Updates and Visitors

I’ve been working hard to get several updates made to my garden and yard before a couple groups of friends were scheduled to visit. On top of the usual cleaning, weeding, organizing, and planting, this spring I started on a new raised bed, a new set of perennials on a new side of the house, and a new piece of garden art.

It was a lot of work and things aren’t finished yet, but some new vegetables are already coming up in the raised bed and I’m  enjoying the way it all looks. The highlight is the new bottle tree taking shape on the stump of the apple tree at the front of the side yard. I’ve been thinking about this sculpture for a little while, and I’ve been on the lookout for the perfect piece to go atop it. I found a fantastic concrete raccoon holding an apple. I shaped the stump somewhat so it would look less stumpy, I carved space on top for plants to grow, and I started adding bottles. It’s still a work in progress, but here’s what it looks like now:

I was so excited to find such a trashy good raccoon sculpture. I found it and the rotary hoe blade under it at a local architectural salvage store. The paint job when I found it was pretty uninspiring, so I repainted it. It has such a perfectly gleeful raccoon look on its face that reminds me of the meme:

It’s always great to have garden visitors in real life in addition to my virtual garden visitors, even though I always pressure myself to try to make everything look perfect. If you’re ever in my neighborhood, feel free to stop by, too! Among the things my guests brought was this photogenic magnolia bloom:

For those unable to visit my garden in person, here’s a quick tour of many of my garden beds and plants. The overview: my other concrete raccoon now looks classy in comparison, I added more tree jewelry, the hostas are happy, a hollyhock is blooming, I added a little flapping wind spinner, I’m trying to grow Alpine strawberries, the red hydrangea is blooming, and I picked the garlic scapes. (As always, click on any photo to see the larger version.)

Another bit of art that’s now out is my collection of goofy garden markers created by the kids at Patchwork as part of Art & Company. They learn how to make art and then sell it and get a “company” dividend based on their investment of time and good behavior. I love the misspellings.

Here’s a collection, along with some ceramic fairies and a real fairy from my garden:

And finally, the cats. The back door is their happy, happy place. Lady Ygraine has been enjoying it for well over a month, but it’s been less than two weeks since Lady Morgaine decided to join her. They are very sweet together and even had their tails entwined the other day. Not pictured: the occasional times Ygraine puts her arm around Morgaine, growls, and pushes her daughter off the chair so mommy can have some “me time”. In Ygraine’s defense, Morgaine does tend to get a little too excited sometimes. Twice she’s been so engrossed in what was going on outside that she attempted to jump with all four feet onto the 0.5″ strip of wood framing the window and then fell off it with a bang that scared everyone.

Moving through May

Between plant sales, cold and rainy weather, a new garden sculpture, and preparations for some friends’ annual visit to my garden, I’ve not had time to post in my blog. I figured I’d better post something before too many good photos built up on my computer!

I hope to have a grand reveal of my new sculpture sometime soon, but there’s still lots of work for me to do on it. Here’s a teaser:

The honeysuckles have been blooming and blooming and blooming. It’s a treat to work outside because I get to smell them. And they were spectacular in the cold rain a few weekends ago. Plus, I was working on my sculpture and I caught a glimpse of a hummingbird drinking from them. That’s so much better than the feeder I tried last year and never could quite keep fresh enough!

And there are other blooms in the back garden and in the garden on the east side of the house. It’s not blooming yet, but this year I added plants on the west side of the house as well. All came from the Master Gardener’s plant sale at the beginning of May. Actually, some had come from last year’s plant sale and then waited in pots because of all our roof troubles last summer.

At this point, I’m pretty well out of spaces for plants, so maybe I need not to go to the sale next year. But it’s so much fun to admire and choose from so many plants!

I had oodles of rose breasted grosbeaks when everyone else in Evansville was inundated with them, the hawks are still around somewhere, I spotted a prothonotary warbler in my neighbor’s trees, a family of wrens is trilling about the back yard as are a cardinal couple and a family of downy woodpeckers, and every morning for at least a week I’ve heard a Swainson’s thrush trilling in the background. I think I’ve even seen it a time or two.

And finally, The Ladies continue to delight. Ygraine is sweet and floofy and she will sit at the back door all day if I give her the opportunity. She loves watching the outdoors but seems pleased with her life of luxury indoors. Meanwhile, Morgaine is sassy and dreams of taking over the world. One day John caught her studying my cordless drills and a mini butane torch as if she was plotting something. She likes to sit on the front table to watch the outdoors through glass, and when she sees us approach, she stands up and inadvertently sticks her head inside the lamp sitting there with her. It’s funny. She looks like a party girl with a lamp shade on her head.

