Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Summer's Daze

Some people in this house turned 13 this month
Is it me or has summer gone by too fast? I looked at the last post I wrote and it was written in JULY. A month ago. And now the days of August are heading towards the past tense. Seems hard to believe.

As you can tell from the photo above, some people in this house turned 13 this month. There are now three official teenagers living right near me. I hear a lot about how teens tend to be wildly annoying, wildly angst-ridden, and wildly histrionic, but so far all I've really noticed is how much they resemble ME in my menopausal, absent-minded, fog. They forget stuff. Lots of stuff, like phone calls (they forget there's a notepad on which to write messages too), where they left their bike key, why they never put their dirty dishes in the kitchen next to the implement with which we clean those very same dishes.

Which is mostly amusing. I don't feel like such a ditz. I've got company.

Here's a behind-the-scenes shot of the Birthday Duo swinging on our Beach Holiday Extravaganza. As you can see, FDPG likes a little danger with her swinging.

Dominic and I both watched this with our mouths slightly agog, after which I shut down the action immediately. She doesn't believe me but she really DOES want to grow up with her brain and skull intact.

 FDPG and Dominic departed from their usual Birthday Gift requests this year. Every year that I can remember they've asked for LEGO. This year they didn't. When I expressed my shock and amazement, FDPG offered up this excuse: "We thought you were sick of buying us LEGO." To which I expressed even more shock and amazement. An era has ended, methinks.

Note that I do not say "legos." Many of my (mostly American) friends do, and while I try not to judge them, I have to confess that I do. I feel like Tom Cruise's character in Magnolia: "I'm silently judging you." 

Go on Sheila, tell us what you REALLY think.

 So this year FDPG asked for, and received, a kayak. As you might note from this photo, provided you look carefully enough. In the middle, with the yellow, red, and blue striped sail, is her father and her brother in the Topper, while at the right is a teeny tiny little blue blip. That's FDPG. No fear, that girl. At least we were able to refuse to let her go out without convince her to wear a life jacket.

To the right is someone we didn't know, but who spent his afternoon following them around. Maybe it's a sailboat thing, I don't know.
 On this very same beach holiday some of us spent a lot of time looking up the status of the sea boats near us. There is (I say with some surprise though I don't know why in this age of Omnipresent Media Attention To All Things) a website where you can track all the ships in the oceans near you. It's quite cool: you can see the stats of the ship, what it's called, where it came from, and where it's going. Eldest Son discovered this site a while back and now spends much of his time tracking large ships then pestering me to take him down to there he can view them with a scope. Fortunately we live on an island so it's easy to get to a coast to view these behemoths. The ship in the photo is a Disney cruise ship. The cruise ships are easily the most impressive boats going up and down the coast, and as they usually glide past in the early evening, lights all aglow, it's an enchanting sight. According to Eldest Son's scope, this was a Disney ship, and he could even see the giant screen playing The Lion King.
 Another dreamy shot of the coastal range mountains on the mainland. We live in a lovely place.


Friday, July 18, 2014

More From The Trenches

  Yes, I am making a reference to being in the thick of it. Which I am. This is the first summer where I've - more than once - thought "hmmm, maybe there's too MUCH garden going on here. I might have to cut back next year."

I know. Can you believe I just said that?

Okay, let's move on, there are quite a number of photos today. I don't know how I ended up taking so many; all I'd gone out for was a shot of the Crown Princess Margarita rose, but the light was so good I ended up taking 67 shots.

No, no, I'm not going to make you sit through 67 photos of my garden. Relax. I've cut out 10.

Just kidding.

Trust me.

 I know it sounds nuts to say this, but fall planting begins now.

This six-pack contains Georgia Southern collards. I've never grown collards before. In fact I've never eaten collards before, at least, not knowingly.

These were given to me at by the lovely people at the Botanical Interests booth at last year's Mother Earth News Fair in Puyallup. And no, they didn't give them to me so I could write about them; they were giving seeds away to ANYONE WHO WANTED THEM. It was like a dream come true for those few minutes I was collecting packets of seed.

 Some more trays of seeds, although these are mostly various types of lettuce. This is the first year I've managed to keep the kitchen regularly stocked with lettuce.

