Thursday am

Finally got the front flower beds ready for mulching.  Coonties and plumeria, both Florida natives.  The coonties are fairly slow growing, but the plumeria will fill in with a nice shiny green.  These two beds are the first steps to getting the lawn out and plants in. I have never understood the desire to have a vast expanse of green with nothing in it.  Unless you’re a golfer, I guess.  Before and after:

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The Texas sage looks happy after the rain showers we got yesterday.

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The fountain grass bed is also ready for mulching.  I guess I better get myself motivated.  It’s just so hot.

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My back porch is becoming my indoor jungle.

Pete keeps the grass from getting too long.  He’s a great help.

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Today is brought to you by the letter B

In honor of Binky, my best friend, today is all about the letter B.

Birds. The usual customers are bellied up at the sunflower bar. Tufted titmouses – (titmice?), chickadees, cardinals, wrens, blue jays, doves and bluebirds.  I love the way the bluebirds perch up on the shepherd’s crooks, swoop down to grab a cricket or a worm, and then pop right back up to perch on the metal hook again. This morning there were three of them just working the yard over. No sandhill cranes this morning, but I did put fresh water in their drinking bowl for when they show up.

Birdfeeders. Two are empty and two are getting there. The food lasts much longer now that I’ve put the feeders close to the screened-in porch. The squirrels are staying away more. Not completely, but at least the feeders aren’t getting emptied in a day like they were when they were farther out in the yard.

Bees. And lots of other little flying creatures. Wasps, skippers – which I think are actually butterflies. And dragonflies. The helicopter of the flying insect world.

Black snake. A gorgeous specimen about as thick as my index finger was cruising through the azalea bushes just outside the porch, hunting for slow lizards I imagine. At one point he stretched himself out on a sunny branch and just flexed for me, showing off like he was a body builder at Venice Beach. After an appropriate amount of admiration, he went on his way, sliding silently through the sunny leaves.

Butterflies. I have a bed of milkweed that has self-seeded and I’m just letting it have its way there. There were all colors of butterflies checking them out this morning – orange, brown, yellow, white, and one with flashes of blue that I think was a swallowtail, but I didn’t want to disturb it by getting too close.

Bunnies. We have a family that has moved into our azalea bush. It’s really more of a condo than a bush. There are at least three cardinal nests in there. I like to think that the bunnies finally saved up enough money to move into a place where each of their kids could have their own room. I put terra cotta saucers out with water, so now they can brag to the other bunny families that they have a water view.

Blooms. The pink crepe myrtles are finally blooming. They are much later than the other myrtles in the yard. Maybe they are creeping myrtles instead. The pentas are a nice, deep red that show up beautifully against the bright green of the grass. Plumbago and salvias are also doing well, and I’m glad to say that the fire spikes in the front bed have finally started showing their color. It’s taken them awhile to decide to bloom. The geraniums I bought for 25 cents on the clearance rack at Walmart are blooming in the front flower pot. I had no idea what color they’d be, or even if they were all the same. There’s something inside me that cannot resist a 25 cent mystery plant. It’s not a problem, though. I can quit whenever I want. Honest.

Bad dogs. I was noticing a terrible smell of poo this morning. It seemed to occur whenever Gracie was near me. She must have found some delicious poop to roll in while we were out walking in the yard. She got a thorough scrubbing with Dawn before she was allowed back in the house. Dawn doesn’t just cut the grease, it removes the poo as well. I don’t know why they don’t use that as a tag line.

Blowsy cat tails. Ok, I’m stretching the ‘b’ thing with this one, but I do love the pink cat tails of the fountain grass. I think of it as my hello kitty grass. The bed is big enough so that if mama deer has to leave any more babies in our yard we have room for triplets. (Last fall one deer mama left a baby beside the cherry tree in the early am while she went shopping for groceries. Around lunchtime she returned, picked up her kid, and they trotted back off to the woods. We’re deer daycare.) I like to think the deer will trot by, see the bed of fountain grass, and make a mental note that it looks like a safe place for babies to nap.

Brew. Ron made the coffee this morning. There is something so nice about coming inside after our morning constitutional to find the house smelling of coffee already brewing. I enjoyed a large cup of it outside in the shade, and wished I had my buddy Binky to shoot the bull with. I guess this blog will have to do.

 

It’s ok to give in. Sometimes.

