Friday, February 27, 2009

From Sunshine to Hail in One Day!

I think I'm going to stop getting excited and writing posts about warmish sunny days from now on, since it seems that every time I do, we get slammed with a nasty bout of weather the next day! Actually, it's not as if the big cool down was not expected ... in fact light rain was forecast for today and we knew the warm weather would not last, but honestly! Hail in February? I've been trying to remember if we've experienced that since we've lived here, and I can't come up with a single instance where we have gotten hail this early in the year. As storm systems go, this was quite a colorful one on radar ... stretching from South Dakota across Minnesota and down into Iowa in lovely (threatening) shades ranging from blue, magenta, red, yellow and green ... for storm afficionados, there was a little bit of everything in this system! All morning it was dreary and gray, but early this afternoon the skies turned extremely dark and downright spooky (e.g. it was a dark and stormy afternoon) and right about the time I had to dial into a weekly conference call for work, the sky really opened up and let loose with all sorts of nastiness ... first loud thunder and lightning, then torrential rain and hail, all pouring down at the same time for the next 45 minutes or so. Out the window of my "office" I could tell it was hailing, but little did I suspect what was really going on down there until my call ended ... it seemed like there was a lull in the rain, so I decided to take Hanna out in between storms ... we got as far as the back door, I opened it, she looked out at the pouring rain and came right back in. She was having none of that weather! So I went to the front of the house to get a better look and from the porch steps, this is what I saw.... (click to enlarge all photos)
Regular readers will probably recall that our particular intersection is prone to flooding during heavy rains in spring and summer, but this has to be a first for February as well ... we're used to heavy snows, but flooding? Nope. But of course, as always every year, there are those fools who think they can just charge right through our flooded intersection with no problems, something they usually find out (too late) is exactly the wrong thing to do! By the time I went out, the car in the first photo had flooded out and had been abandoned, right there in the middle of the intersection ... it was removed later but still!

Over the years people have said that I "don't suffer fools gladly (or in any other fashion)" so I felt little to no sympathy for this person who thought s/he could drive right through a good three feet or more of standing water at the bottom of a hill where it flows rapidly from both the east and west sides of the road! Back in the day when we first lived here, we used to go out to help push out drivers from the intersection, but this happens so frequently in summer that we just shake our heads now and wish them luck for being so foolish.... Everyone who lives in the neighborhood knows this flooding happens during heavy rains and avoids the intersection, as do those who actually use their good judgment when driving in the area. I know that sounds really harsh, but honestly, some people just seem to refuse the watery world of evidence in front of them and think they're invincible ... so to the hubris filled go the spoils of the car's engine, interior and who knows what else.

The preceding two shots show how far the water made it up over the curb and to the base of the steps leading up to our house ... there was really no place for it to go, since the ground is still mostly frozen (and wet from melted snow) and the storm drains are so often overwhelmed that I had a view of what usually happens in June or July during heavy rains. The big difference, as you can see, is that instead of rain, this particular lake contains not snow, but hail! Yep, what Fernymoss said looked like "pond scum" when he saw these photos is the rest of the hail that had covered the street before the flooding started. And when he got home this evening, there were still quite a few piles of hail all around the place hours later, and for all I know, they're probably still there since the temperature quickly plunged down into the 20s at sunset (as if there was any real sun today).
Here's an example of how quickly the hail piled up ... this is the primrose bed next to the front steps, and as you can see, they're valiantly trying to revive themselves after being buried until just the past few days ... they're looking pretty bedraggled, but that's actually normal, and as soon as the weather moderates, they'll likely spring right back into action. At least it's the first sign of green we've seen in this particular bed! I just hope they don't get too enthusiastic too soon though because here's the most recent forecast for tomorrow:

