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Springtime Here and There

Springtime Here and There

Tulips in garden before my trip

Early in April my garden woke up, and I was seeing clumps of bright tulips everywhere. My grandson, Vinnie, helped me plant them probably six years ago. I was surprised to see four to six blooms for each bulb we had planted. They seemed especially bright and happy with all the rain we had this winter.

My iris plants started to bloom the middle of the month as I was getting ready to fly to Portland to visit my son and three granddaughters who live just across the river. I was hoping they would still be blooming when I got back.

This trip was a nice change of pace for me without my usual “to do” list. We all went to dinner together on Sunday evening, and I met their two new kitties, Chester, a black long-hair, and Chuck, a shy, black short-hair. The two oldest girls are in high school and college who are either gone all day, or in and out every few hours. My youngest granddaughter is living with her mother.

My son and I had a lot of time to talk, which is such a gift when I don’t see him every year. Tuesday I had an appointment in Portland, after which we did a quick tour of Mt. Tabor, an extinct volcano that is now a park in the midst of neighborhoods.

Wednesday, when asked what I wanted to do, I said I wanted to see the Columbia River Gorge that I keep reading about from time to time. I had mentioned that I wanted to do some walking while I was there.

Trillium along the trail

My son knew about a mostly flat, short, hike to a river overlook on the Washington side. When we arrived at the river, another hiker was digging up huge dandelions just above the retaining wall. He said he wanted to give the native plants a chance to fill in the area.

Columbia River from Washington side looking east

After we walked back to the car, my son drove back the way we came and went over the bridge to Oregon. We rode up the original road US 30 along the river going east. We stopped at Vista House, a round stone building, built in 1916, where we could take photos looking up the river.

Vista House
View of the Gorge looking east

He pointed out the hillsides where the Camp Fire had burned last summer. We had some lunch before crossing back to Washington over the Bridge of The Gods. We saw the Bonneville Dam which provides the electric power for the Portland area.

Riding through wooded, hilly, windy roads all week was so beautiful. The fruit trees were blooming, as well as the dogwoods.

I got back to my Stockton home at 2:17 am on Friday morning due to a rescheduled flight. Later that afternoon, I was delighted to see that the irises in my garden were taking their time to come into full bloom.

Marilyn’s Iris garden

My rose bushes did their first “rush” to bloom while I was gone, and are now ready for some dead-heading. It’s nice to go away, but I really love and enjoy my own garden.

Iris in Marilyn’s garden
Close up of Iris
Spring in California

Spring in California

View of backyard as seen from my studio

This week Monday was the first day this year I haven’t felt cold. As in, wearing my boots cold. We usually have a week of spring-like weather in mid-February, but not this year. Even days with some sun have been rare.

The pink plant in the upper center of the photo above is a Fringe bush, which has been blooming since late in January.

The nectarine, peach, and plum trees are finishing their bloom and showing green tips on their branches. Likewise, the blackberry bushes are waking up.

My garden has been getting ready to put on its annual show, and over last weekend could wait no longer.

Tiny blue wildflowers

Given the tremendous amount of rain we have had, the wild flowers can’t grow fast enough. Tiny blue flowers are dotting the parts of the yard without grass. The little red flowers are starting to appear and will be like a carpet in a week or so.

Red wildflowers in the strawberry patch

In the back of the yard behind the garage where I store yard equipment, I already have a carpet of green plants that have a circular disk on top of the stem with tiny white flowers in the center of the circle. I don’t know their name, but at the first hot day they will burn up and collapse.

Wildflowers behind my garage

I’ve been outside every day in the last two weeks unless it has been showering or extremely windy. Field Madder is an invasive weed that was covering the strawberry bed, and I wanted to dig it out before it could bloom. It has a root that is about one and a half inches long and it just lays itself over the ground like a rug. The strawberry bed took five days to clean up.

