Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Spring So Far

Hard to believe we're already entering the third week of May.  I don't know where the time has gone.  So far, this spring has been very dry.  We've been exceedingly lucky that we haven't had any severe weather like other parts of the country had earlier in the month, though.

Tarda species tulips--blooming later than usual for us.  Like me, tardy on posting!
We were fortunate to have one half inch of rain on Monday which helped quite a bit.  The farmers around us are nearly all done planting their crops; it certainly was bizarre seeing dust rise as they worked land in May.
Work here has been, like always in the spring and summer, hectic.  We're trying to get a lot of things done all at once for upcoming garden walks and weddings.  The calendar is full of dates for when people will be visiting; I just hope I remembered to write them all down.
The daffodils are getting long in the tooth already and the hostas are starting to pop out of the ground at a rapid rate.  I've been weeding as fast as I can.  I had to lock the hens in their run for the summer; they've been a big help catching bugs and scratching around, but the hostas are just too tempting to resist.  Some cultivars must be extra tasty because the chickens had certain varieties pecked right down to the ground. Any time I put mulch down, they have to see what is under it and mulch goes flying everywhere.  Sorry, Girls, it's time to give this ol' gardener a break.
The Girls last fall, free to roam again.
I've been working in the greenhouse part of the day, getting my pots planted up and making cuttings of annuals I want to propagate.  Last night the temperature dropped to near freezing, so we had to make sure everything was covered in the greenhouse, too.  I haven't planted any annuals out in the garden yet, around here the last frost date is June 1.
Grass is growing, weeds are sprouting, trees need pruning, everything happens all at once in the spring, doesn't it?  Sometimes it is completely overwhelming! 

 We generally try to pick the worst problem first and deal with it, but this year, that is proving to be a difficult task.  Since we had no snow cover to speak of last winter, we had alot of plant damage along with a lot of frost heaves-- we've had rock formations shifted substantially and everything will need work.

'Golden Shadows' dogwood
I was walking through the hosta bed the other day and came across the above sight, 'Golden Shadows' dogwood in early leaf against a black rock looks like little butterflies, doesn't it?


The trilliums are almost done blooming, too.  I wish spring flowers lasted longer.


I was glad to see 'Gold Heart' dicentra pulled through the winter.  There were many plants that did not.

I'm not sure if this is 'King of Hearts' or 'Luxuriant' dicentra, but by any name, it's still pretty.
I haven't been feeling fantastic this spring; I think it's mostly related to thyroid (again!) and stress.  I don't sleep well, which then leads to keeping later hours than I should which I know is not good for me.  But what's the point of tossing and turning in bed if I can't sleep?  Might as well cut out the middle man. (I am working on keeping on schedule, I am.)

Here's the Quarry (while it still has some water in it) with early water lilies.  I see one is in bud already, it seems too early, but I guess it's just me.  Mother Nature is right on time.
I was feeling extremely overwhelmed when I took these pictures and just plopped down on a rock and aimed the camera haphazardly.  Sometimes I need to get a grip and take a breather.  Everything that needs to get done will get done; and whatever isn't accomplished will still be here in the morning (or evening) or in the case of Castle Aaargh, in a decade.
 Visitors continually ask us, "Do you ever sit out here and just enjoy the view?" and our answer is always, "No, because then we see more weeds."  Sadly, that is the truth.  So when I took these pictures I thought what the heck?  For once I will sit here and enjoy the view.  (And yes, there are weeds, and lots of 'em.)

After I got done with my Quarry break, I decided to go get the planters in to the greenhouse so I could pot up their summer flowers.  When I tried to put one of the urns on the two-wheeled cart, the entire urn broke in two.  Oh, yes, now I remember; I hit this urn with the snowblower on our tractor one of the two times I removed snow last winter.  Looks like I did a good job. 
Luckily, Carl was able to fix it for me the next day. With a weld repair and a new coat of paint, it looked good as ever.  I was just sorry to make more work for Carl.

I forgot to write about Willie the Willow: we had to cut him down in March since he developed a long crack along one of the main branches.  The yard is just not the same without all the shade; I have no idea how the garden will fare this year.  It's all about change, that's for sure.  Where Willie stood we had a blank slate to work with; below is the end result of moving a few of our trees from other places in the yard.  We're really pleased with the look; these are all slower growing conifers that can be controlled with pruning for size to some degree.