I gave in to my furry overlords this morning. I had planned to weed the worst of the flower beds, and maybe repot a few stragglers. I stood there, sweating and contemplating what needed the most work when I realized I was alone. I am never alone in my yard. I have two constant companions, Gracie and Pete. No matter if it’s raining, or windy, or late in the evening, if I venture outside, so, too, go my faithful compadres. But not this morning. Here I was, all full of good intentions and work gloves on, ready to jump into the wilderness of weeds that was supposed to be a flower bed. I scanned the entire back yard, but I didn’t see either of them. Gracie is hard to find sometimes since she’s almost completely black. If she lays down in the shade she can do a pretty excellent job of disappearing into the dark. Until she pants. And then I can track the hot pink of her tongue in her doggie smile. She wasn’t in the any of the shade that I could see. And normally Pete is directly underfoot, hoping for a mole to show up, and sometimes getting on his hind legs and pawing my thigh. He doesn’t like for his paws to get too wet, so it’s acceptable for me to carry him when he says so.

Worried, I was afraid they may have gone into the neighbors yard where I knew there was a family of bunnies living under one of the larger azalea bushes. Then I spotted movement inside the back porch. Both Gracie and Pete were sitting outside the sliding glass door, waiting to go inside. I called to them, but they both just sat there, looking at me, patiently waiting for their human to figure out it was time to open the damn door and let them back into the air conditioning. The thermometer on the wall of the house said it was only 82, but it did feel much hotter in the sun. And I wasn’t wearing a fur coat.

So I gave in to the fur masters. I opened the door and they strolled in, glad that their human was finally figuring stuff out. They had hope for me yet.

New leaves from a dead plant

I pick up scraps of plants. Sometimes from other yards, when I’m out with the dog. Sometimes they are parts that have fallen off of my own plants and they look like tiny bedraggled pieces of string with no life in them. But I pick them up. I take them with me. And somewhere I find a spare pot with some dirt in it, drop the poor orphan in, and wait and see. I often forget what I’ve done, and am surprised when I find something green in amongst the spare pots.

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It always amazes me. Something so tiny and lifeless and dry and dirty and apparently dead can harbor the tiniest spark inside it, sometimes for years. And when the time is right, when sun and water and season combine to give it just the right nudge, a new leaf appears.

I feel like that lately. I’ve sprung a new leaf from a very old hidden root inside myself. When I was young I wrote all the time. Everything from plays to songs to short stories to some really awful poetry. But I wrote. Every day. I didn’t aspire to be a writer, I just wrote because I like putting thoughts out there into the universe and seeing what other thoughts they attract and develop and grow into.

One day someone made a very offhand comment about my writing. A comment that I’m quite sure they don’t remember at all. And it’s not their fault that I allowed that thought to sere my soul and my desire to write. “I tried to write, too,” she said. “But everything that can be said has been said. There’s nothing new to write.” And I thought oh, my, god, she’s right. Who am I to write? I am nothing new. I have no stories to tell. And the little plant that was happily rooting and spreading new leaves and searching for sunlight got ripped out of its pot and tossed on the compost heap. Left for dead. Not forgotten, but looked at as a failed project.

And years passed. Sometimes I’d sprinkle a little water on the tiny forgotten sprig. Sometimes I’d move it around to another pot. But I neglected it terribly. And tried not to think about how much I loved that plant and how it made me feel to tend to it.

But I am a gardener. Life bursts into bloom all around me in the yard. Every season new colors and leaves and textures and shapes spring into being. And I realized something. Every plant is different. They may be the same type. Same color. Same age. But they’re different. Each blooms individually. Each one has its own story. Without even realizing how happy it would make me, I went and found that tiny old sad root of an idea, that I could write my own ideas and stories, and I put it in a blog pot and watered it. And here it is, springing tiny new leaves. And now when I get up I have something I look forward to. I have thoughts and ideas just tumbling around in my head wanting to get out of the dark and into the light. I feel a sense of pleasure to get up and get going, and get those words out onto the page.

Too hot

Heat index says it feels like 94 outside at 9:30 am.  Add to that being a middle age female who occasionally bursts into flame herself, and you have a highly combustible situation. Good thing we have a pool.

And a random thought… Why is it when you carry a full cup of coffee that if you don’t look at it you’re fine, but if you do look at it you spill?  For every action there is an equal and opposite spill action, I guess.

A couple pics of the wildlife enjoying the flora this am.  Sorry the butterfly pic is so blurry.  He refused to hold still.

