Friday, April 22, 2011

Rainy Days and Puppies Always Make Me Smile

We planted five more nut trees last night (2 pecan, 2 chestnut, 1 almond), under the close supervision of our newest addition, Princess. Princess even tried to help her daddy dig a hole last night...or show him up. We discovered last weekend that she can get very intent and dig--she was digging around a tree, apparently for a grub or rodent, both of which we have aplenty. We couldn't call her off of the darn thing, and we couldn't believe how deep the hole was, nor could could we find most of the dirt she had dug up, she had spread it out that well.

So, last night, she dug a hole right alongside the one M dug. It was really deep, though not as deep as needed for a tree, she dug it MUCH faster than M dug his hole, even with his "fancy" new toy. Unfortunately, she doesn't fill her holes back in. :)

So far, she hasn't decided that any of these trees are sticks for her to play with, like she did with one of the paw paws we planted a few weeks ago. But every time I poured gravel into a hole, she ran over to see if I was pouring kibble for her. That's about all the help she offered, other than trying to pick up a terra cotta pot I was using for a scoop, but she was a careful supervisor...probably because she had already accidentally run into the shovel that M was wielding and didn't want to go through that again!

We are pretty sure now that she's either a Golden Pyrenees (mix between golden retriever and great pyrenees) or a full Great Pyrenees)...great herding instinct, very intelligent, very sweet, loves to announce her presence at ANY noise or distant "foe," and falls "deaf" when she finds something more interesting than what we're trying to do with her...especially if that something is a possible foe in the fields!

Today, I'm trying to convince her that the garage is better than outside during a thunderstorm. She's waffling on that...she loves being outside in the rain and seems to become energized by the cooler weather, but when the thunder hits, she's not sure whether to run into or out of the garage! (I'm not sure how she handled the somewhat-close tornado the other day--we didn't realize she was here until M left for work the next morning and found her right outside the garage door.)

* Stringham high: Ah, puppies!
* Stringham low: Where did the warmth of spring go?
* Stringham super-high: We have run out of room in our prepared orchard area for trees!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Puppy Love

We are in the process of adopting...a puppy. She's the one who helped us plant a couple of weeks ago and who has been hanging around our house. (Pictures forthcoming. If you're on Facebook, you've likely seen one or two already.) We have made efforts to contact the people who were caring for her, to see if this was okay, because we knew they were keeping her for someone else, but they haven't contacted us. So, we are in the process of adopting the puppy who has adopted us--at least in the daytime.

According to our neighbor, J, the puppy--currently named Snowball but more likely to respond to Princess or Goofball--has been on her own for much of her life, since she was a puppy. As such, her survival instincts are good, but she's a little leery of people. We've now started feeding her regularly, and sometime this week or weekend, we're going to start keeping her here at night. (We're still working out how to do that, as she's been allowed to run free during the day.) We suspect she's been staying mostly with us in the day and then making her way back to be kept indoors with the other family at night. For her safety, though, we're trying to train her to know that this is home and that she shouldn't cross the road. Which means we have to get her used to a leash and possibly a chain, at least for a while.

For now, we're happy that I've been able to get her to lay on the porch on a blanket to get out of the cold rain, and I've been able to get her in the garage without force a couple of times. She plays with us, and she lets us know when she's not getting enough snuggles. And as I write this, she's trying to figure out what M's doing on the mower, and why it's so very loud.

* Stringham high: Puppy!
* Stringham low: Puppy leaves at night.
* Stringham super-high: Awesome neighbors who support our "guerilla" adoption tactics!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

We Took It to the Limit

M and I are hot, sweaty, and burned by the wind and the sun, and our eyes are dry and gritty from the soil, fertilizer, and bits of hay and straw blown into them, but the four rows and six tires of potatoes are planted. 100 seed potatoes planted.

Even more exhausted and hungry than we were last night. Today, we were having to tell our visiting dog where she was and was not allowed to step--she thought the straw and the newspaper were great things to play with. So tired, so sore...

* Stringham high: No more outdoors for today!
* Stringham low: Wind
* Stringham super-high: Leftover food

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Dear Reader:
I'd love to be my normally loquacious self this evening, but I'm just too damn tired. Instead, a summary of the week's events.

Last Saturday, we planted 2 almond trees in a "new" section of the orchard that is set aside for nut trees--an area we've been treating for a year or more with special cover crops to build the soil. We also planted last Saturday 2 quince trees, and 2 honeyberry bushes. Then we fixed the orange net fencing that's protecting our arborvitae that will eventually be a small task, considering the wind we had last Saturday. Then we discovered some astilbe and daffodils left from last autumn that hadn't been planted, so we placed them around the magnolias in the front lawn. All this was under the close supervision of a dog that is being fostered or raised by some folks down the road.

I did more manual labor than I had done since the miscarriage and all my health problems back in 2009, and I felt great afterward. No headaches, nothing but the usual aches from well-used muscles. It was fantastic!

On Sunday, we put the last coat of green on the bathroom and removed the painter's tape. Now all that remains is the painting of the all our spare time. Maybe it'll get done around Christmas. Dog visited again.

Over the week, everything became much greener. The daffodils in our yard still haven't bloomed, but they've come a lot closer. The hyacinth we planted in the fall have all sprouted and begun to open. The dog has decided that our place is THE place to be. We've been friendly toward her and don't mind that she's hanging around, because before, she was crossing the super-busy highway frequently. Now, a lot less crossing.

Thursday, we planted 2 paw paw trees to replace the ones that didn't make it from last year. Again, supervision from the dog.
Friday, the dog let me pet her and also let M pet her. We left to get groceries, and when we came back home, she was still lying in front of the garage, waiting for us to get home. She's a sweet girl.

