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April 28, 2005

Home Sweet Home

Sigh. We're home, after 11 days on the road trip from hell. Given that I'm

a) exhausted past remembering my phone number or the day of the week

b) trying not to remember the past 4 days, and

c) anxious to get outside and experience the new blossoms and flowers I missed while on this road trip from hell...

...I'm not going to get into details right now. But here is a summary, borrowing from that familiar ad campaign:

Four-wheeling for 3 days in the Hammers in Johnson Valley, southeastern California: $300

8-day road trip to get to and from the Hammers: $5000

Getting home in one piece: priceless.

And for everything else, there's our credit card and our sense of humour. After the last dive into our wallets, I made Richard laugh 'til there were tears in his eyes, by quoting one of my favourite lines from White Christmas. Bing Crosby finds out how much their Christmas Eve show is going to cost their production company. "Wow" he says and hangs up the phone. Danny Kaye pipes up, "How much is Wow?" and Bing trys to change the subject, so Danny grabs him by the lapels. "How much is Wow?!"

The answer: "Somewhere between ouch! and POIN-N-G-G-G". "Wow." And they carry on. And now I am going outside to enjoy beauty, fresh air, peace, and quiet for FREE. And don't anybody bring up the mortgage payment! More on the vacation including photos later. Cheers.

Posted by anita at 5:14 PM

April 17, 2005

Sakura

Apr16-Sakura1.jpgSpring at last! In spite of freezing overnight temperatures this past week, my garden is responding to the slightest sunshine at a feverish pace. The daffodils have begun blooming, the tulips are not far behind, and every lilac bush is covered in buds. Purple, I think. The mountain ash is the leafiest tree, but the newly-identified chestnut isn't far behind.

My biggest thrill this week was looking up from a bed of irises into the bare branches of our apricot tree, to see white petals where I didn't expect anything but twigs. I didn't know apricots blossom just like Japanese sakura, with blossoms first, leaves second. The contrast of white and red blossoms against the bare boughs is heavenly. It reminded me of Koranke, a park near the town I lived in while studying in Japan. The plum trees in the mountains there bloomed earlier than most trees in the city, so I got to see sakura, very briefly, before I left Japan at the beginning of spring.

Only a few apricot blossoms have come out, and it's been grey and rainy most of the week… but in the sun this afternoon even the cherry tree was showing a few white petals amongst the leaves. If the weather goes back to last week's pattern, rain at night and sun all day, then it will be spectacular by the end of next week. I hope it lasts. My next post will be full of outdoor photos again, I'm sure… some of our garden, and some desert scenery, and some 4x4s. But that's all for now!

Posted by anita at 1:15 AM

April 9, 2005

The Great Outdoors

Apr3-FrontYard.jpgAnother update delayed… I've had connectivity problems for over two weeks now, and my current upload speed is a whopping 0.5 k per second. If that sounds ok to you, read that again. That's "k" as in kilobytes. Dial-up really rots my socks! But the end may soon be in sight – I finally heard confirmation that two-way broadband satellite may be available here as early as July. Keep your fingers crossed for me. In the meantime, given my current struggle just to perform my job, I've stopped trying to get online in my spare hours. Instead, I've spent more time outside in the past three weeks than I have in the 7 months since the last four-wheeling trip. (The next trip is coming up soon, by the way.)

While Bev was visiting last weekend we spent two and a half days working in the garden and feeding the neighbour's animals. It began Saturday morning with a present from Bev: pansies to brighten up the front entrance. She also showed me (with only 3 casualties) how to transplant tulips to fill out the centre of these old planters we hadn't gotten around to throwing out yet.

Apr3-Lambs-n-Llamas.jpgI've got 15 photos I want to post (out of over 60 taken during the weekend between Bev, Richard and I), so I'm going to let these creatures speak for themselves. I'm kicking myself that I didn't bring the camera outside with me yesterday, as I let all the llamas and Daisy and her lambs into our yard, to crop the grass. (Had anyone caught me on camera trying to get them back OUT of the yard again, that would have made for a funny photo.) The following animal images are taken around Jonathan's property, not ours. (Make sure you read on to see what we got done here at home!)

Apr3-BevfeedsCam.jpg Apr3-BevfeedsNeru.jpg
Apr3-DaisyLambs.jpg Apr3-Penny-kid.jpg

Apr3-BevWired.jpgIt may look like we spent the weekend at a petting zoo, but we actually got a tremendous amount of yard work done in between visits to the new goats and introducing Bev to the llamas. Sunday morning everyone was up early, and after a full day Saturday the idea was to quit by noon and take a relaxing drive into town. But first, Richard wanted to get the septic tank covered. That's the gigantic hole in the ground right on the path to the back yard. The ideal covering material seemed to be railroad ties... which we happened to have a large supply of, holding up the old bird pens that surround our barn.

