Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Merry Christmas

Usually when I am away from the blogging world I at least stay up on all the happenings in all of your lives but this time I just was gone plain and simple. So I apologize for that and hope that this post will explain.
Christmas at Menagerie Manor started out a bit sad for MeMa and myself as we are dealing with our eldest son and his wife being separated and the confusion that is causing for our grandson Brooklyn "Little Terrorist #2".  Separation and divorce is never a good thing when there are children involved. MeMa and I try to make home life at Menagerie Manor as solid and unchanging as possible for him, all the while tying not to interfere in the way that our son is dealing with things.  But it is hard many times not to comment or give opinions when we see Brooklyn acting out in frustration over the simplest situations.  Enough said on that matter!
At around midnight Christmas Eve this old man was attempting to put a leg into his pajamas when the phone rang,  MeMa yelled that it was our youngest son Ian. I  quickly tossed my pajamas and grabbed my trousers running while putting them back on.  Ian and our daughter-in-law were headed to the hospital as the contractions were very close together. We actually got to the hospital before them by about fifteen minutes and when they pulled into emergency I was waiting at the door with a wheel chair for the expectant mother. T hey had pre-registered on-line (amazing) so we were whisked on through and in a wink Jill was made as comfortable as possible in a very large, well outfitted birthing room.  The staff were so nice and being early Christmas morning they were all excited at the prospect of the first Christmas baby being born at their hospital.  Lucy Ann Chambers "Little Terrorist #3" was born a little after four in the morning on Christmas Day.

MeMa is a bit old fashioned so I spent my time in the waiting room with Jill's mother as she does not deal well with such things as blood.  Along with Daddy and Jill's older sister Kelly, MeMa was by Jill's side during the birth and she was the one to cut the umbilical cord and washed Lucy's hair before Daddy gave her a sponge bath as she wriggled and squirmed.  They then swaddled her and gave her to Mommy to be nursed and made comfortable.
So I would like to remind myself once again of what has become my credo and is actually quoted in the "About Me" to the side of my posts.......

"Life is too short to wake up with regrets.

So love the people who treat you right.
Forget about the one's who don't.
Believe everything happens for a reason.
If you get a chance, take it.
If it changes your life, let it.
Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would most likely be worth it. "

A very Merry Christmas to you all

Sunday, November 27, 2011

" I'll Be In The Greenhouse "

Menagerie Manor is a busy place these days, the driveway has an abundance of vehicles, rooms buzz with voices and the kitchen is once again the hub of excitement.  I mentioned in an earlier post that our eldest son and his wife have separated and he moved back into his old room at the top of the stairs bringing with him his Boston Bull "Popeye".  MeMa's good friend Andrea also going through a divorce stays with us as well.  So once again I find quiet solitude out in the garden.  Don't get me wrong, I love my life and the people in it.  They unfortunately have quite a bit of drama going on in their personal lives and when discussion leads to these dramas I am probably the least likely to keep a level head and mouth shut, unlike my beautiful wife who stays calm and often comes up with the most logical solutions to familial drama.  With that said I must tell you I am amazed at how much I have gotten done in the gardens.   I have gotten enough of the re-landscaping done to the back that I was able to plant next years crop of garlic on schedule, twice as many clumps as last year.  I spent one afternoon putting the bubble wrap insulation up in the greenhouse (note to self, remember to put it up before filling the greenhouse with all the pots of tender tropical plants for winter storage....duh)! I cleaned out the chicken house, sprayed for lice and covered the floor and nest boxes with nice fresh straw.  Dug all the dahlia tubers and am drying them for winter storage.  Pruned all the roses down to three feet so that they won't be damaged by winter wind, along with all the dormant pruning to many of the other trees and shrubbery.  All this was accomplished while keeping my mouth shut and head in the game....most of the time.
Even with the cold and very wet weather we still have a few things in bloom in and out of the greenhouse!  I love this little Chrysanthemum, it reminds me of a picture of the sun that the "Little Terrorist drew and stuck on the fridge.  All they need is the smiley face in the center.

