Monday, December 8, 2014

I Can't Stop

 Winter came early here this year.  We had our first measurable snowfall the week before Thanksgiving.  I had gone out to get the mail and when I saw the rain had changed over to snow, out came the camera.  I realize this looks more like a snowball fight than a snowstorm.

Big Flakes, almost need a helmet.
We've had years we could work on rock and garden projects into the first week in December, so this storm really did catch us with our snowpants down.  We still had some daffodils to get in the ground and with a little luck, they'll come up even though they were planted haphazardly.

There's Frank the Urn in his Christmas Outfit

The garage urn.  Sadly unnamed.  Must rectify that.  Any suggestions?
We had some bitterly cold temperatures in November, well below zero some nights.  Now that we're into the first week of December, it's been warming up some.  

The driveway Gate Grates covered in snow.  Always wondered what they'd look like white.

 Waking up the next morning was magical, there's nothing like snow to transform the ordinary.

 Enough of the driveway, let's wander into the back yard and see what Mother Nature did there.

Look, I had the steps shoveled before I took pictures.  Good job, me. 
Roses still blooming on the railing.  My mom painted this for me last month.
There it is, the Quarry.  Under there, somewhere.
So since it's officially the end of the gardening season and all this white stuff fell, of course, it is now skiing season.  (I know, it should be house-cleaning/Christmas shopping/baking/gift-wrapping/stained glass season. I know.)  But we never know how long we'll have snow, right? (Ok, we'll probably have snow until April, but remember last year I bought new skis to replace the ones I wore out?)  I decree it Cross-Country Ski Season.

There.  I said it.

I can't stay cooped up in the house when there's snow to be used.  That's a crime.

So anyway, the weather has turned a bit warmer again and my ski trails were getting a bit thin in places around the Back Eight.  I skied right through Gun Deer Hunting Season, too, but only after dark when all the guns were supposedly home and tucked in their cases.  Although last Saturday, Joel and I took a chance, donned blaze orange, and skied one of the Rails to Trails hiking trails.  We were lucky, no one took a shot at us.

Today Carl and I were at loose ends.  This weekend I worked on some Christmas decorating which meant we ended up with two horses in the dining room.  Metal horses, that is, the ones below in the picture.  It never fails that every year the light sets on the horses malfunction and then Carl and I go round and round with him insisting he can fix them and me railing against spending hours on repairs when the lights are clearly old and brittle.  Wonder of wonders, I prevailed this year.  We bought new lights. 
The horses last year.
Picture the two horses above in our dining room while we stripped them of their old lights and reapplied new ones.  Sheesh, such a job. 

After church this morning, we were kind of restless.  The snow here is thin, I've gone around the farm so many times I'm sure the neighbors think I'm truly nuts.

I've still been keeping up with my exercise routine,  walking with Leslie Sansone, tossing weights around three times a week, but Sunday's are traditionally my rest day, no Leslie on Sunday.

After dinner, Carl wanted to know if I wanted to try a new cross-country ski trail about 40 miles north of home.   I jumped at the chance to leave the Christmas clutter and work behind.  Let's go!

(I didn't take any pictures of the upcoming adventure; the rest of these are of the yard here, lol.)

Overlooking the frozen mud puddle in the Quarry
We left our house a bit late and arrived at the Machickanee Cross Country ski trail-head at 3:15 PM.  Even though it was so late, we chose the 3.9 mile 'intermediate' loop.

Snow dome and Snow Balls.
We've been skiing for over 30 years, so intermediate didn't sound too scary.  We skied through some gorgeous woods filled with pine, birch and beech trees with their papery winter leaves still clinging to the branches.  After a half mile we came to the branch in the road and a sign indicating the loop we wanted.  As we skied along, we came to a tree with a metal sign nailed up that read: Most Difficult.  At least, that's what I think it read, it was black with jagged white lines across it.  Not quite skull and cross bones, but  I started to feel a little twinge of dread.

As we moseyed on a little further, I saw the reason for the sign, the trail suddenly went down.  Far down.....  Oh, my.   I was flabbergasted, oh my goodness, how far down does it go? We're traditionally flat land ski people, downhill is not for either of us.

Carl asked me if I wanted to turn around and go back. (In retrospect, YES would have been the right answer.)   We stood there discussing it for awhile and noticed how low the sun was on the horizon.  How bad can it be?  I mean, heck, it's Intermediate.  Can't be THAT bad.  Right??

