Saturday, February 06, 2016

Lovely Lantana

Lantana is popular annual where I'm from. A gorgeous perennial in Arizona.
A week has gone by, living in the land of perpetual summer (Cave Creek, Arizona) and I'm still getting lost on a regular basis! :)

More Lovely Lantana!

Be it hiking a trail - or in the car, running errands - pretty much every adventure turns into 'The Long Way Home.' Because I never know where I'm going 'til I get there.

Seems like everything is prickly in the desert but it's all delightful to me.

Honestly, I don't know how I'd survive, these days, without Google maps and my iPhone.

I'm confident my dry cleaning is somewhere close... but I can't, for the life of me, remember which strip mall that place is in ~ because they all look alike.

So far, that's the most interesting aspect of testing out life down here. The sprawl, how everything is brand new.

The houses are very pretty, but they all look the same. Streets don't necessarily take you anywhere. Those streets dead end at the last house in the development and won't go further until somebody else moves in!

And, that's all so weird compared to back home. Where the houses are older, more distinct. There are true city blocks and navigation is a breeze. In my humble opinion that gives a neighborhood a bit more personality.

However! I am not complaining! It's still a grand break from the difficult winter we're experiencing back home.

Although there has been some finger-pointing going on.

This is.. 
A) A rocking beer party at the botanical gardens or 
B) A noble attempt to shield these babies from frostbite.

I have been accused of bringing the cold weather with me.

Yes. 'Tis I, the newbie, who is being blamed for the harsh cold snap we suffered through this week.

Me, being a winter gal... I think it's warm as toast down here.

But, the natives are none too thrilled.

For them, it's unseasonably cold and yesterday morning - while walking the pup - I saw blankets and bed sheets and beach towels covering precious plants to save them from the freeze.

It killed off a lot of Lantana. 

In the arctic region I call home, Lantana is a favorite annual. Such a perky, happy flower! 

RIP Lantana - couldn't handle the freezing night.

Down here, in zone 9 Arizona -- can you believe that?? Zone 9! What a gardening paradise!!

Okay. I'll try to contain myself...

Down here, in zone 9 Arizona, Lantana is a waterwise, workhorse of a perennial. (Well, it was until last week.) So, it made me very sad to see so many dead shrubs from that nasty ass freeze.

I guess that's the problem with everywhere these days. Mother Nature handing us everything we don't want vs. what we desperately need.

I'm still of the mindset that I desperately needed this escape, though.

Been trying to get up super early. Get my work outta the way so I can play with the dog in the afternoons. He's older, now, a teenager, and he runs so fast, every photo I take of him is a blur. :)

I'll leave you with a picture from our last hiking adventure: The Ocotillo Trail - in the Sonoran Desert Preserve. Which I was delighted to discover is only 2 miles from my rental house.

Towering cactus trees. So cool!
To put this in perspective.. the tallest of these two Saguaro is at least 40 feet high. 

Here's hoping you're all having a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hellooooo Sunshine!

In the last riveting episode of High Altitude Gardening... I was bragging up the fact that I'd rented out my home to vacationing snow lovers. (I live in a ski resort.)

I, in turn, rented a desert oasis in Cave Creek, Arizona, and I was champing at the bit to say good-bye to all that.

"That" being the cold and the snow and the boots and the gloves.. not to mention the trudging, relentlessly, through deep drifts to exercise my rambunctious little puppy, aka the energizer bunny.

We went from this ->

To this! In the span of two days.

But... before that...!!!

I worked my proverbial fingers to the bone, preparing to vacate my home sweet home. It's easy to rent the place. Not so easy getting it in tip top shape for the renters.

We painted kitchen cupboards, stained 14 wooden doors. Made sure to hide the valuables! Oh, wait a minute, I don't have any valuables... tried desperately to organize and decorate in a way that would make me happy, and visitors feel at home... once they arrived.

Then I tossed everything into the car 
~ including the cat ~ 
He's valuable. (Sort of.)
And off we went!
Charlie, consoling Pete the cat, on his first ever road trip.
It's slow going because there's no direct route, or happy interstate, between here and there. Though, the scenery is quite spectacular. And, it makes you kind of giddy ~ watching winter slip-sliding away, with every mile you drive.

My route takes us over the Navajo Bridge, and past the north rim of the Grand Canyon. (Not necessarily in that order. )

I can't begin to tally up the number of times I've gotten pretty darn close to the Grand Canyon. And, it's always closed. :) Because I'm always traveling south in winter.

'Round about sunset, on this 55 mph single lane highway... you reach the last bastion of civilization. Or, so they say.

Kanab, Utah is the film location for lots of movies, including Raiders of the Lost Ark.
'Tis here, in Kanab, Utah, 4 whole miles from the Arizona border... that everyone feels obligated to grab an over-priced hotel room vs. braving the unknown on the other side of that last, big mountain.

