Saturday, September 3, 2016



I have been improving my back yard these past few seasons, beginning in 2013. While most of my improvement projects that first year were devoted to urgent repairs on the house and garage, I did have my rotten deck replaced.

In 2014 my niece's fiancĂ©, Marcus, installed my courtyard garden, which I showed you in an earlier post. He also replaced my old arbor over the front sidewalk and replaced it with a gorgeous cedar arbor, and he and my niece, Kelsey, rototilled and planted a perennial garden in the back left of the property, and my daylily bed in the back right.

I can't think of any big projects accomplished last year but this year Marcus and his helper really went to town. The two prime reasons for the changes were my dogs barking at the neighbors, and the lack of shade over my deck after my beloved elm had to be cut down (see previous post). I knew that the shade for my deck would no longer be sufficient, but I went ahead and bought my shade plants anyway, because a lot of the temporary greenhouses pack it up by the end of June, and the permanent ones are out of annuals - at least the healthy ones - by then as well.

I knew the plants would suffer, and they did. A few of my orchids were severely burned, as well as a bird's nest fern. Impatiens, my old reliables, sickened. Some houseplants actually bit the dust!  I quickly researched cloth shade sails and umbrellas, and ultimately decided on two huge umbrellas in a gorgeous blue, which Marcus and his friend installed. They lasted two days - literally. I bought these umbrellas for shade, not for me but for the plants, so I left them up during the day. The second day, a huge wind/rain storm whipped through town while I was at work, and broke the ropes on both umbrellas, destroying their capacity to open and close. They were a total loss - a bitter disappointment and a hit in the pocketbook.

Then, Marcus offered to build a pergola. I am quite satisfied at how well it turned out, except that I had hoped for longer, more dramatic Japanese-style rafters. I was thrilled at how they blended the deck, built by other contractors, with the new pergola. The top photo is the view looking up from the lower deck, and the bottom photo shows it from the back yard. If you enlarge the photo you can see Holly giving an adoring look to "her Marcus", the photographer, and also a part of the lower deck behind the garage.

Mostly, I am tickled pink with how it turned out. Not only can I place a lot of annuals and houseplants in the shade, I can hang orchids from the lattice top (photo taken before I did this). Other plants include heliotrope, pansies, regular and New Guinea impatiens, tuberous and dragon-wing begonias, and several varieties of fuchsias. I am also able to hang wind chimes, votive candles and garden flags. I have mounted plant hangers on a couple of posts, and hung some of my smaller "Green Men and Women" plaques from other posts. The deck has really become a "Garden Room". (This view is looking toward my patio door into the kitchen.)

This view is looking out toward the back yard, where you can see the new fence that Marcus and his partner built. Next year I plan to hang my larger Green Men and Women on the fence. Holly no longer barks at the kids who live behind me, and they no longer shriek in fear when they see her (as if Holly would harm a fly). The white arbor over the statue was secured so it won't fall over every time the wind blows a bit.

This is one view of my courtyard garden, all filled up! It has a new black metal fence this year. Purchased at Lowe's, it was quite inexpensive and went up quickly. It is a huge success in fulfilling the purpose it was added for, to keep the dogs (mainly Holly) from digging up the dirt squares and knocking over pots.

This is another view of the courtyard garden, and unfortunately of my neighbor's driveway. However, when I am down in the courtyard , I have perfect privacy due to the grapevine. I also have privacy on the other side of the yard, from my neighbor's ivy. Both are excellent for hiding chain link fences. However, you will note that I said I have privacy. Holly can still see through the chain links, and barks excessively at the neighbors, and especially rabbits, cats, and children, whom she appears to have never seen before.
So that problem still needs to be resolved. And my hugest disappointment to date is the 2014 re-seeding of the back yard. It cost a lot, and did not take. Last year, it was half grass covered with plaintain weeds and half bare dirt. This year it is an explosion of weeds of all sorts and great height. I have had two helpers hack away at the weeds over the summer, and recently had a go at them myself. I am half wishing for fall so that the weeds will die!
It is clear that next year's project is seeding the lawn again - but making it smaller, by carving out more perennial beds to replace a lot of the grass. Ah, there will be a lot of dreaming over the long, cold winter.