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hanna's Sunny Gallery

After our recent snowy and chilly spell last week, It was very nearly an almost maybe Spring day here today! The sun was out, there was melting galore going on and the temperature made it up into the upper 50s, so can the spring bulbs be far behind? As I keep saying, we'll see because this evening it has cooled down considerably and it may only make it into the upper 30s Thursday, with a 90% chance of rain, sleet, snow or whatever happens to come along, thanks to the temperature. And with no flowers just yet, our favorite subject remains Hanna for the moment!
With the abundant sun coming in to warm and delight the houseplants, Hanna clearly decided that it was time to stop and smell the schefflera plant at the base of the stairs and take a little advantage of the sun streaming in. It's hard to believe she's only been here for a little over a month because she has totally taken possession of the house and now has her favorite lounging spots all figured out ... couch, bed, chair, futon couch, sunny stairs ... I think it's an embarrassment of riches for a pup her age (now 10 months)!
On sunny days while I'm working, she spends her time divided between the sunny spots she tracks along the stairs and up in my office. In fact we must have some really sunny-attractive spots for a dog, since Hanna haunts many of the same places Pepa and Rolly used to love on sunny days ... she may just be getting some tips from them on the best spots to lounge...
Both Fernymoss and I thought that this photo catches her in a "mysterious" moment when she'll give us one of these looks that we can't tell if it's just curiosity or if there's something even more devious going on inside her little head ... whatever the case may be, she already knows full well how to strike a pose for the camera, whether she likes it or not! (I think it's safe to say the camera is in love with her though....)
Finally, here's where Hanna spends much of the afternoon (on sunny days) while I'm at work in my office just around the corner at the top of the stairs ... she moves across the stair and landing as the sun progresses throughout the day, and generally, when it disappears she comes back into my office again and perches on the futon couch where she can look out the window across the street. That is, of course, until it's time for her late afternoon 'out' which is immediately followed by dinner and a treat, then it's back to her perch again until Fernymoss gets home and takes her out for her evening "walkies." AH ... to live a dog's life!

But maybe the fabled "dog's life" might not be all we imagine it to be, as this short film demonstrates ... it's narrated from the perspective of a dog named Speck as he reflects on his life in his seventh year with his owner in the UK. I've posted this video before, and if you've seen it, it deserves another look, whereas if you haven't, you're in for a touching and humorous treat that will make you recast your own relationship with your dog (if you have one). Take a look, and let me know what you think!

Photos taken on 25 February, 2009. Fernymoss took the first three, and I caught Hanna sunning later in the day.... Oh yeah, I've also been playing around with some of the frame effects in my photo editing program just for fun ... what do you think?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Happy Fat Tuesday -- Mardi Gras

So here we are, crashing up against the elusive date of Mardi Gras again this year as usual! Today I got the idea of rounding up some spare Mardi Gras beads and dressing Hanna up for a photo in party regalia, but we couldn't find any of the ones we no doubt have around here in the house somewhere, so whether or not she realized it, she was spared from sporting any tacky bling tonight, with only this frame I added!

Back in the day, we used to make an occasion of Mardi Gras with the traditional meals and of course a King Cake, but over the years due to busy and conflicting schedules even this has fallen a bit by the wayside, though we always do like to acknowledge the beginning of Lent signaled by the grande fête, even if neither of us are practicing Catholics. For us, it's mainly been an excuse to have a few extra drinks to get us through the rest of the winter and on course for spring. Perhaps selfish motives, yes, but hey -- if thousands of people can stop for a day to party in New Orleans (and certainly much wilder than we are capable of!), so can we!

For those more deeply steeped in classic New Orleans culture, there are a lot of traditions celebrated on this day other than a King Cake and bean based meals ... one of its greatest musicians: Dr. John. If you're not familiar with Dr. John, he's been around for decades weaving his own special brand of blues and is still going strong well into his 70's now. In fact, his most recently released disc was in June, 2008 ... City that Care Forgot, which as you might guess has a Hurricane Katrina theme. It's fine work, as always, from Dr. John, so if you're of a mind to spend a little time listening to some of his new album (courtesy of NPR), you could find many less satisfying ways of spending 50 minutes than listening to Dr. John! Just click on the photo below, go to the NPR page and click on "Hear the complete show" and you'll be good to go! You'll be glad you did, even if you don't stick around here the whole time! (Just open it in a new window.)
Finally, one of the traditional mainstays of a proper Mardi Gras celebration is to have a King Cake on hand, and much like the Epiphany, 12th Night and Kings's Day celebrations held in Europe, where the person who finds the fève (traditionally a dried bean, but now usually a plastic baby representing Jesus) is crowned for a day and gets to wear a crown. Given what goes on in New Orleans these days, it has obviously morphed considerably from its historical origins, but King Cakes are tasty! They're a simple leavened bread with cinnamon flavoring with a lemon based green-purple-gold colored sugar heavy frosting ... not something you want to indulge in every day, but when Lent is knocking at the door, I'm sure it's a great farewell treat to the sober season leading up to Easter.

