A Garden of Dreams

It is late March and despite the subfreezing temperatures and the promise of snow later in the week, we just met with our gardener to discuss the vegetable garden we want to plant this spring.  The snow has finally melted, for now at least, and it appears as if some “early birds” are already nest hunting around the house, confirming that spring will arrive…eventually and our Garden of Dreams will become a reality.  The excitement is palpable.  Well OK, maybe it is not as exhilarating as winning the Mega Millions, which I tried unsuccessfully to do this weekend or even as stirring as the status of March Madness, but for Irwin and I and our slow home lifestyle, it is absolutely thrilling.

 

Irwin & our gardener measuring for the garden

 

An "Early Bird" Nest Hunting

 

We have been discussing the possibility of planting a vegetable garden for eleven years, ever since taking title of our home in the country. The thought of growing food along with caring for farm animals has been a dream of ours from the outset. It is almost impossible NOT to consider a slow home, farming life when surrounded by lush farmland, rolling hills and babbling creeks, but the reality of our weekender status never allowed us to move forward with either. 

 

lush Farmland, rolling hills

 

 

 

babbling creeks

 

 

However, that never stopped us from dreaming about as well as continuing to discuss it.  Early on, immediately following our first visit to the local county fair, I was convinced that raising animals was our destiny.  After looking at all of the beautiful farm animals brought to show at the fair, I knew that would be a part of our future in the country.  And while my dream of an Alpaca farm is still on the back burner, our dream of building a garden and growing our own vegetables is coming to fruition. Now that is progress, country style.

 

A Fair to Remember:

Howdy Cowdy

 

 

 

A couple of kids

 

 

This big piggy

 

 

Seriously, she's got Milk

 

 

Alpacas...on hold

 

 After sharing the fresh salad our neighbor Gloria, a master gardener, brought to our Road Party last summer, we revisited the possibility of planting a garden this year.  Gloria had offered to mentor us, which was just the impetus we needed to get the ball rolling.  While we had what we were hoping was the ideal location, there was still the issue of maintaining the garden during the week, when we are in the city.  That glitch was remedied when our wonderful neighbor Jeanne suggested that we collaborate on the vegetable garden.

 

Gloria's fresh garden salad- helped make our dream a reality

 

The plan was simple.  We would house the garden on our property (Jeanne does not have an appropriate spot) and she would help maintain and water it as best she could, when we could not be here.  After initial costs were calculated, we would determine appropriate shares of cost and harvest and go forward from there.  All we needed to do was wait for spring.

And what a wait it has been.  Despite several glorious spring days, we in the Northeast, are still experiencing winter weather daily but are hoping that eventually, (and by that I mean before July) spring will indeed arrive.

So here are the basics of our plan:

A ten by ten or smaller sized garden with raised beds. We don't want to bite off more than we can chew, at least initially.  A fence eight to ten feet high surrounding the garden to keep out the deer that use that area as a thoroughfare as they head up and down the mountain and chicken wire under the beds to deter woodchucks.

That is it: Simple and sweet, at least for now.   Much like our life in the country.

We'll see how this plan pans out.  I am sure like most other things, it will be a process with many lessons learned along the way.  But have no fear, I will be sharing updates as they occur and spring’s renewal as it transpires.

Just wanted to leave you with these beautiful faces of Charlie’s friends in the country. They stopped by to say hello while we were out making plans for our vegetable garden.

Finnegan

 

collie

 

 

And share this beautiful pair of bouquets, which are always in full bloom.  All the proceeds from the sale of these spectacular chairs will go directly to Komen CT.

 

 

 the entire proceeds from the sale of these beautiful chairs will go directly to Komen CT

 

Batter Up: Just Another Wednesday Night in the Country

Last week I read a post by my good friend, interior designer Jonathan Legate and it reminded me of an experience I had written about two years ago.  In keeping with sharing the good bad & hysterical experiences of country living, I decided to go back and edit this never before published piece and share it with all of you. Enjoy!

