Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A loss, another one

I didn't know Rob Smith very well. I only read his posts, and got to shake his hand once. The posts were always interesting. I didn't necessarily agree with him all the time, but I enjoyed the way he presented his arguments.

He also paid me one of the nicest compliments I've ever received.

As a teacher, I am addicted to trying to inspire someone to do something they've either never done, thought they couldn't do, or, as in this case nudge someone back into doing something they'd enjoyed before.

So, when he posted that he was inspired to put in a garden after reading my site, it was truly the most pleasing of compliments.

And so, I say thank you again Rob. May your garden grow corn as sweet as your music, okra as strong as your opinions and tomatoes as sweet as your smile. Sam, if you ever read this or hear about this, I hope that you understand that you are truly the best crop he ever produced.

I lost my dad in April. No matter how old you are, how mature, independent or self-reliant, losing a loved parent is a blow that makes you want to howl, all the while that you are arranging, settling, grieving. Sam, I'm howling with you. Not so much for the fact Rob was someone I admired, but because he was your father. Only you can know how that hurts and will hurt for sometime. Know that out in Texas, another daughter of another lost parent is howling with you.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


The variegated bouganvilla is putting on a couple of tiny blooms. I never know when this plant's gonna decide to flower. Maybe we'll get lucky this year!

I may be insane. Or, more to the point, my dear 'Pup and I may share this insanity, as we share so many other things.

Our common point of insanity may be that we're in the process of setting up another water feature in the back yard. And this one is no mere half barrel with a few plants, nor is it a disappearing fountain water feature. No, this combines one with a vastly larger other one.

In short, we bought a plastic pre-formed liner (kidney bean shaped) for a small pond and another preformed liner (round) for a disappearing fountain. Not insane you say? Well, the pond isn't in yet, but it's already going to cost us a little more than we'd kinda sorta thought it kinda sorta might (one rarely gives too much planning thought to bouts of insanity after all), and the disappearing fountain isn't one from a kit. Ohh no. That would be too easy.

The kits aren't all that expensive and are really easy to install. Just dig a hole deep enough for the reservoir, fill it with water, drop in the pump from the pre installed cover for said reservoir, feed the plastic tube from the water pump into the fountain, plug in and enjoy. Oh, you'll need some rock to "pretty up" the disappearing fountain so that it actually disappears. It kinda spoils the illusion unless you cover up where the water is draining into and pumping out of. However, that isn't too hard and can be fun.

No, where the true insanity lies is in the fact that I decided that I didn't LIKE any of the other styles we could afford (Ah ain't THAT insane), and I designed one of my own. The problem with designing one of one's own is that the nifty little kit with the pump, cover, reservoir and fountain statuary included.........is, well.....not there. And one must then improvise.

The first acquisition, a Cuban pot ( think heavy terracotta vase shaped pot made to look like a part is buried as it reclines upon the soil--very rustic) was found and purchased. I chose a slightly green/gold tinted one, liking the slightly aged look. The second acquisition, a round reservoir was also fairly easy to find at a local home building suppy store.

That brought us to the first part of the improvisation. What were we going to use to cover the reservoir, hold up the pot and any requisite rocks (many requisite rocks in my brain fever inspired mind), and keep the illusion that an endless supply of water was welling up, spilling over the thick round lip of the pot, trickling down over a stack of artistically placed rocks and then disappearing into the ground?

We looked around and found no good, (ie: EASY) solution. So, we improvised. Blithely, we decided that some heavy gauge mesh fabric would do. Do what, we hadn't really thought through.

So, the next week end (not this one, last weekend--confused yet?), I dug a hole for the round reservoir. I did the digging while sitting down on a nearby bench. I cannot stand and dig. When I try to do that, my legs and back muscles get all twitchy and I almost fall down. So, I dig sitting down. If you don't think that's kinda strange, go outside and try it. No. Really. I'll wait right here while you step outside and try it.

Oh,(wipes mustard from upper lip which was just about to take a nice bite out of a corndog), uhmmm you're back so soon? Yah, I know. Digging while sitting down isn't really the most efficient way to employ a shovel. Especially when done, as I soon found, in soil that was and is liberally mixed with rocks. Not really big rocks, just the kind you can buy at home improvement stores and are called "egg rocks". I didn't know it at the time, but the reason we could never grow anything in the spot we were putting in the water features had once been part of the drainage system for an above ground pool. The drainage system had been very efficient, 'Pup told me later. Under the rocks was a very heavy dense soil, composed of mostly clay with a little sand. It took me a while to dig the hole. It wasn't a deep hole, nor was it a big hole, especially when compared with previous holes dug in the back yard (see the Great Plumbing Adventure ) But it was MY hole and that made it special.

Here it is, with round reservoir filled and waiting for the next weekend. Oh, and a picture of the pond to be as well.

You'll note, the solar powered yard light in the background. I told you, digging took a while. Oh, the fencing around the round hole is just in case Chuckles were to decide to frolic in said pool. No danger of that, we've since discovered. This dog hates water unless it's in a drinking bowl, puddle or toilet.