Carl bravely stepped forward.  "Wow, it's slippery," he said as he aimed his skis down the hill.  Down he went, picking up speed at an alarmingly rapid rate.  My heart sank.  He was out of sight in a split second.

I didn't hear any screams of agony.  Maybe it wasn't as bad as it looked.  I stepped forward cautiously. I can't stand here all day (or night).  Not wanting to look as chicken as I felt, I started out slowly,   planting my poles in front of me trying to brake as much as possible, but it was for naught.

Skis make zipping noises as you go and mine went from a nice quiet zip zip to zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZIIIIIIIIIIPPPPPPPPPPPP before I even made it ten feet down the hill. This ol' gal was FLYING!!!

 I saw my life pass before my eyes as I came careening down the hill completely out of control.  The further down the hill I went, the steeper it became and the more speed I picked up.  Oh, this will never do!

There was a curve coming up and a FOOT BRIDGE with a creek!!!  I'll never make the turn, I'll end up in the creek!!!   That was when I vaguely remembered something from South Park, that naughty animated TV show, and a skiing lesson...'If you pizza when you should have french fried, you're gonna have a bad time."

Was I supposed to Pizza now?  (Put the toes of my skis together? Or was I supposed to French Fry? The ski tips apart?  Or was it Snow Plow???  OH NO, oh no, oh no, oh no, my balance was going, the bridge is getting closer....... time to Abandon SHIP!!! 

I was clearly Going To Have a Bad Time.

Inexplicably, I remembered Mom and I driving home from town one Sunday forty years ago when suddenly the brakes on the old Buick went out.  We were trying desperately to stop, it was an AWFUL feeling.  She was pumping the brakes for all she was worth, and then hit the emergency brake only to have the cable snap.  She jammed the car into first gear and we hung on for dear life.  PLEASE JUST STOP!

I bailed out, dropped to my right side and flopped around like a rag doll from that point on. Snow was flying everywhere, I didn't know which end was up.   My new jeans left impressive blue-dyed snow skid marks for a good 25' before I came to a stop. One pole was halfway back up the hill and unbelievably the other was still in my hand. I ended up on both of my knees in a praying position with my skis crossed behind me, but I survived. I've never been happier to be still in my life. 

 Carl came back up the hill on his skis (I think he was french-frying) to pick up the pieces of his wife.

"Are you alright?! Wow, you really took a fall!" he said.

"Well, it beats going off the bridge into the creek," I said.  "I think, anyway."

Carl had to help me extricate myself from the tangle of long skis, finally unhooking my boot from the binding so I could get my right leg out of the pretzel position it was in.  Luckily I remembered to stand perpendicular to the hill when I stood up on the other ski, or I would have gone on down the rest of the way on one foot.  I was shaky, my right ankle was complaining a little, but everything was good.  I reapplied the other ski and continued on across the bridge.

 Of course, when you go down, you have to go back up, so we mushed our way up the hill on the opposite side of the creek with some trepidation and a lot of sweating and panting.  This was hard work and we were worried, dusk was falling and how many more of these hills were there?

In less than a quarter mile there was another downhill run.  I hesitated, but the ol' 'when you fall off the horse, you have to get right back on' adage was stuck in my head, so we went for it.  Carl was behind me and we tried our best to slow down, but the trail was icier here.  Halfway down, Carl yelled, "OHHHHH L O O O O O K  O O O O O U U U TTTT!!" as he flew on by.

 My skis were a little slower than his, and he had no choice but to pass on my right.  I had no time to watch his theatrics, it was all I could do to stay on my skis as trees flew by at breakneck speeds.  Finally, mercifully, the trail leveled off again and we both stood there panting.  I saw the imprints in the snow of other not-so-lucky ski victims earlier in the day, we weren't the only ones 'having fun'.

We plodded on until we came to another black sign proclaiming yet the next 'Most Dangerous Hill'.  Another one?? Yeah, right.  No way.  Off came my skis.  Fine, I'm walking.

Carl agreed, too.  Twice was enough, can't tempt Fate one more time, we're both 56 years old, we don't bend like we used to.

For the heck of it, I set my right ski down on the ground to see what would happen.  Without even giving it a push, the ski leaped to life, careening down the hill all on it's own, following the tracks of earlier skiers.  I shuddered to think how much faster it would have gone with me in the binding.  I was perfectly happy walking, thank you very much.  And at the bottom of this hill was another foot bridge.  I would have never made that turn.

