Monday, October 29, 2007

Confessions from Halloween

Remember the fire in the backyard at Sweet Son and Darling Daughter-in-Law's house? The grandchildren were afraid of the burned-out parts of the yard until their mom spruced up the remains of the juniper bush for Halloween. Cool, huh?
Now, on to my confessions. What is it about people who toil in offices that makes them dress up like kids on Halloween and go to work? It's a tradition at my home away from home. One year I was a lion tamer, and not a very good one, as evidenced by the bloody scratches on my face. When you pressed a spot on their paws, the lion and tiger growled and their eyes glowed green. These scared the grandchildren.
Another time, I went as Sacajawea. Bird Woman, get it? I carried that damned bird around all day.
It was more fun being a cowgirl. My stick horse whinnied and moved his head up and down to the theme for The Lone Ranger. Never thought I'd get sick of hearing the William Tell Overture.
The Gypsy fortune-teller did a lot of business another year. My "crystal ball", when rapped smartly, made eerie noises, glowed, and gave answers to questions.
My farm wife costume featured a clucking chicken in a basket. When set on the floor, and a button was pressed, she made agonizing clucking sounds, and laid eggs. The grandchildren love this toy. Oh, I had my gardening clogs on.
I found a Chinese coolie hat at a garage sale so I had to play the part. The hat was really hard to keep on my head, and it kept landing on my computer keyboard.
Last year I was just about out of ideas so I came as a tourist just off the plane in Hawaii. I actually own those glasses and use them occasionally. I told you these were confessions.
And what's on for this year? It has something to do with a Mary Queen of Scots costume, a small stuffed dog, and some fake blood. Remember, she was beheaded. I may not post a picture of that one or visit the grandchildren on my way home. Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Average first snow date...

...was two days ago. I haven't really been holding my breath. But waking up this morning I could exhale, and then go turn the furnace on.

I think the contrast of the white snow makes my recalcitrant Amur maple leaves look a little redder than they really are, dont' you think?
Trick or treat? I'll say "treat" - it's moisture anyway you look at it.

Last spring I planted a Skyrocket Juniper in a big pot at the edge of the terrace. Yesterday as I was doing some preparation for winter I was trying to decide whether I should wind some twine around its branches to maintain its shape. Thanks to this snow, I find the answer is yes. I want it to look like a skryrocket, not a snowy starburst. I think I'll wind some white twinkle lights around it. That will still keep the branches pointing skyward, and I'll have a leg up on Christmas decorating!
I spent part of the day putting garden ornaments into the garage out of winter's way but a bunch of ornaments junk stays out all year on the somewhat sheltered table and shelf on the back porch. But look closer.... These two House finches found it somewhat sheltered also.
In typical Colorado fashion, the sun soon came out and the birds hit the feeders again.
Joined by their buddy, the Red-shafted flicker. A handsome fellow, and happy for some suet.
Happy October, or as we are calling it here, "Rocktober". In honor of the Colorado Rockies baseball team, heading for the World Series. It will soon be Snovember.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Flame in fall

What gorgeous fall color. This is a Flame Amur maple and I bought one two years ago for my front yard. But mine doesn't look like this.
No, it looks like this. Does that look like "Flame" to you? Where's the bright red leaves? This is the second autumn I've eagerly awaited a fiery display of crimson, only to have my hopes dashed.
I even planted a Burning bush near it a few weeks ago to give it some encouragement. I found a specimen with a bright red leaf on it at the nursery. That should help, right?
Umm, no. The one red leaf fell off immediately and now there's only a handful of sort-of-reddish leaves. The Flame maple couldn't care less what its neighbor is doing.
It taunts me. A few russet-colored leaves is the extent of my fall brilliance. I've asked everyone what the problem could be. I'm told it takes warm, sunny but dry days and cool but not freezing nights to bring out the color. We've had that kind of weather all fall. It seems the real problem is that not all Flame Maples are created equal. I have an underperformer. The lesson is to buy the tree in the autumn when you can see what color the leaves have turned. Well, no one told me that while I was buying my tree in late spring.
I'll just turn my gaze to the backyard which doesn't pretend to have any red leaves, just lots of on-the-ground leaves. I'll get to them in a couple of weeks. Besides, I like to see leaves swirling around. What's more evocative of the season? (Besides red maple trees). After Halloween I'll get serious about raking them all up.
Some real flames in fall were an unwelcome surprise at Darling Daughter-in-Law and My Sweet Son's house a couple of miles away. The electrical transformer on the power pole blew out and threw sparks all over. Which quickly ignited the backyard. Juniper bushes are not only highly flammable but threw flames high enough to scorch the top of a 40-foot tree in the next-door neighbor's yard.
This was a 6-foot privacy fence. The firemen stopped the flames just short of the house.
Darling Daughter-in-Law surveys the damage and decides that, except for the immediate terror of getting my Five Adorable Grandchildren to safety, this was a fairly efficient way to clear the back half of their property for a vegetable garden. Only a mother of one-year-old twins, a three-year-old, a five-year-old, and a six-year-old could react with such equanimity.

So much for flames in fall. Give me only red trees without the flames...please.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Home again

Don’t you hate coming home from vacation and there’s no food in the house?
After getting in late on Saturday night, I got up Sunday morning and all I could find was potato chips and ice cream for breakfast. Then it took me approximately a week to unpack (not quite true, the suitcase is still on my bedroom floor) and to catch up on emails and projects at work. But we had a good time in Oregon and saw many strange things. The first was this dinosaur. I think it’s a weeping spruce.
We went slogging through a forest to see a waterfall. The trail was slippery and wet but you can see no one paid attention. Except me. I have a fear of broken bones.
What’s this I see? A little fairy kingdom? These mushrooms were so adorable I wanted to snap them off and eat them like M&M’s but I resisted.
We went to a winery next. We always had to do wine-tasting close to our destination for the day so I could easily take a nap afterwards. When I spotted this place I thought I was in Tuscany. Not that I’ve been there, but I read that book about Bramisole.
The winery wants you to think you’re in Tuscany too. Rolling hills, grapevines, and lots of lavender.
After my nap, I strolled around the yard of our friend’s house on the coast. Steller’s jays hang out in the rhododendrons next to the window of her dining room, which she opens several times a day to fling peanuts to them. I really like their light blue eyebrows.
In the front yard, a Manzanita with odd, peeling bark.

For excitement, we rode this dune buggy thing called a “sandrail”. The young man who was our driver apparently thinks the laws of gravity do not apply on the steep dunes. I discovered I prefer not to be that excited. Or that sandy.
Heading up the coast, the ubiquitous beautiful views.
It was really windy, or maybe I was thinking about the hair-raising ride I took on the sandrail.
This Western gull decided to make himself comfortable on the balcony of our motel room.

Heading across the state to the Columbia River Gorge, we stopped at this casino. I lost 80 bucks here on a nickel slot machine. How can that be?

It was typically rainy while we toured the Gorge. 1.1 inches of rain that day. And breathtakingly beautiful.
Every structure is cloaked in moss.
This is Multnomah Falls. I really wanted to climb the trail up to that bridge but the Dubious Gardener has his limitations. He wondered if there was an elevator. Maybe next time.
Back in Colorado, and it’s getting very fall-ish. See how pretty my neighbor’s tree is? He’s lucky he doesn’t have to rake all those leaves. They blow across the street into my yard. Home again.