Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Resort - Part 3 ~ Marilyn Version

It seems my twelve-years old has been enjoying her retirement life, but she thinks her life is stressful and tough. She decided to take time-off with me.

Marilyn loves to wake up with the sun. When the sun comes up, it's time to get up. She also passes that on to me. When she gets up, she comes to wake me up. When I wake up, that means it's time for a morning walk. She doesn't want to waste any moment. She bosses me around to hurry up to get ready.

Once she steps out the door, she looks around the yard and makes sure the sun is out. She doesn't like rain. Fresh air gets her excited. She looks at me "Let's go." She picks a root for the walk. Her legs moves rhythmically. Her tail is half up and wags left and right. The tail shows how proud she is. Her nose works so hard to check things out on the street. She doesn't forget greeting everybody she meets. When she sees her friends, people friends, her tail starts going crazy. That makes her friends happy. People I don't know say hi to her. She has more friends than I do.

After the walk, she takes a little break. While I prepare her breakfast, her eyes look so heavy. She is almost falling asleep. When she knows breakfast is ready, her eyes get wide open. She came to me for her thyroid medecine which she is not a big fan of, but she knows she gets breakfast after that. As soon as her bowl is set to the regular spot, she sits down and waits for ok. She waits until she gets ok. With "ok", she chows down breakfast. Then, she is ready to start her day. She tells me to let her go outside.

Marilyn goes to the yard and picks a sunny spot. She sits and watches cars go by on the street. Once she gets tired of it, she starts her job, supervising me. She doesn't care even her ear is flipped over. "Marilyn, your ear is flipped." "What ear?" She is focused. She doesn't say a word, but sends me a message, "I'm watching you". Her black coat keeps sucking the sun. It doesn't take long her head is getting heavy. She puts her head on the grass. At this point, she is still watching me. Then, she notices her belly is not warm. She changes her position, laying down side way. Here, she starts losing her focus. A little while later, the half of her body gets hot. She rolls over to get the sun on the other side. Her hot side enjoys the cool grass. After flipping herself over for a couple of times, her eyes are also getting heavy. She doesn't care anything anymore. Her eyes are closed. Nothing bothers her. Even I walked by right next to her, she doesn't even open the eyes. She's arrived at her vacation destination, a dream. The roll-over steps are repeated. When it gets too hot, she moves to a shade. After while, she starts missing the sun, so gets back under the sun, and repeats the roll-over steps. This is her day. She doesn't go anywhere even though we don't have fences around our yard.

Once in a while, she just sits and watches around. "I'm on duty." Yeah, right. That doesn't last long. When she recognizes my walking by her, she lifts her legs, "Give me a belly rub." She does it as if a belly rub is a toll. I pay the toll, then she goes "More." Really?

She tells me time for an afternoon walk after 5:00. We hit one hour stroll. She takes care of things for the rest of the day. When we come back, she is ready for dinner. According to the clock, it's not dinner time yet. Her longest time of the day starts. Five minutes feels like days. She goes a circle in the house, and tells me it's dinner time. I tell her not yet. She gets disappointed and goes another circle. Her main event of the day doesn't come easy. When the dinner time comes, it doesn't last long. She lives for this one minute. After that, she sits next to me while I prepare our dinner. Her eyes are getting heavy. She tries so hard to stay awake just in case any goodies fall off from the kitchen counter.

After our dinner, the snuggle time begins. It's also called her pre-sleep time. Marilyn gets ready for night-night sleep. The sun tires her out. She starts snoring. She is getting ready for tomorrow to start all over again.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Resort - Part 2

Marilyn woke me up at 6:00am. After the morning walk and two cups of coffee, I put my garden boots on. I'm not just sitting around. Let's get started!

I want a couple more flower beds around my bird feeders. This area used to have a 6 feet tall chain link fence for a swimming pool. Plus, some scary evil looking shrubs were along the fence. It looked ugly. No matter how many times the shrubs got cut down, they came back like a zombie. On the top of it, they grew pretty fast. We pulled out its roots as much as possible. That helped it slow down. Tim removed the fence for us. Once the fence and shrubs are gone, the yard looks much nicer and open.

After the fence was gone, my bird feeders have been hang in the middle of the yard. There is no place birds can hide. They cannot feel safe so much while they eat. Some cautious birds might not want to come to my yard. Furthermore, as the scary shrubs' roots got removed, weeds started invading the area. I spent a lot of time pulling them out last summer. Weeding doesn't help stopping their coming back. It's time for a better solution. This is the background of the idea of putting some flower beds there. I want something matching to my kitchen garden which is my first project. No weeds are welcome. We can enjoy flowers. Birds get some shade and hiding spots. This is a win-win situation.

For the beds, I want something rustic, not something artificial like molded concrete blocks from a hardware store. It's not necessary to be perfect, but I want to feel the bed is made by hand, also close to the nature. Sometimes, imperfection makes things more attractive. That's a kind of a direction I'd like to take. So, I decided to use stones found in the yard.