There's better digs an hour farther south. Here's a photo of my lovely hotel room at the Cameron Trading Post. I've been here many times, too. I absolutely love this Navajo decor.

Cameron Lodge is a sweet little spot in the middle of freaking nowhere:
Road Tripping with the Kids.
The following afternoon, we arrived in the land of perpetual summer. Cave Creek, Arizona - a far north village, in the sprawl that is called Greater Phoenix.

And, I checked into my rental home for the month of February:

Be still my heart! My vrbo rental has an orange tree in the backyard!
Cave Creek is a well-established horse town. You know how they have those golfing communities? Well this, here, is a horsie community.

You can go anywhere on horse back, including riding your pony down main street, tying said horse to one of the many hitching posts, reminiscent of those wild west, Gun Smoke days, and grab yourself some lunch!

How cool is that?!?

* This 'Running Away for the Winter' is an experiment for me to see what life would be like living some place else for part of each winter.

On the right, Ms. Gracie Girl!
** I didn't bring a horse. But, horse folk stick together. I found friends with horses the moment I arrived and this pretty lady, on the right, is my loaner horse, Gracie Girl.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Peaks and Valleys

Fab House ~ Perfect Location!
That's how I listed it on Airbnb.

Ask anyone who knows me ~ in the real world ~ and they would probably say: Well, she’s had a pretty tough year. (Haven't really gotten into most of it on the blog.)

The chilly view from my deck. That's a ski resort in the distance.

And, they’re right. With the loss of humans and pets overshadowing pretty much every highlight that came my way.

This gardener is in desperate need of... Perpetual Summer.

So, if it was such a rotten year... why am I so happy?

Well, for one thing, it’s over.

Isn’t that the beauty of a brand, new year? Clean slate. High hopes for happier days?

Superdog! Braving the elements.

Plus, there’s something hugely exhilarating about being homeless.

Uh huh. Homeless.

2015 Horse Highlight #1: Racing across the White Sands of New Mexico in April.

I could say that I don’t know what got into me but that’s not true. I know exactly what got into me.

The deep, deep desire to see this snow covered life o' mine disappearing in the rearview mirror. 

If only for a little while… 

As a freelancer, I can work from anywhere. All I need is a high speed internet connection.

So, I started shopping around on Airbnb (vacation rentals by owner website) for a nice warm spot in Arizona - where I could escape the cold and snow for the month of February.

I was a bit flabbergasted at how much they wanted for a crappy apartment. Me, being on a budget and all.

Neighbor, Sandy, is delighted that I'm leaving. She gets all of my flowering plants!

But, then it hit me.

Wait a second... I’m doing this all wrong! 

If THEY can rent their houses temporarily, why can’t I?

2015 Horse Highlight #2: Riding Monument Valley with our Navajo Guide. (That's me in the middle.)

So, last Sunday - on a whim - I took 3 photos of the house and posted them on Airbnb. I didn't show the bedrooms because I hadn't made the bed!

2015 Horse Highlight #3: A trip to the Faerie Forest, High Uintas. (Gotta love those spotted Appaloosas!)

I just wanted to see what would happen. Got my first booking in less than an hour. Two days later,  I had rented it for the entire month of February! Which pays for my rental in Arizona, with a wee bit left over for fun in the sun.

Can you believe it?
I’m outta here!
Arizona here we come! :)

Here's hoping you all had a bright & merry holiday season!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Pies, Puppy Love and Forcing Pretty Flower Bulbs

Trust me. You're gonna want to see these bright bloomers, indoors, come February.

Woke to the first truly cold winter morning, and since I have a partially house-trained puppy living with me, we were outdoors, in seconds flat, to prevent an accident that could ruin the day.

Loud crunch of ice beneath my feet. I soaked in the sunlight, dressed in a long coat and hat, to hide the fact that I'm still in my jammies.

And, I intend to stay in those jams for several more hours! Savor a cup of cowgirl coffee and gently ease into the day.

Which is just one more reason why I love winter. (Quiet season for this horse and flower lover.)

I guess if I died and came back as a flower, I'd be a Tulip. Because they only flourish after a prolonged deep freeze. And, I need winter to recharge my batteries.

Or, maybe not. Tulips are weak and I'm a survivor.

So, I'd probably be an Allium bulb.

Forcing Allium bulbs requires 12 weeks in your refrigerator.*

Critters don't eat Allium bulbs. They're aromatic members of the onion family.

Allium Schubertii is a favorite Allium bulb of mine. Though I prefer growing her indoors, where it's easier to appreciate her odd, delicate, flowers and stems.

Plus, my morning hair is almost as crazy looking as the Allium Schubertii bulb before I take a shower.

Well, here it is, a few days before Thanksgiving.

I've spent the week in my hand cast. [Having elected to break that hand by trying to fix the garage door.]

During which time I have not improved any left-hand writing or typing skills.