I did a little looking around tonight and found an easy and workable recipe (even if it's geared to toward bread makers which I loathe ... a KitchenAid will do just fine!) that you can try if you're so inclined. If you're familiar with basic bread making technique, this recipe will be a snap, even if you don't make it in time for the "big day." It is a bread that gets stale pretty fast, so if you make it, make sure to indulge in plenty of leavened delight and use it for toast the next day if it's starting to get a bit stale. Tasty stuff! Maybe if I have time this weekend, I may make one even though I'll be late!

Personal note: in case you hadn't guessed, lately I've been smashing into yet more deadlines for work projects so that has affected my abilities to post here ... still, while we're waiting for the first signs of Spring to arrive here and work continues to be busy, I'll just have to offer my apologies in advance this time! But as soon as the bulbs get blooming and other signs of life start emerging, I'll be back to posting again more regularly. Every year I hate those winter doldrums! Maybe we can turn the corner with Mardi Gras this year! Here's to hoping....

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Our Cheatin' Blooms ...

Well, both of us have apparently been so bloom-starved that we had the same idea of giving each other blooming gifts for Valentine's Day last weekend! And even though one could say that we're technically "cheating on Nature," I will say that it's really nice to have something blooming in the house right now, especially after the recent snows and cold. At least we can justify the purchases somewhat by intending to plant these out once it's spring, so the plant material won't go to waste. Though they may not thrive again for a year or so, everything depicted in these photos is hardy to our garden, so we'll just be patient for them to get their second wind at blooming.

The bulb basket in the first photo is a gift mix of spring flowers that I ordered from Van Bourgondien, thanks to a clever reminder email they sent me early last week, guaranteeing Valentine's Day delivery ....It's called the "Dutch Garden" gift basket and has a great assortment of bulbs in it ... 5 red tulips, 5 yellow Narcissus, 5 'Pickwick' giant crocus, a Hyacinth and 5 White Siberian Squill (something we don't have). Since they arrived on Friday, they have been practically flying out of the pot once they got some sun, water and warmer temperatures, and since I took this photo late this afternoon, 2 more of the Narcissus have started to emerge, and the crocus are beginning to open up a bit ... the hyacinth has opened its 'alien pod' and we can see the bloom developing inside ... so it's not going to be much longer before this basket will be quite colorful!

In the past I've generally had a dim view of forcing bulbs because it does tend to sap the plant's energies, but since then I've read that as long as one tends to their basic cycle, keeps them watered and deadheaded until they die back, that they can be successfully planted in the garden, even though they might take a year off from blooming, they will eventually return to their original glory. I think what I'll do is just give them some bulb food after they're done blooming, let them die back naturally and then plant this whole arrangement in a spot out front. Maybe we'll get more blooms next year, maybe not, but even if they don't, they'll be back at some future point. At least for now, I'm getting my purple crocus fix! I just love this variety, 'Pickwick,' and we just put in a bunch more of these last fall, so you'll be seeing them again if the ground ever warms up! When I was browsing my archives last week for that one post, I was a bit dismayed to see that last year's crocus were in their heyday in April! I sure hope it doesn't take that long this year, but last year was a pretty nasty winter ... time will tell....

Fernymoss shares my passion for Primroses, and he even managed to find a nice, blooming specimen for his gift to me ... this yellow cultivar is one of my favorites because it has such a lovely scent and is such a cheery shade of yellow. It had quite a few more blooms on it when I got it on Saturday, but before I took this photo, I had to pinch several spent ones off today so the remaining buds will develop and open matter, because I love just about everything about Primula polyanthus, the lush textures of the foliage as well as the delightful yellow and sweet aroma the blooms have. I'm pretty confident this will do just fine in our Primrose Patch out front by the entrance steps. (If you'd like to see those, just click on the labels below this post for last year's blooms.) It took us a few years to find success with Primroses, and not all designated as hardy are truly hardy to our climate, but since I planted a mix of Polyanthus several years ago, we've finally found a spot they like and thrive in, and since then, they have been happily spreading into a nice clump. I'll be really interested to see how much bigger it is this year, because in the 3 years they've been there, they've already doubled in number, so I'm hoping for even more this spring!