And then it rained. Between rain showers, we emptied out the water in the big pond and turned it over. The first shower had filled it to a depth of about 4 inches. Then it really started to rain.

Y'all might have heard a little about it on the news. We live on the high'n dry part of town. We only got about 7 or 8 inches of rain. Grass liked it, trees have been loving it, and our part of town welcomed it. Other parts of Houston had a little more difficulty.

So, the next weekend, THIS weekend, YESTERDAY to be exact, the services of the good Sr. M were enlisted. That man can dig a hole through concrete in no time flat. Damp, sandy, rock embedded clay was a cinch. It only took him about an hour or so. Then we put in the sand and tried to level the blasted pool. It wasn't easy. Several times, 'Pup suggested that it didn't really have to be perfectly level. Sr. M. merely gave him an affronted look and went on fiddling with the sand.
That's the good Sra M in the background. She'd come over to look at the garden and to help me by cleaning my house. I've been depressed lately and that means I don't clean. It's taking her a few days to dig us out. When I've tried to pay her lately, she won't take any money, saying that this is her way of helping us, well, me. She's a good friend to have.

After the good Sr. M finished leveling the pond, he put some pavers down and started backfilling the area around the pond, reservoir and the pavers with the soil he'd dug out for the pond. This had the benefits of 1) giving us some place to put the extra (nasty) dirt, as I didn't really want to try to amend it to the extent it would have taken to be good garden soil, and 2) it raised that particular area of ground enough that 'Pup and I can now walk off the wooden porch onto the pavers and down a little to the back walkway.
Yah, the picture's fuzzy. Dang camera phone.

Most of the stones are from the land my dear Pa-in-law owned, and where 'Pup and I got married. I wish we'd taken more rocks while we'd had the chance. I need more. And I really hate the prospect of actually PAYING MONEY for rocks (ROCKS!!), we may end up doing that as it might be cheaper to buy (ROCKS???) here in Houston rather than drive up to the Hill Country to get some of the good limestone there.

So, here's the pond in progress. I planted the imperial taro, in it's pot with no drainhole, as I wanted it in some decent dirt and it likes to have it's feet wet. Basically, it's in it's own little mini-marsh.

Oh, I almost forgot to show you how we made the cover for the reservoir.

First came the mesh I told you about. That's a half cinderblock under it. It's there to hold the majority of the weight and to strengthen the mesh. We used two layers of it, and screwed it to the sides of the reservoir.

Then I had Sr. M to trim around the reservoir. Neatness counts!

We threaded the tubing from the pump through the drainhole of the pot, and I siliconed it in with some nifty stuff made to caulk aquariums.

This little screwdriver is amazing. I can't remember where we got it, as we'd bought a couple as gifts at Christmas and got ourselves one as well. It's very ergonomic, recharges itself in it's own little base, has several interchanging tips and is surprisingly strong for such a little handful.

'Pup and I will be celebrating our sixth wedding anniversary on July 1st. Hopefully, we'll have gotten some fish and some more water plants for the pond. I guess it really isn't so insane a project. It's a fitting project for this celebration, as we got married on the land the rocks came from and next to a (rather larger) pond at my Maw and Paw-in-Law's place.

So, them there's the doin's at our house. What's been going on at yours?

Sunday, June 18, 2006


It's been a while since I've been posting regularly. Life sometimes overwhelmes us all, and it was my turn. Too many deaths in too short a time period. I'm beginning to remember that life is stronger than death and that change is a blessing and a chance for growth. As a gardener, I'm all for growth. I just need to find a way to get rid of some weeds.

Somewhere in the last two weeks I had a birthday. June 7th to be exact. My mom sent me a card, but put the wrong address on the envelope. Someone, somewhere is enjoying my birthday card and probably trying to figure out a way to cash a check. Mom's put a stop payment on the check. I don't really care about the gift/check, but I really wish I'd gotten the card.

Flag Day also occured. Mom says that the VFW went out to the cemetary and honored all the veterans there. I couldn't go. I was working that day. I've not yet seen my father's grave. Today is Father's day. I wish. Well, I just wish.

I got rather busy at work. We started a summer schedule: 1:30 -4:30 for a "summer camp" and then 5:00 -7:00 for the regular reading/writing/math tutoring. In addition, I've got a time slot of 10:00 am to 12:00pm for an "early readers" camp on Monday and Wednesday. Tuesdays and Thursdays I have a private adult student. I seem to be a popular teacher. My boss/friend even inquired a bit about whether or not I'd be willing to work on Fridays or Saturdays. Uhmm no. I'd rather stay late and start earlier. I like the three day weekends.

Charles the dog is.... coming along as far as his training. He's basically a sweet dog, but not exactally the brightest bulb in the pack. He's slowly working out what to do, and how to respond to us. He's a snuggly pup, and licks everything he sees (not an endearing quality as far as I'm concerned).