And fresh from the greenhouse Orchid #49, which happens to be MeMa's favorite, Miltassia 'Shelob Tolkien'
While I was taking a break in the sun room Ray and Peter, MeMa's two canaries were quietly singing away when they took fright of something outdoors, I was able to grab a photo of a Red Shafted Flicker hanging on the side of the Redwood looking for insects.

Monday, November 14, 2011

"They Just Want To Be Noticed"

When it comes to working in the gardens most of my time is spent in the back garden which is very high maintenance.  While I acknowledge the fact that I have a front garden I don't choose to spend a great deal of time working in it, so with that in mind at the time of installing the landscape I created the front garden as a low to no maintenance landscape.  I used trees and shrubs that need once a year pruning or fertilizing.  I was way ahead of what is now the eco-friendly sustainable gardening when I removed all the lawn, built berms and planted the trees, shrubs and ground cover.  Now over half the neighborhood has followed my lead.  Early spring the Mt. Fuji Cherry and the Star Magnolia offer an abundance of color along with the clumps of tulips that bloom and disappear leaving us once again with an inconspicuous green landscape.  Last weekend I took advantage of our not so November weather and was putting a nice tidy edge to the cotoneaster ground cover when a woman pulled up and asked what "that purple thing was"?  I looked in the direction she was pointing and told her "Purple Beauty Berry". She responded with, "Oh I hope you don't mind me asking but they just want to be noticed."  And with that she drove off leaving me looking at this lovely plant sitting at the edge of the front walk.  Yes, she was right, this shrub that sits quietly in the green landscape all through the seasons when most plants are admired for beautiful flowers chooses November of all months to suddenly burst forth with the most stunning garlands of purple amethyst berries. 

Purple Beauty Berry
'Callicarpa dichotoma'

Monday, November 7, 2011

Gardener Back On Track

Lawn cut in half, brick in place, shrubs transplanted and temporary fencing up to keep the dogs out of the work area.

Well before my last two posts I was going to post about some big changes that are taking place in the gardens here at Menagerie Manor.  Unfortunately plans do get changed so the garden has been on hold for a bit.  I am hoping to get out there and resume work soon. In the thirty five years that we have lived at Menagerie Manor the landscape has undergone quite a few changes.
Faze one, at time of purchase, was lawn from border to border.
Faze two, the back of the property became a myriad of gravel pathways with plantings on all sides and no lawn.
Faze three, I found out that I was going to become a father and immediately removed pathways and plantings and installed a large lawn, play structure and a tree house with a glider mechanism that carried many a squealing child from tree house, traversing the lawn and stopping at the play structure on the other side of the yard.
Faze four, empty nest.  No more play structure, tree house removed as well although I had a tuff time taking down the glider.  Built a very large koi pond with foot bridge and turned the gardens into a fairly tropical paradise.  The one thing I have always enjoyed was vegetable gardening, but with the addition of the large greenhouse, chicken house, bird aviary and a four car garage instead of the single one.......well there just was no more room for the garden of choice.  I talked to the owner of the nursery behind us and asked if they would be willing to sell five or ten feet of the adjoining land but the answer was NO.  Always the optimist, I sat on the bench and pondered my predicament.  I was looking at the back drop of foliage to the rear of the property and then it hit.  Transplant! That was it, dig out a portion of the back lawn and move everything forward turning all that is currently foliage into bare ground, to be planted with vegetables the following spring.
Faze five, old man spent all of a weekend removing sod, amending soil and transplanted a Coral Bark Maple before old man hobbled into house and collapsed in a whining heap not moving until bed time.  When faze five is completed and at this rate I would estimate 2015, I will have lovely rows of corn and every other sort of vegetable for the table.  In the mean time could somebody pass the liniment?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Little Pumpkin That Became King Of the Gourds

Remember my posts about my hopeful entry in the annual Pumpkin Parade? I also posted a few about the slooow progress as my little pumpkin started its journey.
Yesterday at 5:00pm sharp the good people in our neighborhood cheerfully got together for our third annual Pumpkin Parade.  Our little pumpkin was loaded into a wagon, he watched us nervously with his radish eyes and sniffed the air with his potato nose.  
MeMa gave him a reassuring hug
And then off to the Parade...........
It was a record turn-out and besides the King of Gourds there were several other entries as well....