I’ve cut back ivy on the fence behind the fruit trees before they leaf out. This is especially difficult where the huge fig tree comes over the fence. While cutting back the Pyracantha on the west side of the house, I found peeling paint on the house which needed to be repaired.

Close up of red-orange flowers in planter

In the planter next to the fountain are flowers that look orange in the photo at the top of this blog, but in the close-up the camera made them red. I bought one plant of this, years ago, and it grew and put down more roots, filling the planter.

These yellow flowers are a variety of what we used to call Freeway Daisy.

Freeway Daisy in the bed beyond the planter

So, for the time being, making art is on hold except for the group I attend every other Thursday. I’m so thankful to be where I am, with this wonderful display of color.

I hope you have a beautiful spring whenever it arrives.


An Auspicious Beginning for 2019

An Auspicious Beginning for 2019

On the first two days of the New Year, I raked up leaves from two good size areas in the yard that had not gotten any attention for cleanup, as well as the patio which always needs to be cleaned up. I hauled a total of eleven full garbage cans to the street for pickup by the county.

On the third day of 2019, the county came with their heavy equipment and picked up the pile of leaves at 8:45 a.m. I was still too exhausted, after eight hours of sleep, to attend my M&M art group, went back to bed and slept two more hours that morning.

In the afternoon, I went to the grocery store. When I returned, I saw that my yard man had come while I was gone and had deposited the leaves and grass clippings from my yard as well as from a yard across the street in the nice clean street. Grrrr!

On Friday, the forth day of the New Year, I made a quick trip to an estate sale nearby before I went out to the street to clean up the leaves, because the county was not coming back, and rain and wind were forecast. I filled my large green waste bin and began to fill leaf bags. Fortunately, a neighbor walked over to ask when the pick up was. He graciously offered his empty yard waste bin and proceeded to pick up the mess with his shovel and pitch fork. I am so thankful for his help.

On the fifth day, I did some household chores, and after supper I watched the first video of the online class, which I had planned to start on Friday.

On Sunday, day six, the rain started while I ate breakfast. Rain days should be art making days, right? But first, I reorganized a small book shelf so I can reach things without using a step stool, and dusted everything so I’d have a clean start. The wind was blowing, rain pouring down.

I made a pot of soup. Robert came in the house and cooked something. As we were eating, his van started sounding its alarm. He was able to shut it off quickly from inside the house. I was looking out my large front window as the man across the street had his headlights pointing directly at my yard and saw a surge of huge palm fronds blowing into my yard. Robert speculated that a frond hitting his van probably set off the alarm.

Dozen palm fronds wrapped around my birch trees

I noticed that the lights were out across the street. A little while later, Robert’s wheelchair became stuck in a flowerbed near the garage when a wheel slipped off the sidewalk. We called the guys across the street to rescue him. Then our power went out for about twenty minutes.

So this morning – I’m writing on Monday evening, January 7, 2019 – the mess from the storm was not a surprise. The rain had passed on overnight, and the day actually had a little sun between the clouds. My activity for the day was obvious. Clean it up!

Marilyn’s driveway Monday morning

I loaded at least 35 palm fronds into my truck, with small pieces going into the trash bin that was waiting for pickup in the street. These fronds are huge, hanging over the end of my Chevy S10 buy at least two feet, maybe more.

Here we are a week into 2019 and nothing to show for it art wise. Tomorrow, day 8, I will tarp the truck and drive half an hour to the dump. Yes, I was planning to go there some time this winter, but not this soon.

More rain is expected on Wednesday – maybe then I’ll get going with my class.

I hope your New Year has started well.

If not, perhaps we should fasten our seat belts and hold on tight!




The Apple Mystery

The Apple Mystery

Marilyn’s studio work table December 2018

The photo above was the state of my studio work table last Friday as I was adding “mechanicals” to the five collages I have been working on sporadically last month. Mechanicals is the term the artist Finnabair uses to refer to items she adds to her collage pieces such as gears, screws, nuts, bolts, safety pins, paperclips, and other odd parts of things that have been discarded.