Thus began an entire day's work to take the wire off the posts and haul them down. I was very grateful when Rob showed up to help because I was much happier just hitting the switch on the winch in Mechano's warm cab after several hours of back-breaking labour with wire cutters and a rake. I think you can get the gist of it from these pictures, but feel free to post a comment with questions and I'll elaborate later. (Amazingly, my photos are uploading at a more "normal" speed tonight, thank goodness.)

Apr3-SepticBefore.jpg Apr3-Pens.jpg
Apr3-Demo1.jpg Apr3-Winching1.jpg
Apr3-Winching2.jpg Apr3-Demo4.jpg

Apr3-SepticCover.jpgWhat a difference removing those pens has made to that back corner. In addition to the ties Rob and Richard cut up to cover the septic, Jonathan laid claim to most of the rest of them this week, and took down some more of the chicken wire. The rolls of it we set aside were spirited away by another neighbour this morning. And this afternoon I raked another patch of four foot tall brush into a good bonfire starter. The small chicken coop is still standing, however, despite being pulled right off its footings. I'm looking forward to seeing it fall, but that's a job for another weekend.

Last Sunday ended with a covered (but not yet buried) septic, and Bev and I filled a third of the pickup with pine cones raked from the front drive. Rob showed us a few pictures of his trip to Moab for Easter Jeep Safari, and then hit the road early to avoid another snowstorm in the Coq. We cleaned up and Richard fired up the new barbecue again, this time for prime rib on the rotisserie. A very nice end to the day. Bev and I had a more restful day on Monday, exploring the neighbourhood, holding baby goats, getting eggs for her to take home, and generally taking it easy until I dropped her off with Richard for the drive back to Vancouver. I was so tired I crawled into bed for a nap as soon as I got home, but I've been out just about every evening since then. One more week, and all the pruning and weeding will all pay off - the first daffodil bloomed this morning.

Posted by anita at 11:38 PM

April 1, 2005

Let It Grow, Let It Grow, Let It Grow

Mar25-KamloopsLake.jpgWe are a few weeks behind the coast here in spring weather, with light flurries still surprising us some mornings, scattered hailstorms ahead of chill winds, and no sign of blossoms on the fruit trees just yet. But things are definitely growing. I've been out in the garden repairing a year's worth of neglect almost every day for the past couple of weeks, joyfully discovering things as I go. It's nothing like the coast, but when we compare our area to the landscape of Kamloops, a desert (at right, thanks to Allyson for the photo), I am grateful for how much more fertile it is here, and try to be patient. I felt a little guilty this morning as the snow was falling, having just hacked several year's growth of grapevine and other mysterious twining things to near oblivion yesterday, removing a thick insulating blanket of leaves in the process. But the snow didn't stick and warm rain soon followed. We need it.

Mar28-YardWS.jpgThe trees and shrubs have the kind of hazy green seen best out of the corner of one's eye, but as I've made headway against the three foot tall dried grass of last summer, I've found all kinds of small green things carpeting the old vegetable plots, flower borders, and beneath some of the trees. In this shot of the west side of the back yard, there's the lower vegetable plot in the foreground, completely covered in strawberry-like weeds, and a line of young trees two of which we think might be cherry, with a couple of tiny lilacs and some ground cover that looks promising. Unfortunately, having only seen the yard briefly in September, and too distracted to pay much attention when we moved in a month later, we really don't know what we've got. So our decision this spring is to allow anything unique, possibly flowering, or potentially edible to grow where it has sprung. We'll label what we want to preserve or move when we figure out what we've got and where to put it.

Mar28-Currants.jpg Mar28-WestGarden.jpg
Mar28-Growing1.jpgMar28-Growing2.jpg Mar28-Growing3.jpgMar28-Growing4.jpg

That's where you green thumbs out there come in… I've got pictures of some vaguely familiar shoots, some that seem intentional plantings complete with stakes, and some we could swear were weeds but perhaps a second opinion would be a good idea. If you recognize any of the above from these tiny low-res photos please let me know!

Below are the courtyard by the front door, cleared of both weeds and scrap reno materials, and the east side of the front yard with the apricot tree in the foreground. I'd like to show off more of our hard work in getting trees pruned back, excess growth cleared away, and some order restored. Only, I doubt you're able to tell the difference. It still looks a mess! Richard has grand plans for levelling out the back yard below the deck and replacing all the tumbledown walls with larger stones, and I'm envisioning rock gardens and terraces and comfortable seats; but realistically, if we can get as far as cleaning up the tangles and the weeds by the end of the summer, we'll be doing well. An acre didn't seem very large when we moved in, but three hours to tame one flowerbed has changed my point of view!

Mar28-Courtyard.jpg Mar28-Apricot.jpg

I must say, I'm looking forward to sitting on a deckchair on the lawn on a hot summer afternoon, soaking up sun and the scent of lilacs, regardless of whether my "lawn" is still covered in dandelion and fibreglass, or neatly terraced new turf. Someday it's going to be a gorgeous yard, and for now, it surprises me how much I enjoy getting out there with shears and a rake and the vague memories of favourite gardens in the back of my mind.

Posted by anita at 1:42 AM