First thing first! I need to finish this bed, a kitchen garden. That was my original plan. But, it already has some residents in it. In addition to the herbs I planted there, I put some other plants for their temporary home. It's a full house. That means there is not place to mix soil.

Oh well, sometimes you cannot just finish one thing, then move on to next thing. Here comes plan B. Instead of finishing the first bed, making the second bed frame first. I can mix soil in the second one without messing the plants in the first bed. Then, the kitchen garden's residents can be removed to bring soil from the second bed. Some of the residents will find the second bed as their permanent home.

I started digging the yard with the garden folk making an outline of the bed. I thought of a rectangle shape for it, but realized a round shape looks more rustic and charming. This is a real curb appeal. A discovery like this makes me so excited. It's a fun accident. Some things sometimes cannot see on paper. When I drew the layout of the flower beds, my initial idea was one wide border to cover the area. I started with a rectangle bed as long as the fence was. Then, I broke it down to three. Another idea was making two beds and put an arbor in the middle and let honey suckle crawl the arbor. I didn't think about a shape of the beds so much.

Once the outline is shaped, I fluffed up the soil inside the outline. More the scary shrubs' roots were dag out. The soil was mix of clay and pebbles, not a good sign. It was poor soil.

Next step is to create a border with stones. All different sizes and shapes were lined up and created a new shape all together. This is a mismatching match. I just love how it came out even it was not complete yet. This is the beauty of the nature—just being is precious and beautiful.

Three quarters were done at this point. I didn't finish it on purpose. A bag of manure and the peat moss are big and heavy. When I carry them, I cannot pay attention to other things. I might mess up the stone border when I bring them inside the border. That's why I kept one quarter border unfinished to give myself room to drag them into the bed.

It's time to mix soil. Compost, peat moss and cow manure were mixed into the soil. The compost is from our yard waste. Before the time off, I did some prep work.  I screened three compost piles in the yard.  It's been sitting there for two years.  The batch contained a lot of pine needles and pinecones.  That's why it took so long to get cooked.  It might be too acid to most of plants, but garden lime would help it neutralized.  More leaves are coming in this fall even though we don't have any trees in our yard.  Thanks to the neighbors, we can still get compost with leaves from their trees. Our composters are ready for a new batch.  No more pine needles and pinecones. A good size screened pile is sitting in front of the composters.  I have one more big pile to go through, but that's enough for now. I picked up some peat moss and cow manure. When I did some research, Black Kow popped up with good reviews. It's more expensive than others.  Let's see how good it is.  Lowes carries it. This cow manure is already composted.  It doesn't smell like manure at all.

These took one day. There are more to do, but it's not bad as what's done in one day. My body is sore, but I feel great! I'm sure I can sleep well tonight.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Resort - Part 1

A day is getting longer and longer. The weather is getting warmer and warmer. Tulips and daffodils are blooming big time. We got a blue sky. It's happy, bubbly and hopeful... just the best time in a year. I just don't want to miss any moment of this. So, I took a time-off from work. Marilyn and I are at the best resort in the whole world — so it called HOME.

I love being at home though I love traveling the world. Home is where my favorites are. It's full of fun. It's the most restful place. Home is my sanctuary where I look forward to coming back. Whenever I find a chunk of time being home, I'm happy and get excited... "What would I do this time?"

Birds are singing all day long. We start a day with a long morning walk. Marilyn gets cookies form people we run into. Now, she believes everybody on the street has a cookie or two for her. No wonder she loves to greet everybody. We see her boyfriend, Cosmo, on the way. He is a big gentleman. After the one hour walk, we sit on the side porch have breakfast watching wild birds are having theirs in the yard. No surprise, but lunch goes the same way. It has one more thing — a glass of wine. We enjoy a breeze going through the yard. The daffodils smell great! It's so peaceful here. We almost hear Judy Garland singing. This is my resort!

Besides the daffodils and tulips, bleeding heart is also blooming. This is still small, but it will be big and gorgious in a couple of weeks. She looks lonely all by herself. I planted a couple more next to her. She'll meet her new friends next spring. They will be an eye catcher with their cheerful pink flowers. Woodchucks don't seem to like them. This is a great news! I don't need to worry about she gets chomped up by the neighbor.

The perennials I ordered started to get delivered. Peonies, anemones, columbines, geraniums and a blueberry are stuck in the box waiting their new home is ready. There are more to come. I'll give them their permanent home during this staycation.

The peonies are easy since I already decided where they would go. The previous owner planted two peonies along the walkway. The new ones are going to fill the space between them and extend the bush. They are one of my favorite flowers. They were also our wedding flowers. Surprisingly, they are tough regardless their elegant look. They just keep coming back year after year. They are pretty much care free.

Some of them are waiting on me finishing a new flower bed. That is one of the projects for this time-off. I started it last spring to prevent soil to washed away and let the plants get more sun by raising the bed. These stones are from the yard. It's surprising what you can do with what you find around you.