In case you skipped over that last sentence, let me blow my own horn a bit point out what an amazing feat this is. I've never fully appreciated what it takes to keep a regular variety of lettuces and greens in the kitchen at all times for five people: lunches, sandwiches, smoothies, dinners. Could be we just go through a lot of lettuce. Either way, it's been fun, even if it HAS tested my usual level of organization.

 If you don't eat kale you should. I know that sounds bossy but it's SUCH a good green and it is SO easy to eat. My kids refuse to eat it knowingly but genuinely love it in smoothies.
It also looks really cool:

 I was reading an article about garden furniture and garden art. Where do you stand on the topic?

I like having things besides plants in the garden - breaks up the view and add different colours.

It's also a good place to store things. One day I WILL use this broken wheel and that oddly shaped piece of tile, I just know it.
 This plant is commonly known as Goose Necked Loosestrife (no, not that loosestrife). Can you see why?

I've got it growing with some white Obedient Plant and a few hostas. The deer salivate over them every night at about 8pm. Fortunately I've also got a net around these puppies or they'd be toast.

Why yes, I do happen to be on the Stupid $#%*&@ Deer side of the fence. There are way too many of them in my neck of the city.

I had a better shot of this fabulous and weirdly coloured hydrangea, but it didn't include the charming Mr. T slinking by, so you're getting this one instead. His nickname is Lemur Tail. Not that he comes when you call him that, mind you.

There appear to be several permutations of purple going on here: the centres of some flower heads are different colours from others. Some are blue, some quite dramatically mauve, some even white. And you can see that heads themselves are all differing shades of purple.

You too can achieve this effect by mulching just half the plant with pine cones that fall off a nearby handy tree. You can even kick them under the tree when people come over and trip over them, thus saving yourself raking duties. At least, that's what I think happened here. It certainly gets no love from me the rest of the year. And yes, I do feel somewhat abashed admitting this. 

Look at the lovely green of these Holy basil plants. Apparently they are quite good as an insect repellant, but I've yet to try them. Right now we use catnip EO in a yarrow tincture - it's killer.

Holy basil is also known as an adaptogen, good in teas for stress. I'm not familiar with Holy basil but these seedlings are going in the herb garden, so we'll see what they do.

So far all I notice about it is that is has a faint lemonish aroma, is a gorgeous healthy green, and is much hairier than it's cousin Ocimum basilicum.

The Sad & Lonely Shelves of the Greenhouse

 Am I regretting not thinning the peach tree this year?

Perhaps a tad. There's a lot of medium-sized fruit on it this year.

As there is every year.

One day I'll thin. One day.
 Am I regretting not thinning the nectarine tree this year?

Perhaps a tad. There's a lot of medium-sized fruit on it this year.

As there is every year.

Hmm. I'm noticing a pattern here. I think I'm what they call a Chronic Non-Thinner.

 "Four Little Pepperonici Maids From School Are We!"

Squiggley, aren't they? These will get pickled soon.

I made asked Eldest Son to assist me in carrying this chunk of wood home from the beach the other day, because I plan on making some of the aforementioned  Garden Art with it. He'd been slogging along for about 10 minutes when he said "this is pretty junky - what are you going to do with it?" When I told him I was going to paint it so that it would eventually resemble something magnificent, he expressed rather obnoxious levels of incredulity and mirth. Evidently he could not see its striking resemblance to something alive (and swimming).

Can you?

Imagine me blue and spouting!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Rambling About The Garden

 I was taking this photo yesterday, in what I thought were cloudy-ish conditions, but after looking at this shot on the computer I realized two things: first, the dry dry grass in the foreground detracts from what is otherwise a rather magnificent display of vegetable gardening (and one that I was hoping to boast about), and second, I need a more overcast day to take garden shots.

Oh heck, I'll boast anyway. In this shot are 13 types of edible plants or vegetables: tomatoes (Jaune Flamme, Juliet, Green Zebra, Tigerella, Black Krim, Sungold, Yellow Pear), beans (Flambo, Hutterite Soup, Blue Lake, Cranberry Bush, Scarlet Runner, Broad), beets (Touchstone Gold, Chioggo, Bulls Blood), radicchio (Palla Rosso), peas (Sugar Daddy), purple sprouting broccoli, onions (Kincho), lettuce (Valmaine, Tango, Tropicana, Red Sails), salsify, celeriac, artichokes, strawberries, and raspberries. Ignore that rude grass.

