New Additions

My husband went on a solo camping trip over Memorial Day weekend. The weather forecast was terrifying at best, but he was adamant. He always sends me a photo of his campsite – he’s a proud campsite nester – and this time he included a little note that mentioned he’d befriended a puppy. From the looks of it, according to Matt, this pup had been living at the campground for awhile, either abandoned by some jerks or lost and alone after wandering away from her family. They kept each other company that night, he and this puppy, as tornadoes tore through the state. I spent my evening tracking supercells in two counties and texting my husband with updates. There were flash floods and tornadoes all over the place. One was within 15 miles of his campsite near the Lake of the Arbuckles. It was a busy night for us both.

Meet Ari, named after the Lake of the Arbuckles where my husband found her abandoned in the woods during his solo camping trip this weekend. Most likely an Anatolian Shepherd and she's already huge. Judging by the size of her feet there's still more growi

I had the following week scheduled off from work, and was contemplating a trip of my own to Northern New Mexico or Southern Wisconsin. However, Matt and I both agreed he couldn’t just leave the puppy there. He’d sent me a photo and she looked…medium size-ish. I began to ignore any thoughts of a solo road trip and promised to stay home that week and care for this poor pup until we could find her a good home.

Which brings us to Ari. That’s the puppy. Photos sent via text message are the biggest liars ever by the way, because she turned out to be a 75-pound puppy. She’s a Great Pyrenees/Anatolian Shepherd mix and we are so in love with her. Clearly, Ari’s not going anywhere. We’re getting her microchipped this week (she had no chip and no tags when she was found). Ari (named after Lake of the Arbuckles) is now an official member of our human/dog pack.

Untitled

Untitled

Before Ari showed up at Matt’s campsite, I’d been wondering a few things. What would it be like to have a fourth dog? Could we handle a fourth dog? Does anyone in their right mind even NEED a fourth dog? But we are dog people so these were not completely crazy questions. The answers to those questions are: It’s pretty much like having three, but with an extra; Yes; and We might not NEED a fourth dog but that fourth dog desperately NEEDS us. 

I am not asking questions about a fifth dog. I know my limits.

So, as our family grows I figure it is only fair to show how much my garden has grown. Thanks to those same Memorial Day weekend rains, the garden practically exploded overnight and I’m thrilled with how it’s been progressing. We’ve already enjoyed some sugar snap peas in a sauteed veggie mix and my yellow sugar sun tomatoes are popping out about half a dozen a day or so. The cucumbers are right on target, my okra is gearing up nicely, and the eggplant…IT’S STILL THERE! I’m deliriously optimistic that I might actually beat the elements this year and get at least ONE FULL EGGPLANT out of these plants.

By the way, I gave up on growing squash. That stuff just pisses me off.

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

 

Garden Progress – Week 6

week

snap peas

black magic petunias

hot peppers

lime mint

hypoestes pot

As you can see, the garden is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do. The peas, peppers, and tomatoes are starting to produce, and I have blossoms on the squash and the cucumbers. I have even managed to bring back to life that bacopa I was getting really worried about. I still don’t know what I did right, but I took some advice from the local nursery and transferred it into a larger pot THEN sat it in a birdbath so it has constant access to water.

The weather here seems to be much milder than it was last year at this time. So far in May, we have had no tornado-producing storms roll through. This is good news for more than the obvious reason: I also have yet to clean the basement. I like to think of myself as a reliably panicky person, someone who is prone to prepare for the preparations, but with each passing day of sunshine (and subsequent drought conditions) I find myself becoming complacent. And lazy. Mostly lazy (I hate hauling that damn vacuum up those basement stairs).

After school lets out for the summer, Matt and I will be driving our daughter to Missouri where she will hitch a ride with one set of grandparents to be dropped off with another set of grandparents in Florida for a month or so. It’s quite possible that Elle will avoid any tornadoes in Oklahoma, even though she’ll end up in the dead center of hurricane alley for the early part of the Atlantic storm season.

We won’t mention the recent shark attack in Jacksonville Beach. Or that Katherine and Mary Lee, the Great Whites, have been spotted mere yards off Jacksonville’s coast. While I know deep down where logic lives that the worst thing to happen to my kid is probably going to be some carsickness and a sunburn, I just can’t help but worry.