L-R: Serbian Spruce, Weeping White Spruce, Fat Albert Blue Spruce, Sunkist Thuja Occidentalis
 I'll have to do a Willie Memorial Post soon and show some before and afters.  (But we Really miss the shade!)

We've already had our first visitors this year, a prom court from a high school:



 They were so young!  Were we ever that young??  

I'm still exercising every day; usually walk ten to twelve miles on average.   Another new thing is my rebounder (mini-trampoline) that I bought in December, yet another post waiting to be written, but I will say this, that piece of exercise equipment has made a phenomenal change in my exercise.  I love it!  

Our next garden event is a wedding coming on May 30 for photography followed by a bus trip of master gardeners from the southern part of Wisconsin on May 31.  

The Big Event is Joel and Abby's wedding in June!  The clock is ticking...........

I can't afford to be tarda.......(ha, tardy!) at all!  





Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Farewell to Teddy

Easter has come and gone.  I love the stained glass window pictured above that is aptly named, 'The Flight of Souls'.   This original Tiffany window is installed in the Wade Chapel in Ohio.  My picture of it does not do it justice; in person it is absolutely breathtaking.

2015 has been a difficult year for us so far; we lost our dear dog, Pudding on New Year's Eve and sadly, Teddy was laid to rest on the Saturday before Easter.  After fourteen years of hearing the 'jingles' on his collar and his tiny toenails clicking on the floor, the house is now very, very silent. 

Teddy in his younger years...we were working on the Quarry construction then and his white coat was most often orange from the sand.  He loved to dig!  I wish I could have let him dig to his heart's content, but he'd get it in his eyes and his ears and then we'd have to go to the vet, so we had to curtail his excavations somewhat.

Teddy on his special pillow at Grandma's house, perched in the window.  Always the watch dog, making sure we were safe.
Teddy was Joel's dog, through and through.  He tolerated me as the one who groomed him and fed him, but Joel was his special person.   Whenever Joel would lie down on the floor, Teddy would jump up on his chest and his tail would go to beat the band.  He was always happiest then.



When I first brought Teddy home, an acquaintance remarked, "Why would you want a little dog like that?  He's not going to be any good out in the garden."  Another person referred to Teddy as a 'barking cat'.  True, he was all of ten pounds, but he thought he was a Big Dog.  He had a big dog's heart and was truly fearless.  Sparky, my mother's late great German Shepherd, and Teddy had a lot in common. 
Pudding
Teddy was an only dog until we adopted his sister, Pudding when they were both nine years old.  At first, Teddy's nose was a bit out of joint; he really couldn't see why he had to put up with this female interloper.  There was never any growling or snapping between them, but Teddy more or less gave Pudding the cold shoulder for months at a time.  Pudding was pushy with him; she went out the door first and her undying devotion to me made him have to play second fiddle to treats and petting. 
I was completely shocked when one day I found them in the same dog bed.  I knew then the hatchet had been buried, they'd come to an uneasy truce. 

Either that, or they were both too stubborn to move.
We had so many wonderful walkies together.  Teddy and I would walk for miles before Pudding came to live with us, he was an excellent walking companion. 
I can't really explain the hole in my heart; if you've ever loved a pet, you'll know what I mean.  Teddy's been gone three weeks now and I'm over the acute loss phase, but I still catch myself glancing at the couch to see how he's breathing.  His congestive heart failure was becoming more and more of an issue; he'd been medicated with what our vet called the 'trifecta' of heart medications for over two years which was remarkable in itself.  The usual progression of congestive heart failure can be much faster in some cases. 
Teddy in his 'old man' sweater that I made for him.  It has a picture of Teddy Bear on it, actually, but he did look like an old fella in it.
Teddy didn't like walking much in the last year.  He was happy to go outside for his potty breaks and sometimes stroll a little around the yard, but for the most part, the long walks were over.  He just didn't have the stamina for it any longer. 
Pudding was always my intrepid follower; where I went, she wanted to be.  She loved the fields and the woods, in my dreams she and Teddy are finally free of all their woes.

