The Lemon Tree and the Dog

**WARNING: dessert talk ahead**

My mom and I used to be best friends. And then we weren’t. And if you used to watch Oprah, and you believe what the experts on that show said, its not healthy for mother and daughter to be best friends. I remember hearing that, and understanding what the expert meant.

Over many years, my mom and I have worked on repairing (restoring?) our relationship. Its been trial and error. Help has come from unexpected places. One of the few things my mom and I have in common is our love of plants. So that is always a safe bet for birthday/mother’s day presents. A couple of years ago, I got her a little Meyer lemon tree. I wanted one myself, but it freezes in the winter up here, and since she lives in the bay area, I knew she would have good luck with it. Sure enough, her very first year, she had a nice little crop of Meyer lemons in January. She harvested them and then gave them to me. I told her I would make her some lemon goodies. This turned out to be such a fun thing for both of us. It gave me the rare opportunity to do some traditional baking, and try new recipes, and she got the benefit of some very delicious homemade lemon treats. This year she had an even bigger crop. There were enough to make three lemon desserts. I googled “Meyer lemon recipes,” and chose a Meyer lemon cake, a Meyer lemon pie, and these wonderful, Lemon Creme Crumb bars. 


Cooking the lemons for the cake.

The cake is so interesting, because it has an almond meal base, and you actually cook the lemons and then process them whole (except the seeds) into a paste that you use in the cake batter. It was a delicious, dense and moist cake. Very sweet, but to me it did have a bit of a sour taste. I think it would depend on how sensitive you are to “sour.”


The pie is one of the simplest recipes I’ve ever seen. Most of the time you have to cook the lemon custard or curd, and then put it in the pre-baked pie crust. This one you just combine the four ingredients (lemon juice, sugar, butter, and eggs) in a blender, and pour into the unbaked pie crust. I used my large muffin tin to make six small “pies.” Yumm.

The Crumb bars is a repeat–a recipe I made with last year’s harvest of lemons. So ridiculously decadent. I had so much fun baking. And especially that each recipe came out very successfully. I save one or two pieces of each for myself, and box the rest up to take down to my mom. The whole thing feels like a project for the two of us to work on together.


About a year ago, I started worrying about what my mom would do when her old cat died. She doesn’t actually deal very well with death and grief. So one day, at our local shelter, I saw that they had a little Pug/Chihuahua cross. I had actually met a couple of little dogs of this cross, and they had delightful personalities. So I asked my mom if she would consider adopting her. I guaranteed her that if it didn’t work out, I would take the dog myself (all the while hoping against hope that it WOULD work out!)


My favorite picture–a mutual admiration society!

Well, not only has that little dog changed her life for the better (they walk a couple of times a day, and my reclusive mom has made so many friends in the park that she lives in, its almost unbelievable!,) but it has also been another thing for us to connect about. I get to hear almost daily about how this is the best dog in the whole wide world, and about her antics, and about how much she loves my mom, and how much my mom loves her. I don’t mind. If she doesn’t write for a day or two, I write and ask for a “Boopsie report.” It has really given us common ground for communication.


The picture my mom approves–a little more dignified.



Thankful for snow!


And nature’s perfect colors.


The smell of herbs.


And ice sculptures.


Thankful for color in winter.


And a tree I grew from a seedling.


How fun to see pretty leaves littering the ground.


Thankful for a new baby to love–Zoey!


Miss Bess is thankful for her special perch next to the warm wood stove.


It was a perfect day. I wish the same for all of you.


California Gardening

The first weekend in November I travelled to Santa Cruz for a quilting workshop. Santa Cruz is near the coast, and so the temperatures are always fairly mild there. There was a rose garden outside the building where the workshop was held. I couldn’t resist taking some pictures of the perfect blooms this late in the year.





Here at home, on the eastern edge of California, at about 2500 foot elevation, the roses have stopped blooming. But we are just now getting our fall color. Its not as spectacular as the East Coast, but I still look forward to it every year. Fall is one of my favorite seasons up here. I moved here in November 29 years ago.