By the time we walked up and down a few more hills, we could finally put the skis back on and make some headway toward the parking lot.  It was now almost 5PM and darkness had fallen.  We were both very tired and sweaty.  My light winter jacket was soggy and my wet hair was actually starting to stiffen in the cold air. 
 We flopped into the car and sat there for awhile, guzzling water.  Ah, it felt good to sit down!  I think this was the hardest 3.9 miles of skiing we've ever done.  We were sitting there looking at the map in the dome light when Carl said, "It looks like the other loop is an intermediate one too.  There is a beginner's trail, though.  We passed it by the gate."  

"I think we'd better stick to the beginner's trail next time," I said.   "You don't want to ski it now, do you?"
"Oh, not now! I've had enough for today," he said.

We pulled out onto the side road and drove slowly as it curved sharply.  Suddenly we came to a 'Hill' sign.  I tensed up immediately until I remembered Carl had just changed my brakes last Thursday.  
Oh, we can stop if we have to, yes, yes we can. 
No Pizza or French-Frying Necessary.  Just push down on the little pedal.

Brakes are a Wonderful Thing.  
 I wish someone would invent them for cross-country skis.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Meet Frank, the Urn

Last summer in the rush of all the garden walks here followed by the magazine article hoopla, we met a whole bunch of very nice people.  I'm ashamed to admit I can't remember all of their names, but it was a treat talking gardening with other enthusiasts.  Last summer was the busiest tour season we've ever had (which is also our excuse for not working on ol' Aaargh at all.)

Anyway, one day in late July a dear lady called me to see if it would be ok to bring her garden club friends over.  She lives out of state now and when she comes back to Wisconsin to visit her family, she usually makes a stop here with her pals (and brings the most delicious box of chocolates for you know who).  I was delighted to see her again and when two carloads of happy ladies pulled in the driveway, I greeted them cheerfully.  What seemed a little odd at the time was the two groups didn't mingle at first, but I didn't give it much thought as I dragged them around the garden for the Official Tour.

We had a wonderful visit, strolling the gardens as a large group with me answering questions and talking smart.  Although the smart part is starting to wear a little thin with me; I swear I lose my train of thought when someone calls me on the spot to name a particular cultivar of hosta or tree or what have you.  I fumble around in my brain and nope, the answer isn't there until a few hours later when there's no one around to impress, and then, out it pops, "Hosta 'Sagae' was also known as fluctuans variegata." 

Carl will look at me quizzically and I'll say, "Never mind.  Couldn't think of the answer until now."

Ok, back to my rambling here; as I said the two car loads of ladies weren't mingling much, though they were polite with each other.  Finally, the group bearing the delicious chocolate gift took their leave. 

As they drove away, the other group asked me who they were.  I said, "I thought you were all together."  Ok, turns out they weren't, it was just a coincidence the two groups arrived at the same time. 

One of the ladies, introduced to me as Mrs. P, took me aside.  After seeing the pan fountain and the dome and gates, etc. she was impressed with Carl's ability to repair and reuse items for the garden.

"I have something I think you'd like," she said.  "It's a big old urn my late husband and I had for over fifty years.  We used to have it in our restaurant as a fountain, but then we took it home and put it in our garden. As time went by,  it rusted and fell into disrepair.  It's been sitting in several pieces out by my barn for a very long time.  I've had a few antique dealers come around and offer me money, but I always turned them down.  I want you to have it.  Please come over to my house and take a look, ok?"

I didn't know what to say; but did ask her what she wanted for payment.

"Nothing!  I would be so happy to see it restored and put to good use in your garden," Mrs. P said.

I told her I still felt guilty about accepting the urn as a gift, but she would hear none of it.  "Here's my address and phone number, and when your husband gets home from work, please tell him about the urn.  I look forward to seeing you!"

When Carl came home we talked about the visitors and the urn, but neither of us felt comfortable descending on the lady immediately.  A few days later I called Mrs. P and told her we'd be coming that evening if it was alright with her.  Despite the fact she'd said the urn was big, I felt that arriving with a trailer in tow would look rather presumptuous.  What if she changed her mind about giving it to us?   So we took the Pontiac.

When we arrived at her home, we were amazed by everything.  What a beautiful place she has!  Her driveway was all done in bricks which were reclaimed from a street in Appleton and laid one by one by her late husband in a glorious pattern.  Her home had been completely remodeled and was perfection personified, when she showed us pictures of the old farmhouse it had been, it was unbelievable.  These two people had worked tirelessly on their home and garden for decades and it showed.  Though her husband had passed away several years earlier, it was clear she loved and missed him very deeply. 