Garden Progress – Week 5

Untitled

I can’t believe it’s been five weeks since my husband and his friends built this garden and filled it full of dirt. While I have already learned some lessons (e.g., letting the dirt settle before planting, determining if what I’ve just picked out of the dirt is a sunflower seedling or a weed…), the garden and its contents are still surprising me. Mostly the squash.

It’s a really good thing we like squash because there is a lot of it.

Three weeks ago, my garden looked like this:

IMG_2148

This week, it looks like this:

IMG_2192

The nasturtiums and peas are easy growers (and edible!), as are sunflowers (not edible). I’ve currently got red sunflower stalks growing sturdy and strong. It’s my Teddy Bear sunflowers I’m wondering about. As I’ve been plucking out what I believe the whole time has been grass blades, I have also noticed my Teddy Bears haven’t shot up…at all. Really? It’s a sunflower so what more could it possibly need? Perhaps the seeds got pushed too far down or away during the first big drenching (this is why I’ve learned it’s so important to let the dirt settle before planting). The result of that drenching is sunflowers growing near my hollyhock and cucumbers and a plot of pansies that continually end up underwater. Also, carrots all over the place.

This garden is like a vagabond seedling free-for-all, in which everything I planned so carefully for just decided to run from the rain and bed down wherever it felt comfortable. This makes weeding difficult.

Seedling hijinks aside, I have discovered blossoms on my tomato plants, pepper plants, and on a few shoots of peas. And we’ve added some string lights to the tomato trellises. Now that my gnomes have cozied themselves beneath the squash, it’s only right that we give them fairy lights.

IMG_2191

this tiny gnome is the guard for my lavender and Veronica speedwell

nasturtium

nasturtium leaves

black magic

black magic petunias – could you possibly be any more stunning?

zinnias

rain over the last few days has led to a zinnia explosion (quite possibly one of the best explosions one could have)

peas

my Little Marvel and Sugar Ann pea shoots have been helped along with a kite string trellis

Last weekend I planted Mammoth Russian sunflowers along the side porch railings (same place as last year). With so many leftover seeds, I took the liberty of planting a bunch near where my neighbor stores his trash bins on the other side of our fence. It’s a genius idea that I didn’t even consider last year! If this works, I’ll consider lining the entire property line next summer with giant sunflowers.

It’s unfortunate that we share this sunny side of the yard with my normal neighbors, whom I like quite a bit. The other neighbor is a little strange. Her yard is full of feral cats and overgrown grass. The shady property line we share leaves us with few options to ensure our own privacy. She lives full-time in a nearby town, only coming to this neighboring house to check up on it and keep up with the lawn, but her hours are questionable. Many nights we’ll see a flashlight bobbing around while she feeds the unknown number of cats she keeps. Other times she’s digging in the same hole (she’s now up to her waist in it). The hole lies between two fairly large lion statues about 50 feet from our dining room window.

We just assume she’s burying dead cats, but we have no idea. It provides us with dinnertime entertainment, though.

 

Notes from the garden

IMG_2158

The weather has been consistently inconsistent which, I’m learning, is quite normal. This week we are expecting temps in the 80s and lots of rain, only to be followed by a few days in the 40s. Isolated tornadoes have been predicted for the weekend. I’ll still take this over that agonizing perpetual winter we’ve all endured.

This past weekend we went plant shopping and I was on the lookout for black petunias. I first saw them in a locally owned nursery in Jacksonville, Florida, in 2012. Unfortunately, that’s also the last time I saw them. Yes, I know I could simply order seeds and grow my own black petunias, but I haven’t quite felt that desperate for them yet.

The rains over the last week (and, of course, my daily sprinkler watering) have really helped my garden – except for the tomatoes. They drowned. The squash is still going crazy, as are the peas. I’m pretty optimistic about my hollyhock (which is black!), my jewel nasturtium, all the zinnias, and almost everything else I sowed and transplanted.

My only iffy plants are the poppies. The more I learn about poppies, the more I realize they’re kind of finicky, which I find a bit strange. Don’t these things practically grow on the side of the highway in some places? They’ll be my biggest surprise.