Sunday, March 27, 2016


This is a picture of my house in Bismarck, ND. It isn't a recent photo - I've since installed a new door that isn't blue, and a new arbor. These days, a massive William Baffin rose climbs over the arbor. But aside from those changes, it looks about the same as it always has. At least it did, until a few days ago.
I have to admit I shed a few tears when I came home that afternoon, all because of a tree. When I pulled into  my driveway, I could see a huge gap behind my house that used to be filled by that giant American elm tree you see in the picture. I knew it was no longer there, but it upset me just the same.
You may remember that in October I posted about a giant limb from that tree falling on my house during a hurricane-force  windstorm. How it frightened  my dogs and me, and how I had to have the limb removed and my roof repaired due to the two big holes it caused.
The owner of the tree service that removed the limb advised me that the tree was irreparably damaged, and that it would have to come down. Realistically, I knew he was right. But when I saw the blank canvas left by the tree's removal, I felt like I was the executioner and that I had held the axe.
This tree, I'm sure, was about as old as my house, built in 1929. It had weathered so much, through at least three different owners. In our time alone, it made it through two microbursts and a catastrophic wind and rainstorm last June. (In that storm, a lot of live and dead limbs came down, but the strength of the tree was not affected.)  But by signing the contract to have the tree taken down, I feel like I signed its death warrant. I had thought for sure nothing would harm this tree, except Dutch elm disease.
One of the reasons that Dan and I bought this house, other than that it was a neat stucco cottage and was located in an old Bismarck neighborhood, was the fact that it had such wonderful trees. Yes, the boulevard trees were already gone, and we saw evidence of three threes that had once lived in a row at the back of our property. But there was a gorgeous weeping birch out front, an ancient  - and prolific - apple tree in the back, and that elm, probably one of the largest in town.
But one by one, we lost them. The weeping birch fell victim to a tiny insect, the bronze birch borer. The tree was already dead when we had it removed. The apple tree, a victim of all sorts of blights,  just plain fell over after a violent storm. And then the elm.
It's true, sometimes I had a love-hate relationship with the tree. In drought years, it produced millions of elm seeds, causing drifts of light green along the curbs, the seeds sprouting anywhere and everywhere they found a speck of dirt. Some year, it had aphids, whose sticky black sap was so hard to remove from cars and deck furniture. Other years, we had to deal with little green worms that spun down on nearly-invisible threads to unceremoniously land on our heads and in our dinner plates. The elm provided so much shade that grass would not grow under its canopy, and not many flowers either.
Some of the branches were already dead. Val, our foreign exchange student, was always afraid that one particular branch would fall on her head when she sat out on our deck. Val, it was an entirely different branch that fell on the house. "Your" branch stayed intact until the end.
But what wonderful shade that old tree provided. The deck was almost always cool and comfortable. There, I was able to grow my orchids, begonias and impatiens, and summer over my houseplants.  When the breeze was gentle, the branches swayed gracefully. Sometimes when it rained we could stay outside on the deck for a long time because the leaves protected us from the drops. I could tell when fall first arrived when the branch closest to the deck turned yellow overnight. And in the spring, it was the first branch to bud out.
Many summer evenings, after dinner, I would just lean back in my deck chair and stare up at the leaves, watching as they changed in color from light green to dark green to black as dusk descended. And after dark, I would seek out the moon and the brightest stars among the branches.
But now, the tree is  - simply - no more. Gone too are the squirrels who scolded our dogs from a safe vantage point. Gone are the chickadees and nut hatches who scrambled up and down the trunk in the wintertime.
I cannot believe how the landscape of my backyard has changed. That first afternoon afternoon I walked around the yard, stunned at the difference. I will never be able to garden the same again. Yes, maybe I can now have an actual lawn, and flower beds too. But will it have been worth it, after all?