Teddy loved to run for home, he always had such a proud carriage.  Carl used to wonder how many Shih Tzu's it would take to pull a dog sled, not that we ever tried. 
Whenever I took him out in public, people always wanted to pet him.  He was adorable, but unfortunately had no use for strangers.  He had an attitude, no doubt, but once he got to know a person, he was fine.  I used to ask people, "If he was a big dog, such as a Rottweiler, would you just rush up and pet him?"  When they said, no, they'd probably be more cautious, I said, "Well he thinks he is a Rottweiler, so if you treat him with respect, he'll do the same for you."

He had an insatiable appetite for playing ball; I don't know how many times we threw his 'spike' ball for him; it was really amazing how he never tired of it.  We did grow tired of the game sometimes and would resort to putting his ball in a pair of blue jeans with the leg knotted loosely shut.  He would work on that knot for up to an hour if he had to and usually always succeeded in getting his ball free. 
In the picture above, he's 'mauling' his 'old man jacket' which was always his ritual after having it removed after a walk. 
Pudding, on the other hand, was everyone's friend, she would lick you to death if you let her.  But I have to admit, she was truly my dog.  Of all the dogs I've owned, she loved me completely.  Pudding, my Shadow.

Carl always said she'd sit and listen for my footsteps when I was outside, never resting until I came in to be with her.  I do miss her joyous welcomes so much.  When a dog loves you and they throw a ticker tape parade whenever you come home, it's such a wonderful thing.  To think you are the most important being in the world to a dog is, well, it's overwhelming.
Our time with our pets is far too short...their lives are accelerated so much.  I don't know if it's really true that every dog year is the equivalent of seven human years or not, but it does seem reasonable.  Both of them were fourteen, which in human years would make them ninety-eight.  A ripe old age, but still, too short.
They are together now; roaming the fields on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge, waiting for the day when we're reunited. 
As I said before, Teddy was slowing down.  He could still jump up on the couch (which is a massive feat, I could never jump up on something twice my height) but his eyesight was growing dimmer as time went on.  His hearing was also very bad, if I called him, he would run to the other room.  It was comical, and very sad.   I never petted him unless he knew I was there; he would startle so much it scared me; I was afraid he'd have a heart attack just from the fright of someone touching him when he didn't know they were there.  We always made sure to get his attention before we petted him; he was always grateful for the gentle scratch of his tummy. 
On his last morning, the Saturday before Easter, I woke up late.  I'd had a bad cold and had slept in.  Carl was home, and I asked him if Teddy had gone outside yet.  Carl said, no, he hadn't left his dog bed.  It was already 9AM; highly unusual.  Even with all of Teddy's water pills and failing eyesight and hearing, he never broke his potty training, so I knew he must not be feeling very well.  Still, he got up when I came up to check on him and wanted to go outside.  He made it to the driveway, but then started to teeter ever so slightly.  My heart sank.  I went out and got him back in the house, and he made it as far as the living room before his little legs gave out.  He was panting heavily and I saw the exact same signs that Pudding had the day she died.

I called Joel. We both knew what we had to do; it was time to say goodbye.  I tearfully made the call to our veterinarian; the office was closed.  Teddy was lying there looking at me, wondering why it was so hard to take a breath.  I took a chance and called another vet's office that had recently opened in our small town, and was happy to hear they would fit us into their busy schedule as soon as we arrived.  What a blessing it was, I am so very grateful to the staff.

Joel arrived and we wrapped Teddy up in his dog bed and drove the three miles to the clinic.  The procedure took a little while, but it was painless; Teddy turned to look at me one last time before the anesthesia took effect and it was all I could do to stifle my sobs.  I didn't want him to think we were upset.  We wanted him to be free from his suffering. 

I remembered when he was a much younger dog and had broken a dewclaw.  I had to take him to the vet to have the claw cut back, and they had to put him out for the procedure.  I remembered how heavy his little body felt when they handed him to me to take home to recover, how limp he was, and how I cradled him into his dog bed that time and petted him gently until he woke up.  The opposite was true this time, he was not going to wake up, but he was now finally at rest.
Our pets look to us to protect them, love them, and also know when to let them go, even when everything in our being wants to keep them with us for just a little while longer.  Their love never dies, as long as we remember them, they are always with us. 