New additions:

  • otto quasti lavender
  • lemon verbena (where have you been all my life?)
  • mint chocolate
  • succulents!
  • snapdragons (I like to gently squeeze them and pretend like they’re talking)
  • butterfly weed
  • alyssum
  • gerbera daisies
  • bacopa (a beautiful light pink trailing flower whose name reminds us of bacon)
  • (seriously, bacopa/bacon – that’s why we got it)
  • zinnias
  • five kinds of hypoestes
  • new, better established tomatoes in four varieties
  • sweet peppers
  • hot peppers
  • a cucumber of an unknown variety that sneaked into my squash seed packet
  • a huuuuuuge white potted flower whose name escapes me
  • and, of course, petunias in sunshine yellow, a purplish fuchsia, bubblegum pink, and sky blue. Yes. Sky Blue!

IMG_2148

IMG_2150

IMG_2154

IMG_2159

IMG_2142

IMG_2141

IMG_2145

All of these join the survivors from last year, which number in the very few. The kalanchoe and purslane actually held up indoors with the south-facing sun shining on them daily. The Veronica speedwell is making a strong comeback, too, just like my lime mint. And that Norfolk pine tree that helped me get through the last days of 2013’s winter? I can’t even look at it. It’s so ugly and pathetic and screaming to be put out of its misery.

Next up on the agenda are the mammoth sunflowers, repotting that sad, ugly Norfolk pine (per the experts’ instructions), and deciding what to put inside my two remaining pots. Angelonia? Plumbago? Milkweed? So many decisions.

I’m so thrilled to report that my porch has been returned to its usual warm-weather glory. It is again worthy of porchsittin’. Just last night I got to enjoy it in full for the first time this year. With a glass of wine and a book – my current read is The Giver – I sat in the sunshine and took in the fresh air.

Meanwhile, drivers sped down my street at dangerously unsafe speeds and yelled into their cell phones with their windows open. The bicyclists sent Teddy into a frenzy. Chimay ate her own poop. The cats next door and the wolves behind us all howled, for various reasons. The birds nesting in the eaves of our house continue to pull each other around by their faces. They’re such jerks.

Yes, porchsittin’ is my favorite.

 

 

Dreaming of a season that isn’t winter

When I sat down to write yesterday’s post nothing was out of the ordinary. There had been a biting wind chill earlier in the morning when I drove the kiddo to school, and Matt and I had covered the garden beds with a large tarp the night before to protect the greenbabies from frost, but besides that there was nothing unusual. I should know better than to keep asking, “What is considered unusual weather in Oklahoma?” because the answer to that stupid question is this: consistency. Consistent weather is what’s considered unusual weather in Oklahoma.

It was nearly 90* on Saturday. On Sunday the temperatures dipped a little below 80*, and we got a trickle of hail (dime-sized, perhaps) in the late afternoon. Yet when I looked out the window yesterday morning I could barely see through the swirling mass of fat, heavy snowflakes. Because SURPRISE! (Here’s a crappy video I took just when it was starting to wind down a bit.) Even the meteorologists were caught off-guard.

Naturally, I became angry about the whole thing. It’s spring. It’s the middle of April, for cryin’ out loud! When this happens I tend to mentally transport myself back to Florida. My mother has described to me how fragrant the tangerine tree blossoms are right now. Her geraniums are blooming, too.

beautiful day to spend some time at the beach

see the dark spot on the right? Horseshoe crab, little one!

surf and shells

Untitled

This is also the time of year when the ocean waters warm up enough to release rehabbed sea turtles back into the wild. I attended one of these releases on Amelia Island a couple of Aprils ago. It was chilly enough to wear a sweater – early morning breezes from the ocean and all – but what an experience! And it didn’t snow.

Terra-Tiger!

walking her out for release

success!

If you live in the coastal Georgia/North Florida area, or plan to visit, you really should check in with the Georgia Sea Turtle Center to find out if any sea turtle releases are scheduled soon. I lived in Florida for 16 years and seeing Terra-Tiger, a juvenile green sea turtle, go home was one of the most incredible things I ever did.

Last month I found a book at the Tulsa Aquarium about sea turtles called Voyage of the Turtle: In Pursuit of the Earth’s Last Dinosaur. I plan to read it when the weather is more conducive to pretending I’m at the beach. Or when I can actually say that it didn’t just snow yesterday.

Spring is Here! (Part II)

The title of this post should really be “Wanna know how lazy I am?”.

In the fall of 2012, my pecan tree dropped a boatload of nuts. I crabwalked for hours one afternoon to pick up as many pecans  as possible. My mother and I had worked out a trade: She would send me tangerines and valencia oranges from her citrus trees in North Florida in exchange for my pecans. I ended up shipping about three gallon-sized bags to her. The rest of the pecans I picked up that season remained in a basket, waiting for me to shell them and bake a few pies.