Saturday, November 7, 2015


Mayhem has been hanging around my house a lot lately.  A couple of weeks ago, I had been watching TV in bed with my snoozing puppies. Just before midnight, I turned off the TV and settled my head for a long fall's nap.
All of a sudden, we hear a giant CRAAACK and thump. The dogs and I were shaking in our boots. I bravely got up and looked out the patio door where I was shocked to see that a giant limb from my old elm tree had come down on the roof.
After staring at it in awe for a while, I went back to bed - after all there was nothing else I could do. But the limb kept shifting on the roof (did I mention this happened because we were experiencing hurricane-force (over 80 mph) winds? Holly hid under the bed for about an hour, and then she was fine.
But Gracie shook and shivered all night. Every time I managed to get her calmed down, the limb would shift some more, and she would start shivering all over again. The two of us were awake all night.
I called in the next morning to tell my boss I was exhausted and traumatized, then I began the work of calling my insurance agent, contractors and my neighbor. (Some of the limb's branches fell on her roof too.)
Eventually the limb was removed and the roof was temporarily patched. (It had a six-inch hole and a 12-inch hole in it.) The roofer ultimately replaced half my roof, and a new gutter will have to be added to that side of the house.
But, life calmed down, I got my insurance money (minus the deductible, of course), and Gracie calmed down. I bid adieu to Mayhem.  However, he came back Monday evening.
Just before 10:00, I let the dogs out for the last time before bed. As usual, Holly comes tearing into the house, across the kitchen, the living room and dining room, and leaps onto a chair right by the front windows. All of a sudden I heard a crash - she had broken a window! "Oh, crap", I thought. "I'll have to call the glass guy in the morning."
But all of a sudden, I realize she's bleeding. Before I get her corralled into the bathroom, she has bled in my living room, dining room, kitchen and bedroom (under the bed). Blood is just streaming out. I call the vet - let's just call her Dr. Leslie. She was majorly uninterested. Put some pressure on it, she says.
First of all, it took me a while to find the actual wound. I though it was on one of her feet or legs, because they were covered in blood. I finally realized that she was bleeding heavily from a cut on her nose. I tried for a long time to put pressure on the wound but the bleeding wouldn't stop.
I called Lazy Dr. Leslie again. Once again, she was very uncaring. I think she was in bed and wasn't about to get out from under her cozy covers to help Holly. Put some cornstarch on it, try the pressure again, and keep me posted, she says.
I had visions of sitting in my bathroom watching my dog bleed and waiting all night for the vet's office to open, while Gracie whined from the bedroom, where she had been sequestered out of the way.
It took me an hour to finally stanch the blood, which kept pouring out at a steady rate. By then, Holly's head, which is almost all black, was pure white from nervous attempts to apply cornstarch, I had cornstarch all over my black slacks, and the bathroom floor was a mixture of blood and cornstarch.
There was more blood on the tub, floor, door and cabinets than you see in the true crime shows I love to watch.
After that, I had to clean the house, including rolling back the bloody oriental rugs to make sure the blood didn't seep into the hardwood floors. I also wanted to make sure the blood had stopped before I went to sleep.

Holly is just fine, although part of her nose may be pink for a while. The window will be fixed Monday. Mayhem, stay away from our house for a while. (PS - insurance doesn't cover Dog Mayhem.)

Monday, August 24, 2015


"WOMAN READING" by Ivan Kraniskoy
It's been a long one, but I think the drought is finally over. I don't mean lack of rain here in North Dakota (however the downpour we had Saturday evening was the first time that we'd had a real soaker since the middle of July).
No, I mean my reading drought. I basically quit reading about the time that Dan was the sickest - the winter of 2013. I remember trying one dreary evening to get into a book after I had gotten him settled for the night, maybe a week before he died. I poured myself a drink and sat down in the living room. using his hospital table as my side table.
"You look tired," Dan said to me, the last sentence he ever uttered that was personally directed at me. I never did finish that book, and to this day I can't even stand to look at its cover without feeling sick.

