More Than Dirt

Alf and I got tired of the lunar look of our backyard, with its deep ruts and crevices and dead everything. We used to have steady visitors of cats and squirrels and noisy ravens, but lately even the butterflies do fly-overs instead of landing. So with the help of a longtime neighbor, who builds commercial nurseries for plants, we are working on a new garden together. photo (47)

I quickly sketched my idea of an English garden with pathways and gravel and flowering plants. Something that Alice in Wonderland would choose as she read and conversed with the Cheshire Cat.

I didn’t want a lawn. I was convinced of the versatility and beauty of drought-tolerant plants. I’m a survivor of too many droughts and didn’t want the demands of water guzzling green things anymore. They remind me of crying infants when they’re hungry. I don’t have time to invest in pruning, trimming and talking to them either. I hardly have time to do this with Alf.

I’ve been learning a few things about myself through this. I’m impatient. I thought the re-design would take a month. In my mind it was a simple idea without a lot of fuss. Dig up the dead lawn, and then stick some Woolly Bluecurls, Tree Anemones, and Sticky Monkey-flowers in there, and let them duke it out. I was wrong. I have no understanding of soil, bricks and greenery and what it takes to put all three together in an artful way. It’s taken all summer.

Another problem arose. My neighbor’s taste and mine are not in sync. It’s an act of high level diplomacy every time we disagree. We compromise. We change things. We discard stuff. Always smiling. It’s like a marriage. I’m sure he goes home muttering under his breath. But through it all, a glorious garden is coming into view, and the best part is we haven’t filed divorce papers. That’s the important thing. It may not be ready for the fall, and by winter it will be too cold for tea parties, but then there’s next year. The plants will be settled and feeling good about their new home. And maybe the squirrels and ravens will return chattering and cawing their approval.

When the project is complete, I expect my neighbor to be over many times, showcasing me as his still-friend and my garden to future drought-tolerant fans.

Calvin says, “I’m not so stinking happy. You took away my favorite pee spots.” beagle

Coming Up Spring

Alf surprised me with daffodils and purple flowers that are popping up this spring. My azalea is bursting red so the garden is draped in the primary colors these days. My garden has never looked so colorful. It makes me smile.
We have the worst soil on the planet. The Mojave has more chances of sprouting flowers than my front and backyards. It’s hard clay, and when broken up with toil and sweat, it winks at you for a moment, and then scampers back to form its impenetrable layer of steel. No matter how much rich soil and delicious nutrients you pour down its black hole of a gullet, it regurgitates the clay. I’m convinced the clay runs deep to the core of the planet.
It’s a wonder Alf is succeeding where I haven’t. IMG_0173 (1)
“What’s your secret?” I asked.
“Patience,” he said.
“That’s never worked for me,” I said.
“Maybe it’s the rain. That helps.”
We used to have a rainy season, but that was so long ago. I had given up on it.
“It must be the rain,” I said.
“And not my green thumb?”
“You don’t have one. You’re from New York,” I said.
“How do you think Central Park came into being then?”
I checked Wikipedia.
“Not by New Yorkers. The two landscape architects were from England and Connecticut respectively. It proves my point. Brits know a thing or two about gardens.”
“Then we should import one and really go mad,” Alf said.
Calvin says, “I love our clay soil. I like hearing the splashing sound my pee makes on it. Kills all things green. Adds character to the command, ‘Go potty!'”   beagle

A Walk on the Wildside

I’m allergic to exercise.

If I can use an excuse, I will.

But this week Alf talked me into a hike.

He promised there would be lots of trees, a gurgling creek and I’d be kept busy with the camera.

You have to know, I don’t do hikes. The best I can do is a walk around my neighborhood.

I reluctantly agreed.

The minute I stepped out of the car I knew it would be okay.

The weather was cool – that’s a big plus – it wasn’t crowded – another plus – and it wasn’t uphill – that was huge. I don’t do hills either.

So off we went through an iron gate and into magnificent scenery. The blue of the sky hurt your eyes it was so vibrant. The trees showed off tender green leaves and white blossoms. The creek ran the entire trail singing it’s song by the side of the path.

IMG_0427An added bonus was the parade of dogs enjoying the walk alongside their owners. We saw French Bulldogs, Labs, Border Collies, Boston Terriers, German Shepherds, and an assortment of well-loved and well-worn mutts.

We found out you can’t let a French Bulldog off-leash because he won’t obey.

We noticed the Boston Terriers were on leash, too.

The other breeds were well behaved and would come when called.

That’s what you need on a hike, otherwise the area would be populated with dogs along with the cows and horses and in no time you’d have a howling wilderness.

IMG_0341We almost crushed a baby rattle snake wiggling it’s way across the path to the other side. Alf found a stick and picked it up, but quickly he jumped back. Small didn’t matter. That thing was coming after him. He dropped it to the ground, took a deep breath, and tried again. This time he was able to dump it into the tall grass and saved its life.

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All in all, I enjoyed myself.

Alf was relieved.

It made him hope I’d be willing to try another hike.

Maybe in another 10 years.

Calvin says, “Those French Bulldogs have character, like Beagles. Obeying is boring.” beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

V Day

Today is Valentine’s Day and on my way to work on Market Street I passed by a flower stall spilling over with every flower imaginable – roses, tulips, orchids, daisies, baby’s breath, calla lilies, carnations, delphiniums, iris, narcissus, snapdragons, peonies and sunflowers. I took a million pictures and sent them to wish my friends and co-workers a Happy V Day. What a lovely way to start my Friday morning. When I got to the office everyone it seemed brought in candy, balloons, chocolates, donuts, and cookies. My willpower is zilch so I ended up on a sugar high within minutes. Tulips2

I’m convinced Valentine’s Day was proposed by a fiendish marketer who grew flowers and needed a reason to sell them in large quantities. Enter Cupid with his dimples and arrows who was more than willing to act the part on the stage of American business. It seems the day is as big as Christmas minus the push for toys and trips. Cupid’s done a good job.

Even Noah’s bagels got into the spirit. They made heart shaped bagels today. Unfortunately they looked like stools.

Alf handed me a bouquet of red roses yesterday when I got home. He one-upped me. I had nothing to give him except a big hug and kiss. Today I bought him a dozen oatmeal and raisin cookies from his favorite store in the city. We don’t dare go out to a restaurant tonight. The feeding frenzy at eateries is not a pretty sight, and the food tends to be mass produced in order to get people in and out quickly. We’re staying home and watching our favorite British mystery on PBS.

Calvin says, “Oh good. Are you making red popcorn?” beagle