Come on,Spring! We're getting a bit antsy here, but at least we have some beautiful harbingers blooming now inside, so let's hope they can tide us over till it finally arrives....

What? No Hanna pictures? Ok, here's one I haven't posted yet ... from 18 January, her first evening here at Casa IVG when she was just getting acquainted with us, and really pouring on the charm....

I think you guys will make really good daddies for me ... can I stay here furever?

How could anyone say no to this sweet little charmer? We sure couldn't! We're still delighting in all of her (well, most all) crazy puppy antics, the newest of which is playing "ice hockey" with an ice cube. She was cracking both of us up before I came up to work on this post ... chasing it around the room, knocking it about with her paws and nipping at it before she finally decided to eat it. Who says dog toys have to be expensive? And we don't even mind that she eventually destroys these particular ones! So here you go, Janet ... she's got the makings of a hockey dog somehow ... at least she knows what to do with an ice puck!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy (Snowy) Valentine's Day!!

Image courtesy of Vintage Valentine Museum

I'd like to extend my warmest Valentine greetings to all my blogging (and other) friends who stop by here at Urban Oasis ... over the last few years, and despite the distances and lack of truly personal contact, I've become quite fond of many of you folks, so here's my feeble Valentine tribute to you! Though this is a holiday that we once considered much more important and fun (when we were kids and actually got to have parties in grade school!), I have to admit that over the years it has lost a lot of its impact and appeal --a pity, I feel-- but both of us still try to surprise each other with some sort of small gift, and of course some chocolate! Sometimes we will go out for a meal ... or just stay in and watch a movie ... or just do nothing at all! Lordy, do I feel like we are such an old married couple sometimes!

Anyway, no matter what you have planned (or not!) for the day, I hope it is a pleasant and enjoyable one for you! My gift to myself is my steadfast vow NOT TO WORK this weekend, as I have had to do so much in the past few months ... after putting in over 65 hours this week and cranking out yet another tight deadline report, I'm gifting myself with some rest and time away from work. So even if we don't have solid plans other than to run some errands at Target and a few other stores, we just want to take it easy and stay warm this snowy weekend.... Besides, Hanna is still new to the house and we have to make sure we set aside play time and walkies time for her!

Actually if we get the time, I'd like to get out to see Slumdog Millionaire before it wins every other conceivable award on earth ... I've read nothing but good reviews and heard positive comments from people, so I'm really curious about this film. Besides, I haven't seen anything else nominated for an Academy Award (not even the new Woody Allen film with Penelope Cruz and Javier 'hubba hubba' Bardem, shame on me!), but what else is new? I think the last time I actually "had a dog in the contest" was in 2005 when Brokeback Mountain was robbed by that lacrymose and overrated piece of crapola, Crash. Yeah, I'm still bitter about that, and if the Academy had had their brains in gear, they would have given Heath Ledger the award he deserved for that film, rather than doing the usual and waiting for someone to die before giving the posthumous award. (Anyone remember Peter Finch finally getting his Oscar back in 1976 for Network after he died???) Ok, better get out of film rant territory ... but one parting shot: of course my favorite film released in 2008 (though completed in 2006), The Fall didn't even get a mention, but then again I expected that.... I'm used to being in the dark about most commercial films ... you know, the kind that get recognized and make money ... so just let me simmer in my Luddite Filmic juices ... and though we still haven't seen Batman The Dark Knight, sometime we will, because I do have to admit we both loved Batman Begins. Just not a high priority around here, and if I have my way tonight we'll finally be watching No Country For Old Men, which I got for Christmas but still haven't seen ... yep, I'm that behind the times that the Cohen brothers have already made another film that I'd like to see, but until now have missed the previous one.

Just in case anyone might be wondering what a good selection for Valentine's Day would be, I'll recommend the one I used to watch every year (back when I was single), and one I might still pull out tonight just for fun, because it always makes me laugh and cry: the 1977 Best Picture, Director, Actress and Screenplay winner ... none other than Woody Allen's Annie Hall. If by chance (shame on you!) you've never seen it before, now's the time ... and if you've seen it before, it's time to revisit it one more time just for fun ... I mean, who can resist laughing when Woody suggests putting out "a small dish of drawn butter" to try to lure an escaped lobster back into the pot? Sheer brilliance. But then, what do I know? I'm one of those pointy headed elitist liberals who voted for Obama!