From that moment on I quit reading, cold turkey. I think I equated reading with his illness and death.

Until this summer, I had picked up a book here or there but never gotten into any. I had not purchased a single book of fiction, except "American Boy" by Bismarck native, Larry Watson, and this only because my friend had encouraged me to attend a reading by him at Bismarck State College. I felt guilty about not supporting him when copies were being sold after the reading, so I bought one. That book also went unread.
All this, from a person who has devoured books since the time she learned to read. A person who at one time belonged to about eight book clubs at one time.
I majored in English literature in college, for Heaven's sake. And afterward, through the years I kept track of the bestsellers and the best-reviewed books. Although I didn't always follow recommendations, I read a lot of books from those groups.
I belonged to a book club for 17 and a half years. And in 2010, a year in which I was mostly unemployed, I read over 200 books.
And then came the drought. I never looked at a bestseller list once. I didn't know the names of any of the "good" books, the ones  lauded by critics.
My sister-in-law, herself a prolific reader, knew about the drought and would ask me from time to time if I was reading again. She told me she had gone through similar sad times and had also stopped reading for a while. I thought I would begin to read again in a matter of weeks or months. I could not have imagined or fathomed the depth of this disconnect from the world of books.

But as I said, I think the drought is over now. I have read about six books this summer, sitting out on the deck during the long, light-filled evenings. One of the books I finally got around to reading was "American Boy",  which I highly recommend.

Otherwise, I just scrounged around the house for unread books. And Sunday, I went to Barnes and Noble and actually purchase a book! I also spotted another one, but considering it too spendy,  I went home and ordered a gently-used copy from

Now let the reading begin! 

Friday, March 6, 2015



During this long, long winter, I have been addicted to two kinds of TV programs - true crime and DIY. Regarding the latter, I have seen programs where homes were built of freshly-cut logs, ones re-constructed from old barns, houses where contractors come in and "crash" a specific room (in a good way) and apartments re-decorated with a mind to eventually moving the fixings and trappings on to another home.

I've seen houses that have been flipped (including Vanilla Ice's million-dollar but slightly-tacky Florida homes) and houses that have been rehabbed - the difference being that rehabbers are purists who bring homes back to as close to original as possible while the flippers bring in all new materials and design. ("Rehab Addict" Nicole Curtis of  Minneapolis, MN, being the best of the rehabbers. What that cute, petite little blonde won't do to rehab a house! She is first and last on the site with all of the tools, and I mean all tools - she can drive a payloader with the best of them!)

Therefore, it was with great interest that I noticed that my cousin Kevin from Minneapolis had e-mailed me a link to a house listed for sale in Mankato, MN.

The ad reads, in part: "Classy, brick and stone 2 story with Craftsman style flare in the historic Lincoln Park neighborhood. Charming features include high coved ceilings, bay windows, oak flooring, open staircase and 2 enclosed porches. Main floor: Over 1400 sq. ft., entry with open stairs, formal living room with bay window and oak floors, archway to spacious formal dining room also with oak flooring.  Front bedroom with bay window."

Living room: I love the bay window with its leaded glass insert, and the hardwood floors.

Living room and dining room: Although my home is a one-story stucco cottage, I have archways in my living/dining areas very much like these, and red oak hardwood floors. The ceiling fixtures are ones I might pick out myself.

So good, so far. But then we get to the kitchen with its explosion of knotty pine. Oh, how I hate knotty pine. In my opinion the only place for knotty pine is in a rustic cabin deep in the Minnesota or Wisconsin woods.

