Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Under Renovation

It has been a crazy, wonderful week here at Oleo Acres (one of the cheaper spreads)! Since my last post, I have been cleaning, anticipating, excited, frustrated, and elated, then tired. Why? Our DD and 7 month old granddaughter arrived from New Zealand this past Sunday!
At the end of last week, I also bit the bullet and bought a laptop computer. Sitting at the desk for long periods of time was just not working out - my neck and spine were not happy no matter what I sat in or where I moved the computer screen. Something had to change or I had to give up doing anything on a computer. I did quite a bit of research before getting one. Since the DD, aka The Computer Guru, was installing a home server to back up our computer(s) each night and store information, I thought it best to time my purchase with her visit and get my laptop included with the rest of the system. She has been so generous in her help with all of this. So far everything is working well.
I LOVE the laptop. I can sit anywhere I feel comfortable. As I write this I am sitting in my recliner while everyone else is watching TV. My spine and neck are so much more comfortable although I am relearning where the keys are. Thank heavens for Spellchecker.
But enough about the computer...I feel so very blessed having my daughter here. Although we keep in touch almost daily through computers and emails...and Skyping on the weekends so everyone can see each other, I miss having her closer. While we get to see how our granddaughter is growing - the new teeth that have come in or the crawling on the floor - I love seeing my daughter and her wonderful husband as well.
I am a believer in children leaving home and making their own ways in the world, but that independence comes with a price. I love seeing her "fly". I am proud of all her accomplishments. But with that comes a few feelings of being like a rock - grounded here while she soars. It's the way it should be, but that doesn't mean I have to like it all the time. Kelly has grown into a wonderful woman whom I am overjoyed to be friends with. My father used to say that a parent's first duty was to be a parent...to teach your children to be good people. Sometimes that meant being tough, but that's the job. If you ended up being friends at the time the child became an adult, so much the better. When I watch my daughter interact with people and hear what colleagues say about her, I know I both did the best job I could and that we've added the dimension of "friends" to our mother/daughter relationship. Win-win.
Now I get to see Kelly in the parent role. She's a beautiful mother. It shows in the smiles my granddaughter, Gwen, has on her face as she goes through her day, embracing all the universe has to offer. It shows in the patience Kelly has with a cranky child fighting jet lag and time zone changes when she herself is so tired from the very same reasons. It shows in the way she cuddles and kisses her daughter when she thinks no one is watching.

I am also appreciative to my son-in-law...for sharing his family with us. It's very clear that Gwen is a "Daddy's Girl" and misses him, even though she loves her mommy.

And I'll bet he's missing them just as much...


(PS - As soon as I get access to photos again on my computer, I'll be including some photos of The Visit with Kelly & Gwen) :)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Treasure in the Morning Sun

This fellow was basking in the early morning sun on the woodpile behind the house. The woodpile is just a few feet from the house and I was taking a short-cut from the strawberry patch to the basement door. As I passed, my brain said that something was a bit different. "Stop and look, fool. You're being shown something really neat."
I've seen him before. In fact, I've taken him from inside the basement and placed him on that very woodpile twice this summer. The Hired-Hand-With-Benefits leaves the basement door open with just the screen latched when he works about the place on the weekends. As there's quite a gap at the bottom, bugs, mice and the occasional snake have wandered in. While entering our house is an act of kamikaze-like suicide for a mouse in this "House of Seven Cats", I don't want the snake hurt. He's doing his job around here and it's an important one. He too eats mice, bugs and the odd fallen baby bird.
Terrestrial Gartersnake

This fellow is a youngster. These snakes can reach up to about 36 inches in length. Years ago I actually saw one that size here, but haven't seen any that big since. Seeing this snake actually makes me feel good about the eco-climate here at Oleo Acres. There is food here to sustain him. It's probably the "mom" in me - I enjoy seeing everyone in my charge eating well. I am a believer in not letting someone going away from here hungry. :)

Of course the sheep would tell you differently. They will tell you, even right after consuming their "mass quantities" (my apologies to the movie "Coneheads"), with hay still hanging from their fuzzy lips, that I do not feed them enough. They are starving. Their shepherdess just never feeds them enough...pudgy wee beasties that they are!