Ok, I've ranted and raved enough about films... Please permit me one last whine about the snow storm we got on Friday ... though it was slow to actually move in in the morning, once it got going, it kept up at a pretty steady pace (about 1 inch/hour) until about 8:00 p.m. ... Fernymoss and Hanna (who actually ventured out twice last night) estimate that here at Casa IVG we got about 8 inches before it was all over. Luckily for us, our neighbor two doors down who has the snow blower graciously did our walks and driveway, so we're going to owe him BIG time ... we'll be inquiring this weekend what his favorite beer is, then getting him some, because this is not the first time he's done us such a favor this winter! So we lucked out ....

Anyway, I wish this video I took today was viewable at larger resolution, because it really does show how hard and fast the snow was coming down at around 4:3
0 p.m. ... but at least this should give you an impression of what it was like. Just remember that the angle from which I took this (on the front steps facing north across the boulder bed) was until just yesterday, mostly clear of snow from our recent meltdown. Not anymore! Everything is once again buried ... so here we go paying our penance for that evil groundhog's prediction back on Februrary 2.

Thanks a lot, you jerk of a marmot. I was looking forward to snowdrop
s and crocus, until you had to go and muck it all up! I hope someone throws a toaster into the bathtub next time you decide to take a bath! And that you go out tortured by Sonny and Cher.....

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Blast From February Past ...

In honor(?) of the impending snow storm headed our way today (Friday the 13th no less!), I headed back into the 2004 archives on the XP box I use as a file server, because I recalled one of those February blasts that was particularly memorable ... so here it is, the great snow of February 5, 2004. I originally titled this first shot "NOT A Wonderland," no doubt due to my disgust with that particularly harsh winter when we had had our fill of the white stuff at that point. And, if I recall correctly, that was also the year that we had the surprise St. Patrick's Day blizzard that graced us (and buried emerging bulbs) with a mere 17 inches of snow ... it was a long winter that year.... So, let's head around back and see what Pepa and Rolly thought of the whole thing....
Pepa was definitely in deep and up to her elbows here, but not unhappy about the situation ... she and Rolly always loved frolicking in the snow, at least until they got too cold and were ready to come back inside. But on this particular day, they were quite content to take advantage of the snow accumulation to romp in the back yard while it was still coming down fast and furious....
Ever the snow dog with his heavy coat, Rolly was undaunted by the falling snow and given his height advantage over Pepa, had no problems tromping happily through the drifts on his way to a play session with his dear companion Queen Pepa....
Ah, these were the great old play days Pepa and Rolly so enjoyed in their younger years, when they would chase and wrestle each other around for what seemed like hours on end ... Pepa would start by nipping Rolly's ankles to get things going and then they were off! Who cared that day if there were already about 8 inches of snow on the ground and more on the way? They were having waaay too much fun!
But even as much fun as playing in the snow could be, Pepa usually was the first to have her fill and head for the warmth inside to find a nice blankie to nest in for a wee nap after playing ... Rolly, ever the oblivious one, hadn't quite figured out the cue yet and was intently watching something that caught his interest elsewhere. I don't exactly recall what got his attention prompting him to come in (probably one of those short, curt and bossy barks from Pepa signaling the end of play time?) but eventually he made his way back toward the house....
Ok, I'll admit it, I was mostly likely the one who first had had enough of the cold and snow and was really ready to go back in, though both Pepa and Rolly didn't mind that idea either at this point. So, as the snow was still falling, we all headed back into the house to warm up, dry off and settle down for a nice nap after a snowy playtime ... and the snow just kept on coming. If I recall correctly, we ended up with about 10-12 inches from this storm, more than enough for us to grumble enough already! But no, there was more still to come in March before it was all over for the year.... One last shot of Queen Pepa, who wanted to get up close and personal with the camera with her snowy nose before we went in ... In retrospect, I really wish the camera I was using at the time (the faithful Fuji Finepix 2250) had had the video capabilities that my new S700 has, but no matter, it did a fine job of capturing our two beloved furry loves for posterity, and that's what ultimately counts for us, now that they're gone physically, but still keeping watch over Jardín and Casa IVG! And once again, I think we have to give them great thanks for sending us our wonderful new pup, Hanna, who's not quite a snow pup yet because this year was her first time experiencing snow and since we've had her it's been wickedly cold and snowy, but maybe next year she'll be frolicking happily in the snow like her noble predecessors did for so many years here. Time will tell, but we'll see how she reacts to this next snow on the way, so stay tuned for more details....