And dear lord what is this room, with the sick green carpet/laminate (?) floor, a strange-sized and strangely-located window, and that brick wall and stove set into the corner by a patio door. What were they thinking?
These latter rooms, at least, add weight to Kevin's description of the house as being "re-muddled". I've never heard the term before, and I don't know if Kevin invented it or not, but what a great description.
But anyway, why would I devote so much space on my blog to a house for sale in Mankato, MN? The simple answer is that this was my Great-Great-Grandmother Jorgine Wangen's home, where she lived with her family from about 1900 to 1930.
How I wish I could see what the home looked like when Jorgine lived there. What kinds of furniture and draperies did they have? Did they own fine china and linens? Did she entertain a lot? Did they have servants? They must have had some sort of economic and financial status to afford a home like this. What kinds of bric-a-brac finds were unearthed during the re-muddle?
I only found out about Jorgine a few years ago, thanks to Kevin's genealogical sleuthing. What is most surprising to me is that my Grandmother, Julia Wangen, from Crosby, ND, never mentioned her. Did she not know that her grandmother lived just one state away? Did she know but had the family somehow disowned Jorgine?
Jorgine was Grandma's paternal grandmother. While Jorgine emigrated from Norway to the U.S., her son, Ole,  and his family stayed in Norway. He and his wife, Margrete, lived on a farm surrounded by mountains in the Gudbrandsdal valley.
Why did they choose to stay behind in Norway? Both Ole and Margrete died at relatively young ages, one shortly after the other. It fell to their four teenage children to sell the farm and bravely immigrate  to Canada (where Julia met my grandfather and eventually moved to Crosby with him).
Oh, such family mysteries and house mysteries. As much as I enjoy the DYI shows, I have let contractors do my work for me on my house. So far it has been mostly utilitarian - a new roof, new gutters, new front door, garage totally re-built. I did design my own deck to replace the rotted-out one but admittedly I did not stray too far from the original except in size.
As far as the interior of the house it only requires cosmetic changes which I will make if I can afford them. The basement has had water damage but I'm not touching it. I can't afford the major reno it would take to bring it up to par so it will fall to the next owners. I only use it for storage and laundry anyway. (And if I only could I would have the laundry on the main floor.)
No, there will be no flipping or rehabbing of my little house. But I can dream. What if I could get my hands on my OWN Great-Great-Grandma's house for a mere $139,900 and rehab it (for a gazillionmore dollars)? That would be a dream-come-true for this DIY-show addict. I could research the newspapers and see if the house was shown in any photos, see if Jorgine threw any grand fetes (hey, this is MY dream), and do research on the styles of Craftsmen homes.
Most of the hard work is done already. Although I didn't show their photos in this post, I could definitely live with the bathrooms and bedrooms. I would only need to tackle a few nightmares like the two rooms above and the enclosed porches. (Do not get me started on enclosing porches! What a way to ruin a great house!)
Anyway, as I said, I can always dream. "Hmm, let's get rid of that dreadful brick wall and stove and put in a real fireplace in another location with an oak mantel and an oak and Craftsman tile surround..."


Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Holly, the new addition
In honor of my new dog, I'm wishing you "Happy Holly-Days".

Holly and I ...
And Gracie and I ...
Hope you  had a "Holly Jolly Christmas".
I love my new puppy....
My puppies love each other...
They love Kristen (Gracie
sez, "Lemme gibs u a kiss, Kristen")
And they love treats: "Kristen,
I'll gladly share your lunch!"

