Good Bones

This week has been super fun in the garden. Of course it helps that we are having a lovely early spring, which has been warm enough to make things pop out all over, but still cool enough that blooms will last longer than usual.

I got a few plants, and had a few ideas, and when MLG got here, I asked him if we could try them, and then he had ideas to embellish my ideas. So fun!! I feel like we are actually getting a good form for the garden now–“good bones” as they say.

This was a huge chore that actually got done several weeks ago. This was my last ¬†(and oldest) lace leaf Japanese maple that was still in a pot. I bought it 30 years ago when I first moved here! We had discussed getting it into the ground, and since we had such good rain, the time came to do it. MLG cut the pot, just like the one he did last year, so that is only the rim of the pot in the ground. It was terribly heavy, and MLG took the tree in and out of the hole several times to get it in just the right direction and at just the right height. And then he brought over these old railroad ties, and used them to make a border around it. And found some leftover bricks to make a nice platform for the dogs’ water bowl.


I was enchanted by the look of the railroad ties, and I asked him if he could use some to make a border along one of the stone paths. Yay! More places to plant stuff ūüôā


And then he surprised me by putting the railroad ties along the back of the Camperdown¬†elm. You can see we are not done with the rock work here, but we have a plan. Just have to go get the rocks…


Over by the fence by the road, he planted another spirea (I call it bridal wreath) next to the forsythia, and I got another honeysuckle, which he planted next to the fence. I love the pink honeysuckle that I have, but it has no smell, and I missed that.


This is just a view from the backside of the front corner beds. Its kind of a miracle that the tulips did not get covered over by that brick path!


So I saw this ivy at the nursery and was just charmed by it–a pale tricolor leaf. And I wanted to keep it in a container and put it up high, so it could trail down. My neighbor had had a pine tree cut down, and she offered me some of the wood. So MLG brought this stump over, and spent some time making sure it was “level” (these are the things I would never bother to do, but they add a lot to the overall soundness and structure of the garden.)


I had been thinking about moving this “fairy garden” out by the studio door. This way I could have some color out there, and the deer would not be able to get to it. But it needed a perch. So MLG went and got another bigger stump, and went through the same leveling work, and gouged¬†some holes in it so I can try to grow some little hanging plants in there!


On the other side of the door, I have my planters all cleaned up and ready for some geraniums, as soon as all danger of frost is past. The deer didn’t seem too interested in geraniums last year.


Here is one of the maples called Peaches and Cream–a good name for it, don’t you think? It gets more green as the season goes along, but this is how it starts out.


And this is just a view of the shade garden. I love that that fern comes back every year in the spring. It was the very first thing I planted in the very first bed that MLG built for me.



In the back of the garden, more exciting things are happening. MLG mentioned quaking aspens last week, and I do love them. The aspens grow naturally up the hill from us (at a much higher elevation), on the way to Lake Tahoe. I checked with our local nursery, and she said that they would grow here, as long as they were somewhat shaded and in a protected area. Well, it just so happens that we had the perfect spot for them. I bought two of them. They literally look like two very tall sticks, so not very impressive in a picture. And another maple in the ground in front of them. Hopefully I’ll have some good shots to show you later in the year.

I really feel like this year we have made some great progress in making a cohesive garden, and I have thought more about what I really enjoy, and less about what is the “right” thing to do. I’m leaving room for some colorful annuals, and I even bought some peat pots to try to get some of my seeds started, since we can have frost up until May 1st here.

Have a good weekend, and buy yourself a plant. Plants are one of the great bargain pleasures in this world. $2.50 for a 6 pack of petunias can brighten your life for a long time!


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.


Its Definitely Spring

Last weekend I was in the Bay Area visiting my mom. The sky and the green hills were particularly beautiful that day. You can see “Niles” painted on the side of the hill. That has been there since I was a little kid! My mom said they periodically go up and whitewash it.


And just turning in a different direction:


Then this weekend in my garden:


the flowering almond is doing very well this year:


This plant just says “Springtime!” to me.


Some new hyacinths that are an unusual color. And Noah didn’t knock them down either ūüôā


Icelandic Poppy. I am going to get more of these next year. I think they are one of the plants that does best if you plant it in the fall.


A pretty color combo.


This camellia is one of the first plants I ever planted here (28 years ago!) It has never done well in its current location, and MLG and I were planning to move it, and then this year it decided to put on a big show!


Chinese Fringe Bush. This plant almost gave up when I had it in a container, but now after being in the ground for a couple of years, it is doing extremely well. It blooms through several seasons, and I have seen it used in commercial landscaping, so I think it is a pretty easy keeper. I think the flowers are very different and pretty.




The tulips came back!


And plenty of daffodils and narcissus.