This shot was obtained by leaning precariously out my bathroom window, screen balanced carefully on my head, with a telephoto lens on the camera. My neighbour, who was exercising her dog in the back yard, looked a little uneasy when I shouted cheerily "Don't worry! just trying out the telephoto!"

Here is a perfectly amazing radicchio. Why did I take so long to discover them? Radicchio has it all: looks, taste, and style. Red Sails lettuce comes close, with its beautiful frilly, red green ruffles, but radicchio wins with those mesmerizing green swirls.

Little sweat bee on onion flower head.
 The box in that pot incurred some frost damage this winter, and is now sitting out the summer in a shady corner of the deck, trying to regrow.
 This bench is strategically placed to block the sprinkler from watering so much of the grass. I don't think it's aware of how useful it's being, but it's such a cantankerous bench that if it DID know, I feel sure it would crumble, just to annoy me. It flipped over in the spring - for no good reason - with a number of snapdragon starts on it, causing most of them to dangle perilously close to the fence, where they were eventually pillaged by marauding chickens. I was not pleased, so the bench was banished to the Really Horrible Dry Part of the backyard. Until now, of course.

Speaking of pillaging chickens, here are Prunella (roosting on the compost screen, hiding from Pip) and Pip (looking around for more seedlings to rip and shred). Pip and Prunella are sisters - they should get along, right? Last month Pip decided that she was sick of Prunella, no doubt because Prunella makes it a habit to shove everyone aside when they get their afternoon snack. She's a good size, too, so the shoving frequently gets out of hand. Sometimes it's accompanied by a peck or two (in the case of Fern).

Pip took to really tormenting Prunella, stalking her, pecking her, and attacking her in rather random ways. It put ole Prunella off her laying, which was when I had to get involved because if there is one thing Prunella is good at it's laying eggs. That hen lays every single bloody day, which is impressive given her very advanced years. So, just as Pip took to following Prunella around with malicious intent, I took to following Pip around, only instead of malicious intent  I had a bamboo pole.

(sensitive types may want to look away at this point) 

Whenever Pip attacked Prunella, I banged Pip across the back with the pole and squawked, trying to sound like I was saying "STOP THAT YOU STUPID BLOODY CHICKEN!" Eventually Pip decided that it wasn't worth having me shout and chase her around with a pole, and she stopped terrorizing Prunella, but not before Prunella decided she was really really really uneasy around Pip.

This shot shows Prunella lumbering up from her comfy roost and looking a little concerned. This is because she's noticed that Pip has noticed her, and she's no doubt starting to worry that it might be the Formerly Mean & Horrible Pip and not the Newly Chastened Bamboo Pole in Butt Pip.

Fortunately I was able to utilize my chicken language skills and tell them they are a pair of fools to put so much energy into fighting.
 Royal Wedding sweet peas. So far these take the top prize in the Best Smell In The Garden contest. They pipped the lemon verbena only because the verbena requires human intervention to release its scent, while the sweet peas can scent the entire top floor of the house in a matter of minutes.
 Toffee, who takes the prize for Most Fearful Cat On The Block, is sitting here, surveying his territory in a safe part of the yard (where he can dart in the cat door should anyone challenge him).

I hate to say this, but I think he thinks that concrete frog is looking out for him. Moments after I took this photo he licked Froggie, as if to say "you're a pal, thanks for looking out for me."

And I thought the chickens were weird.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Feedly Is A Hostage

Look, there's something wrong with the blog feeder I'm using. They are working to "mitigate" the issue, they tell me. Oh joy. Does this mean, dare I hope, that it will be easier, not to mention faster, to scroll through all my blogs after this? Because, Dear Feedly, I think you're being hacked because you're so darn ponderous to get through. You've created Annoyed Customers who can't forget Bloglines and all they did to make reading blogs fun and easy. The only silver lining to come of this event is that I get to see actual blogs again, as opposed to reading them on a feeder. Some of my favourite blogs have changed their visuals beyond all recognition! How did I not notice that? (umm, because you never click through to the blog ever?) I wish my new blog reader would incorporate this quirk, so I could see new changes to everyone's blog.

My blog, I should mention, has not changed a jot. I think I've lost interest in fiddling with colours and post dimensions, not to mention plain old posting. Clicking around to my favourite blogs shows me that I'm not alone in this.

