Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Topsy Turvy

The sun shines brightly, birds sing a happy tune and the earliest spring flowers stand up to say howdy. All is well.

One day later, a freezing rain blankets the garden.

I wish I had the hutzpah of my flowering friends -- who shake off the dreary weather and keep on blooming.

Back comes the sun to warm our bones! And, I enjoy a pleasant afternoon, puttering in the garden.

The following morning, a foot of fresh snow greets me when I open the blinds.

And, so it goes. Hot flashes, Mother Nature style. Followed by winter's slap in the face.

This spring, winter is winning.

For the first time in 7 years, we've had to cancel our week long March trail ride. The horses are just not ready - and neither am I.

Slippery mud and more snowy days than sunshine have foiled our grand plans. (I feel it's too dangerous to ride horses on super muddy trails - they could slip and injure themselves - so we weren't able to get them in shape prior to the ride.)

Spring on the windowsill will have to do...
While hibernating indoors, I fished out the hyacinth bulbs that had been stored in the cool, dark of the garage ~ a lovely, fragrant centerpiece for Easter dinner.

Because of the uncooperative weather, I finally got cracking on that woulda shoulda coulda list.

I can turn a blind eye no longer...

Who in their right mind would choose an orange countertop and royal blue drawers for a master bathroom? Why, the previous owners, that's who. 

Did you know you don't have to replace countertops any longer? There are paint solutions for these eyesores. This fixer upper project cost me $11.95 vs. many hundreds once installers handed me a bill..

But, what did I do the very second I had re-painted that horrid orange countertop??

Marched right over to the nursery and bought some orange flowers!

Sun Stars! Absolutely love 'em! Yeah. I know. If I can't figure me out. You shouldn't even try. :)

Here's hoping y'all had a wonderful Easter holiday!

~ kate

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Quiz for Quasi Spring!

Charlie vs. the Seedlings:
"I really want to want to eat 'em, mom. Maybe just a nibble?" - Charlie

Snooze, ya lose!

That's been my philosophy for many years, now. Prevents me from getting frustrated with folks who are all talk and no action.

Whenever someone claims they want to start a garden, I jump at the chance to help them plant something. And, it's high time to be starting some happy seeds!

They look very similar, now, but these are 3 very different heirloom tomatoes. 
They produce fruit early, mid-season and late.

Snooze, ya lose! If that person begs off planting, busy doing other things, as this gal did... then I get to start some veggies for my own garden! Which is what kept me busy this morning.

Let's test your knowledge. Three types of seeds, are resting on this plate. One's a gimme. But, what about the other two? Do you know what they are?

It's been a blustery week of high winds and chilly temperatures.. the kind of weather that inspires a good, lazy day indoors.

In my backyard, the elk are the first sign of spring.

But, there is work to be done. There's always work to be done.. and it's not nearly as cold out there as it sounds with the wind battering the house.

Sable's on a diet! (Better her, than me.)

Second sign of spring: muddy horse.

Each day, this week, I bundled up and trudged through the mud, to visit my beloved horse, Sable.

Who has turned into a roly poly pig.
Did you know that the best way to keep a horse warm in the winter is to feed them hay? The simple process of digesting food produces heat which keeps them warm.
This was a particularly harsh winter. So, I have a particularly fat horse!

No matter the weather, each day I would walk her out to the meadow, (to socialize her back into the human world.) We bond, while she nibbles on fresh green shoots.

That, I suppose, sounds counter productive but, we women know the quickest way to drop some pounds is not starvation; it's exercise. She'll shed that weight as soon as we start riding. I'm pretty confident she'll shed more weight than I will! :)

I hate the filthy remnants of winter. The mud, the mess, the dull, brown landscape.. can't even bear to show a full size photo of the barn, it's so dreary out there.

But, hey! What's that?

Tiny, Mertensia Alpina ~ my most beloved wildflower ~ has awakened in the meadow. Just in time for spring.

Yep. It's spring. One day early this year, because of February's extra day. But, none too soon for me.

Happy Equinox, everybody!

~ kate

Whoops! Almost forgot. Here's the answer to that burning seed question:

1) Pumpkin, of course. 
But, not just any pumpkin! A 300 pound pumpkin! (If I'm lucky.) I thought I'd plant a couple next to the street, where everyone can watch them grow to magnificent proportions. Tip: if bigger is better, in your mind, remove all the fruit, except for the healthiest one. Lack of competition, on the vine, is how they grow so big.

2) Brussel Sprouts.
Hard to imagine a seed the size of a pin head can produce a gigantic stalk of Brussels, but they can. It just takes awhile. (110 days, best to start indoors.) This is an early, very cold hardy variety, called Nautic, with a sweeter, nuttier taste than the ones you'll find at the supermarket. Easy grower in the mountains.

3) Beets!
Beautiful Chioggia beets. An Italian heirloom from a town, of the same name, near Venice.

Why is it called Equinox? Because night and day are nearly exactly the same length - 12 hours - all over the world. In Latin, it literally means 'equal night' (equi = equal and nox = night). Since biblical times, Spring Equinox has been the gardeners' call to action ~ to welcome spring by starting some happy seeds.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Hell N Back

First things, first! Check this out! 
A Tardis* Birdfeeder! Definite must-have for the garden.

On the drive home, I purchased a new Shamrock plant. (Oxalis)

Home again, home again, jiggity jig. 

If that rings a bell for you, perhaps you grew up with precious nursery rhymes, as I did. I always think of that phrase when I pull into the driveway, walk back into the house and let loose with a deep sigh.