Welcome to the menagerie, Mr. Snake. Rest assured.
Some of us like seeing you around. Just be careful not to sneak up on the HHWB...he spooks easily. ;)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

We Know How To Siesta In Arizona

It's been hot here. Even for us way up in the mountains...it's been hot. So hot that even the cats have taken to summer siestas in the midday heat:
Rascal knows how to really relax...as well as block out the incoming air from the open window. Yes, he really is that big! He's going to be a huge cat. Right now he and Mooch are 1 year old gangly teenagers who are bottomless pits when it comes to food. Now I know how my mother felt trying to keep up with my 6'4" brother who never seemed to be filled up.
Mooch lays low in the Crow's Nest of the cat-tree. Why he gets up high where it's warmer I'll never understand. He doesn't move for hours in the heat, but seems to enjoy himself nonetheless.
Daisy, sound alseep and snoring to boot. She's obviously exhausted from keeping Mooch and Rascal in line.
And HRH The Princess Europa takes advantage of no one else being in the box to take her nap.

Move over guys...I think it's time for me to start slowing down during the heat of the day as well. Maybe we should get a Kiddie Pool for some Water Sports? I know Mooch would love it as he's always playing in the waterbowls anyway!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

At A Loss

Some of you have been wondering why my entries in this blog have not been many for the past few months. Well, a dear friend of ours had been diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. Yesterday morning she lost her fight.
I first met Julie when we moved to Flagstaff. My DH had one last tour of duty in Korea before his Army retirement, leaving Kelly and me behind to hold down the fort. We knew no one in Flagstaff. All we knew was it was centrally located between our respective families and looked like a nice place to retire to. Feeling somewhat cut-off, I joined both the quilters' guild as well as the weavers' guild, knowing that both groups were full of people known for welcoming newcomers. That's where I met Julie.
I guess Julie really met me. We had taken a class our local quilt shop put on, sitting next to each other at the work table. Soon we found out that we were both Army Wives (the real ones, not the TV show ones) except that Julie's husband had passed away a few years before while mine was just "gone". If I missed a meeting of the guild, or at her house where our Tuesday Night Ladies Quilting and Terrorist Society met, the phone would ring the next morning with Julie on the other end asking if we were both OK.
We loved chatting about experiences past and present. She had an extremely interesting life with the Pentagon as well as for the military overseas in Paris and Germany. She and her husband were married in Paris as well. Just the name "Paris" and you could see a smile on her face and a gleam in her eyes. True love. Julie + Lee + Paris.
She was always there if you needed help or that piece of fabric the quilt shop had sold out of and you needed more to finish a project. Kelly became like a granddaughter to her. Julie always was there with a graduation present or a wedding gift. We'd talk about the military...her about the time she and Lee spent in Europe and Lee's involvement with liaison work in Germany after WWII...me about what it was like to be a WAC, then the transition to the New Army including my becoming an investigator. I remember one evening at her house with the TNT quilters. We had been discussing work and the military. I was explaining what some of my investigative work entailed, then I had to stop due to the discussion getting a bit "touchy" on things I couldn't discuss. A young woman made a flippant remark like "What? Will you have to kill me if you tell me?" I just smiled and said nothing. Julie knew. Julie just said, "Probably.", smiling sweetly. She knew. And because of it, she was about the only person (other than my DH and a few friends) who also knew I turned down a job offer at the White House on the Army staff (way back then). She knew I loved field work and crime scenes more than the prestige that job would have brought me. She just knew and I didn't have to go into detail.
And gourmet food was top on Julie's list of "the Good Life". Foods of all sorts. Christmas always saw a bag of goodies presented to us with treats from around the world along with an appropriate wine selection paring.
Then this spring the coughing wouldn't stop. A mutual friend stopped in to find Julie very ill, but not wanting to "bother" anyone to take her to Urgent Care. She called me from the hospital to tell me she was on a "vacation" but if I was in the area she'd love to see me. I went right in to see what was going on. Fluids on the lung were drained, tests were done, and then the bolt out of the blue. Cancer. Adenosarcoma. It was everywhere by the time they did the first PET scan. She was too weak to do chemotherapy. And I saw my petite friend shrinking before my eyes.
She had no family - or at least family she wanted contacted. She had a brother but gave instruction to the circle of friends now joined to aid her in any way possible. She'd kick our butts if we did. Then this month, food wasn't going down well. We all tried everything to no avail. By last week we could see she was losing her battle and pain was now setting in. By Sunday she was back in the hospital scheduled for fluid to be drained from around her heart. It didn't improve anything. I saw her late Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning she passed on.
I will miss her smiling face and diplomatic demeanor. She lived life to the fullest, only missing her much beloved husband.