I’m including this picture for my gardening/landscaping friends. It doesn’t look like much now, but I am most excited about this. One day a couple weeks ago, I just got it into my head to put all the rest of my Japanese maples into the ground. And the very next time MLG came around, he dug four giant holes in this hard rocky ground, and got those big trees out of their giant pots, and put them in the ground for me. I’m hoping they will be much happier there, and will give me a better show next fall.


Yep, spring has arrived in Northern California!

In the Garden

What’s going on in the garden today? Some hard work, that’s what’s been going on! MLG was here bright and early this morning, and I had an extra hard job in mind for him. In addition, he brought with him a truckload of soil to fill the rest of the new bed. Yay, guess who went to the nursery this afternoon? : )

But first, let me tell you what we worked on. Besides the Japanese Maples that I still have in the big pots, I have an Atlas Cedar. I’ve had it for probably as long as I’ve lived here. Its kind of a sentimental plant, because when I was a kid, some very good friends of my parents had one growing in their courtyard, and I always thought it was so neat, kinda like a BIG bonsai. Anyway, last year we put the Cedar into a very tall pot. As soon as we got it in there, I knew I didn’t like it, but it had been so hard for MLG that I just left it. Well this year I noticed one time that it was flooded–kind of unusual for me, but its very dangerous for the trees. They don’t do well in that condition. When I went away last week, my neighbor watered my plants, and sure enough, I came back and it was flooded again. So I tipped it over to get some of the water out, but this time the whole pot fell over! And there was no way I could get it back up by myself. I knew we had to transplant it. After MLG got here, we talked over several options, and decided to switch pots with a little lace leaf Japanese Maple¬†that also wasn’t doing too well. MLG got both of them out of the pots, which was a HUGE feat, and then I went to work re-potting them. I put a good layer of rocks in the bottom of both of them to help with drainage, and then I removed the ground cover from the tops of both of them. Turns out the grass I had with the little J.M. might have been choking it and taking all the nutrients away from it, and maybe the same with the Cedar. We moved the Japanese Maple from its location in the shade garden, and now there is a nice line of 4 of the maples along the path to the doggie room.



The cedar looks so much better in the new pot. As soon as the tree guy comes and takes down a few more trees, we will move it about 10 or 15 feet to its (hopefully) permanent location.



I told MLG that one of these days he was going to come over and I was going to say, “oh, just a little light clean-up will do.” But I think he likes working hard. He cleaned up this corner of the yard for me, and made a little platform for this maple to keep it level, and also to use up some leftover bricks and pavers (he’s trying his hardest to neaten me up.)


This morning while we worked, I noticed the birds were extra active and happy. I guess its a combo of cooler weather and bird feeders that are filled once again… so this afternoon when I went out to take pictures, what a treat it was that a whole bunch of birds chose that moment to come down and take a communal bath! It was so fun to hear them splashing in the water.




Some new blooms–this was a bee balm that I bought this year. I’m trying to buy more perennials to fill the garden. I love this bloom, and I hope the plant will get as big as they say it will.


And the hydrangea that we transplanted last year finally got a bloom on it! So exciting. This was a pitiful little plant when we put it in the ground.


This shows the front bed that you’ve already seen, but to the side you can see my little row of green beans starting to sprout, and that row of little plants in the back are dwarf sunflower! Its so fun to plant seeds and actually see them come up.


Cherry tomatoes are starting to sprout already.


And the squash had its first blossoms open this morning!


And that’s the view from the garden today. No more big plans for this year. We’re going to work on just straightening up a few areas. And I’m going to work on trying to keep everything watered on schedule!


Before and After–Me and My Garden


I ran across some old “fat” photos of me, and (squee!!) I figured out how to scan them. As I looked at one of them, I realized that it was a “before” picture of me AND my garden. It was probably taken within the first couple of years that I lived here, so that would have been about 1988. That’s me at 34 years old, and the start of my garden. I planted a couple of petunias in a wooden box. They actually did very well. The same wooden box was where I planted my little maple tree. That little maple tree grew and grew in that little wooden box until it couldn’t grow any more. And that is what precipitated the whole garden project! The big pine tree trunk behind me in that picture also grew and grew, until it had to be taken down. Its stump is in the middle of the raised bed now. Those are my dogs I had when I moved here, Charlie the Standard Poodle, and Muppet, my little Lhasa Apso. (The storage shed in the background had a tree fall on its roof, and it was removed shortly after that.)

This bed is built right where I was sitting in the first picture. The big maple tree is the one that started the whole project. It is doing so well this year.


Here’s a view of the other beds this morning, with recent improvements by MLG (Master Landscaping Guy.)


And me? Fortunately, instead of growing and growing, I stayed that same size for a very long time. And then I got smaller.