Even the Tin Man had an entry

The Little Scarecrow did not have an entry or a comment for that matter

                              There was much standing about before the parade started its route,

                                             but it soon did with a trombonist leading the way.
There was at least forty strong this year
With all the commotion, it brought folks out of their homes, some joined in and others took photo's.
A sad attempt at a group photo was taken by yours truly, at least I got half of the group

Then it was back to Menagerie Manor were GG Ma and GG Pa had a Kodak moment with the "Little Terrorists"
Little Terrorist #1 Taeya, practiced her curtsy and allowed the paparazzi to photograph her.

Little Terrorsit #2 Brooklyn (left) and his best friend Olly

Before the Little Terrorist were turned loose on the night we all sat down to a nice hot bowl of MeMa's home made clam chowder, a delicious secret recipe passed to her by her mother which we have made a Halloween tradition.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hole in the ground.......

.........and the green grass grew all around and around..........and the green grass grew all around!  This is one of the children's songs that the "Little Terrorists" play while dancing around the toy room. Unfortunately it also describes a recent problem that I am battling in my orchid house.

With the coming of fall some clever creature has discovered the warmth within.  The first sign that something was amiss was some succulent starts that I mixed cottonseed meal into the potting mix, evidently it is also a tasty treat for what is tunneling its way in.  I went to the greenhouse to water in the morning and found over half the succulent starts dug out and laying on the potting bench.  I re potted and looked around and discovered its entrance.  I scooped all the soil up and filled the hole back in tamping the soil down hard both inside the greenhouse as well as outside.  This has been going on for about four days and each day the hole gets dug out again.
Large enough hole that cool air just billows through
The locking bait box to the right evidently has to narrow of entrance and the small live trap is found sprung but no occupant.
No.... the little round red thing is not a land mine, its just a weight that I had on the top of the useless box trap......but that might be an idea.
These last three pictures are what greeted me yesterday morning after I thought I had filled it in for the last time and placing brick on the outside.  This time I removed the debris and filled everything in with rock.  Upon my entrance this morning there was no sign of debris, everything as I had left it......I'm not holding my breath! 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Salted Fish

Many creatures have been a part of life at Menagerie Manor.  Some stay until health has been restored, whilst others become a permanent part of the menagerie that has given our home its name.  We have become very adept at recognizing potential health issues that either we can take care of ourselves or seek professional help before it gets out of hand.  Unfortunately sometimes even a professional can't work a miracle, thus is the case of Koki.  Twenty one years ago we were at our local pond shop to purchase food for our then small collection of goldfish and two little koi fish that we had in our small backyard pond when I saw that the shop was running a special on the three inch koi for $3.00.  I bought an orange and black and MeMa picked out a lovely multi-colored one.

Koki, notice her sleek body shape
Our little backyard pond was soon enlarged as the fish grew and we added to our collection.  MeMa's little koi which we named Koki (Glitter in Japanese) soon became larger then the rest, both never missing a meal and the fact that she was a hen.  Every year after about age ten she would become loaded with eggs but after spawning the hungry koi would follow along and eat them before any could hatch, which was probably a good thing as nine large koi was over exceeding the pond population anyway.  This last summer Koki became what looked to us as being ready to spawn again, her appetite and activity were excellent, but then we realized she was still getting bigger around and no spawning.  I started to lessen the amount of food to see if that would make a difference in her girth and at times it seemed to be working but then this last month she was showing signs of a little distress in swimming to lower depths.
These two shots show the now bloated Koki still swimming about and always hungry
These last two pictures I emailed to the Northwest Koi Club for their resident health expert to look at and hopefully give us an idea of how to help her.  I was so grateful of her quick response to my email and even more surprised that she asked to come out to Menagerie Manor and lend her assistance. Saturday morning I busied myself with chores in the garden until her arrival.  Linda came loaded with gear and a treatment box ready for action.

