Archive for February, 2011

The Rainy Day
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

This is my dream house, north of Yountville in the rain. Haunted and unfinished, surrounded by ethereal trees, and it desperately needs a garden!

We have just had the most amazing storms! The temperature dropped drastically. Then came the rain. Then came the hail and the wind. We had a fire going and a nice bottle of wine, or two, from our Napa trip, some movies, and Tom made a meatloaf. It doesn’t get much better than that as far as winter evenings go.

The talking news heads were advising us to cover our plants, but I never actually had that kind of time. I think it’s fine though. Everything that lives out there has already survived my ‘back-to-school’ neglect and if it can also survive some ice being pelted at it, well I have a pretty strong garden to build on! Also, I’m very glad I once again resisted the urge to prune back the roses because they would have had new growth from last week’s warmth and that would be a disaster. Wait wait wait – it’s worth it! (at least if you live in Southern California!)

Waiting until after the worst of the cold to trim my roses has another benefit: I have a nice harvest of rose hips to use. Rose hips are the fruit of the rose plant. Most of us never see them because we dead head our roses and chop that part off before it has a chance to develop. We don’t plant roses using the seeds that are inside either. I remember learning years ago that there were rose seeds…!?…well of course there are!

Rose Hips...aka Rose Haws

Rose hips are considered the top plant source of Vitamin C. You’ve probably seen the jars of “Vitamin C with Rose Hips” on your drugstore’s shelves. They can be dried and used as tea, made into jelly, jams and preserves, or added to other recipes like you would a cranberry. There are tiny little hairy seeds that should be removed first, otherwise it’s pretty straightforward. I’m planning on drying mine for tea this year. Here’s a website I found which may clear things up.

Shiny and Ripe

This last year, my roses were left alone to their own devices and didn’t get pruned much. Aside from having the ‘hips’, they got a nice rest. In my opinion, pruning away at roses the way we do forces them to constantly produce and grow in ways that are human-driven and not necessarily natural. Right now they’re a tangled mess, but they’re also full of energy and life and rain and I just know that the moment I prune them they’re going to burst forth into brand new life, strong and vibrant. Or maybe I’m anthropomorphizing my roses and I really just want to feel that way myself.

Suburban Rainbows. Suburban Roses.

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The flower is the poetry of reproduction. It is an example of the eternal seductiveness of life. ~ Jean Giraudoux

Pink Evening Primrose

up close and personal

Purple Haze

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Miss Peanuts enjoys her summer naps in the Catmint

Last Sunday I was so excited to have some free time and I went on about it being my last free time ever and then admitted to that being a gross exaggeration….well, it turns out that it wasn’t such a gross exaggeration after all. So, a brief update and then I’m off to grab some lunch and get back to work.

My favorite Lavender may be un-salvagable after the hard winter.

Homework and study have hit full force, with several big assignments due and a plethora of new words to learn. I love science, but you’ve got to carry a dictionary around with you in the beginning! Last night, I even had a school nightmare: wandering around lost on campus with a paper due in ten minutes that I did not do. When I woke up, sure enough my online class teacher had posted an assignment due tomorrow by noon. How do you post an assignment on Sunday and make it due by noon the next day when the next day is a holiday? Oh well.

The Angel's Trumpets on campus in August

The good news…Tom bought me a new digital camera – an early birthday present. It’s amazing and I’m still learning all of its tricks. So far, I’ve only used it for work. Friday, I took about a hundred pics on the job which I’ve got to download and sort out for the client/vendors this afternoon. I’m excited to see how they turn out and then start taking new plant photos with it. Just in time for Spring!

The Hyacinths popped up last month - like clockwork!

I’ve managed to plant some peas and radishes, arugula and lettuces. Last Sunday I pulled out all my leftover seeds and took inventory. Since work is seriously backing up, I will only be able to plant a few things here and there while cleaning up the garden and trimming things up for spring. It will have to be done in tiny time increments as I get them. The biggest thing I have learned, or learnING, is time management. With so many irons in the fire, I tend to work until I drop and then I’m sick. This year, my goal is to schedule time to rest and play in between all the other…and to pace myself. That’s the hardest part for me. I’m an extreme type person and that level pace is difficult. It’s getting better though.

Miss Peanut luxuriating in last Summer's study zone.

Have a great Sunday, remember to notice the early spring flowers, pace yourself and don’t work until you’re sick. And, most important of all, dream of Sunshine!

