Showing posts from June, 2006

Droopy and Grumpy

This is, I think , a Ligularia. Anyone is welcome to correct me if they may. I love this elegant shade plant and am worried about the changes in the back yard and what may come of it. It doesn't like being in the sunlight. The heat makes it droopy------------- just like me. And this is, I know , the jungle cat who likes to sleep in the shade under the ligularia. The hubby and I stopped by the animal shelter the week before Christmas. Once I saw her I knew she belonged to me - declawed, spade, and homeless at the age of 8 when her owner died. She is unhappy about having to be supervised when she is outdoors. Nor does she like having her picture taken (note that her ears are back.) It makes her grumpy ---------- just like me.

Rolling Along

Some of you may be wondering what happened next in THE BACK YARD Well, the sprinkler trenches were eventually all exhumed. That is a French word that means to bring back from obscurity. To me it meant digging up more dead rocks. (Meanwhile the rock collection project was nearing completion. Rejoice!Rejoice!) The hubby spent hours with his graph paper figuring where to put each kind of head and how far it would cover. He had to prepare drain sites and glue pipes. It was like organizing a space shuttle launch when he executed the control unit countdown. Initiate Profile Checks. Replenish top valve. Close drain Valve. T minus 1 and counting. Close fill and vent valves. Main button start 3 command. Main Button Start 2 Command. Main button Start 1 Command. Spray……. Lift Off Silliness aside, the test on the flowerbed sprinklers achieved the desired goal; even the birds chirped their approval from the launch pad viewing area. The next task would be the central lawn controls. They were activat

Because She Looked Up

On June 3, Barb stepped outside her Spokane home to witness a very rare, beautiful and probably once in a lifetime spectacle. She ran back in, grabbed her camera and captured these images of a Circum Horizontal Arc . If you know what that is, then you get an A+ in science. The local news said, “ It is an exceptionally rare event that can only be seen in the Northern United States during the late Spring/early Summer months, and even then under only the most unique atmospheric conditi ons.” It apparently works in the same fashion as a rainbow except it is not raining. It happens only when the sun is very high in the sky and ice crystals in the clouds are floating in horizontal plates. The skinny is that everything is always up there - it just takes the sun to shine through. I opened Barb’s Email and was delighted that she had sent them to the hubby and me. She had given credit for the beauty she had captured by giving the pictures titles such as “Only God”, “In His Glory,” and “God’s

A Patty Melt is a Hotwitch

It is hot. At 6:30 my hubby announced it was still 100 degrees in the shade on our patio. As it happens every summer, the air conditioner at work went on the fritz - - which meant the temperature at my desk had reached 85 by the time I locked the doors at five. I turned to my co-workers, lifted my hands in a wicked gesture and reinacted my favorite scene from The Wizard of OZ. “I’m melting. Melting!” I screeched and collapsed into my best impersonation of a puddle onto the slate floor. It was cooler down there.

Speaking of chicks

I think I have my posting problems solved. Our sweet little house sparrow had a big problem, though. The hubby and I watched as she and her mate gathered nesting material and prepared for their new brood in our little bird house. It was moved to the patio as a temporary measure when the Globe Willow tree came down. There had been no time to find a new place for it, so there it is, still hanging by a brick pillar. The birds were tolerant but wary of our movements back and forth. Then one morning we heard those little chirps which grew louder as each day progressed. During breakfast last week I noted that the pair were gathering aphids off the roses, seeds from my platform feeder, and something across the fence that I couldn't identify. Then the other woman showed up. I told the hubby that there was another female hanging around and I wondered what she was doing. By the next day it was obvious that she was fluttering her wings and posing to attract the male. He flew off with her but

Old Chick

Another good reason not to use a feather duster. It just wouldn't be right! bwaaaaaaaak!