And, I also purchased a new Primrose ~ because they're the cutest flowers on the planet!
Ah... the fabulousness that comes from familiar surroundings. A sound sleep in a bed that is mine, all mine.

I have ants in my pants. Have always been afflicted with travel fever. I love seeing new places, experiencing new things. Because it opens my eyes, opens many doors, and reminds me of who I am.

That girl who will always need a nest. The permanence of a perennial garden. A door! With a lock, that requires a key. A key that only I have. A home ~ however cluttered and unkempt.

I'm sure that sounds kind of silly. But, for several years, I pondered the lifestyle that so many other people have chosen.

RV Livin'
Sell off those earthly belongings! AKA that house you call home. Purchase an RV and hit the open road. Where your home is on wheels and your address changes constantly.

Absolutely not for me. Or, my cat. Just ask him. He's fiercely opinionated on the subject. :)

"If you don't take me home, pretty soon, I shall inflict wounds that will never heal."
During our adventure in Cave Creek, Arizona, I needed to hide the cat whenever the cleaning ladies showed up (hired by the owner of the house - who had no idea he was renting to a cat.) I'd toss him in the car, and drive around aimlessly for an hour, until they were gone.

Now, you'd think after a few weeks of this, Mr. Pete would simply say: oh, la dee da, another road trip. But, no! Every single time, he'd begin our driving adventure with a bite on my arm. Scarred, I am, from traveling with a cat who has zero love for the open road.

The entire drive home was a drizzly, snowy mess. I wanted to turn back, but the cat said: Keep goin!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

The whole drive home I was dreaming of my garden. Dreaming of this!!

Was greeted by this:

Oh, well, at least they're trying...
Clearly a month in a summery climate was messing with my brain.

It's March!
It's Mud Month!

Charlie: Modeling the latest in muddy attire.
Couldn't wait to see my beautiful horse! Dreaming of this!!
Yes! We dress like cowgirl clowns on these rides. That's half the fun. :)
Was greeted by this...

Hey, Chubs!
It appears Sable gained more weight than I did, this winter. I'm always happy to be thinner than somebody. Even if it is a horse. :)

And, now I'm facing a brand new, and rather lengthy to-do list.

Our first, week long, trail ride of the season happens at the end of March.

There aren't a lot of men on these trail rides. Do you suppose we scare them off? :)
So, I guess you might say... it's time to giddyup. Quit typing and start riding. Get that marshmallow behind of mine in shape for a saddle.

Have a wonderful week, everyone!

~ kate

PS: It's good to be home.

For those of you not in the know.. The Tardis is a fictional time machine used in the sci-fi series, Dr. Who. It starred David Tennant for 5 wonderful years. When he quit the series, it was kind of like an imaginary boyfriend dumping me. I turned off the Tivo and never watched another episode.

* Jiggity Jig: Extraordinary Nursery Rhymes and Tales: New Yet Old. Griffith and Farran. 1876. First published in 1611.

Monday, March 07, 2016

The Beast has Awakened

Greetings, Earthlings. 
Don't worry. I'm a vegan.

The moment we moved into our Cave Creek, Arizona, rental home, our [outdoor] cat took up residence in the tortoise pen. Sleeping in the cool grass. Perhaps he heard the rumblings, of a long hibernating beast, waking up, beneath the sand...

Desert Tortoise are endangered species. It's illegal to even touch them!   Much less try to kill them as my naive kitty cat was plotting to do. Right up until Mr. Tortoise popped his gnarly head out the sand. :)

On this fine morning... 
I heard terrified barks from my cowardly puppy. Then, I witnessed the blur of the big, black cat ~ hightailing it ~ into the house, and under the bed.

Mr. Tortoise has awakened! 
After a long winter's sleep. 
(They don't come out of hibernation until the temperature reaches 80+ degrees.)

Heading back down there to wake up his buddy. Two tortoise live in this garden.
I thought I would leave you with one last, intriguing, look at desert life. The big, kinda scary, tortoise who lives in the backyard of this rental property.*

Travel time is over. Off we go ~ away from the warm sun and back into a mountain winter that has just begun. [March and April are the snowiest months in our high mountain world.]

Thanks for tagging along on this super fun adventure!

~ kate

*Tortoise vs. Turtle: 

  • Turtles swim; tortoise will drown if placed in water. 
  • The pen is simply for his protection during hibernation. This old geezer, and his buddy, (they're guessing 70 years old) has the run of the backyard, dining on cactus flowers and shrubs in their new home. 
    • He's a rescue from a Sonoran Desert wildfire.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Night Gardens

It was my darling daughter's birthday.
She's visiting from snowbound Utah.
So, I thought it might be a fun adventure 
to see the light show..

At the Phoenix Desert Botanical Gardens.

Bruce Munro is a renowned artist of light.
Using fiber optics, on a grand scale.
This photo, above -- 6 foot tall cylinders made of plastic water bottles,
with color changing, fiber optic lights inside the bottles.

This, of course, has my puny brain working over time on how to decorate my own gardens next Christmas! :)

There is something magical about strolling a garden at night.
I've tried my luck at planting a 'Moon Garden' on my own property...

But my sorry efforts pale in comparison to the surreal entertainment of 31,000 lights...

Inside planters...

Stretching through the Saguaro fields...

Creeping up a cactus-covered mountain...

Putting on the most spectacular garden light shown I have ever seen!

Truly amazing. :)))

~ kate