Hot fun in the summertime

Today is gonna be hot.
Red Hot Poker hot.

These beauties grow next to my driveway after former neighbors committed one of their "drive by plantings."

These beauties grow next to my driveway after former neighbors committed one of their “drive by plantings.”

While I do admire the Red Hot Pokers’ fiery colors,
I find these Purple Coneflowers more soothing:
Purple Coneflowers

After taking those photos, I spent a fair amount of time
chasing bumblebees around the lavender with my camera.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get anything worth sharing.
The good news is that I always, always have bees in my yard
so I’ll have plenty of chances to capture one of those bumbly bees.

In the meanwhile, I’ll kick back to a little Sly & the Family Stone:

Stay cool, people.

 

 

 

Some days I want to cover my eyes

“There cannot be enduring peace, prosperity, equality and brotherhood in this world if our aims are so separate and divergent, if we do not accept that in the end we are people, all alike, sharing the Earth among ourselves and also with other sentient beings, all of whom have an equal role and stake in the state of this planet and its players.”
~  Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck 

Double-blooming clematis from my garden.

Double-blooming clematis from my garden.

That Smell

Ooh, that smell
Can’t you smell that smell?
Ooh, that smell
The smell of death surrounds you, yeah

Thank you, Lynyrd Skynyrd, for penning today’s theme song. Allow me to explain.

Last fall while researching Build a Compost Tumbler, I learned all sorts of good stuff that helped me reinvigorate our composting process here at home. In fact, to Zippy’s absolute delight, we now have three compost bins (one free-standing and two tumblers). And one of the biggest changes to our composting method is that we no longer put weeds in our trash where they end up creating methane and carbon dioxide in the landfill.

Unwelcome plant aka WEED.

Unwelcome plant aka WEED.

The prickly lettuce, the bindweed, the thistles, the grasses gone to seed, all those things go into a lidded garbage can full of water.

You see, I learned from Bob Flowerdew** that weed seeds and roots will die if left submerged in water for two weeks. (Weeds are valuable compost materials that are often left out because of the fear that the invasive weeds will spread via the compost.)  But you know what else happens after those two weeks of submersion? The water is transformed into one of Mr. Flowerdew’s favorite things: vile liquids. He loves them because vile liquids are great additives to your composting piles. Vile liquids accelerate the composting process.

Early stages of the tumbler Zippy and I built before I wrote the book.

Early stages of the tumbler Zippy and I built before I wrote the book.

But if left too long, vile liquids will, oddly enough, give off the aroma you’d expect from a vile liquid. (Think farmyard plus death plus your next three least favorite smells). It’s imperative you wear old clothes and shoes while handling vile liquids, especially when you’ve allowed your weeds to marinate for a month or longer. (Oops.) And woe to you if you happen to splash any on exposed skin.

Ooh, that smell

So yes, I did handle vile liquids today. And yes, despite the latex gloves (you want one-use gloves for this chore), I got vile liquids on my hand and now all I can smell is that horrifying combination of stink. (The stink does go away, just never fast enough).

Lynyrd Skynyrd is playing on a loop in my head as I try my best to think ahead to the rich compost I’ll someday be adding back into the earth.
Spring garden shots 018

**best compost-guru name ever!

A Meditation on Orange

Good thing I’m not planning on getting sent to prison
because if it’s true that Orange Is the New Black,
I’m in serious fashion trouble;
I look great in black and pretty close to dead in orange.
(I appear equally deadish in tan/beige which is what the inmates on the
show wear after they’ve been fully processsed into the system.)

I’m several episodes into Season 4 and am enjoying it more than
Season 3 which I thought was awful in a lot of ways.
I’ve come to the conclusion that Piper is best as a seasoning,
rather than an entree.
Most every other character is more compelling.
In fact, I can’t think of one who isn’t.

Come to think of it, maybe that’s the point.

Either way, I’m going to watch the rest of the season
and be grateful I can choose what I wear each day.
Because not all of us wear our orange as well as these poppies.