 

Talk about confronting phobias head on.  Tonight I came face to face with the granddaddy of all of my phobias, BATS. And I’m not talking about the kind that A- Rod swings.  I am talking about the Titans of Transylvania.  Those webbed- winged, blood-sucking vampire vermin of the night.

 

A transylvanian Titan

 

Anyone who knows me knows that despite being an avid nature lover, I loathe having anything fly over my head.  As far back as I can remember, I had been petrified of low flying birds.  When my grandmother let my budgie, Billy Boy, out of his cage for his daily exercise, I ran out of the room screaming.  Over the years, I have attempted to analyze the reason for this phobia but have not been able to come up with anything concrete.  I often wonder if, as an infant, I was traumatized by a bird mobile hanging over my crib, or could it possibly be the flying spoons of soft-boiled eggs that my grandmother piloted from the bowl to my mouth each morning that set this irrational fear in motion.   Perhaps it is simply because I spent the first twenty years of my life living directly under the Kennedy Airport flight patterns; whatever the reason, I am petrified of all low flying creatures especially ghoulish, rabid mosquito slurpers.  

 

just like my billy boy

 

My Fright Night began quite normally enough.  With Irwin in the city and my chores complete, I settled down in front of my laptop, icy cold cocktail in hand and prepared to begin my first attempt at serious writing.  Before I was able to type my first word, I saw something from the corner of my eye that sent a chill down my spine.  I shook my head, trying to clear the cobwebs of the cocktail when it appeared again.  It was big and black with the wingspan of a stealth bomber and it was traveling through the den at what seemed like Mach 1 speed.  Shockingly, just as I was about to begin writing a bat-tale, a new one was unfolding right before my somewhat bloodshot eyes.  Being known to occasionally overreact, it should come as no surprise that I immediately began to freak out.  I catapulted myself off the couch and barely missed the low farmhouse ceiling as a high-pitched shrill escaped my lips.  I frightened myself and can only imagine what it did to the not-so little fella, who was blinded by all the lights on around the house. Thankful that my screams were not confused with a bat mating call, I did what any bat-o-phobic person would do; I began to rant and cry, calling for help from Charlie, our laid-back, Flat Coated Retriever mix.  Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, he offered no support, so I immediately pulled up the hood of my sweatshirt and ran to higher ground. 

A lovely summer evening....at bat-o'clock

 

 


 Icy Cocktail


Our master suite is located on the newer side of the house directly above the great room.  It is separated from the staircase vestibule by a pair of French doors, installed in classic “local country” manner: upside down and accordingly, they do not close properly.   Being a quick witted adaptive Manhattan native, I grabbed a small towel and tied it around the handles to attempt to secure them.  Actually, I am sure there were about a gazillion other choices that would have been more effective, but it was the best I could come up with in my semi- catatonic state. 


secured french doors


All the lights were on and my not so adorable, winged friend was charging the French doors like a “ bat out of hell” as I began to hyperventilate and mumble to myself.  He seemed to be trying to leave through the porch screen door located at the bottom of the stairs and being the naturist I am, I knew that bats can fit through openings as small as an eighth of an inch so I began to pray that this winged creature of the night would exit stage left through a gap on the side of the screen door.  But, that wish was not realized and my nemesis continued to swoop and fly aimlessly, crashing into walls, doors and windows. 

 

 

 

escape route below

As I stood, peering out from my temporary safe haven I realized that, in my haste to escape, I had taken nothing with me; not my cocktail, not my computer, and most importantly, not even a phone. I was now sobbing uncontrollably and screaming “ I don’t even have a phone with me, I don’t even have a phone”, as the enormity of my dilemma set in.  Irwin, who had always come to my aid during  “bat-ventures”, was miles away in NYC and I was left with Charlie to deal with the situation.  And what a situation it was.  While I was sobbing, Count Batula was storming the palace.

 

The Count and I had one thing in common; his exit was paramount to both of us. As he repeatedly attempted to escape, I became his biggest fan, cheering him on and offering words of encouragement.  Unfortunately his sonar must have been on the blink because he was just not able to find an escape route and resumed his erratic flight pattern.