I know when the pain became too much and air could no longer fill her lungs, Lee held out his hand and asked her to go dancing in Paris. And Julie, being Julie, did the only thing she could have done...
...she went.

And I will miss her.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Taking Note...

It's been an odd summer here at Oleo Acres, one of the cheaper spreads here in the mountains of northern Arizona. We had a slow start to summer as the garden has attested to: cold nights into mid and late June saw a very slow start to seeds and transplants, winds kept drying out the newly emerged seedlings, and now the hot, high-altitude sun takes its toll on all of us. While now we just have about a 30 F degree swing between day/night temperatures, in June we still had temps swing from 75 F in the day to in the 30s F at night. Plants need to be made of strong stuff to endure those swings. Throw in the stress of our thin air allowing for more intense rays of the sun, and some plants just don't survive.
I planted my Bush Goliath tomatoes in containers on the front deck this year. While they (I have only two plants) are still only about a foot tall, you can see above the large tomatoes they produce. Clearly, they like where they are.
I was a good Do-Bee, limiting myself to only one zucchini plant. It's doing very nicely perking right along in a matching container between the two tomato plants. Can you spot the small zucchini already forming? Watch out neighbors! I take the August 6th holiday of "Sneak Some Zucchini On Your Neighbors' Porch Night" to heart! (heeheehee...forewarned is forearmed)

Some of the raspberries are starting to form fruits. These are very young plants who, not knowing about our late frosts, decided to bloom a bit on the early side this year. I was worried that most of the blossoms had succumbed to frostbite, but apparently the plants know more about it than I do. I can't help myself from noshing my way past the strawberries first, then "checking" the raspberries to see their progress. Of course they would have more progress if someone stopped eating all the fruits.
Above is a cluster of fruits forming on our one blackberry. The blackberry was here when we bought the place back in '92 and is the only one. However, what it lacks for in company it makes up in generous amounts of huge blackberries. Some years I can get a batch of jam out of my pickings. Most years I have to freeze the berries to add to the following year's harvest to make jam. The plant live right up against the south wall of the basement. I know it loves the heat from the masonry as well as it's pretty well protected against the prevailing winds. I'm a firm believer in the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." philosophy. Clearly, the plant likes where it is. So be it.
And I decided that even a tired, old chicken feeder can't retire on a "farm-ette". I sowed it with leaf lettuce seeds that came in one of those tapes. The seeds are supposed to be evenly spaced. Apparently the company who makes the tape and me have a dichotomy of opinion as to what that spacing should be - and that all the seeds need to sprout to make it so.
One of the treats I watch for are the butterflies that visit the garden and flower boxes along the deck. I was treated to this visit by Mr. Swallowtail as he sipped the nectar from the Rocky Mountain Penstemmon we have growing up everywhere. The day before this, a lovely Mrs. Hummingbird tried out both the penstemmon and the bright red petunias. Both were welcomed treats and visitors. I hope they return.

I hope that all of you have the time and opportunity to enjoy the gardens and plants about your homes. While I don't like to be outside at all in the hot midday sun, there's nothing like having a cup of coffee with Mother Nature in the cool of the morning we have here in the mountains, taking the time to appreciate all her labors.
...I guess I just need to do it using stealth tactics I learned in the military so those darned sheep don't hear me being quiet. For some reason they believe they should be fed before my first cup of coffee. How dare they! :)

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

We're Still Here...Maybe

We have been having server problems lately. When the service people arrived tonight at *:30 to look into the problems, we found out we were just one of a group of about 100 in our area whose computers lost connection capabilities. They worked for an hour. As soon as I heard "We're up!" from my HHWB, I thought it best to let everyone know that we are still here - sometimes. :)

But the best news is that our daughter and our 6 month old granddaughter will arrive here at the end of this month for a 3-week visit! WooHoo! The only sad thing is that our wonderful son-in-law will be holding down the fort at home with Sam, the Cat. It would've been nice if he could come as well.
...but I won't complain. :)