The first thing Mrs. P said to us when we arrived was, "Where is your trailer?  Remember I told you the urn is BIG?"

I mumbled,  "Well, we weren't sure if we'd need a trailer and if you'd changed your mind or not," but before I could finish the sentence, she was off across the yard.

"Let's go look at it.  But I don't think it's going to fit in your car."

Wow.  She was almost right about that. The urn was Big.  As in Very.

 I don't have anything to show comparison sizes here, but the base alone is 2' x 2' and there are only two pieces shown here.  The upper piece was missing a corner and the top part where the rest of the urn would fit into is rusted away.

Close up of the broken top
Carl backed our car up to the barn and opened the trunk.  We all scratched our heads.  Was this going to truly fit in our car?
This part would need reconstructing if the urn were to stand again.

The pedestal part was the least of our problems loading.  The biggest parts were to come.

This is the lower part of the urn's bowl, shown with the piece of steel Carl fabricated to repair the damage.  This bowl is 36" in diameter.  And heavy.  We didn't weigh it, but between the two of us, we needed all of our strength to cram it halfway into the trunk of our car.

Though I don't have a picture here, there is another identical bowl that fits inside of the decorative one above, good grief where are we going to put it?  But we managed, much to all of our surprise.

We had the bowls in the trunk, part of the pedestal in the back seat and I straddled the other half in the passenger seat on the ride home.  By the time we left her home, it was nearly midnight because we'd stayed to visit.  Luckily the roads were fairly quiet, but every car we met flipped their high beams at us.   Our car was hanging down so far, with the weight in the trunk our headlights were up in the sky.

When we arrived home, we both risked hernias getting the bowls out of the trunk and went to bed.  Carl set to work the next day to make new parts for the urn.  Total repair time was over forty hours, spread over two weeks, but it was well worth it.  

Carl had to make a tapered plate and a half round section of steel to fit and then weld in place.

Before we left her house, Mrs. P recalled  she had some faces for the  urn in her machine shed and we were very glad she remembered where they were.   

Shown after they were painted, these were the faces that needed to be bolted back on.

It would have been very hard to replicate these faces.
After Carl was done fixing the pedestal parts and the urn received a coat of bronze paint, it was nearly impossible to see where the repairs were made.

There are a few pieces of decorative trim missing, but that's ok. 

Joel added to the project by bringing home two pieces of concrete left over from a job at a friend's house for a base.  And my friend Brenda had given me the sweet potato vines and dragonwing begonias which fit just perfectly.

We had just the site for Mrs. P's urn, right in front of the house. This is the first urn you see when you drive in the driveway.  (After Ernie, that is.)

Not to be left out, Ernie now has company.

Carl, looking very tired and dirty here after a long day's work, poses with his job well done.

And dear Mrs. P did come to see the urn after it was completed and was tickled pink.  She once again refused payment and took pictures with us and the urn.

I told her we'd have to do something to honor her as a thank you, like a plaque.

 Mrs. P said, "If you do make a plaque, put it in memory of my husband, Frank." 

We will be having a plaque made.

Welcome to Quarry Garden, Frank.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Nebraska: The Movie

I have no pictures with this post and it's very late at night, but I just finished watching 'Nebraska' on Netflix tonight.  For the second time.  I don't often watch movies twice, but I think I could watch this one a third and fourth time because I relate to it.  Boy, do I.

Filmed in black and white and set in rural parts of Montana, South Dakota and, of course, Nebraska, the movie is the tale of an elderly man, Woody, with a penchant for alcohol and advancing dementia.  Woody firmly believes the Publisher's Clearinghouse-like letter he receives in the mail declaring him a $1,000,000,000 Prize Winner (is that a million?  You can tell I'm not familiar with the big bucks)  in their sweepstakes.  If no one else will help him get to Nebraska to claim his prize, he will walk there if he has to.  Finally, his youngest son, David, agrees to take a road trip with his father.

Ok, Dad, we'll go to Nebraska.

I won't go into detail about the movie, there won't be any spoiler alerts, but for anyone who has ever dealt with aging parents, this movie is dead-on.  When I started the film, I almost decided against it; do I really need to see a depressing tale of senile dementia and the effects on the family members?  I'm in the midst of that battle myself.  But ok, misery loves company, so I settled into my Lazy Boy to watch.

I figured the movie would either be very sad or there would be slapstick comedy, a couple of car chases and bad 'Depends'-type jokes/mishaps, the usual indignities disguised as knee-slapping hilarity served up in movies about old people.  I was pleasantly surprised, there were no cheap shots, just stark reality.