Our dear old kitty, Screech, has been gone now for over five years, but I still think I see him when I'm working in the garden at times. 
Screech was seventeen years old and we'll never forget him, either. 
Our couch will never be the same; I'll always look twice before sitting down to make sure there aren't any tiny dogs perched on it.  Both of the dogs used to sit right next to me every day; it seems so empty now.  But we'll never, ever forget Teddy and Pudding.  How could we? 


Teddy was a Big Dog. 

There will never be another one like him.  

Rest in peace, my loves. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Museum Tour

Last March, Carl and I toured a traveling Tiffany glass exhibit that came to Oshkosh, WI in 2014.  I was going to post about it sooner than this, but I'd misplaced the card from my digital camera until now.

You can read about the fascinating history of the windows here:

Seven Angels
and here:
Tiffany Exhibit

The thought of all seven of these windows being stored in barns and garages for decades is almost unbelievable.  It was such a privilege to see these artworks in person. 

Photography of the exhibit was not allowed, but I did take photos of the posters in the hall leading up to the gallery.  As we walked through the display with dozens of other visitors, no one spoke above a whisper, it was as if we were in a holy place.

Carl and I have always loved anything and everything Tiffany, and it is a very rare treat to actually be in the presence of such gorgeous antiquities.


The poster pictures above do not do the windows themselves justice.  They were indescribably beautiful.

After leaving the gallery, Carl and I toured the rest of the Oshkosh Public Museum which was at one time the home of Edgar P. Sawyer.


The mansion was converted to a museum in 1924.  The first time Carl and I toured the museum was probably in the late 1970's, just before we married.

This is the way the museum looks now; there was extensive remodeling done after a devastating third floor fire in 1994.  I remember watching the news when the fire happened and being just sick at heart.  The interior of the Sawyer mansion had been decorated by Tiffany Studios and contains two glorious windows.  We were allowed to photograph the windows but the next time I go I will be sure to bring a tripod to keep myself steady in the dim lighting.

These were the first Tiffany windows we had ever seen in person and they made a huge impression on us as young adults, eventually leading us to make reproduction Tiffany lamps of our own.  My apologies for the quality of the following photos, but in my defense, there were many visitors to the museum that day for the Seven Angels Exhibit and I didn't want to hold up traffic. 

This is the Wisteria entrance, and what a beauty it is.  From what I understand, this window was removed from the main entrance to the mansion to the new entrance in the addition, but apparently it will be eventually returned to it's original location.


 I love the way Tiffany's artists selected the glass for the wisteria clusters:



The background glass is called 'confetti' glass because of the shards of different colors of glass adhered to the surface.  Tiffany's artisans relied heavily on glass layering, too.  By using different colors of glass sandwiched together, they could add depth and shadows to their art.


I would love to have an entrance like this to my home.  (If my home were bigger than the hut it is.)

The other Tiffany window is at the head of the staircase in the mansion:


I vividly remember being all of eighteen years old the first time I saw this window.  I couldn't take my eyes off of it.  I also remember reading the 1994 news accounts of 'water rushing down the staircase like a massive waterfall' while the firefighters were trying to extinguish the flames in the third story.  I kept thinking of the stained glass and wondered if they would be able to save it.  Thankfully, they did.


This gorgeous scene is massive; and the only place I could find to unobtrusively take photos was from the balcony on the second floor.  A return visit with a tripod is definitely in order.
The artistry and shading in these windows is absolutely stunning.  And to think they were created over a century ago.
A close up of the rocks in the river, note all the layers of glass incorporated to define light.

Another closeup of the trees, so many gorgeous shades of green in the pines.
Ripple glass was used for texture along with plating.
Tiffany Studios trademark.

From any angle, the window is spectacular.

Coming down the steps from the second floor, I still cannot get over the thought of water cascading down these stairs.



And also dear to our hearts, are Tiffany lamps.  This lamp is installed on the ceiling in the main entrance.



Touring this museum all those years ago was the inspiration for a lifelong passion in stained glass work.  I have to admit that back then, I never thought we'd be fortunate enough to dabble in the art.  Having the real Tiffany windows available for public viewing in the museum is such a privilege.  After seeing those masterpieces, we always come away inspired and humbled.

Time for us to get back to work on our own 'masterpieces', winter is short!