 

As I stood trembling behind the French doors, my flying nemesis took off in search of an alternate egress, leaving me a window of opportunity.  Understanding that I had little choice, I wrapped my hooded self in a towel for extra protection and opened the French doors (not a difficult task considering the fact that they don’t actually close).  With the speed of a jaguar- okay, so maybe it was more like a highly caffeinated tortoise, I ran back to the den and retrieved a phone, my drink and my laptop and retreated once again to my tower.  I took a couple of swigs of my lukewarm cocktail and waited for the pseudo-courage of the vodka to set in.

 

 

That's me...the speedy tortoise

 

After what seemed to be a millennium, the bat no longer appeared in the vestibule and I hoped that, like that infamous season of Dallas, it had all been a terrible dream.  Armed with my trusty phone, I called my husband and sobbing uncontrollably, filled him in on my predicament.  In truth, I knew that he could not help me, but I had to talk to someone and Charlie was just not interested.  In fact, despite my insane behavior, he was sprawled across my bed, dozing.   

 

 

Sound asleep

 

Irwin confirmed what I already knew.  I was on my own with no safety net.  I was forced to confront one of my greatest fears head on and despite my somewhat unstable emotional state, I was enveloped by a sense of inner calmness.  I closed the vestibule light, took another sip of my cocktail and began to write this tale.  In truth, I knew that after turning off the light, it was only a matter of time before the bat resumed his pursuit of freedom and although I was still shrouded in panic… and a bathroom towel, I also knew that I could not sleep until I set my airborne enemy free. 

 

As I continued to write, I heard a gentle knock on the wall and knew that “Darth Vader” had returned.  I attempted to quell my rising panic with another swig of vodka as I pondered my next step. Feeling as fearless as a marine, I formulated plan of action.   I would brave the elements, run down the stairs and attempt to release him by holding open the screen door on the porch.  At the time, it seemed like a simple solution.  If ‘Bat-zilla” saw the open screen door, he would simply leave- end of problem.

 

I barricaded Charlie in my bedroom and flew down the stairs.  I flung open the screen door and held it from behind as any courteous doorman would.  I waited and waited as my worthy opponent continued to fly around the great room and vestibule performing feats any Blue Angel would be proud of.  Unfortunately, he came nowhere near the door.  As I stood, paralyzed in the cloak of darkness, a frightening thought occurred to me: I might actually be inviting more bats to enter rather than assisting the departure of this single bat.  Despite this, I continued my bat-watch.  When I realized that there were no bat sightings for over forty-five minutes, I closed the screen door and did something I would not have believed possible an hour before.  I relinquished the role of victim and in its place, assumed the role of hunter in pursuit of prey.  Allowing myself no time to reconsider, I grabbed a flashlight from the porch and mounted an expedition both in and around the house, shining the light into the darkest recesses, looking for my unwelcome guest. Although life altering, the unsuccessful mission brought me back, once again, to my screen door post, prey-less.  Hunter or not, I was really tired and just wanted this adventure to come to an end.   As if hearing my prayer, Sir “Bat-a-lot” reappeared and resumed his air show.  Then, as suddenly as he reappeared- he was gone again and all was quiet on the screen door front.  I was baffled because he had been at the top of the stairs near those shoddily installed French doors just a moment before.  Where could he have possibly gone?  A quick walk up the stairs answered my question.  My very own flying “Fear Factor” was now on the other side of the French doors swooping over Charlie as he napped on the bed.  

 
Blue Angels could learn a thing or two from my little winged angel

My sense of calm immediately dissipated as I envisioned Charlie being attacked by the bat. I threw open the French doors and shrieked at Charlie who followed me down the stairs and out the screen door.  Now we were both on the porch holding the door open waiting for our uninvited guest to leave.  It was like “déjà vu all over again” and although I can’t speak for Charlie, my patience was running thin and I was rapidly running out of steam.  It was now after one a.m. and I had been dealing with this situation for over four hours.  I knew I could not leave the perpetrator in the house but had no idea how to evict him.   I am not a quitter by nature but enough was enough.  I was ready to give up, take Charlie and sleep in the car. It was a small convertible car – but it was also a bat- free car.  Anything had to have been better than this “Cat and Bat” chase.