I had meant to write a pre-Christmas post, but time just got away from me. I worked through Monday Dec. 22 and then rushed to clean, decorate and generally get the house ready before Kristen came home the next day.
A long time ago I read "Hollyhocks, Lambs and Other Pleasures" by a lovely woman named Dee Hardie. Dee loved Christmas, but always made a point never to go to the marketplace the week before Christmas. Try as I might over the years, I have never succeeded in doing this. But at least this year, I finished my Christmas gift shopping a week before Christmas, and the only markets I went to afterward were the supermarket, the hardware store and the pharmacy to get my meds. I feel I met the spirit, if not the actual letter, of this goal.
Every year, too, I try to find the peace, serenity, joy and familial love amid the noise and haste of Christmas, and every year I only partially succeed. This year, Kristen was sick for three days beginning Christmas Day, my sister was grouchy from working three 12-hour nursing shifts in a row including Christmas Eve/Day, and I was frazzled. It had been about 20 years since I cooked a giant holiday meal all by myself. Dan was the head chef and I was his helper. I must admit to some swearing and banging of pots and pans in the kitchen.
As usual the fine times outweighed the stressful times. Kristen and I had good visits after she got better, we went to a couple of movies, and ate out a lot with family and friends. (After my marathon cooking/dishwashing session I was done with cooking for a while.) We exchanged nice presents and invoked the memory of Dan. I did have tears in my eyes all through breakfast this morning before I dropped Kristen off at the airport, but now she is safely landed in Washington, DC and about to arrive home to her beloved kitties.
Holly looking toward 2015.
Meanwhile, the dogs and I look forward in general to 2015 and in particular to tomorrow evening when I have the family over for a king crab and shrimp New Year's Eve dinner (which Kristen will not miss at all, not liking crab and shrimp).
Holly, especially, will love seeing her former owners, those being my niece Kelsey, her boyfriend Marcus, my sister Glori and my nephew Mike (joined for dinner by my great nephew Nicholas who has come from Idaho to live with his GG (Grandma Glori) and family.
Marcus found Holly wandering as a stray this summer. After trying in vain to find her owner, he and Kelsey adopted her and named her Molly. However, she harassed my sister's kitties, ate the cat food, got into the cat litter, and irritated Marcus' dog. So I adopted her the weekend of Thanksgiving.
Because I got her at the beginning of the Christmas season, and because I like Holly better, I re-named her. My family remains steadfast at calling her Molly but that's okay because she answers to both names. We don't know what kind of dog she is or how old, but we do know she is a sweetie pie and a cuddle bug.
Here's wishing you a wonderful 2015.
PS - Here's a picture of my beautiful  daughter when she's well and not being kissed by a dog:


Monday, September 22, 2014


Happy Autumnal Equinox. Fall is arriving on a day that is decidedly un-fall-like. It promises to be into the 80s F today, so I will be able to sit outdoors and greet autumn when it arrives at 9:29 PM Central Time.
I don't know the title or the artist of the painting above, but it does speak to me at this time of year. Not just the colors, but the melancholy feeling it conveys. Summer is over. Some planned projects are unfinished, leaves are beginning to collect everywhere, there's a crisper tinge to the air and a general shabbiness to the foliage.
A couple of weeks ago, already, we had freeze warnings. I put my car in my "new" garage.  I moved all my houseplants indoors and grouped together and covered as many of my potted annuals as I could. After all that, it did not freeze.
Then, about a week ago, we had a light freeze without warning. I did not put my car in the garage. I did not cover plants. I found myself scraping car windows the next morning, having thought I was done with that chore forever.
Fortunately, only my morning glories and sweet potato vines seem to have suffered. However, the march toward autumn is inexorable. One of my three luxuriant planters of impatiens has half yellow and half green leaves. The ivy that covers the fence between my neighbor to the north and myself has turned red. And while the trees are mostly still green, the tips of some have caught fire.
I have so many annuals that I cannot possibly cover them all. And while global warming has changed Bismarck's last average frost date from Sept. 21 to Sept. 30, there is a point beyond which I just have to stop trying to save my plants and accept the fact that autumn has descended.
So what did I and my helpers accomplish this year? An astounding amount, as it turns out. In the front yard, they installed my new cedar arbor, trimmed my hardy roses and added peat moss and manure to my existing garden beds so I could sow seeds. With the exception of the larkspur and cleome seeds, the marigold, bachelor button, cosmos and zinnia seeds just exploded.
Contractors totally re-built my old garage and seeded the lawn in my backyard. I created a new hydrangea border on the shady north side, featuring my re-located white archway, together with a new statue under the arch.