Suddenly Spring

Within the last week, there has been an amazing transformation and spring has truly taken hold. Things are bursting out of the ground and new growth is everywhere.

The daffodils are suddenly all blooming. The tulips are not far behind. The hostas have appeared out of nowhere. The figs are leafing out. The ferns are unfurling.

And the hawks are in love. They’ve been calling to each other, flying over our house, and perching in our trees. They’ve been too preoccupied to threaten the birds at my feeders.

Then Along Came Snow

February was warm and toasty. The magnolia bloomed early. The crocuses were up. Leaves were starting to bud. Other plant sprouts started to poke their way out of the ground. I planted a few patches of lettuce because everything looked so nice and because regular precipitation was forecast. Maybe a little of that precipitation was supposed to be snow, but they always say that and it never happens.

Then the forecast got more foreboding. A freeze warning. Snow.

I prepped my bird feeders for the cold weather by adding the seed squirrel I’d gotten around Christmas. I was going to hang it inside my squirrel cage and watch the squirrels be thwarted in their attempt to eat it. But it didn’t fit inside the feeder, so I had to wire it in place and watch the squirrels have their way with it. It was a little disturbing to watch its eyes buggy over being cannibalized butt first.

Because the freeze warning lasted several days, I also cut and brought in all the daffodils that were blooming. I thought of my mom as I did it. When I had my senior art show in college, she brought me a huge bouquet of daffodils that she’d cut from her garden. She said she’d cut them because it was going to freeze at home. They were a special gift.

And then the snow came and it was beautiful. Nothing perks up the drab end of winter like snow covering the early flowers. Many of the magnolia petals had fallen to the ground, which made interesting pink undertones for the snow. The magic was all gone by afternoon.

And the deep freeze hit. It was rough on the plants. What was left of the magnolia blooms turned brown on the tree, but my crocuses persevered. I gave up on the little patches of lettuce seed that I’d started back when it was warm, but then last weekend I noticed a small spot of tiny green leaves: the year’s first seeds were up.

Early Early Spring Blooms

Our magnolia has bloomed about a month earlier than usual. The buds dropped their protective outer husks mid-February. I thought for sure that a subsequent cold snap would ruin the flowers. They did turn a little brown but stayed on the tree, and now we have a successful and beautiful bloom. Here’s their progress over the last week and a half:

And there are plenty of other blooms around the yard. Every fall I’ve been planting new varieties of crocuses, daffodils, tulips, and other spring bulbs. It’s always a surprise what comes up and where.

And the hawk has been back. Two weeks ago, I looked up from my breakfast to see it perched on the fence only a few yards away and finishing off a meal caught at my bird feeders. I hope it wasn’t one of the more unusual feeder birds that it had caught. It was pretty amazing to see so close, though.

hawk eating breakfast

I wasn’t the only one who thought so. I glanced over to the cats’ window perch and realized that Lady Morgaine had been watching the entire thing. She was clearly thinking, “WOW. Best cat TV EVER!!!!!”

OMG OMG OMG

The Ladies continue to acclimate to their new home with us. They play a lot and run around a lot. It’s much different than having a 19-year-old cat. They’re 3- and 4-years-old, so they’ve got many more running-around-years left.

One final story from their adoption: John and I had gone to the Humane Society on a Friday to have a serious look at cats. We visited with both these ladies and another pair. We weren’t sure which cats to take, or even if we were ready, so we went home to think about it.

Both of us thought that these two ladies would probably be our choice, but the others needed a home, too. Maybe we’d go back the next day. Maybe we’d go back in a week, and if they were still there it would be our sign.

“But what if we go back in a week and only one is there?” I asked.

We went back the next day, but didn’t get there until later in the afternoon. “We’ll just look again and see how we feel,” we told ourselves.

As soon as we walked in, we realized that there were other people looking at them. Not only that, the other people seemed to be looking at only one of the two. I didn’t want to be rude, but I couldn’t stand the thought of watching two friends get separated.

I spoke up and said, “Uhh. We’d actually just come to adopt both those cats. We looked at them yesterday.”

“Both cats?” the other people asked.

“Yeah. They’re a mother and daughter.”

“Wow, really? Well, you’ve got yourselves some cats.”

And that’s how we made up our minds.

“Should I box them up for you?” the Humane Society staff person asked.

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Lady Ygraine

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Lady Morgaine

Starting Fresh

There are finally some brilliant blooms in my yard. The earliest of the crocuses have been up for about a week now. Today was a particularly warm and sunny day, so they were glowing in the sun. I guess it’s time to start thinking about spring!