Hummer Time

On April 27, I saw a Rufous hummingbird in my back yard. The first one this season and about a week later than usual. I recognized the little metallic tinkle of its hum before I even saw his copper and brown features. The Red honeysuckle was already blooming and I had set out a few nectar feeders as well. Several Rufous males and females hung around a few days and we probably would have seen more if we had played hooky from work. My Audubon handbook says they fly the furthest of all hummingbirds. This beautiful photograph wa s one of last summer’s Rufous in the area. (Julia, the wife of one my young co-workers, got up close and perfect for that shot.) Within a few days, some Calliopes found their way to my back yard as well. Many of them summer in the local mountain range. They are the tiniest hummers in North America. At first I thought one was a Broadtail. He came up on our patio feeder and the skylight reflected his neck color as a brilliant red. I attempted to take some pictures, b

Wearing old Soot

Does anyone else put off cleaning the ashes out of the fireplace 'cuz it's such a distasteful job. What would happen if I didn't?

I Rock

When the sun returned and the dove released from the window did not, we opened the back door and saw dry land. A certain type of energy is required to regroup when you've been denied expectations and goals. "Drained, I was." That is my Yoda impression, and THE BACK YARD looked like the desert planet Tatooini. The hubby was excited, however, to test his new rock rake ordered from one of the garden magazines. In theory, it looked clever. In dried mud it was worthless. Therefore, the little rototiller was fired up and I wasn't (fired up.) The hubby's arms absorbed the shock as it bounced and spewed its way through unyielding layers of hardened muck. (He'd rented a BIG tiller on the very day in March that the monsoon started. Loading it back in the truck wasn't an experience that he was eager to repeat.) Meanwhile, I followed the dug up earth at a snails pace with a shovel and our neighbor Bill's home-made rock sifter. You will note in the photo at the lef

The Coffee Klatch

The year was 1950 and 15 year old Dan was up in the Blue’s (Blue Mountains) hunting with his dad off the Hogeye, a twisty old gravel road that was mostly used by farmers and hunters and probably still is. It was deer season. Father and son had stopped to rest on a high grassy knoll those many years ago when they saw the bear sniffing along a dusty cattle trail some distance below them in a draw. Dan’s hunting license covered bears, so he asked his dad if he should take a shot. “Dad humored me,” Dan recollected “because I wasn’t expert enough to judge the distance down the hill.” So with his dads approval, Dan lifted his 300-Savage, aimed, and fired. They watched as the bullet scattered the dirt well above the bears head. The bear’s response was a swift jerk and a top speed bolt down the cow path. That’s when they became aware of eight hunters at the far end of the canyon enjoying their morning coffee, circled around a campfire … built right on the cow path. The bear was moving like a s

The Flow Chart

Today we were supposed to have THE BACK YARD hydro-seeded. Telephone rang, postponed. That’s okay. We are learning patience. ………………The flow chart was not complicated when we planned to remove the ailing tree the first weekend in March. We would cut it down, chop it up, remove the stump, and re-sod the area. The shade plants in the flowerbed would need to be moved and replaced. The tree removal required chainsaws, chippers, sawdust in every crevice of our body, working our fingers to the bone, and getting bony fingers. The hubby looked at the sawdust and saw that it was good which meant that somewhere on the flow chart he wrote in the purchase of several truckloads of fir bark. (Might as well spiff up all the flower beds.) The first departure from the plan was the untimely septic drain field failure. The fence had to come down for backhoe access and the shrubs and perennials rescued from its path. The hubby removed some sod in the process and saw that it was good . He decided he should

Bird Paparazzi

I enjoy hearing the birds chatter in the morning outside my bedroom window. They are welcomed guests at the various feeders that hang around the house. Besides the numerous sparrows and finches that we see regularly, I can identify many of the species that are native to our valley. My hubby is enthusiastic about helping me because he takes pleasure in watching me enjoy the birds. As for his bird knowledge - he knows they have feathers, poop on his SUV, and are the reason I cajole him into buying special fertilizer for the grass. Therefore, a loving gesture prompted him to call me at work on Thursday to tell me he had photographed a bird at my kitchen feeder. While taking a rest and a refill of his water jug, he saw it through the window. (This is his 1-week summer break and he is dedicating it to working on THE BACK YARD) One of the first things I did when I came home from work, after looking at THE BACK YARD, was ask to see the picture of the bird. To my amazement, the bird was not an


