Tuesday, December 29, 2015

♫ ♪ Baby! It's Cold Outside! ♪ ♫ ♪

29 January 2015 ~ Just a few more days to go before we get to start over with a brand new year with no mistakes!

Mistakes, you ask?  Maybe 'mistakes' is not the right word. Maybe wrong choice or bad decision...? Miscalculation? Poor planning? How about dumb idea? Whatever the definition...I think we've all had a few, right?

Thanks to the drought, this little plant didn't have a chance.

Like, when we were preparing the mobile vegetable planter for spring planting and were introduced to a 'great' soil at a local nursery. Fast forward to summer ~ definitely not epic! Those tomatoes and zucchinis (or, were they cucumbers? I forget.) never had a chance. 

We've all had them... and rehashing them will not fix them. The trick is to learn from these mistakes and move forward. "Spilt milk!" my mom used to say.

It is currently 37 degrees right now.  It was freezing when I got up at 6:45. Yet...I am already thinking about our gardens...and planting the Juliet grape tomatoes! Mmmm! I can almost taste them! I hope to resurrect a portion of the lawn  (and, yes, with water conservation in mind), rework the surrounding planters and try to get some wonderful color and texture back into the gardenscape! Oo0o0oOo00! So many possibilities!  
There are many other projects on the to-do list (Charlie refers to it as the 'Honey Do List'). Yes...there are those things that I am not skilled or strong enough to do...so, I will recruit him for those tasks. Refinish the patio chairs, paint the planter, repair some screening on the windows...general annual maintenance. We really do enjoy working together. We will try new tactics, refresh the sad garden areas with new plants and, rearrange the garden art...and in the end, we will have a fresh new look! 

So, baby, while it's cold outside, we will be inside, sitting by the warm fire...with catalogs, magazines and the Sunset Garden Guide....dreaming and planning for a sunny spring!

Monday, October 5, 2015

30 Years Ago....

Thirty years ago, I married my best friend and soulmate.
And, we all say it..."Where has the time gone?" "Who are those people?!!"
Sometimes it seems just like yesterday...

Saturday, October 5, 1985
The girls from our Girl Scout troop were our bridesmaids;  my youngest sister, Betsy, was the maid of honor.
Charlie's brother, Keith, was the best man. His long time friends were the groomsmen.

We honeymooned in Yosemite.

In June, 1986, we welcomed our bundle of joy, Whitney.

And, then, the adventures of parenting began!

Lots of memories have been shared these last thirty years...

Summer 2015
Whitney, Peg & Charlie

Looking forward to sharing many more year with the love of my life.
Happy Anniversary, Charlie! Love you with all my heart!
October, 2014
Wrapping up another week in the place we call home every October.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Hello, Autumn!

Finally. Autumn has arrived! As if there were any doubt that she was coming! This year, however, was brutal and many of us were craving her return early. By the middle of July, we had just had it! The hot weather came on the heals of our nonexistent winter. Spring was dry; the rains forgot to come at all. So when we got to summer's end, our gardens were dry to the bone; dead, really.

In Yosemite last year, the autumn colors were pretty much on schedule but we had no idea what Mother Nature had in store for us that first week in October! We were walking the Valley early one morning and in the distance, just across the road from the Chapel, we spied a speck of color tucked behind the evergreens.

 We walked slowly as if we might frighten it away.

As we approached the trees, more color peeked out at us.

We walked quietly.

As we got closer, we could see the skirt of the tree.

We could not believe the color of the leaves! This is a Sugar Maple tree. It is not native to Yosemite. Seeds must have been dropped by a resident critter. They might just have sailed in on a lovely afternoon breeze. But, they decided to let it stay. Each year, visitors come by the bus load, and more times than not, the bus drivers pull over so the visitors can get out and take oodles of pictures. Just like we did!

We made several visits to this tree last year. The colors seemed to become deeper and more vibrant each time we passed by.


Autumn splendor! Autumn sky!
Your stealth approach has caught my eye!
The acorns drop from the oaks above.
The best of seasons! The one I love.
Leaves of red, of gold and rust
flutter from the trees.
Silently, in a ritual dance,
floating on the breeze.
Oh, Autumn! Dear Autumn!
Finally! You are here!
The early morning dampness;
the skies cool and clear.
The crunch of leaves of season’s past;
the dew upon the weathered grass.
The amber light atop the hills!
Lovely Autumn, you are here at last!