"Windblown" by Design Toscano

I transplanted my daylilies from the front yard to the back. I added a natural-wood-colored mulch to the areas previously covered by dirt. This alone changed the character of my backyard a thousand fold. We installed pavers to create a checkerboard courtyard garden, and planted the back half of it in shady perennials and the front half in sunny annuals.
We installed outdoor lights to match the Arts and Crafts/Mission style of my house.

But as I mentioned, there are still some small projects left unfinished - a new bed to be turned over on the sunny south side of the backyard, a gutter to be installed on the garage and a re-arrangement of fence panels and gates to make the yard escape proof against Gracie.
But as usual I am twisting in the wind, waiting for three contractors to get back to me. Unlike the seasons, some things never change.

Sunday, August 31, 2014


"HELLO, NEIGHBOR" by Harry Anderson

Gracie and I are finally able to go into our backyard after a month staying off the newly-seeded grass. It was a pain for both of us, having her tied up in the front yard to do her business. There was one advantage though, and that was seeing a lot more of my neighbors.

As I worked on my flowers or hung out with Gracie, many people stopped by to chat about flowers and dogs and stucco cottages. Sometimes they caught me from the back view with my butt sticking up in the air as I pulled weeds. Gracie's rope was long enough for her to pass through the arbor and go just onto the sidewalk, so she sometimes surprised walkers and - more to the point - dog walkers. Fortunately, all was peaceful.

Americans used to see a lot more of their neighbors, when house had front porches and people sat out on them. Now, everyone has retreated to their decks and backyards. But summer after summer, as Dan and I enjoyed long evening after long evening on our deck, we wondered, where are our backyard neighbors? No one was enjoying their yards!


"OVER THE WALL", Helen Allingham

We moved into this house in August 1982 with infant Kristen. Now, 32 years later,  I'm alone, and I still wonder where the neighbors are.

The way our house is situated, I can see five backyards well from my deck, plus two more mostly obscured by trees. I can see another if I walk to the back of the yard. Only Jim and Mary have been here longer than we have. Their teenage daughters babysat Kristen, and their youngest was pals with my nephew Nick, who lived with us when he was 5. Over the years their five kids grew up and moved away, and they have become grandparents. We are over-the-fence neighbors, Mary and Jim and I. Mary and I chat about kids and flowers, and Jim has cleared my sidewalks and driveways since Dan died and has generally been a vigilant, watchful guy looking out for possible trouble or waiting to see if I need help with anything.


The neighbors on the corner used to spend their summer weekends at their lake cabin in Minnesota. When they sold that and started staying home, they build a tall privacy fence around the backyard.  Of the other neighbors, I have seen many come and go. Each house has had at least two owners, and one has had five different owners. Of them, most of them seemed to have been allergic to fresh air.

Back in 1982, Grace, one of my across-the-driveway neighbors, was an elderly lady who couldn't venture out. I've never seen Lynn, the new owner, use the large backyard except to walk the short path from the garage to the house. I know she likes flowers because of the red and yellow tulips she planted for spring, and the red and yellow day lilies for summer, but they are all in the front. Just think of how many tulips and lilies she could plant in the back!

"TIGER LILY GARDEN" Original oil signed Eschmann

On the north side of me, Neighbor Nancy hated bugs and only came outdoors to hang her clothes on the line. Not liking bugs didn't make her an oddity, but she was certainly the only one in the neighborhood who still hung her clothes outside to dry.

In the house directly behind me, I never saw or met one of the home's owners, a single woman with a lot of kids. Only Brady and Evan, her two youngest, would venture through the line of  pine trees and come into my yard to visit with me.

Most of my neighbors have been good, thank goodness. But when above-mentioned Nancy divorced Tim, she moved out and he stayed. A former good neighbor, he began having loud, wild parties that began after the bars closed at 1 a.m. As much as Dan and I liked Tim, we had to call the police on him several times so we could get some sleep.