The messy gardener strikes again

Some gardeners spend their time pruning boxwoods to just the right delicate shape.  They know the names, latin and common, of all of their gorgeous blooms. Their gardens are crafted, and structured, and thoughtful.  The beautiful blogs and pictures of devoted gardeners give me hours of pleasure and entertainment to peruse and discuss.  I enjoy and admire these garden creations immensely.

I, however, am what could be called a random gardener.  Sure, I have some beds I’ve laid out.  And there is a sort of master plan for the back yard.  Recently I discovered that several milkweed had self-seeded in amongst my empty pot discard area. (Yes, I save everything plant related. I might need it later.) I was happy rather than dismayed.   Oh, look, I thought, more native plants that have fought their way in and are blooming happily.  I figure if they want to live with me, I’ll make room for them.

When the birds drop the sunflower seeds and I get random sunflowers in amongst the flower beds, I pull the weeds from around the flowers, and let them have their way.  The acre of empty grass we bought a year ago is filling up with tiny spots of color and texture and movement.  The wildlife is slowly discovering the offerings of coral honeysuckle for the hummingbirds, the pentas and milkweed for the butterflies, and the trees and shrubs I’ve added for the birds to make their homes.  I like a little messiness in the garden.

 

In a vase on Monday, with memories

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In the winter of 1995 I had just turned 30 and was in the middle of a terribly bitter divorce. (All the more bitter because we had absolutely nothing to fight over. We were both poor as dirt.) I was waking up alone in a house I couldn’t afford, going to a job with people that didn’t like me, and looking at a life ahead of me that was just not worth it. Then during one nasty winter storm, a little gray cat showed up on my back porch. She was rail thin, and obviously feral, not wanting to get close to me, but so desperate to survive that she was willing to take a risk on the blonde lady in the house. So I put out food for her, and in a while was able to coax her into the house to eat and drink. At some point she became my cat, not just a feral cat, and I had acquired a long-term friend.

I was working at Kings Dominion that summer in the bakery, (one of my 3 jobs I was working to try and get out of divorce debt,) going in at 5 am with several large black ladies who laughed at just about anything I said, and all of whom called me Boo. I’m not sure why. “Go get me a ladle, Boo.” “We need more butter, Boo.” I had been called much worse. And it seemed like they liked me, so I took Boo to be a term of endearment. And so the little grey cat with one weird orange spot on her side became Boo. And then BooBoo. She was shy, but sweet, and stayed skinny until I had to leave her with my parents for a month while I went to Florida to find an apartment and a job. When I came back, BooBoo appeared to have doubled in size. I asked my mother what happened. She said, “She always seemed hungry, so I just left the cat food bag open for her to eat when she wanted.” I imagine BooBoo spent that entire month with her head contentedly buried in Purina Cat Chow.

She came with me and my menagerie from Virginia to Florida at the end of that summer when I moved from a house I couldn’t afford and a life I hated, to a garage apartment that was less than 800 sq feet, no job, and a much lighter spirit. BooBoo loved that apartment. She loved living up high above the garage, looking through the trees, and lounging in the hot Florida sunshine. So did I. The space between the garage and the main house was a large dirt square. My landlord and best friend Chris would take the hose and make a set of holes in the dirt, and inevitably BooBoo would take the bait. She couldn’t stand not to. So she would creep up, as much as a 15 lb cat could creep, lay on her stomach and stick her paw as far as she could down the hole. Curious, she’d move from hole to hole, ever hopeful, and entertaining Chris and I for several cups of coffee in the morning. She loved to be brushed, too. BooBoo I mean, not Chris. I don’t know about Chris. But we could take a hairbrush and tap it on the concrete floor of the porch, and BooBoo would drop her search for hidden creatures and come waddling across to us, stropping and purring in her chirpy way.

When I finally moved into a house in Lakeland, out of the garage apartment, and several states later, (that’s another story), I had a large plumbago bush in the back yard. It was sprawly, cool and shadowy underneath, and BooBoo loved it. She would spend all day under there, only coming out when I called the kitties to come eat. Slowly, carefully, the dusty plumbago covered furry creature would emerge, and shake herself off. Most of the spring and summer she would have some small piece of plumbago stuck to her somewhere. Her ears, or her back, but most often her butt. I guess it was hard for the overly plump puss to clean back there. So she became plumbago butt. Everybody gets known for something in this world, I guess. There are worse names than plumbago butt.   So these flowers are in her memory, and her chirpy, waddling, pill-hating self. I miss her.

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