I have been working on these collages once or twice a week all last month because the weather has been pleasantly warm until last week. I began an extensive weeding project a few months ago. It has probably been a dozen years since I cleaned up this area. From a distance, it is all just shades of green, but up close the grass thins out and the whole area looks messy.

Under my big tree, I have been digging out things that don’t belong in the grass such as tiny palm trees, privet, pyracantha, mock orange, and other woody plants that have grown from seed dropped by the birds. I also removed large masses of ajuga, a flat, flowering plant that takes over if not removed, and bermuda grass that sends long strings of itself under these other plants. Today, I finished this job.

The next garden chore will be getting the huge sycamore leaves out to the street so the county can haul them away. Sycamore leaves are tough and do not compost into the ground, so I like to get them out of here ASAP. I also have been picking up apples from my tree at the back of my lot every few days, and bringing the good ones inside.     ~~~

My bedtime routine is to shower and then have a custard-cup-dish of ice cream as I read in bed before sleep. Saturday evening, when I went to the kitchen for the ice cream, I found an apple on the floor in front of the dishwasher. I had a tray of newly picked apples on a table near the cat door around the corner from the kitchen, and apples in the refrigerator, but what was an apple doing on the floor? I’m the only one in the house and I didn’t drop it there. So, I picked it up and put it back with the other apples in the tray.

When I found a second apple on the kitchen floor, same spot, on Sunday night after my shower, I became suspicious. This apple had been gnawed at. Maybe he got in through the cat door, but this would be the first time in almost five years anyone has used the cat door. I picked the apple up and figured I’d deal with it in the morning. But I’m thinking: the animal had to smell the apples from outside the house. If it wasn’t using the cat door, maybe it was getting in near the plumbing, but none of the cabinets were open and they don’t shut on their own. Maybe from under the dishwasher.

Imagine my amazement on Monday morning when I found a third apple on the kitchen floor. I immediately put the tray of apples in the refrigerator. The question remains, is this mouse or rat coming in somewhere every night, or has it set up housekeeping inside somewhere?  The curious thing is there are no droppings, or other signs of a resident mouse.

Tuesday morning the gnawed apple was not on the end of the counter near the door to the driveway where I left it yesterday. It was, of course, on the floor in front of the dishwasher. It became evident that the critter had gotten up on the sink counter by way of a table where I keep my keys because a coupon that had been on the table was now on the floor.

Making breakfast, I discovered that this guy had also stolen a half-used supplement capsule which was in a tiny plastic dish on the counter. A second capsule was still in the dish. Why did he take one and not the other?

Fortunately, my cleaning person is here today so she can clean the counter thoroughly.  When my life hits a stretch where each day seems like the one before, nature provides some comic relief!



Simple Pleasures

Simple Pleasures

When my grandchildren were little, I had a basket of outdoor toys in the garage in case they came to visit. I had some balls, Frisbees, chalk, and a pin wheel. When I was little I always liked pin wheels. Games and athletics were not my thing.

Two or three years ago when I reorganized the garage, I got rid of the toys but not the pin wheel. First of all, it was my favorite green color. So I stuck it in the ground of a flower bed that wasn’t doing much. As it turned out, I see this bed and the pin wheel from my kitchen window. It became a sort of weather vane on how windy it was on ground level.

By early this year, the sun and wind had become too much for the little pin wheel and it fell apart. I expected to get another one when the spring toys arrived at the dollar store. No pinwheels this year. Not to be found at my drug stores, the grocery stores, or Walmart.

Finally, after Memorial Day, I found a red, white, and blue one at Michaels. It felt too stiff to me, but

Stiff Pin Wheel that Rarely Spins

I brought one home anyway. I promptly stuck it in the ground where my lovely green pin wheel had been and . . . it sat there and didn’t move. Even on a day when branches were flying off my big tree it didn’t turn.

