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

The December Dilemma

Yesterday evening I took a walk around the neighborhood to see the Christmas lights on houses, Santas in front yards, and wreaths on front doors. Except there weren’t any. I asked myself if I had the right month. I checked my phone. Yep, I did. What happened to my neighbors? Then it hit me. Most of the neighbors that traditionally went wild with their lights and front lawn decorations have fled the area for warmer pastures. I miss them. They had a spirit of Christmas I didn’t so I lived on their enthusiasm. They brightened up the neighborhood and made us smile. We were proud people who basked in their twinkling lights. We could count on them every year. Now they were gone and took the spirit of Christmas with them. Santa’s sleigh and reindeer are now flying high over sand dunes. And no, I’m not going to take over the tradition. You’re lucky if I have a bow on my front door. Inside the house is another matter. I enjoy displaying  several trees in the living room, lights over the mantelpiece, and Christmas cards on a table.

So I gave up on Christmas decorations, and settled for the natural growth around the neighborhood. Here are some pictures.

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Calvin says, “Yeah, I miss those midnight walks. I tingled with excitement.” beagle

Christmas Craziness

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This is what I saw on my way to the office this morning. A beautifully decorated tree on the street, curbside. No lights. Was it waiting for a taxi, I mean Uber? Maybe since it was standing there in front of the building where Uber has its offices. If it was a gimmick, it worked on me. I asked a security guard and he said, “It was leaking so they brought it out.” Wait till the dog walkers and their pups notice this. A Christmas tree just for them!

The things one sees during the holidays.

I had coffee last weekend with a friend. I ran into a woman and her beagle at the entrance of the shop and bolted inside before she captured me. She will talk to anyone for ages about her dog and how much it’s costing her to keep him alive.  FullSizeRender (11)Something in the vicinity of $20,000. He pooch has two bionic knees otherwise he wouldn’t have made it. He’s now on expensive drugs for skin allergies. And the list goes on. Every time I’m at the coffee shop she’s there, so I suspect she goes every weekend in search of an audience. The man in the picture? That’s her husband. Notice the delighted expression on his face.

I thought this planter decoration was great. Different. Colorful. Something to use all winter long. It was lobby decor in a building that used to be home to the local post office. Now we have to hunt for where it moved to. No forwarding address.

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Calvin says, “I’m signing a DNR. Do not reconstruct. Me.” beagle

Fashionable

In a conversation I had with a friend about being raised with money.

“In my mother’s day, the maids who cleaned our houses in the neighborhood arrived in a Cadillac they had bought together,” she said.

Intrigued, I asked, “Did they also dress the part?”

“Yes. They wore wonderful hats, dresses and high heels,” she said. “They changed clothes inside the house, did their work, then changed back out of their uniforms and into their street clothes, got into their Cadillac and drove home.”

A class act, I thought.   Image result for cadillac

“But my mother never left her maid out of her sight. In fact she followed her everywhere pointing out areas that needed attention.”

I wondered how she must have felt about that. Someone who owned a Cadillac must have known how to clean well, I thought.

“That was my mother, never trusting anyone to do the job right. Cadillac or no Cadillac.”

Calvin says, “Mistrust goes deep. Like my breeder who never left me out of her sight in case I barfed on her new carpet.”  beagle

 

 

 

A Drip in the Night

We’ve had plumbing problems at home this week.

It’s been disorienting to stumble into the bathroom at 5 a.m. to brush my teeth and to be shocked by running water splashing around my ankles.

This puts Alf into a panic. Computers are his field, not pipes.

Our solution: buy another vanity. photo(116)

We went to Lowe’s armed with tape measures. We looked professional. We measured the vanities on display. We chose a very circumspect one, cherry brown with a white marble top. We hunted down a live sales person. He checked the inventory on the computer. It said they had two in the store. He began to look. Up and down the aisles he went. Nothing. Finally I asked him what the product number was, and now there were two of us, and then three with Alf. We stretched our necks searching for box # 400897 at a height of an eagle in a tree. Several strained necks later we returned to the computer to discover it had lied to us. There were two vanities, but one was a return because it was damaged, and the other was the display we had measured. How many others had measured it, kicked it, and shimmied it? We were not going to buy that one, but I was tempted to ask if we could get a discount on it. Nope, I didn’t do it. Our salesman was not to be daunted, so he called another store, and found a new one. So we put it on hold, dashed over there, confirmed they had told the truth, and paid for it.

This took the better part of the morning.

Our wonderful neighbor, a whiz at fixing all things broken and a truck owner, picked up the vanity with Alf and dragged it into the house. Like a moth to a flame, Ed’s attention was immediately drawn to the problem with the old vanity. After examining it he declared he could fix it. Why spend $400 on a new vanity when he could fix the old one for $32. So off he went to the hardware store, chose new parts, came back and got to work. What should have been a few hours turned into two days, with several additional trips to the store, but when he finished I had brand new, shinny silver pipes guaranteed never to leak a drop of water on me again no matter what time of day or night. Then Ed and Alf schlepped the new Lowe’s wonder back to the store to be returned to its black hole in the sky.

Calvin says, “You guys are ridiculous. What’s wrong with the hose out in back and one of the trees to pee on?”  beagle

 

 

 

 

How To Talk To a Spoiled Dog

Dear Calvin,

Did you get any responses for a new owner?

They’d be crazy to take you on.

You’re spoiled. Pampered. Set in your ways.

Opinionated. (That’s an understatement.) Stubborn. (Another understatement.)

You don’t listen. Obey is a foreign word to you.

You hate baths.

You eat too much.

Your breath smells.

Those are the things I love best about you.

You’re a full blown personality in fur and floppy ears.

Life would be dull without you.

Walks would be a bore without you tugging at your leash. I could let you off-leash, but that’s where the obey thing comes into play. I’ve given you plenty of lessons on how to come back to me when I call, but you usually have other plans, and scare the hell out of me while you disappear under fences, through neighbors’ backyards, and across streets in search of that wild thing your nose tells you is in the neighborhood. (It’s a child in a dirty diaper.)

You think somebody else will put up with your antics? Ha!

So you stick to your opinions and I’ll stick to mine.

We’ll continue to get along just fine.

Calvin says, “Touché. How’s that for a foreign word, eh? All right. I’ll cancel my ad in the classifieds.”