 

 It was just at that moment, a moment of complete and utter desperation, when it dawned on me.  If The Count was not going to come to me, I was going to go to him. I went back up the stairs to watch the latest flight exhibition when I noticed “Bat Masterson” trying to escape from my room by climbing on the open window screens.  I considered closing the window, trapping him between the screen and the window but could not bring myself to get that close.  What if he was startled and flew right at me?  Who would be there to call 911 when I started foaming at the mouth?  Although like the Cowardly Lion, I too had found courage, I was not totally bonkers: I was not about to go “Rambo”.   Instead, I immediately knocked out the screen from the window closest to the door, closed the door and waited.  Finally, miracle of miracles,  “Bat-dini” made his escape and flew out the open window.  I instantly ran in and closed it and was immediately flooded with relief and awash with sheer joy. 

 

I was absolutely giddy.  I wanted to call everyone and anyone I knew and tell them that I had indeed completed my “Mission Impossible”.  I yearned to shout it from the rooftop, to write it across the sky.  I had beaten my foe.  I conquered what I thought was an insurmountable fear.  I outwitted my blind friend and won the battle.   Unfortunately, it was just before two in the morning and most of the world was sound asleep so….I climbed into bed with Charlie, who had resumed his snoring, and recounted my tale to….my laptop. Just another Wednesday night in the country.

 

Make a Wish and....

With much anticipation and little fanfare, Irwin & I packed a bag or two, grabbed Charlie and headed for the hills last week to spend some much needed time in the country.  This is what we live for and we celebrate our good fortune every day that we are able to spend in our home surrounded by nature.

Of course, the first thing I did upon arrival was walk the property and check on our seasonal guests.  I was so excited to see the nest that had been built Memorial Day and had eggs hatched on the longest day of the year now housed a robust brood of six babies that were preparing to depart, leaving us as “Empty Nesters” once again.  The added pleasure of finding that a beautiful pair of cardinals had built a precious nest of birch bark in our beloved lilac bush almost sent me over the top.

Five of six of our latest brood

 

Our cardinal

 

the cardinal nest made with birch bark

 

From the beginning our house has attracted wildlife, a topic I have addressed in previous posts and am constantly in awe of.  Irwin and I often joke about how we have willed the arrival of our feathered and furry friends and perhaps we have.

It could be argued that our purchase of a painting of a large black dog, initiated the arrival of Charlie, our big black dog and the sketches of birds nests along with the glass eggs in nests displayed in our home have heralded the abundance of nests on our property.

the painting that heralded charlies arrival

 

The "man" Himself

 

sketches of nests

 

 

glass eggs in nests

 

One could further agree that a sketch of a raccoon, the only valuable gift left by the previous owner of our house, was single-handedly responsible for last summer’s Raccoon-Fest, and finally, the placement of the wooden bunny in our “Wish Basket” which to our utter shock and amazement, brought bunnies to our property.

our raccoon sketch

 

 

Our raccoon-Fest

 

 

our "wish basket"

 

our bunny

 

We believe that the universe will give you what you ask for if you put it out there so our wish basket is always on display in the den.  We keep the wooden bunny and Charlies broken collar in it at all times as a reminder of the enormous wishes we have been granted.

Now I’m not saying that we always get exactly what we wish for, I did NOT ask for a woodchuck, especially after last summer’s raccoon-fest and our sealing up all the openings under the porch, but nevertheless, Woody, as we’ve come to call him, not only resides on our patio in a gargantuan cave he has built, but has an extended family of baby woodchucks living under our porch.

Woody

 

woody's home

 

I’ve also put several small winning lottery tickets and handfuls of dollar bills in the basket and have yet to win Mega-Millions or Powerball but there is always the possibility.

So why not make a wish or two? Who’s to say how messages are communicated in the universe or how things are heard in the heavens?  What is important is that we put our message out because…you never know.

We just added our latest wish in the basket….I’ll keep you posted!