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Fickle is February!

It's not every day that one sees a traffic warning sign like this one out on the streets! You may have seen this photo, as it's been making the rounds the past couple of weeks, but the back story is that some enterprising and clever hacker managed to get into the traffic sign system down in Austin, TX a few weeks back and changed the signs to this rather ominous warning. I have to say this would have definitely gotten my attention had I seen it driving around the city ... and we'd have been eagerly peering around each corner hoping to spot one or two ... but remember, we're big fans of zombie movies, especially the "zomedies" such as Fido and Shaun of the Dead. I have the sneaking suspicion that the perpetrator of this humorous mischief just might have similar tastes as well, but I'm just sayin' ...
Ah, winter in Iowa, you just gotta love it! It certainly can keep you on your toes for sudden changes, so today's secret word (scream real loud!!!) is Fickle. Just the other night I was waxing lyrical about our recent meltdown and balmy temperatures in the low 60's (it was a glorious 64 here on Tuesday!) We were just finally being able to see the brown grass underneath the disappearing snow pack the past few days and then the Weather Underground had to come out with this forecast tonight ... (if you're here) read it and weep! They've also issued a Winter Storm Watch for Friday and Friday night that mentions the possibility of 6-10 inches of the ubiquitous white stuff, so here we go again...!
Of course, this is nothing unusual for February, and I half expected as much, but after what has seemed like an interminably cold and snowy winter, allow me a brief whine (the cheese is over on the table, help yourselves) to say that I'm deeply discouraged, especially after getting my hopes up to be bulb spotting soon ... that will have to wait for another day. I did venture out front briefly late this afternoon to look for signs of bulbs coming up, but aside from the ratty looking foliage of the muscari which usually lasts through the winter anyway and some pretty bedraggled and melted looking primroses, there's not a lot of green to be seen.

Even the hollyhocks behind the house are looking melted and still dormant, and in the north Woodland Garden, there's still too much snow there to even begin to see if the Hellebores are still green. Of course, just about the only green out there is from the Hollies who provide us with our only winter interest in that part of the garden. Maybe I'll finally get some photos of snow frosted hollies this weekend if this storm turns out as predicted ... we've been meaning to do that all winter, but frankly, it's been too snowy and way too cold to even contemplate it thus far, but they do look really pretty with a nice covering of snow, so we'll see what I can come up with. I may just take some shots of the winter garden to show how depressing it looks at this point in winter with its dead foliage still standing (at least the birds got some food from the coneflowers), just waiting to be cut back in those first few warm days of spring as we prepare the beds for another growing season. But again, that's for another day when the snows have finally subsided and signs of green are definitely appearing!

As we gardeners well know, there are a lot of "waiting games" we have to endure over the seasons (awaiting the first blooms, the first ripe tomato, the first hibiscus blooms, the list goes on and on), but the period between late winter and the arrival of early spring is, at least for me, one of the most frustrating because it seems just so interminable!

I guess that if I don't have to work again this weekend, I'll just spend some time perusing some of the catalogues we've been receiving en masse since January ... I did look at one the other day that had a great deal on some blue irises that we may want to order at a substantial discount, though with the financial situation as it is currently, we're trying to restrain ourselves this year on new purchases ... but knowing us, we'll probably break down and get some new things anyway! We do, however, plan to restrain our planting instincts somewhat this year, and limit ourselves to mostly vegetables and a few new perennials (I've vowed not to get any more hibiscus this year!) so we can concentrate on what we already have in abundance. Besides, we do have our new puppy to train in garden etiquette and plan on spending a lot of time working with her on that ... further, we've decided that Hanna is a prime candidate for learning some agility type activities, so we want to work on those as well ... if for no other reason than to help her work off that inexhaustible puppy energy! She loves jumping and running, so we figure she's ready to do some hoop jumping and hurdle type activities if nothing else. So much we have planned for warmer weather ... it's just the waiting for it to arrive that is driving us all a bit stir crazy here right now ... I suppose it's just a case of the late winter "antsies" affecting us all, so the sooner we have nicer weather, the happier (and more active) we'll all be!

How many of you are feeling similar at this point of the winter? It can't just be us!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Meltdowns Make Me Long For Crocus!