The reality of watching a parent struggle and his son feeling a duty to do what he can to fix the situation.  I have been there, done that with my late father.

I am there, doing that, now with Mom.

My father was a big, powerful man with a short temper who seemed larger than life, and I admit I feared him.  And I also admit, I did not know him personally.  Not really.  Like Woody, so much of Dad's life abuse and demons were carefully hidden from view only to come out in the drinking and anger.  And as he aged and became more frail, I wanted to reach out and protect him from tripping and falling, just as I would with a toddler learning to walk.  But of course, this was an affront to his dignity, and much like a toddler saying, "NO, I can do it MYSELF!" my frustration, fear and worry were a bother.  Don't coddle, don't hover, but don't abandon them, either.  They are still adults, they have dignity and willpower.  And they know what they're doing.  Until they don't.  And then you have to step in and take charge.  And it sucks.  And like that toddler, they won't be happy with your interference.

Watching the movie unfold, I remembered many drives I took with my father after he had slipped into dementia.  We'd be just a mile from home and he'd peer out the window and say, "I've never been here before," as he gazed out at the farm he'd been born on eighty-six years before.  The same farm he cleared of trees as a child, walked behind a plow with a team of horses, and eventually covered thousands of times on a tractor.   It was all new territory to him.  And I would bite my lip and blink back tears, trying hard not to say, "Now, Dad, you know this is our farm.  Come on, now, be reasonable."

I didn't say it.

"Yes, Dad, it's a nice-looking hayfield, isn't it?" as I slowed the car to look at the acres of alfalfa rippling gently in the breeze.

And he'd continue staring out the window and say nothing more, soaking in the sight of the field almost hungrily.  A few times I  parked the car and we sat in silence watching the swallows dipping in flight over the alfalfa in bloom.  Finally he'd rouse himself and then I would know it was time to move on to our destination. 

He didn't know who I was half the time.  I was the enforcer of rules that made him angry.  Like the time he filled the lawnmower's oil reservoir to the top and was soon enveloped in a cloud of blue smoke so thick I thought the house was on fire when I arrived.  He was not happy with me when I ordered him off the mower and had him shut it off to cool down so I could drain the excess oil.  He reluctantly got off the mower and went to the garage, but before I knew it, he was right back on it again, defiantly continuing to mow, smoke billowing.   And hot in pursuit, there I was, at forty- something years old, chasing an elderly man on a smoking riding lawn mower around the yard.  What a sight we were, to be sure.

Much like being a first-time parent with a new infant, caring for an elderly parent put me into situations I never could have anticipated if I'd tried.  If someone would have told me that by the time I was forty I would be holding my father's hand as if he were my child on our halting walk across a parking lot to a shoe store, no, I wouldn't have believed that could ever happen.  But it did.  So many things happened, good and bad.  Some so comical I'd be weak with laughter, some so frustrating I wanted to run screaming for my sanity, some so sad, I cried on the spot.

When my father went through this stage in his life, I was still parenting our young sons, so I was truly in the 'sandwich generation' trying to be caretaker, wife, mother, and sane all at once and failing more than I succeeded, sad to say.  My mother isn't as much of a handful as my father was, so far, anyway.   This time around I don't have children or a job to tend to in addition, so it is more relaxed, but now I'm older, too.  And I won't sugarcoat it, it's still not easy. 

It seems if we live long enough, we will all go full-circle, from helpless infants to wayward toddlers with a mind of our own to childhood, adolescence, adulthood, middle-age, and finally to our elderly years. We may once again become wayward and willful, chafing at the restraints placed upon us by supposedly caring adults who think they know what is best for us despite our protests of "NO!  I want to do it MYSELF!"

Old age is not for sissies.  And the caretakers of the aged can't be sissies, either. 

'Nebraska' was a funny movie as well as poignant, there were a few moments I startled the dogs when I laughed out loud.  Oh, yes, I have Definitely been there, done that.  Oh, how did the writers know?  

It is obvious someone has walked in my shoes.

Woody wouldn't give up.   And his son didn't either.

And neither will I.

L-R: my late brother, Bob, Dad, me, and Mom 1964

Friday, November 7, 2014

Shared Worry Lessens the Burden

I have to tell you  my worry has eased some over the last few days.  I know for certain the biggest reasons for my relief was getting it all down in writing and being blessed with wise, warm and loving concern from the blogging community, my dear friends.  Thank you. 
Random fall garden pictures, Milton the Rock with hostas and Golden Shadows dogwood.