~ peg ackerman


One more visit before we leave for home.
Welcome back, Autumn!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

...missing her, still...

It's been a year now...sometimes it seems like just yesterday. On my morning walk, I came to the corner where the tree with the tiny leaves stands. As I rounded the corner I looked up and was greeted with a shower of yellow leaves ...just like the day we took one of our last walks together.

Wherever I went, she was not far behind. She would sit out on the back porch and scan the garden. 

She always rearranged the dog cover on the couch.

If I went out on a quick errand, 
she would be waiting for my return.

She would sneak up on the bed and hide.

She loved to walk!

I miss her, still.....

Thursday, July 16, 2015


While the rest of the country has been deluged with pouring rain, floods, tornadoes and hurricanes, the summer of 2015 in Southern California will go down in history as the fourth year of bone-dry drought conditions and the invasion of ants. Yes! .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..ANTS!
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..  Those pesky, teeny-tiny, little creepy crawly insects that send out half a dozen scouts to scope out new territories to invade. If the scouts are successful in returning to the troops, they regroup and head out. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Hundreds.....no, wait.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. THOUSANDS.. .. .. .. .. .. sneaking into homes across the south land.. .. .. .. .. .. stealthy appearing without notice.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..marching in droves! 
                                        ANTS! ANTS! ANTS! ANTS! ANTS!
With the lack of rain and now, the mandated restriction that dictates when and how long we can water our gardens, we knew we were in for an uncomfortable summer and a possible ant invasion. 

A couple of weeks ago, we noticed several tell-tale scouts, scurrying from here to there, checking things out.  Two on the kitchen counter .. .., three on the window sill in the bathroom .. .. .. several on the pantry shelves .. .. .. .. .. .. .. OK! It was time to plan our defense!  I grabbed the spray bottle of Simple Green and went after the scouts. Morning, noon and night, I would crouch down to eye level of the counters and watch for movement .. .. .. .. .. .. if I saw a scout .. .. .. he was toast! We were proactive! We made sure all trash/garbage was taken out before going to bed. We wiped down all the counters after dinner each night. All standing water was rinsed from the sinks and the dish tub dried. We ran the garbage disposal. We washed out the coffee maker. We eliminated every possible attraction. As time passed, the scout patrol seemed to evaporate. And, we relaxed. 

Saturday morning I made raspberry scones. There were plenty left for Sunday, so I pulled out one of my tins, lined it with wax paper and packed the scones. The lid was secured. Sunday, we had more scones and still had a few left, so I put the lid back on, wiped the tin down and placed it back on the counter. 

Monday morning came and I was awakened by the sound of something heavy hitting the floor. Still half asleep, I made my way downstairs to find my husband on his hands and knees. At first, I thought he might have fallen. "Are you ok?!!" I asked. "ANTS!!!!" he proclaimed .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. OMG! .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. He wasn't kidding! ANTS.. .. .. .. .. .. EVERYWHERE!!!!! 
From the ventilation vent in the pantry they had marched under the pantry door, behind the refrigerator and up the side of the counter to the tin of scones. Focused on making his lunch, Charlie had opened the tin, thinking he would take a couple of scones to work to have with his coffee. Inside he discovered a kabillion ANTS .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ... .. crawling all over the remaining scones! For the next half hour, we Simple-Greened the entire kitchen! We were ruthless! We watched for any type of movement. Stragglers hurried up the wall. Several tried to escape along the back of the counter .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. without success!  
Charlie left for work leaving me in charge of Operation Ant Annihilation! .. .. .. .. .. .. ..  I continued to survey the counters. I watched (and destroyed) the ones left behind. I showered, dressed and returned to the kitchen .. .. .. and found a few more renegades attempting to find a way out. 

Needing a break, I went for my morning walk. This ant-thing totally creeped me out. I can handle spiders, crickets....the occasional fly. But, .. .. .. .. .. .. ants?! Yuck! I totally blame our weather and the condition of our gardens for this infestation.  I can't figure out how they got INTO that tin. I've used it for years to store shortbread, cookies, scones, muffins....and never, ever had an ant anywhere near it much less IN it!

When I got back from my walk, I checked again for intruders and saw none. The following morning, Charlie checked again for ants....still....no ants! I came downstairs a while later and found three .. .. .. two were on the rim of the jar that had an avocado pit rooting in water and one .. doing the back stroke in the water. Needless to say, I dumped the water (and, the ants .. .. ..), refilled the jar, dried it off and put it back in the window. What puzzles me is why the jar now? That avocado pit has been sitting in that little jar of water for weeks .. .. .. not one ant had approached it until now. 