Today, after the storms, we discovered that the bark has been stripped from one of the honeyberries we planted last week and that one of our newly planted paw paws had been pulled completely from the ground, along with its support post. And we've had some bark stripped from a few of the other trees in the past few weeks. Did a little research and think it's doggy-caused damage :( But the good news is that it's usually done by dogs who are teething and don't have toys...luckily, we have some dog toys that a friend gave us last summer for our cats. So we tossed them outside to avert the dog from stripping our trees any more. We're hoping it will work. If not, we're going to have to find a different solution.

After my friend, L, and her two daughters left from their visit today, M and I thought we'd plant some potatoes. But first we had to dig. He used the weed eater on one section of garden that needed tilled, and then I tilled it for potato planting while he used a nifty new tool to "double dig" the section of garden that the potatoes were in last year. (He found a potato that we missed in the we know that they will stay good in our soil over the winter.) We're both tired. Wrangling that freaking tiller, even in the soft (for here) soil for several hours--work a half hour, take a break for 20-40 minutes, with M--was harder than anything I've done physically since we put in 13- and 14-hour preparation and planting days in spring of 2009. I'm freaking beat.

I took tons of pictures last weekend and this week. Not posting any of them today. Too damn tired.

So, there you have it. Still loquacious to some, but sorely lacking on all the fun details.

If you haven't heard from me in a week or two, have a beer in my honor, because I've probably dropped dead of fatigue.

* Stringham high: Puppy companionship
* Stringham low: Damaged trees
* Stringham super-high: Me doing hard manual labor with no ill effects like headache, nausea, vomiting, passing out...just a WHOLE lot of curse words.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Marching on Through

Spring is always a busy time here in the Stringham household, and this year, spring seemed to start early before it went back into hiding. It's been a busy March, so I'll give the highlights to bring everyone up to speed before Planting Season begins tomorrow.

M's mom and step-dad visited us for most of two weeks. They acted as stand-in Santa Clauses for other members of the distant family, however, transporting goods illegal to send across state lines via any package carrier. Although they were here for 13 days, I somehow managed to snap not a SINGLE picture of them, but I got a picture of the wrapped presents.

I also managed to get a pic of our newest lawn ornament (a gift from the in-laws) next to our old buddy Gnorm.

While the in-laws were here, they wanted to help us with some home repair, so we decided to tackle repainting the 3/4 bath. We managed to get all the supplies purchased and prepare the room for painting before they left, but M and I are still working on finishing the painting, so no pics for now. It's not a very big room at all, but it takes a long time to paint because of all the painting AROUND and above things. It has a high ceiling, and the shower walls don't reach the ceiling; it also has two doors, the vanity, the medicine cabinet, the light fixtures, and the toilet, all in tight little blocks. (For those of you who haven't seen this bathroom, it looks something like one of the Tetris L's, only with one of the squares lopped off the long side of the L.)

Anyway, M and I have ordered all of our seeds and plants for the orchard and garden this year, and we got a buttload (pardon the expression, but what else would you call an Explorer-full?) of canning jars from the neighbor of a friend, so I'm now taking it as my personal challenge to fill those jars this year with pickles, tomato products, and whatever else I can. In those free canning jars were four wire-rim jars and a blue jar! (For those of you not familiar, that means they're really old, and very me. No one else seemed to be as excited by them as I was...)

So, on we move. As I said, spring hit, then decided to tuck its tail and run, so I got a few pictures of buds on the lilac, some brave snow crocuses, and some buds on the unidentified bush in the front yard. Nothing earth-shattering. Our line of arborvitae, now protected, however minimally, by the orange fencing, have taken off, though. They and the boxwoods seem to have grown during the winter. These beauties are in the front yard, but some of the arborvitae in the backyard are to M's waist.

Over in the orchard and berry patch, things were looking nice. Some overachieving strawberries had already begun clawing their way through the "natural mulch" of dead grass and fallen leaves. Seriously, I keep saying we need to weed the strawberries, but I mean for my benefit so I can see the darn things--they certainly know how to fend for themselves.

Here's a shot of the overachieving 5-on-1 dwarf pear tree that is the tallest non-mature tree we have. That's M, walking around the rest of the orchard. The second picture is of the rest of the orchard--that part you can't see so well through the green posts and fencing that surrounds the pear and apple trees.

A few days after this, we got hit with a thunderstorm that pelted us with some hail. I'd heard of golf-ball-sized hail before, but I'd never seen it before. Mostly, the stuff was soft enough that it hit the roof, siding, or windows and just splattered like a mostly melted snowball, but not without making some very loud dings and thuds. The few larger pieces that landed on the cusion of grass were harder to find, but here's a nice one. The pic's blurry because it's through a plastic-covered, rain-spattered window, and it's hard to get a feeling of scale, but I didn't feel like braving the hail on my delicate skin just to take a picture. See the bigger white blob? See those smaller pellets just below and to the right of it? Those are anywhere from the size of dimes to those little chocolate Easter eggs you can get this time of year in stores.

Finally, our epic journey through March comes to a close, first with a battle, then with a celebratory feast. One evening, as the chill descended outside, the cats apparently decided to duke it out to see who got the rights to the warmth and cushion of the big comfy chair. I called at them from another room to stop, and when I came in a few minutes later to have a seat, I saw that George was clearly the victor. (None of that fluff on the chair is George's...)

Two mornings later, M was snacking on bacon. As we all know, dead pig is George's favorite repast, the thing he most hunts, and he quickly showed his interest and was rewarded for his bravery in surviving a month full of house guests, house "construction," and cold weather.

* Stringham high: Spring is officially here.
* Stringham low: Spring hasn't quite gotten the memo to come back from vacation.
* Stringham super-high: Planting Season begins tomorrow. The orchard is going to nearly double in size!