, he said Home Depot, not even close to where Sam’s is. Strike one against me for the morning. I caused him to have to drive farther out of his way to take me to Sam’s then on to Home Depot then back to pick me up. He didn’t bother to correct me until we were getting off the highway at the exit, so by then it was too late to correct the misunderstanding. It didn’t end up saving any time for either of us, because I had to wait about a half hour for him to come back and get me. The only upside was the looks on people’s faces walking past me standing in front of Sam’s with a cart full of food.

After coming home and unloading food and jack hammer I buzzed off to the grocery store leaving Mitch to attack rock to his heart’s content. I came home and unloaded groceries, made sure Mitch hadn’t jack hammered off one of his toes, changed my clothes and took the dogs outside to commence yard work. I dragged the mower out of the shed ducking for cover because of the growing wasp nest in the door. I keep forgetting that it’s there until I have to mow, then I’m rudely reminded of it when the wasps buzz bomb my head. I pushed the mower down to the driveway, grabbed the gas can and filled the mower. I pulled the cord and the mower started right off then promptly died. I pulled the cord again and again, now the mower wouldn’t even try to start. I thought great, not now, not today.

I was already hot and tired from cutting limbs from bushes and it was 11:30 so I thought it was a perfect time to take a break, eat some lunch then ask Mitch start the mower for me. I walked back in the house to see how much he had accomplished. He had punched out two holes each about a foot and a half square. It was slow going, Mitch had to break up the rock in big chunks, lift the large rocks out of the hole then use a shovel to scoop up the dirt and smaller rocks out of the holes and into a bucket. He then had to carry the bucket outside and down the steps to the trash dumpster. Hard heavy work and he still had many more holes to dig. I suggested breaking for lunch, but he said no he wasn’t ready. I said that I couldn’t get the mower to start and asked that he start it for me, but I was tired and wanted a diet coke and just sit for a minute. Strike number two, since I stopped to take a break, in essence I made him stop what he was doing too. He quickly reheated a leftover steak while I ate a salad and drank my diet coke.

When I was done, he followed me out to the mower. I pulled the cord just to check; it started right up, then died and wouldn’t start again. Mitch pulled and pulled but nothing happened. He told me to push it into the garage so he could work on it. I could tell by his expression, it wasn’t going well. Strike number three, I told him not to worry about the mower that I could do something else and he could go back to jack hammering. He looked at me with that look and I saw the first signs of “Mitch Fit Warning”. I offered again that he could stop taking the mower apart and I would do something else. That’s when I saw the “Mitch Fit Warning, Imminent”. The look that says “take cover things are about to starting flying or get broken”.

He looked at me and said very slowly, “Go find something else to do, right now.” Here it comes “Mitch Fit Imminent” is getting ready to strike and I didn’t want to be in the path of that storm. This had all signs of a major event. He had rented a jack hammer, paying an hourly rate to get grueling back breaking work down and I had just halted the process in order to fix the mower. This wasn’t going to be pretty at all.

So I grabbed the dogs and beat a hasty retreat. An hour later he walked into the house and said, “I got it running for now so go mow right now before it stops.” Thank god we had rocks he could break.

The Silence was Deafening

Every morning I head out on the morning walk with the dogs around 4:30 give or take ten minutes. It’s always dark, with some mornings darker than others depending on the time of year, starry skies or cloud cover. We’re usually alone except for the occasional critter of the night still out foraging, raccoons, possums and deer. When we run across any or all of these critters the morning walk gets very interesting, usually with me hanging on for dear life and yelling “NO NO NO!” The main purpose of the morning walk is to burn off energy and the morning poop, the dogs not me, so the dogs can make it until we get home for lunch to let them out. It’s not a very long walk, about twenty minutes tops.

I am always on high alert walking in the dark, watching and listening for any unusual movement or noise that doesn’t belong there. I’ve been surprised too many times with wild animals, people that are not normally out that early (and are drunk) and a naked man (not a pretty sight). This morning the dogs and I had gone to the distance limit of the walk and turned around to head back so I can jump in the shower and get ready for work. Then I noticed the quiet. I stopped and stood still for a few minutes and just listened. Nothing, no sound at all. The birds hadn’t started their morning calls; there was absolutely no wind not one leaf was moving, no traffic noise, nothing, for that moment in time there was just absolute silence.

For some people this might have been very disconcerting, the feeling of being all alone, but for me it was perfect, the most peaceful moment in time. Just the dogs and me all alone in the dark standing in the middle of the road, soaking up the quiet. In this crazy hectic rush world where everyone wants something to happen instantaneously, hearing nothing was very relaxing and calming. All of my rush mode was gone for a moment, I even forgot what day it was. Then a rabbit ran across the road and I became the boat anchor I was meant to be trying to slow down two dogs, weighing in at one hundred seventy eight pounds and definitely with much more muscle mass than me.

Now I remember, it’s Monday!

Water Pictures

I am a water nut. I love taking photos of water. Lakes, rivers, oceans, even little creeks are a favorite of mine to capture frame by frame. There is just something about water that moves me. So today I am sharing a bunch of photos I took on our little mini vacation this week. We started off at a place in St. James, MO called Maramac Spring Park, a private and state conservation combination park that is a trout hatchery. We don’t fish, but the view was very idyllic, quiet and still in the morning mists.

Tomorrow I’ll share photos of a couple of other places we stopped at, a nature sanctuary and a waterfall. See, I can’t help myself.

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Photos by Susan Kelly taken on my Canon Rebel