DSCN0716Me and that little maple tree–we’ve weathered a lot over the years. But we’re still standing.

Springtime in the Garden

Daffodils are in full bloom now. Forgive the fences. SOMEONE thinks the pots are for him ¬†to play “King of the Hill” on.



Every day I go out and stand under the new cherry tree to see if it has bloomed. Will it be the cherry tree of my dreams? I do believe it is! At least it is close enough! And I just read a magazine article yesterday where the gardener said that the cherry trees had grown an amazing amount in just 2 or 3 years!


This is an interesting little shrub. It doesn’t really look like much, and then all these funny little blooms pop out. It almost looks like confetti.


The camellia that I have to practically stand on my head to get a picture of. This is one of the bushes I hope to get in the ground. I am pretty sure it will be a LOT happier out of its container.


Pansies and violas are such a cheerful addition. A lot of pleasure for very little investment.


This Japanese maple is covered in seed buds. It almost looks unreal to me.


I bought myself a few new plants at the nursery yesterday. This is a flowering almond, one of my most favorite plants. I have one, but it has never done well. The girl at the nursery said it probably has a canker. I thought she was just making that term up, and then I read it in a magazine the very same day!


Doesn’t it have the most beautiful, delicate blooms?


All the maples are leafing out now, and each one has a different shade.


There seems to be a pink theme going on here. I can’t help it. Its my favorite color.

Its been a good week. I got a lot more functional exercise. The second pile of wood is all stacked up. A lot of pots have been re-arranged. I’ve gotten in the pool twice, on the bike three times, kept up with my PT exercises, and I’m starting to do fast-walking sprints like Tabata intervals on my walks with Noah. Those are really a good workout. And that doesn’t even include all the aerobic quilting I’ve done :))


There’s No Place Like Home

Its not just Dorothy who thinks that! ¬†Even before I got to the airport on my way out of town, I was thinking about how much I love my peaceful evenings at home with the doggies. ¬†We have gotten into quite a lovely routine these days. ¬†Usually about 5 pm the natives get restless (interpretation: ¬†Sophie starts reminding me it is dinnertime.) ¬†So I take all of them for a nice walk, then come home and usually read Lori’s blog (cause you shouldn’t exercise and eat immediately afterward?) and then feed them, and then feed me. ¬†Okay, that part is not peaceful. ¬†But here’s the good part. ¬†After we all have eaten and ‘gone poddy,’ we come back in and get in our places. ¬†Noah stretches out on the floor and just zones out. ¬†I get in my ¬†chair with my current project, and Monk and Sophie watch anxiously for the signal to get in my lap. ¬†They settle in, and THAT’S IT. ¬†We’re set for the night! ¬†When its time for bed, Noah goes outside, and I carry the two little ones to their crates and they never make a peep (compared to other times they are in their crates and feel they must constantly remind me that they NEED TO GET OUT.) ¬†I love this time, and to me it has equal value to any extravagant trip I could take. I just need to remind myself of that occasionally.

Its pretty peaceful most mornings too!

Sophie, in the bed under the desk, as close as she can possibly get to me without being in my lap:

Mr. Monk in ‘his’ chair:

And the new and improved Noah, the sleeping version!

One last bit from the trip:  Its all about the color!!

When I say I got “new threads,” ¬†I mean it literally!!

And just “a little bit” of fabric…

I started this collection of more muted, small print fabrics in response to my love for the beautiful detailed Japanese quilts.  There were 65 quilts from Japan at the Paducah show!

Ooh, and I almost forgot that I had gotten this!! ¬†This is fiber for spinning my own yarn–a gift from my spinning/knitting friend that I met in Nashville! ¬†Aren’t these colors glorious?

When I got home, everything had really leafed and budded out and looked so green and pretty.  Spring came pretty late this year.

This Japanese maple has the prettiest pink leaves when it comes out in the spring.

I really like this one–lime green moon-shaped leaves. ¬†A little different than most Japanese maples that you see.

My lilac put on quite a show this year, now that it has gotten so tall that it can get some sun!

Its an English lilac.  I love the heaviness of the buds, and the delicate color and smell.

Finally.  Back to my own food.  I had some good food on this trip.  Overindulged a bit.  Looking back, nothing stood out as absolutely outstanding.  And by the end of the trip, both me and my Australian room mate were seeking vegetables!!

Before I got home, I thought about what I wanted to do to get the vacation weight off (its mostly already gone, so I guess it was just water or travel weight,) and I decided I would really make an effort to eat more vegetables and protein, and limit grains to one serving a day. ¬†I went to the grocery store and stocked up on vegetables, as well as getting supplies to make my yogurt (which I strained to make “greek style.” ¬†It is a lovely batch of yogurt.) ¬†I’ve stuck very well to that plan this week. ¬†It sure wasn’t hard to eat more vegetables. It was a privelege!