 

our latest wish is in the basket

 

The Sweet Smell of...Roses

I can’t help myself.  When springtime explodes in the country and we are on the cusp of summer my heart literally skips a beat.  When hummingbirds visit while I have my morning coffee on the porch and fireflies light up the night time sky like fireworks, I am in heaven because I know that this is the season when we become more than transient guests in our own home.  This season, however fleeting, is the one that literally forces us to stop whatever we are doing and smell the roses.

While Irwin and I try to get away for at least one night a week during the year and spend part of the winter holidays in the country with the family, it is not quite the same as the late spring and summer when we afford ourselves the luxury of spending considerable blocks of time in our rural retreat.

And…what better way to welcome us for the season than to be greeted upon arrival on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend by a sweet little bird finally building the nest I had been pining for since the start of spring; the nest that has been there every spring/summer since we bought the house, the nest I was so disappointed not to see on Mother’s Day.

 

The perfect building project began on Friday-moved in on Sunday

 

It is part of my ritual.  When I arrive at the house, I walk around and examine the changes in our plantings and check on our seasonal guests including the Robin’s nest in the gutter and the other in our beloved Dogwood.  Imagine my utter surprise and sheer glee when I saw the first specks of mud on the porch roof. At that moment I exhaled, knowing that all was right in our little piece of the universe.

We all know that is so easy to get caught up in the complexity of daily living and lose sight of the time we need to spend enjoying the beauty we are surrounded by.  But acknowledging it and doing something about it are two incredibly different things.  Just the other day, I had that very discussion on Twitter with two good Twitter friends, @tandemantiques and @jonathanlegate.  We all acknowledged the fact that because summer is fleeting, we must take time to “smell the roses”, a priority that we often overlook.  I said that I needed to enjoy EVERY moment of this precious season and take it one day at a time.  Hilary (@andemantiques) agreed adding “It's true - I know that I sometimes squander my now because I'm focused/worried about down the road”, something we are all guilty of and Jonathan added: I’m “always thinking of the future but taking time to enjoy the present while respecting the past.”   A truly beautiful statement that says it all and is something we should all allow ourselves to do.

So, here is to summer and the beauty it reveals to us everyday.  Let’s all make a commitment now to stop and enjoy "the sweet smell of... roses” this season before it is just a memory.

Some of "the roses" we have stopped to smell this season so far: Enjoy!

Superb Spirea

 

 

colossal Catnip

 

Color-fusion

 

 

relaxing Goldfinches

 

A statuesque Iris

 

 Breathtaking Day Lilies

 

A humble bumble bee

 

The beauty of another sunset

 

The Golden glow of evening's approach

 

 

The warmth of a tea light

 

Only nature's song can be heard

 

the dance of the flames

 

Waxed beauty

 

 

Our mentor Charlie, who inspires us everyday & reminds us of how sweet the roses can be!

 

 

 

It is often said that you can never go back, that it is best to allow memories to remain as memories because all to often, when revisited, reality pales in comparison.  While this is true most of the time, sometimes, if the stars are aligned, some memories are well worth revisiting.

Irwin & I returned to the country for one night last weekend, because although we knew we needed to be in the city Sunday, we just could not bear to miss a weekend of spring’s continued revelations.

Upon arrival, I was shocked and disappointed to find the addition the robins had added to the nest featured in last week’s post, The Best Nest, torn down and laying in shambles on the ground.  I was not sure if the original builders returned and reclaimed their nest or something catastrophic had happened since neither bird family appeared during our short visit.  The burning bush guests were still in place, but there were still no tenants in the roof of our front door porch and it remained beautifully repainted and nest-free for the first time since we own our house.

Nest remains

 

 

pieces on the ground

 

Still Vacant

 

While Irwin was thrilled with the prospect of clean front steps for the first time in ten years, I was struck with a bout of melancholy.   As silly as it may seem, I love having these guests every year because they are a reminder of life’s promise and renewal.  While I began to grapple with my sense of loss, I walked around the perimeter of the house, desperately seeking some new affirmation of life, when I noticed our budding lilacs.