Things are looking tentatively better.  We took both dogs to the veterinarian on Tuesday and with a few tweaks of medication and a bag of dental treat chews apiece, we left with lighter hearts.  (The dental chew treats were for the dogs, just thought I'd clear that up.)  Our veterinarian, Dr. B, is a wonderful man; I've often asked him if he takes on human patients, but drat, seems his license only clears him to work on four-legged creatures.  I did point out that chickens are bipeds, just like me, but that didn't change his mind.  No, he can't be my doctor, too. 

Teddy, looking surprised to see me.
Dr. B is always optimistic and impressed by these two old troopers of ours; he said with meds and luck from heaven above, we could all be together for quite some time.  Or not. And I know what he means, so we'll cherish what time we have.  I was able to halve the dose of furosemide Pudding is taking and she seems much more comfortable; even barking to be fed last night which was music to our ears. 

Mom is working on painting another garden ornament for me but I've got to get her something else to do as she's nearing completion on the project.   Busy hands make for a happy heart and she is never happier than when she has several things waiting to be painted.  I have a collection of cast iron garden lanterns and she has painted all of them several times. 
One of her latest works of art.

 So now that we're hopefully on a plateau around here with aging moms and dogs, I can talk about what else has been going on. 

Ok, not much. 

We didn't work on Castle Aaargh at all this year; with being in the magazine and all the visitors who came to see the garden there was no time to get all the rock pallets hauled back up and the mortar mixer out.  One of the visitors said we could look at the project as something to do in our retirement and in the meantime, it's a ruin.  Wise words, don't you think?
A ruin with a stained glass window.  Yep, that's what it is.
Our last magazine tour visitors came about two weeks ago.  I think that is the latest anyone has officially toured the garden.  I was headed up to Mom's with my walking poles and duh, forgot her pills, so I turned around and marched back to the house to get them. 

When I came back out of the house, I was startled by a car sitting on the road at the end of our driveway.  A big, black car with tinted windows.  Tinted windows make me nervous, it's like mirrored sunglasses.  I have a hard time making eye contact with people wearing mirrored shades.  Who's behind those Foster Grants?

But you all know me, the lady who drags Jehovah's Witnesses around the garden for tours even when all they want to do is save my soul.   (Ok, that was an accident and it only happened once.  I thought they were a group who had called earlier.)

  So I smiled at the blank window and waved them on in.

The car rolled into the driveway and the window rolled down to reveal two nice people who wanted to let me know my landscaping from the road was very nice.  And of course, we all know that I said, "Thank you.  Do you want to see the back yard?"

And of course, we were off and running.  We'd already had a frost and the day was dark and drizzly and the hostas were hanging like rags, but they both said they'd come back next summer when the garden didn't look like a bedraggled bedspread.  The pictures in this post are from that day, in fact.  The last hurrah for 2014.

Golden Shadows dogwood fall color

We're still working on clearing out the garden for the winter which has been a much more relaxed task since we don't have mortar mixers and rocks to deal with at the same time.  I guess it was a good idea to take a break from Aaargh construction this year.  We'll get back at it next year.

Since these pictures were taken, the hosta foliage has degraded significantly and all I have to do is grab hold of the leaves and they fall right off.  I don't like to leave the foliage stand through the winter since it harbors slugs and possible disease and also because in the spring, I have way more than enough work to do.  This way we can start out with a clean slate when the spring crazies arrive.  And this year, there is an abundance of mice all over the place, so giving them less places to hide will hopefully help.  I've never seen so many.  It's creepy.

The Quarry takes on a different look in the fall.  I've got to get those waterlilies cut back, too.

When it rains, Carl's pyramid shows the light and dark side more vividly.

Going through the Egress Gate, this is where Carl and I cleared out hostas last night.

I still have this bed to clear yet.
 And now for something completely different below:  Carl made some more garden sculpture this summer.  I know the pictures don't do them justice, but these stainless steel 'things' were made from scrap at his work. 
Hard to see in this picture, but they resemble pussy willow branches.  Ok, if you have an imagination.

 Trust me, they look better in person.  As you walk around them, the different facets light up, they're really cool.

I stuck bunches of the welded stainless works in the roller stands that usually hold the petunia pots for winter decoration along the driveway.   

And in the rain one day, I got the garage urns ready for the winter, too.

I have to tell you about an amazing gift we received from a garden visitor this summer.  Stay tuned for that tale, coming up soon.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!