Finally, at long last, we're getting a much needed respite from winter's cold and snow the past few days ... Today we even had some light rain (though thunderstorms were predicted) and the temperature made it all the way up to 60F ... I even opened the window in my office to let in the cool, fresh air! Just what I needed after this bout with the flu over the past two weeks, and when the sun actually came out this afternoon, it had an even more salutory effect on my winter weary mood, and set me to anticipating the imminent arrival of the spring bulbs! Though only the hardiest of the hardy might dare show themselves this early (Snowdrops, where are you?), it won't be that long before life starts stirring again in the beds and parking out front as the crocus and other early spring bloomers awaken from their long winter's nap under the snow pack, which, happily is receding more and more with each warmish day we experience....
Though we both have our favorites among the early bloomers, I have to admit that I've always had a real soft spot for crocus ever since I was a child when I marveled at seeing these bright messengers of spring pop up in various places in my parents' yard and garden. When we first started planting bulbs back in fall 1999, a nice assortment of Snow Crocus was among our first purchases (along with Siberian Squill and Snowdrops), and we've continued to plant hundreds more over the past ten years, and last year we added yet another 300 or so to our already burgeoning collection, so I'm eagerly awaiting their appearance this Spring. Since I didn't actually help with last fall's planting (Fernymoss did all the work this time), I'm not quite sure where exactly they will pop up, so that will add even more to the surprise and delight of seeing these cheerful little gems emerge from their winter hibernation....

Though these photos are from last spring (April alas, due to the very late malingering winter we had last year), they are just a few of the representatives of the dozens of varieties we have planted, and the one in the first photo is one of our "Giant Dutch" varieties, the name of which escapes me at the moment, but it's a lovely one I always enjoy seeing bloom!

These diminutive beauties are from a particularly delightful Snow Crocus mix we originally got from Van Bourgondien Bulbs, and we liked this mix so much that we ordered yet another collection of 100 of exactly the same last fall, so there will be even more of them coming up soon. Another thing I love so much about these Snow Crocus (in particular) is that they naturalize quite quickly and it's not unusual for them to double or triple in number in the first 2-3 years after planting, so much so that eventually we hope to achieve large drifts of them around the beds and parking where we have them planted ... can you imagine anything more delightful than that? Well, Fernymoss might differ with me and say he'd rather see huge drifts of Siberian Squill, but they're doing well enough on their own that they're already on their way to achieving that goal!
Being fortunate enough to capture the sun permeating the petals of these lovelies can produce a really beautiful effect, as the previous photo demonstrates quite well (I think!), revealing the rich depths and variations of color that you can find within a single bloom ... and with the many variations of color available in Crocus, painting a veritable rainbow across the garden is something easily within the reach of any gardener so inclined and willing to take the time to purchase and plant them. And, as far as planting bulbs is concerned, Crocus are among the easiest: they are small (about the size of a penny or dime) so they don't have to go down very deep and the motivated gardener can easily plant quite a few in one session, just using the ubiquitous garden trowel. The work is richly rewarded when one has reached the breaking point with wintery weather doldrums and the first few truly sunny and warm days of Spring arrive, they start springing from the ground almost in bloom even before the foliage is fully developed!
By now, I'm sure you've noticed the particular color theme in these photos revealing my penchant for the purple varieties, though I'm almost as fond of the astonishing range of brilliant yellows Crocus also offer and it won't be long before you'll be seeing them on these pages as well. I guess I was just in a purple mood tonight as I perused my archives looking for representative photos.... As the weather moderates more, I'll be outside looking for signs of their emergence, though the forecast for the rest of the week has us experiencing one more nice day (today), then we'll be back to more seasonal norms in the 30's. After all, it is just the beginning of February and we may still have more snows in store, but even if the Crocus do emerge, they can take a fair amount of cold and snowy abuse, so we'll see what the next few weeks bring!