 

lilacs in bloom

 

Lilacs are one of my favorite flowers.  Their scent takes me back to my childhood, when my grandmother, who truly had a green thumb, tended the small garden that surrounded our house.  While we had fruit trees and a grape vine along with her prized roses, my favorites were the enormous lilac bushes in front of our porch.

 As I stood there, feet firmly planted on our soil with my eyes closed, memories of my childhood flooded my mind.  They were so tangible and life affirming, that I found myself smiling. 

The “green thumb” gene was not one that I inherited from my grandmother, as evidenced by the number of plants that have died under my care, still my appreciation for all things green runs deep.  As the lilacs of my childhood signaled the beginning of spring along with the promise of summer, our lilacs in the country perpetuate that affirmation each year.  It is no coincidence that our lilac bushes usually reach full bloom around Mother’s Day, showering me with fragrant memories.

 

Summer's promise

 

We returned to the country yesterday to celebrate Mother’s Day with our children and as promised, the lilacs were in full bloom. As we sat around the table enjoying our first barbecue of the season and reminiscing, the fragrance of the lilacs wafting through the air reminded me to step back for a moment and drink in the new memories we were creating.

 

Full Bloom

 

And….as it that were not gift enough, to my surprise and delight, when I looked out the kitchen window this morning, I saw that the robin’s nest was rebuilt.  Still in true robin’s nest style with a multitude of branches and leaves hanging over the side, but seeming more finished and polished than the last incarnation.  I’m assuming this time they consulted with an interior designer!

Re-designed nest

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 

Where the Wild Things Are

While we no longer roam the Serengeti, and most of us never did, we are all wild, wild about this new oasis we call home.

I was not the first to arrive, but somehow I was made the leader.  I was happy to accommodate and fill the position because it offered me something I had never been privileged to have before, contact with others of my kind.

To breath fresh air once again, that was my first thought as my container was opened and the twinkling stars in the gallery sky greeted me.  It had been so long, and I was so tired that I could not truly appreciate how far I had come.

 Confined in a glass and pewter cage for more years than I cared to remember, I watched life pass me by. Surrounded by crystal figurines and articles of whimsy, I watched helplessly as wall calendars came and went.  As seasons changed, I continued my isolated existence with only the occasional gentle touch of a human hand.

Things in my vantage point varied occasionally, visitors came and went but I remained as I was, perched dangerously high on a cliff made of glass.  Then one day my life was turned upside down. I was removed from my crystal cave and thrown into a dark dungeon and that is where I remained until I was released into my current habitat.

Lion King

And there I was, amongst my own for the first time that I could remember.  No longer in a cage, I felt like part of a community.  I was greeted every morning by happy smiling human faces who moved me on a regular basis and allowed me to visit with others like myself, who were delighted to find themselves in this sanctuary.

One of the first residents to greet me was Rhino.  He had arrived just days before and was happy to find another to socialize with.  He explained that he had been known in his former community as a leader, but his massive tusks had posed a threat to some of the young humans residing there, and rather than remove his striking attributes, he was boxed and sent to this safe haven.

Rhino

Rhino introduced me to Giraffe who has spent her life until this point in the care of a young human who had cherished and coveted her.  The young human had received Giraffe as a gift at birth and had kept her close by for years, but had recently been forced to downsize for economic reasons and could no longer care for Giraffe. It was a sad parting, but Giraffe was happy to have been delivered to such a fine home.

Giraffe

And the introductions continued.  There was Dodo, who had recently been featured in a prominent position during Holiday House and was confident that he would find a permanent home soon and the Polar Bears, who had just awoken from hibernation and were anxious to find a new habitat before the next winter.  Just a short distance away I found Roadrunner, who could not be in one place long enough to really chat with anyone and young Leo, a thin wiry cub who I have become a mentor to.

dodo

Polar Bears


 

Roadrunner

 

 

Leo

 At the gates to our empire, I saw Flamingo, so statuesque and poised, standing guard, anxious to greet the next visitor to the gallery and Ram bowed gracefully in meditative prayer, instilling a sense of peace and calm throughout the land.   

Flamingo

Ram

This is my kingdom.  I am its leader and I live here surrounded by things of startling beauty and style. Here is where the wild things are.

 

 

 

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