Happy poppies one day in May.

Happy poppies one day in May.

 

 

Tiny House Dreams

I live in a house with an upstairs and a downstairs.
There’s stuff in every room of the house.
Some of that stuff I use each and every day.
Some of that stuff hasn’t seen daylight in years.

I live in a house surrounded by a large yard.
There are trees and shrubs and perennial flowers in every part of the yard.
In some places, the flowers are growing out of control (day lilies, I’m looking at you).
In most every part of the yard, weeds are growing out of control.

I try to stay on top of the clutter inside the house.
I attempt to keep the weeds at bay.
But it’s a losing battle and I often feel a sense of overwhelm.
Such as today.

I’m dreaming of a tiny house and one pot of geraniums.

Wind River Bungalow

Wind River Bungalow

Friday Five: The Iris Edition

Just took a little tour of my front and back gardens. Last year I lost almost all iris blooms to a snowstorm so am thrilled at this year’s turnout. There are several stands of iris not yet in bloom, but these beauties are currently going all out:

Burgandy Iris

Brown Iris

Purple Iris

Cream Iris

This is one of my pure white iris planted next to several deep, deep purple iris, and I’m looking forward to that dramatic display:

White Iris closed

Wishing everyone a beautiful, blooming weekend!

Friday Five: The New-to-Me Edition

ONE: The right headlight on our 2004 Prius went out and Zippy fixed it with a new bulb (something he’s done four times over the years, thanks to the kindness of people who post YouTube how-to’s).

New bulb in the old car.

New bulb in the old car.

 

 

 

 

 

 


TWO:
We replaced our garbage disposal splash guard (taking only three trips to the stores to find the correct size), again thanks to the kindness of people sharing DIY knowledge.

My new view from above.

My new view from above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THREE: One night this week Zippy and I watched WILD, the movie based on the book by Cheryl Strayed, and an image from that film that’s stayed with me is Cheryl writing in her journal and then tearing out the page after it’s filled, and feeding it to the campfire.

WILD movie

 

 

 

 

 

FOUR: One of our two old dogs is suddenly walking like a drunken sailor and yesterday the vet told us Coco is (hopefully) suffering from “Old Dog” Vestibular Disease, so she’s now on some medication and we’re hoping she’s soon upright and back to herself.

Coco's got a new tilt to her head.

Coco’s got a new tilt to her head.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIVE: Last fall Zippy and I dug out the raised bed on our patio that had been destroyed by our two old dogs, and replanted it with new perennials (before adding a barrier fence to keep out Coco and Zoey), and the new plants are poking through.

A new penstemon has joined the garden.

A new penstemon has joined the garden.

Thankful Thursday: The Dan Quayle Edition

Allow me to explain.

It’s February and I’m longing for spring when flowers bloom.
So I went to last year’s photos and found this clematis:
Spring garden shots 015“Perfect,” I thought. “I’ll post it as Thankful Thursday: The Looking Forward Edition.”

But then I wanted to also include a quotation about the future,
so I searched for something eloquent to match my lovely flower.
And I came up with this:

“The future will be better tomorrow.”  ~
 Dan Quayle

A keeper, for sure, because not only am I longing for spring, I’m in desperate need of
laughter. But I won’t say anything more about that because as a wise man once said:

“Verbosity leads to unclear, inarticulate things.”  ~  Dan Quayle

Good News / Bad News

Good news: Spring is here!
Bad news: That 11-degree-below-zero freeze we had last November killed a bunch of spireas, sumacs, and possibly the cherry tree.
Spring garden shots 001

Good news: Spring is here!
Bad news: The bind weed is back with a vengeance.
Spring garden shots 009

Good news: Spring is here!
Bad news: It’s been so rainy the past week it feels more like Alaska than Colorado.
Spring garden shots 006

GOOD NEWS: SPRING IS HERE!
Spring garden shots 012

Spring garden shots 014

 