He also chews. And he loves my shoes. Oh well, I needed some new ones. I've a bad habit of wearing a shoe 'till it is all worn out and sad looking. It doesn't help that for the past couple/three years that I've not had the confidence or physical ability to wear anything but the flattest of flats. At five foot nutt'n, I yearn for heels.

He's slowly learning to trust us. Someone loved this dog and taught him love and trust, and then... took him to a shelter. They told us that his owner cried as he left him. But, he left him. And now, Charles has had to relearn trust. And we have had to learn to love another dog. It helps that he's kinda lovable, and a bit of a clown. He seems to be answering to the name Chuckles. e
He has a stuffed alligator. He chews on it, but, other than removing the eyes, he does no harm to it. He takes it to bed with him, along with a raw hide chew. Unfortunately for us, "bed" means OUR bed and a wet chewed rawhide is not a nice thing to wake up to. 'Pup often just puts the chews in the sink 'til morning.

Chuckles is not a morning dog. He likes to sleep in. I mean SERIOUSLY sleep in. I'm not sure he was much of an outside dog before coming to us. He seems to like outside, but really prefers airconditioning and a nice soft bed and looking outside through a window.

The cat has made some progress in accepting him. She no longer despises him. Now, she merely loathes him. She has half of the bedroom as her territory and we've made it clear to Chuckles that he is not to go there. She sometimes emerges and looks around, and goes "meerreep, mmmmoww". That makes me cry because it's the call she used for Brain. I think she's looking for him, and there's no way for me to explain to her why he's not coming when she calls. She loved him a lot more than she likes us. And he let her.

'Pup, my dear hubby is slowly but steadily losing weight. He's looking pretty good too. The man has a very handsome face and it is getting even handsomer. His mom is the daughter of Norweigan parents and I think 'Pup got the Nordic genes. Blond, blue-eyed and high cheek bones and a nicely porportioned blade of a nose. He's gonna be purty-er than me. Dang it.

More pictures from the garden at another time. We're putting in a pond and we're going to try to dig some of it ourselves. Another deep hole is in our future.

We'd never put in a pond before. Brain would have used it as his own personal swimming hole.

Life changes.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Thank you

Thank you to all the people who have left comments, and to the people who came and didn't leave comments but read the last post and said, "Awww."

Leslie's comment on the last post referred to a "Rainbow Bridge". I didn't know what that was, and I confess that I'd not checked on the link she provided. I know what it is now.

We had a good vet. She was kind to Brain and seemed to love him. She tried so hard to save him, but nothing helped.

Then, in the mail, we got this:

The full text of the poem is:
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When a beloved pet dies that has been
especially close to someone here, the pet soes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all our special friends
so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine,
and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill or old
are restored to health and vigor,
those who were hurt or maimed
are made whole and strong again,
Just as we remember them in our dreams of days gone by.
The animals are happy and content,
except for one small thing,
they each miss oneone very special to hthem
who had to be left behind.
They all run and and play together,
but the day comes when one suddenly stops
and looks into the distance.
His bright eyes are intent; his eager body quivers.
Suddenly he begins to run from the group,
flying over the green grass,
his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you
and your special friend finally meet,
you cling to each other in joyous reunion,
never to be parted again.
The happy kisses rain upon your face
your hand again caress that beloved head,
and you loo once more into the trusting eyes of your pet,
so long gone form your life,
but never absent from your hearl
Then, you cross the Rainbow Bridge together.


It still hurts. It hurts a surprising amount. How is it that one can rationally identify why one is so overwrought with grief, and know that you are transferring that grief to another grief, yet still cry?

In my head, I know I'm crying for my dad and my friend's husband's deaths, but I've only allowed myself to release the tears when I lost a beloved pet. Perhaps it's the proverbial straw, perhaps it's transference, perhaps it's that I knew my dad was ready to go, and knew what was happening, and my friend's husband...died so quickly, and I'm helping my friend through her grief and so must mute my own so that I can help her more effectively.

All I know is: I want Braindog to be alive and healthy and playing with me as I water my plants in the backyard. I want him to woof quietly in my ear when he wants me to wake me up in the morning and go play with him. I want to laugh at him letting Spitty Kitty snuzzle him, and his groaning about it, but letting her anyway. I want to have him lean against me as I sit on the bed putting my shoes on, and then sneak his nose under my elbow so that I'm suddenly hugging him. I want him to come and stand at my feet and lean into me as I pet him. I want to see my husband's joy and delight in him and watch them snuggle. I want to play hide and seek with him again. I want to watch the meter man rush through reading the meters at other houses so he could spend 10 or 15 minutes playing soccer with Brain.

Brain seemed to have an endless amount of trust, love and joy. And he shared it unstintingly.

I think I want to be as good a person as he was as a dog.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

A Missing Piece

Brain Dog is no longer in pain. Now we have to learn to deal with a hole in our little family. Chuckie has been looking for him all day, and Spitty is too.

Good bye sweet puppy.