However! I have wrangled the dictation app on my computer into submission and I'm really enjoying the insanity of talking to my computer and seeing what it types. (As I am doing right now...)

Store Tulip bulbs in the crisper drawer of your 'frig for 8 weeks. They'll bloom indoors in a sunny window.

I'm assigned pies for the big Thanksgiving feast and I absolutely hate making pies. Because it always begins with perceived failure on my part. 

I have never been able to beat Pillsbury at the pie crust game. Their pie crust tastes better. So, no matter what type of pie I'm creating, it goes into a store bought crust and that, somehow, feels wrong when you're preparing for the ultimate, annual feast.

Paperwhites DO NOT require forcing: buy 'em, plant 'em, love 'em.
But, I did go buy the goodies for Maple Pecan, Sweet Potato, and a Sky High Apple Pie. That should teach the powers that be not to assign me Thanksgiving pies. Because nobody is getting pumpkin on my watch.

I've never actually tasted pumpkin pie. It's too brown and gushy, I'm pretty sure I would hate it. Whenever I admit that, some weirdo scoops up some pumpkin pie - onto their fork - shoves it in my face and says: Oh, give it a try.

Like I'm gonna do that. During flu season.

Hyacinth are the easiest bulbs to force and their fragrance is sooo delightful.

So, anyhoo back to those bodacious bulbs.
Now's a good time to tuck some away in your refrigerator.

Not to plant next to year. To enjoy in February when nobody - including me - has an ounce of love for the never-ending winter.

With any luck, the picked over remnants of autumn flower bulbs are marked down to a dollar a bag at your local Home Depot. [Or whatever big box store is near you.] So, buy a few and let's have some fun.

Tulip skin hats on these indoor coming attractions.

* If you get online you'll find a plethora of websites providing laborious detailed instructions on forcing flower bulbs.

Step One: Turn off your computer. Laborious instruction makes me crazy because it is very discouraging to new gardeners.

If you're nervous about forcing bulbs, plant these Mexican Shell Flowers. They do not need forcing and they'll make you look like an indoor gardening rock star!

I force bulbs every winter. Here's what I do and it works like a charm:
  • Store bulbs in a paper bag (keeps the light out) - in the crisper drawer of your freezer.
  • Remove any fruit from that crisper drawer.
  • Ignore those bulbs for 8-12 weeks. 
  • Haul 'em out. And, watch 'em go hog wild.
  • Easy peasy. 

Uh.. but just to be clear. Don't try forcing peas. :)

Hope you're all having a marvelous weekend!

Monday, November 16, 2015

1 Arm Bandit

Tip: Soak your orchids, once a week, for 30 minutes, with a tsp of basic fertilizer - they'll happily re-bloom.
I wake, wincing in pain. Pop two of the killer pills, fall back onto the bed. Awaiting a miracle and marveling, once again, at how effective painkilling drugs can be.

"I'm all busted up.
Broken bones & nasty cuts.
Accidents will happen,
But, this time I can't get up."
- Green Day

How do those pills know where to go? And, if they are so adept at racing through your body to fix painful problems... why can't we invent one for my badly damaged pride?

Death Bed Tulips from my darling daughter.
Spent the better part of Thursday in the ER. Stitches, pins & needles galore. All because my garage door broke. And, Little Miss Independence, here, thought she could fix it! You know, skip that dang repairman! Save a buck.

Instead, the panels of the garage door snapped together wrecking a perfectly good right hand in the process.

It's Cactus Time! I love this peach color...
Ever been in shock?

I think this was my first time. Panic. Terror. Staring at the bloody mess that used to be my hand. But, the weird thing is I didn't feel any pain. So, I think that's shock but I don't know for sure.

Super fond of the traditional hot pink variety, too.
Thankfully, there is an emergency room two blocks from my house.

I can do this. I said to myself.

I can do this. Repeated it several times. As if talking to myself is some kind reassurance? Words to make this cowardly lioness a wee bit braver?

But, I did it. I wrapped the hand, got in the car, and drove myself to the emergency room, where I stood there shaking and crying and covered in blood.

And, then.

Wait for it.... {and enjoy the massive concern my wee pup feels for my condition.}

Wait... for... it.... {and observe the guilt trip from the lazy arse cat who sleeps 23.5 hours per day.}

The [alleged] doctor took one look at my bloody appendage and says: Oh, this is way too serious for us! You should go to the hospital! Do you know where it is?


Tip: Photograph your groovy flowers in front of a turned off t.v. Makes a great, reflective background.

So much for that Hippocratic Oath.

But, nothin' drags you back into the real world quicker than a lazy, uncaring, unfeeling, medical professional.

Shock be damned, off I went to the real ER where they stitched me back together and told me I'd be as good as new... in another 6 months.

Until then it's just me and the iPad. And, my 4-legged nurse.

Here's hoping you all had a better weekend than me. :)