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?