Linda laid out all her gear on the lawn in front of the pond area

because of her buoyancy she was an easy catch
While I held the large net Linda moved Koki into this plastic sleeve type net so as to protect her scales from getting damaged.
She was then slid into a small container with just enough water to keep her unharmed but allow Linda to examine her.
After closely examining her it was found that she was not egg bound but was unfortunately showing possible signs of gradual kidney failure. Linda treated her with antibiotics and then released her back into the pond, where the other fish followed her around and then swirled all around her as if protecting her from being hoisted back out of the pond.  After five minutes of this activity they all swam to the deep end of the far pond.  Linda told me to add forty pounds of pond salt daily for the next three days, then after 21 days  start doing water changes in order to reduce the salt content in the pond.  Except for reimbursing her for the medicated food all this help was volunteered and when I asked if I could pay her for her long drive and hours spent she refused saying she was just happy to help.  We are very saddened at the thoughts of eventually losing Koki to kidney disease, but Linda assured us that our little family of koi are very healthy and that Koki's illness was most likely not environmental.  She also said we should be very proud of the age of our fish.  So the work has started, tonight is the last addition of salt and I have been feeding them a steady diet of the medicated feed.  With my fingers crossed and some prayer I'm hoping to see some improvement in Koki.  Linda could not be completely positive in her diagnosis, so this treatment schedule could possibly give us a cure for Koki.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Birthday Wishes And Lemonade

There are times when life rolls us a lemon, we usually manage to make lemonade as the saying goes. Several weeks ago we were given the sad news that our oldest son Nathan and his wife have separated and and asked to move back home to Menagerie Manor.  Separation and divorce are never a fun event especially when there is a child involved.  Thankfully the Little Terrorist #2 is only three years old and does not realize what is going on yet.  But my grandchildren are geniuses and I would imagine he knows more then we give him credit for.  For some time now, our good friend Andrea who is going through a divorce has been living with us and was staying in the guest room upstairs which just happened to be Nathan's old room.  So with some moving around Andrea is now in the guest room on the main floor and Nathan is back in his childhood room.  All this chaos came right when we were ramping up for MeMa's big birthday get-a-way.  Our other daughter-in-law Jill suggested that we rent a beach house large enough to handle the entire family + dogs of course.  So last Friday we all landed in Lincoln City, five adults, two excited Little Terrorists and four barking dogs.  The house we rented was very nice, old but nice and it was built on a bluff right above the beach with easy access to the beach.
The whole beach side of the home was glass from floor to ceiling.
Whilst our two son's went into town for some brother time, the rest of the tribe headed for the beach. There is nothing like marital troubles to turn a normally cheerful young man into a hard to deal with cloud of gloom.  So when the younger son volunteered to drive his brother into town we thought the moodiness would didn't!
From left - Little Terrorist #2 Brooklyn, Boston Terrier Popeye, Little Terrorist #1 Taeya, DL Jill, Chihuahua Ninja, Dachshund Sophie, MeMa, Corgi Miss Betty

Our first morning jaunt to the sand was a little cool but it was perfect weather for sand castle construction.  About an hour on the beach the sun warmed us up in no time, so jackets came off and the Little Terrorists were in the water in no time.

Brooklyn gathering equipment for some heavy construction

A damn was soon built giving Miss Betty ample supply of fresh drinking water from the fresh water inlet.

Nothing like a good old splash in the waves

Little Ninja soon tired of the cold and spent the rest of the outing as my papoose

Sand and fresh air calls for a fare amount of naps in the sunshine

Sunday afternoon everyone left for Portland leaving an exhausted MeMa  and myself with an extra day and a half to ourselves.
Before they all headed back to Portland we treated everyone to a hearty lunch at "Mo's".  So with bellies full the back seat was soon fast asleep.

Monday morning stroll on the beach

We could not have asked for better weather and gorgeous sunsets