I never did.

But that’s not what makes me lazy.

What makes me lazy is that the basket of pecans is still out there, a year and a half later, just sitting on the back porch. The pecans are spoiled – they have been for quite some time – so there has been absolutely no use in keeping them around.

The other day, however, I noticed some twigs and dry brush inside the pecan basket. Upon further inspection I discovered that it’s a bird’s nest! WITH BABIES! Or soon to be babies…

Untitled

I am clueless when it comes to identifying these pesky house birds, but my best guess (after very little research – again, lazy) tells me that these are the eggs of a house sparrow. Starlings and house sparrows continue to show up as very different birds when I turn to the Google gods for answers, I always thought they were the same thing. The descriptions of the eggs, though, tells me I’m wrong.

Schnitzel, our little foster fledgling from last year, was a starling. So was Mr. Grumpyfeathers. I have no experience with sparrows. We’ve always assumed those two starlings fell out of their nests, which were precariously located inside the sloping eaves of our front porch. These little sparrow babies already have a leg up in the world since they’re getting their start in life inside a basket. If we happen to find any of them flopping around on our back steps, we’ll know for certain their mama tossed them out.

I don’t put it past these birds to work that hard, either. They can be quite vicious. Have you ever watched an adult bird drag another adult bird from its nest…by its face?!

I have.

 

Spring is here!

I got plans for you, garden. #spring #garden #flowergarden #veggiegarden

And this is just the beginning…

Last Wednesday afternoon we received our first threat of possible tornadoes, and spring has officially arrived in Central Oklahoma! That morning the air was humid and smelled like Florida. It was very encouraging. Overnight, it seemed, the trees along Northwest 122nd Avenue blossomed with their bright pink, purple, and white flowers. Even the half-dead ugly tree in my own front yard is sprouting tiny leaves. I’m so giddy!

A few weeks ago I mentioned to Matt that I was going to buy some raised beds for this year’s garden. They worked so well for me back in Florida, unlike last year’s Oklahoma City porch garden where everything barely survived in pots and barrels. Matt took off with the idea. Suddenly there were blueprints and cedar boards and trucks delivering dirt and pea gravel, dumping them into mounds on my driveway.

My simple raised beds idea became a two-weekend project. Friends volunteered to help build the beds and level the ground. They gave up their weekends to help spread drainage rocks after removing strips of sod, trudging them all the way into the far backyard via wheelbarrow. They shoveled and sweated and suffered sore backs. All the while I shook my head thinking, “This is too much!” All the while feeling left out, too, because I had recently hurt my back and was under strict orders not to lift anything for two weeks.

Garden progress. #garden #spring #flowergarden #veggiegarden #raisedbeds

Weekend #1

Then it all started coming together. I could see the end result! My husband kept giving me that “I told you so” look, as if he knew the whole time that I’d love this garden more than I was letting on (he did, and I do!). Sometimes simple just won’t do it. Sometimes I should trust that bigger is better. Sometimes my husband is right. (See, honey. Public acknowledgement!)

This weekend I was finally able to contribute by staining the wood and making an all-important beer run. We had Chinese delivered to the house and the whole lot of us sat around the table for lunch. Later, after the last shovel full of dirt was thrown into the beds and our driveway was cleared, we thanked our friends and let it be known that we were indebted to them.

kidhelpers

Weekend #2

It’s like Amish barn raising when it comes to our friends. You help me, I help you. Need a room painted? A floor tiled? A dogsitter? Outside of gifting them with flowers and veggies throughout the growing season, I’m not sure how to repay them. Or my husband, who endured my reluctance to be enthusiastic.

Well, I’m enthusiastic now. The moment everyone left I went straight for the dirt. I transplanted seedlings and sowed additional seeds for nearly two hours. Covered in dirt and wood stain, I finally saw what this could do for me. It’s gonna keep me busy. And, according to my husband, it’s gonna keep me happy.

garden beds

Finished!

Greenie babies! #garden #gardening #flowergarden #veggiegarden #spring #seedlings

My peas have a home now!

Untitled

I cheated with this photo from Lowe’s, but I do have these darling pansies seeded in the garden. Remember when they sang to Alice in Wonderland, as the bread and butterflies fluttered about? They have the cutest faces!