At this point I'm sure some of you are wondering where Hanna is and why she hasn't appeared in this post (something she's probably asking herself as well!) so here's a bonus puppy picture for the dog inclined among you ... so here she is from a couple of weeks back, when I caught her posing and staring intently into the dining room where Fernymoss was undoubtedly doing something absolutely fascinating ... but then just about anything seems fascinating to Hanna at this point, which is one of the joys of puppyhood I had long forgotten, but am enjoying so much again since her arrival at Casa IVG.
There's something truly rejuvenating about sharing in the puppy's experience of a new environment and world ... for me, as cheesy as it might seem to say, it has helped reawaken my inner child's sense of wonder and opened up new perspectives for me yet again, thanks to Hanna's perpetual discovery of yet another new thing in her world. For example, just this past weekend while I was working away in my office, I had the window open and she heard a plane go over and really sat up to attention wondering what that might be ... I realized that what passes as totally banal for me, was yet another source of wonder for her as she explores the new world she's living in. And when I took her out several times today, I think she's just as (or more) relieved to see the snow recede ... now she doesn't have to worry about getting lost (literally) up to her elbows in the drifts of snow! I think she really appreciates that, but to know for sure, you'd have to ask her yourself!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Nurse Hanna

Well folks, it happened yet again this winter ... another nasty bug came to town to knock me down for the better part of a week, only this time it was the "Big I" Influenza virus that got me last weekend. I'm not talking about those annoying intestinal viruses we often refer to as "flu," this was the real thing, complete with a high fever (it peaked at about 104 for a couple of days), intense headache, dry cough, chills, aches, the whole complement of nasties as Woody Allen once said. All last Friday I didn't feel quite right ... a vague malaise, tiredness, feverish ... foreboding what would hit me full force on Saturday when I realized that I was well and truly sick!

Great timing as always with these things ... I was planning on working on a project for work Saturday (another tight reporting deadline looms again), but of course that didn't happen, since I was laid up, first in bed, then in my recliner buried in blankets where I passed most of the day shivering, aching, and dozing on and off while absorbing some comfort from non-stop Food Network programming (Ina Garten and Tyler Florence always make me feel better!).

I did, however, take great comfort from the constant nursing companionship of dear little Hanna, who barely strayed from my side (or lap) the entire day ... Dogs know when we're sick. They want to do whatever they can to make us feel better, and our new little one is no exception! Pepa always was an exemplary nurse pup whenever I was sick and never let me out of her sight when I was ailing, and it looks like Hanna already has the instincts as well! Not only did she help keep me warm while I was chilling (not in a good way!), but she gave me plenty of concerned looks and puppy kisses to make me feel better, barely leaving my side, even when Fernymoss came home from work and took her out for "walkies." Once she returned, she was right back with me, as in this photo ... though it looks like she is lying on something covered by a blanket, that "something" was my legs stretched out in the recliner and on the ottoman! She spent a good deal of time there over the weekend when she wasn't in my lap or curled up on my chest in the chair. She's a comfort pup for sure, and it's not all about her comfort, because she obviously wanted to make me feel better as well.
I ended up having to miss a day and a half of work early in the week, where I was laid out in bed with the fever until it broke sometime on Monday, and the entire time Hanna spent as close to me as she could get, not even asking to go out or be fed until I was able to get up and tend to her needs. That's why a good dog is such a treasure to behold: they exhibit a remarkable capacity to put their needs aside when one of their humans has a greater need, and this occasion was her first chance to prove herself, which she did more than admirably! And, as if we didn't know it already, this pup is a keeper! Which brings me to the fact that last weekend was the end of her "trial home visit period" ... her former foster mom called us Monday night to check in to make sure we wanted to finalize the adoption, and you can well imagine what our response was! All of us were in agreement that she landed in her forever home here, where she will now stay to bloom, play, flourish and otherwise enjoy being a part of our pack. I can't emphasize enough how fortunate we were to find this exceptional pup when we did, but then, every day I am more and more convinced that Coco and Pepa played a role in the whole process, aided by Hanna's wonderful foster mom and a great rescue organization that saved her from the city pound from which she originally came! I don't think we did anything particularly heroic by adopting a rescue dog (after all that's where the best dogs come from anyway), but rather than us giving her a "second lease on life," she gave us the new lease on life we needed at a particularly difficult time in our lives. We're just so glad it worked out so well for all of us, and we are all looking forward to the happy days ahead (even in these gloomy times) we'll all have together!

Jedi Doggie Magic indeed. And just when we needed it the most! And, dear Coco, Pepa and Rolly, our everlasting thanks for the role your erstwhile paws played in this whole transitional episode of our lives! You, the elder dogs who have gone before, still watch over us and the house and we hope you are enjoying Hanna's antics as well. You guys sent us a real treasure!