Spring garden shots 018

Three Blossoms, Three Perspectives

“Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.”                                   ~ Henry Ward Beecher

Flowers from front garden 021

“The age I’m at now, you go from being a young girl to suddenly you blossom into a woman. You ripen, you know? And then you start to rot.”  ~ Liv Tyler

Flowers from front garden 033

“People think that their world will get smaller as they get older. My experience is just the opposite. Your senses become more acute. You start to blossom.”                                                                                                           ~Yoko Ono

Flowers from front garden 005

No Longer

As I perused my photos, hoping to pluck an image or two from the obscurity of my hard drive, I came across a couple unsettling pics.

Years after this ash tree was photographed, it was attacked by an unidentified blight and is no longer in our garden.
DCP_2592

(Just realized that the neighbor’s crab apple tree in the background was also cut down. Not to mention that the snow is also long-gone. HAHAHA!   Ahem.) Then there’s this selfie for a passport photo from a “few” years back:

tracy self-portrait passport photos 015Those glasses, the dangling jewelry, the barely-gray hair . . . no longer. The only constant is my deer-in-the-headlights expression whenever a camera’s aimed at me.

Putting You On Notice, 2014

Still here.
It’s been a crap year so far,
and I’m trying hard not to hold it against 2014.

(If you click on me, I will fill your screen with yellowy-goodness!)

(If you click on me, I will fill your screen with yellowy-goodness!)

There’s still almost half a calendar year left, so there’s time to turn this ship around.
You hear what I’m saying, 2014?

A Big Long Story About an Incredibly Evil Splinter

Two weeks ago I did something ill-advised, something I knew better than to do. Two weeks ago, I got tired of seeing one of my gigantic yarrow plants (5+ feet tall) crowding out one of my blue mist spirea plants (maybe 2 feet tall). So I grabbed my cutter and went out to trim back the yarrow. Dumb, dumb, dumb! Yarrow plants have the toughest, woodiest stems of any plant in my yard, and I know better than to touch it without gloves.

Sure enough, I managed to impale the middle knuckle of my right hand on old growth from last year. Instant agony. Stream of profanity. Regret, pain, and nearly instantaneous swelling.

I dug out a splinter and waited for the injury to resolve itself. Instead, it swelled more, became more painful (possibly due to me knocking it into everything), and turned into a fleshy mood-ring that alternated between pink and angry red and blue and purple and, oh-my-goddess-now-it’s-starting-to-look-black.

Imagine this is my knuckle, minus the lovely silver setting.

Imagine this is my knuckle, minus the lovely silver setting.

I hung in there until this past Saturday when pus showed up, and I finally went to the doctor. With the use of groovy magnifying goggles and the finest pair of tweezers I’ve seen, she removed a splinter and gave me a prescription for antibiotics. Five days later, the mood ring was as angry as ever and the knuckle was so sore I nearly wept whenever anything touched it.

So yesterday after swallowing the last antibiotic pill, I returned to the doctor’s office where she donned the goggles again and poked at me with the sharp tweezers I wasn’t liking nearly as much, until she found a small splinter. Hooray. Not. I was sure I was in for weeks of tiny splinter removal as the cursed yarrow worked its multiple evils out of my flesh. Then she started digging some more as I gritted my teeth and curled my toes. A long moment later, she said, “Here’s one.” Another tiny piece stuck up from my knuckle. Hooray? And then she grasped it with the tweezers, and it was like a magician pulling a scarf from a sleeve.

One half-inch long.Tracy's splinterI realize the gargantuan image is overkill, but I cannot stress enough how freakin’ huge that thing seemed when she pulled it out. We both made loud exclamations of the “Holy crap, Batman!” variety.

Last night for the first time in weeks my poor old knuckle wasn’t stiff and sore, and today I can make a fist without any pain. I can start lifting weights again! I can punch someone in the snoot without feeling (much) pain! I’ve got my life back!