I took some shots of my garden from outside my front door. I am still astounded at the changes that have been made in a couple of years work by MLG.  I have started to clean out some of the beds. Pruning will come a little later, I think. The hoses need to be reeled in for the season. You can see some of the Japanese Maples that we planted back along the fence line.


Here’s a closer look at those two trees. The smaller darker red one is slated to be planted in the ground next spring. It will be a larger tree, and the color is outstanding. I am looking forward to that move.


Still standing by the front door, here is the view in the other direction. One of our next big jobs is to build a planter box around that Japanese maple that is still in a pot. It is root bound, and will do so much better when it can spread out in the ground. Of course, planting this last JM in the ground means that I can never ever move from this house :)


Here is a closer view of the JM path. The begonia in the foreground is still hanging in there, in spite of several nights below freezing!



This is probably the last garden report for this year. I am definitely a fair weather gardener. Once it gets cold, I just don’t enjoy spending time in the garden. I am looking forward to next year, though, and anxious to see if some of my new purchases will take off in the spring!

Weekend in the Fall Garden

Fall is definitely in the air. It improves my mood, just to see leaves falling, and cooler night temperatures. We are still having lots of days with highs of 80, and we still aren’t having enough rain. That leaves me with watering to do that I don’t think I should be doing in the fall.

Anyway, there’s nothing like getting a few plants as a motivation to get you out into the garden to do some work. Friday I picked up some more ground covers, and a package arrived in the mail from Lori!! Lily of the Valley, and some cleome seeds. That was more than enough motivation to spend some time in the yard Saturday morning!

This part of the rock work is not completed, but I wanted to get some ground cover in there and growing before it gets any colder. I am using Elfin Thyme. It seems to grow really well, and is pretty hardy.


See, there it is:


This plant, that has tiny blue flowers that blow in the breeze, has done really well, and it is a favorite with the bees. I usually like showier flowers, but this one is a keeper.


The lantana is still putting on a good show. As long as I get this in the right place, it blooms non-stop.


I had two pots of geraniums that had to be moved when we did some of the front garden work. I just put them outside the fence in front of the house, and they have done really well there. And, the deer haven’t bothered them! I think this is something I will repeat next spring.


On the other side of the garden, this winter camellia is blooming early.


And the petunias are getting a bit bedraggled, but their color is more brilliant than usual.


The Japanese flowering maple (Abutilon) is huge, and finally putting out a lot of blooms. You can see that the pine needles are falling everywhere…


Close up:


Couldn’t resist including this beautiful rose. I wish it was in my garden, but it was just growing in the corner of the local car mechanic’s.


All is well and slowing down in the Fall Garden. Noah enjoys his perch, where he can keep a close watch on the neighbors in either direction.


Tomorrow is Noah’s birthday. He is six years old. If you want to see some pictures of the world’s cutest fluffiest white puppy, click here. Noah was quite a handful to raise (he probably would say the same about me,) and his whole history has been chronicled here and there on the blog.


Garden Report

It rained! It rained!! After months of no rain, we finally had a nice day and a half of rain. It was so nice to take a walk last night and not have a dust cloud following me and Noah like Pigpen in the Peanuts comics. I checked the weather this morning, and no rain predicted for the next fifteen days. Sigh…

Yahoo! I have a compost bin!! I never wanted to bother with the whole compost thing, but MLG takes my garbage away for me every two weeks, and because I eat so much fresh fruit and veggies, it was always VERY heavy, and usually soggy. Yuck. So I finally decided to bite the bullet and get a bin. I ordered one from Lowe’s and the very next week, my neighbor offered me a brand new one for free! So, I am very happily gathering all my fruit and veggie peels, and all my many coffee grounds, and taking them out to my bin. I’m looking at all those leaves falling in a whole new light too!

A few weeks ago we finished the brick patchwork path. Its kind of hard to get a good picture of it. But it is very nice to have, and in fact, Noah is really enjoying it. Seems its a nice perch to keep track of the neighborhood in both directions.


These are some of the last flower pictures I took. The salvia just stays in bloom all summer long. Its kind of messy, but I like the way it looks next to all the petunias.


A close-up. The bees really love it.