When Robert returned from Florida at the end of June, he needed a marker at the end of his new parking pad, so, I mounted the stiff pin wheel on a pole, where once in awhile it will turn for a minute.

Last week, I finally found one at a grocery store that had about six light-weight pinwheels on a mark-down table. I brought one home. It has all the colors: red, orange, lime, blue, and purple, spinning like crazy in the spot where I can watch it from the kitchen window. As my husband used to say, “It doesn’t take much to amuse her.”

New Pin Wheel in Garden

The other simple pleasure from my childhood that is still a passion is beach combing. You can read about the shell collecting trips I’ve been on in my Memoir, “Looking for Connection” available as an eBook on Amazon.

This week I’m packing up to attend the Conchologists of America’s annual convention in San Diego all next week. I will hear about other people’s collecting adventures, bid for some shells in silent auctions, and enjoy sea breezes.

Perfect Timing

Perfect Timing

I’ve decided to post a day early this week because of tomorrow’s July 4th holiday. I want to share what happened the day after last week’s blog.

The back story: my best friend, Robert, left Stockton for Florida on April 19, and I expected him to return late last Wednesday or afternoon on Thursday. He had called Monday evening to tell me he and his driver were near Oklahoma City. I calculated they would get to Robert’s brother’s house in Hayward to drop off his driver by dinner time Wednesday.

You may recall, I wrote about what a mess my yard was in the blog that posted May 9, grousing about the amount of debris my huge sycamore tree was dumping all over the yard. The tree has continued to drop leaves, dead branches, and fuzz during the last two months, but it seems to be slowing down now. In addition to the leaf mess, I was seeing that most of my fruit trees needed to be trimmed soon before their summer growth got going. Several times I had actually said as I walked through the yard alone, “Lord, what am I going to do with these trees? How can I get them cut back soon?”

Wednesday, I worked in the yard, moving some dirt that my yard man had piled up last week, and I cleaned up the patio. I did all the odd jobs on my To Do List for the week, extending my day as I waited for Robert. At 2:30 a.m. I gave up the vigil and went to bed.

Thursday morning when I got up, sure enough, his van was in the driveway. As I was about to sit down to breakfast, I noticed out the window that the van door and ramp were open. I was surprised he was up so early and went out to greet him. Turns out that when he got here he was too tired to get out of the van so he lowered the back of the driver’s seat and slept there. I helped him get a few things out of the van, and I knew he was going to go back to sleep in his own bed.

I made a note of his arrival in my journal, saying I needed to eat breakfast—it was already 10:30. “Fun Day!” I added.

Since my breakfast was delayed, I was still eating and reading the newspaper when the door bell chimed. I well groomed man started telling me about the mistletoe in a tree in my front yard. I agreed it needed to be removed, but proceeded to walk him through my yard discussing each of my trees. The name of his company on his business card was one I had seen before. I knew he understood trees from the way he detailed what each tree needed and why. He had a crew in the area that day, and gave a reasonable estimate.

Sycamore tree in Marilyn’s yard, after trimming.

While the trimmers worked on the sycamore, I baked lemon bars, which was what I had planned to do first. The second item on the day’s list was to start cleaning up the yard mess. I laughed. This was such perfect timing. The tree trimming mess that is always left after the crew takes the big stuff, will be there when I get to each section, and I won’t have to clean up twice.

When the trimmer got to the smaller trees, I quickly realized that I needed to tell him what I wanted done on each tree besides the obvious problems. They also cleaned up my back-side roof where debris and branches had accumulated all winter and spring.

I worked with them picking up smaller branches that their rakes had left behind. They were out of here by 5 p.m. Robert slept through to Friday morning. I don’t think he even knew they were here until I told him.

One of the things Robert has said to me several times is, “You need to let things come to you.” I guess from his perspective he sees me trying to make things happen faster.

So, long story short, I asked God what to do about my trees, He sent the answer, and His timing was perfect.    Enjoy a safe Forth of July tomorrow.