Life is grand and I wish everyone a wonderful, splinter-free weekend!

Backyard Photographic Safari

We just had a gentle rainfall and then the sun came out
so I ventured into the backyard with my camera,
searching for some images.

Here’s the untouched documentation (you may click photos to enlarge):

Bumblebee and Lamb's Ear

Bumblebee and Lamb’s Ear

Valerian and Moonshine Yarrow

Valerian and Moonshine Yarrow

Wild Rose

Wild Rose

Apache Plume

Apache Plume

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything
else in the universe.  ~  John Muir
 

Beauty All Around

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.  ~ Khalil Gibran
Poppy 007
Poppy 009
Spider and Flowers 078
Spider and Flowers 074
I’m totally down with your sentiment, Khalil, except maybe the wind could lay off my poppies? You know, so they could hold onto their bloom for longer than a day?

Empathy: Part Deux

The other day I wrote about my feelings of empathy
for agents and editors who have to say NO to projects
they know are labors of love for the writers.

Well, this afternoon I experienced another level of
empathy for those agents and editors.

I received a phone call from the man to whom I’d sent
a carefully worded email letting him know I wasn’t
going to use his landscaping service.

He wanted to know why I’d chosen the other landscaper.
While his demeanor was pleasant, I was uncomfortable.
I’d made my decision and didn’t want to go into the specifics
behind that decision.
So I fumbled a bit and wished him well before hanging up.

I’m guessing agents and editors would rather not be put
on the spot that way, either.

file0001675435818
image from morguefile.com  (mrmac04)

Empathizing With the NOs

Today I had to send an email to a man who’d put time, energy, and creativity
into his proposal to landscape our back yard.
I had to tell him “Thanks, but no thanks.”

I spent quite a while composing those several email sentences,
wanting to be kind and to somehow minimize the “blow.”

In doing so I felt a certain empathy with agents and editors;
it must be really difficult to send out so many NOs.

Botanic Gardens 002
© Tracy Abell 2012

The Eye of the Beholder

A landscaper friend of mine used to bring me
plants she’d thinned from other people’s gardens.

One day she showed up with iris bulbs and
when I asked what color they were she said, “Brown.”

“Brown? Who wants brown flowers?
I’ve got plenty of brown flowers that didn’t make it
through the heat of summer and you bring me
on-purpose brown flowers? Really, Judi?  Brown?!”
(We had that kind of relationship)

Fast-forward to this morning when I was waiting in
the driveway for Zebu and Wildebeest.
I looked over at the patch of blooming iris
and thought, “Aren’t they lovely?”

I’ve grown quite fond of my brown flowers.
Most gardens throughout my neighborhood have an iris display,
but I’ve yet to find another showcasing these brown beauties.

My iris are unique.
They aren’t brilliant yellow or gaudy purple or oh-so-delicate pink.
They’re brown.
And Iovely.

Which just goes to show how taste is not only subjective
but also apt to change. And so I draw the inevitable connection
to the writing life. No project will ever attract unanimous
adoration and it would be pointless and silly to have those expectations.
What isn’t silly, however, is remembering that tastes vary.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of locating the right garden.

Clematis Monday

                    

Here’s what’s growing on around here (get it? "growing on"?)

I crack me up.

This is the largest profusion of clematis blooms ever seen on this patio,
due to the sad demise of the neighbors’ crab apple tree which hung over 

this corner of the patio until the tree was mortally injured in an ice storm.

 

This next clematis plant is also blooming more than usual due to Coco 
not barking through the fence at the neighbors’ dogs quite as much this year.
Less barking = less trampling.
Good dog, Coco!
 
This clematis isn’t blooming any more than usual, but it is alive. We feared 
the closest plant to it had mysteriously died this winter (along with the vinca plants) 
but has recently greened up so maybe we’re witnessing a rebirth.
 
 
 
Well, friends, thank you for touring my patio with me.
If you care to join me, I’ll be out there in a bit with my morning coffee.