Not much new going on here, although we did see X-Men: Eve of Destruction the other day. Oops, a little Googling shows me that I'm messing up the title - it's called X-Men: Days of Future Past. I think someone needs to make a movie titled The Rise of the Colon, but even saying this makes me wonder if anyone in Hollywood would get the joke.

Now, back to the important stuff, like the start of the World Cup.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

How My Week Went

 Another in the "My Life As A Fabulous Cat" series 
by guest poster Toffee

This is how I prefer to spend my day: lying sideways on a flat surface. Not only does this position set my face off to perfection (as well as resting my ample girth), it also causes the slaves to exclaim delightedly about how cute I am. And who doesn't like a little slavish worship?

If only they would obey my Look But Don't Touch dictum, particularly the young slaves. 

This is my other preferred position, but for some reason the slaves don't like me doing this. They think it causes me to stay awake at night. Apparently I make too much noise while they're sleeping (but do I care? not I). Silly slaves: I make noises at night not because I am well-rested, but because it's the only time I get to claw the damn chesterfield. Note to Richard: that piece of cedar you screwed onto my favourite clawing spot? The one you hope I'll scratch instead of the material? It doesn't fool me. I'm a cat, not some dumb dog. Honestly.

When I tire of lolling, I like to sit in the window looking as atmospheric as possible. Here I am in the pose known as The Regal Egyptian. I usually sit like this until Sheila has the camera JUST about focused, then I move right when she clicks the shutter. This really exasperates her but it's so amusing. I do enjoy thwarting her. She's SO bossy.

The only trouble with annoying the slaves is that they get fussy about my Feed On Demand strategy and start paying attention to how much food I've had each day. Don't they realize that my ample girth doesn't get this way on a starvation diet?


Thus am I compelled to beg cutely.

Always a bit deflating to the old ego.

 To get back at them I resort to specific tactics.

Here I am biting the hand that feeds me.

Here I am hiding while they are calling me. This particular spot lasted well over an hour.

My extensive yoga moves always get a rise out of someone, particularly if I'm licking a certain part of my anatomy.

Right in front of them.

Right when they're eating. 

  Tip: make as much noise as possible.

Nothing like a little suction noise, combined with some gnawing and chewing, to really get them all stirred up.

 Sometimes it backfires on me and they find me hilarious.

I hate being laughed at. It's so undignified.

  Luckily I have my balls to play with. I find this very therapeutic.

When FDPG isn't around I use her iPod for Selfie Practice. Is it me or does anyone else struggle with the screen button when taking selfies? Steve Jobs obviously wasn't thinking about cat paws when he designed that thing.

I meant to get more of my face in this one.

And this one.

This is probably the worst thing that happened to me this week. For some reason no one heard me knocking at the door.

I sat there for ages.

I hate when that happens, don't you?

Never fear, I'll get back at them.

One day.

(For more in this series please click CATS in the sidebar section marked LABELS or type How My Week Went into the search bar)

Monday, May 5, 2014

Springing Out Of The Ground

The plants, I mean.

After years of growing radishes every March, then giving up when they either split or become entirely gnawed on by woodbugs, I think I might just be getting the hang of these things. Sow thinly in a cool place, pick when still relatively small, take a lot of photographs of them (glistening with water), then consume.

 Some might call this a trendy repurposing of old greenhouse shelves, but the truth is that these are the lengths I have to go to to keep the cat from repurposing my salad garden as a toilet. These shelves stay on until the seedlings are tall enough to discourage even the LAZIEST cat from scratching around in them. Worth their weight in gold, them shelves is.

Lettuce seedlings (Plato II, Valmaine, Esmeralda), bulb onions (grocery store cheapies), radishes (Cherry Belle), baby turnips (Mikado), beets (Golden), and kale (Dwarf Blue Curled).

Celeriac seedlings getting settled. I was listening to Local Garden Persona Carolyn Herriot this spring, at a Seedy Saturday lecture, when she showed a photo of celeriac plants. They were positively bulbous, so I asked her what she did to get them so big.

"Those overwintered," she said. "They take more than one year here."

Ah. So that's it. Why doesn't it say that on any of my seed packets then?

 It's almost strawberry time!
 It's definitely asparagus time.
 This, folks, is what I have to work with in my back yard. No flat open stretches for me. No, no, no. It's all one big slanting sloping Machu Pichu of a garden.

Finally, Snapping Dragons, reclining in the sun.