We gave things names when I was young. There was an unfinished block of wood that the smallest kid was required to sit on at the dinner table. It was a butt-worn smooth chunk of wood and it had a name. When it was time for a haircut, mom told you to go fetch THE BLOCK. If the cousins came for lunch, it was quite the proper etiquette to give them first dibs on THE BLOCK. I thought everybody had one. We had a drawer in the kitchen that collected all manner of things. If you needed a piece of string, that is where it was found. There were broken crayons, bobby pins, ice-cream sticks, glue, empty spools, and probably everything needed by MacGyver to stop a ticking time bomb. To mom it was probably just a catch-all. For us it was a treasure chest. If we were hunting for a misplaced item mom would say, “Go look in THE DRAWER." Dare we whine, “I’m boooooored,” mom dispatched us with a terse “Go play in THE DRAWER.” We never opened the wrong drawer. None of the other drawers had names. A

Oh, Donna!

A few weeks of inconvenience in the kitchen, utility and bathroom gives one pause to contemplate the things we take for granted. Such as running water. Which brings to mind my friend Donna who moved in 1991 to the Strawberry Mountains just out of John Day, Oregon. For three weeks this spring, we were extremely aware of how much water we used and where it went after we had used it. (A septic tank with no drain field fills up fast.) Donna and her husband lived in a 19x19 cabin for 3 years with no running water. Dishwashers can easily devour 500 gallons every month. I scraped, wiped, and artfully arranged our dirty fare until I had a completely full load. I have a “water-miser” cycle so I was not going to ‘sink’ to hand washing, Donna had to carry water in to heat on her wood stove to wash her dishes. And carry dirty water back out. To save on laundry we wore our ‘workin clothes’ until they could follow us through the door on their own. I refused to use the Laundromat, ‘cuz I’ve seen

It's not my back yard anymore

It’s like living in the dark ages when you can’t use your toilet. You can’t use the kitchen sink, your washing machine and your shower. If there is no place for it to go – then you …. j u s t... d o n ‘ t.... g o. Unless you have nice neighbors. We do. So, there we were with a tree savagely torn down all over the yard and a septic tank percolating like that old coffee commercial. Unfortunately not smelling like fresh brew. The plumber said, “Call the septic pump man.” The septic pump man said, “Call the rotor rooter guy.” The rotor rooter guy said, “Call the drain field guy.” The drain field guy said, “Call me in about 3 weeks.” I guess that’s a little pun; the drain field guy was backed up. We were fortunate that the pump guy drained the septic tank and gave us a 500 gallon reprieve. We still pottied a lot at our respective jobs and showered the rinse, soap, and rinse method. (I think all the Hollywood celebrities are doing this now to save the environment. They turn off the water wh

It started with a Globe Willow

Over 20 years ago we saw 3 beautiful trees in someone's yard across town. We inquired, then ordered a Globe Willow for our back yard. As the years have passed its beauty was well known around our neighborhood. But, for every one thing lovely about the willow, there was something that wasn't. It was the first green in the springtime, but spewed out a cottonwood-like down that floated through the air, tickled our noses, and clogged our neighbors pool. The tree reached for the sky quickly and spread its globe over the house for a cooling umbrella, but its structure was weak and half of the new growth would fall to the ground in a mess with the slightest breeze. We had the last green of fall, but the leaves forever clogged the gutters and kept us raking past the first snow. Birds were delighted, as were we with the shade for our patio and hammock, but a sticky sap would mist us whenever because of its constant battle with parasites. Last spring a crazy wind storm from the north top

My dusty first hello

This is my first hello. If I keep waiting until after I dust this place then I just won't ever get started. The dust is the result of a complete back yard make over that resulted from one beautiful tree that came down because of a rotten core. A long story (we are into month 4) and one worth telling. But only in short stories. I can't handle all the dust at once. Todays short story is that the dust has not deterred the birds from our yard. I've even considered leaving just a small space of dust by the fence as a dustbath center for the local sparrows and finches. Have you ever watched the little birds flutter as in utter delight into a little bowl-shaped pile of dust. I've heard they use it to soak up excess oil and keep their feathers in shape. Someone suggested that they are "anting." Do the ants eat parasites off their feathers? I'm glad they have enjoyed our efforts. Be back soon.