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fuzzy purple Salvia blossoms

First, Happy Sunday everyone – we successfully survived another week of challenge and mischief. Cause for celebration! All week long I’ve had several different subjects for today’s post floating around in the back of my mind; a front porch project I finished last month, the Fennel that happens to be in season at just this moment, seed inventory for Spring planting, a book review on the “Potting Shed” book that Dottie gave me…But, now that Sunday is finally here, I don’t want to do any of that. Instead, I’m going to share some photos from last year’s garden and take the lazy way out for a change.

creamy pink Witch's Mittens

Briefly, it’s too beautiful outside today and I’ve been cooped up in this house for what seems like the last two years! – I know, I exaggerate a little bit.

early August harvest

Also, I seem to have just a little bit of slack in my schedule today. Since I decided to take a giant leap off the proverbial cliff and signed up for three classes this semester, I don’t know how long that’s going to last. What if today is my last day EVER of having slack in my schedule? – ok, so today is the Sunday of Gross Exaggerations.

my volunteer Pampas Grass

Speaking of classes, all three involve a lot of reading and I’m actually interested in the subjects; Plant Biology/Botany, Physical Anthropology, and Cultural Anthropology…they seem like one class to me since the subjects overlap quite a lot, and I’m seriously in love with the science I’m learning about the plant world. Yes, I know a lot about gardening…but that’s different than knowing the science behind what I experience out there. When I get a little more comfortable with everything I’m learning, I’ll start using it here in my posts – very exciting stuff. Well, for me anyways!

Apple blossoms and Blue Felicia

So, since I’m not struggling with homework, the laundry is fine, the house is clean enough, I have no errands to run or appointments to keep, the pets are fed and Tom is happy with his newspaper…I’m going outside. Right now! and I’m going to stay out there until I get a little of this Spring Fever out of my system. A little bird told me we are going to have another cold snap next week, so I’ll probably just do some weed pulling and clean up…who cares what I do – I don’t! Just as long as I’m out there in the golden Sunshine enjoying this feeling of not having the weight of the world on my shoulders, for as long as it lasts, and counting my blessings that I don’t live somewhere cold or under the siege of a major governmental uprising, and grateful to Fred, the massage therapist that fixed my back last week so I can once again stand upright. Thank you Fred, I’ll try not to undo all of your handy-work today!

August Grapevines taking over

Have a great Sunday, dear Friends and Family….and remember to treat yourself to something beautiful today.

The lovely Miss Peanut waiting for dinner service

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We were driving down the highway just north of Yountville on a rainy January day. There was no agenda or destination except whatever looked interesting along the way. It was dark and cloudy and there weren’t a lot of people out. It was one of my favorite types of days: haunting and more than mildly Bronte-esque. (Ok, so maybe I’m the only one who thinks of Wuthering Heights when I’m in the country on a dark day.) We were almost past these trees when we both noticed them, rising up in the darkness like some strange creatures from a ‘film noir’ ghost story. We immediately did a u-turn so we could get a closer look. In the car, it sounded more like “OOOOH STOP!”

Peju's haunting driveway

It turns out we were at the Peju Family Winery. Having tasted their wine before, we decided to get a closer look at the trees, then head indoors for a tasting. Some wineries in this area want you to make an appointment. We are truly grateful to the wineries who do not. 🙂

Tom looking jaunty with his umbrella!

Tom’s cellphone rang when we stepped in, so I distracted the lady at the front desk by asking her about the trees. She told me they were Sycamore trees that had been trimmed and trained. They have been working on this strange shape for over 20 years, patiently letting them grow in an arch over the road. I was impressed at the discipline, like a bonsai project of gargantuan proportions.

rain-soaked Peju vineyards

The building, called “The Tower”, is beautiful and reminded me of the estates we saw in the countryside outside of Paris, France. They have an art gallery upstairs, a shop with kitchen goodies and books…and, of course, the tasting room!

The Tower

Inside, we met Mr. Robert Sherman, who let us taste what I will honestly say were my favorite wines of the entire trip. Of course we bought as much as we could afford and yes, they ship! If you ever visit the Peju winery, be sure to ask for Robert – he was awesome and knows his way around a bottle of wine! He also grows tomatoes and we had a fabulous conversation about the hazards of growing them in the unseasonably chilly and short California summers of late. (That made my day!) The good Mr. Sherman even gave me permission to photograph the stained glass wall that was in the tasting room, which is in the main part the “Tower”. This is where I wish my camera had been just a bit better. I have been complaining about it lately…I think it’s getting a bit worn out from the millions of photos I’ve taken with it, so forgive the mild fuzziness of these:

The colors were so vibrant in person. Bright blue irises, red poppies…

…and warm golden pears. No, I think they’re lemons!

Having spent our wine budget, we headed back outdoors to see the formal gardens, which were soaking up the rain.

Yes, I do have to photograph every vine I see crawling up a wall, or a gate, or a…

Rusty iron makes me happy too.

Another favorite detail of this stop was the white marble sculpture by Welton Rotz called “Eternal Cycle.” In all of my travels, I have never seen anything quite like it and I was excited to see a reference to the “Triple Goddess” in such a random place. I walked around and around it until I was dizzy and soaked, but it was worth it.

The maiden, small and moving upward…

The Maiden

…the mother, full and steady…

The Mother

…the crone, shrinking and wizened.

The Crone

And, of course, another quick peek at the Sycamore trees!

Tom at Peju

Thanks to the Peju Family Winery and Robert Sherman for one the highlights of our trip! Every time we open one of the bottles of wine we bought, we get sentimental and all romantic and stuff…and that’s all I’m going to say about that!

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