We still find the occasional scout...and I'm sure we will have more before the end of summer.  We are standing by .. .. .. .. with Simple Green in hand! They just creep me out!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Parched Summer for Sure! 2015

...and so the drought continues... The wildlife and foliage have been seriously compromised. Lawns across the state are a wispy brittle brown...dead, actually. Gardens struggle to stay alive. No more showy blooms of summers' past. Even the drought 'tolerant' and native plants are struggling as we try to relearn how to water our gardens. They tend to get more water than they need because we go on auto-pilot ~ watering when the ground looks dry instead of actually looking at the plant or sticking our finger into the soil. Everything is struggling.

Nasturtiums are supposed to love the heat and thrive in crappy
soil with very little water. Well, the challenge is ON! 

This little plant was 'drought tolerant' and
doing so well...I cut back the spent branches
(there were tiny leaves already forming at
the base)...apparently, the flowers on this
plant did not see the humor.
July is not here yet...it seems like its late August/early September. Dry, hot, and not very pretty in our garden.  

This barrel should have a plethora of Marigolds and
Lantana and 5' tall Russian Mammoth Sunflowers.
Rather pathetic results, I think.....

Halloween-y Violas are happy in the old log out front.
I absolutely adore this little plant!

New Lantana seems to be acclimating nicely. I may just plug in
several more and let them go!

The wildlife is finding it more challenging to find food. And, so, the circle of life is quite active. This morning, I again heard the heartbreaking cry of the mockingbird; one that is repeated almost daily now. The sad squawking can be heard all over the neighborhood ~ the hurt, the anger, the grief as it sings it's sad song after discovering it's nest has been raided and the babies taken.

Mockingbird on power pole singing her sad song.
Ravens and hawks frequent the trees above. Both have been know to snatch the little birds from the hidden nests in the tree tops. A young hawk has made several visits here lately. He (she?) swoops stealthy into the branches of our Italian Stone Pine tree looking for something to eat. The birds in the branches below and on the feeders are pretty savvy and somehow escape in one big cloud before the hawk can attack.

Two black ravens watch our garden from above.

A mockingbird and hawk face off in the Deodor tree across the street.

Occasionally (and, sadly) the hawk is successful. I will find a scattering of little feathers beneath the tree. There are several feral cats that have claimed this neighborhood ~ a fluffy tabby (we call him Pumpkin) and a light grey (Earl Grey). They, too, stalk the feeder area, hoping to grab a snack. 

When there is a cat nearby, we usually get an alert from a squirrel who is sitting on a tree limb, the top of a fence or perched on the power pole. The urgent barking continues until the cat moves on. Any time I hear the alert, I go out to check what's going on. Many times I find the rouge cat and chase him off. Then, a reward is due, so I get a handful of peanuts and toss them to our security squirrel!

Our Security Squirrel Squad is always watching from wherever they are hanging out!

There is some good news, though. With the relentless heat, the bees have discovered our little fountain in the front yard. How lucky for our garden! (If you look closely, you can see the bees on and around the stones). We fill the fountain daily for all of the wildlife to enjoy. While the plant life is shifting, the watering hole is a constant for the birds and the bees...and other creatures that might be thirsty! The tall pine tree towers over what is left of the garden, offering shade and a safe haven for all.

Drought tolerant plant. Not a native. And, I've just learned,
drought tolerant and native don't necessarily mean the same thing!
'Hawaiian Blue Eyes' seem to thrive nicely...so far...
This is a rock-something flowering plant...and will do well with
very little water once established. We bought six!
These are Juliet Grape Tomatoes.
I think we chose the wrong soil this year...while they are
slowly growing, by now we should have a
boat load of tomatoes!!!
This is where Mousekin lives...though, I think he's on vacation.
I haven't seen him in a while.

This is our resident garden rabbit.
He is patiently waiting for the garden to break out
in colorful blooms and foliage.
Patiently being the operative word......
In an attempt to add some color to the shriveled-up landscape,
he is sporting a new collection of brightly painted Peace Sticks.
That works for me.

There is a 'prediction' of an El Nino this fall...a lot of buzz...maybe 30"! Could this be just another crystal ball, wishful thinking forecast possibility? I guess we will have to just wait and see......Film @ 11.

...maybe I should look into an ark?