This is just a little rose, but such a nice shape to it.


And that’s about it for the garden report. Me and MLG are in “getting ready for winter” mode. We’re gonna work on the wood pile, and seal the bricks, and boring stuff like that. Today I’m having rain gutters put on my house. Quite optimistic of me, don’t you think?

Bits and Pieces in the Garden

This time of year, you have to look around to find bits and pieces of color. The grand swath of color that comes in spring is gone. So I took my camera out, looked for those bits and pieces, and played with the close-up lens.

First, here is MLG’s work from yesterday. We are continuing the patchwork path up on the other side of this front bed. I have to say, I LOVE walking on even ground! MLG likes to finish a job in one day. I had to cajole him to stop working halfway through. We will finish it next time.


I don’t have a lot of yard art, but here is one piece I really like.


This begonia is doing really well. I don’t always have such good luck with begonias, so I really appreciate it when they do well. I’ll have to remember that it likes this spot.


These marigolds are finally doing well. They were the first annuals I bought in the spring. But unfortunately, we had a big storm right after I planted them, and it took them all summer to recover!


Just some of the “free” petunias, along with the gone wild salvia. What a nice combo, one that I did not plan.


A little rose.


Gaillardia. LOL, I couldn’t remember the name, and I googled giardia. Umm, no, that’s a stomach virus our dogs used to get.


The Flowering maple (abutilon) is doing very well.


Standing on my head to get a close-up.


This little front bed filled in nicely. I had moved the lantana from somewhere else in the garden, where it was not doing so well. It seems to appreciate being here!


Lantana close-up:


Here’s the other little blue flower in that front bed. Its not as showy, but I love the color, and the bees really seem to appreciate it.


Here’s my new little “firecracker” flower. I had to hold it still, because it was on a long stem and wouldn’t stop waving.


The fringed daisy has put out a new set of blooms. Isn’t this a cool shot? I don’t know how the background came out so dark.


And the honeysuckle vine has bloomed consistently all summer, in spite of being “pruned” on one side by the deer.


Have a wonderful weekend! Here we are having a preview of fall weather, and I am loving it.

Working in the Garden

That’s right. ME working in the garden! MLG is taking a week off. Bringing home that batch of little plants from Annie’s last week forced me to get out in the garden and do some major restructuring of garden beds. I cleared out the last of the fairy impatien forests, and removed lots of weeds and even some ground cover. Dragged in more bags of potting soil and mulch, and filled in a couple of beds.

Here is the little bed by the front fence that was created as a side effect of the patchwork path. I am trying to be wise and space my plants out a little bit better. Oh, and I purposely left that pile of bricks and compost in the background to show you. After wrenching my back and my right arm, I finally wised up and paid Lowe’s to deliver the (hopefully) last of the bricks and sand we will need for a while. I was paying $4.50 for each 50 pound bag of sand, and discovered that I could get 1000 pounds for $32, which is less than $1.50 per 50 pounds.


And here’s the other little bed by the front fence. I planted the herbs that I already had in pots (apple mint, rosemary, thyme, and chocolate mint) and I added a pineapple sage. They all smell so yummy.


The patchwork path is doing very well–the ground covers have just about filled in their patches. (the oak leaves never stop. MLG says the trees are stressed by this drought.)


The oldest lace leaf Japanese Maple is doing really well this year. It is still in its pot, and I plan to leave it there as long as it is happy enough. Bessie loves drinking out of that little bird bath, and Noah likes to drink out of the pot hidden in the ivy below.


Hmmm. Don’t know why this picture is blurry. Anyway, this is a group pot that I made up a couple of weeks ago. It didn’t work out for where I originally planned to put it, so I moved it here, next to the shade garden.


Here’s the shade garden, minus all the fairy impatiens and most of the ground cover.


I wanted a tall plant for that pot in the middle of the shade bed, and I found this begonia. It is doing very well. I don’t always have the best luck with begonias. BTW, the reason there is a pot in the middle of this bed is because a huge pine tree was cut down and the stump is right there in the middle!


And that’s it for this week in the garden. Have a great weekend. I plan to spend some time in the studio, and the garden, and the gym!