Some potted plants spent the winter in the house need new soil or a bigger pot. They will be taken care of, too. Let's see how far I can go.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Bunnies, Treats and Flowers! Oh my!

These are from my yard. Just in time for Easter. Yellow daffodil is cheerful, but I like this creamy white one better. The orangy pink of the tulips pops in the soft white. They went to Shirley and Nana to share a little bit of spring in my yard with beignets I made last night.

These tulips are early spring blooming. I got a couple different kinds which bloom in different time. Other kinds of tulips will bloom in mid to late spring. This way, we can enjoy tulips whole spring. There are so many kinds of tulips nowadays. Double petals, ripped edges, multiple colors, and etc. My favorite is an original simple single petal one. Its simplicity is the beauty of it. Anyway, I cannot wait more colors show up in the yard.

This was my first time to make beignets. It turned out pretty good. It's a very simple recipe from Tasting Table. Eggs and ricotta cheese make fluffy and moist treats. They are just right sweetness. Warm ones are the best though cold ones are still good. Once you start eating it, it's hard to stop. Warning: It's addictive. Unfortunately, it's deep-fried. Yes, its calorie is something you don't want to think about.

The recipe said it's for one dozen beignets. I made two batches, then oh my! They turned to four dozens. That was a happy accident. The recipe says "they'll flip over on their own." Really? I didn't believe it. They did! They were rolling in the oil. When I dropped a table spoon of dough into the flyer, it shaped itself a ball, then started rolling by itself. This was the cutest and funniest thing. I didn't need to do anything but watching in the frying process. I just love it! Any deep fry stuff should be like this. Their dark brown scared me a little bit, but they don't taste burned at all. That is another strange thing.

The day before our first Easter at this house, Chad was cleaning up leaves in the yard. We moved in in winter. The previous owner was an old couple who were not able to do yard work. So, that spring, we had a huge pile of leaves. When Chad hit a pile, something popped out one after another. They were baby bunnies. He accidentally hit their nest. Mama bunny was away. The vulnerable babies were hopping all over the place in different directions. After he called a local animal shelter for help, he put them back in the nest and covered them with leaves just like how they had been as the person at the animal shelter told him to do. We kept the pile for a while. It seems Mama bunny took them away soon after he hit the pile. We had one day early Easter bunnies visit that spring.

Monday, April 2, 2012

More Spring Please!

Three weekends ago, it was very warm, almost hot. That inspired me to start seeds. In the starter, I put basil, three kinds of heirloom tomatoes and eggplant. Usually, we get tomato and cucumber plants around Mothers' Day. This year, I'd like to try a little bit different. A little bit more challenge. This is my first time to start tomato and eggplant from seeds. Two week ago, they spent a couple of days outside getting a lot of sun. Since the weather had got cold again, they have been inside covered with a clear plastic and sitting at the window. They are in a little greenhouse. Now, you see tiny heads are coming up. They look so vulnerable even in the covered greenhouse. They are just like a baby cow or horse who's trying to stand up by his/her own legs right after his/her birth. At this point, there is nothing I can help. I just wish they have enough strength to keep growing. Whenever little buds pop up from the ground, it makes me wonder how they figured out which way to come out under the ground. Something amazing about a life.

In my herb garden, oregano, tarragon and chervil are coming back. I think thyme will also. The stems from last year seems to be still alive. Marjoram is a little bit questionable. Dill will pop up all over the place in the garden when it gets warmer. I cannot wait to put it into potato salad. I want to try Aunt Bev's dill pickle recipe this year. Her pickles are the best in the world! Sage went through the winter just like that. This is a tough one.

The woodchucks have been checking out the garden, too. Whenever they get into the garden, they break the stone borders around the garden. I can pinpoint where they got into the garden from. They love basil and dill. They like thin soft leaves. This year, I won't give them away to the big appetite neighbors unless they learn sharing.

Finches are coming to the feeders again in addition to chickadees and tufted titmouses. I saw a cardinal was hopping on the grass yesterday morning. Well, they are around all year long, but it is always nice to see the bright red. I haven't seen woodpeckers yet. Most of all, I am looking forward to seeing hummingbirds. This time around a year, I start checking the migration map. Of course, I already hung a feeder. This year, honey suckle will be planted near the feeder to attract them. When I hear buzz behind my head, I think it's a bee. Then, I turn around and find a hummingbird instead. That is a "Wow" moment. I feel lucky for the rest of the day after that... but, I don't go to get a mega-million ticket. Should I?

Tulips and daffodils are growing. I also found asparagus. For some reasons, this one's head is not straight. What is this? Is it confused? Does it regret it came out? Asparagus is the first vegetable I plated in this yard. It's been for two years. Hopefully, we can try a couple this year. There is a race between bunnies, woodchucks and us. Let's see who will win.

My plants are definitely waiting for a warm weather. So do I. It's still too cold to enjoy morning coffee on the porch. Marilyn just wants to lay down on green grass under the sun. We need more spring.