(Not my photo - LOL - taken from the web)

When we first moved here, the lady who owned the house behind us had a yippy little white dog.  One day that nasty thing unexpectedly came tearing under the pine trees and into my backyard, where it promptly latched onto and bit a little boy I was babysitting. Of course, the dog was quarantined. The lady had the NERVE to come to my house and bawl me out about temporarily losing her precious little Pookie  - when I had witnessed her dog bite a child on MY property!!

I loved seeing the most recent homeowners in that house. A fairly-young couple, they had about eight kids - I never could keep the count straight - something like four kids of their own and four children they had adopted from Africa.

In summers, they would have parties and bonfires, and the kids would play on their trampoline, hammock, jungle gym and swing set. Happy kid noises and adult laughter filled the evenings.

Early this summer, it dawned on me - these neighbors haven't been around in a while. The house was so dark, the yard so silent and so sad. But their hot tub and lawn furniture and kids' equipment were still there - what in the world was going on?


Artist Unknown

Finally, on Friday I saw the mom (also named Kristen) working in her yard. Over the back fence, I asked, "Do you no longer live here?" She explained that she and Casey and the kids had been in Africa all summer. They had expected to there be a year or longer but had to come back because they could not get the kids enrolled in school. So at least they are here for now. Happy peals of laughter again spill across into my yard, the wood smoke wafts over too, and I don't feel so alone anymore.

Friday, August 1, 2014


Happy Lughnasadh/Lammas everyone.

Lughnasadh, August 1, was the first harvest celebration of the season for the ancient Celts. The Christian church, on the other hand, called it Lammas, or Lammastide. The Celts held a big celebration with lots of food and drink, no doubt in the great outdoors. Christians brought loaves of bread to church to be blessed, and the church was decorated with sheaves of wheat and corn (wheat) dollies. And Hobbits, whatever they are, love Lammas bread (except for Sam who got kind of sick of eating only Lammas bread).

In any event, I can't believe it is August 1 already. I still have so much yard work to do. Sunday, Marcus and Kelsey dug up a bunch of daylilies that I am moving to the back yard. I gave four - each a different color - to a friend but still have plenty left for myself.

However, they are sitting in pots for now, because I can't move them to the back unless I weed back there. Someday, I will have all the blank spaces filled with plants, but for now, I am on weed patrol. It seems like as soon as I get the front done, the back is all weedy again. I will pretty much need a scythe this weekend; it has gotten that bad.

I still also have purple prairie coneflowers, vinca, lamium, Siberian and regular iris and hydrangeas to plant. But before I can plant the hydrangeas, I first have to put my white arbor in its (hopefully) permanent resting spot. But first (!) I have to wait until the grass is fully grown in.
The lawn was hydro seeded a week ago yesterday and yes, the grass is growing. It can't grow quickly enough. Gracie, who is used to having the run of the backyard, has to go potty in the front yard, where I have her on a rope. I hate doing this, but I am not going to ruin my new lawn after spending all that money on it.
The one nice thing about having Gracie going out the front door is that I am spending time with her out there, and I am seeing more of my neighbors. I have gotten many compliments on my flowers, which of course thrills me no end.
I only have a couple of eyesore areas left, the one being the dog run, which Gracie basically demolished, dog house and wooden flooring both, and dug big holes in the ground.
And of course, there's the Kingdom of Weeds in the way back.
My garage is looking good now, being totally refurbished and only in want of the door, which has to be installed by another company. It is so nice to be able to store my garden tools and miscellaneous other stuff in there, instead of having them scattered around the yard.

One of these Lughnasadhs I swear I am finally going to rent the movie shown above. It stars Meryl Streep and is about five Irish sisters and the happenings at the Lughnasa (alternate spelling) celebration in their town.

Because I work all day, I have no time to dance in the sun in celebration of Lughnasadh. I could do it tomorrow, but not on my newly-seeded lawn. What to do - I must find a meadow somewhere, put some wildflowers in my hair and dance, dance, dance. Anyone want to join me?