Last night I had a new idea for dessert. ¬†This was so fantastic! ¬†I only like the ‘tart’ frozen yogurt at the froyo shops. ¬†This was 3 of my frozen banana cubes, and 3 Tbsp of my yogurt ¬†swirled together in the mini food processor. ¬†Absolutely perfect. ¬†No sweetener needed at all. ¬†Topped with just a few chopped pecans and some mini chocolate chips.

And finally, the BIG REVEAL!! ¬†This is the muffin recipe that Sharon and I worked on together. ¬†Sharon wanted to make chia muffins that were low fat, high fiber, and high protein. ¬†So we googled a recipe, and then started futzing around, adding stuff to increase the protein content without adding too much fat or carbs. ¬†The muffins we made were very good, kind of like a cornbread texture(?) and were very filling. ¬†I knew I wanted to come home and fool around a bit more, adding a little fat for flavor, and just a bit of sweetener. ¬†Sharon and I have shared a few ideas by mail, and then I asked Vicky if she thought 1/4 cup of coconut oil was okay for 12 muffins. ¬†I meant, for the taste and texture. ¬†Vicky did a little math in her head and said, no, 1 tsp of oil is not too much for you to have in one day. ¬†Okay… ¬†

Anyway, I made these this morning, and oh, my. ¬†They were maybe TOO good, if you know what I mean. ¬†I made some of them with blueberries, others with raspberries, and a few with dried cherries. ¬†They are all safely ensconced in the freezer. ¬†The stats run from 145-210 calories, depending on whether or not you add the coconut oil, and whether or not you use fresh or dried fruit. ¬†They have a good percentage of chia seeds and flaxseed meal, and all of them have 10 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber per muffin. ¬†My only complaint about them is that there is a lot of ingredients and they took a bit of time to make. ¬†I didn’t notice that when Sharon and I were working together on them! ¬†But after a little less than an hour, I had 15 muffins to put in the freezer. ¬†I’ll get that recipe written up soon and add a link to it!

The end. ¬†Even though there is no place like home, I am leaving in a few hours for a women’s retreat. ¬†It is a speaker I love very much, and it is at Lake Tahoe–I couldn’t resist the opportunity. ¬†I’ll be back home in 48 hours!!

Travel and Food

Have I said this already? ¬†I’ve been thinking a lot about why it is that travel seems to be the last stronghold when it comes to controlling myself around food. ¬†Now, most of the time, I don’t actually do that bad. ¬†I usually take my breakfast and my lunch with me, and then usually allow myself one treat and eat dinner out. ¬†My dinner choice is not always the best, but its certainly not the worst either. ¬†But the thing is, I obsess about what food I am going to eat before I ever leave the house. ¬†I think about every special restaurant that is in the vicinity. ¬†I think about all the special candies/baked items/treats that could be had. ¬†All my old favorites. ¬†ALL of them. ¬†I do google searches to see what’s in the area, and then I do mapquests to get directions to some of them. ¬†WHAT is the deal?

This is what I think it is. ¬†As I got heavier and heavier, shopping and any other fun activity associated with travel became more and more difficult. ¬†Finally, the only fun thing left to do when traveling was to eat good food. ¬†To seek out the best and to move from meal to treat to meal. ¬†What a vicious cycle. ¬†You are too heavy to enjoy moving, so you eat more so its even more difficult to move so you eat more so you won’t think about how hard it is to move (and BTW, debby, remember that it wasn’t even so pleasant to SIT at your heaviest.)

That’s what I’ve been thinking about. ¬†It was a very ¬†long-term deeply ingrained habit in my life. ¬†So I guess that’s why its been so hard to break.

The “Japanese Maple Forest” continues to surprise me with new colors almost every day.

This is the grandaddy of the Japanese maples–not a dwarf, just a commoner. ¬†But one of my very most favorites. ¬†The first one I bought after I moved up here because it was cheaper than the fancy dwarfs. ¬†Now its roots have grown into the ground and it is firmly enmeshed in the soil here. ¬†This was what I saw when I walked out the door this morning.

Close-up of the leaves:

And one of his many offspring. ¬†I watch for the little maple saplings and pot them up. ¬†I’ve given quite a few away, and currently have 4 young’uns in different stages of development.

Another of the lace-leaf variety.  This one is doing extremely well this year.  It took a big hit last year when I somehow overlooked it in the watering rotation in August, the hottest month of the year.  Shows the resilience of trees.

And that’s all I’ve got for this Friday evening. ¬†Hope you all have a wonderful weekend. ¬†I am looking forward to a quiet weekend after a busier than usual week.