My orchids are in full bloom now, and the final blossoms managed to open just before the first ones expired. All 12 bloom stalks blooming. It’s an amazing feat.

all in bloom

variety 2

Meanwhile, John and I got new cats. It’s sooner than we had imagined, but the world seems so big and there feel like there are so many concerns and threats out there both for the marginalized people we serve and for ourselves. Both of us missed having a cat to come home to–a fuzzy head to pat and soft rubs against our legs.

We wanted two cats who were already friends and who would be happy to find a new home together. We went to the Humane Society and found a mother and daughter who clearly wanted to stay together. Every time we saw them they were smashed up against each other. They’d been adopted once before but were returned because of their adopters’ “unrealistic expectations” (the Humane Society staff’s sarcastic commentary on the cats’ paperwork). They are shy cats, and their previous adopters were upset that they didn’t come out to socialize right away. We’ve had them for three weeks now, and they’re slowly acclimating to our house, though they’re still skittish.

It was not necessarily our intention, but these two cats are very different from Shamoo. They’re fluffy girls who don’t have Shamoo’s air of being impeccably dressed while drinking a martini in the library, reading a deeply intellectual novel, and looking at you with disdain.

However, they have seemed like Ladies from the beginning, so we chose names for them from the Legends of King Arthur: Lady Ygraine (Arthur’s mother) for the grey and white mother cat and Lady Morgaine (Ygraine’s daughter and Arthur’s half-sister) for the calico daughter cat. They are beautiful cats and seem ready for a romp and an adventure in the great out-of-doors and maybe some magic, drinking mead, organizing medieval power plays, or roasting some dead thing on a spit in the fire (they will be doing none of this–well maybe the magic…and the power plays (they did manage to get themselves an extra serving of canned cat food yesterday morning, after all)).

They’re three and four, so there’s definitely the potential for them to be energetic and destructive. John and I hope we’re ready for cats who can jump more than two feet off the ground, though it is nice not to have to provide at-home veterinary care on a regular basis.

The joy of new cats is tempered with some continued sadness for Shamoo. As good as it is to have them around, I still miss him and his ways.

And speaking of cats in a roundabout way: the hawks have been haunting my bird feeders again. I’ve seen at least two of them on three or four occasions in the last month. It has really cut down on the bird activity at my feeders, which Lady Ygraine and I are both sad about.

A couple weeks ago, I was taking photos of the hawk and I went upstairs to get a better angle. It was then that I realized what, perhaps, the hawk was looking at:

the hawk and the pussycat

There was one of the neighborhood tomcats taking a happy bath in the sun. Dude, look up, LOOK UP! Later the hawk was gone, but the cat was still there, and I was relieved.

Remembering Shamoo

 

My final portrait of Shamoo taken on Christmas Day 2016

 

Shamoo was born in October, 1997 and died December 28, 2016.

He was a wonderful cat who had a very good life. He was aware of this, and stuck around for 19 years to enjoy as much of it as he could. He spent 18 of his years with his person Amy. John provided staffing for Shamoo for 17 years. Shamoo cared about them very much in the way that cats care about their people.

Shamoo worked hard to be dignified, clean, and proper at all times, commanding the title of “Sir”. As a younger cat, he was a little cheeky, but he mellowed with age. Often things happened around him that left him feeling concerned, but he tried hard to never let anything ruffle his fur too much.

To the very end, Shamoo was a handsome cat. He routinely positioned himself in locations that would complement his dapper black and white coat. He loved the camera. Amy enjoyed taking photographs of him. In the early days of the internet LOLCat, he enjoyed a measure of notoriety, being chosen to appear regularly on the website StuffOnMyCat.com. He was included in the pages of three Stuff on My Cat books and won a Stuff on My Cat online contest with his portrayal of the letter Z.

In his life, Shamoo lived in Evansville, Indiana; Archbold, Ohio; Cincinnati, Ohio; and (again) Evansville, Indiana. He had many roommates and temporary staff in that time who enjoyed his company. During his time in Archbold, Shamoo also shared the house with Josh the dog. The two enjoyed playing tricks on each other, chasing each other, and looking out the window together. Shamoo always felt a little sorry for Josh for being the family pet.

Shamoo enjoyed being petted while he ate fresh crunchies and watching birds. He often talked to the birds excitedly as he watched them. In his younger days, he enjoyed playing with string toys, aggravating his roommates, and jumping into window sills to look outside. In his later years, he enjoyed laying on top of his people, going on walks indoors with John, sleeping in his heated cat bed, and taking short excursions into the outdoors.

Shamoo found new experiences even as an elderly cat. He went on his first vacation to Northern Michigan at the age of 16 and returned to Michigan for two more years. He didn’t mind the car ride and enjoyed the relaxing time with his people.

Shamoo was a very good cat and he will be greatly missed.

 

Paw Print